We've all been there. One day your kids are devouring a food like nobody's business and shortly thereafter, they don't care for it anymore. Needless to say, it is usually some sort of 'nutritional powerhouse' that they ate with gusto at one point in their lives and then left by the side of the road. Not only do I tend to memorialize these foods, but tend to take it a step further by using the food as a reference point; a semi-constant reminder that they once actually enjoyed this particular food. As in, "Oh, yeah, that's when you used to like (you can fill in your 'dropped' food of choice here)." Subtle? No. Effective? Ummm, no.
In my house, the food that I have been trying in vain to reintroduce to my kids is oatmeal. Packed with fiber and rich in iron, magnesium, potassium & b-vitamins, oats are a true 'whole grain'. They help keep you full and satisfied and yes, they can lower your LDL or 'bad' cholesterol. But their nutritional profile was not the only thing that I mourned. Everyone ate it! Everyone liked it! Serve oats up sweet, oatmeal-style, with your choice of fresh or dried fruit, nuts, unsweetened coconut flakes, or applesauce or combine with eggs and vegetables to make a savory frittata-style bake. With so many customizable options, oatmeal was the perfect breakfast solution. Until about age 5, that is, when my kids left oatmeal, along with their disheartened, wooden-spoon holding mother, in the dust. With the quickly approaching cool, oatmeal-friendly weather, a new tactic was in order.
Research has shown that renaming vegetables with fun and cool names doubles the likelihood that a child will eat them. Calling vegetables "X-ray Vision Carrots" or "Princess Peas" or "Broccoli Trees"or "Avacado Boats", makes mealtime fun and food more desirable, according to a slew of four year-olds.
My question was, could the same theory apply to middle-schoolers? And with oatmeal?
Enter the "Breakfast Crisp"...Okay, technically it is not a 'crisp' (the top does not contain the butter, oats, sugar and flour found in a traditional crisp) and the top "isn't crispy" (as my middle-schooler quickly pointed out), but no sooner had I retooled the "Oatmeal Bake" into its current title than I had both boys, bowl and spoon in hand, vying for it to come out of the oven. What I love about this recipe is its versatility; this can easily be packed into a thermos for a hot lunch, served as the infamous, "Breakfast For Dinner" or self-served as an after-school snack. Worried about overdoing it? Freeze half of the crisp after baking and defrost a few weeks after the initial honeymoon period has ended.
Here is the recipe that brought oatmeal back into our collective lives:
Apple Breakfast Crisp
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup toasted and chopped walnuts (I toast the walnuts in a pan on the stove @ medium heat for a few minutes and then grind them in a mini food-processor-I have one kid who doesn't like "chunks of nuts" in anything)
1 tsp baking powder (I use aluminum-free)
2 tsp cinnamon
Scant ½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1/4 cup 100% maple syrup (can also use natural cane sugar, brown sugar or coconut sugar)
2 cups milk of choice (I use unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
1 large egg
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter or coconut oil
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
*3-4 peeled and diced apples (I have used peeled and diced peaches when they are in season--phenomenal)
1. Preheat oven to 375. Butter (can also use coconut oil) the inside of an 8-inch square baking dish.
2. In a large bowl, mix together oats, ½ of the walnuts (if using whole walnuts—if grinding, add them all here), baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. In another bowl whisk together maple syrup, milk, egg, butter/coconut oil and vanilla.
3. Scatter diced apples in bottom of baking dish. Cover the fruit with the oat mixture. Slowly drizzle the milk mixture over the oats. Gently give the dish a couple of ‘thwacks’ on the countertop to make sure the milk settles through the oats. Scatter remaining apples (and whole walnuts, if you are using them) on top.
4. Bake uncovered for 35-45 minutes or until top is golden brown and oat mixture has set.
5. Serve with additional 100% maple syrup, brown sugar or honey, if desired.
*The original recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups blueberries & 2 ripe bananas cut into ½-inch pieces. Begin step three by arranging bananas in a single layer in the bottom of the baking dish. Sprinkle two-thirds of the berries over the top and proceed with directions. Scatter remaining blueberries (and whole walnuts) on top.
Original recipe adapted from Supernatural Everyday by Heidi Swanson