December 14, 2011
I’m holding off on the holidays.
This is the last week of school—exams began today—and the tradition in our family has naturally adjusted over the years to fit with the end-of-the-semester. I do my holiday baking the weekend before exams (no grading to do yet!) and mail out packages during the week (shorter school days). Then, once school is officially out, Jill and I go together to pick out our tree, decorate the house, and get festive.
Though this timing originated from convenience, I think I would choose it even if it weren’t necessary. It’s nice to have a boundary line that says—here, okay NOW we will think about Hanukkah and Christmas and New Year’s, now we will mail out our cards, mull the cider, and watch the claymation “Rudolph” cartoon (the little elf-who-wants-to-be-a-dentist is Jill’s favorite). To condense the celebration into a week or ten days helps ensure that it is, in fact, celebratory, and not obligatory. I am deliberately keeping myself from my Christmas station on Pandora until the 17th.
Maybe that sounds too contrived, and I’m certainly not trying to be a Grinch about getting into the spirit; for those who celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, the season of Advent has already begun, with its exhortation to prepare and make ready. Hanukkah hasn’t yet begun, but I’ve already fried some latkes, I confess, and made my first ever batch of rugelach (which, I’m pleased to report, went over very well with my Jewish colleagues). I’m the last one to argue for less holiday spirit; what I’m really about is less holiday STUFF. Sometimes a limit can be a good thing.
APPLE BAKED OATMEAL
adapted from Sprouted Kitchen, original recipe by Heidi Swanson in Super Natural Every Day
My only “catering” gig to date is taking breakfast treats for my fellow middle school faculty members each Monday. In August, I made the Sprouted Kitchen version of this baked oatmeal recipe, which calls for blueberries and almonds and uses maple syrup as a sweetener, doubling the quantities so I could fill twelve mason jars. I got rave reviews, even from folks who said they normally didn’t like oatmeal!
If you don’t have tiny mason jars on hand, you can also make one big baked oatmeal in a square baking pan—just plan to increase the baking time by 15-20 minutes. Great for feeding a crowd either way.
I knew I wanted to do the baked oatmeals again in the fall and thought that a version with apples might be nice. And it was! Now I’m thinking cranberry-orange-walnut might need to happen in January…needless to say, this recipe takes very well to all kinds of adjustments. Plus, you can bake them the night before and just re-heat in the morning.
2 small Granny smith apples
1-2 T sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cardamom
squeeze of lemon juice
2 cups old fashioned oats
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. sea salt
2 ½ cups whole milk
3 T melted butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup toasted chopped pecans
¼ cup turbinado or demerrara sugar
pan: 6 half-pint mason jars OR 1 8” square baking pan
Peel and core the apples, then dice—small if baking in jars, medium if baking in a pan. Toss the apples in a non-reactive bowl with the sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, & lemon juice. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk or stir together the dry ingredients. Melt the butter in a glass measuring cup or bowl. Pour a tiny bit of melted butter into the bottom of each jar; if using a baking pan, pour about half the melted butter and swirl to coat the bottom and edges.
Divide the apples evenly among the jars, or spread them all along the bottom of the pan. Top with the oatmeal mixture; if using jars, leave ½ inch to 1 inch of headroom at the top of each jar.
Whisk the milk and vanilla into the remaining butter. Pour a little less than ½ cup of liquid into each jar; if using baking pan, pour the liquid slowly over the oats, moving in a circle to coat evenly. Place the uncovered jars on a baking sheet before sliding into the oven.
Bake the jars for 25-30 minutes, the baking pan for 35-45*. The top of the oatmeal should be brown but still moist. When ready to serve, top with nuts & sugar.
*If you plan to reheat and serve the next day, I recommend under-baking the oatmeal by at least 5 minutes. Let cool completely, then cover (using jar lids or foil) and store in the fridge overnight. Uncover and reheat in a 350° oven for 15-20 minutes.