Pages

Friday, January 9, 2015

Baked Oatmeal for the New Year

(Originally published in The News Review on January 6, 2014)
Recipes in this post: Baked Oatmeal, Individual Baked Oatmeal Cups


Baked Oatmeal with berries and hazelnuts
For me, 2014 will go down in my journal as a year of tracking. With the help of my smartphone and several free apps, I was able to gather data about many aspects of my life. Technology has made this quite simple. I used My Fitness Pal to record what I ate. I wore a Fitbit activity tracker to see how much exercise I got. I used Spendee to keep tabs on where my money went.

What did all this tracking teach me? When it comes to diet and nutrition, I learned just how many calories I currently consume. I found that I have no trouble keeping my saturated fat intake under 20 grams or my dietary cholesterol under 300 mg. per day. I do a good job limiting my sodium intake to 2300 mg. I get plenty of fiber, calcium and vitamin C. I rarely, however, get the recommended amount of vitamin A or potassium. Like most folks, I need to eat more vegetables.

By monitoring my physical activity, I discovered that on days I don't hike or go to the gym, it's pretty difficult to rack up 10,000 steps. I definitely sit too much.

By recording where I spent my money, I was able to see what percentage of my grocery budget goes to local food. By now you know that I am passionate about supporting our local farmers, ranchers and food producers. There are, however, many food items not grown or produced in this area that I purchase from a grocery store. I was curious to see how many of my food dollars stay in Douglas County. Turns out, on average, more than forty percent of my food budget is spent on local fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products and a few miscellaneous prepared food products. I don't qualify as a locavore, but every bit counts toward growing our local food economy. Still, I have room for improvement.

I don't intend to continue tracking every morsel I eat or every step I take this year. The goal, of course, is to use what I learned to make positive changes. Isn't that what January and the New Year are all about? It's a chance to take stock and consider adopting a few simple habits that will help us live healthier, happier lives.

If improved health is on your list, incorporating more whole, nourishing foods into your diet is a step in the right direction. Breakfast is a great place to start. I'm a big fan of morning smoothies and I have a high-fiber cold cereal that I enjoy, but on frosty mornings there's nothing like a hot meal to warm me up from the inside out. A steaming bowl of oatmeal topped with fruit, nuts, cinnamon and a touch of sweetener makes a “stick-to-my-ribs” breakfast that will carry me all the way to lunch. It's quick and easy; no recipe required.
 
Baked oatmeal takes those same ingredients and kicks it up a notch. The addition of eggs and milk bumps up the protein and instead of a bowl of porridge you end up with a breakfast “cake” you can eat with a fork. What's more, you have leftovers for the rest of the week. Just pop a square of baked oatmeal into the toaster oven or microwave and breakfast is ready. Baking the oatmeal in individual muffin cups or ramekins lets you vary the combinations for each family member.

Resolutions needn't be grand or complicated to be effective. Whatever your goals might be, here's to a healthy and happy 2015!
  
Baked Oatmeal

This recipe lends itself to endless adaptation. Vary the amount or type of sweetener according to your tastes. Substitute coconut oil for the butter or omit it entirely and spray the pan with oil instead. Experiment with different fruit and nut combinations like sliced bananas, blueberries and walnuts; dried cranberries and pecans; or finely diced apples and raisins.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 cups berries, fresh or frozen, divided
½ cup coarsely chopped nuts, optional
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
6 tablespoons Sucanat* or packed brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¾ cups milk, whole or low fat
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Melt the butter over low heat or in the microwave. Use part of it to generously brush the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan. Set the remaining butter aside to cool. Scatter 1 ½ cups of the berries over the bottom of the pan. If using nuts, sprinkle about a third of them over the berries.

In a medium bowl, stir together the rolled oats, sweetener, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Cover the berries and nuts with the oat mixture.

In a the same medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, vanilla and the rest of the melted butter. Pour over the oats and fruit. Sprinkle the remaining berries and nuts on top.

Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes, until golden brown on top and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cut into squares and serve with cream and/or maple syrup, if desired.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

*Sucanat (which stands for “sugar cane natural”) is a less refined sweetener made from dehydrated, rather than crystallized, sugar cane juice. I love its strong molasses flavor. It's available in the bulk bins or natural foods section of most grocery stores. If you decide to use a liquid sweetener, whisk it into the egg and milk mixture rather than combining with the dry ingredients.

Bananas, blueberries and walnuts are ready for the oatmeal topping.
Individual Baked Oatmeal Cups

Baking the oatmeal in small ramekins or a muffin tin allows you to make several varieties in one batch and customize the ingredients for other members of the family. 

Follow the recipe as directed but distribute the fruit, nuts, oat mixture and egg mixture evenly among well-buttered muffin cups or ramekins. Fill the cups only about two-thirds full as the oatmeal will rise as it bakes. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.




1 comment:

Laura C said...

Yum! I could go for some of that baked oatmeal right now.

Printfriendly