Friday, March 4, 2016

Baked Oatmeal

Last Year's Post:  Chicken and Mushroom Gratinate
Two Years Ago:   Chicken Parmesan with Oven-Roasted Tomato Sauce

Everyone knows that oatmeal is really good for you, but it's tough to make on a weekday.  I've tried a slow cooker overnight version, but that resulted in a gooey soft mess after cooking so long.  Baking the oatmeal in advance not only solves the problem, but it also gives the top a nice brown crispness while the inside remains tender.

If you bake the oatmeal the night before, it's easy to reheat single servings in the toaster oven or microwave so you could even bring a container to work.  Health food at work!  What a concept.  It might seem that the recipe really won't result in the number of servings listed, but oatmeal is very filling.  I made a half recipe and it truly was four servings.  OK, maybe three if you're really hungry.

Although the recipe calls for bananas as a bottom layer I'm not overly fond of the texture of cooked bananas so I substituted some fresh raspberries I had on hand to supplement the frozen wild blueberries.  Feel free to use any single fruit or combination of fruits that you like, and the same for the nuts.  And although the recipe suggests using a sweetener such as maple syrup I made it without any sweetening at all and was very pleased with the result.  It's important to add something on top when it's served, however, since oatmeal can be a bit dry.  Vanilla yogurt works well, as would milk if you serve it in a bowl.  Of course, warm maple syrup would be fabulous.

If you wanted to be a little fancy and serve it for a brunch, you could bake the oatmeal in individual ramekins and serve it topped with a few fresh berries alongside little individual pitchers of maple syrup or cream.  Yum.

Baked Oatmeal
Serves 6-8

Note: Feel free to substitute your favorite in-season berries or any other fruit, and your favorite nuts.

2 cups/7 oz rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 cup/2 oz walnut pieces, toasted and chopped
1/3 cup/2 oz natural cane sugar or maple syrup, plus more for serving (optional)
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Scant 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 cups milk
1 large egg
1.5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas cut into 1/2-inch pieces (or additional berries)
1 1/2 cups/6.5 oz huckleberries, blueberries, or mixed berries
Vanilla yogurt, optional

Preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the top third of the oven. Generously butter the inside of an 8-inch square baking dish.

In a bowl, mix together the oats, half the walnuts, the sugar (if using), the baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.  In another bowl, whisk together the maple syrup (if using) the milk, egg, half of the butter, and the vanilla.

Arrange the bananas in a single layer in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle two-thirds of the berries over the top. Cover the fruit with the oat mixture. Slowly drizzle the milk mixture over the oats. Gently tap the baking dish on the countertop a few times to make sure the milk moves through the oats. Scatter the remaining berries and remaining walnuts across the top.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is nicely golden and the oat mixture has set. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Serve with optional sugar, maple syrup, or vanilla yogurt on top.

Can be made ahead; reheat individual servings in a toaster oven or microwave.

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