Apple Cider Baked Oatmeal

07Oct09

It’s fall! This is far and away my favorite time of year. The sticky, oppressive heat of summer has subsided, and cooking my favorite comfort foods like risotto and oatmeal doesn’t cause the entire house to feel like the surface of the sun. The apple harvest has begun, the air is crisp, and despite the onset of winter that I know will come all too soon, fall has always made me feel like there were unlimited possibilities.

This recipe combines two of my favorite things: steel-cut oats and apples. I must admit that it was inspired by Maggie’s recipe for Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal. Maggie is always whipping up some really incredible food for her blog, and she’s graciously offered to do a guest post here later this month!

Steel-cut oats differ from rolled oats in that steel-cut oats are whole grain groats cut roughly into small pieces. The have an almost nutty texture, and are really good for you! They can help to lower your cholesterol, and are also a good source of B vitamins, fiber, and calcium. You can find steel-cut oats in the natural foods/organic section of most grocery stores, or online. They take a little longer to cook than rolled oats, but I find the texture is superior, as is the taste. My version involves finishing the oatmeal in the oven, which will fill your entire house with the enticing smells of autumn.

Apple Cider Baked Oatmeal
You will need…

4 cups local apple cider (you can use half water and half cider for a lighter taste)
1 cup steel-cut oats (I prefer McCann’sor Bob’s Red Mill)
1 large or two small apples, diced (see note)
1 cup finely chopped almonds or pecans, divided into 1/2 cup portions
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
plenty of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ground star anise
brown sugar to taste

Dice the apples, and toss with the lemon juice to prevent browning. Set aside. Meanwhile, bring the cider up to a boil in a large pot, then add the oats. Stir constantly until it begins to thicken, then lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Stir occasionally during the simmering phase, cooking for 15-20 minutes. Remove oatmeal from heat. It should still be a bit runny, and not quite at a porridge-like consistency.

Combine the cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and ground star anise, determining the amount to use by your own personal taste. I like to use 6 tbsp. cinnamon, 4 tbsp. nutmeg, 2 tbsp. allspice, and 2 tbsp. ground star anise. Add this blend to the oatmeal, reserving some to sprinkle on top. Fold in the diced apples and 1/2 cup of the nuts. Sprinkle with brown sugar.

Pour into a buttered baking dish, and top with remaining nuts and spices. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Top with homemade jam, additional apples, almond milk, or dried cranberries.

*** A Note on Apples: Fall is the best time to eat the greatest variety of apples. If you are making this oatmeal in the fall, I beg you, DO NOT GO TO THE GROCERY STORE. Go apple picking in a real orchard. The variety and freshness of apples from an orchard puts the taste of grocery store apples to shame. Try a Pippin, a Macoun, a Northern Spy, a Gravenstein. Take the time to find an orchard near you. Chances are, there’s one closer than you might think. Search for an orchard near you by visiting PickYourOwn.org or The Orchard Trail.

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