Forget Dinner

I should have known better. I did not expect much, and I was wrong. Maria Speck’s book Ancient Grains for Modern Meals has been a reliable resource in my kitchen for quite a while now, and it has rarely let me down.

It’s one of those recipes I have considered on several occasions but moved on, opting for something else. Perhaps it is because she offers it as primarily a breakfast dish—and it needs an overnight soak. Apparently, I have trouble thinking that far ahead.  Sad.

Maria calls it an Anise Oatmeal Puff.  That sounds interesting. But then she adds an egg, clearly something I’ve had difficulty imagining. Well, for anyone who is a rice pudding fan, take another look.  You receive all the instant gratification, plus it’s made more nutritious with oats.

Maria and her family must surely like it, because her recipe makes enough for 8 stand-alone servings.  This morning I decided to test her idea. I would resize the dry mix and forgo the prescribed overnight soak method.

It’s another microwave wonder:  true bliss in under 5 minutes. Tasty, filling, entertaining, and fast. In fact, I would even make this for dinner—or dessert—and forget dinner.

In all fairness to Maria, I offer her original recipe from sister book Simply Ancient Grains, because it is probably worth making in batches and investing in the overnight soak.  However, if you are like me, and in your first excursion would prefer to pass on the wait, those adjustments also follow.

Anise Oatmeal Puff

Inspiration from Simply Ancient Grains, Maria Speck
 
Ingredients
Dry Oatmeal Mix – 8 servings
2 cups old fashion rolled oats or rolled grains
2/3 cup golden raisins or dried cranberries
1 teaspoon crushed anise or fennel seeds
1-1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Oatmeal Puff – per serving
1//3 – 1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon maple, agave, or other syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
A few grapes or other fruit such as fresh pear or apple, dried cranberries, dates or prunes
Powdered or cinnamon sugar for dusting, optional

Directions
Prepare the dry oatmeal mix and combine well.  Store airtight.
Allow per serving:

  1. The night before: In microwave safe mug or bowl place 1/3 cup dry oat mix with milk, syrup and vanilla. Cover and chill.
  2. The next morning: In a small bowl beat the egg with a fork until well blended.  Stir it into the mug mixture to combine.  Stir in 3-4 grapes or other fruit.
  3. Place mug in microwave and cook on high 1 minute 20 seconds – it will rise possibly above the rim, but will not spill over. It is done when a skewer inserted comes out clean.  Cook 10 seconds and test.  Let set a few minutes to firm up.  Top with more grapes, dust with cinnamon and serve.

Individual Anise Oatmeal Puff recipe for 1, without overnight soak

  1. In an ovenproof mug combine:
    1/3 cup quick oats
    1 tablespoon dried fruit: cranberries etc.
    Pinch crumbled anise seeds
    Scant 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  2. Add to the oats and mix well:
    1/3 cup milk
    1 tablespoon agave, maple, or other syrup
    Dash almond or vanilla extract
  3. To expedite soaking, warm mixture in microwave for about 40 seconds, stirring every 20 seconds to absorb some of the liquid and expand the oats, but not thoroughly heat.
  4. Beat 1 egg and incorporate in the oat mixture.
  5. Microwave a total of 1 minute and 20 seconds. Half way, rotate the cup for even rising. It is done when a pick or narrow knife inserted in center comes out nearly clean. Let rest about 3 minutes to set up.
  6. Top with a few fresh berries. If desired, sprinkle with powdered or cinnamon sugar.

A Chocolate Chip Cookie, à la minute

Here’s a cheap thrill to remember when the snack shelf is bare and you are in deep need of a little personal indulgence.  There’s nothing like your own rich, warm, gooey chocolate chip cookie, à la minute, for a boost of comfort and happiness.

That’s right, it’s another microwave steal.  Grab an oven proof cup, mix up a few basic staples (of course, that would include chocolate chips), and pop it into the microwave for maybe a minute.

The trick here is in not over baking.  After about 45 seconds the batter will look bubbly and raised, but certainly not set and firm.  No matter.  Take it out,  let it rest for 5 minutes, and it will solidify into the familiar cookie we all love.

This is not a bake ahead item.  Enjoy it warm straight out of the cup or pop it out and have at it.  Of course, a scoop or two of ice cream is an obvious consideration…

A Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie

Inspired by One Bowl Baking, Yvonne Ruperti

Ingredients
1 tablespoon softened butter
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
Pinch salt
2 teaspoons water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
Pinch baking soda
1 tablespoon bittersweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Spread a dab of butter on the bottom and sides of an oven proof cup or mug.
  2. Place the brown sugar, butter, salt, water and vanilla in mug and give it a good stir.
  3. Add the flour, baking soda and chocolate chips and stir until just combined. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the cup.
  4. Microwave on high, just until the dough puffs, bubbles form, and it doesn’t look wet—about 45 seconds, depending on oven.
  5. Remove from the microwave and let rest for 5 minutes, until set. Enjoy while warm.  Yield:  1 serving.

Oatmeal Crisps: Addendum

Perhaps I didn’t fully elaborate on yesterday’s amazingly addictive Oatmeal Crisps.  I woke in the middle of the night thinking of my extended rant which failed to mention much of anything about their real virtues.

Oatmeal Crisps

Did I mention the lacy cookies that clock in at under two minutes baking time per batch are not only ethereal, crisp, and crunchy, but their rich and nutty flavor belies the fact that they have less than 20 calories each?   I didn’t think so.

Did I tell you that they have the added benefit of oatmeal’s nutritional value, fiber, and flavor?  That for the small number and volume of ingredients you receive so much?  I think not.

Did I mention that although these are prepared in the microwave, and there still seems to be some concern about its usage, the convenience and advantages of the microwave in cases such as this, are well worth considering?

Did I mention that their charm lends not only to copious snacking but also that they make a style statement when perched alongside or atop ice cream, sorbet, parfaits, mousse, or nearly anything else you can think of?  Not so much.

Did I mention that even though they take so little time to produce, they make an excellent and thoughtful gift when you would rather not show up empty handed on someone’s doorstep?

No, I didn’t think so.

Fair Warning: Addictive Cookies Ahead

Well, that was exciting—but of course, food does that to me!

crisps-plate

Oatmeal crisps, tuiles, wafers. It’s all good.

This time two of my favorite things, oatmeal and caramel, joined together as one, thanks to the magic of the microwave. My tiny kitchen was astir with activity while these beauties danced their way out of the oven, one sweet nutty batch after another.

The crisp golden cookies began as tiny ½ teaspoon droplets of batter then immediately melted and expanded into thin rounds; they were done in less than 2 minutes of rapid baking. The trickiest part here is figuring out how to rotate from one batch to the next without a lot of down time.

When I hit my groove I was filling, turning, or cleaning two oven safe 10” flat plates constantly. Well, that’s not completely true. There was a time when I looked a little like Lucy in the chocolate factory, tasting and sampling the goods as fast as I could.

Fresh out of the oven

Fresh out of the oven

In spite of that, once the assembly line was working and I had my rhythm going, I cranked out four dozen cookies (*less the sample factor) quite efficiently.

It could be remnants of a sugar high, but these are dangerously addictive. Fair warning.

Oatmeal Crisps

Inspired by Barbara Kafta’s Microwave Gourmet (1987)

Ingredients
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons quick oats
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoon butter, melted
cooking oil for baking platter

Directions

  1. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt and combine with the oats.
  2. Beat egg until foamy. Add cinnamon and sugar and beat until well mixed, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla
  3. Add melted butter and dry ingredients and stir well.
  4. Thoroughly coat a 10″ round ovenproof platter with cooking oil. Drop 1/2 teaspoonful rounds of batter onto platter in a ring about 2” apart, around the inside rim (will only make about 6 cookies per batch).
  5. In the microwave, bake first batch approximately 2-1/2 minutes. Every 30 seconds, stop and restart until cookies begin to bubble and centers turn lightly golden. They will firm up as they cool.  Cooking time will shorten with remaining batches: allow about 1 minute 20 seconds depending on oven, restarting every 30 seconds to cook evenly. Watch carefully—they will burn quickly.
  6. Remove with metal spatula to a rack to cool. Store airtight.  Yield about 4 dozen cookies.
  7. Batter can be made a day in advance, chilled and well covered.

Fluffy Scrambled Eggs in a Flash

Given a breakfast choice, I tend toward poached or soft-boiled eggs, but easy scrambled eggs have their place, too. Especially if they are moist and creamy.

I suspect I’ve been influenced by my dad who preferred his scrambled eggs gently cooked in a double boiler, untouched by the heat of the simmering water below. In this slow luxurious process they gently form moist, fluffy, glistening curds. They were always outstanding, but it could have been due to the generous amount of butter and cream he used.scrambled-eggs

In my microwave tinkering, I have discovered this highly satisfactory version of scrambled eggs. Even though they are cooked on high heat, the practice of brief heat spurts followed by gentle stirring seems to make a difference. The curds don’t have a chance to form dry blocks of lifeless eggs.

The results: an individual portion of soft, moist, glistening egg curds made in two minutes. Please note that microwaves vary, use this as a guide and adjust accordingly. Also, suggestions for larger quantities follow.

Personal Fluffy Scrambled Eggs

Adapted from Not Your Mother’s Microwave Cookbook by Beth Hensperger

Ingredients
½ teaspoon butter, melted in a microwaveable mug
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk or water
dash salt and pepper
optional: 1 teaspoon chopped green onion, 1 teaspoon grated cheddar cheese

Directions
1. Spread the melted butter around the interior of the mug.
2. In a small mixing bowl beat the eggs with liquid, salt and pepper and pour into the buttered mug.
3. Microwave uncovered on high for 45 seconds. Remove and stir with fork, mixing the set portions from the outside edge into center, then pushing the center back out to edge.
4. Microwave on high another 30 seconds, then if using add the onion and part of the cheese and stir gently.
5. Resume cooking for 20 seconds more, give a light stir and top with more cheese. Eggs should no longer be runny, but moist, glistening and puffed. Let stand 50-60 seconds to firm the eggs.
Yield: 1 serving.

Note: For larger quantities, use 2 tablespoons liquid per egg. Add herbs, meat, cheese, vegetables etc. 30 seconds before the eggs are done and still runny. Cook 4 eggs for 1 3/4 – 2 minutes, 6 eggs for 2 1/2 – 3 minutes.

Ice Storm Baking

Here in Oregon’s central Willamette Valley, we are under winter storm conditions with yesterday’s 3-inch layer of snow. Today, early morning ice storm warnings advise all to stay off the roads due to dangerous conditions.

cranberry-orange-mini-coffeecakeHunkering down, my thoughts naturally drift to tinkering with food. I envision something easy and comforting—on the order of a warm, cheery Sunday morning coffeecake.

Of course, my recent fascination with the microwave was enough to inspire these personal portions of cranberry orange coffee cake. They were table ready within 15 minutes, including minimal cleanup.

Since everything cooks quickly in the microwave, it’s best to thoroughly pre-prep everything. I had fresh frozen cranberries handy in the freezer. To move things along I microwaved them with a dab citrusy orange marmalade until they began to pop, then set it aside to cool. Same with dry ingredients; a quick sift alleviates weird pockets of flavor.

Baking in the microwave is quite different from the traditional oven since powerful heat can create moisture accumulation. I abandoned the usual covering of food prior to cooking; it tends to adhere to the surface and make more of a mess. Also, to maintain an even rise, I turned the baking dishes every 30 seconds after the initial first minute.

indiv-cranberry-orange-coffeecakeIn total, these 3 lovelies took a little over 2 minutes total cooking time. Since the centers tend to cook first, the edges still appear undercooked, but that is fine. Carry over heat from the container plus the food’s internal heat will continue to cook after removal from the microwave.

Enjoy these warm in their baking containers.  For additional flourish, sprinkle with turbinado sugar prior to baking, or afterward cool slightly and dust tops with confectioner’s sugar or give a drizzle with xxx sugar thinned with liquid.

Cranberry Orange Mini Coffeecakes, Two Minute

Ingredients
1/3 cup fresh frozen cranberries
1 tablespoon marmalade
1/2 cup all purpose flour, or any flour combination (like 1/2 whole wheat)
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Dash salt
1 egg
2 tablespoon milk
Turbinado sugar, optional topping

Directions

  1. Spray 3 – 8 oz microwave safe baking dishes with non-stick spray, place on ovenproof dish.
  2. In small microwave safe container, heat cranberries and marmalade about 1 minute to soften and breakdown.  Set aside to cool.
  3. Sift dry ingredients into small mixing bowl and blend thoroughly.
  4. Separately, beat egg and milk to thoroughly combine.
  5. Combine the egg mixture with the dry ingredients and quickly swirl in the cranberry mixture.
  6. Divide batter evenly between three baking dishes, sprinkle lightly with turbinado sugar if desired.
  7. Bake on high for 1 minute.  Give each dish a slight turn and bake another 30 seconds and turn again.  Continue to bake and turn in 30 second increments for 2 minutes or more; edges will be moist, but continue to cook out of the oven.  Don’t overbake.  Yield: 3 servings.

Gingerbread, On Demand

Here’s a moist comforting gingerbread that tastes of winter and warm spices—so good it should not be relegated solely to the holidays. The fact that it bakes in only two minutes should give you even more good reasons to have it freshly baked on demand, for round the clock availability.

The genesis of this tasty gingerbread, comes from Dina Cheney’s great little cookbook Mug Meals, Delicious Microwave Recipes. Her book helps us to consider new applications for the microwave beyond popcorn, warming a quick beverage, or reheating leftovers. It’s loaded with clever tips and recipes for creating real food with minimal muss or fuss—of particular interest to anyone involved in small space living, those faced with eating on the run, or fellow adventurers who just love playing with their food.

One of the biggest issues in microwave baking concerns the lack of browning and low eye appeal.  Bread without a golden brown crust just isn’t the same; neither are cakes with rough and bumpy tops.  Instead of starring at a pock marked cake surface or hiding it under a streusel topping, I opt to turn the gingerbread on its head—to invert and set it bottom side up.gingerbread-blog

Rather than the original huge mugful of gingerbread we end up with 3 or 4 smaller charming cakes that are nice enough for company.  Thanks to IKEA, individual silicone molds hold up perfectly in the microwave; with their stylized shapes, any bottoms simply disappear.  Small soufflé dishes will also work beautifully.mis-en-plas

There’s plenty of flavor going on here: warm spices and molasses for depth of flavor, citrusy marmalade and spicy apple butter all add distinct layers.  Nice enough for the holidays, these personal portions are a lovely addition at breakfast or pretty as an afternoon snack with tea. For an easy dessert, add a spoonful of Pear Butter or a creamy Custard Sauce.

Gingerbread Mini Cakes, Two Minute

Inspired by  Mug Meals, Delicious Microwave Recipes by Dina Cheney

Ingredients
7 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or any combo such as: 1 T cake, 1 T whole wheat, 1 T buckwheat, 4 T all-purpose
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon crystallized ginger, chopped, or 2 tablespoons currants or golden raisins (optional)
1 egg
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 heaping tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon apple butter
1 tablespoon marmalade
1 tablespoon milk
Non-stick cooking spray

Directions

  1. Spray 4 – 3 oz. silicone baking molds or 3 – 4 oz. soufflé cups with non-stick spray.
  2. On wax paper or in small bowl measure in flour. A combination is nice, cake flour especially aids in texture and rising.  Add baking soda, salt and spices.  Combine well.  Add the candied ginger or dried fruit and toss to dust with flour.
  3. In 2 cup measure or small bowl, beat the egg with a fork, then beat in the oil. Add the molasses, apple butter, marmalade, and milk to combine.
  4. Pour the dry into liquid ingredients and gently stir with a spoon, don’t over mix.
  5. Spoon batter into molds to half fill, they will rise a lot. Set them on an ovenproof plate; cover lightly with wax paper and bake in microwave on high about 1 minute, until they are puffed and fully risen.  Carefully remove the paper and check.
  6. Return molds to oven without paper and continue to cook the interiors, about 1 minute longer, depending on oven. Check every 20 seconds until the centers are nearly firm and tops are set but still moist; they will continue cooking after removal from oven. Cool briefly to firm up.  Carefully run a thin knife around edges to release and turn out to cool further.  Yield:  3-4 cakes, depending on mold.