Today my dear friend, Ricki Heller, who authors the very popular and beloved blog, Diet, Dessert and Dogs, is guest posting. I adore Ricki, and not just because we’re both committed to making our favorite foods healthier or because we both love dogs. (I happen to have twice as many dogs as Ricki…she has 8 paws, I have 16.)
I adore her because she’s always there to answer questions, offer support, or just share what she knows about food, cooking, and life. Ricki has put together a fabulous post…and I can’t wait to make this pudding for breakfast.
Look for a review of her latest e-book, Desserts without Compromise, soon. I just got my copy and it’s fabulous! I can’t wait to share it with you.
Image courtesy of Ricki Heller
Baked Blueberry Breakfast Oatmeal Pudding from Ricki Heller, author of Diet, Dessert, & Dogs
When Amy emailed a while back to ask if I would be interested in contributing a guest post here, I was more than delighted. Amy and I “met” last year through our blogs and we immediately connected through our love of baking; the fact we’d both lost a substantial amount of weight (though I’m still working on it); recipes that are all (in my case, since March 2009) gluten free; and our affinity for all-natural, non-sugar sweeteners. I love Amy’s recipes and knew that my own would fit with her food philosophy as well.
But then it hit me: which recipe should I choose? I was like the wallflower who finally got asked to the prom, fussing over what to wear. Should it be the flirty, chocolate-speckled Pumpkinseed Shortbread Buttons? The more conservative but comfortable Pumpkin-Apple Crumble Bars? Or maybe this frilly beige number, which I would attempt to de-glutenize?
As I browsed through the list of popular posts on my blog, I wondered what it was that made one recipe more popular than another. The photo? The particular list of ingredients? The level of difficulty? Posts that I adore may receive fewer hits while those I throw together on the spur of the moment may end up spiking the stats graph—and I never seem to have any idea why.
I started to consider the topic as it might relate to human attraction. When I was in high school, my best friend Sterlin and I contemplated the notion of popularity on a regular basis: why were some girls so popular when others (um, that would be the two of us) were not? What made our classmate Rhoda Wildstein so wildly appealing? Was it her aloof self-confidence? Or maybe her thick mane of chestnut hair, seemingly an illustration of her last name? And why did Valerie Erdile’s arrival in a room cause so many boys’ hearts to flutter? Was it because her size DD breasts made an entrance well before she did? It all seemed a mystery at the time.
It took only a moment for me to choose the recipe for Baked Blueberry Oatmeal Breakfast Pudding as my offering here. I already love this creamy, sweet cross between a hot breakfast cereal and a custard-like dessert. But then I set out to articulate what makes this—or any popular recipe, for that matter—a perennial favorite. And it wasn’t so far off from what makes an ideal date or partner, as it turned out.
It’s okay to change it.
We’ve all done it: in the throes of a new relationship, madly in love, we assume that we’ll somehow convince him (or her) to give up that annoying habit of clicking while he eats, or wearing white shoes, or whatever else it is we don’t like. Our friends warn us that “he won’t change,” but we still think otherwise. This recipe requires no such illusions—in fact, it’s happy to change for you. You can switch out the nuts for others of your choice, you can substitute different fruits for the blueberries, you can even exchange the grains (see directions), and it still works out. Still delicious, still lovable. Every time.
It puts your needs first.
Don’t you love it when your hubby takes the initiative to wash the dishes, mop the floors, take out the garbage, do the laundry, make dinner—whatever it may be, as long as it affords you a little more time for yourself, to relax? This recipe is like that: you can mix it up the night before and then bake it fresh for guests, or bake the whole thing in advance, then reheat on the spot. Or even enjoy it cold (my favorite way to eat it) for breakfast in a hurry. Quick and easy preparation equals more time for you to enjoy other, more important, things in your life.
Turns out my spouse is the kind of guy that can talk to anyone; he seems to have something to offer the conversation in pretty much any situation. Similarly, this pudding fits comfortably in more than one context. Want it for breakfast? Great: it’s not too sweet, it’s got oats and fruit and nuts, it covers all your bases for a healthy, macronutrient-filled start to your day. Want it for dessert? Score again: it’s creamy, rich tasting, smooth, fruity and just sweet enough. One dish; double duty.
Its Charms are Lasting.
One of the things I love about my honey is that, thirteen years into our relationship, I still appreciate the same things about him that drew me toward him in the first place (which, needless to say, means I still dislike those other things I wasn’t crazy about to begin with—but that’s another discussion). Like a beloved long-term partner, this pudding isn’t diminished over time: keep it for several days in the fridge with no ill effects. The texture and taste will remain just as good as they were that first day. And—bonus!—you can even freeze it and defrost (overnight in the fridge) for later.
You’ll Love It.
Most importantly, like any good recipe, this one is easy to put together and it tastes delicious. As a dessert fiend, I appreciate the richness and creaminess of the texture (achieved even without dairy). I find myself heading back to the casserole dish for “just one more spoonful.” It may seem obvious to say so, but if the recipe doesn’t work or doesn’t taste good, it will never achieve that coveted status of “go-to” recipe in your house.
Once I began to think about it, I fell in love with this pudding all over again.
And for some strange reason, I suddenly have an urge to treat my husband to dinner tonight, too.
Image courtesy of Ricki Heller
Serves: 4 - 6 servings
- ½ cup (75 g) lightly toasted hazelnuts (filberts), with skin
- ½ cup (75 g) lightly toasted cashews
- ½ cup (60 g) old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
- 1 Tbsp (15 ml) chia seeds, optional
- ¾ cup (180 ml) unsweetened applesauce
- 2 tsp (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp (30 ml) agave nectar or maple syrup, 15-20 drops stevia liquid, or a combination of the two
- 2 tsp (10 ml) cinnamon
- ⅛ tsp (.5 ml) fine sea salt
- 1-1/4 cups (300 ml) unsweetened, plain or vanilla soy or almond milk
- ½ cup (120 ml) fresh or frozen blueberries (do not thaw first if frozen)
- Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Grease a 4-6 cup (1-1.5 L) casserole dish.
- In the bowl of a high-speed blender*, place the nuts, oats, chia, applesauce, vanilla, agave, cinnamon and salt. Pour the milk over all and blend for about a minute, until perfectly smooth and creamy. Pour mixture into the casserole dish, then gently fold in the blueberries (scatter a few extra blueberries over the top if you like, as they won’t sink).
- Bake in preheated oven for 40-50 minutes, rotating the casserole about halfway through, until the edges begin to puff and crack and the top appears dry. Allow to cool somewhat before serving. May be served warm or cold. Makes 4-6 servings. Store, covered, up to 4 days in the refrigerator. May be frozen.
Variations: Feel free to use other nuts for the hazelnuts or cashews (because cashews are quite rich-tasting, use a bit more of other kinds, maybe 2 extra tablespoons). Chopped apple, pear, raisins or other berries can easily be used instead of blueberries, and any type of alternative milk works here as well (if using coconut milk, mix half with water or a thinner milk or the final pudding will be too thick). And finally, I’ve made this using other, cooked, grains instead of the oats; for rice or millet, use about 1-1/2 cups (360 ml) cooked grains, and reduce the milk by ⅓ cup (80 ml).