For the first time in recent memory, easing back into the “real world” after the holidays hasn’t been as gruesome as I expected it to be. After our fair share of family fun and impromptu New Year’s parties and various friends in town, I think these quiet January weekends are still suiting us all right. Any brief attacks of post-holiday bluesy-ness have been quelled by things like: spending a Saturday night giving B2 an impromptu man-makeover (new discovery: I love buzzcuts), eating leftover Christmas chocolate for breakfast, streaming Friends on Netflix, and ugly-crying super hard at the latest episode of Parenthood. (That show gets me every time. But at least bawling my eyes out is cathartic?)
Food-wise, this baked oatmeal was my other way of easing off the holiday excess into something a little gentler and a little more nourishing, but without going cold turkey (or, you know, cold salad). It’s cookies disguised as breakfast! Because I’ll never actually be ready to give up cookies and chocolate, I took all the flavors from my favorite oatmeal raisin cookies — plenty of cinnamon, a little bit of brown sugar, plump raisins (sorry to the raisin-haters!) — and put them into my new favorite way to eat oatmeal. Baked oatmeal has a dense, firm texture I can’t get enough of — a kind of comforting, resilient bite that drives away any thoughts of the watery gruel the kid in me used to abhor. Its stout substance reminds me a lot more of dessert than its just-add-water counterpart, but in truth it’s not any more indulgent. Once it cools, it’s sturdy enough to cut into slices, so it packs well and freezes even better — I reheat it with a splash of milk in a minute flat and it’s just as good at my desk as it was out of the oven. I love it with a generous dollop of Greek yogurt and an extra drizzle of honey or maple syrup.
Baked oatmeal is amazingly forgiving, so you can increase or decrease the ingredients to your own preference — there’s an extra egg in mine than most recipes call for, because I like the idea of a bit more protein and structure, and for lovers of other cookies, I’ve included a few notes on how you can swap out the add-ins below for a chocolate-chip version or cranberry-orange. It won’t be exactly like eating a Christmas cookie, but it’s filling, wholesome, and even a little bit healthy, while still reminiscent of holiday cheer. Quick, warming, doable on a chilly January morning, but still a treat.
Hope you’re all staying warm these days, friends!
I'm one of those oddballs who loves oatmeal raisin cookies almost (almost!) more than chocolate chip, so I was head over heels for this. But if you'd prefer another cookie hiding in your oatmeal, this dish is fantastically customizable -- for a chocolate chip oatmeal cookie version, up the vanilla to 2 tsp, omit the cinnamon, and swap out the raisins for chocolate chips. For a cranberry-orange one, add one to two tablespoons of orange zest, half a teaspoon of almond extract, and swap out the raisins for dried cranberries. It would also work wonderfully with a diced apple, or pear, or pretty much anything you can imagine short of ground beef. It's kind of my dream breakfast.
- 2 tbsp butter (optional)
- 2 cups rolled oats (use certified gluten-free if needed)
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2-3 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 2 cups whole milk (or non-dairy milk of choice -- any will work!)
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup raisins (or more or less, to taste)
- for serving:
- honey or maple syrup
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Optional: Following a genius tip from JC, below, you can toast your oats first. In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the oats and stir to coat evenly, then continue to cook, stirring every few seconds to prevent burning, until oats smell toasty, like popcorn. This should take only 2-3 minutes, but gives the oatmeal a deeper flavor and makes it taste a little more cookie-like, in my opinion. But totally okay to skip it if you're pressed for time! Otherwise, just mix together your oats, both sugars, ground cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or 8x8-inch baking dish until well-combined. If using a baking dish, you may want to line it with parchment paper to prevent sticking.
- In a bowl, whisk together milk, vanilla, and eggs. You can also add a tablespoon or two of melted butter here, if you'd like. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and give the dish a shake or stir it to evenly moisten. Scatter the raisins evenly across the mixture and stir again to incorporate.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden on the edges. Oatmeal should still be soft in the center when removed but will set as it cools.
Everything in baked oatmeal is pretty loosey-goosey. You can increase or decrease the amount of milk to your preference -- I have used up to 2 1/2 cups milk with good results, and have seen recipes that call for less. You can also use one egg instead of two or egg whites if you're concerned about cholesterol. And, of course, you can feel free to up the sugar for a sweeter post-holiday treat -- or decrease it if you're already just that zen.