Oatmeal Caramelitas

oatmeal carmelitas
I am not a test taker.
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Never have been, never will be.  I get hives.  I don't know how to study and I stand by the fact that cramming as much information in your brain is unhealthy and has no chance of sticking for the long term. 

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Group projects are something I can get behind.   I work best in groups and I think it's the most real life thing you can do in school.  Does anyone have a job where they sit by themselves all day long and are not allowed to reference the internet or phone a friend for collaboration? 

If you do have this kind of job, I'm sorry.  I'm a people person... this would do me in. 
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The best things in life come out of collaboration as far as I'm concerned.   
Cookbooks have proved to live up to my claim.  My favorite cookbook happens to be a collaboration and this one is on its way to the top of my list. 

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Sugar, Sugar is a collaborative cookbook where the authors ask others to submit recipes and the stories that go along with it.   

This book is a treasure chest of sweet memories and perfect recipes. 

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Oats, chocolate, nuts and creamy caramel couldn't be more perfect for each other. 
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From my little kitchen to yours... Enjoy.

Oatmeal Caramelitas
Recipe from Sugar, Sugar
Recipe Notes
If you love chocolate, you can add more chocolate chips.  If you are a caramel purist, you can take the chocolate chips out all together or reduce to a half cup so you have a stronger caramel. flavor.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 cups quick-cooking oats (or instant)
1 (14 ounce) bag Kraft soft caramel candies, unwrapped (about 50)
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (see recipe note)
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
Step by Step
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with butter or cooking spray.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  Place the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or place ingredients in a bowl to use a  hand mixer.  Beat on medium speed until creamy.  Slowly add the flour mixture and blend until incorporated.  Use a wooden spoon or spatula to fold in the oats.  The mixture will be crumbly.  Transfer half (about three cups) of the mixture to the baking dish.  Use your fingers to gently press and spread the mixture evenly on the bottom of the baking dish.  Bake for 10 minutes to set.

While the first layer is baking, place the caramels and milk in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the caramels are melted.  Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Remove the crust from the oven.  Sprinkle the chocolate chips and pecans (if using) evenly over they top.  Carefully pour the caramel mixture on top of the chocolate chips and nuts, and spread evenly.  Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the top.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.  Then refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until the bars are set.  Cut into two inch squares.


Sunrise Smoothie

sunrise smoothie
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you."

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."

Matthew 28:1-10 

He has Risen.  He has Risen, Indeed. 

Happy Easter.

This smoothie is a tad reminiscent of an old fashioned creamsicle.  It is refreshing and comforting all at the same time.

From my little kitchen to yours... Enjoy.

Sunrise Smoothie
Adapted from Peace Meals
Recipe Notes
If your smoothie is a little thick, use the milk to thin it out a bit.  Almond milk is my first choice, but any milk will work.  Depending on how sweet your fruit is, you might want to add extra honey to taste.
2 cups frozen mango chunks
2 cups frozen peach slices
6 oz. low fat plain greek yogurt (or regular low fat yogurt)
1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup almond milk or regular milk, if needed
Step by Step
Combine all ingredients in a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Smoothie will be thick and you might need to use a spoon to push down the fruit between blending.  Add the milk if the smoothie is too thick.

Serve Immediately.

Makes 2 to 3 servings. 


Crispy Hash Brown Cakes

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There is something about a weekend breakfast at a little greasy diner that I love so much. 

Mr. Hungry usually orders a breakfast plate... eggs, bacon and hash browns.  I like some sort of scrambled egg whites with cheese and maybe some grits and a good biscuit.  I love grits so I always go with that carb option, but only because I know I can sneak some hash browns off Mr. Hungry's plate. 

Now that you know more than you ever needed to know about our breakfast habits, let's get to the point.

There is nothing monumental or fancy about these breakfasts. Pretty standard food we could choose to make at home.  But Mr. Hungry loves good hash browns and they seemed to always to turn out tasteless and mushy in my kitchen. 

Until now that is. 
hash browns
These little hash brown cakes have a crunchy crispy exterior with a bit of soft buttery potato inside.  
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There is exactly one major secret involved in getting these incredibly crispy potatoes.  Wringing every ounce of water out of these spuds.  It was quite shocking to see how much water is in a potato. 
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When you think you have all of the water out.  Wring a few more times.  Im talking squeeze-until-your-biceps-hurt kind of wringing.  
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After that, all you need is a good cast iron skillet and a generous amount of butter.

These hash brown cakes are kind of like my hair.  
They start out a very unruly mess and all over the place, but with a generous amount of product... butter... and quite a bit of shaping and care, you can pull together a somewhat presentable hash brown cake. 
Nice and crispy too.  Hopefully not like my hair. 
Crispy Hash Brown Cakes
Slightly adapted from The Kitchn
Recipe Notes
There are two keys to crispy hash browns.  Wringing all of the water out of the potato and generous amounts of butter.  When you think you are finished squeezing all the water out, squeeze again.  I can barely believe how much water is in a potato, but get it out of there if you want crispy cakes.  Half way through the cooking my potatoes had absorbed the whole tablespoon of butter so I added more half way through to make sure both sides got crispy.  Add butter as necessary. 
1 large (8 to 10 oz) russet potato
1/4 teaspoon salt
Black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, more if needed
Cheese grater
Dish towel
Skillet, preferably cast iron
Step by Step
Cover your surface with a clean dish towel. Peel the potato and discard skin.  Using a cheese grater, grate the potato over the clean dish towel.

Gather the dishcloth and twist the neck until you form a tight package. Over the sink, squeeze and wring the potato as much as possible.  Squeeze one more time just to make sure you have gotten every last drop.

Heat the skillet over medium-high heat. Melt the butter and then add the potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss the potatoes to coat them with butter and then divide them into portion sizes using a spatula. Flatten each portion with the back of the spatula to maximize contact with the hot pan.

Cook for 3 to 4 minutes on the first side, flip, and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes on the second side. Cook each side until desired doneness.  Whether that is a little bit soft or overly crispy, you be the judge.  Try to only flip once so that the cake does not fall apart.

Serve Immediately. 

Makes 3 small servings or 2 large servings. 


Peanut Butter Patty Oreo Balls

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I found myself hopping out of bed feeling super refreshed after about 5 hours of sleep.

I took one look in the mirror and thought wow, my hair stayed perfectly put together during my slumber.  I slipped on a pair of jeans and had to grab a belt.  I seem to be shrinking.

I walked past my beautiful lawn and sat on a little chair next to all of the sun flowers that had sprouted in my backyard while I picked my perfectly ripened tomatoes to throw in a sauce that I would be simmering all day. 

And then I woke up. 
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Oh yeah, that was totally a dream.  Gosh, it was good.  

My dream world consists of...

Cooking all day long with no clean up involved.  

A hair dresser that pops by every morning to style my hair and make it look pretty. 

Gardens that seem to weed and re plant themselves. Birds that find something else to eat besides my homegrown tomatoes.  

Hours in the day to keep everything nice and tidy (and these hours cannot be used for anything else so you will never feel like your missing out while you are reorganizing your bathroom closet).
pb oreo balls
My reality consists of...

A foot of bush like hair... wavy as all get out... with no morning hair dresser.  

Christmas trees that just cannot seem to figure out heavy trash day. 

Full days of work with precious minutes left to get dinner on the table. 

Gardens that so desperately need a re haul.  

But most importantly, my reality consists of Peanut Butter Patty Oreo Balls that give you that Girl Scout Peanut Butter Patty taste any time of the year.  
pb oreo balls
Reality just got a little bit sweeter.

Wow, these totally blew me away. 

Never underestimate the power of chocolate and peanut butter combined. 

Today, you should totally drop the task you deem to be way important.  Getting rid of that Christmas tree?  What's another week? Doing laundry?  Put on some old clothes that never see the light of day. Doing your taxes?  Okay, that is important but tomorrow is not April 15th, so what's another day?

Take a quick trip to the grocery store, buy just three ingredients and get to work.

From my little kitchen to yours... Enjoy.

Mr. Hungry's Thoughts...
And so it is, a house divided.  I loved everything about these.  Mr. Hungry's taste buds did not agree.  To him?  Too mushy.  But that's life, right?  Perfection to him is a coconut cream pie and I would rather skip dessert if that is my only option.  So let's just see where you land.

Here's to hoping you are equipped with a developed and refined set of taste buds like mine.

Peanut Butter Patty Oreo Balls

Recipe Notes
Now don't completely hold me to this being a replica of a Peanut Butter Patty.  You are missing one key ingredient.  In the real thing, there are two layers when you bite in... a crunchy one and grainier peanut butter one.  There is no crunchy cookie layer in this one, but I didn't miss it for one second. 

You use the whole cookie for this recipe.  Leave the icing in the middle when you place them in the food processor.  Dipping in chocolate can be a little tricky.  The method I prefer is to dunk the oreo ball in the chocolate, roll around to coat and then using a fork in one hand and your fingers, scoop the ball out and place on parchment paper. You will probably have a little bit of chocolate left over so melt only half a box at a time. 
1 (16 ounce) package Oreo Golden Sandwich Cookies
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 (8 ounce) packages Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate (I like Baker's brand)
In a food processor, crush all of the cookies into a fine crumb mixture; place in medium bowl. Add peanut butter; mix until well blended. Roll cookie mixture into one inch balls. 

Cover a baking sheet with wax paper or parchment paper.  Heat chocolate according to directions on packaging.  Dip balls in chocolate and place on lined baking sheet to harden.  (Any leftover chocolate can be stored at room temperature for another use.) 

Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Store leftover oreo balls, covered, in refrigerator.

Makes about 42 oreo balls.