Irish Oatmeal – and how it can help develop your palate

When we were grocery shopping this week, my 6-year-old asked to get oatmeal. I don’t usually make oatmeal, so I thought this was curious. I like having oats in the house for baking, but I’ve never been a huge fan of oatmeal. I’ve recently realized it’s due to the mushy texture – with everything I eat, I need texture: something crunchy, something to chew on. Plus, I questioned the real nutritious value of microwavable oatmeal packets, and I had never made homemade oatmeal.

But my little girl wanted it, so I figured we could try it again.
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Now, I am pretty happy with A’s palate so far. She is able to pretty accurately describe what she’s eating using good descriptive words. She always asks about what’s on her plate or in her bowl. I tell her, because instead of hiding from her that she’s eating vegetables, I want her to appreciate and enjoy all parts of her food; when she inevitably likes it, I have now opened a door to using that ingredient in other ways and reminding her that she likes it. The worst case scenario is that she’s able to vocalize when there’s something she doesn’t like.

So the first time I made her oatmeal, before school this week, I made it according to package instructions, and tasted it plain. (Yep. Still don’t like plain oatmeal. Does anyone, I wondered?) I knew I could add butter and brown sugar, but I was trying to think a little healthier, so instead I added honey and a few dashes of cinnamon/sugar. Then I got thinking about my texture issue and added a very little bit of chopped pecans I had purchased to put in chicken salad. Then she said she wanted cut up strawberries on top, so we did that as well.

Well, here’s proof of her sensitivity. I had mixed the pecans in and didn’t tell her. She quickly noticed there was some kind of nut in there, and let me know she didn’t like it. But she did seem to like the oatmeal otherwise, and even asked for seconds.

She asked for oatmeal again today, and asked to help make it. I gladly agreed, thinking, here’s an opportunity to develop her palate a bit more. (You can probably try this with your kids using a different food, but oatmeal is pretty kid friendly, and pretty easy to make small adjustments and notice differences in the taste.)

When I first started cooking, I remember feeling overwhelmed at the idea of not following a recipe EXACTLY. Watching cooking shows, seeing people taste a dish and say, “It needs more ____.” How should I know what else it needs?! I was still learning what the most basic spices and ingredients tasted like, and how best to combine them, and didn’t yet trust my palate to determine what was missing from a dish. I want to prevent my kids from having the same issue. Oatmeal is one of those things that you can modify to your liking really easily, so I figured it was a good place to start.

I measured the water, put it on the stove in a small saucepan, and explained this:
“Any time you are boiling water, adding salt helps it boil faster, and brings out the natural flavors of whatever you’re cooking.”
Once we reached a boil, we added the oatmeal and put the timer on, stirring almost constantly. We removed it from the heat, covered it, and let it sit for 3 minutes. Then I removed the lid, stirred, and let her taste it plain.
“I want you to taste it how it is and tell me what you think we should add.”
She tasted it, made a face, and said, “I want to add cinnamon.”
So we added some cinnamon. She tasted again. “I think we need more cinnamon.” (I think she was right.)
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More cinnamon, another taste, and even while making a face, she said “I think that’s good,” and held out her bowl. Because of the face she made, I asked, “Do you want to add some honey to sweeten it?” and she agreed: “Last time I had it there was honey in it and it was really good!”
So we added honey and she was happy with it. She did say, “I don’t want any pecans. I don’t like the nuts and how they stick to my teeth.”

Well maybe she didn’t, but I did. I made myself a bowl and topped it with the pecans and then – chocolate chips. Not just to add some texture, but to add that smooth mouth-feel that happens when chocolate melts. And, because, let’s face it, I’m still a chocoholic at heart! ❤
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*Adding chopped bananas or strawberries, raspberries or blueberries will lend more nutrition and flavor.
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Click here to read more about how to develop your kids palate, and rid yourself of picky eaters!

Crepes!

Where do I begin?? Once I tried them, crepes quickly became one of my favorite meals.  Good for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert. Great any time of year, but there’s something about hot crepes when it’s cold and grey out. Plus they go GREAT with a morning cup of tea (and you know how I love my tea). These are a favorite with my kids too. They’re too young to do this now, but I have this mental image of bowls of different fillings and they’re choosing which ones they want. Make your own Crepe, instead of Make your Own Sundae. I think what makes me really drawn to a recipe is when you can start with a base of understanding and adjust for many different uses or flavors. Muffins for example. Or pasta. Or soup. Even cookies. Maybe that’s why I really like Alton Brown’s show, “Good eats”. He teaches you the science and the reasoning behind things. It’s the whole, “teach them to fish” concept. Because once you understand a technique, you can begin to come up with and combine your own ideas instead of relying on other people’s.

When I searched recipes for crepes Alton Brown’s was one of the ones that came up. He had a genius idea of mixing everything in a blender, instead of in a mixing bowl. Not only do you dirty like dishes, but you can pour directly out of the blender into the frying pan instead of having to use a ladle or some other device to scoop the batter and put it into the pan. So efficient! Most of the time when I make these, I make them for breakfast or lunch, and they are sweet, using fruit and chocolate, etc. However I have done a savory version and they’re great for dinner too.

Here we go! (Link to recipe at bottom)
I always add the eggs first, so they are closest to the blades of the blender.
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Then I’ll add vanilla.
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I don’t always use cinnamon, but since we were making apple cinnamon today, I did. And sugar.
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Then I alternate between wet and dry ingredients; if you put all the liquid on bottom and dry on top, it takes a long time (not to mention makes a bigger mess!) to combine, and if you put dry on bottom and wet on top, it’s hard to combine unless you stir first.
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As for the melted butter: I always melt it in a Pyrex cup and melt it in the microwave. The ‘beverage’ button works well for this. Or if you have a ‘milk’ button – or some microwaves even have a ‘butter’ button! Nice!
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And after the first batch of flour I’ll add the butter.
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Here’s the awesome part: I’ll reuse that Pyrex (Yep, less dishes!) to measure the milk. AND, whatever butter is left in the Pyrex will come out when I pour the milk. And that’s why I do the water last. It too pulls the rest of the milk out. Alton Brown’s recipe says you can add 2 tablespoons of your favorite liqueur. Well, mine have to be kid friendly. So I add a couple splashes of OJ.
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Pulse for about 10 seconds or until everything is combined. You might need a spatula to get anything un-stuck from the sides of the blender.

Now the fun… choose your filling!

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Be sure to give them a stir to combine all ingredients!

I always put the filling in bowls because these cook so fast that you won’t have time to cut or cook things while the crepes cook. (In fancy cooking terms, this is called your ‘mise en place’) This will be the filling for the apple cinnamon crepes:
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I use butter flavored cooking spray, BEING SURE TO COAT THE SIDES OF THE PAN. Then pour the batter in a circular motion around the outside of the pan and into the middle until it covers the bottom of the pan:
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Then tilt the pan and swirl the batter in a circular motion around the edges of the pan until, well, there’s nothing left to swirl!
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When it starts to bubble in the middle, like the picture above, and the sides pull away easily from the pan, it’s ready to flip! Go around the outside with your spatula first, to make sure all the sides come away easy. Then slide the spatula under the crepe, and FLIP!
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I used this same pan to cook the apples in, so it had some buttery-cinnamon-y goodness still on the bottom, which you can see here. Yeah. Yum.
Immediately put your filling in a straight line down the middle of your crepe (think a diameter line!) For these I first used the flat spatula to spread some apple butter all over, then added the apples, then a sprinkling of cinnamon/sugar.
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Next fold the sides in over the filling, first one, then the other. Press down gently on the folds with the flat end of your spatula to seal it a little. At this point you don’t need to cook it too much more. A minute maybe, if you want to make sure everything is heated through, or your chocolate chips are melted 😉
Then slide it out of the pan onto a plate, sprinkle with some powdered sugar and, VOILA! A beautiful delicious crepe waiting for your enjoyment.

Delicious Crepes!

Delicious Crepes!

I always have at least 2 filling options, sometimes 3. Today the other filling we did was bananas and chocolate chips:
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Aubrey’s crepes (the kids like a drizzle of syrup or sometimes honey)

Due to the nature of these scrumptious treats, they are sometimes difficult to cut or for the kids to eat. However, I have mastered the art of cutting these for kids, and will now share this essential and TOP SECRET information with you:

How to cut crepes for kids

How to cut crepes for kids

The trick is to hold the crepe STILL with the fork while you cut with a sharp knife. I cut the ‘hamburger’ cuts first, then do one cut lengthwise (‘hot dog’!) down the middle. The best way to eat these is to slide your fork underneath each cut and bring to your mouth. YUM!

My favorite filling for these is probably strawberries and chocolate chips. But here’s a list of possibilities:
*strawberries & chocolate chips
*strawberries, bananas & chocolate chips
*bananas & chocolate chips
*bananas, cinnamon/sugar, & chocolate chips (Aubrey’s idea!)
*peanut butter & jelly (also Aubrey’s idea!)
*apple cinnamon
*bananas and blueberries
*blueberry compote (made by sautéing blueberries with a little cranberry juice, OJ & sugar!)

SAVORY crepes can be seasoned with herbs IN the batter, and putting veggies and/or a cream or cheese sauce. Great for dinner!

Here’s the link to Alton Brown’s original recipe. (For me and my kids, I take 1 1/2 recipe otherwise we don’t have enough)
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/crepes-recipe/index.html

Now go make some. For yourself. Or family! Or impress your friends at your next get-together with these babies that seem hard to make… but are really quite easy 😉