Are you wondering what on earth packing lunch and making dinner for the 7,328th time have to do with saving the world, or is that just me? Fortunately, the other day Joel Salatin explained all that to me and to whoever else was listening to the radio. Organics in Wal-Mart this, farm subsidies that, he basically said; nothing will change until we return the kitchen table to the center of human society, and make mealtime the hub of the home. Yes! Yes! I nodded hard enough to hurt myself, risking a minor traffic accident.
Bear with me while I run this thread through some leftover oatmeal, which remained on the counter the other day when the contrails of the departing children cleared. With it, I made cinnamon buns, which are leftover oatmeal’s highest and best use. Really it’s the only possible use other than caulking a window or flinging it out the door for the chickens, which I recognize may not be an actual option for very many people.
Some friends stopped over in the afternoon, and I offered them each a bun.
“Did you make these?” asked the husband.
“Of course she did,” said the wife.
“No one makes these,” he stated firmly.
“You mean, besides the lady at the mall?” she replied.
Making the buns took about 25 minutes out of my day, in active terms, and required very few skills. I am not being modest. Really, it required very few skills, aside from willingess. But somehow cinnamon buns on a weekday afternoon are the kind of thing that seems like alchemy nowadays, or like some kind of crazy throw-back. Me and the buns can be an installation in a theme park. I see a calico dirndl, and a butter churn.
So we’ll leave me and the buns there in our Little House On The Prairie diorama for now, but rock onward with oatmeal and baking in one of their simplest and most satisfying forms. When I say that this recipe requires very few skills, you can be sure I mean it. Consider these the gateway drug to cinnamon buns.
These are the skills you will need:
Measuring not very carefully
Stirring for a little while
The payoff is extremely high for mastering these three things. This recipe, adapted from the Kripalu Cookbook, has an elastic ability to accommodate whatever lurks in your pantry (this is why it looks long, because of all the possible substitutions, so relax about that), can be mixed in a snap with very little forethought or preparation (no needing to soften the butter, for example), combines all manner of nutritious items that could arouse suspicion in other forms into one convenient handheld snack, and is almost universally enjoyed because--hallelujah--it tastes like dessert.
One recipe yields a mondo batch of nutrition-positive scone-like items that serve equally well as breakfast food, lunchbox fodder and afternoon snack. Nuts are optional; if you eliminate them for aesthetic reasons (not reasons of allergy), you might consider including ¼ to ½ a cup of almond meal in your dry ingredients to get their nutritional punch without alarming the consumers who think they don’t like them. You can bake one tray all the way to done and deploy it immediately, and you can under-bake the other tray, freeze those bad boys, and haul them out at a later date when time is short and you wish you had time to bake something. Just defrost them overnight and give them a final snap in the oven in the morning.
Here is the other devious trick that may turn you into a wanton mid-week baker: you can mix all the dry ingredients at night, just before stumbling up to bed, and come daybreak you are halfway to Scone Town.
The current favorite around here is made with chopped frozen peaches and crushed frozen raspberries, but a good case can be made for a version with chopped fresh pears and crystallized ginger, or apples, pecans and cinnamon, which gets me thinking about using a fresh mango and adding some coconut, but that's all up to you. I made them today with gluten-free flour and that worked out fine, but definitely required less milk than the called-for amount, which I had already dumped in when that occurred to me. They came out more like muffin tops than scones, which no one complained about (and just the thought of same was a good reminder to me to do more sit-ups.)
makes about 16 scones
3 cups flour (white, whole wheat pastry, or whole wheat, or any other type, alone or in combination)
1 ½ cups rolled oats
½ c sugar, sucanat, date sugar, coconut sugar, brown sugar or maple syrup (if the latter, then add it with the milk)
1/2 cup wheat germ, oat or wheat bran, flax meal, almond meal or a combination, or just use this much more flour
1T baking powder
1t baking soda
½ t salt
1 c chopped toasted almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts, pine nuts, or no nuts at all
1 c frozen or fresh blueberries, blackberries, raspberries; or chopped fresh apple, pear, peach or mango; or ½ cup of chopped dried fruit, like apricots, apples, mango or pears plus a ½ cup raisins or dried cherries or cranberries, or….
1 ½ cups milk, soymilk, nutmilk, or yogurt thinned with milk, or buttermilk, or a combination
1 tsp vanilla
¾ c melted or very soft butter (so a stick and a half), ghee or coconut oil, or canola oil, or a combination
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. You will need two ungreased (perhaps parchment-lined for ease of clean-up) cookie sheets, so have those ready.
In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients, plus the dried fruit if any of it figures in your version. Now mix the vanilla into your chosen milk and dump that over the dry ingredients along with the fat you have selected. When that is about half-combined with the flour, throw in any fresh or frozen fruit you may be using. If you have gone heavy on the dry additions, you may need to add a little more milk. If you are using a very juicy fresh fruit and/or the maple syrup option, you will want to start with a little less than the given amount of milk. Keep mixing until it is all combined. You are aiming for a mixture that is uniformly moist but not runny, more dough than batter, something like cookie dough that you can pick or spoon up easily.
Glob about ¾ cup per scone onto the cookie sheets with a little space between. Bake 15m or until lightly browned, reversing the trays halfway through. Hello, Uncle Bob.