Banana Bread Steel Cut Oatmeal

Banana Bread Steel Cut Oatmeal Recipe

Healthy steel cut oats loaded with the flavors of banana bread? Say it isn’t so! (It totally is.)

This post is sponsored by Diamond of California. All opinions are 100% my own. Thank you for supporting brands that help make this site possible.

Banana Bread Steel Cut Oatmeal Recipe

This past weekend was full of many lovely moments. The best was holding my best friend’s baby boy just hours after he was born. I can’t even describe to you the emotions I felt in that moment – so much love for the tiniest little human, and so much pride for the woman my best friend has grown to be and the mom she has become.

Seeing our two-year-old niece snuggle the crap out of Alex while watching The Goonies (my first viewing, by the way – the to-be in-laws couldn’t believe it) was a close second.

And, finally, scrolling through our engagement photos by the lovely Julie at Jared and Julie Photography. Taking them was so much fun and made me so excited for our wedding day in just a few short months. (Eep!) If you’re a weirdo like me who likes to look at photos of strangers, you can check out several of our favorites on Julie’s blog. Here’s a sneak peek:


Aren’t we cute? Seriously, Julie’s a genius.

Alright, enough of that. Thanks you for letting me ramble for a bit before getting to the point: A good-for-you breakfast that tastes bad for you.

Banana Walnut Steel Cut Oats Recipe

Thaaat’s right, guys. Banana Bread Steel Cut Oatmeal! Totally my new favorite thing. Healthy steel cut oats flavored with banana, a bit of maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla to make them taste like your favorite banana bread. And don’t forget your Diamond of California Walnuts, guys. A little crunch and healthy fat add that extra bit of banana bread oomph for your morning oats. As for the milk, choose your own adventure there – use soy, almond or coconut milk for a super-healthy bowl of porridge, or whole milk for a rich bowl of oatmeal to share with your family on the weekend.

Make a batch for a lazy weekend breakfast, or make them up on Sunday night and divide into half-pint jars for good-for-you morning fuel throughout the week. Your future self will certainly thank me.

Banana Steel Cut Oatmeal with Walnuts

5.0 from 2 reviews
Banana Bread Steel Cut Oatmeal
Yield: About 5 cups of cooked oatmeal
  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ⅓ cup Diamond of California Chopped Walnuts
  1. Bring water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the oats and the salt. Allow to simmer until about 80% of the water has been absorbed, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Stir in the milk, mashed bananas, maple syrup and cinnamon, whisking to combine if needed. Return to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the oatmeal reaches your desired consistency, about another 10-15 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the walnuts and vanilla.
  4. Serve with additional banana slices, cinnamon, chopped walnuts, maple syrup, or honey as desired.
Use any kind of milk you like - almond, soy, or coconut milk for a healthier, non-dairy option, or whole milk for a richer oatmeal.


Pomegranate Mango Smoothie


Tart pomegranate, sweet mango and creamy banana make for a smoothie that will get you ready for the day.

Pomegranate Mango Smoothie
I need to explain something to you.

I might be straying ever so slightly from my typical carb-laden, sugary, cheesy recipes on occasion over the next few months. This is not because I am suddenly interested in becoming a healthy recipe blogger, nor have I become obsessed with a “new year, new you” mindset.

No, I simply have come to the realization that I am getting married in just over 3 months and can no longer continue carrying on as though eating cheese is an Olympic sport and I am going for the gold. At least, not if I want to fit into my wedding dress.

Although, someone puh-leeease alert me if eating cheese ever does make the Olympics, because I could seriously succeed at that ish.

So maybe you’re looking for a healthy breakfast recipe? I’ll have that for you. A quick and easy weeknight dinner? That’s in the forecast, too. And probably a dessert or two, because I am still me, after all.

But for now? More smoothies.

Yes, another smoothie. Why? Because I love them. They’re quick, easy, require so few ingredients, taste great, and function as either breakfast or snack. Oh, and seriously easy clean-up. Can’t forget that. Getting engaged didn’t make me a perfect future housewife overnight – I still seriously hate to do the dishes.

This one contrasts the wintery flavor of pomegranate with summery mango, which I pick up frozen at Trader Joe’s. The pomegranate feels seasonal while the mango lets me dream of living somewhere – anywhere – warm.

Pick up the ingredients for this smoothie next time you’re at the store. I’ll just be over here sipping mine through a colorful straw and pretending that I am on a beach somewhere instead of in the arctic tundra that is Chicago.

Pomegranate Smoothie

Pomegranate Mango Smoothie
Yield: 1 smoothie
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup frozen, diced mango
  • ¾ cup pomegranate juice
  • 1-2 tablespoons ground flax seed
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar (optional)
  • 3-4 ice cubes
  1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.

A Year in Instagram: 2014

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It’s that time of year again – can you believe it? Time for another year-end roundup, Instagram style. This year was full of ups (engagement!) and downs (cancer), but we made it and are ready to head into 2015 and all kinds of new adventures (getting married) and challenges (remembering to notify my credit card companies of my name change).

Let’s review what 2014 brought, shall we? Remember to follow along on Instagram (I’m @StephieCooks) to see what’s coming in 2015!

January: Dove into one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read…

…gave a cat a bath (not an experience I care to repeat in 2015)…

…and celebrated our beautiful niece’s first birthday. (We’ll soon be celebrating her second…why do they have to grow up?!)

February: Attended my first gala for work (because when you work in PR, you get to attend fancy things such as galas)…

…and pulled out my old clarinet for the first time in far too long.

March: Got my creative juices flowing with a custom crocheted afghan.

 April: Watched the master at work…

…and got tattoo #1 of the year. (“Timshel” comes from my favorite novel, East of Eden – check out a more thorough explanation HERE.)

May: Visited Christina and her husband in St. Louis and made some great new friends (hi, Andrea!)…

…and met the queen herself, Ree.

June: Shot a fun video for Nielsen-Massey Vanillas (check out the final video)…

…and was the hallmark of pale.

July: Attended my first pro sporting event, all for the love of a man who loves Premier League soccer football.

August: Was rocked by my mom’s diagnosis of colon cancer, but was amazed by the response to our request for blue toenails for colon cancer awareness.

September: Finally got to meet my darling Julia and spend a lovely weekend gallivanting about…

…and got tattoo #2 of the year with my momma for colon cancer awareness.

October: Spent my first weekend in Ann Arbor, MI, for a dear friend’s wedding.

November: Said yes to my best friend and dearest love and began the craziness that is planning a wedding in less than 5 months.

December: Cuddled a tiny chihuahua in pink leopard print pajamas…

…and rocked some awesome socks from my future mother-in-law. (Find your own inappropriate socks at Blue Q! <– Totally not sponsored, just awesome.)

And now, as a bonus – the top 10 recipes from the site in 2014 (in order, as determined by popularity):

  1. Cream Cheese Ranch Rollups
  2. The Best Chicken Pot Pie
  3. Frosted Orange Rolls
  4. Apple Cinnamon Crockpot Oatmeal
  5. Fluffy No-Knead Refrigerator Rolls
  6. Cinnamon Honey Butter
  7. Texas Roadhouse Rolls
  8. Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix
  9. Caramel Pecan Bars
  10. Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

And the top 10 recipes posted in 2014 (again, in order because I’m anal):

  1. Apple Cinnamon Crockpot Oatmeal
  2. No-Knead Fluffy Refrigerator Rolls
  3. Cinnamon Honey Butter
  4. Texas Roadhouse Rolls
  5. Bacon Ranch Cream Cheese Rollups
  6. Buttermilk Cake with Raspberry Buttercream
  7. Paleo Strawberry Crumble
  8. No Chill Sugar Cookies
  9. Apple Pie Cookies
  10. Alaska Oatmeal Cookies

And that does it! Thank you so much for reading, commenting and generally hanging out this year. Let’s go into 2015 ready for plenty of bread and cookies. Amen.

Pineapple Pecan Cheese Ball

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Cream cheese mixed with crushed pineapple, peppers, scallions, and pecans – the perfect sweet-salty addition to any party or gathering!

This post is sponsored by Diamond of California, but all opinions are 100% my own. Thank you for supporting brands that make this site possible.

Pineapple Cheeseball 3
My aunt is the cheese ball queen. She has 3 cheese ball recipes that she pulls out once a year, typically at either Thanksgiving or Christmas. Considering we are a family of 8 (now 9 with the addition of Alex) on a good day, making 3 cheese balls for one holiday gathering seems a bit extreme, but she continues to make all of the recipes as each one is someone’s favorite.

Pineapple Cheese Ball
My mother, my aunt and I are partial to the Pineapple Pecan Cheese Ball. Her version includes cream cheese, crushed pineapple, green onions and plenty of pecans. This year, after eating my weight in cheese ball at Thanksgiving (don’t worry, I gave her cheddar and blue cheese ball some well-deserved attention as well), I decided to recreate this salty-sweet wonder in my own kitchen.

Pineapple and pecans and cheese might seem a little bit wacky, but I promise – it is awesome. The sweetness of the pineapple is balanced by the pepper (red in my version), green onion and Worcestershire sauce, and the crunchy pecans are basically a must to round the whole thing out. I wish I could say that you need crackers to spread it on, but I would have a total Pinocchio moment if I told you that I had never eaten it straight from the spoon.

Pineapple Cheese Ball 2
Make this the night before or early in the morning the day of – you’ll be glad that you allowed the flavors to meld into each other, making it 10 times better. Just try to actually use a cracker as a vehicle to get it to your mouth – particularly if you are serving it at your New Year’s Eve party. Your guests will thank you.

Pineapple Cheeseball 4

5.0 from 2 reviews
Pineapple Pecan Cheese Ball
  • 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • ⅓ cup finely diced red pepper
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced green onion
  • 2 8-ounce cans crushed pineapple, very well drained
  • 2 teaspoons seasoned salt
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups Diamond of California Pecan Chips
  1. In a large bowl, mix together the first 6 ingredients and ½ cup of the pecans until thoroughly combined. Shape into a ball, cover and allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or preferably overnight.
  2. Before serving, roll the cheese ball in the remaining pecans. Place on a platter and serve with crackers.


Roasted Garlic Parmesan White Bean Dip

Roasted Garlic Parmesan White Bean Dip

Creamy white bean dip flavored with roasted garlic and nutty parmesan cheese. 

White Bean Dip 2
Hey all! I am back with one more quick and easy (I promise!) recipe before Christmas arrives. But before I get to that, I have one fun thing to share with you.

This past summer I was invited to participate in a series of short videos called Flavor Bits, produced by Chicagonista for Nielsen-Massey Vanillas. Each video was hosted by a different Chicago-area blogger and covered a different easy recipe using Nielsen-Massey vanilla products and/or flavor extracts. Since my love of baking and all things cookies is pretty well known, I was invited to do a video demonstrating my No-Chill Sugar Cookies recipe.

Want to see? Here you go, just in time for Christmas! (Be kind, please! xoxo)

So, there you go. And, in case you were wondering, those cookies ARE the perfect cookies to make this week with your favorite friends or family. Make, bake, frost, eat give! Done.

Now that I have reminded you of the perfect cookie recipe to make this week, let’s talk about this Roasted Garlic Parmesan White Bean Dip. I know that we have all been stuffing our faces with a few too many Brown Sugar Caramels and probably a bit too much Double Gingerbread Cake, so I thought we might need a light yet flavorful appetizer option to help ourselves out a little.

This dip is the perfect option. All it requires is a handful of ingredients – white beans, garlic, parmesan cheese, and a bit of parsley, olive oil and lemon juice – and a food processor. The roasted garlic is incredibly flavorful, the cheese is nutty, and the beans are super creamy, making this the perfect dip with pita chips or veggies.

Put this dip out while finishing up Christmas dinner and get everyone to even out their sugar intake for just a few moments – I promise, they won’t even realize that it’s good for them.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Roasted Garlic Parmesan White Bean Dip
Prep time
Total time
  • 5-6 cloves garlic
  • 2 (15.8-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ¼ cup flat leaf parsley
  • ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Peel the garlic cloves. Place the cloves in a piece of heavy-duty foil - drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, then wrap in the foil, leaving a small opening at the top of the pouch. Place in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until garlic is soft and starting to turn golden. Allow to cool.
  3. Place the beans, roasted garlic, and the rest of the ingredients except for the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor. Run processor, streaming in the olive oil until it reaches a creamy consistency, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  4. Transfer to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Garnish with additional chopped parsley and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with pita chips, crackers or veggies.


Brown Sugar Caramels

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Brown Sugar Caramels are the perfect sweet treat to make and give this holiday season — just try not to eat them all yourself!

Brown Sugar Caramels4
Anyone else have a really hard time keeping your hand out of the candy bowl when there are soft, chewy caramels in there?

…Yeah, me neither…

But seriously. There is just something about homemade caramels. (By the way…do you say “car-muhl” or “care-a-mell”?) It only takes a few humble ingredients and a little bit of heat to make magic happen when it comes to making caramel.

Brown Sugar Caramels2
I made these Brown Sugar Caramels just before Thanksgiving and took them to my family. Let’s just say that 75 caramels did not last long. They were super impressed – I did not admit to them how easy they were to make.

Much like sharing family recipes with you every Christmas, I seem to have need to encourage you to pull our your candy thermometers about once a year. (Exhibit A: My great-grandmother’s Peanut Brittle recipe.) I know that candy making can feel intimidating, but it really is not that scary. Get yourself a good candy thermometer – this one on Amazon is very similar to the one that I use – keep your eye on it, and you are set.

This recipe makes around 75 caramels – this can increase or decrease depending on how big you cut your candies – which is plenty to give as gifts or take to a holiday party this month. In fact, this recipe is a perfect addition to this month’s #12Bloggers theme – Holiday Party Treats!

Holiday Party Treats

Regardless of the occasion – be it a work shindig, school party or a soiree with the in-laws – we have you covered this month. Make sure to check out my fellow 11 bloggers’ recipes for fun and tasty holiday party treats:

Brown Sugar Caramels

5.0 from 2 reviews
Brown Sugar Caramels
Yield: Approx 75 caramels
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla
  • Sea salt to top
  1. Lightly grease an 8x8-inch square pan and line with parchment paper (the baking spray helps keep the parchment in place). Set aside.
  2. In a large glass measuring cup, add the cream, butter and salt. Microwave on high in 30-second intervals until cream is hot and steamy and the butter is melted, stirring or swirling gently between microwave intervals. Set aside.
  3. In a large heavy-bottomed pot (I used my 3-quart dutch oven - you want a large pot for this as the mixture boils up quite a bit), add the sugars, corn syrup and water. Whisk until thick and grainy. Use a wet pastry brush to wipe down the inside of the pot. Clip your candy thermometer to the side of the pot, making sure the tip is submerged but not touching the bottom of the pot.
  4. Turn the heat to medium. Without stirring, heat to 260 degrees. Remove from heat, then slowly whisk in the cream mixture. Mixture will boil up.
  5. Return to heat and, again without stirring, heat to 250 degrees. Turn off heat, quickly but gently whisk in the vanilla, and carefully pour into the prepared pan. Do not scrape the bottom of the pot, as this will have burned sugar that you do not want in your caramels.
  6. Top caramels lightly with coarse sea salt and allow to cool completely, at least 2-3 hours or, preferably, overnight. Cut into squares or rectangles and wrap each piece in waxed paper.