Fauxtmeal Success: Sweet-or-Savory Cream of Quinoa

In my quest to fill the void that my necessary abandonment of oats (know them and love them, friends) has left in my soul, I’ve been experimenting with countless different takes on the hot cereal–“fauxtmeals”, if you will.  You name it, I’ve tried it–tofu fauxtmeal, egg white fauxtmeal, paleo fauxtmeal, and other hot cereals like cream of rice and wheat.  The sad truth is, nothing could live up to the nutritional and delicious legacy that oats had left behind.  The texture–oats were chewy and toothsome, my friends.  They blended so perfectly with runny nut butter and they lent themselves to endless flavor combinations and they were a wellspring of iron and protein and soluble fiber and they were oats

Hallelujah!

Hallelujah!

In the end, I couldn’t recreate oats.  My newest breakfast staple doesn’t taste remotely the same, but it retains that comforting warm creamy hot cereal aspect, it’s still scrumptious in its own right, and it delivers an equal, if not even more powerful, nutritional punch than its predecessor.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you…

Cream of Quinoa.

Cream of Quinoa is a little bit like polenta and a little bit like cream of rice, but mostly it’s like Cream of Quinoa and does not deserve to be pitted against other hot cereals in a quest for oatmeal resemblance.  It’s simply a nutritious and delicious quickie breakfast.

Cream of Quinoa tastes good drizzled with olive oil, cheese, coarse salt and black pepper like grits….

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…and Cream of Quinoa tastes good prepared with a sweetener and some fruit like “traditional” oatmeal (here, I’ve paired it with some cream cheese, honey, and blueberries).

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Recipe: Cream of Quinoa

-1 cup quinoa

-5.5 cups water

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and rinse quinoa in a sieve.

2.  Arrange quinoa evenly in an enclosed (edged) baking sheet and blot with a paper towel to absorb excess rinsing water.

3.  Toast quinoa in oven for ~12 minutes, giving it a good stir every five minutes or so.  (You could also probably toast the quinoa in a skillet!)

4.  Allow quinoa to cool, and send it through the spice grinder, food processor, or, in my case, the Magic Bullet (with the “grinding” blades, not the “blending” blades).  It should turn from the consistency of, well, quinoa, into a soft sort of flour…it feels and looks like golden sand.

This...

This…

To this!

To this!

5. Now two roads diverge in a yellow wood…

For a single-serving microwave breakfast:

Take 1/4 cup of your toasted quinoa flour, mix with 3/4 cup water (or milk of choice) in a deep bowl (it will poof), and microwave on high for 1 minute–stir WELL–and another minute.  Let cool and top!

To prepare a bunch of future breakfasts on the stovetop:

First, mix the full batch of quinoa flour with 1 cup of the water and allow to sit.  Bring the remaining water to a boil.  Combine the flour-water mixture with the boiling water, cover, reduce heat to low-medium and simmer for about 15 minutes.  Let cool and top!  There are endless topping combinations…let your imagination run wild! 😀

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Delicious Oatmeal Is Entirely Possible!–My Tips

Sometimes it baffles me that normal people don’t eat oatmeal for breakfast every single day.  Or, ever.

You...you don't eat...whaa??

You…you don’t eat…whaa??

It almost made me cry when I realized that with my potential gluten and avenin sensitivities, my oat consumption is going to have to decrease markedly.  😦  People are always so surprised when I tell them oats are my favorite food–but it’s true!  (Along with soup, and peanut butter.  If anyone can figure out a way to combine all those, I would be eternally grateful.  [I’m thinking using steel-cut oats as a more savory, barley type thing, and going with some African spices for a peanut-sweet-potato stew type thing?  Oh, but I digress.])

Because oats are so obviously magical and delicious, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are only two possible reasons why  SOME people don’t like them.

a.) They’re not preparing it right!!!  (Don’t worry; that shall be remedied within this post.)

b.) They’re used to downing gallons of carbonated high fructose corn syrup a day, they have to drench their sweet potatoes in maple syrup and brown sugar to get them sweetened to their liking, and the only type of oatmeal they’ve ever enjoyed is those powdery, sugary instant oatmeal packets flavored with partially hydrogenated soybean oil, artificial blueberry flavor, and Blue Lake #3.  Yummm.  (I have to admit, I was one of these people too, when I was a wee young sprite.  The good news is that if you want to turn your diet around, it’s all a matter of gradual changes, and once you get on the whole-foods track, you’ll drop that insatiable sweet tooth for good.  Nowadays, I can’t even drink soda–it’s so cloyingly, sickly sweet.)

Obviously both these reasons are no excuse for not enjoying the miracle that is oatmeal; so, here are my tips, which will hopefully vanquish Oatmeal Excuse A from the lives of my readers.

To Prepare Delicious Oatmeal…

#1.  Add flax.  I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again now.  Buy yourself a bag of ground golden flaxseeds, keep it in the fridge, and sprinkle a tablespoon or so on your brekkie every time you prepare oats.  If you like your oats thick and doughy like me, ground flaxseeds are a godsend because they absorb any extra water in your oats, leaving you with this chewy pudding-type porridge consistency.  As an added benefit, flaxseeds are a nutritional goldmine, especially for vegetarians, rich with lignans, omega-3 fatty acids, minerals, protein, and fiber.  They have kind of a vile taste on their own, at least until you get used to them, but you can’t detect it when mixed in with hot cereal, and the insanely improved texture is worth it.

#2.  Break out of the  ‘oatmeal=maple syrup, brown sugar, raisins, butter’ mindset.  Who founded this mindset, anyway?  This flavor combination is all very well and good, but it most certainly does not represent oatmeal at its best.  I NEVER eat my oats like this!

And plain oatmeal, on its own?  Well, I LOOVE that stuff, but I’m weird!  You probably don’t!  If you’re forcing yourself to choke down unflavored oatmeal, or maple syrupy oatmeal, each day, NO WONDER YOU DON’T LIKE IT!  Add STUFF to your oatmeal, for crying out loud!

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This oatmeal included sweet potatoes and two kinds of dark chocolate. No joke.

Nut butter, flax and cinnamon are my default oatmeal toppers and stir-ins; I honestly can’t believe it never occurs to some people to stir things into their oats!  If you need flavor inspiration, there’s plenty out there in the food blog realm–check out Kath Eats Real Food’s Tribute to Oatmeal–or, as she rightfully describes it, her tribute to “the world’s greatest breakfast”.  If your brain isn’t fried by all those glorious pictures and you feel you can take on even heavier porridge plethoras, head on over to The Oatmeal Artist.  This is a food blog started by an English teacher, ENTIRELY devoted to oatmeal.  I thought I had met my future, alternate self when I discovered it.  (And why didn’t I come up with this idea?!)

#3.  Don’t cook your oats.  If you haven’t tried overnight oats yet, it’s time to crawl out from under the foodie rock you’ve been living under and whip up a batch.  In essence, they are oats, combined with either flax or chia, and soaked in your choice of milk overnight in the refrigerator.  Usually there’s some flavorings and nut butters involved as well!  Depending on your ingredients, they are a live, raw food, they CAN be made vegan, ridiculously high-protein, etc.–AND, they save you buckets of time in the morning, because all you need to do is grab them out of the fridge, top, stick in a spoon and start shoveling them into your face, cold and delicious!

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Peanut Butter Fingers has a great tutorial, if you’re new to the overnight oats scene, as does Oh She Glows.  More linkage: Eating Bird Food’s Ode to Overnight Oats, Kath Eats Real Food’s smorgasbord of Overnight Oatmeal Inspiration.

And don’t forget Fitnessista’s world-changing Overnight Breakfast Cookie!  It eliminated most of the liquid in overnight oats to form…well, a cookie.  A cookie made of oatmeal and sometimes chocolate and love and amazingness.

#4.  Bake them.  This tip is especially geared to those unfortunates suffering from Oatmeal Excuse B (see above).  The good news is that baked oatmeal usually tastes positively confectionary, because it usually has some sort of sweetener, and the texture is like a large oatmeal cookie.  That you get to eat for breakfast.  (!!)  Baked oatmeal is also really handy because you can bake up a tray on the weekends, which sets you up with breakfast for ~4 days to come.  Talk about breakfast of champions!

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Check out mah very own baked oatmeal recipes:  Apple PB Baked Oatmeal, and Birthday Cake Baked Oatmeal, make them, and love them as much as I do.  I greatly appreciate any feedback on my recipes, because it helps me to grow as a budding amateur recipe developer/food blogger!  If you prefer to roll with the pros (sniffle sniffle), head on over to PBF’s Banana Pecan Coconut Baked Oatmeal, Apple Walnut Baked Oatmeal, and Vanilla Pecan Baked Oatmeal.  Also look into the Baked Oatmeal section of the recipe index of The Oatmeal Artist.  Sweet tooth still not satisfied?  Break out the heavy artillery–head over to Chocolate Covered Katie’s collection of dessert-like baked oatmeals.

#5.  Blend them.  It is unfortunately a little-known fact that you can blend oats, both raw and of the overnight variety, into yumlicious smoothies and shakes.  One of my earlier recipes, Breakfast Creamsicle Smoothie, does just this.  The oats give smoothies such a lovely, doughy texture and taste!!  For further proof: Kath Eats Real Food’s Dough Boy Smoothie, and Oh She Glows’ Pumpkin Gingerbread Smoothie.

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#6.  Switch varieties.  By this, I mean to say that if you’re used to conventional rolled oats (“old-fashioned oats”), give steel-cut oats a shot.  They hold their texture and somewhat nutty taste much better, but they doo take a heckuva long time to cook.  (Unless you go the thermos route!)  Chances are, you’ll like them much better.

If, by some hiccup of the universe’s workings, you are in fact used to steel-cut oats, like I was, definitely give rolled oats a shot!  I actually prefer the rolled to steel-cut; probably because I was used to the steel-cut oats in the first place, and rolled oats are really different and cool.  Also, they cook in about three minutes in the microwave and require no forethought–perfect for busy students!  They are also much more versatile than the steel-cut–you can’t blend steel-cut into smoothies, for instance, and overnight oats work much better using rolled oats.  (Though I have heard of some people who can get it to work with steel-cut.  I have all the envies.)

So, there you have it!  Six delicious, no-fail tips for “revolutionizing your breakfast”!  Now, go on out into the world, fueled by the glory of the humble oat, and spread the gospel of this amazing grain!

2012; hey, that was fun

Happy New Year!!!

So, did you guys stay up until midnight last night?

…I…went to bed at 8:30 didn’t.

Let’s just say I’m a striking example of what sufficient beauty sleep will do to a gal, mmkay? 😉

And now for something massive: for the first time in The Girl in the Orange history, I get to do a YEARLY recap!  (As opposed to my plethora of regular Monthly Recaps.)  Granted, I’ve only blogged for five months in 2012–but I lived through all of it, and as it is now 2013, I think it deserves a little soft reminiscing.

Here it is!:

One YEAR of The Girl in the Orange in terms of…

…food:

Um, I think I “developed” four “recipes” this year??  And they all had to do with oats…what does this say about my character? 😉 (Don’t answer that; it says nothing.  Nothing, apart form the fact that I love oats.)  I think I’m most proud of my Birthday Cake Baked Oatmeal, but that may be because it’s the most recent and because I got to use my new orange camera to photograph it.  It feels strangely independent.

In other foodie realms, I had some mishaps

as well as some mind-blowing successes.

What can I say?  I’m blessed enough to eat three five square meals a day and the eatin’s good.  I’ve been cooking on my own since March 2011; but when my food became public by means of this blog, 2012 became more of a year to stretch my wings and gather skills and confidence in the kitchen.  (I even finally mastered pancakes!! 😀  Everyone else says they’re so easy…:(.  They lie!)

…photography:

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My favorite food photos of the year.  (You knew my chocolate header one would be in there, didn’t you?) ;P

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You guys didn’t see this one; but over the holiday break I was having mucho fun playing with the “selective coloring” feature of my new camera!  This is a mug of blueberry tea, slowly brewing…it’s quite dramatic, non?

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Smile, Stitch!

Smile, Stitch!

Dog photos as well.  Don’t tell me you can look at that last one without cracking a grin.

…writing and poetry:

That’s right; since this is a YEARLY recap, you get a BONUS category!

I’m in a MUCH better place emotionally this year than I was last year; consequentially, my poetry went waaay downhill this year!  You know what they say: bad times make for good writing.  I found this to be true.  Now that I’m happy I can’t write anything.

But I HAVE started making things I wrote last year more public–I started a Figment account this month (user The Girl in the Orange), for one thing.  As I near (or, just, you know, kind of generally approach) the end of my novel, I’m really focusing on making my work more public–according to literary attorney publishing saint, establishing a formidable online presence is a very good way to attract the attention of potential publishers.

(To any potential publishers reading this: Hi!  I am working on a “Novel” page for this blog with a detailed summary of my work-in-progress, so check back soon!)

AND, I wrote a grand total of over 110,000 words on my novel this year (mostly all in the course of the last five months), and of that I am proud.  It’s not STAGGERINGLY EXCESSIVE, but considering all the other things I was doing (cough cough private school homework, cough cough), I still think that’s acceptable.

…things that made me smile:

Well, I got my hair chopped off.HAIR! 004

HAIR! 007

Big leap, that I’m so glad I took.  (And don’t worry–I shaved the back of my neck after these pictures were taken!) 😉

AAND, I ran my first 5k!  While not a major distance compared to the insane lengths other people run (ultramarathoners, I’m alookin’ at you), it was a big accomplishment for me.

There was one other HUGE lovely in the past year for me, but I’m not quite emotionally ready to post about that yet. 🙂  Let me just say that 2012 was an emotional renewal, of sorts, and I am so much better off now.

And The Girl in the Orange 2012 report is here!  Click below and see all the awesomeness that was the past year (why on earth did I bother to recap it all?).  I find it funny that one of the search engine terms that led people to me most was “mickey mouse pancake mold”… 😉  Here, I’ll humor you.  One more picture.Disney 035

2012 blog report (compiled by “WordPress stats helper monkeys” ): Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,300 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Ahh, sweet 2012.  Such nice reminiscences.  I imagine I’ll do a resolution post later on the week, but for now it’s pretty nice to enjoy soft fuzzies, and eat cake for breakfast.  Scratch that, that’s always nice, right?

Birthday Cake Baked Oatmeal

I feel sho shcandalous.

I was so mean to you, you guys.  So, so mean.  And you didn’t even know how mean I was being, when I dangled this picture of a certain Birthday Cake Baked Oatmeal under your noses in an unassuming post about positivity.  Pssh, positivity?  What was I thinking?  There are much more important matters to discuss…

My birthday breakfast, set alight.

My birthday breakfast, set alight.

LIKE CAKE, OBVIOUSLY.

This recipe was born out of a yearning for a perfect, healthy, cake-like, invented-by-me birthday breakfast for my own turning-of-the-year (December 10th).  When I was concocting it, I figured it would either be a big hit or a big miss…

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IT HIT.  Hard. Yummmmm.  I made it and ate it on my birthday and DIDN’T TELL YOU GUYS HOW TO MAKE IT!! 😉  Shcandalous! 😉

But now you can know.  I’m done with being mean.  I figured, since I didn’t know anyone whose birthday is coming up soon, I could post the recipe as a New Year’s breakfast–it is the birth of 2013, peeps!  (Good thing the world didn’t explode on the 21st…no, no, I’m not going to go there.)

Happy, happy new year.

Without further ado…

Birthday Cake Baked Oatmeal

This is the “classic” birthday-style cake; creamy vanilla cake, chocolate frosting optional.  I realize some of you would prefer chocolate cake, but tradition must be honored.

Inspired by this and this.

Ingredients:

3 T raw cashew butter combined w/ a splash almond extract and a splash vanilla extract, and SPRINKLES!

1/2 recipe vanilla chia amazeballs (directions in the Instructions section)

1 1/2 c rolled oats

1 c milk of choice

1 tsp baking soda

1 egg

2 T flax

1/2 c vanilla honey Greek yogurt

1 more splash vanilla

Directions:

Mmkay, this is intimidating, but your final cake-for-breakfast will be worth it, so bear with me.

First, you’re going to combine your cashew butter with a splash of almond extract and a splash of vanilla extract, and some sprinkles, if you wish.

036It will probably look something like this.  Except, there’s no doubt yours will look prettier than mine.  (It’s dang tasty, though, and that’s all that matters, right?  You can’t go wrong with almond extract.)

Next, you’re going to do your second bit of prep work here: Prep your half-batch of Vanilla Chia Amazeballs.  Buzz 6 tbs oats in a food processor until they become flour (or just use oat flour, or instant oats), mix in 1 T almond butter, 1 T agave nectar, .5 t chia seeds, and (2 tablespoons vanilla protein powder and .5 teaspoons vanilla extract) OR, if you don’t have protein powder, (1 T ground flaxseed and 1 t vanilla extract) will also work.  Roll into eensy weensy little balls…

LITTLE tiny things.

LITTLE tiny things.

With my (child-size) hand, for size comparison.  Yes, it’s a laborious task, rolling all that batter into balls that are barely half a teaspoon each, but it will allow them to distribute evenly throughout the oatmeal bake and give you more amazeball per bite!

Whew.  Now you’re done with the prep work!  Breathe a sigh of relief!  Now you just have to mix stuff!

Combine all the other ingredients in a large bowl (glass is best) and combine well with a spatula.  Stir the cashew butter fully into the mixture but just incorporate the amaze-balls.

Pour into a greased pan and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 40 minutes.

I chose a ROUND pan to kick off new year’s, because according to Chocolate Covered Katie, round things (especially breakfasts) 😉 bring good fortune into the new year by symbolizing coming full circle and starting a new cycle!

It is also shaped more like a cake this way.

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(And then I, erm, tried to frost it somewhat, purely for your amusement.  Clearly, I overestimate myself.)

Topping ideas?  When I actually ate this on my birthday, I used some almond butter, agave, avocado, and cocoa powder mashed together as “frosting” (no, you can’t taste the avocado), and that was great.  Plain ol’ chocolate nut butter is also great.  If your new year’s resolutions involve something along the lines of eating less chocolate, however (the horror!), it’s also “amazeballs” just smeared with some more cashew butter.  And sprinkles.  Yesh.

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How can you not start off a new year on the right foot with cake for breakfast??

Good fortune to you this coming year. 🙂

Apple PB Baked Oatmeal

Aaah.  Baked oatmeal, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways:

1.  You contain oatmeal, usually some eggs and milk and sometimes fruit and nuts and other good mix-ins, so you’re a pretty dang healthy breakfast.  But you still taste amazing.

2.  If I make a tray of you on the weekend I have breakfast covered for 4 days (usually…snacks happen) out of the 5-day week!

3.  YOU ARE LIKE EATING A GIANT COOKIE FOR BREAKFAST.

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Need I say more?

It is a universally accepted fact, except among the nut-allergic crowd, that one of the best snacks in the world is apple and nut butter.   (Well, besides carrots and peanut butter, nut butter straight from the jar, cheese, and sweet pickles–but I find those don’t lend themselves well to oatmeal recipe creating.)  Additionally, many people (except for those Paleo or fruitarian folks) argue that oatmeal is one of the most nutritious choices for breakfast!  Soluble fiber, protein, iron, calcium, other trace minerals…and yumminess.

(When I told a family member last week that one of my favorite foods was oatmeal, she spent five minutes trying to process this.  I guess I forget that normal people don’t eat oatmeal for breakfast every day! ;)…What do they eat?)

Winter is coming up, so now is pretty much our last chance to pay homage to our delicious Fall apples.

Baked oatmeal=homage.  Yummy, warming, comforting healthy homage.

Apple PB Baked Oatmeal

-1/3 c. applesauce mixed with 1 T chia seed overnight

-1 1/2 c. rolled oats

-1/2 c. steel-cut oats

-1 t baking soda

-1 medium egg

-2 T maple syrup

-1/2 c. milk + ~3 T

-3 T melted peanut butter (crunchy is the tastiest) (other nut butter should work as well–if you would eat it with apples, try it out!)

-3/4 c. diced apple

-Splash of vanilla extract

-Anywhere from 2t-2T ground cinnamon (depending on how much you like cinnamon! 🙂 I definitely recommend the higher amount, though)

Directions:

This recipe takes a bit of forethought, since the first step is to combine your 1/3 cup applesauce with one tablespoon of chia seeds and let it soak in the refrigerator overnight (the chia will absorb some of the liquid in the applesauce).  But once you’ve got that done, the rest is a breeze!

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Your applesauce should look like this after the soaking.  It’s disgusting looking, I know.  You won’t be able to see it in the finished oatmeal.

And then, well…stir everything together! 😉  The peanut (or other nut) butter is really easy to melt in the microwave–just put it in a little microwave-safe bowl and nuke on high for 15-20 seconds.  (Be careful, as you can scorch it!)  It should be pretty runny and easy to mix in after that point.

During the first trials of this recipe, for some reason I fixated on one cup of milk, and it always took MUCH too long to bake and ended up MUCH too moist.  I can’t vouch for the exact amount of milk you should put in now, but I recommend starting with 1/2 c. and then adding it by the tablespoon until the batter is “stirrable” (I ended up using three extra tablespoons.)

It works best if your apple pieces are about this size.

It works best if your apple pieces are about this size.

Bake in an 8×8 pan (or a similarly proportioned pan, so long as it works out to an area of 64) at 350 degrees for 30-50 minutes, depending on humidity, juiciness of your apples, oven quality, etc.  (Our oven is poor quality and my apple wasn’t very juicy, and mine took 40 minutes before I declared it baked.)

All done!

All done!

Slice into 4 squares (see?  It IS like a GIANT cookie!), take one, and devour.  Top with more sliced apple or nut butter, maple syrup, or apple butter, if you want to be all fancy-like.

Or you could just eat it on its own.  It's pretty tasty, if I do say so myself.

Or you could just eat it on its own. It’s pretty tasty, if I do say so myself.

Monthly Recap: November 2012

I’ve noticed that all of my monthly recaps up to this point start off with something along the lines of “Aaaacch!  How is it already (insert new month here)?!”  I should think of some way to change it up, but I’m not going to.  The passing of time is utterly baffling to me this year.  I suspect it has something to do with getting older.  As a wee young sprite, I started looking forward to December before summer vacation was even over; October, with its promise of a sugar binge in its final day, absolutely drawled; November was a stupid extraneous month that lengthened the time between Halloween, my birthday, and the rest of the December holidays.  (I was never really big on Thanksgiving except for the annual marshmallow fluff and strawberry jello ‘salad’.  Until this year, when I got REALLY into the Thanksgiving spirit.)

And now…here we are.  Poof, December!  It has long been my favorite month, though I must admit it’s losing a bit of its touch when we fail to have snow on the ground when it rolls around.  (Remember the snow photos in my last post?  Those were taken in MARCH, people, MARCH!)  I’m looking forward to the season of giving, endless mugs of hot cocoa, the first snowfall of the year (please please please please PLEASE), and my birthday.  It’s on the 10th, people.  Cough, cough.

So, over the course of November, I ran my first 5k and began training for me second one, began working on my bird training project in earnest, was sooo close to completing 100k words on my novel, was given the opportunity to (kind of) meet with a literary agency, almost swore when I realized the holidays were less than a month away and my wallet cotnained exactly $40 (man, I used to plan out Christmas presents starting in September!), ate some highly delicious food and made some epiphanies in kitchen, started developing my first two “real” recipes, and sustained my first running injury.  November hit me hard.

One month of The Girl in the Orange in terms of…

…food:

The Fitnessista breakfast cookie.  Need I say more?  I’d wanted to make it for a loooong time, but didn’t have any protein powder, which I thought was imperative.  Thanks to a quick internet search that revealed Mama’s Weeds‘ tips, I’ve made it twice already.  Once for dinner.  It’s that good.  Don’t skip out on the cocoa powder, unless you’re going to try to photograph it.  It’s not pretty.

Brown food doesn't photograph well, especially when you don't want to take the time to even put it on a pretty plate or clear your placemat of crumbs.  But it's dang delicious.

But it’s dang delicious.

And lentil flatbread from The Forgotten Beast.

You can make BREAD out of lentils??  Mind=blown.  Since I’ve been running and strength training a lot more lately (well, not lately, since I’ve still got my bum knee), I’ve been consciously trying to incorporate more protein into my veg diet; it also helps stave off late-night snacking sessions that turn into second dinners.  (Let’s thaw a stack of frozen pancakes and eat it at 9 PM!  That’ll be a great idea!  No.)

Mine…doesn’t look like bread.

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Shhh…I massacre every flatbread I try to make.  It’s not flatbread, but it IS mighty yummy–I’ve been crumbling this up and tossing it in salads and sandwiches.

I think I’ll do better on the whole flatbread thing the next go-round, when I understand the concept better.  There WILL be a next go-round!

Delicious things I didn’t manage to get a picture of include a tortoise-shaped cake from a local bakery (amazing detail, and the frosting is to die for!, even though usually I’m not a frosting type of gal), and a great lunch yesterday at a local Asian vegetarian restaurant.  BEST. PEANUT SAUCE.  EVER.  I could eat it by the spoonful–I did eat it by the spoonful!  Possibly even more memorable was the fact that I actually managed to drag Daddio along to the restaurant this time.  He’s a full-blooded backwoods steak-n’-potaters dad; I love him, but he was quite apprehensive to try tofu.  In the end, he worked up the nerve to try the deep-fried tofu and pronounced it “not bad…”!!  Baby steps. 😉

Thanksgiving leftovers rocked the world, as always.  Best part of the whole holiday.  At least in compensation for your stressful laboring the day before, you have an unlimited feast waiting for you in the fridge for the rest of the week.

Leftover green salad with romaine, spinach, kale, chard, sunflower seeds, feta, green beans, balsamic vinaigrette and a homemade garlic knot!  Complicated salads make me happy!

Leftover green salad with romaine, spinach, kale, chard, sunflower seeds, feta, green beans, balsamic vinaigrette and a homemade garlic knot! Complicated salads make me happy!

Elsewhere in the food life of The Girl in the Orange…

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Apple Nut-Butter Baked Oatmeal!  (And next, Birthday Cake Baked Oatmeal!)  Stay tuned! 🙂

photography:

I didn’t really do so hot on food photography this month; there was a lot of SHTUFF going on.  So, bear with me, as I share three photos, two of which you’ve already seen before.

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PBF’s Vanilla Pecan Baked Oatmeal.  This is probably about the fifth time I’ve mentioned it.  I’m sorry, it just blew my mind.  Delicious, pretty healthy, pretty
Hummus Pasta 015 picmonkey

Mah very own hummus pasta!  Noodles are endlessly forgiving subjects! 🙂

pre-5k 049And an “action shot” of peanut butter pancakes the morning of my first 5k.  I like this picture.  I don’t know why; it doesn’t follow any of the “rules of aesthetics”.  There’s too much white space and some of it is out of focus, but…I like it.  It makes me hungry.

…things that made me smile:

Oh, there’s so many.  Finding an in to a literary agency.  Finishing my 5k in my goal of under 28:00 (my next one will have a fancy-schmancy chip timer!).  Reading people’s responses to my unseemly word count predicament.  Watching my dad try to corral noodles into a takeout box with chopsticks yesterday.  🙂  Ah, sweet reminiscence.

December Wishes

Oh, you guys.

It’s been a day.

Quite a day.

Like, a breakfast-cookie-for-dinner type of day.

Brown food doesn’t photograph well, especially when you don’t want to take the time to even put it on a pretty plate or clear your placemat of crumbs. But it’s dang delicious.

I am a Hobbler today. It’s different from a Hobbit, but I still have the hairy feet.

Somehow I don’t think whatever I developed over the weekend, the pain that manifested itself in earnest on Monday, is runner’s knee.  Or if it is, runner’s knee must be more awful than most websites made it out to be.

It is not simply uncomfortable.  I am crippled this week, not able to participate in physical education games or make it to any of my classes on time–I’ve perfected the art of steadily shuffling.  It’s so frustrating.  My mind is going full speed, and I want to walk at the same pace as everybody else, and, you know, be all normal-like, but my knees can’t take it.  I have to stand with my knees all soft on the rare occasions that I do actually bring myself to stand.

A couple of thoughts on this condition:

1. What the fudge??!  Okay, I hear you, running is hard on your body and runners are prone to injury, but I’m not ultramarathoning here!  At most, I’m running 12 miles a week.  Seriously.  12 miles tops, and my knees are trying to abandon ship.  Am I running wrong, somehow?  I stretch; I’ve got the proper shoes; I have good posture in other areas of my life!  Maybe I’m just not built for running…  😦

2.  Aw dang, I’ve got my second 5k next Saturday!  It was going to have jingle bells, too! 😦

My knees are feeling somewhat better, after a lot of RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation), ibuprofen, and some yoga in our garage-turned-home-gym.  Now could we please get rid of the arachnids in there..?

I doez yoga wid da speyederz.

November is coming to a close, and since I am in this wistful mood, AND since it’s the holiday season, all about miracles and wishes coming true and all that, I decided to publicize my Wishes for this December.  These are things that would mean the world to me right now.  They are lofty expectations, I realize, but if they were to happen I would melt.  (No pun intended!)  Chop chop, Santa Claus.

1.  PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let there be snow.

Let there be snow for dog.

I miss Midwest Winter.
The most ridiculous part of this whole thing is that this picture was taken in late March.

2.  Let me be able to run in my 5k..?  Scratch that, let me be recovered fully within two days.  It’s a tall order, I know, but I would rather simply not race than race at less than 100%.

3.  I’m trying to email a literary agent I’ve been introduced to about my novel and whenever I go to do it my brain gets stopped up.  So, let me be able to write an eloquent, charming, winning query email?

4.  Please let me experience good holiday vibes, good food, happy family.  Really, what the holiday season’s all about.

(See?  Just writing this post has put me in a better mood!) 😉  Happy holidays from The Girl in the Orange–and please take a moment to be thankful for your two working knees!

September 2012 Recap

I apologize for the unexpected belatedness of this recap; rest assured, I do have my reasons!  (I know it was keeping you up at night, worrying about whether I was all right, since my recap was late, am I right?)  My first, less serious excuse reason is the fact that on Friday night my laptop inexplicably DIED and would not come back to life…thankfully the magic men at the computer shop were able to fix ‘er up though.  (All my writings and pictures are on my laptop.  Of course, I have my novel backed up elsewhere, but all my other random scrivenings?  Not so.)  Moral of the story: back up all your important shtuffs right now!  You never know when it could happen to you.

My other, more serious reason?  More on that tomorrow.  Hopefully.

Let me just say that September certainly flew by MUCH faster than August.  I kept a videolog for myself in August and pretty much every day I complained of the “long, drawling summer days”.  Now that they are over, I wish I’d appreciated the leisure a bit more.  No one in their right mind would classify my days now as drawling.

Also, despite my ominous predictions, it most certainly did not rain much this month!  This is good for my running and my endorphin levels but bad for the random fields and forests that are spontaneously combusting all over the Northwest.  My heart goes out to those people whose homes have been engulfed in the devastating fires in Eastern Washington.

Over the course of September, I hit 80,000 words, baked and frosted cupcakes for an entire grade at my school, ran 35 minutes without walking, improved my mile time by 30 seconds, went to a camp that I really was too sick to go to (but had some fun anyway), made sweet potato pie for the first time (Mother Dearest’s birthday), sent one bird to heaven, actually managed to find time to blog, apologized profusely for awful morning photography, cooked, ate, stressed, laughed, slept.  Now that school’s up and running I think sleep is one of my favorite hobbies.  Maybe I should give it its own tab up at the top of this blog.

One month of The Girl in the Orange in terms of…

…photography:

What’s with me and waaay zoomed in chocolate photos, I ask you?  Maybe I just wanna face plant into the bowl.

Breakfast, all of it.  I think I’m kind of OCD about breakfast.  I freaking love it to death.  Breakfast is the one meal where you can technically consume chocolate and “dessert oatmeal” like carrot cake, sweet potato pie, or Creamsicle flavors, and still be considered within the bounds of sanity.  You are also not obligated to consume any vegetable matter (though I do quite often).  Other people daydream about finding a million dollars or getting asked to the school dance without dropping a million “subtle” hints…I daydream about what I’m going to make for breakfast.  Lest you think I have no life, let me assure you that sometimes I daydream about different things as well!  Like how I’m going to set up said breakfast for the perfect photo. #nerdalert

My ghost bird.

I discovered earlier this month that I absolutely cannot get an in-focus photo of my bird, regardless of shutter speed.  He’s just  incredibly busy a spaz.  A spaz I love with all my heart and then some.

…food:

Um, well, hehe, funny stories here.  I have actually burned more foodstuffs in the last month than in pretty much my entire culinary life.  One especially infamous one was when I was baking bread.  I had preheated the oven and was coming back to check on it only to discover thick, black smoke piping out of it like train chimney.  Turns out, I had left a roasting pan in the oven that was caked with the syrupy drippings of figs I had dried in the oven a few days earlier.  I was crying and burning my hands and I almost ruined the roasting pan, not to mention my birds’ air sacs.  Luckily the error was caught just in time.

Additionally, one time while making Savory Rhubarb Lentil Curry from Scissors and Spice, (highly recommended) I THOUGHT I had turned the burner off once my lentils were done cooking…when in fact I, well, hadn’t.  Let me assure you, people, burning lentils is something you do NOT want to smell, much less eat.  I did though; I couldn’t bring myself to throw away that much food.  With the help of a certain Google, I discovered that stirring in a few spoonfuls of peanut butter will get the burnt taste out of dishes.  I tried this and it worked, to some extent…my curry just tasted like peanut butter.  Not that I’m complaining.  It did look quite…interesting…though.

Happily, though, this month I got on the stick and actually fiddled around with some recipes for the blog!  If you’re new to the wonderful world of The Girl in the Orange (a happy place to be, I assure you, even if  my background of the most awesome color in the world tends to clash with most everything on here), check them out here and here.  Yes, they are both breakfast recipes.  They also both happen to incorporate oatmeal…my calling.  It sounds creepy when I say it like that; but, yes, oatmeal is kinda “my thing” and I could eat it all day. Can I get another #nerdalert?

And, one last thing that it would be criminal not to mention: have any of you guys ever tried a peanut butter and carrot sandwich?  I’ve been chowing down on the deliciousness more and more frequently this month and am loving them to death.  Baby carrots work best, and they’re awesome grated very fine.  This is the fourth strange-but-mind-blowing sandwich recipe that I am positively in love with!!  So far, I have tried it on molasses brown bread, pita, and regular ol’ whole wheat (all homemade).  Dare I suggest…you eat it between two pancakes?

Yes, I do.  I dare.  Eat it on pancakes.  Savor.  Realize just how much you love life.

The peanut butter and carrot sandwich is certainly delicious, but for me, it represents something important too.  For a while last year, food was…well, to put it bluntly, not fun for me.  I obsessed about what I ate, when I ate, how I ate it, planning out weeks’ worth of menus in advance and making sure I only ate what I deemed “healthy”.  If I for some reason deviated from my menu plan, I would have a major panic attack, crying and doing everything I possibly could to try to maintain my rigid order.  I think this was my way of coping with stress–food was something I could definitely control, my one constant in life.  But, now I’ve wised up and realized how awesome food can be.  Peanut-butter-carrot-pancake sandwiches are such random, spontaneous meal choices–and it delights me.  It delights me that I now have the ability to just decide ‘screw planning, I’ma make me a PB and C’…and enjoy it!

…things that made me smile:

1: Eating a plum way-back-when on September 1st (don’t even try to tell me that’s not way-back-when; it’s before school started!  Therefore, it is obviously eons away.), I was amused by the little raccoon (I think) footprint impressed into it!

Don’t even try to tell me that that’s not just the darling-est thing you’ve ever seen.

2: People being so, so kind and tolerant of me when I went on a school-wide camping trip while puking my guts out.  A nurse practitioner stayed with me in my cabin, swiped me herbal tea, made me all better.  I was a horrible, mucus-filled burden and I’m sorry; but everyone was just so nice to me.  (: ❤

3: Having been isolated from my this-side-of-the-US friends for three months, I cannot conclude a September Recap with just thanking them for how they remained their glorious selves.  They’re willing to commiserate the massive homework load with me, compliment me on my pixie cut (which I still am rocking and totally in love with), make me smile at all the right moments, support me, love me.  You wouldn’t believe my reaction at a school potluck earlier this month when two of my friends told me they read my blog!  If I do remember correctly, I hugged them.  It means so much to me that people are actually willing to take time out of their spilling-over-with-stress lives to read the musings of a certain Girl in the Orange.  I would like to extend this thank you to my subscribers (I was going to say ‘my followers’, but that sounds creepy) as well!  At present, there is only twenty three of you, but twenty three is a lot.  Blogging makes me happy and it makes me happy when my blog makes other people happy. 🙂

My Latest Thang

(First off, a disclaimer:  The food photos you are about to view in this post are stunningly atrocious.  They were all shot by yours truly during the morning rush hour before school, usually with an impatiently grumbling tummy on one end of the camera and a more loudly grumbling mother griping at her daughter for playing with her food before getting ready for school.  These photos are intended as get-the-point-across photos, rather than, wow, look at that photo! photos.  I’m sorry.  I really need to do better.  I say food photography is one of my passionate hobbies and yet I provide you guys with crap like this.  I’ll work on it.)

With that out of the way, allow me to introduce you to my newest thang…

Steel-cut Thermos oatmeal.

(Can you believe I didn’t know Thermos was a brand name until a few days ago??  They’re actually called “insulated stainless steel containers”…

And let it be said, for legal purposes, that I am in no way paid by any Thermos folks to write this post, or even “insulated stainless steel container” folks.)

I can’t take credit for this idea–just do a quick web search for “steel cut oats in a thermos”, and you’ll find a million people wiser than me who have been doing this for ages.  I have no idea how I didn’t get the memo before hand, but trust me, this is magic, peeps.  It’s even quicker than the “student” steel-cut oats I mentioned a few posts back.  I don’t even need to dirty a dish.  What I do is measure 1/4 of a cup of dry steel cut oats into a thermos, add miscellaneous spices and seasonings, then heat one cup of water in the microwave (IN THE MEASURING CUP!!  How’s that for one-pot wonder?!) for three minutes.  When it’s done, I just pour the water into the “insulated stainless steel container”, screw the lid on tight, and set it at my place.  In the morning I have a still-warm breakfast of fully cooked, wonderfully stick-to-your-ribs steel-cut oatmeal.

DID I JUST BLOW YOUR MIND OR WHAT??!!

I’m sorry, I tend to get a wee bit excited about things as important as oatmeal.  🙂  But seriously–this slashes steel-cut oat cooking time by about, oh, 27 minutes.  And it tastes so…perfect!  On the stove, with my short attention span, my oats most often get mushy or not cooked enough.  The texture of this method is just perfect for me.

One night, I got a little frisky and threw a cinnamon stick up in there.

Yes, we have minnie mouse place mats.  How lame, right?  Minnie isn’t half as cool as the mouse himself, Mickey.

The cinnamon stick magically unrolled itself during the night (capillary action for ya!) and seasoned the oats just. perfectly.  I died.

Served warm with the first pear of the season sliced on top…

A few days later, the stick is back in its original form again!  Baha.  Does anyone know if you can reuse these babies?  They’re awfully expensive…

On another happy morning, I shook some salt and pepper and dried garlic into the oats before adding the water.  In the morning, I stirred in some spinach to wilt and topped the whole shebang with a fried egg.

Delish.  Huzzah for runny yolks!

My love life is not good because I eat things like garlic oatmeal before coming to school.  🙂  But at this point, garlicky oatmeal makes me happier than any boy could.

Breakfast Creamsicle Smoothie

Yes, I know I promised to share this recipe with you guys earlier this week, and I should have, seeing how I actually perfected it on Tuesday morning, but life got in the way.  I really can’t apologize.

I really want a T-shirt, or maybe one whole wall of my room, saying “Life happens”  to remind myself to take each day by the reigns and breathe.

So, yes, life happened–remember to breathe–but now I finally get to share my oatmeal-orange smoothie concoction with you guys!  You could stop breathing now, if you so choose.

As I have mentioned in past posts, I am a big fan of all things citrusy–hence The Girl in the Orange.  This love certainly does not exclude frozen novelty desserts.  My favorite sweet treats as a wee sprite were all frozen, and I especially liked root beer floats, turtle sundaes, hot fudge sundaes, mint chocolate chip ice cream, Bear Claw ice cream (a total love affair!..for another post), Dairy Queen Cheesequake and Kit-kat blizzards, and, of course, Creamsicles.  Somehow I didn’t weigh 5 thousand pounds!  Nowadays I prefer healthier indulgences, but if it’s a special occasion I certainly don’t mind digging into a hot fudge brownie sundae.  Mmmm.

Creamsicles hold a deeper meaning for me, as well–one of my happiest memories in the few weeks before moving was hanging out with my friends on the school soccer field, slurping away at delightfully orangey Creamsicles.  I miss them so much.  (Friends, not creamsicles.  You can buy those here too.)

I had been toying with the idea of a Creamsicle I could drink for breakfast for a long time, and, coupled with my recent cold and, by extension, our surplus of oranges, last week was the perfect time!

Breakfast Creamsicle Smoothie

makes 1 nice tall smoothie

Ingredients:

1 batch SOLID overnight oats (recipe follows)

1 cup orange juice (I used freshly-squeezed–so much sweeter!)

1/2 frozen banana

2 tsp orange zest

1/4 cup greek yogurt

Directions:

Um, blend them together.  In a blender.  Hopefully this was rather self-explanatory.

Solid overnight oats:

Mix together 1/2 cup old-fashioned (rolled) oats, about .8 cup vanilla almond milk, a splash of vanilla extract, and 1.5 tablespoon chia seeds in a reusable, sealable container.  Seal and place in the refrigerator overnight, or for at least a hour and a half.

This mixture uses a lot of oats and chia seeds and not much liquid, so it will be VERY THICK in the morning with no liquid left over.  This is okay, as it will make your smoothie nice and thick!  If you like thinner smoothies, though, you can omit the greek yogurt in the smoothie or add more liquid to the overnight oats.

Notes on this smoothie: the orange zest is very important in this recipe as it really lets the flavor of the orange shine through!  If for some reason you have orange juice but not zest, you can probably sub in a LITTLE splash of orange extract.

Also, this smoothie will not be orange.  Just warning you.  Creamsicles get that appetizing sunrise hue from a whole truckload of artificial colors, but in this smoothie the milk and shtuff will overpower the orangeness of the orange and it will be white and frothy.  Trust me, though, it still tastes orange and it still tastes good.

Enjoy this lovely Autumn weekend while it lasts!  Monday seems so daunting…