February 27, 2011

Baked Oatmeal

The dogs are just as bad as E and I about wanting to get out of bed in the mornings, especially when it's chilly outside.  They'll wake us up demanding breakfast and as soon as they've eaten, they climb into bed with us to warm back up.  During the week, they're on their own for snuggling, but come Saturday morning, the whole family gets to sleep in.  Freya will bark at the side of the bed, demanding that we make room for her.  Ellie will bounce her little head up with a tiny whine to let us know she's ready to be invited up for that last hour of pre-dawn sleep.  We read a bit, or fall back asleep briefly, and generally enjoy the fact that we don't actually have to be anywhere just yet. 

This is the perfect time to bake oatmeal.  As you try to squeeze in a little more rest, drifting in and out while the rooster next door alerts the neighborhood to the impending daybreak, your breakfast is baking itself.  And when you can finally drag your feet out of bed and into some slippers, all you have to do is brew some coffee, find the newspaper or a good book, and you can relax the early hours away fully sated.

I am in love with this dish.  It's simple, but versatile, it's incredibly cheap to make, and it's healthy.  This is the basic shell of the recipe, and it doesn't make a very sweet oatmeal.  In fact, it's practically 100% not-at-all sweet.  But I like that... I like to toast it till it's crunchy all over, then top it with maple syrup (or the leftover syrup from this), or a dollop of peanut butter or jam, maybe some strawberry or apple slices. You could also fry it in some butter to brown it up and have it with eggs or bacon.  Or you could leave it alone and just eat it with a steaming mug of coffee in the cool morning sunlight.  
You can play around with the ingredients without any trouble.  Add applesauce or pureed squash or juicer leftovers for some of the liquid component, use yogurt instead of milk, use more sugar (or use honey or maple syrup instead of sugar) if you want it sweet. Use less liquid (just a tbsp or two less) if you want a drier, flakier baked oatmeal.  I sometimes throw in some cinnamon or garam masala and nuts (pecans or almonds), and I bet dried fruit would be great in it as well.  I'm probably going to put peanut butter in the next batch I make and when I top it with jam it will be like PB&J oatmeal :) Whatever you do, don't let this dish's acronym throw you off.  This is a B.O. you'll be proud to have.

Baked Oatmeal
barely adapted from Patty Cake
1/4 cup grapeseed, vegetable, or olive oil (if you use olive, you won't taste it- promise)
2 eggs (lightly beaten)
2 tbsp sugar (white, brown, whatever you want to use)
1 cup milk

2/3 cup water
1/2 cup nuts- optional (pecans, walnuts, peanuts, whatever you fancy)
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

The night before you want to make it, mix the liquid components in a bowl together. Add the dry ingredients and stir well.  Grease a pan (smaller for thicker bars or bigger for thin bars- I use an 8"x8" because it's the only size we own). Cover with plastic wrap, place in fridge overnight.  When you're ready to bake it, stick it straight from the fridge into the cold oven and turn it up to 350. (Then immediately scurry back to the warmth of your winter bed linens.)  It should bake in about 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of your pan.  If you let the pan come up to room temp. before baking, it will take about 10 minutes less to cook. Let it cool for about 10 minutes, then dig in.
I store the leftover baked oatmeal in the fridge, and just cut off a piece for breakfast. Recently, E discovered a new use for the B.O. - cover it in fudge sauce and it will perfectly abate your brownie cravings.  It will keep for at least one week refrigerated.

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