There’s an early episode of “Saved by the Bell” – the not nearly as amusing junior high version – where teacher Miss Bliss opens up her home to fellow teacher Tina, who has recently broken up with her boyfriend. Tina soon begins driving Miss Bliss crazy (as is often the case when sharing space with an obnoxious person), particularly when she uses the bran muffin Miss Bliss was planning to eat for breakfast to make her a healthy smoothie. It’s the final straw for the typically patient Miss Bliss, and a moment that I can completely identify with.
There is no meal (aside from maybe dinner at Pizzeria Mozza) that I consider more sacred than breakfast. Everyday I look forward to savoring my morning bowl of peanut butter oatmeal or, on occasion, Kashi Cinnamon Good Friends with banana, as I read the print version of the LA Times and sip a cup of green strawberry tea. It’s a special time for me -- the calm before the storm of the day when I gather my thoughts and take a moment to breathe.
The peanut butter oatmeal is an integral part of that ritual, and as such, I have gotten to a point where I can’t imagine eating my oatmeal any other way. It’s peanut butter with dried cranberries and green apple or nothing. If anyone dared use the last of my peanut butter or munch on my dried crans, my wrath would know no bounds.
Or at least that’s what I thought until this weekend.
It all started because I had a $3.99 container of leftover mascarpone cheese in the fridge I’d used in a special pasta dish earlier in the week. I hate wasting anything – even the tough green stems of a leek, and felt impossibly guilty that such a fine cheese product would go to waste. I remembered the pumpkin puree I had in my freezer and thought I might be able to do pumpkin oatmeal with mascarpone cheese topping. A quick Google search brought me to a recipe for carrot cake oatmeal with mascarpone instead, and as soon as I read the ingredients, the frozen pumpkin puree was out of the game.
This Saturday morning, as the sun inched its way free from the grey clouds that had held it hostage the past week, I followed the recipe for someone else’s breakfast (making my own adaptations along the way). I nervously exchanged my dried cranberries for seedless raisins, I snubbed the pb for toasted walnuts, and I ignored the green apple in my fridge in favor of shredded carrots and banana. Topped with a spoonful of mascarpone/Greek yogurt, it was one of the best bowls of oatmeal I’ve ever eaten.
As I eagerly spooned the cookie-esque bowl of warm cereal into my mouth, I couldn’t concentrate on the headlines in the paper. I could barely pause long enough to sip from my cup of hot tea. My sacred pb oatmeal and paper ritual hadn’t just been broken, it had been shattered.
Today, as I pulled myself from the tangle of pink sheets on my bed, I wasn’t looking forward to my habitual bowl of oats, I was looking forward to the carrot cake version. Sacred or not, I think it has already become a new ritual that will occasionally make its way into my morning routine. Just as long as no one blends my carrots into a smoothie.
Carrot Cake Oatmeal with Mascarpone Frosting
Adapted from Live Well 360
Serves 1 hearty breakfast eater
½ cup rolled oats
¼ cup carrot, grated
1 extra-small banana, sliced into thin pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon brown sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
½ tablespoon wheat germ
1 tablespoon fat-free Greek yogurt
½ tablespoon mascarpone
2 tablespoons walnut pieces, toasted
1 heaping tablespoon raisins
Pinch of salt
½ cup water
¼ cup skim milk
In a small sauce size pan, bring ½ cup water to boil. Add the grated carrot, oats, water, and salt, reduce heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Stir in the milk, sliced banana, nutmeg, cinnamon, and raisins. Continue to stir, almost whipping, until the banana breaks down and the mixture thickens and becomes creamy, about another 3-4 minutes.
In a separate small-size bowl, add the Greek yogurt, ¼ teaspoon sugar, and ¼ teaspoon vanilla and whisk together with a fork. Set aside.
Add ¾ teaspoon of vanilla extract, wheat germ, and brown sugar to the oatmeal and stir until incorporated. Pour into a serving bowl and top with the cream cheese mixture and the walnuts.