March 29, 2012

Baked Oatmeal with Bananas and Berries

I'm one of those people who has always liked oatmeal.  First, it's very filling.  After all, there is that old myth, "It sticks to your ribs!"  Second, it's healthy, and a steaming bowl of oats is full of omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, and folate.  It can lower your cholesterol and keep arteries clear.  Third, it tastes good.  Well, depending on what you put in it.
When I started distance running, I would always have a bowl of oatmeal with raisins.   Just before running, I'd eat a banana with peanut butter.  One morning, I combined the banana and peanut butter into the oatmeal, and it was the perfect breakfast for a long run.  The lesson?  Oatmeal with toppings equals a yummy breakfast of champions.
Oatmeal makes a great conduit for fruit and other mix-ins.  I've tried many different toppings with oatmeals, and it's probably why I never get tired of having oatmeal for breakfast!  When I saw baked oatmeal recipes pop up around the food blog world, I put it on my must-try list.
And, I'm glad that I did!  This has become one of my favorite recipes.  It's almost like enjoying a fruit crumble for breakfast.  I have a sweet tooth, and the sweetness of the fruit and the maple syrup makes this plenty sweet for me.  I made this version with strawberries, but have tried it before with fresh blueberries.  It has been equally delicious with both types of berries.  Other food bloggers have down with peaches and raspberries and apples and cranberries.  You can adapt it to whatever is in season, and the possibilities are endless.  
I would recommend using fresh fruit.  While frozen fruit would also work, my concern is that it might get soggy during baking since frozen fruit will have more moisture.  I used 1.5% milk, and skim milk would work.  I have made this with steel-cut oats and old fashioned rolled oats.  I don't think instant oats would work as well.  For the maple syrup, use the real stuff!
Though I'm not a huge fan of leftovers, I make an exception for this dish.  The baked oatmeal reheats very well as leftovers.  I'll stick a bowl in the microwave for a few minutes, and it is a perfect breakfast while I get ready to head out to work.
Baked Oatmeal with Bananas and Berries
(4 servings)

1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
¼ cup chopped walnuts or pecans, lightly toasted
½ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
¼ cup maple syrup
1 cup milk  
1 large egg at room temperature, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. butter (salted or unsalted), melted and cooled
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced ½-inch thick
1 cup berries, your choice, divided

Preheat oven to 375˚ F.  Spray a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray, or grease lightly with butter.  In a medium bowl, mix the oats, half of the nuts, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.  Stir with a fork to combine.  In a measuring cup, whisk the maple syrup, milk, egg, butter, and vanilla.  Place the sliced bananas at the bottom of the baking dish in an even layer.  Top with about 2/3 cup of the berries.  Cover the oat mixture over the fruit in an even layer.  Pour the liquid ingredients evenly over the oats.  Sprinkle the remaining nuts and berries over the top.  Bake for 40 minutes, or until the top is browned and the oats have set. 

Source: Adapted from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Everyday

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