Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 6, 2013

Foodie with Family: Comfort during the crazies

Local columnist

---- — Not too long ago, I had five sons ages 8, 6, 4, 2 and newborn at the same time. I was burning the candle at both ends all the time. I was cooking, changing diapers, homeschooling the eldest three, coordinating enrichment activities for the eldest two, and trying desperately to keep the house in order. In short, I was bonkers.

There was one moment when I was at a park with the boys. I was in the middle of changing the third messy diaper in 30 minutes and I hit serious emotional overload. “I am so tired of looking at poopy diapers!” I exclaimed, brandishing the offending article over my head. (Which is, in retrospect, pretty mild for an emotional overload moment.) A man who was standing nearby uttered something that I’m pretty sure he meant to be clever: “Excuse me, but didn’t you sign up for this when you decided to have kids?”


That was my sense of self-worth hitting the concrete pavilion where I was crouched changing my child’s diaper. Right then, I felt about an inch tall. Even well-rested and unexasperated, I am not fast enough or witty enough to point out exactly what is wrong with such a question. Exhausted and on my last nerve, I didn’t stand a chance. I finished the job, gathered the kids up along with the remains of our picnic lunch and the four diapers I had changed while at the park (because the infant in question was not the only one who needed his business changed), stuffed everyone in the minivan and drove home.

It was days later that I realized what I should’ve said. Okay, the truth is it was a year or five later. I told you, I’m a slow processor. My response should have been this: “I’m up to my elbows in poop and frankly I’m a little tired of dealing with it. It does not mean I love my children any less, it just means I’m imperfect like you and everyone else here in this park. Please show me a little grace and I’ll extend the same grace to you and assume that you were trying to be funny instead of being judgmental. Now, duck!” (Because that’s when I would’ve thrown the diaper at him. I’m kidding! Mostly.)

Obviously the remark stayed with me, but in a way I never expected. I don’t toss off bon mots at parents who are in the weeds. Even if I can’t offer a hand, I can at least offer a smile. And to those friends of mine who are in that stage themselves, I can bring a meal or a snack to give them a little unexpected respite in the midst of the crazy.

Whether you’re planning on delivering a pan full to a deserving friend, or baking it to eat off of all week yourself, Banana Bread Baked Oatmeal is a breakfast winner. It smells, as its name promises, just like warm banana bread while it’s baking. Baked oatmeal is texturally more akin to a giant bar cookie than its porridge cousin making it appeal to even those who think they dislike oatmeal.

I call for toasted walnuts in this dish because unlike in actual banana bread, I love them here. If you’re not a nut lover, feel free to leave them out. The dish will still be wonderful. Because Banana Bread Baked Oatmeal is good for up to a week in the refrigerator and reheats beautifully, leftovers are not something to be avoided. Should you feel inclined to double the recipe, it will fit beautifully into a 9-inch by 13-inch pan. Proceed as usual and up the baking time to about 40 to 45 minutes.

Can’t you almost smell it now?

Banana Bread Baked Oatmeal

¼ c. (1/2 stick) butter

3 c. old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick oats)

¾ c. brown sugar

2 t. baking powder

1 t. salt

1 t. ground cinnamon

¼ t. freshly grated or ground nutmeg

1 very ripe banana

1 c. milk

2 large eggs

1 T. vanilla extract (or ¾ t. ground vanilla)

1 c. coarsely chopped toasted walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350°F. While the oven is preheating, unwrap the butter and place it in an 8-inch by 8-inch or 9-inch by 9-inch square baking pan that is at least 2 to 3 inches deep. Place the pan on the center rack of the oven and let the butter melt as the oven heats. As soon as the butter is melted, remove from the oven or the butter may scorch.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a separate mixing bowl, smash the peeled banana like you would to make banana bread, then whisk in the milk, eggs and vanilla extract until even. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir with a sturdy spoon until everything is evenly wet. Scrape this into the pan with the melted butter and stir until most of the butter is incorporated, but little pockets of melted butter remain visible at the corners. If using the walnuts, scatter them evenly over the top of the oat mixture.

Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. We serve it hot with a glug of heavy cream or a dollop of whipped cream on top. You can store uneaten oatmeal tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for up to a week. Reheat in a moderate oven or microwave.

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