Cast Iron Apple Oatmeal Custard and Mindful in the Kitchen
It’s been quite a while since I shared a recipe here on the blog and since the upcoming week’s theme in the JMB Living Journal is Mindful Eating, I figured it would be a great week to do so. So how about one of my favorite recipes for oats? Eating oatmeal has a multitude of health benefits from its high levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to its support in lowering cholesterol and promoting healthy gut bacteria. Unfortunately, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of it prepared in the traditional way. I do like overnight oats in the summertime, but when the mornings are crisp and cool, I prefer some type of baked oatmeal.
Today I’ll share the recipe for one of my favorite baked oatmeal dishes while first throwing in some tips for making it mindfully along the way. Feel free to scroll straight to the bottom for the recipe, or meander with me to get there while I talk a little bit about mindfulness in the kitchen.
A Clean Beginning
To begin with, I always like to start in a clean kitchen. Most often our kitchen ends the day scrubbed down and tidy, but I can’t say that we are always good about cleaning up after a quick breakfast, snack or lunch. So, from time to time, a little freshening up of the area is needed first.
Cleaning has long been recognized as a way to practice mindfulness - think “wax on, wax off” from The Karate Kid. Yet even simple, short acts of cleaning can be an opportunity for mindful behavior. First there is the attentiveness to what is out of place or needs cleaning in the first place. Then there are a multitude of other things you could pay attention to during the cleaning process. Here are just a few thoughts, but if you ponder this for long, I’m sure you could come up with many more:
Noticing the feel and textures of the various things used in the cleaning process - water, a cloth, a broom, etc.
Watching and feeling the movements of your body and how the muscles and bones coordinate for your intended actions
Intentionally developing a rhythm while sweeping or even while wiping down countertops
Taking notice of the smell of the soap you are using
Paying attention to the temperature of the water and how it may cool over time if you are using a tub of soapy water for cleaning
Or you could even tune into your breath as you perform each task.
Creating Kitchen Ambiance
I also like to set the stage for cooking or baking if I’m going to spend any more than fifteen or twenty minutes creating in the kitchen. A heads up that the recipe I’m sharing today is quick and easy to make, but I still did spend a few minutes getting prepared before I started making it this weekend. To begin with I often put on an apron to put me in a “chef-like” mood and because it’s not infrequent that I’m slopping things around that inevitably end up on me.
And I usually make myself a hot beverage first and turn on some music. My playlist varies wildly depending on what time of day it is, my mood, and even what I plan to make. Find me in the kitchen midday and I might be jamming to some upbeat groovy tunes or a “coffee house” mix. At the end of the day, I am more likely to be listening to some smooth jazz, Frank Sinatra, Madeline Peyroux or even some old Italian opera if pasta is on the menu.
Setting an Intention
It can also be helpful to set an intention before beginning. Depending on your current mood and how much you like to be in the kitchen in the first place, this could be the difference of trying to quickly grind through the task or actually enjoying the process of making something nurturing for yourself and your family.
For many of us, having a simple intention to relax, slow down and enjoy this time can completely change the experience in a positive way. Sometimes, I also like to make an intention to infuse whatever I am making with love. For some reason, I think about this more often when making bread or something that requires a good amount of hand stirring or creaming, but I do think it is a great one to use on a regular basis.
Get Organized & Be Grateful
Now it is time to pull out all the ingredients you will need and set them in an organized manner on your kitchen counter. Allow yourself to feel gratitude as you open up your refrigerator and notice all the nourishing food at your fingertips and your ability to have so much to choose from. And if you don’t have all the ingredients on the recipe you have decided to make, consult your intuition to see if you can easily make any substitutions with what you do have on hand.
Cook with your Five Senses
See if you can pay attention to all five senses while you are spending this time in the kitchen. Delight in what you see, smell and taste during the process. Notice how things feel in your hands and the lightness or denseness of what you create. And perhaps even tune into the repetitive sounds of a mixer for a moment or two, the sounds elicited as things heat up on the stove or the sound of a spoon again the bowl as you stir.
Let’s get cooking!
So with all these things in mind, let’s make a yummy, healthy breakfast dish! If you are cooking for one, this can easily be reheated and will make for a nice breakfast for several days. A quick disclaimer before you begin; this is a hearty recipe and I call it a custard mostly because the eggs and milk when baked give it a somewhat custard-like texture.
Also, you could substitute any type of milk for the oat milk, but if you haven’t tried oat milk yet, I highly recommend it. I stumbled across it recently in the grocery store and decided to give it a try. It has now become a staple in our house. I’ve tried to decrease my cow milk consumption in recent years, as I can tell my digestive system isn’t thrilled with it. Yet I haven’t really cared for many of the substitutes I’d tried. I do like coconut milk, but my tummy prefers I minimize it too. Anyway, I love the creamy texture of oat milk and it seems to have more body than rice, soy or almond milk. Don’t laugh at this last preference, but the fact that oat milk froths so lovely in my little frother sealed the deal!
Cast Iron Apple Oatmeal Custard
1 cup Oats
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
Dash of Nutmeg
1/4 tsp Salt
2 tablespoons Butter + enough to grease the baking dish
2 medium-sized Apples, cored and sliced into about 10 pieces each
1/2 cup chopped Nuts (Optional, I use walnuts or pecans)
1/2 cup Raisins (Optional)
1 1/4 cups Oat Milk
1 tsp Vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350˚. In a medium-size cast iron pan or skillet, melt the butter and place the apple slices on top in a single layer. You can reduce the amount of butter used in this process if you like, but you’ll just have to be a little more diligent in watching the apples cook to ensure they don’t stick. Cook over medium to low heat until the apples begin to caramelize on the outside and turn a golden hue.
While the apples are cooking, mix the oats, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Check on your apples and when they begin to brown on the bottom, take a fork and turn them for browning on the other side. Beat the eggs until frothy in a separate small bowl as well; then add the oat milk and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
By now your apples will likely be either ready to turn to the opposite side (or evenly browned on both sides) in which case you can remove them from the heat and get ready to assemble your custard. Make sure you take a mindful moment here by slowing down enough at this point to take a deep whiff of the scent of the caramelized apples. It is remembering to take these small, slow moments to notice beauty, and appreciate life unfolding around us that ultimately will infuse more tiny moments of joy into our lives.
I like to bake this directly in the cast iron skillet I’ve used for searing the apples, but an 8” round pyrex container or 8x8 baking pan will work equally as well. Add a small amount of butter to the dish and pop it in the oven for a few moments to melt, so that you can grease the bottom and sides of the baking dish before adding the ingredients.
Layer the apples on the bottom of the dish and then add the raisins (if you are using them). Sprinkle the oat mixture across this and then top with the eggs and oat milk. Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until the mixture has set and is no longer liquid in the center. Remove from heat and let it cool just slightly before spooning it into a dish to enjoy. At this point, you could add a dollop of yogurt to the top or even a little more oat milk if desired. Hope you enjoy!