good-morning (almost summer) sunday muesli.

 

I’ve admitted it before, perhaps more than once.  I have a fondness for oats. and breakfast cereals.  and muesli.

And perhaps because I’ve woken (for a second day in a row) to sunshine and a blast of warm air, I’m in the mood for a light, cool, refreshingly summer-y breakfast.

Cue the pineapple, blueberries, oranges, and oats!

Pineapple, Orange, Blueberry Muesli
2 1/2 cups oats
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup flax seed meal
~2/3 cup dried pineapple, candied orange peel, and blueberries
~1/3 cup raw cashews, toasted and chopped
  • Toss all ingredients into a container to mix evenly.  Use your hands to separate the mixed fruits.  The candied orange is especially sweet, so use a light hand.
     
  • Serve with yogurt and more (fresh) fruit, if desired!

Days of Boundless Energy (Bars)

Yesterday I had a revelation.  I had three whole hours of quality sit-down-do-nothing time on my hands.   It was truly marvelous.  There were no phone calls, no important emails, nothing pressing for my mind to guilt me into doing.  Simplicity.  It came after a morning jam-packed with physical labor.  The kind where I got to get dirty, outside, gardening in the aid of  others.  This splendid act is likely what pushed me to spend the following hours sprawled in abandon.

But after a sudden reflection on the busy-busy that occurs daily, I realize there are certain things that keep me going.  One of those is energy bars.  I’ve been an advocate for oats and fruit since the beginning , I think.  I cannot remember a moment in life where I did not relish the quiet textures of oats mixed with dried fruits.  Growing up, my dad and us kids would have oatmeal with “stinkbugs” (raisins) for breakfast regularly.  Since I recall always wanting this morning dish, and never having changed since, I guess I am a true oat-aficionado at heart.  With that, I’ve also been an eater of granola (and snack) bars for some time, always as a quick pick-me-up to get through the busy hours of the day.  Over time, I’ve gradually moved down the sweet scale of snack bars, until I can stand only the barest hint of sweet lightness.  These bars satisfy on those measures.

Blueberry-Raisin-Coconut Granola Bars
3 oz. raw cashews
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1 1/4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/4 cups rye flakes
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried blueberries
small handful unsweetened coconut flakes
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a food processor, puree raw cashews and brown rice syrup until thick and smooth.  Transfer to a medium bowl and mix in eggs and vanilla.
  • Combine oats, rye flakes, salt, and baking powder and mix in with wet ingredients.
  • Stir in coconut, and dried fruit.  Transfer mixture to a 9-x-9 in. baking dish.  Bake for 20 minutes or until still slightly soft when you push into the bars.

Almost Spring Brown Bread Breakfast

I have been a fan of Irish Brown Bread since I moved away to college nearly six years ago, and wanting to make my own bread, but never having the time to knead and proof, fell back on a staple of the Old Country.  Brown Bread is wholemeal or wholegrain soda bread, and unlike the many American versions floating around this time of year, it’s truly the real deal.     Brown bread is always the best bread for a thick bowl of steaming vegetable soup, a quick yogurt and toast breakfast, and an open-faced sandwich with all the toppings.  In fact, I make it whenever the whim strikes or I have extra buttermilk hanging about in the kitchen, as was the case today.

Brown Bread is one of those national pastimes that arose out of necessity–due to the type of soft wheat grown in the cool Irish climate, which doesn’t yield an adequate rise for yeast bread, the abundance of buttermilk or sour milk left about in homes where there were always cows producing fresh milk, and the fact that it was filling and cheap during a time when the majority of residents were impoverished.

I’ve tried what seems like hundreds of brown bread recipes over the years in search of a perfectly moist loaf, as the bread can tend to be dry, all the while wanting a bread  that still has a sweet wholesome flavor, without sacrificing it’s simple nature.  After spending a Bank Holiday weekend last summer at Ballymaloe House in Shanagarry, County Cork, I found it–Myrtle Allen’s Brown Bread recipe.  It’s truly perfection.  I would expect nothing less from the famed woman who started the Ballymaloe Cookery School.

Myrtle Allen’s Brown Soda Bread
4 cups wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup steel-cut oatmeal, oat bran, or thick-cut oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2-4 cups buttermilk
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease or oil a baking sheet or large loaf pan and set aside.
  • Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  • Make a well in the middle of the bowl and add the buttermilk, stirring with a wooden spoon until dough is soft but not too wet, with no dry flour left.  (About 2 1/2 cups of buttermilk but more or less may be necessary).
  • Turn the dough out on a floured board and shape into a round about 3 inches thick.  Alternatively, pour the dough mixture from the bowl into an oiled loaf pan and spread evenly.  Cut a deep cross in the top of the loaf with a wet or floured knife.  If making a round, transfer to a large baking sheet.
  • Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until the the bottom is nicely browned and the bottom of the load sounds hollow.

For a beautiful tasty breakfast that makes me think of spring with all it’s fresh colors and flavors, thinly slice bread and toast.  Top with plain yogurt, sliced mango, and fresh blueberries.  Delicious!