Whip Smart Kitchen

Recipes, methods & musings for the whip-smart home cook

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Pumpkin Spice Steel-Cut Oatmeal

Breakfast, Fall, Make-ahead, Recipe, Slow Food, Winter, Vegetarian, Comfort FoodLeannda CavalierComment

Hearty steel-cut oats toasted in browned butter get the full pumpkin spice treatment with real pumpkin puree, serious spice and less sugar than your average PS treat. A batch can feed a brunch bunch, or be stored in the refrigerator for a week of healthy breakfasts.

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means I get a small commission if you buy products I recommend at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I believe in from companies I believe in—either I use them myself or I've at least done thorough research and vetting. Please reach out if you have any questions!

Too early to read the whole post: gimme that breakfast recipe already.

Two vital seasonal truths in my world right now: 1. Though we have left fall behind, I'm not yet finished with the pumpkin. 2. Though it's a new year and blah blah blah, it's TOO COLD for smoothie bowls. I need my breakfast to warm me up right now, thanks. 

One of my absolute favorite things to make for breakfast is steel-cut oats, and there are so many options out there. In fact, here's another recipe for apple-cinnamon steel-cut oats in case this one doesn't tickle your fancy.

Never made them? Nervous? Let me break it down for you:

How to cook steel-cut oats:

  1. Toast the oats in some butter or coconut oil over medium heat for a few minutes.
  2. Add about 3 cups boiling water for every 1 cup oats. 
  3. Cook on low for about half an hour.
  4. Add any flavorings and toppings you want.
  5. That's IT. 

The rest is playing with flavors, which is my spe-ci-al-i-ty.

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Steel-cut oats have a lot of advantages over your typical rolled oats, some of them health-related. They retain more of their nutrients through being less processed. They take longer for you to digest, keeping you full longer. You know what else? They're chewier, roastier and nuttier--all things I'll take over "faster" 99 percent of the time.

Besides, you can just make these ahead and reheat them. I'd much rather make one big batch of hearty, flavorful steel-cut oatmeal at the beginning of the week than spend 5 minutes making decent quick oats every morning anyway.

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P.S. I actually do like rolled oats... meal planning my breakfasts with blueberry rolled oats I could microwave every morning kept me sane at my last full-time job, plus they're great for pancakes and cookies. But steel-cut oats? Pumpkin ones? Those are the approachable but aspirational mornings I'm generally going for.

They also keep me full for more than 15 minutes without seconds, which is honestly pretty impressive.

As for the pumpkin, surprise! Pumpkins are still in season for the winter! 

We tend to attach pumpkins to fall, which is when they come into season, but the favorite among squashes really shouldn’t disappear the moment you take your jack-o-lantern off your doorstep. (You did remember to do that, right? It’s okay, this is a safe space.)

I wavered a little on whether to call this recipe “pumpkin steel-cut oats” or “pumpkin spice steel-cut oats”. Isn’t that stupid? Well in terms of search engine optimization it’s not, but I’m not even talking about that. I’m talking about all the crap women (and men brave enough to admit it) get for loving pumpkin spice.

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My thoughts? Pumpkin spice is delicious and a little over-hyped. Yes, both can be true. 

I shamelessly love a good pumpkin spice latte, especially homemade or one from Starbucks (gasp!). Pumpkin pie? Definitely. Pumpkin spice bread? Yeah! Pumpkin spice bagel? Double yeah. Pumpkin spice muffin? Why not? 

I don’t tend to like PSLs from many other places because the syrup often tastes nothing like pumpkin, but ultra-sugary fireballs (the candy, not the drink). Specifically fireballs that have already had most of the coating worn off.

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Other DOA pumpkin spice items for me include: gum, store-bought coffee creamers (actually those get a big no from me in general) and yogurt. No thank you, please. 

Anyway, maybe it's the seasonality, but pumpkin just feels like a special treat for me. There are plenty of reasons to use real pumpkin in your breakfast well past November. First, it’s delicious with said pumpkin spices. Second, you can easily store cans of it in your freezer. Third, lots of recipes call for a cup of pumpkin, and most cans come with 2.5 cups.

And hey, pumpkin is a great source of vitamin A, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. 

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This pumpkin spice steel-cut oats recipe is a great way to use leftover pumpkin puree if you’re anything like me and put it in the fridge with the best of intentions, but no solid plan. Wasted pumpkin is a sad sight (and a bad smell).

These steel-cut oats are so easy to put together, and most of the cook time only requires stirring every so often so the bottom doesn’t burn. Also know it’s okay if some oats do stick—I typically get a thin layer of them on the bottom of my dutch oven. 

I can usually get any stuck oats off pretty easily with a plastic scraper, but you can also put the empty pan back on the stove with some water and bring it to a boil to soften it up. The dutch oven pictured above is a 5.5 qt enameled cast-iron dutch oven from the Food Network. You don't have to use a dutch oven, but I like them for things that cook slowly like this. I also use mine almost daily anyway, so...

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Usually I prefer my oatmeal a little lumpy with milk poured over, of course I know lots of people like creamier oats. If that's you, no problema! Just add more water or milk. You can add another cup in the beginning, or you could stir it in at the end if you decide it's too thick for you.

Sometimes if I'm reaaaaally hungry I'll make creamier just so the water the oats absorb will make me feel full faster—and sometimes I just do it because I'm in a creamy oatmeal mood. It's a thing, just go with it.  

You can top these with whatever you want, but I really love a pat of butter, pepitas (extra protein, extra crunch), maple syrup and a splash of milk. I put some suggestions down in the recipe itself. 

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If you like this recipe, you may want to sign up for my email list for more. Everyone who signs up gets a freebie guide to getting organized in the kitchen, which is one of the biggest commonalities I see when people say they're not good at cooking—and one of the easiest things to fix! Just click on the graphic below to sign up and download. 

P.S. If you ever need help with a recipe or have a question, please reach out. I'd love to help!

Let's get simmering!

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Did you make this recipe? Take a picture and let me know! You can always tag me and hashtag #whipsmartkitchen on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook (links below), or use the tried it feature on Pinterest.

High-rise buttermilk biscuits supreme

Breakfast, Method, Baking, Recipe, Slow FoodLeannda CavalierComment

Flaky, buttery biscuits in a golden crust that rise like champs. They're perfect solo with some butter and jam, or with my personal favorite comfort food—creamed turkey.

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means I get a small commission if you buy products I recommend. I only recommend products I believe in. That means I've used it myself in most cases, and at the very least I've researched it thoroughly and find it trustworthy—I would never recommend anything I wouldn't use myself. Please reach out if you have any questions!

I'm just here for the biscuits and I've already scrolled through 106 photos. Jump to the recipe.

I'm not quite sure how we got to December, but here we are. It's probably a little tired to talk about how the years whir by faster the older you get, but it always seems to surprise me regardless. This is about the time my work starts to slow down and I get to relax and spend time doing the things I love.

JUST KIDDING. I'm panicking about how much baking I can get finished, trying to finish Christmas shopping (I'll start in September next year... is probably a lie), packing frantically and trying to get some recipes photographed last-minute. Oh, and telling everybody else in my life not to sweat the small stuff I'm sweating. 

Despite being hopelessly overcommitted (re: nutso), I have been trying to find ways to tie in reflection and gratefulness into my work here. Which is how we landed on biscuits. 

Biscuits supreme is a recipe I grew up on. It’s a favorite in my Ya-ya’s recipe box, given to her by her mother, my Nee-nee. If you search "biscuits supreme”, you’ll get a good number of similar biscuit recipes with slight variations. As far as I can tell, the original came from a midcentury Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, and like so many other recipes, was passed down through countless families like a delicious game of telephone. 

On a Christmas visit, shortly after I moved to Tennessee, my Ya-ya gave me the recipe printed on an index card in her angular handwriting—one of the few family recipes we have that's actually written down with measurements and full instructions.

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I wish my handwriting was half as interesting as hers, or my great aunt’s whimsical swooping letters. Both should be fonts. I've tried for years to copy them from sticky notes and birthday cards to make my own version, but it's never quite right.

I'm better at emulating their cooking skills, which brings us back to biscuits. To round out the connection, I do like to experiment with things to put my own spin on them. Millennials, amirite?

Why mess with a good thing? Because butter.

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I reaaaaally wanted to use butter. The original recipe calls for shortening, which I’m not opposed to using, but I do try to keep use of heavily processed ingredients to a minimum. It was a product of it's time and it makes total sense here, but butter brings the flakiness in a way shortening can't. 

 

The first time I tried to make biscuits (not my family’s recipe, a random one I found online), I ended up with a crunchy disc. Pretty tasty… but more like a cookie than a biscuit. English biscuit? Um, maybe (no). Definitely not making the cut in Tennessee or West Virginia. 

These biscuits on the other hand. These. Biscuits. Tall and tan and flaky and buttery. These are the biscuits from Ipanema.

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Butter makes a difference because as it cooks, it turns to steam and leaves pockets. That’s why the best biscuits have streaks around the middle like the dough is stacked in layers—it is! The thing is, using butter isn’t enough.

If you just mix the butter in any way you want, those pockets won’t form. If you want flaky, pull-apart layers, you need the right technique. Conventional advice I’ve always heard says to cut cold butter in, then mix it in with your fingers until you have pea-sized chunks.

The misshapen one with the arrowhead-shaped top is the last cut, made of scraps. If you're worried about presentation, just skip it (or make it and scarf it down directly out of the oven before anyone sees it). 

The misshapen one with the arrowhead-shaped top is the last cut, made of scraps. If you're worried about presentation, just skip it (or make it and scarf it down directly out of the oven before anyone sees it). 

It's a good start, but there’s a better way if you want a next-level biscuit. I looked to one of my favorite books, Cooks Illustrated's The Science of Good Cooking for some sage advice. 

I think the biggest help the book offers is the idea of fraisage and lamination—stay with me here, we’re not talking about covering it with plastic. We’re talking flattening the butter and folding it into the dough in layers in this form of lamination, meanwhile fraisage is a French technique where you smear butter into a dough with the heel of your hand. Think about the buttery strips when you tear into a croissant, or a pie crust falling apart and melting in your mouth. Mmmm. 

The book suggests flattening the butter rather than breaking it up into pea-sized chunks, keeping it nice and cold until baking time and folding the dough over onto itself several times. 

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We'll do a rustic version, because as much as I love learning about food science, most people probably don’t want cooking to feel like lab work. I’d personally love to work in a test kitchen, but I’m pretty short on time most days in real life. 

Besides, sometimes I just want to feel more artist than scientist, you know? We’ll riff on it. 

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My family’s recipe already used two of the book’s tips. First, a little shortening is actually a good thing. I’ve always seen shortening as a) one of those supposedly healthy fats that turned out to be worse than butter, and b) a foolproof way to make dough come together. Butter is difficult to work with, but shortening is hard to mess up. 

That is true, but it’s also a hasty generalization. I teach public speaking, so we can't have that. Turns out it serves a separate purpose too—it helps keep the biscuits tender by reducing the moisture content and forming a weaker gluten structure. Weak gluten = tender. Who knew?

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Our family recipe also features two leaveners, which the book recommends, in the form of baking powder and cream of tartar. I left the leaveners the same, but I changed the milk to buttermilk, which changes the acidity and reacts to them a little differently. I think it balanced out pretty well. 

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It's fun looking at how these recipes handed down through the years stand up to science-based techniques. Possibly one of the most fun things is that you don't have to care if you like it the way you already do it. There's rarely only one "right" way to do something. 

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I love my family's classic biscuit recipe, and I love that my Ya-ya makes them for me with creamed turkey when I come home. I love how simple the recipe is to put together. I love that it tastes like what her family sat down to eat during a time I can only imagine. I love reading it in her handwriting and hearing the instructions the way my Nee-nee must have taught her. 

It's also incredible that knowing the concepts of lamination and fraisage help me understand croissants, pie crust, puff pastry, certain breads, other biscuits, scones... and they get me thinking about how I can play with other recipes for a similar effect. Is it possible to make a biscuit or croissant cookie hybrid? Is that already a thing people are standing in line for in Brooklyn? What would you call it? I just googled what I thought it would be called, and that is a different thing. Don't worry about it.

Allow me to distract you with an action shot: 

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This week is super-fun because I'll be posting TWO recipes. I've been pretty inconsistent lately, I know. I doubt anyone is visiting daily to see if I've updated (though, please tell me if you do, because I will die), but I do want to at least follow my own content calendar. I have this anxiety that my strategic communications students will find my blog and berate me for not sticking to the standards I hold them to.

"Mrs. Cavalier, you're not posting consistently enough," they say, in my anxiety-fueled nightmares. "Did you even set objectives? No one is going to stick around if you don't give them content to come back for and serve them. That's what you said."

YES I SAID IT. And it's true. Class, if you're here, it takes SO long to grade your stuff. I love you all anyway. And to anyone who does come here regularly, I really am sorry. I'm working on it. Did I mention I'm also a football sideline reporter and caterer on the weekends? Because this has been a long, rough semester. 

Anyway, I submitted final grades at about 3 a.m. Saturday, and I'm ready to get back to work. That's why later this week I'm posting a recipe for one of my favorite recipes ever: creamed turkey.

Yuuuup Brooke County (West Virginia) people, get ready.  

If that sounds a little suspect to you, I get it. But I promise, creamed turkey is legendary. It is the comfort food of comfort foods. 

While you're here, I'd love to hear what your favorite family recipes are! Let me know in the comments at the end of this post what recipe is most treasured in your family, and whether you've tried it out for yourself. 

If you make this biscuit recipe, I'd love to hear about it! Just comment below, or post a photo to Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #whipsmartkitchen and tag me! You could also use the "tried it" feature on Pinterest. I'm always happy to answer questions as well. 

Let's make some biscuits!

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Southwest-style sweet potato frittata

Breakfast, Recipe, Slow FoodLeannda CavalierComment

A silky blend of eggs, ricotta and gruyere top hearty sweet potatoes, black beans and smoky vegetables. Flavorful and filling, this frittata can feed your brunch crowd or be stored in the refrigerator for days of healthy breakfasts.

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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. That means I get a small commission if you buy products I recommend. I only recommend products I believe in. That means I've used it myself in most cases, and at the very least I've researched it thoroughly and find the company trustworthy—I would never recommend anything I wouldn't buy and use myself. Please reach out if you have any questions!

Stomach... rumbles... uncontrollable... gimme that southwest style sweet potato frittata—skip to the recipe, please!

I've always thought frittatas were so-so. Pretty good. Nothing special. 

Breaking news: I was WRONG. 

The frittata conversion

This summer while Adam and I were visiting his parents in West Virginia, they made us an incredible brunch. It featured biscuits (duh, I said "West Virginia"), a selection of gourmet jams (new playlist name?!) to try and the star of the show: a cheesy, tender frittata. 

The problem with frittata for me has always been that it's either too rubbery or too slimy, and/or that it's just too eggy. Yes, I know its supposed to taste like eggs. Yes, I love eggs. No, I have no desire to eat a wet scrambled egg pie. Sorry.

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But this frittata. THIS frittata was spongey in a buttery way, had plenty of texture to break up any monotony, and had as much flavor as any savory dish at my favorite brunch spots. It was filled with sausage, potatoes, kale, spinach, onions, and lots of cheese. 

One of the reasons it was so incredible is because my parents-in-law broke the rules of the recipe they were using, and brilliantly so. It said to drop ricotta in by the spoonful before cooking, but they went ahead and mixed it right in to the eggs with the gruyere. I think that made all the difference in terms of texture. They also threw in some browned sausage into the mix, which was pro play-calling. 

I've been a frittata fiend since. I've made one nearly every week—really. It's such a great breakfast, and I just have to work for it Sunday to reap the benefits throughout the workweek. To switch it up I've been rotating versions, including the one I'm sharing today: southwest-style sweet potato frittata. 

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This frittata has the same incredible texture, but a slightly different vibe. Namely, smoky-sweet. Onions, cherry tomatoes, jalapeños and black beans form the smoky base, while crispy-edged sweet potatoes add meatiness and mellow things out. It's topped with... you guessed it an egg mixture enhanced with ricotta and gruyere.

I know, it doesn't sound like either of those cheeses should go in anything invoking the southwest, but I swear it works. If you really have a problem with the gruyere, you can always go for some sharp cheddar, but DO NOT skip the ricotta. 

Ricotta is essential to the experience I'm trying to give you. Don't question it. I'm more Lucille Bluth than David S. Pumpkins on this one. 

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I truly don't know that I'll ever make another frittata without it.  

A fatty hypothesis with some steam to carry it

If I had to guess why the ricotta-egg mix is so magical, I'd chalk it up to the fat versus liquid content. Ricotta a whey protein, which is essentially cream or milk quickly curdled with an acid in order to thicken it and intensify the flavor. That means the fat and protein stick around without all the liquid.

When you cook eggs mixed with dairy products or other liquids, too much steam can become a problem. With a short cooking time it's not such a big deal, but the longer the cooking time, the more tightly the proteins in the eggs bond, the more liquid they push out, and the tougher your eggs get.

On the other hand, if you reduce the liquid and up the fat, your eggs are going to steam less, and your eggs should stay tender. Furthermore, the added fat will coat the proteins and slow down their coagulation even more.

TL;DR: You get to have your cake and eat it too, as the liquid from the milk will steam the proteins enough to make the eggs fluffy, but the fat in the milk and the ricotta will coat the proteins to help keep it from getting tough and rubbery. 

Why mess with a frittata that isn't broken?

I believe in moderation, so some sausage is perfectly okay in my diet. On the other hand, moderation probably doesn't include eating it nearly every day. Besides, sometimes you've just got to switch things up!

A big benefit of this southwest-style sweet potato frittata is that it puts a little healthy twist on things. Swapping out sausage for black beans and potatoes for sweet potatoes lowers the sodium a bit, adds some more vitamins and fiber and lightens things up overall without sacrificing flavor. It's probably not the recipe you're looking for if you're overly concerned about cholesterol, but hey, it's also not the 90s. 

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A few months after our trip, Adam's parents came to visit us on their way to visit family in Alabama. I was able to serve them my version of their frittata on their way down, and this southwest-style sweet potato frittata on their way back home. I might have gushed a little over how they've inspired my new obsession and made my mornings before work so much easier.

This southwest-style sweet potato frittata is perfect if you have company coming over, especially if you prep the vegetables ahead. I personally like to make this on a Sunday so I don’t have to worry about breakfast throughout the week.

It refrigerates beautifully, and can be reheated in the microwave without altering the texture dramatically, unlike many egg dishes. That's saying something, because generally I ha-ha-haaaate microwaved eggs. The ahem RICOTTA keeps the microwave from turning the eggs into smelly rubber. I just pop in a slice for 45 seconds to a minute and savor it with some coffee and maybe a side of fruit.

Are you a frittata fan? What's the best one you've ever had? As always, I want to hear from you! Whether you make this one, think it sounds good, or just have strong feelings on egg-dishes, let me know in the comments!

Got a question or something you're struggling with in the kitchen? I'd love to help you out if I can, but I won't know until you ask.

If you make this recipe, make sure you come back and let me know how it was, or you can post a photo on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #whipsmartkitchen & tag me!

One more thing—bloggers, Instagram enthusiasts and influence aficionados: stick around until the end of this post. I've got something fun for you!

Anyway, let's get cooking!

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Hey, are you a blogger too?

Maybe even a food blogger? I'm attending a live Q&A Thursday (11/9) with Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro's Lindsay and Bjork Ostrom on how they've grown their Instagram following to 500K.

I'd love to see you there too! It's mainly for food bloggers, but I can easily see anybody interested in Instagram getting value out of this. It's super-easy to register, just click this link—Instagram Live Q&A with Food Blogger Pro—or the graphic below. 

Full disclosure, this is an affiliate link. That means that if you end up enrolling in Food Blogger Pro after clicking my link, I'll get a small portion of anything you pay. 

That being said, the webinar is totally free and you don't have to buy anything to get a ton of incredible info (seriously, just listen to their FREE Podcast—I'm obsessed). I really believe in Food Blogger Pro, and Pinch of Yum is the delicious proof that they know what they're doing. Bjork and Lindsay and their whole team are so knowledgable and generous, and they've helped WhipSmart Kitchen become what it is today (and what I hope it will grow into!). 

How we grew our instagram following to 500k