Apple sauce

When I stepped outside after work this morning, the first thing I noticed was the chill that seemed to cut right through my coat. The second thing I noticed was the steam of my breath lingering in the air. As I walked to the bus stop, all I could think about was how I needed a nice hot bowl of something to warm up my body and soul. So I stopped at the grocery store on my way home and picked up ingredients for soup. Oh, and I bought apples. Lots of apples.

I haven’t made the soup yet, but I did make this:

Apple sauce

Lovely and delicious apple sauce. I used McIntosh apples which are well known for cooking down into a soft mush – not quite the thing for pies but absolutely perfect if you want to make a sauce.

Apple Sauce

6 McIntosh apples
1 – 2 cups of water
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar, optional

Cut the apples into quarters and remove their cores. Place the apples into a pot with a cup or so of water. Turn the heat to high, and as soon as the water starts to boil, turn the heat down to low and place a lid on the pot. Simmer the apples until they break down completely, stirring often. As the apples break down and become more saucelike, they may sputter as they simmer – try to stand back and use a long handled spoon to stir them so that you avoid being splashed with scalding applesauce*. When the apples have cooked down completely, strain out the skins and any pulpy bits remaining by passing the sauce through a food mill or using a spoon to push it through a seive. Discard the skins and return the sauce to the pot, seasoning with the sugar and cinnamon to taste. Enjoy warm or cold!

By the end of the cooking time, the lid was doing double-duty for me as a shield.

Oatmeal

I used to have a problem with oatmeal.

From the time I was a small child, I simply didn’t like oatmeal. Every morning, I’d watch my father tuck into a big hearty bowl of the stuff for breakfast. I knew my friends and classmates ate it. When my teachers had to cover the food groups in health class, oatmeal always had it’s virtues extolled as the pinnacle of a healthy breakfast. But for the life of me, I could not choke it down. I actually felt guilty for not liking oatmeal.

Dutifully, I would force myself to try it once or twice a year. I tried various recipes, many flavoured store-bought packets, and my dear mum even sometimes served me up a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. But every single time, the result was the same; halfway through the bowl, I’d start to feel a little gaggy.

I was in college when it finally clicked for me; a friend of mine was making breakfast and offered to make me some oatmeal, too. I explained my oatmealphobia to her, and she told me that she would make the oatmeal her way, and I could try it if I wanted. I watched hesitantly as she stirred the thickest pot of oats I had ever seen, but by the time they were ready, the aroma of cinnamon and brown sugar filled the air and my mouth was actually watering in anticipation. She added just a bit of rice milk before she ladelled me out a thick lumpy bowl of oatmeal. One bite and I had a revelation; a host of revelations, actually.

I realised that I actually did like oatmeal, but that it had to be prepared in a very specific way. And for me, that way is very sweet, very spicy with cinnamon and maybe some allspice or maple syrup, and very thick. I actually really enjoy the lumps of oatmeal contrasted with the thin rice or soymilk. The texture contrast is exactly what I need to not be nauseated by oatmeal.

And so, keeping in mind that it has become apparent to me that oatmeal preparation is as varied and as individualised as how someone likes their coffee, I share with you my way of preparing oatmeal.

Thank you, Maria, wherever you are – You finally got me to like oatmeal.

Oatmeal

One serving

1/2 cup of quick oats (the ones that cook in 3 – 5 minutes)

1 pinch of salt (1/16th tsp)

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp maple syrup, optional

1 cup of water

1 – 2 tbsp brown sugar, to taste

Soymilk or ricemilk, to taste

Combine the oats in a small pot with the salt, the cinnamon, and the optional maple syrup. Stir in the water, and turn the heat up to high. Watch the oatmeal closely; as soon as it starts to bubble, turn the heat down and stir constantly for 3 – 6 minutes, until the oatmeal has become quite thick. Remove from heat. Add the brown sugar and a splash of your preferred milk, and stir until the oatmeal is marbelled with dark rivulets of melted brown sugar. Transfer to a bowl and add more soymilk or ricemilk to taste.

Tip: If you use a wooden or silicon spoon or spatula, you can stir your oatmeal without waking your room-mate up at 6:00 AM. Just sayin’.

Another tip: If you immediately fill the pot with water after making your oatmeal, it will be much easier to clean as any oatmeal residue will simply lift off.