Tuesday, February 05, 2013


When I was first getting to know A, one anecdote he told made a particularly vivid impression on me: When he was a little boy and going through an especially picky phase, he got to have pumpkin pie for breakfast. His pediatrician told his mother to give him whatever he would actually eat, and that at least pumpkin is high in vitamin A, protein, fiber, and other nutrients. To this day, when we visit his mom for Thanksgiving, there is often an extra pumpkin pie just for him to eat in the mornings.

In contrast, I’m an orthodox breakfast eater from a family of orthodox breakfast eaters. I’ve never had any kind of pie for breakfast, and as I’ve mentioned before, I eschewed pumpkin completely for the first 34 years of my life. Pumpkin pie still isn’t my favorite, but pumpkin ice cream, cookies, pancakes, pudding, and even gnocchi have won me over, so when I saw this recipe for pumpkin baked oatmeal at Budget Bytes, I was intrigued. Ever since I discovered baked oatmeal three years ago, it’s been my go-to warm breakfast food, but I’ve always stuck with the same recipe, with the only variation being that I occasionally use dried cranberries instead of raisins. Clearly, it was time to branch out.

This recipe is pretty similar to my usual except for the pumpkin, the spices, and the addition of baking powder, which makes the oatmeal just a bit fluffier. It called for 1½ cups milk, but then mentioned that you could use up to 2 cups, subbing in plain yogurt for some of that. I liked the idea of adding a bit more protein from Greek yogurt, so I used ½ cup of that plus 1½ cups milk. I think this may have been a bit too much liquid for me, in addition to all the pumpkin; the end result had a creamier consistency than I’m used to, although it’s also possible I didn’t cook it long enough (I did cook it for longer than the recipe says, because after the given baking time it was still runny and jiggly in the middle, but I probably still erred on the side of underdone). This wasn’t a huge problem, especially since baked oatmeal becomes just a bit drier with each day it spends in the fridge, but I’m wondering if next time I should reduce the liquid slightly. I’m also wondering if covering the baking dish is really necessary; this isn’t called for with my other recipe, and I think it increased the needed baking time for me. As long as the top doesn’t get overly browned, I might skip it. To provide some textural variation, I sprinkled chopped pecans atop the oatmeal right before I ate it each morning, and it was such a tasty addition that I’ll just throw them right in before baking next time.

Small consistency issues aside, this oatmeal is incredibly delicious. It really does taste reminiscent of pumpkin pie, but better, in my opinion, because it’s not so sweet and smooshy; the nutty, chewy oats help balance it out. It’s a cheerful shade of orange, and I love knowing it’s packed with even more good-for-you punch than my usual version. If you’re a devoted cereal eater like me, it’s not often you can claim to have had nearly a full serving of vegetables by 9:00 a.m. Whether the idea of pumpkin pie for breakfast sounds like a great idea to you or a crazy one, this happy medium is a tasty, wholesome breakfast treat. It’s going into my regular rotation; in fact, I might make another batch today!

Update, September 2013: Still a favorite, but I've made a few changes. I now include ½ cup of pecans before baking, and I bake it uncovered the whole time with no ill effects—but if you find the top browns before the interior is solidified, by all means cover it. I also leave out the yogurt and just use 2 cups milk; as much as I like the idea of extra protein, I think it was adding a tart undertone I didn’t care for. In addition, instead of premixing my pumpkin pie spice, I'll often get lazy and just dump spices directly into the pumpkin mixure--a heaping 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon each cardamom and ginger, and 1/8 teaspoon each cloves and nutmeg. Can't really tell the difference!

15 ounces pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)
½ cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice*
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½–2 cups milk
½–1 cup plain yogurt (optional; use as replacement for part of the milk, with no more than 2 cups liquid total; e.g., 1 cup milk + 1 cup yogurt, or 1½ cups milk + ½ cup yogurt)
2½ cups rolled oats (old-fashioned, not quick)
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
Nonstick cooking spray or canola oil

*I made my own pumpkin pie spice by combining ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, and ⅛ teaspoon each of ground cloves, cardamom, and nutmeg in a small bowl. It yields a bit more than 1 teaspoon, but you can use the excess for something else.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and baking powder until smooth. Whisk in the milk (and yogurt if using).

2. Mix the dry oats into the pumpkin mixture, and add the pecans, if using. Coat an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with nonstick spray or a small amount of oil. Pour in the pumpkin oat mixture, cover with foil, and bake for 45 minutes or until center is set, removing the foil after the first 30 minutes.

3. Divide into portions and serve topped with milk or yogurt, nuts, maple syrup, or whatever else you like (on a special occasion, I'm sure whipped cream would be fantastic).

Serves: 6–8 (original recipe says 8, but I like a hearty breakfast and split it into 6 instead)
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Great; will last in a sealed container in the refrigerator for at least a week. I bake it, let it cool, divide it into portions, put them in separate covered bowls in the fridge, and heat one up in the microwave each morning, pouring milk over the top before eating; you could also just cover the original baking dish and scoop out a serving each morning. 

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