Years ago, when Carter was a Camp Counsellor, he offered me a challenge.  He couldn’t help but notice that many of his young  campers were less than enthusiastic about oatmeal for breakfast.  Underfed campers are cranky campers.  All that good advertising by the Quaker people has not completely convinced those of us who think that slimy warm food, no matter how sweet, is unappealing first thing in the morning.  Dessert, however, we will eat any time.

I started my research with a promising breakfast cookie – all perfectly acceptable ingredients: oats of course, with sweetness coming from banana and applesauce.  I thought it was a sure-fire winner.  Lucky for me, I only made a half-batch, because the results were truly horrible. Imagine playdough-textured raw-oatmeal-flavored discs of disgusting. Boy, did I miss the boat. Even Carter, the most tolerant of taste testers, couldn’t think of anything kind to say.  No amount of cocoa was going to rescue these from the garbage can.

Then I remembered one of my colleagues from the Blue Flame Kitchen days talking about “baked oatmeal”.  I started to search through the internet files for something that might be considered breakfast, while wearing the disguise of pudding.  Before long I hit the motherlode. All kinds of flavors!  As a single serving, this is not a “fast breakfast” – more of a guilt-free weekend pleasure.  It’s perfect for a rainy summer day, or a frosty Saturday when autumn rolls around.

Here is a basic recipe, with options to let you use the flavors you love. It’s reminiscent of bread pudding, but with much more texture.  I give you both a single serving recipe, and one for multi-servings, as leftovers will freeze, and re-heat in the microwave just fine (now there’s your “fast breakfast”).  Keep it in mind if you happen to find yourself needing to feed a multitude of hungry winter campers, or all your ski buddies, or a cabin full of visiting relatives – you never know…

Baked Oatmeal


Single Serving:

  • 1 egg yolk, or 2 Tbsp liquid egg product*
  • 1/2 cup milk (or cream, for pure decadence)
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar (or less)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla (optional, adds sweetness without more sugar)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon (and/or ginger, and maybe just a touch of nutmeg)
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder (prevents the end result being too dense)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup large flake Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
  • 1/4 cup fruit of choice – apple, banana, stone fruit, berries.  Fresh or frozen.  Small dice works best.  Firm fruit can be grated.
  • Optional:  Dried fruit like raisins, cranberries, or chopped apricots, can be used in place of, or in addition to, fresh or frozen fruit.  If using only dried fruit, use the amount you think appropriate, something like a tablespoon or two.
  • 2 tsp butter, melted and cooled
  • Optional:  Nuts and/or seeds to compliment the fruit.  Ground flax seed meal gives a nutty taste without actual nuts.  Hemp hearts ditto.  Chia is good for you!

Big Batch (9 servings, baked in a 9 or 8-inch square pan:

  • 2 large eggs or 1/2 cup liquid egg product*
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp cinnamon or other spices
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups large flake Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
  • 2 cups fresh fruit or 1 cup chopped dried fruit
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • Optional nuts and/or seeds

*Leftover liquid egg product can be frozen.  1/4 cup = 1 large egg

Here’s a tip I learned from my mentor, Sabrina DelBen, a very talented Chef.  Oats, like nuts, really taste better toasted.  Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet, and toast them in a pre-heated 350°F oven until golden.  Keep an eye on them – they can go from “toasted” to “European brown” (ie. almost burned) pretty quickly.  Once they’re perfect, take them off the baking sheet (otherwise they’ll keep toasting) and let them cool before combining them with the rest of the ingredients.

If you want to toast a whole bunch of oats against future considerations, store the toasted oats in an air-tight bag in the freezer.  They’re more perishable once toasted.


Preheat the oven (or your toaster-oven) to 350°F.

For a single serving, use an oven-safe bowl, like a soup or cereal bowl, or a small casserole.  Be sure you leave some head-space, as the mixture does puff up a bit.  You don’t need to butter the bowl, because you’ll be eating right out of it.

For a big batch, lightly butter an 8 or 9-inch baking pan.  I prefer glass, but use what you have.

For a single serving, if you’re using a firm, raw fruit like apple or nectarine, or if your banana is not fully ripe, you might want to jumpstart the cooking process in the microwave.  Combine the fruit, butter and brown sugar in a microwave-safe bowl.  Cover and nuke for something between 1 ½ and 2 minutes, which will soften the fruit and get the bowl sizzling hot.  Let it cool a bit before going on, or use a second bowl.

Combine the egg(s), milk or cream, cinnamon, vanilla, baking powder and salt (and the brown sugar, if you didn’t jump-start your fruit). Add the oats to the wet ingredients, stirring to completely coat the oats.

Combine the wet oat mixture with your fruit, jump-started or not. Don’t forget the melted butter – it’s an essential ingredient for flavor and texture.

You don’t need to jump-start the fruit for a big batch.  Just combine all ingredients in a bowl, adding the melted butter last.  Pour the batter into your greased baking dish.   I grated the apple for my big batch skin and all (extra fibre, good nutrition), and it cooked up just fine.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes for a single serving, or until puffed and set.  Serve warm.

If you’re feeding a crowd right away with your big batch, bake it up in little casseroles like the single servings.

If you’re making “planned-overs”, bake the 8 or 9-inch pan for about 40 to 45 minutes, until the oatmeal is puffed and firm in the centre.  Let it cool completely, and then cut it into single servings, wrapping each in plastic to freeze.    No need to thaw before reheating — a couple of minutes in the microwave should do the job.

If you really want to gild the lily, sauce each serving with stirred vanilla yogurt, or plain yogurt sweetened with a little brown sugar or maple syrup, and flavored with a dash of vanilla. Or just use plain yogurt. Or just pancake syrup. Or maybe a mess of heated berries, or a dollop of good jam.

I took a batch to the high school where I volunteer, to check out the response of a wider variety of taste testers.  The teachers and staff were very helpful, with lots of suggestions.  Sauce of any kind was always considered an asset, but tasters made it clear that there is a range of acceptable sweetness.  As always, I encourage you to take matters into your own hands and adjust the sweetness to suit your personal taste.

The students, on the other hand, were just so happy to be given free food that there were no complaints.  They all said they would eat it if they were offered it at camp, so there you go.  Mission accomplished.

Even I might have eaten oatmeal for breakfast when I was a kid, if Gramma had made it this way.

Just a reminder to all my gluten-free friends — only you know if you can tolerate oats.  Current literature suggests that certified gluten-free oats, safe from cross-contamination with gluten-containing grains, are acceptable if tolerated.