I'm not good with change.
I still remember my devastation when ABC moved "Full House" to Tuesday nights when I was nine. It went against everything I believed in - "Full House" belonged on Friday nights, as part of the TGIF line-up that I looked forward to all week because, at that age, watching two hours of uninterrupted television is the Holy Grail of family-bonding activities.
I didn't fare any better in high school when Keri Russell chopped her long curly hair off during the second season of "Felicity." And I could write an entire thesis about the turmoil that erupts in my life whenever Trader Joe's discontinues one of my favorite products. I don't think I'll ever recover from the loss of their dark and milk chocolate-covered cashews. Nor the dark chocolate-covered Joe Joe's that they now only carry during the holidays with peppermint pieces affixed to the top to make it "seasonal." And it's not the same, guys. Not the same, at all.
So when I first paged through Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day, now, more than two years ago, I didn't immediately consider her recipe for baked oatmeal. I was plenty happy with the stove-top oats I prepared from scratch every morning and didn't need a new method disrupting what was already good and well and right. Except, of course, I did. I just wasn't aware of it until a chilly Sunday morning in December when I popped open the cookbook on the kitchen counter and thought with finality, "Baked oatmeal."
Admittedly, it was partially a means of heating my apartment without having to actually turn on the heater, but it also suddenly felt like the thing I needed to do in that moment, standing in the kitchen with a wool beanie on my head and a scarf wrapped round my neck. A proper salute to the winter season that had crept up on me when I wasn't looking.
Yet even when I was making it, measuring out my oats and a seemingly careless amount of cinnamon, I wasn't prepared for how dramatically it would alter my perception of what is, for many, a form of edible punishment.
The texture is entirely different from anything I've ever encountered with stove-top oats before - less like a sticky porridge and more like a cobblery muffin bread pudding hybrid that just happens to be passable as breakfast. Perhaps even a healthy breakfast - one you can eat, and more importantly, want to eat, all week-long.
In the month or so that has passed since that initial, life-altering encounter, I've tried several iterations of the recipe. One with simply bananas and raisins, another punctuated with sautéed cinnamon apples, a hyper-seasonal variety with ripe persimmons and currants, and the one you see here, a coconut-topped banana and date version that nudges closer toward the dessert category than is perhaps permissible for oatmeal.
Which is, you know, precisely the point.
It's a breakfast game-changer. For the next thirty years.
Banana, Date & Coconut Baked OatmealAdapted from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day
Notes: It could get a bit exhaustive to talk through all the changes I made to the original, but I will endeavor to do so as concisely as possible. I swapped in coconut oil to grease the baking dish in place of butter (and nixed the additional butter that is suggested for baking), used almond milk instead of regular milk, added nutmeg and shredded coconut, and used a date syrup in place of the requested maple syrup to sweeten. In other variations, I've used the maple syrup to superb effect, but for the purposes of this version, I wanted that caramel undertone that pairs so well with bananas.
1 teaspoon coconut oil (can be replaced with butter)
2 ripe bananas, sliced
6 Medjool dates (if sweetening with maple syrup, use 1/4 - 1/3 cup)
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or regular milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Grease an 8 x 8'' baking dish with the coconut oil, then spread the slices of banana in an even layer on the bottom of the dish.
Remove the pits from the dates and place in a small saucepan with 1/3 cup of water. Bring to a low boil then simmer until the dates begin to soften. Use a fork to mash the softening dates, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the dates form a sort of syrupy paste. Add additional water if needed. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine oats with cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking powder, and toasted walnuts.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, almond milk, vanilla, and date syrup.
Sprinkle oat mixture over the banana slices. Carefully pour the almond milk mixture over the oats. Give the dish a good shake or two or four to ensure the liquid is evenly distributed. Sprinkle the top with the shredded coconut, then bake for 40-45 minutes or until the top is nicely browned and the center is firm to the touch.
Baked oatmeal can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days, or frozen in individual portions for future breakfasts.