I am pretty much done with those little pulverized packets of instant oatmeal. (Maybe in a pinch or crisis…) But people eat it because it’s quick, convenient, foolproof and it comes in a bunch of flavors. And there’s lots of health benefits touted about oatmeal, so we all know it’s good for you, good for your heart and treating cholesterol, and yet if you’re like me, you think of home-cooked oatmeal as a gloppy sticky mass, made only slightly more palatable by a splash of milk and some brown sugar.
Then, on one of my social networks, I kept seeing chatter about “Baked Oatmeal”. Reviewing several recipes, I decided to give it a whirl – following the recipe but throwing in some extras. This is the recipe I used (discussion on modifications shortly). I skipped the raisins, threw in some pecans and dried cranberries, put it all in the oven, and waited. Lordy, friends, it only took one batch to make me an instant convert. This is definitely different from dry dusty packets, and it’s a step up from stovetop oatmeal.
Things to consider, starting with the oats. This recipe calls for the quick-cook oats, which will work, and will give you a very smooth-textured end result. That’s alright, but for my taste, I don’t want smooth, it reminds me too much of my lesser-ideal oatmeal dishes. So I crank up the texture (and fiber) and what I usually create a mixture of various oats: a cup or so of quick oats, a cup or so of Irish oatmeal/regular oats, and a cup or so of steel-cut oats or my favorite, Bob’s Red Mill 5-Grain Rolled Cereal, which is a wonderful blend including oats, flaxseed, barley and rye. (I looove all the Bob’s Red Mill line – all the specialty flours and grains you need!) Today’s batch was quick oats, regular oats, steel-cut oats and a handful of flaxseed. I then added about a half-cup of chopped dried apricots, a quarter cup of apricot preserves, and 3/4 of a cup of walnuts that I’d rough-chopped and toasted on the stove with a little butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. De-lish. Other adjustments: substitute applesauce for most or all of the oil, and I have used milk powder and water instead of regular milk. (Confession: I’ve also used half-and-half and butter.) I’ve used Splenda in place of the sugar, but I’ve also used brown sugar in varying amounts every time. The nice thing about this sort of recipe is that it’s very accommodating and forgiving. I always use the eggs and the baking powder, but I’ve sometimes added more oats and had a drier mixture going in to the oven – other times it’s been pretty wet and has come out moist. Either way it’s really delicious hot with some milk poured on top, and it reheats beautifully. It’s a great weekend dish, but you can also make it the night before, leave it in the fridge and bake it in the morning. It’s filling, it keeps you full all morning, and it has lots of good fiber. It’s also a nice recipe for those of you who tend to follow every recipe to the letter, and you want to break free and experiment a bit – just keep your wet ratios in line with your dry, and try a variety of dried fruits, nuts and seeds. It’s like fun birdseed for people!