oatmeal

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall Food

Ever get a craving for something?  Maybe an externally influenced craving, like someone talking about a new great flavor of ice cream.  Be it a friend or an ad on tv, something in the mere name of it conjures up a taste in your mouth so potent nothing will do but for you to have a taste of it, and soon.   Maybe it comes from a memory of making a dish with a relative or friend.   Or it can be a food that you come across strolling down the grocery store aisles and the next thing you know you’re at the checkout, box of sinful goodies in one hand, wallet in the other.

On a recent grocery store trip, I walked into the store that exactly happened.  There they were.   Vibrant, fresh, and beckoning me…  “Take me home!”   Ah, you rich red raspberry you.   Tempting me with your bright color and unique sweet-tart flavor.   (At least it wasn’t while I was on the chocolate bar aisle.)

It’s nearing the end of raspberry season and they were on sale.   What else could I do but buy them and plot for how to make good use of them in my next meal, or two?

Thinking about what I could with them, plus remembering a recent purchase of some incredibly good local grown blueberries, I thought there had to be a way to make great use of both berries in one dish.   Besides my staple breakfast of greek yogurt, fresh fruit, and some almond granola, I was looking for something a little more hearty and maybe even warm.  In my area, the heat of summer is beginning to fade, school has begun, and every restaurant has their perfectly positioned peripheral vision tv’s tuned to the all-football networks.  Those all are signals it’s time to break out the warmer meals in a bowl like soup, chili, and oatmeal for the upcoming weeks.

Time to kick off a farewell to summer and it’s glorious bounty of berries and welcome in fall with some warm oatmeal.

Berry Good Baked Oatmeal

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Mix the dry ingredients plus the maple syrup.

Ingredients
1 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (or Penzey’s Baking Spice*)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup blueberries
1/4 cup roughly chopped pecans
1 cup skim milk  (almond or coconut are good here too)
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 banana
a few raspberries (optional)

Directions

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The oatmeal is assembled, just about to go in the oven to bake.

Heat oven to 350 F.
Mix together the oats, cinnamon, baking powder, maple syrup, half the blueberries and half the pecans. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and vanilla until completely blended.
Lightly coat a baking dish with cooking spray and dump the oat mixture into the dish.  Spread it out evenly as possible.   Pour the egg & milk mixture over the top.  Sprinkle the remaining blueberries and pecans over the dish. If you want to add raspberries, add a few on top.   Slice the banana (I use about 1/2 a banana total) and place on top of the dish.
Bake for 20 minutes, rotate the dish, then bake for another 15-20 minutes until it is set.

A little tip on how to determine if this dish is done- think about how you like your oatmeal.  More liquidy?  More firm?   After about 35 minutes, press lightly near the center of the dish with the back of a spoon.   You can see the consistency from that and decide if you want to cook it more or stop there.  I bake it the full 40 minutes for my preference.  At 30 minutes it’s done enough if you like a more liquid consistency.

Also this is a dish that works great with Penzey’s Baking Spice.  It’s billed as an “all-purpose baking blend” and it really is just that.  There’s a ton of possible dishes this works well with, but it takes fruit pies, muffins, coffee cakes, scones, and other similar baked goodies to a whole new level of deliciousness.   I don’t use it year-round, but in the fall and winter it goes in most muffins I make as well as any spice cookies.  You can check it out here or in one of their stores.  Nope, I’m not paid to promote the stuff. It’s just that good and versatile.  And it makes for some muffins that will have you fighting your spouse for the last one.

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Yum! Berry Good Baked Oatmeal – the raspberries made their appearance on only one side because I had to share the dish and I’m the only one who likes raspberries. Just means more for me!

If you want to make a larger portion or see the original recipe (without my modifications and scaling to smaller servings, you can check it out here on Broke and Bougie here.

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Fruity Oatmeal

Clearly I’m on an oat kick.  From the bars I’ve been making to this tasty breakfast, I can’t seem to get enough of oats.   I suppose that’s good, since they are considerably healthier than any number of other cravings I’ve catered to over the years.

So my latest oat fix came from this recipe, which is more of a true breakfast item than a potential snack.    While I found the original recipe here, naturally I couldn’t leave well enough alone.   I also think there’s plenty of room for variation, and its tasty enough I’ll want to do just that.   I also wanted to lighten it up but with more of a natural ingredients approach.    I’m not a big fan of artificial anything in the food I cook.

Do you have one of those smaller slow cookers, the kind really intended to either keep dip warm for a small party, or to cook exactly enough cocktail sausages for the same small gathering of friends?   Mine is a 1 1/2 quart cheap one I bought after the first one I had met an early demise involving a screwdriver, too much curiosity, and way too much free time.  Anyway, this is a real recipe that will make ideal use of that slow cooker!  And here you thought it just worked for dip and cocktail sausages.   Nope, this time you can cook something gasp healthy in it!

So dust off that smaller cooker, or if you’re single or a small family like us, go get one.  It’s the perfect excuse and they’re cheap.  Like $14 on Amazon kind of cheap.   Just a suggestion for other recipes you may try in this cooker – it will overcook or burn foods faster than a regular slow cooker.  At least that’s been my experience with the two I’ve had.

This recipe is also an excellent opportunity for those who don’t do a lot of cooking to impress overnight guests with their culinary skills, or at least they’ll think you can whip up a good breakfast!

On to the recipe…

Fruity Oatmeal

Ingredients:

2 cups milk (skim, 1%, or 2%, I used organic skim and it works well)

1 cup rolled oats (not instant or quick-cook)

1 cup sliced peaches, canned is ok but avoid anything that says “in syrup” on the label

2 tbsp light brown sugar

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp honey – use the good tasting stuff here, try to get locally sourced if you can

1/4 cup chopped nuts – walnuts or pecans are good

1/2 tsp cinnamon (sweet kind, see my previous No-Bake Bars recipe for a few details about Cinnamon)

Heavy pinch of kosher salt

Directions:

Mix everything in a bowl.   Pour into the slow cooker.  Cook on low for four hours.   Dish up and eat!
Seriously, it’s that simple.   If food tends to stick to the sides of your cooker, spray it with a little cooking spray before pouring in the ingredients.   I didn’t need to in mine.   According to the original recipe this can be cooked for 8 hours on low as well, but I’d use oats with a bit more chew for that, such as steel cut oats.

This will make enough for four generous servings, or about 5 to 6 smaller portions.   So technically this is more than just two of us will eat in one sitting, but we can eat it in two or three days, and it reheats exceptionally well.

If you’ve got a busy week ahead, make this on a Sunday afternoon and you’re good for a few days of quick, healthy breakfast, or if you must share with someone, maybe just a couple of days.   If that’s the case, make some No-Bake bars while this is cooking in the slow cooker!

Sorry I don’t have pics for this one.  My brain is not alert enough yet at breakfast to think “Oh yeah, I need a picture of this for my blog.”   Besides, oatmeal isn’t exactly photogenic.