Saturday, March 19, 2011

Food and Sanity: Caribou Coffee's 7-Grain Oatmeal

I've never been much one for oatmeal. In fact, when my mother-in-law makes it at home, I never eat it. I've tried countless occasions to like it, but it always comes across as slimy mush in my mouth. (I hope that made you go, "Ew!" That's how most oatmeal makes me feel.) Eventually I gave up, until...

Meng and I go to Caribou Coffee quite often. It's not too far from home, and there is free parking available if we are willing to walk a few blocks. The weather has been very nice, so here I sit at the moment in Caribou. The rustic, unfinished wood panels and cross beams make the room feel so cozy and less lofty than a Starbucks. It's a great escape from the sterile and often tense environment that is the in-laws' house. It was here in the solace of the smell of coffee beans that my (intuitive and persuasive) fiancée introduced me to Caribou Coffee's 7-Grain Oatmeal.

"It doesn't taste like normal oatmeal," he said. "And you can customize it!" I was skeptical, but I tend to trust Meng when it comes to suggestions. He has a pretty good sense of what I like and don't like, so I tried it. It is now, to me, the exemplification of comfort and contentment. They have several combinations on the menu, or you can put up to three items in your oatmeal. I like it with apple compote, dried cranberries and almonds, but Meng prefers the brown sugar crumble.

Maybe it's not a good thing that food is such a comfort to me, but at least I'm not compulsively eating chocolate. The cooking aspect is nice, too. Yesterday I made vegetarian chili. It was pretty good, but I missed that meat taste. The beans, corn, salsa, cumin, garlic, onion, tomato and fresh cilantro just didn't do it for me. If anyone has a suggestion, I welcome it. Tonight I'm going to try and make Spicy Turkey Meatloaf. I'll let you know how it turns out.

I know this is starting to look like a food blog, but it's really a life blog, and eating is a very important part of life. Besides, if I post a recipe, it's likely to be cheap and easy, and when you're in college, that's what your food needs to be!


3/20/2011 - Update

Turns out the chili leftovers are amazing. Apparently it just needs to season overnight in order to be marvelous, so what the heck! This is a variation of a more traditional chili recipe a friend gave me. Here's what I did:

1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tomato, diced (you can also use canned)
1 white onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 can chili beans
1 can yellow corn
1 can chili beans
1 can pinto beans (or whatever you have on hand)
1 can butter beans (or whatever else you have on hand)
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 12 oz can of salsa
1 garlic clove (or you can just use garlic salt)
lime juice
dash of day-old coffee

Heat oil in a stockpot or large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, garlic and 1-2 tbsp of cumin (adjust to taste). Cook until onions are translucent and the tomatoes are beginning to stew. Add all the canned goods, including the salsa. Add salt, pepper, a dash of lime, Tabasco and cilantro to taste. Let it simmer for at least a half hour. The more, the better. At the last minute add a dash of coffee.

So there it is. The great thing about chili is that there doesn't need to be a set recipe for it to turn out great so add or subtract different beans or other ingredients at will. I recommend letting it cool and putting it into the fridge overnight. The next day, reheat on the stove and serve with shredded cheese and sour cream. It's great with tortilla chips.

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