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I think I’ve done this once before, when I posted a recipe that has more substitutions than original ingredients. Here’s one that is a fantastic winter recipe–hearty, crunchy, yummy, and highly adaptable.

Baked Oatmeal

I’m a fairly recent convert to oatmeal. It wasn’t something we ate in my family, and any attraction I might have had for hot cereal abruptly ended when I was in the hospital at the age of four and a nurse force-fed me Cream of Wheat. But I’ve had a few good bowls of oatmeal in my adulthood, generally at restaurants where they added in a whole lot of stuff that added up to hot-cereal-creme-brulée-with-crunch. And last fall when I was at a fan con and wandered over to a nearby restaurant with my roomie, I had baked oatmeal for the first time. It comes in a square, and they bring it with cream (or milk) and brown sugar. Had it, enjoyed it, wanted to make it.

Anyone who’s looked up a recipe online knows what a confusing time-suck that can be. A kajillion versions, some of which could be exactly what you want, some of which are a world of no. Sometime it’s obvious which is which, and sometimes it’s not. To add to the time-suck factor, it’s one of the rare internet places where you want to read the comments. Because that’s where you see what creative cooks are doing, and/or those who are trying to avoid tons of sugar, fat or salt. Where I get into my happy zone is where I start combining reader variations and/or my own into the ultimate (to my taste) version of a dish.

So the recipe I found was on the Taste of Home site, here:
http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Baked-Oatmeal?cpi=1&sort=2

I’ve been tinkering with this almost perpetually, and have a vegan version thought out as well as some non-vegan options. Here goes with my version and various notes:

Baked Oatmeal (veganized and otherwise improved)

Ingredients
2 cups steel cut oats
1 cup quick-cooking oats [recently I used mixed grain hot cereal oat-like things, and it was pretty crunchy. Anyone who hates food with textures should probably stick to the original recipe.]
<1/4 cup packed splenda blend brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder [seems fine without it, so I stopped using it]
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon [var: Penzey's baking spices]
1/2 c or more trail mix or nuts/fruit combo

1 mashed banana [original: 2 eggs]
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup [butter or] Earth Balance, melted [or oil]
1 teaspoon vanilla

Additional almond milk

Directions
In a large bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and trail mix. In another bowl, whisk the banana, milk and butter. Stir into oat mixture until blended.
Spoon into a greased 9-in. square baking pan. Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until set. Serve warm with milk. Yield: 9 servings. [Well, I get 8. Also, I make it in a 7 x 11-in pan.]

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