The Topic: Baking up a fall-tastic breakfast with VN Assistant Editor Anna Peraino
The Dish: OK, let me break it down for you: I love fall. From crisp air that begs for sweaters, to football tailgates filled with screaming fans, to the beautiful colors of the leaves (so that doesn't really happen here in the Bay Area, but I remember the colors of North Carolina), there's really nothing that can beat this time of year. But perhaps moreso than the three things I just mentioned, I love the culinary changes autumn brings. Think the return of thick, belly-coating soups, hot cocoa, and apples everywhere. Oh, and did I mention pumpkins? Perhaps the best part of the season, this ever-delicious, ever-useful squash brings fall flavor to every meal. And I couldn't be happier.
As such, it's important for those of us who are pinching pennies to enjoy autumnal flavors morning, noon, and night without emptying our pocketbooks. Using four inexpensive ingredients (pumpkin included, of course!), you can start the sweater-weather days of October and November with the warming, tasty goodness of baked oatmeal. To save even more cash, buy your oatmeal in bulk, as you can usually get a pound for about a buck, which is roughly one dozen servings. One bite and you'll be hooked—trust me.
Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal
What You Need:
3 cups old-fashioned oats (you can use the quick-cooking kind, but your oatmeal will be way less tasty)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1-1/2 cups nondairy milk (I like to use vanilla soymilk to get a hint of vanilla and sweetness in there)
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or 1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice)
What You Do:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients.
3. Into an 8 x 8 baking dish, pour mixture and let stand for 30 minutes to overnight.
4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until milk has been absorbed and oatmeal looks gooey.
Chef's Tip: I like to add a little more sweetness to my baked oatmeal by topping it with maple syrup. Mixed nuts and dried fruit are also tasty (but unfortunately, pricey!) topping options.
The Final Word: Autumn only comes once a year (unless you time a trip to the southern hemisphere really well), so taking advantage of everything it has to offer in creative, money-saving ways is pretty much my MO. So if you see me spending a morning wearing a thrifted sweater, eating baked oatmeal, jumping into a pile of leaves (leaves are free!) while watching a college football game (cable, not so much), don't be surprised.