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Start the Day with Comfort

Oct 22, 2020

I had hoped winter would hold off for a while. My husband and I have hardly begun the annual leaf clearing project in our backyard, and just last week, I harvested the last of the garden. However, the weather seems to have other ideas. After a few weeks of nearly perfect autumn temperatures and glorious fall colors, the thermometer has dropped to frigid and much of South Dakota has experienced its first snow.

While the white stuff has just been a dusting in my part of the state, it has still ushered in a call for comfort foods. Roasted chickens with mashed potatoes and gravy, big pots of slowly simmered beans flavored with herbs, vats of brothy vegetable soups, and even cheesy, creamy noodle casseroles with {gasp} canned soup have recently graced our table. But why should comfort foods be relegated to just dinner? Why not start the day with something hearty and soothing?

Baked Oatmeal with Berries is a warming breakfast casserole flavored with cinnamon and dotted with tart, fresh berries. Pepitas add a crunchy element and maple syrup and dates a subtle sweetness. Bake this up for Sunday brunch and enjoy a quick reheat of leftovers throughout the week to start every day in comfort.


Baked Oatmeal with Berries is comfort food for the breakfast table.

Baked Oatmeal with Berries

(adapted from Martha Stewart)


3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

2 cups whole milk

1/4 cup pure maple syrup, plus more for serving

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup dates, pitted and chopped

2 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats (NOT quick cooking oats. The recipe needs the texture of old fashioned oats.)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 - 1 cup fresh mixed berries (I used raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, but one type of fruit would work, or even sliced bananas.)

1/4 cup toasted pepitas

powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Add butter to an 8-inch cast iron skillet (or similar oven-safe pan) and place in the preheating oven to melt. While butter is melting, whisk together milk, maple syrup, eggs and vanilla extract. Add about 2 tablespoons of the melted butter to the milk mixture and combine. Swirl the remaining butter around the pan to fully grease bottom and sides.

Stir oats, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into the milk mixture. Scatter the dates evenly across the bottom of the buttered pan. Spread the oat mixture over the dates. Sprinkle the top with fresh fruit and pepitas. Bake for 35 minutes, until just set. Allow to cool slightly (about 5-10 minutes). Dust with powdered sugar, if desired. 

Serve drizzled with additional maple syrup. While totally not necessary, my husband and I liked our servings scooped into a bowl and served with just a little milk (more like traditional oatmeal) before drizzling with syrup. Leftovers can be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to five days. (Serves 4-6)


Fran Hill has been blogging about food at On My Plate since October of 2006. She, her husband and their three dogs ranch near Colome.


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