After a never-ending parade of rainy days, the sun has finally come back out to play in Boston, and it’s really been quite wonderful. Dogs are running around and barking again, kids are out shooting basketballs in the parks, and my raincoat is where it should be — hung up in the hallway for a little siesta. And yet, while the halcyon days of summer descend upon me, and I look around to find everybody else slicing watermelon and grilling hot dogs, I’m over here baking oatmeal — oatmeal with pumpkin and cinnamon and maple. And, not for nothing, but I’m baking an awful lot of it.
In my mind it isn’t June, but November. It is the week before Thanksgiving and I am in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and I am about to do something I’ve never done before — I’m about to run a marathon. This marathon.
When I am excited about something, it is the only thing in the world that I can think about, and it might be important to note that I am really very enormously excited about this marathon. It’s the only thing I want to think about, and, as such, it’s been doing its fair share of keeping me up at night. It might take a bit of a break to allow me a few hours of sleep, but then starts right back up again just as the sun is rising, just as I’m getting out of bed. And so when I am out on my morning run, I am thinking about it some more — meditating on it, ruminating upon it. Considering, pondering, reflecting. Yes, you’ve got it: Obsessing. While the sun drips down on me — while I sweat and I sunburn — I am thinking only about November and November things — this marathon, but also its seasonal context — pilgrims, corduroy, crunchy brown leaves, cranberry bogs, pumpkins.
It’s summer, but when I get back from these runs I don’t want a fruit salad for breakfast. I don’t want some cold cereal or a cup of yogurt. I don’t want anything that’s not this. And so I have this, and I have an awful lot of it.
Spiced Pumpkin Oatmeal Bake.
- 2 cups uncooked gluten-free rolled oats
- 1/4 cup almonds, chopped or processed in a nut grinder (walnuts or hazelnuts would also be great)
- 1/3 cup unsweetened, unsulphured apricots, chopped (or dried fruit of your choice)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 teaspoon maple flavor/extract*
*Maple flavor might be hard to find unless you shop at a well-stocked Whole Foods (look for it in the baking aisle, by the other flavor extracts). You could substitute it for vanilla or almond extract, or add a few tablespoons of maple syrup instead. You might also choose to sweeten this dish up with a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar, if that’s something that you like.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9 inch diameter round pie plate or dish or an 8×8 square dish (I used 9 inch diameter Dutch oven, uncovered).
Add the oats, almonds, apricots, spices, baking powder, and salt to a large bowl and mix well. Set aside. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, coconut milk, egg, and maple extract. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir well to combine. Pour into your prepared dish and bake for 30-40 minutes. The oatmeal bake will be done when it is soft but no longer soggy. Serve warm, perhaps with an extra drizzle of coconut milk on top.