In this early-September transition from summer into fall, gardens are still producing bounties of summer produce, while coffee shops are already ushering us into pumpkin spice season. Below are some breakfast baked oatmeal variations than can help bridge the seasons while using whatever produce you might have available.
When I was in college and living off-campus with my second-cousins, I came to love the baked oatmeal that Barb sometimes served for breakfast. When I moved on a few years later, this was one recipe I was sure to copy down before leaving their house. I had always loved baked oatmeal since first exposed to it at summer camp, but I had never found a recipe that was truly satisfying. This was it.
Plus, it was fairly simple.
- Only two mixing bowls are required. No mixer, no blender, no fancy gadgets to wash afterward.
- You can premix the dry ingredients the night before and just add wet ingredients while the oven is preheating in the morning.
- Several batches of dry ingredients can be mixed at once and stored separately in Ziploc bags for future use.
- You don’t even have to grease the pan!
Even better, this baked oatmeal is easily adaptable to whatever dietary restrictions your family members or breakfast guests may have:
- Gluten-free? Substitute certified gluten-free oats.
- Dairy-free? Substitute coconut milk, almond milk, or another dairy-free milk of your choice.
- Vegan? Substitute 2 Tbsp. of ground flax meal and 6 Tbsp. water for the two eggs (I think this makes it even moister). And, of course, a dairy-free milk of your choice.
- Texture-challenged? Substitute quick oats for old-fashioned oats.
Now that I am married and we have had children in our house, I have made it much more frequently than in my single years after college. Since then, I’ve adapted the original recipe (from The Best of Mennonite Fellowship Meals by Phyllis Pellman Good and Louise Stoltzfus) to suit my needs. I cut the sugar in half (nobody misses the extra sugar!) and mix all the wet and dry ingredients separately, instead of adding the milk at the end. (Why follow extra steps if it doesn’t make much difference in the outcome?)
This is how I make it:
Basic Baked Oatmeal
- 3 cups oatmeal (I used Old-Fashioned)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup cooking oil (I use olive oil)
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- Optional sliced fruit, nuts, or raisins
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Stir dry ingredients together in large bowl; make well in center.
- Beat eggs in small bowl, then whisk in oil, milk, and vanilla.
- (Optional) Stir in fruit or other additions.
- Pour into ungreased 9"x13" baking dish.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, until center is set and top is golden
- Serve hot or cold, plain or with milk.
The plain recipe is good as it is. No, it is delicious. But since the original recipe lists fruit as optional, and I love variety, I have tried various standard additions, like apples or blueberries. Nectarines were also good. Remembering my favorite seasonal flavors of baked oatmeal from the family restaurant where I worked during college, I also tried strawberry in spring and pumpkin in autumn. We enjoy almost any variation, but plain is always an easy standby.
Great for Picky Eaters
Then some foster children who didn’t like vegetables joined our family for a time. I became bent on finding ways to acclimate them to vegetables with positive experiences. Or hide some veggies in food they liked to at least give them the nutritive benefit, if not the appreciation.
During my search, friends directed me to many wonderful resources. One was the book Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food by Jessica Seinfeld.
In Deceptively Delicious, I learned how to make veggie purees, then portion, label, and freeze them for easy use in recipes later. I tried broccoli and sweet potato, but my favorite was butternut squash for these reasons:
- I already liked butternut squash.
- I already had 21 squash that grew out of my compost pile and needed to be used over the winter.
- The color and flavor were relatively easy to hide in a variety of dishes.
Children tend to be less picky about sweet foods, so why not sneak some extra nutrition into the baked oatmeal that everybody loved?
Here are 5 delicious variations of baked oatmeal I have tried, featuring VEGETABLES instead of fruit as the optional addition.
Variation 1: Butternut Squash
Butternut squash in baked oatmeal was an easy sell. For one, my mother always used butternut squash instead of pumpkin for the buckets-full of pumpkin pies she made every Thanksgiving. It gave pies a richer color and flavor than did the more watery pumpkin. I loved the pumpkin baked oatmeal from my days at the restaurant. And, of course, I had already prepared plenty of puree on hand after reading Deceptively Delicious.
So voila! Whisk in a package of thawed butternut puree from the freezer with the wet ingredients, and substitute pumpkin pie spice (or add ginger and nutmeg to the cinnamon) and serve up Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal to the kids for breakfast. Delicious.
Nutritional Benefits: Butternut squash is extremely high in Vitamin A, is high in Vitamin C, and also provides a fair amount of Potassium, Magnesium, fiber, and Vitamin B6.
Notes: I added only a half-cup portion of butternut puree, because that is the amount typically used in Seinfeld’s recipes. However, butternut is mild AND delicious enough that you could easily add a whole cup instead. Also, substituting a ½ teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice for the ½ teaspoon of cinnamon did not give quite enough flavor for my taste buds, though my husband and kindergartner loved it. Play around with spice combinations and amounts to find what your family loves.
Variation 2: Sweet Potato
Another similar option is Sweet Potato Baked Oatmeal. In my opinion, Sweet Potato Pie tastes almost like Pumpkin Pie, so why not try this variation? (Maybe because I dug in the freezer for what I thought was my last package of butternut squash and pulled out, instead, a package of sweet potato puree.) Our family already loves sweet potatoes, but if your family does not, this may be a good place to hide them while providing the nutritional benefits. You could call it Fall Spice Baked Oatmeal if your children are ultra-picky about trying new things or scared of certain ingredients.
Nutritional Benefits: Sweet potatoes, like butternut squash, are extremely high in Vitamin A. They also provide a fair amount of fiber, Vitamin B6, and Potassium, as well as containing Magnesium, Calcium, Iron, and Vitamin C.
Notes: As with butternut squash, just substitute pumpkin pie spice or add the spices you want to the cinnamon. I tried ½ teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg, just like a sweet potato pie recipe. I liked the flavor because I love nutmeg, but the rest of my family preferred the milder pumpkin pie spice. I could not taste the sweet potato at all—just the cinnamon and nutmeg. So it is worth playing around with more sweet potato or less spice to achieve the combination that suits you.
Variation 3: Yellow Summer Squash
Recently my friend shared a recommendation on Facebook about uses for summer squash. (She had invented a faux apple pie to trick her dad into eating zucchini, and then expanded that repertoire to include yellow squash in apple crisp).
Our foster daughter eats many vegetables but refuses to eat any kind of zucchini or summer squash. Ashley’s suggestions piqued my interest. Cook yellow squash or zucchini with apples and you won’t know the difference? Really?
Inspired by her idea, I had to try it. Baked oatmeal provided the perfect opportunity for me to experiment…especially since I started cooking breakfast before our little girl was awake.
It turned out beautifully! I sautéed 3/4 of a finely diced yellow squash (UNpeeled) along with a finely diced, PEELED yellow apple with butter, cinnamon, and a bit of brown sugar for flavor, then stirred the mixture it into my baked oatmeal recipe.
Our 5-year-old LOVED it and “already knew” that I had made it from our Ginger Gold apples because she saw the yellow (squash pieces). Mission accomplished! My mama heart secretly rejoiced as I winked at my husband and enjoyed watching her relish the squash in her breakfast.
Nutritional Benefits: Yellow squash (or summer squash) is high in Vitamin C. It is also has a fair amount of Vitamin B6 and Potassium, and contains Magnesium, Vitamin A, Iron, and Calcium.
Notes: When experimenting, I rarely measure. Just pinch, dump, and pour. So I don’t have exact amounts to share about the butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar added to the squash and apple sauté. (The cinnamon used to sauté the ingredients WAS in ADDITION to the ½ teaspoon already called for in the recipe.) You could simplify by adding the fruit and veggie raw, but I wasn’t sure how the texture would be received by a sometimes-picky eater, so I did the extra work to be on the safe side.
Variation 4: Zucchini
As I mentioned earlier, our 5-year-old dislikes any form of zucchini or summer squash…except in zucchini bread. Hmmm. Zucchini in baked oatmeal wouldn’t be too different from zucchini bread. It’s worth a try.
So I grated half a zucchini and mixed it in…and she ate it wholeheartedly! Only the next day when I served leftovers did she ask what the green was. I don’t remember if I told her or deflected the question, but she ate it cheerfully.
Nutritional Benefits: Just like yellow squash, zucchini is high in Vitamin C. It is also has a fair amount of Vitamin B6 and Potassium, and contains Magnesium, Vitamin A, Iron, and Calcium.
Notes: Some picky eaters may be suspicious of unrecognizable specks of green in their food. You could eliminate that possibility by peeling the zucchini, though that would remove some of the nutrition, as well. However, if they can handle zucchini bread, this is a good option. (And it’s another way to use up that over-abundance of garden-fresh zucchini.)
Variation 5: Carrot
If Zucchini Baked Oatmeal is a healthy spin off the dessert-worthy zucchini bread, why not try other dessert spin-offs? I love carrot cake and carrot spice muffins, so Carrot (Cake) Baked Oatmeal makes sense as well. Plus, carrots may not be as objectionable to children as zucchini.
Nutritional Benefits: Carrots are extremely high in Vitamin A. They also contain some Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, and Potassium, as well as minute amounts of Calcium and Iron.
Notes: Shredded carrots are an obvious, colorful addition to the dish. If that is a problem for picky eaters, carrots can be cooked and pureed ahead of time, then added as an invisible ingredient. Either way, carrots are mild enough to not add much noticeable flavor. Thus they lend themselves to many combinations. Carrots and apples? Pineapple? Coconut? Walnuts? These options could keep me experimenting all fall.
After writing this post, new ideas are already forming in my mind. (Hmm. Could you hide tomato in baked oatmeal, akin to the recipe from the children’s picture book Thunder Cake? Cauliflower everything is popular right now…. Hmmm. Maybe not.)
I love the versatility of this Basic Baked Oatmeal recipe, and hope you do, too. I would love to hear what healthy additions to baked oatmeal your family loves!Jump to Recipe