Apr 10, 2011

Heidi Swanson's Baked Oatmeal

When I was a little girl, I remember cold, winter days at my grandmother's house. While she cooked, she'd set me up on a stool in front of the stove, then take one of her handmade quilts, warm it in front of a heater, and wrap it around me. I felt like a princess sitting high up on that stool with a soft, warm quilt pulled around me. She didn't know it then, but she set a standard for me about what real comfort means. I always hope that some of that comes out in my cooking.

This baked oatmeal dish is all about that kind of comfort. It comes from Heidi Swanson, of 101 Cookbooks fame. Swanson's beautiful blog is one of the first I started reading years ago. I have long admired the spare, clean, natural look of her photos. Her food is real, unprocessed and breathtaking. Swanson's recipes are vegetarian-based and have again and again introduced me to a flavorful world of unprocessed, nutrient-dense natural foods. Good for you really can taste good and look good.

Swanson's first book, Super Natural Cooking, is a favorite. So I was very excited this week to receive her just released second book, Super Natural Every Day. As soon as I cracked it open, I started marking pages with recipes to try:

• frittata with asparagus, goat cheese and potatoes
• summer squash soup with red Thai curry and coconut milk
• rice salad with spinach, basil, goat cheese, walnuts and cherry vinaigrette
• ravioli salad with olives, cilantro and pepitas (I've got to learn to make gluten free pasta!)
• yellow split peas with serranos, greens and parmesan
• kale salad with sesame and coconut
• chanterelle tacos
• boiled eggs seasoned with dukkah (an Egyptian spice blend)
• spinach chop with harissa, eggs, almonds and lemon
• roasted chickpeas
• quinoa patties
• sparkling panakam (an Indian beverage with ginger, cardamom and lime)

There are plenty of gluten-free recipes in this book and most of the rest could easily be adapted.

First up, I decided to try Swanson's baked oatmeal. In the version in her book, she makes it with berries, bananas, and walnuts. But she suggests you use this as a guide and switch out with whatever fruits and nuts you like. We just planted two little peach trees in our yard in the last couple of weeks. And boom, just days later, there are a couple of peaches dangling from the branches, soft and fuzzy, growing a little bigger each day. So I've had peaches on the brain. I know it's a little early for peaches. I'm dying to try this recipe with the fresh strawberries that are out now at the farmers market, with Confituras strawberry and vanilla jam drizzled on top. But the barometer has been bouncing up and down this week and triggering migraines for me, so that means no berries right now (a migraine trigger food). I'm hoping to try out that version soon. So with peaches on my mind, I decided to try it with defrosted frozen peaches and almonds.

First, I have to warn you that the smell of this cooking will turn your whole house into a comfort zone. This is the kind of smell real estate agents should have wafting from the oven of open houses. It will torture you while the oatmeal is baking.

Another ingredient note: Swanson's recipe calls for milk, but I used rice milk. If you're using almonds as your nut, almond milk would probably be great too. To keep it gluten-free, I used certified gluten-free rolled oats.

Swanson calls for an 8-inch square pan to bake the oatmeal. I used a deep dish pie pan instead. I think this made for a thicker layer and I had to cook it quite a bit longer to get the oats cooked all the way through in the center. Next time, I'd follow her suggestion or maybe make then in individual pans, which would make for quick reheating later for an express breakfast.

The smell of baking oats with vanilla, maple syrup, cinnamon, peaches and almonds will have you standing at the stove panting. And the dish lives up to the olfactory tease. It's light, fluffy, very flavorful and immensely comforting. I'm just glad I got some before my husband gets home starving from a morning playing ultimate (he plays ultimate frisbee).

As I mentioned, I want to try making this with fresh strawberries and Confituras strawberry vanilla jam drizzled on top, and a more fall-ish version with apples and pears with pecans.

Heidi Swanson's Baked Oatmeal

2 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups rice milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 10-ounce packages of frozen peaches, defrosted, drained and cut into chunks
1/2 cup toasted, salted whole almonds, chopped

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Butter or oil and 8-inch baking dish. Spread the peaches evenly in the bottom of the pan and set aside.

Combine: oats, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Stir together. Sprinkle over the peaches in the prepared pan. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine: maple syrup, rice milk, egg, half of the melted butter and vanilla. Whisk together completely. Slowly pour this over the oats and peaches in the pan. Shake or jiggle the pan gently to release any air bubbles.

Sprinkle the almonds on top.

Place the pan on a cookie sheet in the preheated oven. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, until the center is cooked through and fluffy. Let cool a bit, then drizzle with a bit more maple syrup and the rest of the melted butter to serve.

Serves 6 as a stand alone or double that as part of a larger breakfast buffet.

Recipe adapted from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson. Check out more of Swanson's recipes on her blog, 101 Cookbooks.

P.S. My hubby got home just as I was finishing up this post. He came in, went straight to the stove, and still wearing his hat and backpack, stood at the stove gobbling this up by the spoonful. "Wow!" he responded when he came up for air.


Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful post, you have me craving peaches now. I just got Heidi's new book and I have to say, the first thing I am dying to make is the macaroon tart.

Gigi said...

I read your baked oatmeal recipe last night (about midnight!) and it sounded so good that I got out of bed & went to the kitchen to make it. I let it sit in the fridge overnight, baked it as instructed this morning, and it turned out perfectly --- loved it! Thanks for sharing.