Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Apple Walnut Baked Oatmeal with Date Butter and Cranberry Crumble

Matthew has developed this really strange habit where he will come home from school, change out of his uniform, and come downstairs wearing only a single sock. Every day, without fail, this happens. When I question the whereabouts of the missing sock, he will look in horror at his naked foot as if he had nothing to do with its disappearance and say, "I think it just got lost!" If I were to go upstairs and peek inside his room, the sock will be sitting in the middle of the floor all by its lonesome. Oh, it's always the sock from his right foot that is removed. It's driving me nuts. Little boys are strange creatures.

Besides his inability to keep his socks on his feet, Matthew has been thriving at school. His reading skills are coming along quickly and he has shown a sudden interest in reading music as well. He has impressed me with his knowledge of basic music theory. He and Emma both love singing the hymns from church around the house as they go about their business. Matthew especially loves to serenade the household while standing in the shower or using the toilet. There's just something amusing about listening to him sing "Behold the Lamb of God" while doing "God's work" on his porcelain throne. Now, if only he would be inclined to sing his hymns while we are actually at Mass, then we might have something! Speaking of Mass, if you get the chance, please say a prayer for Matthew that he does an excellent job reading at the school Mass this coming Thursday. The kindergarten class gets to fill all the roles for the School Mass that day and Matthew was chosen to read. While he knows his lines and appears fairly confident while practicing at home, I'm a bit worried that he might wig out in the moment when he realizes that all eyes are on him and act inappropriately by making facing, acting silly, or pretending to faint - the usual stuff he does in public that drives me crazy. Then again, Matthew loves attention so I should have more confidence that he will relish this opportunity to show off in front of the whole school. We shall see how it goes.

With our morning routine being a bit chaotic because of Matthew's school schedule, we have been eating a lot of cereal. We stick to pretty boring cereals, mainly cheerios or (if we're really feeling wild) Original Life, but the kids are more than happy to eat their fill each morning. So, when I do manage to plan ahead and prepare a baked oatmeal, the kids always surprise me with their enthusiasm. They will easily scarf down a couple bowls of oatmeal and sing my praises. I often forget how much they love this stuff. Baked oatmeal is probably my favorite breakfast too because it's healthy, filling, warming, and delicious! I have loved experimenting with many different variations over the years, and this latest recipe for Apple Walnut Baked Oatmeal with Date Butter and Cranberry Crumble is my latest version to try. This version is exceptionally good - it might have claimed the top spot! There are a couple components to this dish that really set it apart from the other baked oatmeal recipes I have made in the past. For one, the date butter is a sweet, sticky spread that is used both to sweeten the dish and bind the oats and apples together. Dates are a marvelous flavoring for oatmeal, so I knew this would be fantastic. Second, the fresh cranberry crumble adds a bright, fresh, slightly tart finish to the dish and is a fantastic pairing with the fresh apples, cinnamon, and dates. 

Don't let the couple extra steps stop you from adding this dish to your breakfast routine. None of the extra steps are difficult and can all be done in about the same amount of time that it takes Matthew to find his missing sock! The little bit of extra effort is worth it, for this is truly a great dish to wake up to on these cold winter mornings! 

Apple Walnut Baked Oatmeal with Date Butter and Cranberry Crumble
barely adapted from Vanilla and Bean

For the Crumble:
3/4 cup Fresh Cranberries
1/3 cup Walnuts, toasted
3 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon, ground
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg, ground

For the Date Butter:
1 cup Medjool Dates, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes and drained
1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil, virgin cold-pressed
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon, ground
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/8 teaspoon Sea Salt
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1/4 cup Water
2 1/2 cups apples, peeled and diced medium

For the Oats:
3/4 C Walnuts, toasted and chopped
2 C Rolled Oats
2 teaspoon Cinnamon, ground
1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg, ground
1/8 teaspoon Cloves, ground
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 1/2 cups Water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Make the Crumble:
In a food processor add the cranberries, 1/3 cup toasted walnuts, maple syrup, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pulse until a rough crumble forms. Scoop out into a bowl and set aside.

Make the Date Butter:
Wipe out the food processor and add the dates, coconut oil, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, and lemon juice. Pulse a few times just to get the mixture going. Scrape down the bowl. With the processor running, add a steady stream of water. Scrape down the bowl and process again until smooth. The mixture should be thick but spreadable. Mix this up with the apples.

Mix the Oats:
In a medium mixing bowl, add the 3/4 cup walnuts, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, anise, salt, and baking powder. Mix well. Mix the vanilla extract and water and pour over the oat mixture. Stir well.

Putting it all Together:
Grease the bottom of a 8x11" or larger casserole dish. Spread the date/apple mixture in the bottom of a casserole dish. Pour the oat/water mixture over the top. Spread evenly. Use your fingers to sprinkle the crumble mixture evenly over the top of the oats.

Bake uncovered for 40-45 minutes.

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