Make-ahead breakfast: Pumpkin pie baked oatmeal

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We eat a lot of oatmeal around here.  Rolled and steel-cut.  Simmered and microwaved.  Baked in muffin tins and in slabs.  So when I came across a recipe for pumpkin oatmeal, you knew I had to try it.  (It is pumpkin season here at Economist at Home, after all!)  The prep for this version is quick and easy, but it requires a long lead time – 24 hours to soak the oats before cooking and 40 minutes to bake before serving.

So, pick a day you could realistically pop this in the oven 40 minutes before breakfast and not have your whole day thrown off (a weekend perhaps?).  Working backwards, set aside 5 minutes two nights prior to your baking day to soak the oats and another 10 minutes the next night to mix in the other ingredients.

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Oatmeal soaking

Now is a great time to try this recipe as the holidays often bring house guests.  I, for one, find the simplicity of breakfast fare a welcome relief from the more complex meals that come later in the day.  But cold cereal gets tiresome, and serving a hot meal for a small crowd can be onerous.  Hot, make-ahead breakfast dishes address my desire for warm and welcoming food without a lot of fuss in the morning.  This baked oatmeal dish fits the bill, if you can spare some time on the two nights prior to serving.  Getting the timing right is a bit tricky, I admit, but it’s well worth it.  The dish is delicious, healthy, and economical.

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I served it warm with either yogurt or milk, but it would be even tastier with cream or whipped cream.  When we tired of eating it for breakfast, I cut up the remaining oatmeal into little bars (it’s dense enough for that), wrapped them individually and froze them.  Later, I added them to my son’s lunchbox (where they thawed throughout the day) providing a nutritious afternoon snack.

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A quick note about soaking the oatmeal.  Soaking grains appears to be a hot topic these days.  It seems that many foods we consider healthy (i.e., grains and legumes) require an extra step which used to be part of traditional cooking methods but has somehow been lost over time.  These foods, including oats, have something called phytic acid in their outer layers.  If left intact, the phytic acid will bind to the essential vitamins and minerals in the oats while in your intestinal tract, preventing their absorption.  While unsoaked oatmeal still provides a lot of insoluble fiber, with all its cholesterol-lowering benefits, taking the extra step of soaking the oats (for seven hours or more) allows your body to reap all the other nutritional benefits (e.g., vitamin E, thiamin, biotin, selenium, zinc, copper, magnesium, and iron) and digest the grain more easily.

I’m not an expert on this, nor a soaking devotee yet, but I’m always interested in learning new things and trying different ways to improve our nutrition.  This seemed like an easy technique that was worth a try.  Over time, perhaps I’ll begin soaking oatmeal before all of the other ways I prepare it.  Either way, this recipe has a lot going for it.  Whether you’re new to soaking grains or not, I urge you to try this one out.

Recipe (slightly adapted from this one)
Time: 15 minutes hands-on, 40 minutes baking, 36 hours elapsed time
Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:
2 ½ c whole rolled oats (not instant)
¼ c whole wheat flour
1 ¾ c liquid (Choose from buttermilk, plain yogurt, or half yogurt & half milk, water, or whey.  I did half yogurt/half whey, since I had some whey I needed to use up after making yogurt.)
¼ c coconut oil (or melted butter or canola – I used half coconut, half canola)
1 c pumpkin puree (canned or fresh, I used canned)
4 eggs
1/3 c maple syrup
1t vanilla extract
1t baking powder
½ t salt
3t ground cinnamon
1t each ground ginger, ground nutmeg and ground cloves

Directions:

Day 1 (nighttime)

1. Two nights prior to baking the oatmeal, mix oats, flour and liquid together in a 9×13 glass or stoneware baking dish.  Once mixed thoroughly, spread evenly in the pan.  Cover with plastic wrap and leave on the counter for 24 hours.

Day 2 (nighttime)

2. The next night, beat the eggs, oil, maple syrup and vanilla.  Then add in the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.  Beat in the oats mixture.

3. Pour the mixture back into the baking dish, re-cover and refrigerate until morning.

Day 3 (morning)

4. The next morning, put the uncovered baking dish containing the oat mixture into a cold oven.  Set the temperature to 350 and a timer to 30 minutes.

5. Bake until a knife comes out clean and the oatmeal springs back when pressed.  (Mine took 40 minutes.)

6.  Serve warm with milk, cream or yogurt.  Brown sugar, maple syrup and raisins are each great for adding a bit more sweetness.  Store covered on the counter or in the fridge for several days.  You can reheat and eat, or just enjoy cold.

For longer storage, wrap individual pieces and freeze.  Thaw wrapped on the counter to eat at room temperature.  To serve hot, reheat in the microwave or oven.  Alternatively, drop leftovers in a small saucepan, add some milk or water, and cook it slowly as you would regular stovetop oatmeal.

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Want more pumpkin recipes?  Check out pumpkin pie smoothies, rustic pumpkin custard and pumpkin pancakes

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