Cherry-Almond Baked Oatmeal

Though it took a little while to get all of those cherries washed, pitted and then sent in their designated directions (to the freezer, to the jam pot, or directly into a recipe), we managed to do a spiffy job, this year. For starters, we only picked sour cherries. Last year, we’d picked two varieties of sweet cherries along with the sour ones, so we had tons more work to do. Somewhere along the way, we discovered that sweet cherries — while they do freeze well and do fairly well in the jam pot — are better served up fresh in a recipe or popped directly into your mouth. So, this year we decided to go for the more versatile sour cherries.

One of the things we also learned from our first cherry-picking experience back in 2009 was that you’ll definitely want a cherry pitter — not just any old cherry pitter, but a GOOD one. In 2009, we bought four wee little hand-powered cherry pitters that looked like a pair of wacky pliers. IMG_0795We’d also purchased, long before, a nice cherry pitter made by Oxo. We soon learned, however, that the problem with both of these is that they only pit one cherry at a time. No single fact could be more daunting than when there are thousands of cherries sitting across the table from you, each with a rock-hard pit that must be removed! This year, we were fortunate enough to have this extraordinary cherry pitter that we received as a Christmas gift from James’ sister (thanks, Georgia!). While it proved to be a noisy operation, we were able to pit more cherries in five minutes than five people with manual cherry pitters could pit in an hour!

But, enough about the strife involved! The whole reason we go through the trouble of picking, pitting, and processing cherries is for the joy of eating them! I stumbled upon the concept of Baked Oatmeal somewhere in 2008. By mixing just a few ingredients together and then popping it into the oven, you can have a nice, hot breakfast without a lot of fuss. It’s a time-saving, make-ahead kind of breakfast — as though gramma is in the kitchen making your breakfast while you hit the snooze button a few times or shave, shower, and browse the morning headlines. Thanks, gramma!

There are a lot of versions of Baked Oatmeal recipes out there — many of them very similar. They are usually built around the same collection of ingredients but perhaps in slightly different proportions. Our basic recipe came from “Simply In Season”. While we were immediately in love with the convenience of the recipe, we soon grew tired of the same flavors over and over.

IMG_0799I decided that it might be interesting to spice up the recipe by making some seasonal variations. Thanks to some tinkering and toying with the ingredients and recipe method, we now have about 5 different ways of making Baked Oatmeal. Sadly, most of the variations that I’ve come up with turned the recipe into a longer process. So, instead of gramma making your breakfast while you sleep in, you’ve gotta do it yourself!

Though it’s a little too fancy for a typical weekday morning, today’s recipe is one of our favorite Baked Oatmeal variations, highlighting another of our favorite flavor combinations: cherries and almonds. I’ve always said that cherries and almonds are “best friends”. They just go together, somehow. They do okay on their own, but they’re much better when they combine forces.

For this recipe, you’ll need to make sure you buy the correct oatmeal: old-fashioned, rolled oats. These are the oats that are thick and full of texture even after they’re cooked. Steel-cut oats, quick oats, and instant oats will IMG_0796not provide the correct texture in this instance.

For the yogurt topping in this recipe, you have a lot of choices. I prefer low-fat yogurt, but you could use whole milk, greek, or even fat-free yogurt. If you’re like me, you’re a little picky about store-bought yogurt and what goes into it. Some folks may feel quite passionate about fat-free yogurt with its added emulsifiers, artificial sweeteners, fiber additives, and other unmentionables. I like to keep things simple, personally. Oddly enough, in today’s food culture, that can prove to be complicated!

While I’ve yet to venture into the frontier of yogurt making (something I actually do aspire to), I buy low-fat plain yogurt in quart-sized containers so that I can sweeten and flavor it myself. Not only does this lead to a yogurt that has less sugar than pre-sweetened varieties, it keeps me in charge of what else goes into it. Who needs all those tiny, over-priced, pre-packaged yogurt cups? Make your own!

Almost Homemade Vanilla Yogurt
Makes 4 cups

    32 ounces low-fat plain yogurt
    2 tablespoons – 1/4 cup maple syrup or fruit sweetener (to taste)
    1 tablespoon vanilla extract

    Open the carton of yogurt. Using a spoon with a long handle, stir the yogurt until it is smooth. Add the desired amount of sweetener and vanilla extract. Stir until completely combined. Adjust sweetener as necessary. Cover and store in refrigerator. Use by date on the container.

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While we’re on the subject of things I do to keep things simple while seemingly complicating my life, I should mention that we happen to make our own applesauce using Cortland apples that we pick and can every fall. If you’re still reading this, I will tell you that you don’t need to make your own applesauce in order to enjoy this recipe (though it’s quite a thrill). Just be sure to buy organic, UNSWEETENED applesauce. Sweetened applesauce is just vile. Period.

Cherry-Almond Baked Oatmeal
A Tales of Thyme & Place Original
Serves 4-6

    2 cups rolled oats
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/4 cup raw almonds, toasted and finely chopped
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
    1 large egg (or 1/4 cup egg substitute)
    1 cup 1% milk
    1/3 cup granulated sugar
    1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
    1/4 teaspoon almond extract
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tiny pieces
    1 pound sour cherries, pitted (fresh or frozen)
    1 tablespoon granulated sugar
    1/4 cup water
    1 tablespoon corn starch
    1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt (see above)
    Additional sliced or chopped almonds (optional)

    Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.

    In a medium bowl, combine the oats, baking powder, chopped almonds, salt, and cardamom. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and milk. Slowly add the sugar, whisking until sugar has dissolved. Stir in the applesauce and almond extract.

    Pour the milk mixture into the oat mixture, stir to combine. Pour into the prepared baking dish and spread until evenly distributed; dot the top with butter. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes.

    Meanwhile, combine the cherries and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the mixture comes to a low simmer and cherries release their juices. In a measuring cup, stir together 1/4 cup water and 1 tablespoon of corn starch. Add the mixture to the cherry mixture; stir and heat until thickened to desired consistency.

    Once oatmeal has baked, allow it to cool for 5 minutes before slicing. Placing a slice on each plate, top the slices with the cherries and vanilla yogurt. Garnish with sliced almonds. (Any leftover cherry topping can be kept covered in the fridge for about two weeks and goes well with toast, pancakes, ice cream… just about anything)

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I know it seems like a lot of work to do before breakfast. But, the good news is the oatmeal slices will keep in your refrigerator (topped with cherries and yogurt or not) for several days and they make an excellent hurried morning breakfast even if you don’t bother to reheat. If you don’t want to serve this as the entrée, you can slice it into sixths and have it with a side of bacon and eggs.

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~ by Jason on August 9, 2010.

2 Responses to “Cherry-Almond Baked Oatmeal”

  1. Sounds wonderful. I am having company for brunch Sat. and plan to try this.
    Sally

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