Chickpea Burgers

>> Friday, April 30, 2010

We wanted to make something different for dinner the other night. Falafel was on the top of the list. But thinking about eating all that fried food made me sick to my stomach. It's interesting, really. I've been eating more veggies (not so many fruits, though) and simple meals . . . and when I look at any processed foods, when I consider eating store-bought anything, I cringe just a little. I haven't had this problem until recently.

However, I guess it can't really be considered a problem because it's healthier than the alternative. Back to the "burgers" now. They are definitely falafel-inspired. Chickpeas abound with a nice crop of seasonings. We chose to bake them after dipping them in some of that irresistible roasted walnut oil. Smothering the patty with brie is entirely optional, so it would also serve as an excellent vegan dinner option. What you may not expect is our other condiment choice, which is a balsamic almond butter I whipped up on a whim.


What you'll need . . . (for six sexy burgers)
  • 2 cans of chickpeas, drained
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped
  • 1 small green chili pepper, de-seeded and chopped
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons flax meal
  • 1 cup rolled oats

Method . . .
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Put EVERYTHING in a medium bowl and mix together.
  3. Then transfer to a food processor and pulse until incorporated, but still chunky. There's no right or wrong texture, really.
  4. Shape into palm-sized patties. Dip in a shallow bowl of oil (we used roasted walnut oil for extra flavor). Space evenly on your cookie sheet.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes or until the patties brown.

If you'd like to make them fancy, serve with this divine balsamic-almond butter topper and some slices of fresh avocado. If you love brie, add some of that, too. What does this topping taste like, I bet you're asking. Well, much better than it sounds. Just make sure you don't use sweetened butter, or else the whole savory aspect of it will be lost. It's definitely a refined taste, but it's something I plan to make again -- it was THAT good.

Here's all you need to do . . .
  1. Combine equal parts balsamic vinegar and natural, unsweetened almond butter. Stir until well incorporated. We used about two tablespoons of each per six burgers.
  2. While the burger are still on the cookie sheet (and out of the oven) switch your oven to the broil setting.
  3. Spoon over each burger with the balsamic-almond butter and spread until you have a nice, thin layer. Then place some slices of brie (if you wish) and broil until bubbly. You'll notice that the butter hardens, but it still tastes AMAZING.
  4. Then top everything off with some fresh avocado. Of course, don't forget to enjoy!
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A Homemade Life: Foodie Book Club Posting

Good morning, everyone! Here's the post where you can share a permalink to your Foodie Book Club review/recipe/photo essay/or whatever else you've come up with to discuss Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table. I can't wait to share with you all my write-up and recipe. Hoping to get it up on the blog by Monday morning.

And here's how you share your own creation: Simply enter your information in the following format in the list below -- something like Ashley M. [at] (never home)maker (but use your own info, of course). Again, please provide the specific link to the post about Wizenberg's book so we can all easily find your post.

You have until Friday, May 7 (that's one week) at 11PM EST to post to this page. I'll be making a sidebar graphic for easy access. Thanks, and please let me know if you any questions! (Psssst: If you just can't get enough of Molly's fantastically crafted prose, check out her blog -- Orangette -- her latest recipe is roasted rhubarb!)

Image Credit

New to (never home)maker? Have questions about the Foodie Book Club? Check out our Foodie Book Club Details post. And if you'd like a button for your sidebar so everyone can know you're in the club, just grab the one below!

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Help Us! How Does Your Garden Grow?

>> Thursday, April 29, 2010

My left hamstring has been incredibly tight since the race, so this weekend will likely not mean a long run for me. So, I'm trying to plan my days accordingly. Trying to fill them to the brim with production and relaxing activities. Tomorrow we're spending an "intimate evening" with Andy Samberg (really, that's what the poster says for the event). And I couldn't be more thrilled. If you've been living under a rock, Andy Samberg is on SNL. He's hilarious. Google him.

Anyway, Saturday's weather is supposed to be especially brilliant (yes, too much of Jaime Oliver's Food Revolution), so we're planning a 20-mile bike trek to a nearby river town. 40 miles in all. That is, if our bikes are in OK condition to make sure a voyage. I'm sure after a quick tune-up, we'll be good to go.

But another item on the agenda is to start planting a garden. We have a (very) small plot (probably 3 feet by 5 feet) in our backyard where we've grown anything from basil to pumpkins to peppers. We even grew that proud pumpkin you see below. But how that happened is an entirely different story. Basically, Stephen is the expert of the two of us in this particular area. I don't have a green thumb. Really, it's more out of choice than lack of talent. I just haven't gotten into the whole growing and gardening thing. But I'd like to try.

As I mentioned in my last Foodie Book Club post -- one of my goals is to make a meal using entirely locally grown ingredients. Of course, it's be cool if those ingredients could not only be grown in my zip code, but also at my own address. What do you think?

Here's the thing. We could totally use your help with this project. We have the time. We have a small budget. We even have some compost we could throw on there (more about that in another post). And we certainly have the desire to grow a little garden.
  • But -- most importantly -- what should we grow? (Veggies, herbs, etc.?)
  • Should we expand the plot to allow room for variety?
  • What plants do well with little maintenance?
  • What plants are the most rewarding, even if they're difficult to maintain?
  • Should we go with seeds or small plants?
  • How should we organize everything?
  • How can we keep critters out? (We live in town, but still -- we get animals.)
Yeah. We could Google it. We could read books. We likely will do all those things. But we'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. Please, please, please leave us a comment or email us at

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Unexpected Good Finds: Walnut Oil

TJ Max is one of my favorite stores. It seems to have a little of everything -- from scarves and bags . . . to sneakers and skirts . . . to dutch ovens and bedsheets. There's food, too, but I rarely venture down that aisle. I mean, really? Food? I'm sure it's all just super old castoffs from grocery and specialty store shelves across the country. And that's just gross. Most of it is processed like crazy, too.

Moose munch? Chocolate covered cherries? Powdered margarita mix? Please.

The food aisle at our TJ Max must have been moved recently. For, when I made a quick trip there after work the other day, I somehow found myself elbow deep in oils and spices. There was indeed some cool stuff there, and I sort of wish I had given the place a chance sooner. Half off fancy, organic oils -- sunflower, grapeseed, and walnut -- is definitely a deal.

Walnut oil is my favorite of the three. As the name suggests, it is a light and nutty oil most suitable for using in dressings and dips. It's an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids (without the fish gelatin added in, thank you!), which we all know is essential to our nutrition. However, if you plan to rush out an get some of your own, be careful. We learned last night that using walnut oil at high temps doesn't work (think pops-up-and-burns-you-in-the-face doesn't work). Instead, stick to using it at room temperature or for a medium heat saute. It not only loses its flavor when exposed to high heat, its nutrients and antioxidants break down, too.

There's a great recipe on this particular bottle for a French Walnut Oil Vinaigrette we just can't wait to try out.

We used some of it to make a succulent sauce for a stir-fry. It's simple and healthy. Fancy and free. OK. Not free, the oil did set us back about $6 a pop. However, I'm used to seeing prices double that amount on like products. It's well worth a little cash.

To make this dish, just use a bit of olive oil to stir-fry some veggies (here we're used broccoli, onion, mushroom, and tofu). Then in another bowl, mix together equal parts walnut oil and balsamic vinegar. Add some garlic powder, mix, and spoon over veggies. Oh, yeah. We added some freshly chopped basil for an extra punch. I'd highly suggest including that in your own version.

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Funky Black Magic Cookies

>> Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Almost sounds like a title Richard would give such a treat. But, no. This quick, vegan recipe is all mine. And it's another favorite from the METHOD archives. What you may not know just from looking at them is that they're extremely healthy cookies -- full of oats, blackberries, walnuts. So healthy, in fact, you may just need to make 'em twice.

(Yes. It looks like a lot of ingredients. But suck it up! Here's to your health!)

What you'll need . . .
  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance (or other butter sub.)
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup wheat pastry flour
  • 3 tablespoons dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup crushed walnuts
  • 1/3 cup frozen blackberries

Method . . .
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together Earth Balance (or other butter sub.) and brown sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add applesauce, ginger powder, and orange juice -- beat until well combined.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together the wheat pastry flour, cocoa powder, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Add dry ingredients to wet -- mix until well combined.
  6. Add oats 1/2 cup at a time while mixing on low speed.
  7. Mix in crushed walnuts and frozen blackberries. You may wish to run the blackberries through a food processor to make the pieces a bit smaller (or not).
  8. On a baking sheet (preferably prepared with a piece of wax paper) drop heaping tablespoons of dough 2 inches apart.
  9. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes -- rotating pan halfway through.
  10. Cool and enjoy!
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Chase those Post-Race Blues Away

The streets are now full of cars, not runners. The water stations are torn down -- paper cups swept off the grass. Your race t-shirt is in the laundry bin. The results have been posted for days. And your muscles no longer plague you with that happy-soreness that only comes after running an awesome race. There's this feeling hanging over you. A feeling of accomplishment eclipsed by a feeling of -- what's this? -- sadness!

You've got a case of the post-race blues, my friend.

It's not uncommon to feel this way. In fact, I have a touch of it myself in the wake of the Lehigh Valley Half Marathon. Stephen and I trained our hearts out and devoted months to smashing our old PRs at this year's event. We were successful, but riding that high only lasted a few days.

It's difficult to define what the whole post-race blues thing is all about. But it's not just reserved for runners. In fact, I remember feeling this exact way after most major events in my life. After music festivals I participated in. The prom. High school and college graduations. Our wedding day. All of those big events in life require lots of preparation, hard work, and -- ultimately -- reward. But when the goal is finally met. When you've kicked some major butt at that marathon you spent years thinking about finishing, you're left confused and searching for that next big thing.

It's not totally unavoidable. But there are some things I do to help push through this feeling.

Reflect. Look up your race results. Analyze your performance. Enjoy those race day photos and articles posted everywhere. Look up race reports in Google to experience the day through the eyes of others (blogs, etc.). Write your own race report. Journal. Scrapbook. Whatever. Just take some time to reflect on the event and your success. Maybe you didn't get your best time, but you still put a lot of work into what you did. It's important to mentally recognize and process your efforts.

Reward. Treat yourself to something special for the mere purpose of rewarding yourself. I'm getting a new pair of running shoes after my PR on Sunday. But a reward need not be expensive or even a big deal. Maybe you've been wanting to take a vacation day. Let yourself. Or perhaps you've wanted to indulge in a nice piece of cake. Celebrate like it's your birthday, for goodnesssake! Do something -- anything -- to reward yourself for all that hard work.

Run. But not in the same way. And not in the same places. Physically, you may have pushed yourself to the max. Now isn't the time to push yourself harder. In the week or so after any big race, I become a "Zen runner" and refuse to take my watch with me. I refuse to map my routes. I simply run to run. To enjoy the outdoors. To stretch my legs. And now is an excellent time to enjoy some cross-training. Treat your muscles right and kick yourself a bit out of your routine. It'll help.

Redefine. Truth is, your race is over. I know it's sad. But now's the time to look toward the future. What is NEXT on your agenda? For us, we've signed up for two awesome races this summer: Lake Placid Half Marathon and the Boilermaker. We're super psyched for these events, and we've established new goals in response. For example, Lake Placid is going to be ridiculously mountainous. The goal at this race for me isn't time, but persistence. I just want to run it without stopping. And enjoy the scenery. The Boilermaker is another PR race -- I want to get lower in the 1:13s, possibly break into 1:12. Looking back at my recent performance, I feel confident. Plus, with these new goals in my mind, I'm looking forward rather than backyard. Just chasing those blues away. (Jazz hands...)

Redefinition can also mean making a goal outside running all together. Maybe you've always wanted to try and triathlon. Or get into yoga. Do something else active, like sailing or kayaking. Whatever it is, now's the time.

Whatever happens, don't let how you're feeling scare you. You will get better. You WILL want to run again. You may just be in a funk for a while. But it's entirely normal. Races happen all the time. Goals are fluid. You're constantly getting fitter, healthier, and stronger in the sport. And when all else fails, I find helping others get into the world of running is rewarding. I find myself getting excited about their goals -- and it rejuvenates my own energy and excitement.

Have you ever had the post-race blues? We'd love to hear your thoughts. Just leave a comment or email us at

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Birdcage Bohemia -- Giveaway Winner

Hey, everyone. Happy Wednesday! I quite honestly don't know how we're already on hump day -- seems like this week is just breezing by. Anyway, we're happy to announce the giveaway winner to you all this morning. You know, the one who will receive this gorgeous necklace designed just for (never home)maker by Beatrice at Birdcage Bohemia!

The winner is . . . LUCKY NUMBER 13! (Special thanks to Tara's Random Number Generator.)

Our winner is Amy, who is a student living in Nashville, TN. She wrote us: "Oh, my! That's some snazzy bling bling, if I do say so myself. I rarely wear jewelry except for my 3 or 4 necklaces i randomly interchange (I went through a fit two years ago and gave nearly all of my jewelry box away), so I would love a new addition to my newborn jewelry collection." Amy writes the blog Little Wonder, (her "little escape from anything that has to do with [her] daily life") if you'd like to check it out. So, congrats to Amy -- she'll now be the envy of all her friends (and likely 79 of you readers who also participated).

If you didn't win this time around, don't fret. We're close to reaching 1,000 subscribers (966 is the Feedburner count this morning). So, you know when we hit that milestone, it'll be cause for an EPIC celebration.

And be sure to check out some of Beatrice's lovely, eco-friendly works of art (I mean, just look at them -- they're amazing!), at Birdcage Bohemia on the web!


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Rutabaga-Carrot Soup

>> Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Another simple soup recipe to round out the afternoon. And what's best is that I can show you how to transform something ugly it into something beautiful (and yummy, too). I'd never eaten a rutabaga (also known as a yellow turnip) before. In fact, I don't even know if I'd ever stopped to look at one until last weekend. But there I was. Walking around the produce aisles at Wegmans . . . when I discovered they'd run out of asparagus.

Then this thing caught my eye. It was calloused, bruised, waxy, and misshapen. Almost like a diseased toe . . . or something equally grotesque.

Image Credit

I hear you can make a mashed rutabaga. Originally, that is what I set out to do. However, we had a bunch of carrots we needed to use up. Then I got the idea to make soup. The taste of it is actually VERY good. In fact, it may be the best soup I've ever made. Give rutabagas a chance if you haven't already. You'll be pleasantly surprised. As well, you'll benefit from enhanced nutrition.

What you'll need . . .
  • 1 large rutabaga, peeled and chopped into 1/2" pieces
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 cups soy milk (or regular milk)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Method . . .
  1. If you have a slow cooker, throw in the rutabaga, carrots, onions, and vegetable broth. Cook on high for approx. 3-1/2 hours or until the rutabaga and carrots have softened enough to mash.
  2. If you don't have a slow cooker, soften the rutabaga, carrots, and onions in a large pot of boiling water until the are soft enough to mash and all the veggie broth later.
  3. Lightly mash the softened veggies. Then, throw them in a blender and add the soy milk -- first add 1 cup, then 1/2 cup at a time until you reach your desired consistency.
  4. Transfer the soup to the stove to heat and add the salt and pepper to your liking.

And if you haven't already -- be sure to enter our giveaway, which ends this evening at 9PM EST.

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Easy Thai Mushroom Soup

Remember way back last week when we wrote about our lavish weekend dinner in? We made roasted pears with brie and a tasty cashew chili noodle stir-fry. But we needed something else, so we quickly whipped up this soup with ingredients from the other dishes and some stray mushrooms we had in the refrigerator. The key word is quickly, because this soup is as easy as chopping, plopping, heating, and stirring.

It's ready in no time at all!

It's vegan, too. So, that's always a plus. The coconut milk gives the soup a creamy texture and decadent flavor. And for those of you who don't like cilantro (sorry! lately that seems to be many of you!), this dish may not be your favorite. To make the broth aromatic, we used a pack of Thai spices, which included a hefty serving of cilantro, as well as lemongrass, Thai basil, and extra garlic.

What you'll need . . . (for two healthy bowlfuls)
  • 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 can (15 ounce) of light coconut milk (regular would work, too -- we're just watching the fat content)
  • 1 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 small green chili pepper, minced (and de-seeded)
  • 1 pack of Thai herbs (or just a handful of chopped cilantro, some lemongrass, and Thai basil)
  • 1-1/4 cup chopped white mushrooms

Method . . .
  1. Pour a bit of olive oil into a medium pot and heat over medium heat. Add in the mushrooms, as well as the minced garlic, chili pepper, and ginger. Stir for 1 minute.
  2. Pour in the vegetable broth and coconut milk. Toss in the herbs. Stir.
  3. Cover and turn the heat to low. Cook for 10 minutes, until the flavors have time to mingle.
  4. Enjoy.

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How to Protect Yourself from the Sun

We got thinking about the whole skin protection program after we discovered that during our marathon training, we were spending at least 7 hours outdoors each week. And that doesn't include non-running time. It's easy to soak in all those rays without thinking about the consequences. After all, it feels good. And some exposure is important to absorbing vitamin D (thanks to Erin from Domestic Adventure for reminding us of that). However, too much unprotected fun can also lead to premature aging of the skin, wrinkles, cataracts, and skin cancer.

What to do? Well, we've all read the tips in magazines and heard them on the news. We also likely all say we're doing enough to protect ourselves. But, people, it's high time we all start putting the SPF 30 chapstick where our mouth is. Here are some tips and tricks submitted to us by readers, as well as a few of our own.

Cover up from Head to Toe. The sun can't get you if you're wearing clothes. So, if it's not incredibly hot, try wearing longer sleeve items. Slip into some warm weather running tights versus short-shorts. Stick on a hat (I always wear a hat while running because I used to get horribly sunburned on my scalp. It is not fun at all). But if you choose to follow this step, also choose your attire wisely. Of course, some fabric is better than none, but if your singlet is basically see-through, it certainly defeats the purpose.

You may have also heard about the new UV protective clothing. I'm no expert in this area, but I found a site with some active wear (Solartex). If anyone has tried this kind of fabric, we'd love to hear what you think about it!

Tess writes: I always wear a baseball hat or a visor when I run. I have a bunch from work but I've been thinking about getting a proper Nike Running Hat because I think it will be easier to wash. Unfortunately the hat doesn't always cover my whole face (depending the the time of day and position of the sun), but overall I think it's much better than sunscreen.

Image from Amazon

Wear Sunscreen. Yeah. It makes sense. And we all KNOW to wear sunscreen. But I will be honest. I rarely ever slather the stuff on my body (I wear some in my face moisturizer) unless I'm at the beach. Make sure you choose a kind that blocks both UVA and UVB rays (to guard against skin cancer).

Bre from The Red Bungalow writes: I HATE thick sunscreen . . . no matter how little you put on you can still...FEEL it. I started using Neutrogena's Ultra Sheer Dry Touch and I think it does a really good job of not feeling like sunscreen. I also just got some of the spray kind from Costco that I'm going to try out too (I would think this would feel less icky and is really quick to apply).

Iris writes: For over-the-counter I would suggest Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 100+ with Helioplex. This one is super dry and soft to the touch. While it protects, it also works to reverse existing damage. A definite plus! It runs around $12. Good deal for the money.

Iris also suggests the following for those of you (like me) who are concerned with breaking out: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Products are great! They range from $20-$60 depending on the SPF level and body specific product. I personally use the 60SPF on a daily basis in the summer. For running purposes I would suggest the 60 Melt in Sunscreen Milk as it's not face-specific but can be used all over your body.

Meg agrees: That Neutrogena Dry Touch stuff is amazing! I have been using it for 2 years. It comes in a small blue and white tube/bottle and it really does feel dry and my skin never gets oily. I wear sunscreen on my face every day, and even most days in the winter. For the rest of me I use Ocean Potion for sensitive skin (pink bottle). It is non-scented! And not thick and greasy either.

And Tess suggests the following brands, if you're especially concerned with staying natural: Loving Natural, Heiko Kids, and Badger.

Protect your Peepers. You don't need to spend a mint to be protected. But during the summer, I often wear both a baseball cap AND sunglasses. Make sure whatever pair you choose -- just like with sunscreen -- blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Protecting your eyes will ensure you can continue your outdoor activities for years to come. Plus, it's much more comfortable than squinting at the sun for 20 miles!

Choose your Workout Time Wisely. Truth is, we know when it's the worst time to head outside for a long run or walk. UV rays are most intense between 10AM and 4PM. And with all that summer heat, it's usually more comfortable to be outdoors earlier or later than these times. If the sun is high in the sky, consider waiting until later in the day to get your sweat on.

Bre (The Red Bungalow) writes: Because I'm so easy to burn, my hubby always makes a point of having us try to do our outdoor activities when the sun isn't at the highest point in the day (when we go to the pool or go for a bike ride we usually go before 11am or after 2:30 or so).

Do What's Right for You (But Consider the Consequences). If you don't find a method that works, you likely won't do anything at all. Becca from FashionFlirt told us the following story that has us shaking in our running flats!
A friend of mine who is an elite marathon runner never wears sunscreen on his long runs because he finds that when he DOES wear sunscreen his ability to sweat normally is compromised. According to him, he finds that when he wears sunscreen, he struggles through his summer runs quite a bit more than he does if he doesn't bother putting on sunscreen at all.

That being said, his skin looks like leather already, and he is my age (28).

We got so many fantastic suggestions, we simply couldn't include them all this morning. So, we're planning another sun care-related post for the near future. If you would like to read all the comments shared with us, head over to the Here Comes the Sun post. And if you have some of your own tips and tricks to share -- please do! Just leave us a comment or email us at

And if you haven't already -- be sure to enter our giveaway, which ends this evening at 9PM EST.

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Nutella-Pear Oatmeal

>> Monday, April 26, 2010

When I went to pack my usual oatmeal mix for breakfast today (chocolate and peanut butter), I quickly discovered we're out of chocolate chips. I also caught a glimpse of a lonely pear, just waiting to be consumed.

And with a fancy glass jar of Nutella -- imported all the way from Italy -- just sitting in the cupboard, I threw out the good versus bad breakfast concept, and decided to dig in. After all, with my half marathon PR still fresh in my mind, I think I'm due a celebration of epic proportions.

This sweet beginning is just the start . . .

Now, oatmeal doesn't photograph well, so -- no -- what you see below isn't the "finished" product. But it's easy enough to imagine the gooey, chocolate-hazelnut-y goodness all punctuated by sweet, soft squares of delectable pear. At least I can conjure up that tasty image.

However, I spend more of my time day-drooling about food, which likely isn't normal.

What you'll need . . .
  • 2/3 cup rolled oats (not the instant kind)
  • 2 tablespoons (or more, if you dare) Nutella
  • 1 ripe pear, skinned and cut into small pieces
Method . . .
  1. Put all ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Pour hot water over 'em.
  3. Stir and enjoy!
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