Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Baked Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

       Windows open, a faintly cool breeze making its way across the sills, sweet steam from a warm mug of creamed coffee rising to my nose, I find myself enchanted by the many small wonders of autumn, the alluring prospects of pumpkin patches and apple-picking, sweaters and and crisp morning hikes, crunchy amber leaves and snuggly nights indoors. Fall is finally here, gradually making herself known in the evening chill and tinted trees. I'm elated. There is so much to breathe in, to watch, to feel, to taste, enjoy. In celebration of this beloved season, we seem all to dive suddenly into our stashes of soup and pumpkin recipes, meanwhile forking out an ungodly amount for long-awaited pumpkin spice lattes, nothing seeming so right as to fill our bellies with any and every warm comfort. It is only right.
       This weekend provided the perfect opportunity for a new fall-ish breakfast treat. Mom up for a visit, cooler mornings, a couple days off work. Mom had requested oatmeal one day, so, that in mind, I flipped through this blessed cookbook straight for Heidi's baked version I'd remembered seeing. Oh, my, word. Have you ever had baked oatmeal? I can't remember that I had before this. Certainly none worth remembering. But this one, oh. Let me tell you. So you layer your buttered dish with banana slices (I wasn't sure about this, but it turns out to be key), pour in a mixture of milk and oats and butter and spices and sugar and apples, craisins, walnuts, what-have-you, then top it with more fruit of your choice, and, somehow, in the 30+ minutes it bakes, a beautiful union takes place and these ingredients ultimately emerge as a dense, hearty, perfectly sweet, cinnamon-y, belly-warming masterpiece (and verbose run-on sentence). Fall comfort, defined. I personally finished its "6 large portions" off in a day and a half (almost better reheated with milk on day 2.). I adjusted the ingredients here so I could use up my on-hand apples, craisins, and walnuts, but feel free to adapt however you'd like. Heidi uses berries in her original recipe. 

{Happy autumn! I hope to have more cozy fare coming your way soon! Get outside today!}

adapted slightly from Heidi Swanson
yields 6 large portions

 2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted
1/3 cup brown sugar/natural cane sugar/maple syrup (i chose the brown)
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 cups milk (i used skim)
1 large egg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 cup craisins
1-1/2 cups apples, diced (about 2 small. or same volume of berries, when in season)

1. Preheat oven to 375F with rack in top third of oven. Generously butter 8-inch square dish.
2. In medium bowl, mix oats, half the walnuts, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, craisins. 
3. In another medium bowl, whisk together maple syrup, if using, milk, egg, half the butter, and vanilla.
4. Place sliced bananas in single layer on bottom of dish. Sprinkle two-thirds apples (or berries) over the top. 
5. Pour oat mixture over the fruit, then drizzle milk mixture over the oats. Tap dish on counter a few times to make sure the milk gets to the bottom of the dish. 
6. Scatter remaining apples/berries and walnuts on top. 
7. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until top is golden and the mix no longer runny. Serve with a bit of butter, milk, and/or extra brown sugar as desired. Refrigerate and reheat with added milk for a treat later. 

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