It’s hard to imagine that today marks the second day of August. Of all the seasons, summer seems to come and go the quickest - and with the beautiful weather of Montana that statement is all the more true. With a full course schedule and a possible return to Pennsylvania looming (and the internship I start next week!.. more about that later), I’ve started to feverishly scribble to-do lists and mini-vacation plans into the brown paper journal that never leaves my side. I’m aching for a summer fair and after watching this video, I’m sure you will be too. Nothing signifies the end of summer quite like sticky cotton candy fingers and the bright lights of spinning and twirling carnival rides. (Plus, a little bird told me that the fair is coming to Missoula next week and I’ve already sent approximately 54 text messages to Trevor begging that we go.) But, I digress.
The point is - there are certain things that will always mean summer to me. And while country fairs and swimming holes are two of those, sweet cherries are another. Summer time is perhaps the only time when these delicious babies make their way into my budget and onto my grocery list. After spending a few hours coupon clipping, loading savings to my shoppers card, and scratching our weekly list into my notebook, Trevor and I headed to Safeway for our weekly argument over what to buy. While he was busy sneaking a party size bag of Peanut M&M’s (42oz. I kid you not.) into our cart, I was wavering on what greens to buy (I’m a spinach girl. He likes spring greens) and that’s when I saw them.
Sweet cherries - $1.99 per pound.
I dug through the bags to find the one with the crispest, brightest cherries and turned to Trevor with puppy eyes. After all, this girl has no job and that means begging for cherries. Thankfully, I’m spoiled and Trevor said of course as he tossed them in the cart. (Though I didn’t get the Dairy Queen I wanted.. )
We had barely gotten the groceries unloaded before I had filled a stainless steel mixing bowl with a pile of cherries. As, Trevor worked on his homemade balsamic dressing.. I ate. and ate. and ate. cherries until my lips and fingers were stained pink. Thankfully, someone in this house had enough sense to push a turkey and cheddar salad beneath my hands before I filled my stomach with fruit. (As for the greens? We got both - we’ve been eating a lot of salad around here.)
While I love cherries for their taste and texture and how perfectly cool and refreshing they can be, I think my real love is because they remind me of my grandmother. I don’t know that we ever had cherries in my house growing up. But every time I’d visit my grandma (which was often), there were cherries to be eaten. I feel the same way about fresh peeled potatoes (and eating them raw) and stale marshmallow peeps - I think that I could eat them until I’m 92 and still think of my grandmother.
Though it had been 92 degrees in the shade on our way to the grocery store, I had made a note-to-self to grab ingredients for baked oatmeal. Oatmeal seems to be my food of choice lately and I’d never had the baked variety - though the diner I worked in as a teenager always sold it. I’d also seen this new fad of overnight oats sweeping through the food blogosphere and thought that I could kill two birds with one stone.
Then, I woke up today with the best of ideas: Baked Sweet Cherry Oatmeal.
And now? After eating it? I still think it was the best of ideas.
If it’s too warm for you to be eating hot oatmeal for breakfast, I have to say that it’s a delicious snack served cold. And, topped with french vanilla ice cream? Then you’ve got dessert. Personally, I’ve eaten it all three ways today and it’s only mid-afternoon.
If you want to make some for yourself (and I know that you do), here’s what you’ll need:
3 cups of old-fashioned rolled oats (if you’re gluten-free, make sure you buy oats that are certified GF)
1 1/4 cups of brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs (or for allergies, 1/2 cup of applesauce)
1 cup almond milk (though you could make this recipe with cow’s milk or soy milk)
6 tbsp butter, melted
1 1/3 cup sweet cherries (or another type of fruit, if you prefer)
1/2 cup whipping cream (can also be replaced with the milk of your choice)
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a container of your choice - I used a glass pie dish but an 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish will work, as well.
Remove the pits from your cherries and roughly chop them - saving a few halves for the top.
Melt your butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
In a large mixing bowl, while the butter melts, lightly wisk two eggs.
Add melted butter, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, brown sugar and vanilla to the bowl.
(At this point, I recommend tasting the mixture to see if you need more cinnamon or sugar for your tastes - I originally began with 1 cup of brown sugar and added the extra 1/4 cup because I like my oatmeal sweet.)
Add oats, almond milk and cream - mix thoroughly.
Then, fold in your chopped cherries.
Pour the mixture into your dish and neatly place the remaining cherry halves on the top.
After completing these steps, your oatmeal should look like this:
While this may look unappetizing, I wanted to include a “before” photo to comfort you after you mix all the above ingredients together and panic, for a moment, thinking that it is much too wet. It’s not. The oats soak up the moisture as it bakes (I was nervous too, especially since this is my first shot at baking from scratch at a high altitude.)
For low altitudes, I recommend baking for forty-minutes at 350 and checking to see how the oatmeal looks. I found that I baked my oatmeal for nearly an hour and fifteen minutes to get it to the texture that I wanted. Not to worry though, if you leave it in longer - it won’t burn. Simply check it at 45 minutes and then in 10 minute intervals until your oatmeal looks like the one pictured above the recipe. It should be thick and spongey with a glossy texture on the top.
When you take this out of the oven, it can be served right away! Like I said, it’s also great cold.. In fact, I’ve got the entire pie dish sitting next to me as I munch and type, at the same time. The best part of baked oatmeal is that it can be easily cut apart and reheated for breakfast throughout the week - I like mine with a splash of almond milk and a sprinkle of brown sugar. 30 minutes of prep time on a Sunday will yield you a healthy, yummy, sweet breakfast for busy mornings before work, school, the gym - whatever you might be doing. Plus, it also makes a great late night snack to satisfy your sweet tooth!
I’m planning to make this a weekly habit. Next time with fresh peaches and cream, perhaps!
What are your favorite mix-ins for oatmeal? Have you ever tried overnight oats?