Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Baked Oatmeal with Caramelized Apples

Matthew made a new friend on Halloween Night.  Even though our township had decided that all trick-or-treating festivities be delayed for a couple days due to Hurricane Sandy, we still went ahead and carved our pumpkin, drank mulled cider, and watched the obligatory Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (If you have not seen this classic film, it's a hoot).

Matthew loved the pumpkin carving experience.  From pulling the slimy, seed-studded innards from the pumpkin's core to showing Paul where to put the eyes and mouth, he thoroughly enjoyed every minute.  When we revealed the fruits of our labor to him for the first time, he was in love.  He hugged the pumpkin, kissed the pumpkin, and named the pumpkin "the spooky."  I have no idea where he got the idea to name the gourd that, but "Spooky" it was.  His love of the pumpkin was sealed when we lit a tiny tea candle inside and turned off the lights, enabling the flickering candlelight to highlight Spooky's eyes and jagged mouth.

Matthew was quiet for the rest of the evening, preferring to stare in awe at the lit-up Spooky.  When the tea candle finally burnt out, a request was immediately put in for a new candle to be lit so that Spooky could continue to shine.  When bedtime finally arrived, Matthew put his arms around Spooky and tried to haul him upstairs.  We drew the line there.  No matter how much he loved it, our son was not going to sleep with a rotting pumpkin.

As soon as Matthew got up in the morning, he only wanted to see "Spooky."  He began reading to it, talking to it, even sharing his train cars with it.  The thought that Spooky would soon have to find a new home in the dumpster outside our house was weighing heavily on our hearts.  Matthew would surely be heartbroken to discover that his new-found playmate was gone.  (*This is why Matthew needs a sibling. Thank goodness we are currently five months into perfecting that project).

The day came when Spooky developed a spot of mold on the inside.  It was time to throw him away.  We guiltily did the evil deed over Matthew's nap time and then waited in dread and anguish for the moment he would awaken and find what we had done.  However, to our surprise and relief, Matthew did not even seem to notice.  I guess when it comes to our son's memory, out of sight truly is out of mind.  What a fair weather friend he turned out to be!

When we finally did get the chance to go trick-or-treating, the weather was very fair and a bit gloomy - pretty perfect for a fake Halloween night.  Matthew had a blast trouncing around the neighborhood in his monkey costume.  The most difficult part of the evening was convincing him to get out of each doorway immediately after receiving his piece of candy.  He was in a very social mood - at each house, he wanted to stay and chat.  Instead of crying out "trick or treat!" when each door opened, Matthew would, as if on cue, delve into an confounded soliloquy on Thomas the Train, coffeemakers, and Pooh Bear.  We practically had to drag him away from each doorstep.  He had no interest in the candy.  If he had his way, he would have stayed out all night long.  He was not too happy when we decided to call it quits on Trick-or-Treating because we wanted to catch the end of the Notre Dame game.

The recipe I want to share with you today is another version of baked oatmeal.  This one is very appropriate for the cool fall weather.  It's flavors are reminiscent of apple pie and the combination of both steel-cut and rolled oats make for a delightful texture.  This makes a HUGE batch of oatmeal, but we managed to finish it fairly quickly because we could not stop eating it.  The caramelized apples are simply fantastic.  I imagine caramelized pears would also be amazing!

Baked Oatmeal with Caramelized Apples
adapted ever-so-slightly from Annie's Eats

For the Apples:
3 large apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2" thick slices
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

For the Oats:
1 cup steel-cut oats
4 cups boiling water
3 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking)
6 tablespoons light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the steel cut oats and the boiling water.  Cover and set aside for 20 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.

In a large skillet, melt the butter.  Add the apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are fork-tender and caramelized, about 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat and spread into the bottom of a 11x9" baking dish (or another 2-quart baking dish).

Once the steel-cut oats have soaked for 20 minutes, add the rolled oats, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg to the bowl and stir to combine.  In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together the syrup, milk, applesauce, and vanilla.  Pour into the oat mixture and stir to combine.  Stir in the dried cranberries.

Pour the oat mixture over the apples in the prepared baking dish.  Smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until set.  Let cool for about 10 minutes before spooning out individual portions.  Enjoy!

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