Oatmeal is one of those dishes you can make with your eyes closed. I know because I do just that on a regular basis.
When my boys have a test or a long day ahead of them at school, I fortify them with big bowls of oatmeal dotted with butter and a bit of brown sugar. That takes a bit more fortitude on my own part this year, since one of the boys starts his school day at 7 a.m. So, I stagger bleary-eyed into the kitchen and make that pot of oatmeal.
But, just because I make the effort, that does not make oatmeal eaters out of my teens. There's a decided slumping of shoulders when they see those bowls waiting for them on the kitchen table. And while they're sweet enough to appreciate the effort, I think
Oatmeal can be that way, after all. Some of us love it and find nothing more comforting. Others see it as library paste -- if such a product still existed. And just because it's a simple dish doesn't mean it can't easily go wrong. Add too much water or milk and you've got gruel; add too little and you've got a porridge that borders on concrete.
Several Plates readers say their baked oatmeal recipes get it just right. Jill Esqueda and Madeleine Heal sent a version Esqueda says appeared in a 2007 Gourmet magazine article. "It's adapted from a cafe in Delaware, and it's delicious!" Esqueda says.
The dish is a bit more complex than your usual stovetop oatmeal. The baked
I usually avoid running similar recipes for the same dish with this column. But I thought Karen Straka's baked oatmeal would give you a good idea of how to lighten the Gourmet version. Her recipe relies on egg whites, nonfat milk and far less vegetable oil. There's quite a bit of brown sugar, but you could easily trim the sugar. "I had this in the Midwest at Perko's. They couldn't give me the recipe, so I searched and found this one," says Straka of Martinez.
Finally, if you want a different take on oatmeal, Becky Wittmer suggests a simple slow cooker recipe for steel cut oats. When I've tried slow cooker oatmeal in the past, I found the results discouraging, but Wittmer considers this recipe "fail-proof" and "out of this world."
She simply tosses everything in the slow cooker at night, puts the cooker on the lowest setting and wakes up to perfect oatmeal. From what I've read here and there, you might consider giving your slow cooker oats a trial run during the day first, as slow cooker temperatures vary. If the oats go too long, the result can be bricklike. You can also adjust the water to suit your tastes for a thinner or thicker oatmeal.
While one reader thought the dough was a bit too wet when she made the recent quick cinnamon rolls recipe, Susan Knapp thinks the recipe is a keeper.
"Tried the quick cinnamon rolls on Sunday for breakfast," she says. "We really enjoyed them. They were wonderful warm right out of the oven, and I will certainly make them again. Of course, they are not as good as Cinnabon, but they are in the same class. One of the things I liked was the recipe is big enough for more than one meal, but not so big I will have cinnamon rolls around all week. The other thing I liked was I could start them and eat them within an hour."