The Practical Pantry began in 1998 as a weekly newspaper column. After 10 years, The Practical Pantry's first cookbook was published. The food column continues to be published weekly, and many of the newspaper columns appear below.

There’s nothing old-fashioned about these oats

OatmealPublished the week of March 6, 2017

While turning to sugary oatmeal packets results in an easy breakfast, its flavor-to-calorie ratio might not be as appealing. When you need flavor and have a bit of extra time, try oatmeal flavored with tasty ingredients you control. You’ll have a more satisfying — and healthier — meal.

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Butterscotch Oatmeal

1 egg, beaten
1-3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons butter

In a saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the egg, milk and brown sugar. Mix in the oats. When the oatmeal begins to boil, cook and stir until thick. Remove from the heat, and stir in butter until melted. Serve immediately. Makes 3 servings.

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Carrot Cake Oatmeal

4 cups water
1 cup steel-cut oats
1 apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup raisins
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 pinch salt
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup plain yogurt

Bring water to a boil in a heavy, large saucepan, and stir in the oats. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook oats until they begin to thicken, about 10 minutes; mix in the apple, carrot, raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. Let the oats simmer until tender, about 20 more minutes. Meanwhile, melt butter in a skillet over medium-low heat; stir in the pecans. Toast the nuts until fragrant and lightly browned, about 2 to 5 minutes, then sprinkle with brown sugar and stir until sugar has melted and coated the pecans. Serve in bowls, each topped with about 2 tablespoons of the pecan mixture and a dollop of yogurt. Makes 6 servings.

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Coconut Oatmeal

3-1/2 cups plain or vanilla soy milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 8-ounce container plain yogurt, optional
3 tablespoons honey, optional

Pour the milk and salt into a saucepan; bring to a boil. Stir in the oats, maple syrup, raisins, and cranberries. Return to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cook for 5 minutes. Stir in walnuts and coconut; let stand until it reaches your desired thickness. Spoon into serving bowls, and top with yogurt and honey, if desired. Makes 6 servings.

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Pantry Pointers

Cooking oatmeal in milk instead of water adds protein to the dish.

For festive sweets, turn to fudge

fudgePublished the week of December 5, 2016

‘Tis the season for hiding the scale and indulging in holiday treats. Whether you are making them for the family, for a party, or for gifts, fudge is a sweet treat that fits all the bills.

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Easy Chocolate Fudge

3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup butter
1 cup chopped walnuts, optional

In a large microwave-safe bowl, place chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, and butter. Cook in microwave oven on medium until chips are melted. Cook 1 minute. Stir, then cook 30 additional seconds at a time, stirring, until chips are melted. Total cooking time is about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in nuts, if desired. Pour into well-greased 8×8-inch glass baking dish. Refrigerate until set. Makes 16 servings.

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Pumpkin Fudge

3 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup butter
1 5-ounce can evaporated milk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 10-ounce pack

ages cinnamon-flavored chips (such as Hershey’s)
1 7-ounce jar marshmallow creme
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

In a 3-quart heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, combine sugar, butter, evaporated milk, and pumpkin. Cook until mixture boils. Clip a candy thermometer to side of pan; reduce heat to medium-low; continue boiling at a moderate, steady rate, stirring frequently, until thermometer registers 234 degrees F, soft-ball stage, about 20 to 25 minutes. Adjust heat as necessary to maintain a steady boil.
Remove saucepan from heat; remove thermometer from saucepan. Stir in cinnamon-flavored pieces until melted. Stir in marshmallow creme and walnuts. Immediately spread fudge evenly in a greased 13×9-inch pan. Score into squares while warm. Let fudge cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Cut into squares. Cover tightly and chill for up to 1 week. Makes about 96 pieces.

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Peanut Butter Fudge

1/2 cup butter
2-1/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, place butter. Add brown sugar and milk, stirring. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Mix in peanut butter and vanilla.

Place confectioners’ sugar into a large mixing bowl. Pour hot peanut butter mixture over confectioners’ sugar and beat until smooth. Pour fudge into a greased 8-by-8 inch pan. Chill until firm, about 1 hour. Cut into 1-inch squares. Makes about 64 pieces.

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Pantry Pointers

For easier handling of fudge, line your pan with foil first and then coat the foil with butter. Use the foil to lift the fudge out of the pan before cutting.