Earlier this year P and I took a trip to the Oregon desert. Neither of us had ever been out to central Oregon and as we drove east, we were blown away to see a landscape unfolding before us that was a total contrast to the evergreen forests of the northwestern part of the state. Central Oregon was beautiful – if you can make it to the Painted Hills, it’s like stepping into another bizarre, breathtaking dimension – but for a homebody like me, the best part of traveling is heading back home. Do you ever get that feeling when you’re nearing home after a trip, a mix of comfort and something like nostalgia? That feeling began to sink in when the pale flats of the desert began to turn back to hills of lush greens around Hood River, a small town known for its many breweries, not far from Mt. Hood. The many rolling orchards in the region were barren in early spring but promised to be beautiful when flush with fruit, so we vowed to go back in the fall.
Last weekend we made good on that promise and drove out to Mt. Hood at the peak of apple picking season. We came home with boxes full of heirloom apples and Asian pears I’d never seen before, including the Mt. Rose apples I used in this baked oatmeal. They are, without question, my favorite of all those we brought home; they have a light green peel with a stunning bright pink flesh I didn’t know existed in nature. Could an apple be any more gorgeous? Most importantly (since not even apples can get by on looks alone!), they are super crisp and have a lovely sweet-tart flavor that was nice and fruity even when baked. Baked oatmeal is a perfect make-ahead breakfast if you’re like me and have trouble making time for breakfast on busy weekday mornings. I made it Sunday and it’s come in handy this particularly hectic week (a roof replacement + getting Bisou out of the house before the roofers start work + also getting P to work on time + sharing one car = eeeeuuuuggghh!), but it would also make a cozy and not-too-messy breakfast in bed on a weekend.
This baked oatmeal is decidedly non-fussy; everything is mixed together in one big bowl before going into the oven, so you get a satisfying breakfast without creating a whole day’s worth of clean up in the kitchen. It’s sweetened with a combination of brown sugar and honey, so it’s just sweet enough without being sugary. An egg gently binds it all together, while a splash of a milk of your choice makes it moist and chewy. It’s tasty right out of the oven but I’ve also been eating it cold throughout the week and can say that either way, it’s hearty, flavorful and satisfies the butter and sugar cravings I get when the weather turns cold without being too unhealthy. It’s hard to go wrong with apples, cinnamon and roasted pecan bits, but you could switch up those flavors with whatever fruit and nuts you have on hand and I’m betting it will turn out just as tasty. Read on for the recipe!