His & Her Breakfast: Overnight Oatmeal

“But once in a while, you pick the right thing, the exact best thing. Every day, the moment you open your eyes and pull off your blankets, that’s what you hope for. The sunshine on your face,warm enough to make you heart sing.”
― Sarah Ockler

If you have been following my blog for the past five years, you know that I am a fierce lover of summer. No, it is not because I am a teacher (though I do appreciate the time to recharge). Summer to me means not feeling guilty when there are dishes on the counter (and when a pack of paper plates gets thrown into our shopping cart). It means adding more perennials to our landscape, the sound of kids shrieking with glee from the pool as I weed the strawberry patch, and a hot night ending with fireflies and a thick slab of juicy watermelon with fresh mint from the garden and scoop of mango and coconut sorbet.

Of course in my mind’s eye, when June comes I plan to make the most of every moment. This year was no exception, trust me, I had so many DIY projects on my list that my husband mastered the stink eye (okay, he already had it down). However, when school ends, and my routine is thrown off kilter, I sometimes falter with productivity. That is why I try to keep up on grocery shopping, meal planning, and keeping daily rituals.

The biggest fib that I tell myself when summer comes is that things are going to slow down. Okay, maybe when it comes to grading papers and lesson planning, but summer is fleeting and there are places to be, people to entertain, and project-upon-project to complete.

This summer for my family means ice time to build hockey skills for the kids, an epic road trip into the mountains of Montana, starting an addition on our 125+ year old log home, and my husband getting used to his new position of K9 Officer. Not to mention tending to our massive gardens, canning, raising animals, and all the things that owning a farm entails.

While cooking is my passion, I admit that sometimes when I am immersed into a summer project, preparing a meal is the last thing on my mind. Therefore, I like to keep things simple in the summer. I always make sure to send my husband off to work with breakfast, but as one cup of coffee turns into two, I sometimes have to remind myself that it is important that I have something healthy to eat as well. This is where refrigerator oatmeal comes into the morning. Last year, I shared a few recipes for this simple breakfast idea. Refrigerator oats get a lot of traffic on my blog and it is one recipe that people tell me that they “keep meaning to try.” Well, in case that is you, here is your reminder. If you are busy, this is one meal that will honestly be life changing. It certainly has been for the Waldos.

This oatmeal is consumed cold (think yogurt and fruit parfait). I know it sounds strange to not cook the oatmeal, but it softens and takes on a pleasing texture in the refrigerator. I use wide-mouthed one-pint mason jars and you can prepare them a few days in advance. The glass jars keep the ingredients fresh, are easy to wash, I always have them on hand, and make the oatmeal visually appealing. They are so easy to prepare that if I did not prep on Sunday, I can throw them together each night when I take care of the dinner dishes.

My husband’s morning routine rotates between refrigerator oats or a green smoothie (kale, spinach, banana, peanut butter, chocolate protein powder, and milk). While I enjoy the refrigerator oats too, I like mine a little more tart than he does. Therefore, I make a few variations on mine, but the basic recipe is the same.

*1/3 cup of old fashioned oats (quick cooking oats don’t hold up as well)
*1/3 cup of milk (you can substitute almond, coconut, or any non-dairy milk)
*1/3 cup of Greek yogurt (Greek yogurt often has more protein)

Add the above ingredients into the jar and stir well. Top with sliced fruit and/or berries (fresh or frozen), nuts, or any other toppings that you want to add.

For my husband’s jar I use a ½ a heaping cup of oatmeal and Greek Gods flavored yogurt. My preference is plain Greek yogurt (Fage is my favorite brand) and I add a couple of teaspoons of honey and lemon juice and zest.

The two varieties I am sharing today have the following:

HIS

½ cup of old fashioned oats
1/3 cup of milk
1/3 cup of black cherry Greek yogurt
½ teaspoon of cinnamon (stirred into the oatmeal, milk, and yogurt)
2 Tablespoons of blueberry pie filling
Almonds (I purchased cinnamon almonds from the our new Meijer supermarket)
Fresh blueberries
Raspberries

HER’S

1/3 cup of old fashioned oats
1/3 cup of milk
1/3 cup of plain fat free Greek yogurt
Lemon Zest
1 Tablespoon of lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
Fresh blueberries
Fresh raspberries (in the winter frozen raspberries work well – I add them frozen and the juice seeps through the jar beautifully.)

The flavor combinations for refrigerator oatmeal are endless. They are so easy to throw together that you customize them to fit each family member. You can make them healthy, or indulgent, and they are easy to grab and go for work, school, gym, or the beach.

I hope you are having a productive summer and are finding time to relax at the beach, at a local eatery or brewery, or on your own porch. Cheers to summer and all the gorgeous plans that it offers up!

It took three years, but the poppies I planted are finally blooming.

The bees love the lupine on our pond mound.

The pond that John started last summer is coming around nicely.

 

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Quadruple Berry Salad with Caramelized Pecans and Raspberry Vinaigrette

Quadruple Berry Mason Jar Salad“Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.”
― Susan Sontag

As an English teacher, I make a living out of helping my students find connections to the world around us. I serve as their guide in helping them to think critically and to use writing as a tool to make their thoughts, ideas, and dreams tangible. We use narratives, poems, articles, novels, and videos as a touchstone to connect with other lives, time periods, and cultures. Our writing becomes a mirror that we can hold up to our ambitions and possibilities. I always tell my students to examine the world with the astute eye of a writer. It makes us pay attention to things that may otherwise slip by.

As a new mother, I try to help my step-children make connections as well. The kids spend the majority of time with us and we try to make the most of our family time together. Since my husband John is a police officer his job often entails the challenge of shift work. However, he currently is on day shift which means that he is home for dinner every night. Last week he cashed in some very precious vacation time so he could accompany as a chaperone for the Winter Homecoming dance. After fall Homecoming, I promised Avalon that if she had high grades, strong attendance, and positive behavior that I would buy her a new dress and let her attend the Homecoming dance. She met and exceeded our goals and expectations – and I think it is fair to say that she felt like a princess dancing the night away.

Avalon posing in her Homecoming dress. What a beauty!

Avalon posing in her Homecoming dress. What a beauty!

John and Avalon. Oh, how I love them both!

John and Avalon. Oh, how I love them both!

How thankful I am that I work in such a family friendly environment. I think that it is a wonderful experience for Lukas and Avalon to interact with high school students and develop relationships and make connections with teachers, administrators, and others that will be stakeholders in their education through elementary, middle, and high school.

Lukas and Lorraine work on creating the yellow brick road in the hallway.

Lukas and Lorraine work on creating the yellow brick road in the hallway.

Avalon and Kori decorating the hallway for Homecoming.

Avalon and Kori make a great team.

As a teacher, I see firsthand the difference it makes in a young person’s life when their parents are actively involved in their education both inside and outside of school. Our first teachers are our parents, and I do not take my new role of mother lightly. I share John’s responsibility to help raise productive individuals that are kind, thoughtful, and independent. One of our family goals in the next couple of years is to construct an addition on to our house. In order to make this dream a reality, we are

Avalon and Lukas wearing their hats for Spirit Week.

Avalon and Lukas wearing their hats for Spirit Week.

trying to save money and stay financially healthy. I am teaching the kids how we can stretch our resources by grocery shopping (instead of dining out all the time) and by appreciating things that are homemade. John models hard work for his children and is a wonderful example of how much value things have when they are made from your own hands. John is extremely resourceful and can build anything. This weekend he put down new flooring in the kids’ room and he is currently building us

Sibling sweetness.

Sibling sweetness.

a sauna from a shed that we purchased from the Gwinn High School building trades class.  Since we live out-of-town we want to maximize our beautiful property and create our own personal paradise.

Last weekend I promised the kids that we would make Valentine’s crafts. We recycled jars and used Mod Podge and tissue paper to make “stained glass” candle luminaries. They loved being creative and suggested that we make more for every holiday. Setting a pretty table is important to me and I love that our Valentine’s centerpiece was created from Avalon and Lukas’ handiwork. I think that they will make our February family dinners even more special.

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Avalon bought me the beautiful family candle holder/plaque for Christmas.

Avalon bought me the beautiful family candle holder/plaque for Christmas.

Speaking of beautiful table settings, I recently became enamored by The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond’s gorgeous table wear collection. Since John and I merged households (I moved into his cozy log home) we feel it is important to acquire some new items together to help tell our story. We have kept quite a few of things we both had (for practical purposes) and slowly are buying a few new things. I wanted new every day dishes, but I am extremely picky. I could envision vintage plates and bowls, or at least a vintage feel, and Ree’s collection went perfectly with our red, yellow, and aqua theme. I love how bright and cheerful they are –  elegant  – with just the right amount of country charm! Not to mention that they are extremely affordable (which works with our goal to not squander our resources).

This weekend, after sleeping in from our late night at the dance and a huge breakfast, John took Lukas ice fishing and Avalon went grocery shopping with me. I told her with all the money that we saved with coupons and smart shopping I would treat her to Starbucks. She is a wonderful shopper and helps me remember the items on our list and she’s a huge helper in the kitchen. In fact, the recipe that I am sharing with you today was one of the first meals that Avalon helped me assemble last spring.

We take breakfast very seriously in our house. The eggs are from our hens and John and the kids had sausage from the pork that he raised last summer. Of course I sautéed lots of vegetables for my plate.

We take breakfast very seriously in our house. The eggs are from our hens and John and the kids had sausage from the pork that he raised last summer. Of course I sautéed lots of vegetables for my plate.

imageWhen I first started dating John, the kids (especially Lukas) were obsessed with the fact that I was a vegetarian. While they tend to be picky eaters and do not have a fondness for fruit and vegetables, I think they have made great strides in eating healthier. They love broccoli and green beans and for dessert they often will choose Greek yogurt and fruit. John, like the kids, has quite a sweet tooth but he loves to take a green smoothie to work and he enjoys my Mason jar salads. The combination that I am sharing with you today is his ultimate favorite. The caramelized pecans are a favorite snack of both John and Avalon and I often say that they are my way of “tricking” John into eating salad. While I do have a recipe for homemade Raspberry Vinaigrette, John prefers a sweeter store-bought version. I usually purchase Paul Newman’s Raspberry & Walnut dressing or Target’s Archer Farms Raspberry Vinaigrette – though I recommend that you give my recipe a try!

If you are new to jar salads, I recommend that you check out this link for helpful tips and tricks.

QUADRUPLE BERRY SALAD WITH CARAMELIZED PECANS & RASPBERRY VINAIGRETTE

I layer the following ingredients in this order – into wide-mouthed, one quart Mason jars. I usually make 7-10 salads. I do not have exact amounts of berries for the salads. I usually buy a quart of strawberries and blueberries and a couple pints of raspberries and blackberries and divide them up into each jar (the more berries the better!)

*If you do not eat dairy you might want to try this Herbed Tofu, from Vegan Yak Attack which makes a great feta cheese substitute.

*3-4 Tablespoons of Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing (depending on how much dressing you like. John likes a lot of dressing. I usually add extra vinegar or lemon juice at the bottom to mine since I like my dressing extra tangy)
*Sliced carrots
*Snow Peas
*Sliced cucumbers

*Strawberries (I use fresh berries. Once in a pinch I used frozen raspberries and they worked out – though they were not quite as good as fresh)
*Raspberries
*Blackberries
*Blueberries
*Feta Cheese
*Blue Cheese
(or gorgonzola)
*A handful of caramelized pecans (link to recipe HERE)
*Spring mix lettuce
*Alfalfa sprouts

This combination has turned John into a salad fan and I hope that you enjoy it too! While life is busy, we are never too busy to make healthy choices. Mason jar salads are a real game changer when it comes to meal prep. I got out of the habit this fall when my schedule got tight and my goal for the coming month is to make jar salads each week for work. I also want to bring back my weekly blog posts. I miss sharing with you, and since I use my blog as a teaching tool, I miss sharing my writing goals with my students. As always, I would love to hear from you. I hope you are meeting your healthy goals and intentions for the new year. Remember, we are worth it!

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John’s mom made us cooking aprons for Christmas.

One of my students Kori and I at Homecoming. I love her!

One of my students Kori and I at Homecoming. I love her!

The kids had so much fun dancing the night away. Jordan, one of my students, made their evening extra special. She is such a sweetheart! Love her!

The kids had so much fun dancing the night away. Jordan, one of my students, made their evening extra special. She is beautiful inside and out – love her!

Miss Avalon enjoying her Starbucks treat.

Miss Avalon enjoying her Starbucks treat.