Two Easy Autumn Breakfasts

When the weather turns crisp, I start craving warm spices and hearty meals. Although breakfast is pretty much my favorite meal of the day, I rarely have any desire to cook in the morning – I’m lucky in that my office has a full hot breakfast bar, but when left to my own devices, I’ll choose convenience almost 100% of the time.

For this reason, I tend to lean on oatmeal and yogurt all year round for breakfast (with the occasional egg thrown in here and there), but I like to mix things up when seasons change. While I love to add berries to my breakfast of choice during the warmer months, once the leaves start to turn I’m all about apple and cinnamon. Here are a couple easy, delicious options to get you going in the morning:

Apple Pie Oatmeal

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Ingredients

1/2 Cup apple cider

1 medium apple, cored and roughly chopped

2 tsp brown sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 Cup rolled oats

1 1/2 Cups milk (I typically use 2%, but non-dairy will work just as well)

Pinch of salt

Handful of chopped glazed pecans (I like to use maple pecans, but walnuts would also be delish here)

Splash half & half, cream, or milk (optional)

Instructions

Combine the apple, cider, vanilla, cinnamon, brown sugar, and salt in a small pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the cider reduces by about half and apples are tender (about 5 minutes). Add the remaining ingredients (leaving half the nuts for garnish) and turn heat back up to medium-high. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes or until desired thickness has been reached. I like to serve this with a splash of half & half and remaining nuts…if you wanna get really wild, I highly doubt a splash of maple syrup would ruin things here.

Apple-Cinnamon Yogurt Parfait

Ingredients

1/2 Cup vanilla yogurt (I love Noosa for this, but any vanilla yogurt will work – use your favorite)

1 Medium apple, cored and chopped

1/4 Cup granola (I like Nature Valley here – it’s cinnamon-y and extra crunchy)

1 Tbsp Craisins or dried cherries

1 Tbsp walnuts

Dash cinnamon

This one’s really simple, guys – spoon yogurt into a dish and top with remaining ingredients. If you want to get fancy you can layer it (hence the “parfait”), but who are you trying to impress here?

Sunday Soup: Slow Cooker Beef with Beans & Barley

Ahh, I love a good alliteration food. As we all know, fall = SOUP WEATHER! Although I’m certainly not going to commit to making soup every Sunday (mayyyybe if you consider various pastas “soup”), I do love making large, easily re-heatable dishes to kick off the week – that way, I have leftovers for lunch for at least part of the work week. Bonus points if they’re delicious AND healthy.

This week, I riffed on Katie Lee’s recipe for bean & barley stew – except I swapped chicken stock for beef stock, and added in some chunks of beef (slow-cooked beef = YUM). Oh, and I couldn’t find this elusive “bean mix” she keeps referring to, so I just bought a bag each of kidney, navy, and pinto beans and used about 1/3 of each bag. I rounded out the meal with a quick garlic baguette, and the result was super tasty and VERY filling (I just ate leftovers for lunch, and I may or may not be ready to crawl under my desk and take a nap).

This recipe was stupid easy to make, RIDICULOUSLY easy on the wallet (especially if you omit the beef as in the original recipe), and made the house smell like heaven all day long – a winner in my book!

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Ingredients

1 lb assorted dry beans (I used kidney, navy, and pinto)

8 cups beef stock + 2 cups water

8 oz dried pearl barley

1 lb stew beef, cut into 1 inch pieces (any beef you’d use to roast will work here)

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 yellow onion, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 sprig fresh thyme

2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

3 cloves garlic; minced

1 bag fresh baby spinach (or 8 oz – my bag was 6 oz, and I feel like it was fine)

Instructions

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet until hot. Season beef with salt & pepper and add to pan in one layer; let sit for 2 minutes without moving. Stir; continue to cook for another minute or two until brown (not cooked through). Dump dry beans (no need to soak), broth, water, garlic, carrots, celery, onion, browned beef, thyme, and bay leaf into slow cooker; cook on low setting for 7 hours. When one hour is left, add barley, salt (if you add the salt in the first step, it may take your beans longer to soften, so I play it safe and wait to season until this point) and pepper and continue to cook an additional hour (8 hours total). Just before serving, add baby spinach and stir to wilt. Season with more salt and pepper to taste if needed, and fish bay leaf out. Serve with crusty bread or garlic baguette (recipe below), and/or a grating of parmesan  (this is what I did, and it was fantastic).

Garlic Baguette Instructions

Pre-heat oven to 450F. Grate 3 cloves of garlic into a small bowl using a microplane or zester (if you don’t have one, you can mash it into a paste with the side of a large knife). Drizzle in 1 TBSP of olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Cut a baguette in half length-wise; brush garlic mixture over cut sides of bread and bake until golden brown (about 10 minutes, but keep an eye on it). Dunk, dip, & crunch.

Happy Halloween!

Halloween has finally arrived! Since we got most of our celebrating in over the past couple of weekends, tonight will be spent on the couch, handing out candy (assuming any kids show up – our track record has been pretty hit or miss, despite my efforts of supplying full-sized candy bars each year).

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Speaking of candy, what’s your favorite Halloween treat? I always liked a solid mix of fruity candy and chocolate (although when push comes to shove, chocolate reigns supreme 100% of the time in my book). My all-time favorite is the humble Milky Way bar, which people talk a lot of smack on (“it’s like a Snicker’s, only worse.” “Booo-ring!”), but I think there’s something to be said about its smooth, creamy simplicity – take your gross peanuts and kick rocks, Snickers! Also, your nougat is inferior. Yeah, I said it.

Ahem, anyway…I think if I was to choose a top 5, it would go as follows:

  1. Milky Way
  2. Twix
  3. Sour Patch Kids (although the Halloween size is admittedly pathetic)
  4. Skittles
  5. Reese’s pumpkin (I’ll also take a full size cup in a pinch)

As a small disclaimer, I’d like to clarify that if Reese’s Fastbreak wasn’t impossible to find (and possibly discontinued?!!) it would take number one EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Best candy bar ever to exist. The nougat is PERFECT, the texture is exquisite, and the salty, slightly grainy peanut butter complements the whole thing like a dream. It’s frankly tragic that this miracle of a treat isn’t more celebrated.

Welp…that was a lot of candy bar talk from someone who claims to not really even like candy bars (I eat MAYBE 2 full candy bars a year, but don’t worry – the amount of random candy and chocolate I eat in other forms more than makes up for my lack of bar consumption). I hope you all have a safe and happy Halloween, and gorge yourselves appropriately!

Outerwear Wishlist

I’ve arrived at the age where I’ve discovered you can’t really get through an East Coast winter with just one or two coats…you really do need a few different staples, depending on occasion. I have a couple of solid options: A lined wool toggle coat for when it’s cold but I need something a little dressier than a huge puffer coat; a quilted navy jacket for more transitional weather, a vegan leather jacket that’s more for style than any practical purpose, and a hooded mustard number for when I feel like sporting something a little brighter.

That said, my collection is missing a few essentials: a truly dressy coat to go over formalwear, a SUPER warm insulated coat to brave freezing, windy days, a raincoat to actually keep me dry in wet weather, and a trench for a more professional vibe on cool fall/spring days. Here are some options I’ve been eyeing up to round out my collection:

outerwear wishlist

  1. Religion Craft Coat (via Asos) $127 (on sale) – I dig the extra large collar, and I like that this coat can be dressed up or down.
  2. Patagonia Downtown Parka $189 (on MAJOR sale!) – This is just what I need for windy, icy days – nice and long, and insulated with goose down, this bad boy’s bound to keep me toasty.
  3. Stutterheim Stockholm Raincoat $295 – This is my dream raincoat…the price is a bit steep for a coat I probably wouldn’t wear that often, but boy is this guy pretty.
  4. PrettyLittleThing Belted Trench (Via Asos) $95 – Although I’m usually very into menswear-inspired clothing, I like that this soft pink trench is a little different than the typical camel number…still professional, but with a feminine twist.

 

My Weekend in Pictures

This past weekend felt like THAT weekend…that one perfect fall weekend when the air is crisp, the sun is shining, and the leaves are the most beautiful bright shade of red. We managed to pack a lot of fun into the three-day weekend: a night out on the town seeing some live music with friends Thursday evening, a haircut and trip to Wegman’s for me on Friday afternoon, a visit to Bates Motel on Saturday night, and a relaxing, slow Sunday.

 

Clockwise, from top left:

1. Fun with friends at the Queen.

2. Wegman’s haul!

3. Maple sugar cookies with some festive sprinkle action.

4. Sunday soup: roasted butternut squash with apple.

5. I went a little crazy in the bulk candy section…

6. Best place on Earth.

7. Waiting room with a view.

 

Fresh Fall Fashion (cute, no?)

I thought I’d share a few of the things I’ve snagged to spruce up my wardrobe for fall…

recentbuys

  1. J. Crew Factory V-Neck Pullover – Oversized and comfy as can be, I’ll be lounging with a cup of hot tea or romping around in a pile of leaves in this (probably not that last one).
  2. Merona Kona Backless Loafer Mules – These are my new favorite fall shoes – perfect with jeans, and they don’t make my outfit look too casual…plus, who doesn’t love a good mule? #lazy
  3. J. Crew Factory Perfect Fit Plaid Classic Button-Down – To add to my ever-growing collection of plaid shirts…I plan to buy a white puffer vest to pair with this bad boy.
  4. J. Crew Factory V-Neck Cardigan – I’ve been needing a new boyfriend cardigan, and this olive color is perfect for this time of year. Crazy soft!
  5. J. Crew Factory Short-Sleeve Sweater – This is perfect for this transitional weather, and the yellow color is the perfect pop of sunshine.
  6. Lucille Laser-Cut Booties (Target) – I was in desperate need for new ankle boots, and I’m loving the perforated look.

I am obsessed with this salted caramel sauce

Make it, it’s easy.

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This is about the caramel, not the bars…but those are damn tasty, too. Get the recipe here.

Ingredients:

2 Cups granulated sugar

12 TBS unsalted butter

1 Cup heavy cream

1 TBS sea salt (flaky finish salt such as fleur de sel is best)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Get everything ready, this baby moves fast! Heat the sugar in a heavy pot over medium heat – when it begins to melt, start stirring (it’s easier if the pot is larger/has a wider bottom, otherwise it’ll take forever to melt). Stir, stir, stir. Once the sugar is melted, let it sit until it turns a copper color. DON’T LET IT BURN!!!!! But also don’t be scared and take it off while it’s too light, because that will make your caramel bland. Watch that sucker, because the line between tasty AF and burnt is itty-bitty. Once your sugar is at a delicious caramel color,  stir in the butter – keep stirring until it’s combined (it’ll look greasy around the edges at first; keep stirring). Once your butter’s incorporated, take it off the heat and stir in the cream – slowly, it’s gonna bubble up (this is also where a nice, large pot comes in handy). Once smooth, stir in salt and vanilla. Let it cool and keep it in the fridge (it gets pretty stiff when it’s cold, but I like it that way – once it warms up, it’ll get saucy again). Eat on EVERYTHING. I particularly like to dip apples in it when it’s cold and the consistency is more dip-like than sauce-like…it’s about 50 trillion times better than that stuff they sell near the apples at the store (though I’ll eat the crap outta that too, let’s be honest).

 

The most wonderful time of the year

We’re back from vacation (more on that later!), it’s dreary and raining, and it feels like fall! I don’t even mind the rain – I pulled out a spicy candle and lit that sucker up, and I couldn’t be happier. Although I’m 100% certain we have several weeks of blisteringly hot weather left before autumn sets in for good, this week of fall-like weather we get at the end of summer every year has always been my point of no return. Bring on the apples, the pumpkin spice lattes, the scarves, and the cool breezes.

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