I learned early on in life the value of a hearty, wholesome breakfast. While my mother was more the kind of woman to skip breakfast or pour a bowl of cold cereal, my grandmother insisted on a hot breakfast each morning.
This is one of the many reasons I loved life at Grandma's house. A soft-boiled egg on buttered whole wheat toast or a steaming bowl of hot cereal such as Cream of Wheat or old-fashioned oats were her standbys. I used to love the way the raisins would plump up after simmering in the pot with the oats and the way the brown sugar would melt when it was sprinkled on top. There was no chance I was walking out the door and down the back alley to head for school until my belly was full of something homemade if I was on Grandma's watch.
I have come to love baked oatmeal because you can make a large batch for the whole family or for guests. I love to customize it using different kinds of fruit and nuts. I have a blueberry banana version with walnuts and a pumpkin version with maple syrup and pecans. This version has tart Granny Smith apples tossed in brown sugar and cinnamon and baked right into the oats. I topped it with milk, dried cranberries, sliced almonds and a drizzle of honey.
Apple cinnamon baked oatmeal
1 1/2 cups Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
4 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8-by-8-inch baking dish.
2. To a bowl, add the apples, 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Stir to coat the apples. Spread the apples into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
3. In the same bowl you used for the apples, combine the oats, remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Stir together and sprinkle the mixture over the fruit.
4. In the same bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, remaining 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, butter and vanilla. Pour the mixture over the oats, coating evenly. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden, bubbly and set in the center.
Spoon hot oatmeal into bowls and pour milk on top before serving.
Maya Wilson lives in Kenai and blogs about food at alaskafromscratch.com. Have a food question or recipe request? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your inquiry may appear in a future column.