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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.
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.
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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|Combine the boiling water and steel cut oats in a medium bowl or measure and let soak.|
|Slice 1 banana into the bowl of a stand mixer.|
|Add 1/2 cup homemade applesauce.|
|Add the orange juice, zest, spices and yogurt.|
|Beat together on low speed until well combined.|
|Stir in rolled oats and the soaked steel cut oats and soaking liquid.|
|Stir in remaining water.|
|Add the frozen or fresh cranberries.|
|Stir to thoroughly combine.|
|Pour into a 9x13 inch baking dish and bake for 20 minutes at 350F.|
|Sprinkle with sliced almonds and brown sugar; bake for another 10-15 minutes at 375F until set.|
STORY | PHOTO TUTORIAL | HUNGRY FOR TIPS?
Healthful Baked Oatmeal
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
- Preheat the oven to 350℉
- In a medium heat-proof bowl or measure, stir together the boiling water and steel cut oats; set aside to soak
- 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
- Add the rolled oats and steel cut oats with their cooking liquid to the bowl and and mix on low speed until well combined
- 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
- 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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