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Monday, January 17, 2011

Make-ahead Baked Oatmeal

Bake once, eat all week for free:

Another busy, rainy, snowy week lined up here for the SPUDS area. I hate to say it, mainly because I really do enjoy winter, but I am pretty tired of being in my pajamas by seven o'clock every night. Unluckily, I'm more of a morning person so drizzly, snowy nights don't do much for my social life. That sounds pitiful. I cooked dinner with a friend, and fellow SPUDS follower, just last week - really. We made chicken with tatziki; I had forgotten just how amazingly refreshing, and reviving, it is. The only down side of our evening was when I almost killed us the gas stove - almost. But that's a post for a later date: "how - to safely use your gas stove".

What I mean to say is that I get more done in the morning, and most importantly, I live for breakfast. Since the house is usually freezing when I get up, the idea of eating a steaming bowl of oatmeal is about all that can get me out of my flannel sheets. But, cruel twist of fate, I'm ravenous by the time I get downstairs, and end up eating something faster, like cereal, and warming up with a big cup of tea, instead. Last week though, I found this recipe for "Baked Apple Oatmeal" in a cookbook called: Betty Crocker Whole Grains (2007) and was intrigued enough to try it on my day off. Once I had baked a pan, it took no time to carve out a fruit filled scoop and microwave it the next morning. The combination of fibrous oats and protein rich milk and walnuts kept me full well into lunch time.

What I love most about oatmeal, other than the price, is its versatility. In school I sometimes spooned out a bowl at the dining hall because I told myself, "you love oatmeal". Of course, oatmeal that is made with water, and kept hot in a soup tureen doesn't resemble anything other than gruel so our encounter almost always ended in disappointment. But, whole grain oats cooked with milk, a little brown sugar and chocked full of sweet apples and crunchy nuts is something entirely different. It is pretty close to being one of my favorite things to eat in the morning; eggs on toast coming in a close second. The oats will pretty much soak up anything you put them up to: chocolate chips, mashed banana, pumpkin, protein powder or even peanut butter. Don't believe me? The proof, is in the pudding... so to speak.

Notes: You can really make this with anything you have on hand. During the summer, try blueberries and almonds or even pears and raisins. At its core, this recipe is made to make your life easier, so don't go out of your way to find specific ingredients if you don't have them on hand. It is great to make on a Sunday when you've got the time, and just warm it up Monday morning for a quick start breakfast. The oatmeal should hold together for the better part of the week, but that largely depends on how fresh your milk is. Once you've made a pan, this recipe is even faster than that insipid little packet of instant oatmeal that has been sitting on your pantry shelf for the last nine months, and infinitely tastier. If you've got a sweet tooth sprinkle the finished oatmeal with a little extra brown sugar, or maple syrup. At about $2.99 a container, oatmeal is one of your most economical breakfast foods.

Cinna-Apple Oatmeal
From Betty Crocker Whole Grains, serves 8

2 1/3 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup dried fruit (raisins, cherries etc)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
pinch salt
2 apples, chopped
1/2 chopped nuts

yogurt to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. In a bowl mix the oats, fruit, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, milk and apples. Reserve the nuts.
3. Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed by the oats. Sprinkle the nuts over the top of the oatmeal and return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes.
4. Serve warm with yogurt or extra milk, however you like it. Refrigerate the remaining oatmeal, and enjoy at your convenience throughout the week.

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