Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Healthful Baked Oatmeal

Healthful Baked Oatmeal



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Fear Conquered: Oatmeal

Let's talk oatmeal, shall we?

And to talk oatmeal, we should really first talk about oats. Like how oats are packed with fiber and protein. Like how oats are crammed with all kinds of essential nutrients such as calcium, iron and manganese. Or like how oats are low in calories and low in sugar. Even better, oats take longer for your body to convert to sugar - which helps prevent sugar-shock to your bloodstream.

And oats are extremely bland in flavor which makes them the perfect blank canvas for other flavors. That makes oats one heck of a versatile ingredient that can be added to anything from savory meatloaf to sweet pie crumble toppings. Oats can even provide their own milky thickener - just add water and the oats will slowly break down and thicken.

So maybe the real question is, why aren't we eating more of this amazing grain?

It all comes down to perceptions and expectations, doesn't it? If I served you a bowl of soaked and softened oats in water with a handful of fresh berries on top, what would you think? Maybe you'd conclude I'm too lazy to be bothered with trying to make something special. Maybe you'd conclude I don't love you enough to serve tasty food. Or maybe you would demand sugar and cream and chocolate and raisins - just so you could stomach the slop in front of you.

I Love You

But all that watery oatmeal is really a statement of love for health. Love doesn't pour on refined sugar or drown away nutrition in fattening cream - especially for breakfast when your body is craving a jumpstart of energy and nutrition after a long sleep. Love wants to keep you healthy - because there's just one of you and you're a treasure worth protecting. So forget about your picky pallet and forget about your sweet tooth and forget about your cravings - this is breakfast with love.

However, a healthful breakfast doesn't have to equal watery slop. It doesn't have to be bland and tasteless. With a little creativity and a few basic spices, you can transform oats into a pleasingly textured and flavor-packed bowl of wholesomeness. You don't need cream, you don't need sugar (well, maybe just a tiny bit) and you don't need chocolate or raisins.

Do you remember my Mostly Egg White Omelette post from a few weeks ago? And do you remember my gripes over years of frustratingly boring (but healthful) oatmeal paste? That flavorless boredom-in-a-bowl porridge is what I set out to conquer.

I wanted texture and sweetness and punchiness. I wanted something to tickle my taste buds first thing in the morning. I wanted easy and make-ahead - because how many of us have time to prep a healthy breakfast each morning? And I refused to compromise on health - no refined sugar, no added dairy fat, no superfluous added calories.

I almost succeeded. The below recipe is the result of months of testing, tweaking and sampling and I'm happy to call this oatmeal breakfast with love.

Healthful Baked Oatmeal Closeup

I've managed to keep clear of crazy amounts of sugar by allowing the banana, homemade (no-sugar-added) applesauce and freshly squeezed orange juice to serve as the major sweeteners. Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger roll up their spicy sleeves to combat the blandness of oats without inadvertently turning the oatmeal bitter. And the cranberries, steel-cut oats and bits of almond help significantly improve texture. Forget milk or cream - I use non-fat Greek yogurt to lend some richness. And I included just the tiniest bit of brown sugar and honey to help combat the inherent bitterness of steel-cut oats.

But what does all this healthfulness taste like? Look, this isn't candy or cake and it NEVER will be - and shame on you for expecting something so wonderfully nutritious as oats to taste like something dreadfully bad for you! If you want Lucky Charms, there's a Walmart around the corner. I'll save you a bowl of oatmeal love just in case...



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Photo Tutorial

Add steel cut oats to boiling water
Combine the boiling water and steel cut oats in a medium bowl or measure and let soak.

Add sliced banana to mixer bowl
Slice 1 banana into the bowl of a stand mixer.

Add homemade apple sauce
Add 1/2 cup homemade applesauce.

Add kosher salt
Add the orange juice, zest, spices and yogurt.

Mix all ingredients together
Beat together on low speed until well combined.

Add rolled oats to mixture
Stir in rolled oats and the soaked steel cut oats and soaking liquid.

Add 3 1/2 cups water
Stir in remaining water.

Add 1 cup of cranberries
Add the frozen or fresh cranberries.

Stir to combine everything
Stir to thoroughly combine.

Pour into an oven-safe baking dish
Pour into a 9x13 inch baking dish and bake for 20 minutes at 350F.

Add almonds and brown sugar over top
Sprinkle with sliced almonds and brown sugar; bake for another 10-15 minutes at 375F until set.

Healthful Baked Oatmeal
Serve immediately.



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Healthful Baked Oatmeal

    by Javelin Warrior
     Prep Time: 15 min
     Cook Time: 35 min

Ingredients (serves 10)
  • 1 1/2 cups purified water, boiling
  • 1/2 cup steel cut oats
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 1 medium orange, zest and juice of
  • 1/2 cup homemade applesauce
  • 1/2 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, packed
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 3 1/2 cups purified water
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh cranberries
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350℉
  2. In a medium heat-proof bowl or measure, stir together the boiling water and steel cut oats; set aside to soak
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the banana, orange zest, orange juice, yogurt, applesauce, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, salt and vanilla on the lowest speed
  4. Add the rolled oats and steel cut oats with their cooking liquid to the bowl and and mix on low speed until well combined
  5. Stir in the remaining 3 1/2 cups of water by hand, then add the cranberries; pour the mixture into a 9x13 oven-safe baking dish
  6. Bake for 20 minutes at 350℉, then sprinkle the brown sugar and sliced almonds over the top and bake for another 10-15 minutes at 375℉ until set. Serve immediately or save in the refrigerator for up to 10 days
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Hungry for Tips?
  • Sweeteners: The orange zest, fresh orange juice, banana and applesauce are important ingredients as they dramatically impact the flavor and sweetness of this bake. If you skip any of these ingredients, you may need to add additional sugar to counter the slight bitterness of the steel cut oats and spices.
     
  • Creamy: If you prefer a creamier (more paste-like) oatmeal, add an addition 1 cup of water to the oat mixture before pouring it into the baking dish and increase the bake-time by 10 minutes.
     
  • Nutmeg: Freshly grated nutmeg isn't nearly as potent (or harsh) as ground nutmeg - so go easy and only add 1/8 teaspoon if you prefer to use the ground variety.
     
  • Stand Mixer: If you don't have a stand mixer (or if you just don't want to use it), you can certainly stir everything together by hand in a large bowl. You will want to mash your banana, applesauce and spices together before adding the other ingredients. This helps to ensure even distribution of the spices and banana.
     
  • Berries: If you don't like cranberries (or if you just want to change things up), you can swap out the mix-ins for blueberries, raspberries, sliced strawberries, etc.



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27 comments:

  1. Yum yum! I love baked oatmeal...I just started experimenting with them this year. I'll have to try substituting in some of your alternate ingredients next time!!

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed, Danielle - now that I have one oatmeal recipe that works, I'm anxious to try different methods of preparing it ;)

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    2. I'm not sure if you saw the one I posted earlier this year, but it had caramelized bananas on the bottom, so there were tasty little bites scattered throughout...yum!!

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    3. I do remember the post - and caramelized bananas do sound delicious with oatmeal although I've yet to try the combination. And I'm guessing the caramelization could be achieved with a really hot non-stick pan and no butter to keep things even more healthful...

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  2. I don't think I've eaten a bowl of oatmeal since I was a kid. But if I were to get an urge, I would use your recipe...I love all your yummy add ins :)

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    1. Thanks Lizzy - and I've been eating oatmeal for most of my life. Save a few years in college where I ate mostly poptarts or cafeteria food ;)

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  3. I'm very willing to try your oatmeal. I love oats in any format and I love porridge and never find it boring - with milk, with sugar, without sugar, with honey, with chocolate, with cream. BUT best of all is my mother's porridge which is made with British oatmeal (unrolled oats) and cooked very slowly overnight with water and a pinch of salt. It needs nothing else as it tastes so creamy and delicious and it's a great start to the day.

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    1. Sadly, I have yet to stumble onto the secret of a good porridge with just oats, water and a pinch of salt. But I shall continue to attempt. And I'm intrigued by British oatmeal - I need to research this because rolls oats seem to turn to paste so quickly...

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  4. Grains are a great thing to snack on and a scoop of this would be more helpful than chips or a candy bar any day. Great blend with all the fruits, especially the cranberries. Also, never knew that about nutmeg-I was thinking fresher was stronger!

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    1. That's my thinking too, Tina - I suspect the ground nutmeg packs in so much more flavor because the powder is so much more efficiently packed into the measuring spoon ;) That's my theory, anyway...

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  5. This is ever so nice. I love this cake, looks full of taste and goodness.
    I am a fun of oats too. I have porridge most mornings but also like them in cakes and added to breads. We should all eat more of them.
    Beautiful shots here. Excellent post.

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    1. Thanks, Alida! I'm so happy you enjoyed...

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  6. I remember your mostly egg white omelets and your comment on oats. I've discovered that I like oatmeal, bland or not....and I think it's truly a sign of my advanced age. However, THIS looks amazing! BRAVO!

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    1. lol - I don't think it's so much age as maybe just the goodness of oats ;) I think my problem is I get bored with flavors (even good ones) so I go looking for change... I'm so glad you liked the post - that means a great deal to me...

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  7. Im into this!! We have oatmeal every other day and the "natural" stuff I've been buying lately is just terrible. It's filled with hidden flavorings and blechh. I could maybe make a tray of this and then freeze portions for speed in the a.m?
    Nice picture steps also!!

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    1. I'm fairly sure you could bake off a tray and freeze it - I keep a dish of this in the fridge for about 10 days until my bf and I managed to make it all the way through a batch, so I'd imagine extra could be frozen...

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  8. This looks wonderful! I usually just eat it plain or with some fresh fruit on top…boring I know! Going to have to this oatmeal a try as I have yet to ever make/eat baked oatmeal. BTW..great step by step photos!

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    1. Thanks Jessica - I'm glad you enjoyed =) And I do often eat just plain oatmeal with some fresh berries or pineapple over top. But when I get bored, I need something to switch things up ;)

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  9. What sweet little wisdom your sharing and it's oh so true.

    Judging from the ingredient list, there is nothing bland about this bake at all! It's not necessarily sweetness that makes something delicious: it is flavour and there is a whole lot in here! It's spicy/tangy/fruity! ;)

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    1. That was the hopeful plan ;) There's only so many bowls of blandness I can stomach before I'm ready for something new, something to tickle the tasters ;)

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  10. I've been making different varieties of baked oatmeal for a few years now and the whole family loves it. I've never seen a recipe quite like this one though. You've inspired me to try a combination of steel cut and rolled oats next time. Thanks!

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    1. Oh I'm so glad - I really like the combo better than either on their own. And I've only recently discovered "baked" oatmeal. My whole life growing up, we only ate the stove-top or slow-cooker variety. So this was something new and fun to try ;)

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  11. I discovered oatmeal in college and couldn't wait to go to bed so I could get up each morning and have some oatmeal. My current fave is mixing in peanut butter, which also kind of thickens it, and some dark chocolate chips or dried cranberries every once in a while. Fortunately, my boys love it, so it's easy to make a lot and feed all of us. I never knew, though, that you could bake oatmeal, and from reading the other comments, I guess I'm behind the times. And I know how you test recipes, so I know this will be a winner and not need any tweaks. Thanks for the recipe!

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    1. Awww... you're so kind, Jody! I actually used to eat cocoa wheats (I think that's what they were called) with peanut butter - LOVED the combo! It was like having a candy bar for breakfast... Then I grew a few years and realized it probably wouldn't be good for my health to eat that for breakfast and thus turned to things like oatmeal. Not the same, but this is my current winner...

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  12. With all this fad of gluten-free eating, I think some grains are getting a bad rap. Your oatmeal looks delicious and is oozing with love and goodness!

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    1. I'm so glad you agree - and I don't think I could ever abandon gluten. I love bread too much!

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  13. I stumbled upon your blog by way of Jennie's Kitchen and I'm glad that I did. I've never heard of baked oatmeal outside of granola bars but this looks absolutely scrumptious. I can't wait to see what other yummy dishes that you'll post in the future!

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