Trying Something New: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

Very pale oatmeal chocolate chip muffins in a 12 count muffin tin.
Does anyone else think I should have added chocolate chips to the top of the dough before baking?

Alright, I know what you’re thinking: Surely this woman has consumed/baked a chocolate chip muffin in her life. You’d be right, in fact, my favorite way to consume a chocolate chip muffin as a child was in the form of a muffin top from a bakery in my hometown and one of the main bakes I made during the winter of 2021 was a chocolate chip bread. So when I say I’m “trying something new” here I really mean I’m trying out a new recipe and which calls for adding oatmeal to the muffins.

This was an interesting experiment because as a general rule, my husband does not like cookies that contain oatmeal. Raisin cookies? Totally fine. Oatmeal raisin cookies? You’ve lost him. Chocolate chip cookies? Not his favorite but he’ll consume them. Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies? Not a chance. We’ve discussed the logic of this a few times before, it’s not that the cookie is trying to be “healthy” it’s just that the oatmeal changes the texture of the cookie. Despite his reservations when adding oatmeal to a cookie, he was all for the idea of adding oatmeal to a muffin. Go figure.

After a little hemming and hawing, I opted for Little Sweet Baker’s recipe. Thought drawn to the simplicity of the ingredients/instructions, I was particularly interested in how soaking the oats for 15 minutes would change the consistency of the muffins. I did make two modifications to the recipe: I used soy milk instead of cow’s milk due to dairy issues and I was generous when adding the vanilla (because vanilla is delicious).

Honestly, I think I could have added another handful or two of chocolate chips. Partially because I believe a good chocolate chip muffin has a fair amount of chocolate in it and partially because the smell of chocolate never permeated my kitchen while the muffins baked.

In the end, I’m not sure I’ll make this one again. It’s not that they tasted bad or had a jarring consistency, it’s just that I’m not convinced that adding oatmeal to the muffins really did anything. Highly recommend the extra vanilla though, it was pleasantly noticeable.

Trying something new: Oat Jam Bars

Over the summer, I made a plethora of blueberry jam after we picked blueberries. While the jam is delicious and not in danger of going off, we’ve eaten enough of it to want to enjoy it outside of the traditional ways that one enjoys fresh jam. After a failed attempt to make Jelly Donuts, and a lack of desire to try again without a stand mixer, I found myself wondering what other baked goods utilized jam as flavoring (besides jam cookies, naturally). Enter the Oatmeal Jam Bars I found on Pinterest, simple to make and potentially delicious.

Let me start by saying, these are incredibly easy to make. You’re basically whipping up a double batch of the crisp that goes on apple crisp and baking half of it for 10 minutes before adding the jam layer and the other half of the oatmeal mixture. So really, it’s a way to make a pie for anyone who doesn’t want to invest in the time required to make pastry.

If I were to make it again, I think using a tarter jam (and ok, less jam) would make the bars taste better as these were just a little too sweet for my liking. Also, not that I would add nuts, but the dish could be improved with a crunch… possibly line the bottom with a sugar cookie instead of the oat mixture?

Bottom line, we ate probably more than we should have in one sitting and I can see myself making this one again (perhaps with a few changes to the original recipe). I can’t make any promises, but I found a homemade pop-tart recipe that I may end up trying out next. Will report back if I do!

Trying New Things: Foraging

Fiddleheads

I’m in the woods hiking a lot, and when I’m not in the woods I’m looking forward to the next time that I am. In my mind, and encouraged by my partner, I’m some kind of wood elf. Light on my feet and looking for adventure, cheerfully gathering fiddle-heads in the spring. Naturally, when a local permaculture farm decided to offer a class on foraging, I dawned my mask and eagerly stood in the parking lot waiting for the class to start.

Let me pause for a second and mention my expectations for the course. In my mind, my friend and I would be doing a lot of walking and chit-chatting as we walked from plant to plant. In my mind we would probably learn about 5 plants in the three hour class and I would be able to take my new skills with my hiking. I was wrong, but that’s ok!

Pineapple Weed

For starters, there was not a lot of walking around because there were so many edible plants all around us. We started in the parking lot with Pineappleweed. While you could make the argument that those little flowers looks like the bottom of a pineapple, they’re actually named after the fruit because of the aroma released when you pinch them and the taste that you get when you use them to make tea. This one seems easy enough, just a matter of paying attention to the parking lots (or gravely places) that I’m in.

Not even two steps brought us to our next delicious find: the shagbark hickory nut. This one I have to remember because I think it could be fun to use in homemade basil.

Groundnut

Without even moving we discussed black walnuts and the three steps took us to groundnuts. Groundnuts grow along riverbeds, which means I’ll be keeping an eye out for them the next time I take Loche for a walk. You have to wait until the weather starts turning, the dig them up to access their roots. From there, you’ll notice what look like little tiny potatoes and you can cook them just like potatoes!

Mind you, all of these plants were in the first 10 minutes of a three hour class. We learned about marshmallow flower (they used to use their roots to make marshmallows!), sweet goldenrod (smells like licorice), Autumn Olive (they’re invasive, but I think the fruit tastes really good. Is it bad that I want a bush of my own in my back yard?), Elderberries, June-berries, crab-apples, rose hip, wild strawberries, dame’s rocket, day lillys, hazelnut, milkweed, wild asparagus and a many others that I could recognize and point them out but can’t remember their names. One of them even has blue seeds! This class was PACKED with information, which was both awesome and crazy.

So what did I take away from this class? Foraging is a hobby in itself and you don’t really casually do it. It seems to be an event that takes place purposefully rather than one that is done as you’re walking through the woods (but I did try to keep an eye out during my next hike). It was a lot of fun and probably something I’m going to enjoy reading about.