Monday, March 25, 2013

Strawberry Banana Baked Oatmeal

“I want my brefrast.” I was like a broken record as a child, insisting on eating breakfast first thing in the morning. Now that I'm hurling into my mid twenties and can correctly pronounce breakfast, things haven't changed. I am physically incapable of doing a single thing before eating. Tons of people roll out of bed in the morning and go running. Hit the gym. Head straight to work and grab a bite mid-morning. Some insist that they're not hungry until lunch time.

I wake up starving. Ravenous. As in, I can't even think about brushing my hair, let alone exerting myself before eating. And I'm not talking a granola bar. Or even a bowl of cereal. These days, It's got to be oatmeal. Oatmeal with a little cinnamon, brown sugar, nutmeg and lots of fresh berries. Gimme a steamy bowl of oatmeal and I can face the day. Like brush my hair and other hard stuff. 

My mom shares my love of oatmeal, so when she and dad came to stay for my birthday (yay!) last week, I tried my hand at a fancified baked oatmeal. There are lots of variations out there, but this one was a winner! Some baked oatmeals turn out dry and tasteless, but this one had just the right consistency and a light sweetness. I love that it's wholesome and healthy—it fills you up without weighing you down. There is a ton of room for creativity here, so mix it up with different fruits or nuts if you'd like. But we found the strawberries, bananas and blueberries to be delicious! Plus they make it super pretty. I also threw in a few chocolate chips, and they were tasty little nuggets of goodness here and there, without making the dish scream chocolate. 

To save precious time in the morning, I tossed the dry ingredients together at night and finished it up in the morning. This oatmeal took very little time and was quite delicious!

Strawberry Banana Baked Oatmeal
Inspired by Inspired Taste


  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/3cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ tsp nutmeg (optional)
  • ½ cup pecans or walnuts, chopped (I used spiced/candied nuts)
  • 1-2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups reduced-fat (2%) milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 ripe bananas, peeled & sliced
  • ½ cup blueberries
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Generously spray the inside of a11 by 7 inch baking dish or 8-inch by 8-inch square baking dish  and set aside. 

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, sugar, baking powder, orange zest, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, half the walnuts, half the strawberries and half the chocolate. Add to prepared baking dish. At this point, you can cover, refrigerate and finish in the morning. But if not, arrange the remaining strawberries, walnuts and chocolate on top of the oats. Then scatter the banana slices. (you want to add them last because they brown quickly)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, butter and vanilla extract. Pour over oats and fruit and gently shimmy the baking dish to help the milk mixture permeate the oats. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the milk mixture has set. For an extra tasty touch, sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of brown sugar on top and place under the broiler for 30 seconds to 2 minutes, depending on your oven. Watch it carefully! Then dig in and enjoy!

I had the most splendid birthday! My darling parents came to Charlottesville and Lover made it home from Appomatox as well. The only thing missing was my sis, but she was here in spirit. And she sent me the makings of what will hopefully be a beautiful garden this spring! Lots of seeds and greenhouses to grow them in. I'm so excited to feature some of my harvest on Blissful Baking!

We spent Friday moseying around the Corner at Bodo's, a famously cheap and delicious bagel joint here and finished it off at Arch's, a frozen yogurt place that is home to a gooey brownie topping that I absolutely go nuts for. You can bet that I slathered it on, along with caramel, heath bar and peanut butter cups. 

On Saturday, Gradon took us on a tour of UVA campus and we ventured into the Rotunda. It was cool to see all of the rounded rooms and the life size statue of Jefferson that was removed from the building during the fire of 1895, virtually unharmed. It's under construction, but we're hoping it will be perfect by the time Gradon graduates from medical school. We also saw Edgar Allen Poe's dorm room and just enjoyed a scenic walk. Afterwards, mom and I slipped away to do a bit of antique shopping and stopped by some local bakeries for samples while the boys watched basketball.

Then we all headed to Fossett's, a fancy restaurant within the Keswick Estate. Check out the unbelievable view! And the food was fabulous—everything from the roasted pumpkin gnocchi to my bison ribeye was perfection.

Waiting for us at home was this incredible chocolate peanut butter cake bomb, as we called it. It was to die for. All efforts to exercise self control the following week in trying to resist eating leftovers every day were abandoned. It was so worth it.

I was so spoiled with presents as well! Mom and dad got me a lovely dress, some pretty  jewelry, a kitchen aid attachment i've been wanting, and a special picnic basket with “Nielsen” engraved on it. I'm already so emotionally attached to it not only since it's a gift from mom, but because this particular one reminds her of her own family's basket growing up. It will certainly be accompanying us on picnics for years to come. I'll have to take good care of it so I can pass it down to the next generation! I'm so grateful to have such a wonderful family to spend these special times with. I love them dearly.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Garlic & Parsley Buttermilk Biscuit Cubes

Biscuits are soul food. Buttery, flaky and delicious. Seasoned with fresh garlic and parsley, these are a splendid accompaniment to almost any meal. They're crisp on the outside and doughy on the inside. I love cutting them into cubes, but you can certainly use a traditional biscuit cutter or just drop 'em on a pan and watch them rise beautifully!

Biscuits are lovely when you don't have tons of time to let rolls rise half of the day. I also find them tastier and more complex than dinner rolls!

To keep them light and flaky, resist overworking the dough. Stop mixing well before it's perfectly incorporated. It will be hard, but worth it!

Garlic & Parsley Buttermilk Biscuit Cubes
Adapted from Seeded at the Table

  • 3 Cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • 1 Garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf italian parsley
  • 8 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small bits
  • 2/3 Cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 Cup milk, plus more for brushing

Preheat oven to 425˚F. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray or olive oil. Stir together the garlic and parsley in a small bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the garlic and parsley mixture. Blend in the cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour in the buttermilk and milk; mix until just combined, being sure not to over mix! (If you don't have a stand mixer, use a pastry cutter)

On a floured surface, roll the dough into about a 1-inch thick square. Fold the dough in half, turn it and roll it again into a 1-inch thick square. Repeat one more time and then gently roll one final time into a 1-inch thick square about 9 x 9 inches. (No need to be exact here)

Cut with a knife into squares. Place the dough on baking sheet, brush with milk and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

The Easter bunny is arriving early this year! Is everyone ready? I've already consumed more than my fair share of Cadbury eggs and peeps. (Yes, I am among the small fraction of adults who not only enjoy, but absolutely adore eating peeps.) I am not ashamed, I tell you! What's more, I like them stale. Yep. Gradon gifted me a 10-pack for my birthday, so I punctured the package and let them sit a few days before enjoying them in their optimal condition! They were gone within a day.

What's on your Easter menu this year? These biscuits would be a fine addition! Or perhaps these quick, yet delicious Rosemary Rolls are more your speed. They're even better with this fluffy Honey Butter! Or if you need to feed a crowd, the Bread is both simple and incredibly memorable!

Here are some yummy side dishes to accompany your Easter dinner!

Bacon Asparagus Bundles 
Crash Hot Potatoes
Roasted Broccoli with Garlic 
Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette
Candied Sweet Potatoes
Balsamic Roasted Red Potatoes

And these brunch eats are sure to please!

Bacon Cheddar Cheese Scones
Sweet Potato Hash

Monday, March 4, 2013

Bacon Cheddar Cheese Scones

Scones do not tend to inspire much excitement. You would think a pretty breakfast item so often served on silver platters would dazzle you with deliciousness. But 90% of the scones I've tried have been dry, bland and crumbly. The best ones are sweet and always dripping in glaze, so when I discovered the concept of a savory scone, I was intrigued.

These babies are hands down the greatest scones I've ever had. Loaded with bacon, cheddar, green onions, and black pepper, they are reminiscent of big, hearty biscuits. They're jam packed with flavor! Every bite is a party in your mouth. Serve them alongside fried eggs or a breakfast hash for a seriously stick-to-your-ribs meal!

For another take on savory scones, check out these Roasted Tomato and Feta Scones made with whole wheat flour.

 Bacon Cheddar Cheese Scones
Adapted from Annie Eats


  • 3 cups AP flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 1-2 t freshly ground pepper
  • 8 T cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1.5 cups grated cheddar cheese (for best results, buy the block and grate yourself)
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1-1.5 cups buttermilk 
Egg Wash
  • 1 large egg
  •  2 T water
Grate the cheese, slice the green onions, and cook and crumble the bacon. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Fit your stand mixer with a paddle attachment and combine the flour, baking powder, salt and black pepper. Mix briefly to combine. Add the cold butter cubes and mix on low for a couple of minutes until the mixture is crumbly. (the butter pieces should be the size of small peas) If you don't have a standing mixer, feel free to do this by hand using a pastry blender. Add the grated cheese and mix until just combined.

Mix in the green onions, bacon and 1 cup of the buttermilk. Stir by hand until just combined. If the dough is too try to come together, mix the remaining buttermilk one tablespoon at a time until the dough can be formed into a ball. I used almost a cup and a half.

Lightly flour a surface and pat the dough into a disk, approximately 8 inches in diameter. (Just eyeball it) Slice the dough with a cookie cutter into 8 wedges. 

In a small bowl, whisk the egg and water. Brush the dough lightly with egg wash and transfer scones to an ungreased pizza stone. (You can use any baking sheet as well) Bake for 15-20 minutes or until light golden brown. These won't brown up a ton, so they may look under baked, but they will be ready!

Gradon and I had been weighed down by the woes of the boards, AKA "step 1" of his big scary medical licensing exam, for weeks until finally the big test day arrived. He tackled that thing with all his might and shortly after we sailed off into the deep blue sea, leaving all of our worries behind!

Yes, we took our first ever cruise! And what an amazing vacation it was. I never imagined I would be such a fan of cruising, but we are completely sold. We both thought it was the perfect balance between fun and relaxation imaginable.

I'll share more of our adventures on board and ashore for excursions, but here are some photos from our long drive down to Florida where we set sail. We thought about flying, but decided to just jump in the car instead. It turned out to be a great decision because it gave us more down time. We had such a nice time just chatting, singing along to country songs and hitting up fast food joint along the way. Plus, we got to see Savannah, Georgia, home of Paula Dean's Lady & Songs Restaurant and overall one of the cutest cities I've ever seen.

 We skipped around the historic squares at the City Market, enjoyed live music, ate the hugest most fantastic slices of pizza at Vinnie Van Go Go's, explored their quaint candy stores and art galleries, and ate waffles at a little local motel before finishing the rest of our drive the following morning.

My hair is sopping wet in some of these because my sweet husband pushed me in the water fountain. Yes, on purpose. I never thought he would do such a thing, but dragged me kicking and screaming! It was like being thrown in a pool. Probably one of the funniest memories of the trip. But it's a lot easier to laugh now that I'm dry! He bought me pizza shortly after, which certainly helped matters.