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Pure comfort: Oatmeal made easy

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Pure comfort: Oatmeal made easy
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

My current bedtime reading book is "Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone." In this collection of essays, 26 writers and foodies reveal their eating-at-home-alone meal secrets, with most sharing recipes.

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Each night, as I curl up in bed, my goal is to get through one essay before falling asleep. I often find myself drifting off to dreamland, my book falling after only one or two pages have been read. In my dream, I reveal my favorite meal when I'm dining alone at home. I offer the information to a room full of great chefs and cooks of the world who have already shared their favorite meal for one - things like a spinach-feta omelet with roasted red pepper sauce, or homemade chicken pot pie filling (which one person has frozen in individual packets) wrapped up in a puff pastry pocket. All eyes and ears are focused on me as they wait to hear of my favorite single serving meal. It comes out first in just two syllables - oatmeal. Then I excitedly tell them that I make the amount for two servings, put it into a deep cereal bowl and eat it all by myself. Sprinkled with some brown sugar and doused with half-and-half, each warm spoonful sliding down my throat as I sit cross-legged on the couch with a good cookbook. A meal alone just couldn't get much better. With looks of great disappointment, my culinary friends turn their backs on me and leave the room.

So now you know. I've always loved oatmeal. I remember my mom making it for me on cold winter mornings before I left for school. On the rare occasion when my mom wouldn't be home for supper, my dad would make one of two things - oatmeal or beanie weenie.

When I was pregnant, I craved oatmeal. It was the only thing that could quell my little bouts of nausea.

A bowl of steaming hot oatmeal has never been just a breakfast food for me. It's a bowl of comfort any time of day.

A friend of mine recently told me about some baked oatmeal that was served at a 90th birthday celebration she attended in Kalispell, Mont. She sent me the recipe and I went right to work, preparing a baked oatmeal similar to the recipe she shared, but with my own adaptations. I ate the baked oatmeal for breakfast, all by myself. Topped with fruit and some half and half, it was pure comfort. Only my dog heard my gasps of satisfaction that came with each spoonful.

Leftovers remained in the glass baking dish. I covered it tightly and stored it in the refrigerator. The next day, I removed one big square of the oatmeal and heated it in the microwave for lunch. Still delicious. For another meal, fry a square of chilled Bit of Honey Baked Oatmeal in some butter, just like French toast. Eat it with warm maple syrup.

You can serve this Bit of Honey Baked Oatmeal to family and friends with pride. It's way beyond just a bowl of plain old oatmeal. It would impress the great chefs and cooks of the world - in my dreams.

Bit of Honey Baked Oatmeal

½ cup canola oil

¾ cup honey

2 eggs

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

3 cups oatmeal, uncooked

2½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, blend oil, honey, eggs and milk. Stir in oatmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Pour into a buttered 9 x 9-inch square glass baking dish. Bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Tips from the cook

--You can easily double this recipe when you are serving a crowd. Bake a double batch in a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish.

--You'll get the best results by using quick-cooking oats rather than old-fashioned. Do not use instant oatmeal in this recipe.

--I topped the Bit of Honey Baked Oatmeal with warm Hint of Autumn Peach-Plum Compote. You will find the recipe on my blog entry of Sept. 11, 2007 at www.areavoices.com/sdoeden. Or, melt a couple of tablespoons of butter in a large skillet and add 2 large apples that have been peeled, cored and sliced into thin wedges. Add some raisins, about ¼ cup of brown sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon. Cook and stir the mixture until the apples are tender. Or substitute pears for apples and use ground cardamom instead of cinnamon. Either way, these are both delicious toppings for Bit of Honey Baked Oatmeal.

--Oats are overflowing with health benefits. When combined with healthful eating, the fiber in the bran, called beta-glucans, cleans cholesterol from the body which can help lower "bad" cholesterol (LDL). With a low glycemic index, oats can slow the rise of blood glucose, which is important for diabetes control. And oatmeal keeps you feeling full and satisfied longer.

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Pioneer staff reports
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