After university, my close-knit group of girlfriends got together frequently. Whether it was a weekend away or a night out for dinner, we made time. I assumed it would go on forever as I was unable to foresee what could change.
One memorable weekend a group of us went up north. There was a bit of a nip to the air. The days consisted of hiking and eating packed lunches along the trail (I learned that homemade hummus was easy to make and much more delicious than store-bought versions). Evenings were spent chatting with our woollies on and filling our bellies. We rented a shared room in a rustic cabin so we could talk as we were falling asleep (because isn’t that when the best conversations happen?) It had a communal space for cooking our food and a farmhouse table to spread out our goods and enjoy the meal before us. Each of us was in charge of organizing a meal.
One early and chilly morning, my friend (we’ll call her “S”) served baked oatmeal. It was the first time I had tried it or even heard of it. Served with a choice of yoghurt, maple syrup or applesauce, it easily became my favourite breakfast. With that meal, the weekend became etched in my memory.
Fast forward several years later. Our girls’ weekends are much less frequent but they still happen. My friend (I’ll call her “K) hosts a girls’ weekend at her place and tells us just to bring a pillow as she will prepare all the meals. It is not so far away but we don’t have the time to drive up north anymore. I’m not sure if it was intentional, but on the first morning baked oatmeal was prepared for breakfast. The recipe was from “The Oh She Glows Cookbook” by Angela Liddon and I am hooked. Baked with apples and pears and maple syrup, it is wholesome and balanced.
We are now spread out over Canada and there is no such thing as an affordable weekend flight to Victoria. With demanding jobs, community involvement and babes in arms, it is not so easy to just pick up and go. I find myself thinking about weekends past as I prepare the apples and pears on a Saturday afternoon knowing that I will have hearty and soothing breakfast on Sunday morning. Food is wonderful thing. It lovingly connects us with our most cherished memories.
I find baked oatmeal perfect for this time of year when I have sad looking apples and pears in the back of my refrigerator drawer, just waiting to be eaten. This recipe is quite forgiving and versatile. The original recipe is vegan. To convert this recipe to a vegan one, simply substitute the egg for ¼ cup of applesauce, grease your casserole dish with coconut oil and use almond milk.
Apple and Pear Baked Oatmeal
Makes: A 2-quart pan of oatmeal (about 8 servings or 6 if you are really hungry) *
Time: 30 minutes prep time plus 40-45 minutes baking
565g (2 ¼ cups) rolled oats**
30g (2 tbsp) brown or coconut sugar
1 tsp baking power
½ tsp fine-grain sea salt
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1 large egg, beaten
500mL (2 cups) milk of your choice
63mL ( ¼ cup) unsweetened applesauce
65mL ( ¼ cup) maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 small and soft apples, peeled and diced
2 pears, peeled and diced
125g ( ½ cup) walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
2. Grease a 2 to 2.5L (2-quart) casserole dish.
3. Whisk together the oats, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices in a large bowl.
4. Mix the egg, milk, applesauce, maple syrup and vanilla together.
5. Add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.
6. Fold in the prepared fruit.
7. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish and smooth the top so that it is evenly spread out in the dish.
8. Sprinkle with nuts and smooth with the back of the wooden spoon.
9. Bake, uncovered for 40-45 minutes. This will ensure that the apples and pears are fully cooked.
Serve with your choice of yoghurt, applesauce or maple syrup. My favourite combination is to serve the oatmeal with a small amount of full-fat Greek yoghurt and sprinkle some hemp seeds on top.
Lightly adapted from “The Oh She Glows Cookbook” by Angela Liddon.
* This recipe is excellent the next day (I actually prefer it the next day as after reheating, the edges become a little crispy). Reheat in the oven or serve cold. Baked oatmeal will last for 5 days, covered, in the refrigerator.
** To make this recipe gluten free, ensure that your rolled oats are gluten free by reading the label. Oats in themselves are gluten free but are often packed with other grains in processing facilities.