Baked Spiced Pumpkin Oatmeal

Are you pumpkin-ed out yet? It seems like our national obsession with large orange vegetables gets more intense every year. This October Trader Joe’s was offering over 60 pumpkin products–everything from pumpkin coffee to pumpkin ravioli (tried them both and they were both tasty!) I’ve seen pumpkin spice Hershey kisses and pumpkin M & Ms and have heard tell of pumpkin spice Doritos (!). And so far this season I myself have made pumpkin pie, pumpkin cake, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin cornbread, with plans to make pumpkin butter and pumpkin ice cream pie this afternoon. Looking at that list, I feel like I need a Pumpkin Intervention.

But I JUST CAN’T STOP! Living in the desert, making seasonal foods is just about my only connection to feeling like the fall season is actually happening. Here in the Phoenix suburbs, we don’t get changing leaves, we don’t get sweater weather, we don’t get harvest time. You know how some adults spend Christmastime going through rituals and traditions  to “recapture the magic” of Christmas when they were a kid? Well, I have this fairy-tale notion of autumn just like that (even though I didn’t experience it as a kid). It’s as though if I surround myself with seasonal produce I will magically feel the feelings of fall. And what, you may ask, are the feelings of fall? I suppose it’s the typical fantasy of snuggling up in chilly weather, crunching leaves underfoot, and storing up for winter. There’s a poem by Donald Hall called “Kicking the Leaves” I used to read every October that epitomizes this romantic notion of fall. Part of it goes:

“I remember Octobers walking to school in Connecticut,
wearing corduroy knockers that swished
with a sound like leaves; and a Sunday buying
a cup of cider at a roadside stand
on a dirt road in New Hampshire; and kicking the leaves.”

Now, doesn’t that just sound like the archetype of fall? (Ignore the next line where he says “knowing my father would die when the leaves were gone.”) That’s the fantasy I’m trying to achieve when I cook and bake with pumpkin. And what could be more warm and nourishing on a blustery autumn day than a bowl of pumpkin oatmeal? I’ve heard of this trend of people eating oatmeal cold, but to me that sounds like a total anathema, like eating ice cream hot. Please, if you eat this oatmeal cold, don’t tell me, so that in my mind, in my delightful fantasy of fall where people get cider at roadside stands and wear corduroy knockers (whatever those are), I will picture you eating this oatmeal steaming out of the oven, warming you inside and out.

Baked Spiced Pumpkin Oatmeal
(Adapted from Budget Bytes)

Ingredients:

1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree (or about 2 c. homemade)
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. milk
2 1/2 c. old-fashioned oats

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 x 8 square baking dish.

2. In a large bowl, mix pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt, baking powder, and vanilla until smooth. Whisk in milk. Add oats.

3. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes, removing foil after the first 30 minutes.

Serves 6-8 and reheats beautifully in the microwave with a little added milk.

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