An Ode to Oatmeal

Today, I was going to share with you some of the seasonal recipes that Aaron and I have been cooking up lately to put our glorious CSA produce to its best use. Alas, that post did not meet the approval of the fickle internet gods and was lost. After that, rather than focusing on the fleeting beauty of summer produce, I am shifting the focus to my constant breakfast companion, one that is often overlooked but deceptively versatile: oatmeal.

Now, I'm not going to go full Ina Garten on you and tell you I eat my oats every morning with a pinch of salt and maybe maple syrup on my birthday. I respect your purity Ina, but I need a little more pizzazz than that! The great part is, oatmeal can take whatever I want to jazz it up with. In the summer, like this week, I might go with fresh blueberries and peaches. In the autumn, I've done a pear, cardamom, and dark chocolate concoction that was divine. In the winter, I've used carrots to make a carrot cake style oatmeal, or turned to dried fruit for fun flavor combinations--can you say cocoa craisin? I think you see where I'm going. 

Anything that you can dream up can go in oatmeal. And if you aren't a lover of oatmeal in its typical boiled form, whether from the microwave or the stove, I have a suggestion for you.

Bake it!

Baking oatmeal solves two problems. One, you make enough for a whole week of breakfast, saving you time in the morning that could be better spent sleeping. Two, the texture of baked oatmeal is much more similar to a cake than it is to mush. This is because of the egg and the baking powder typically included in baked oatmeal; they give it structure and lift. 

If I haven't already convinced you to try baked oatmeal, here are two more reasons. One, oatmeal is cheap. Like, I buy a 42 oz container--that's over 2.5 lbs!--for $2.69 at Wegmans. Is your breakfast 9 cents per serving? I didn't think so. Now, of course it can get expensive depending on your mix ins--the blueberry and peach combo I did this week was probably about $5 worth of fruit--but still, that's less than a dollar a day for breakfast. Grad student budgets can't handle much, but they can handle that. 

The second reason is that baked oatmeal is healthy. The recipe I'm sharing with you today has 1/4 cup of sugar for the whole batch. One quarter cup is equal to 12 tsp, and I get about 8 servings from one batch, so that makes 1.5 teaspoons of sugar per serving. By comparison, a muffin has about 8 tsp of sugar, which is 2/3 of your total sugar for the day. I don't know about you, but I was planning on eating dessert! Baked oatmeal lets me do that, guilt free. 

If you already love baked oatmeal or are ready to give it a try, check out the recipe below. It's a riff on Heidi Swanson's recipe, which I discovered in 2012 and have been making ever since. If you have a favorite breakfast of your own, let me know in the comments!


Blueberry and Peach Baked Oatmeal with Almonds

 

Ingredients: 

Everything tastes better when made in stolen Corningware. Sorry Mom!

Everything tastes better when made in stolen Corningware. Sorry Mom!

  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 2 cups milk (or almond milk if you are lactose-intolerant)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled (again, feel free to sub in your favorite non-dairy option, like coconut oil)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 2 peaches, sliced
  • 1 cup of blueberries

Directions: 

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350 and grease an 8x8 baking dish. 
  2. Put your almonds in a dry skillet over medium heat and get them toasting. Be sure to keep an eye on them (or, as is what usually happens with me, a nose--as in, crap, it smells like my almonds are done) so they don't burn. 
  3. Meanwhile, mix your dry ingredients. That's the oats, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and almonds if they are ready. 
  4. Next, get out your wet ingredients. I like to whisk the milk, egg, and extracts together first to make sure my butter has enough time to cool. If you have mise en place'd like a pro, feel free to whisk them all at once.  
  5. Place about 2/3 of the peaches and blueberries in the bottom of the baking pan.
  6. Are your almonds done yet? If they are, go ahead and add all your dry ingredients to the greased baking pan. Then, pour over the wet ingredients and give it a bit of shake to make sure everything is well combined. 
  7. Finish the dish by placing your remaining peach slices and blueberries on top, and baking for about 35-40 minutes, until the oat mixture has set. You can tell if it's set by shaking the pan. If it wiggles, put it back in the oven.
  8. Enjoy! If having as leftovers, warm in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute, depending on how powerful your microwave is.