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My boys are All Business when it comes to breakfast in the morning, in that they want to eat immediately after waking up. I love the idea of making them a hot and nourishing breakfast each morning, however they’d rather eat cold cereal–at least initially.
Now that they are getting older, cold cereal just doesn’t stick with my boys like it used to, so they wind up ravenously hungry within an hour of eating. At that point, they’re ready to move onto something more substantial–a little something that we call Breakfast, Round 2.
If I’ve learned only one thing raising four sons, it’s that they need a hearty breakfast each morning to get them through the day. Either that, or I’ll be playing Short Order Cook all-the-live-long-day, just trying to keep up with their appetites.
The Sons like a bowl of oatmeal now and then, but I don’t usually have the time nor inclination to stand over the stove first thing in the morning. Morning and I are not friends. I’d have them fend for themselves, but those silly little instant oatmeal packets are too small, loaded with sugar, and taste awful. I’d almost relegated myself to a lifetime of early mornings when a Bird showed me a better way.
My friend Bird passed on a recipe for baked oatmeal that she found in our local newspaper. With a fair amount of tweaking over time, Baked Oatmeal has a regular spot on our quick and easy breakfast rotation. I say quick and easy because I can have a batch ready for the oven in mere minutes. Around here, minutes are a precious commodity in the morning, so in order to maximize the amount of time that I can sleep, I usually bake a batch the night before I plan to serve it.
Come morning, all I have to do is heat up a square and splash a little milk on it. It’s like having an almost-instant hot and hearty breakfast! Couple that with the fact that it will feed my family for two mornings for less than 10 minutes of effort, and I am in love.
My favorite part of Baked Oatmeal is that it’s completely customizable, so everyone gets a hot breakfast that they’ll eat without complaint. We’ve even been known to take a cold square with us for breakfast on-the-go-granola-bar-style. With four boys with vastly different tastes, a versatile slam-dunk breakfast makes my life a whole lot easier.
Go ahead and make your life a little easier by whipping up a batch of Baked Oatmeal to have on hand when hunger strikes.
As with most baking applications, start by preheating the oven–this time to 325 degrees. Lightly spray an 11 x 8 in rectangular baking dish with cooking spray, and set it aside.
Put the oats into a large bowl, and add the baking powder. The baking powder with give the oatmeal a little lift, so it won’t be mushy.
Mushy oatmeal can ruin your day, man!
Follow up by adding the cinnamon, kosher salt, and brown sugar. The original recipe called for more than twice the amount of brown sugar, but I found it overwhelmingly sweet. If super-sweet oatmeal is your thing, then go ahead and add more brown sugar. Better yet, wait to taste the oatmeal while it’s warm out of the oven–more sugar can always be added.
Give it a good whisking to evenly distribute all the dry ingredients. I really think the whisk is a terribly under-rated kitchen utensil. It gets no respect in the utensil community. I use mine for just about everything because it’s easy, and I keep hoping it will whittle away the bologna that has sprouted under my biceps.
Crack the eggs into another bowl. The eggs give the baked oatmeal a rich texture, as well as hold it all together.
Lightly beat the eggs before whisking in the unsweetened applesauce, milk, and vanilla extract.
Add half of the oat mixture into the wet stuff and stir until combined. Then fold in the rest of the oat mixture, stirring until everything is just moistened.
At this point, you can get a bit creative with your breakfast and add dried fruit or any other favorite oatmeal fixin’s to the mix. This time, my boys voted for dried cherries in their oatmeal. For larger dried fruits, like the dried cherries, be sure to give ’em a rough chop to ensure maximum distribution in the oatmeal.
I’m an apricot and golden raisin kind of gal, so I chock my oatmeal full of both of those–this is, I would if I were a single girl that didn’t have kiddos that turn their noses up at such exotic things as dried apricots. Usually, I skip tossing any bits of deliciousness in the oatmeal all together, so that we can all customize our bowls with our favorite things at mealtime.
Spread the batter into the prepared pan–it will be pretty thick and gloppy. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, or until lightly browned and cooked through.
The texture of the baked oatmeal is somewhere between a cake and a chewy granola bar. You can scoop Baked Oatmeal into a bowl while it’s hot–right out of the oven, if you can handle it–but I prefer to let it cool for a bit so I can cut it into squares.
It’s a kitchen-OCD thing.
Then splash a bit of milk on it because it’s against the My Rules to eat oatmeal without milk. Then take a spoon, smash it up a bit, and dig in. Mmmmmm! Now that’s a hearty breakfast.
While baked oatmeal is delicious right out of the oven, as I previously mentioned, I usually make it the night before to reheat it in the morning. If we are really in a hurry, I reheat a square, and the boys eat it as is on a napkin. Hearty breakfast on-the-run! If we are really, really in a hurry, the kids will eat it cold, like a granola bar.
I just love having a little flexibility in the morning.
Store any leftover Baked Oatmeal at room temperature, tightly wrapped in the baking dish. If you decide to use fresh fruit, then I would store it in the fridge.
Yield 10 Servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes, Cook Time: 35 to 40 minutes, Total Time: 50 minutes
4 C. old-fashioned oats (the big flakes, not quick-cooking oats)
3 tsp. baking powder
2 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¾ tsp. salt
½ C. packed brown sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 C. unsweetened applesauce
1 C. 2% milk (or whole milk)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ C. dried fruit of your choice, optional (Try raisins, cherries, blueberries, apricots, or a combination. Fresh fruit is also lovely when baked inside or served on top.)
ALSO OPTIONAL: stir in ½ C. ground flax seeds + ¼ C. wheat germ for extra nutrition
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Lightly spray a rectangular 11 X 8 inch glass baking pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, place oats, baking powder, cinnamon, kosher salt, and brown sugar. Whisk the dry ingredients until combined.
In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add the unsweetened applesauce, milk, and vanilla. Whisk together until incorporated. Pour the egg mixture into the oat mixture, and stir to combine. Fold in the dried fruit of your choice. (A peeled and diced fresh apple also works well.)
Spread the batter into the prepared baking dish, being sure to smooth the top.
Bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes, or until lightly browned and cooked through.
Serve warm, cut into squares, with a splash of milk on top. Baked Oatmeal can also be allowed to cool completely, cut into squares, covered with plastic wrap, and refrigerated. To serve, eat square cold, or place in a bowl, microwave to reheat.