Steel Cut Oats with Strawberries, Bananas and Peanut Butter

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I made a daring getaway. I only just got out of there with my life and dignity.

It was at the bargain basement of Urban Outfitters. There were sales. There were $5 t-shirts. The clothing racks were spaced about six inches apart and it was the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday. Lines to the registers were 10 deep.

I lasted five minutes. No amount of printed tights, patterned pants or polka dot shirts could keep me there.

I scurried up the stairs and didn’t look back, for fear of being turned into stone.

And to calm my nerves, I ran straight into the hardware store next door and made purchases that either make me out to be a dude or, at the very least, someone who is obsessed with coffee. 200 filters. A pour-over brewer. Batteries. I almost bought that pooping pig keychain. Remember those?

Shopping is stressful and I don’t recommend it to anyone.

But I do recommend a full serving of steel cut oats every morning.

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Steel cut oats are my jam. And so much better than plain old rolled oats. They’re dense and slightly crunchy and, best of all, are re-microwavable. You can make a big vat of them on Sunday and have it last you for the rest of the week.

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Bananarama! Strawberrypalooza! Fruits! Vitamins!

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Guys I just put a tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter in that bowl. It might even be two tablespoons. A dollop. A lot.

Steel cut oats with strawberries, bananas and peanut butter.

1 cup steel cut oats
4 cups water
3 tablespoons ground flax
1 banana
3 strawberries
dollop of peanut butter

In a large pot, bring the water to a rolling boil. Add the oats and stir continuously to make sure none of the grains get stuck to the bottom. Reduce the heat to a simmer and keep on stirring every minute or so to prevent a skin from forming. Continue to do this for about 30 minutes, until all of the water is absorbed and the oats have a porridge-like consistency.

Turn off the heat and quickly incorporate the ground flax.

Add sliced bananas, strawberries and peanut butter dollop. You can also add any other fruit or topping your heart desires. Make it a breakfast dessert with chocolate chips. Throw in some mango. Get some jam in there.

Makes enough for an apartment of 4 people or just enough to last you until Wednesday.

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Spiced Buttermilk Pancakes

Let’s try an experiment.

How about we all try to talk to strangers?

I was recently directed toward this Onion article and was aghast that I might very well be one of the most annoying people in Boston. I like talking to people. I like it when someone’s wearing sassy shoes on the train – so much so that I tell them how sassy their shoes are. The 40-something-year-old listening to funk was just begging for someone to groove with him, right?

“Hi, your tattoo of a shark jaw is pretty fantastic.”

“Are you seriously listening to ‘Call Me Maybe?’ Is this really happening right now?”

“Would you rather have your hands smell like garlic or your feet like asparagus?”

A girl sitting next to me on a park bench and I both were reading a book during the sunset, and amidst the silence and distant sound of dogs barking and children playing, she let out a very audible toot. I burst out laughing and she did the same. We didn’t even say anything to each other, just laughed for a few seconds then went on reading until it was time to go.

Talk to people. Just give it a whirl. And maybe, someday, you’ll make them a stack of buttermilk pancakes in the morning and realize that if not for your mild nuisance of a personality, you wouldn’t have met half of the people who make your life special every day.

Ingredients everywhere. Recipe on the laptop for inspiration. This is what the kitchen looks like when it’s time to cook.

I find it difficult to have a plain pancake. Even if it’s fluffy and filled with buttermilk. It needs some oomph. It needs ginger and cinnamon.

Egg whites into stiff peaks. It might be the one baking process that is both my least favorite and most satisfying thing to do. If you don’t have an electric mixer, I suggest avoiding it. Unless you work out your forearms on the regular. Who works out their forearms on the regular?

I like eating in my office in the morning. I also like waking people up with the smell of sizzling butter.

Spiced buttermilk pancakes.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs, separated

Optional: blueberries

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking power, spices and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, butter, vanilla and egg yolks until just combined. Add to the dry ingredients until and mix until just incorporated.

Using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites until they become stiff peaks. Fold gently into the rest of the batter, being careful not to over mix.

Heat a skillet to medium temperature and add a dollop of butter. Scoop pancake batter in 1/4-cup sizes, being sure to leave about 1-2 inches between each round.

Makes about 12-18 pancakes, depending on how large you make them.

Review: Red Lentil

Real talk, guys.

Sometimes I don’t cook. Sometimes I forget to go to the grocery store. Sometimes I order in. Sometimes a pizza from that hole in the wall around the corner sounds like a good idea. Usually, it’s not a good idea.

There are also times when I cook at 11 p.m., when the lights are dim and all I have in the pantry are rice and beans. And kimchi. Smorgasbord doom.

That’s how life rolls. Sometimes.

But at least there are still restaurants like Red Lentil, which I had the pleasure of reviewing some time ago and feel as though it’s my duty to pay Chef Pankaj Pradhan my respects.

Sesame encrusted seitan strips are little pockets of teriyaki, smoky and charred yum on my tongue. Considered an appetizer by the menu, these morsels could easily be munched as an entree because the serving sizes are massive. And talk about soft and juicy – I don’t know why I ever liked chicken.

Seitan is a testy subject with most meat eaters. One of my fellow comrades once told me the first time he ever tried “satan,” as he insists on calling it, he wanted to spit it out. Truth be told, this form of gluten is usually chewy, gummy and bland, but the folks at Red Lentil fry it up to perfection.

Chef Pradhan really has the beet. These thin beet-potato latkes are filled with Granny Smith apples and thyme dates before they’re pan fried. With a side salad, apricot marmalade and cilantro vinaigrette, this gets another vote for potential entree or shareable side.

I call this a pile of cauliflower smothered in sweet-and-spicy tomato sauce that would send any meat lover over the edge. Dubbed the Gobi Manchurian by Pradhan, this Indian-inspired dish has chunks of peppers and onions (love me some veggie chunks) while the cauliflower is battered in chickpea flour. Even my brother, who would rather eat Taco Bell than make his own stir fry, thinks vegetarian dishes like this are uh-ma-zing.

Whoa, vegans. Stand back. Vegan Belgian waffles are here to fill your belly for hours. I don’t care if you eat the fluffy housemade soy whipped cream first (I know I did), or if you save it for last – I guarantee you will find a way to stuff every last cubic inch of your stomach with this pile of breakfast delights. It’s crispy, it’s sweet, it’s light and airy – dance party in my mouth. My only qualm about this dish is that melon never belongs in a fruit salad. But that’s just my own meh-ing problem.

Hey wait. Did I mention all of this was given to me at once? I swear to all things delicious that I didn’t eat it all in one sitting. But I might’ve finished it over the course of a day. Zero shame.

You. Don’t. Even. Know. How amazing this vegan carrot cake was. Unless you’ve been to Red Lentil. Then you probably know. Squishy, smooth-as-butter-but-doesn’t-actually-contain-butter morsel of carrots made fresh every single darned day. Don’t get me started on the raspberry sauce. I might explode.

Green Smoothie

You should probably get a blender. Like, right now. At least before summer.

I got one. It’s totally made my breakfasts (dinners, desserts) rock.

Sometimes mornings don’t give me enough time to make a burrito or crazy avocado sandwich. Sometimes I wait until my alarm song plays twice through before crawling out of bed. Sometimes all of the energy I can muster goes into throwing on some clothes and sacrificing breakfast for coffee.

Coffee isn’t breakfast, guys.

Spinach smoothies are breakfast.

I spent a week at this crazy shack of a farm on the Big Island of Hawai’i a couple of summers ago harvesting baby lettuce and weeding for six hours a day. It was lame, but the best thing about it was the endless piles of avocados, papayas, bananas and Okinawan sweet potatoes.

And Spirulina. And noni. And a deep fryer. That thing was amazing.

But even more amazing was the turbo blender, which my farmer buddies and I used to make green smoothies every morning before heading out to work in the rain.

With some mango chunks, plain yoghurt, honey and a splash of soy milk, this spinach smoothie is packed with vitamins that fuel your day. I don’t need coffee after sipping on one of these bad boys.

Oh. I also stole straws from the coffee shop around the corner. Smoothies need straws.

Hey blender. You look great. Keep it up.

Yeah, this tastes kind of like spinach. Sweet greens.

Green Smoothie

handful of spinach leaves
1 cup mango chunks, fresh or frozen
1/3 cup plain yoghurt
1/3 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon honey

Throw all ingredients into a blender. Pulse until smooth.

Makes one smoothie.

Steamed Rice Muffins (Puto)

My mom had her work cut out for her. Three kids, each more rambunctious than the next, and her third and final installment, me, just had to go ahead and bear a name that means rebellious. Weekly chores done? Meh, unlikely. Trash taken out? Probably not. Dishes? No way.

Forever borrowing her clothes and never letting her touch mine, rolling my eyes when we order the same food and perpetually bickering about my awful taste in music, mom and I are locked in a battle of the wits because, as much as I used to groan to admit, we’re exactly the same.

I feast my eyes on sidewalk sales and never, ever leave the grocery store without checking my receipt. I’m starting to laugh like her.

Although I’ll never be able to take her turbo 2-minute showers or fit into her shoes again, I’d like to think that when I grow up, I’ll be just as beautiful, smart and courageous as this mother who is now a lola and nothing short of the most wonderful woman I know.

And boy, can she cook.

Hailing all the way from the Philippines, my mom always had a few tricks up her sleeve in the kitchen. These little rice muffins, or puto, were a staple of Saturday morning breakfast in our household.

Rice flour, coconut milk and sugar are essentially all of the ingredients in these fluffy delights.

And thank goodness it’s summer, because I was twitching without mangoes, which grow like weeds in the Philippines. Mom always stuffed chunks of ’em into these muffins.

I would’ve been lost in this recipe if not for watching my mom, who built her own makeshift steamer with a couple of baking sheets.

Genius.

Steamed Rice Muffin (Puto).

2 cups rice flour
2 cups coconut milk
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons water
mango chunks (optional)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients before adding the coconut milk and water. Mix until creamy smooth.

Fill muffin tins about 2/3 full with batter before throwing in some mango chunks (you don’t have to push them in unless you want to).

For the steamer, place a lipped baking sheet about half full of water over two burners (preferably gas). Keep the heat low and place the cupcake pan in the baking sheet and cover with another lipped baking sheet.

Steam for about 30 minutes, making sure that the water doesn’t run out (it didn’t for me). A toothpick should come out clean when they’re done.

Makes 18 muffins, for one very special lady.

Happy Mother’s Day.