I have been wanting to make baked oatmeal ever since I saw a recipe for one created by Heidi Swanson in her book Super Natural Every Day. I have seen this recipe remade on more then a few blogs, and all of them seemed to stick with the same ingredients of bananas and blueberries. Those ingredients did sound great, but what I really wanted was a gluten-free, vegan alternative that featured a different taste combination. I wanted to make something that I could serve on Christmas morning so I started thinking about flavor combinations that are more seasonable. I starting pondering ingredients like cranberries, pear and almond; all things that reminded me of the Christmas season.
The original recipe calls for milk, eggs and butter but if you are a vegan then those ingredients just won't work. I decided to juice some of the pears (see how to juice pears below) and use homemade almond milk to replace the cow's milk. I also substituted flaxseed meal for the eggs. If you can't find the Coconut Secret products then you could use unrefined cane sugar to replace the crystals and use maple syrup to replace the nectar. I really love the coconut products because they have a low glycemic index and are vegan. The nectar tastes just like maple syrup, and the crystals are sort of like brown sugar.
Forelle Pear Juice: Wash 5-6 forelle pears and core them (keeping the skin on). Place the pieces of pear through a juicer. You will need to make 1 cup of juice (8 oz.) for this recipe so if you don't get enough juice increase the amount of pears you use.
Forelle Pears are considered "specialty produce" because they are only found once a year here in the northeast corner of the United States of America. They are available to us only in the winter, and they start to pop up around Christmas time. I have normally seen them adorning tables, fruit bowls or gifted Christmas baskets, and I have always looked at these pears as more of a decoration then a food. My local grocery store had them in stock the other day and in the spirit of "trying new things" I decided to pick up a few and see how I could use them best. Everything I read stated that they are not good for baking because of their small size. I found this strange because never has size stopped me from using something yummy before. The suggested use for Forelles is just for snacking, but when I bit into one of these little gems I found a firm juicy sweetness, that to me seemed like a perfect fit for my juicer. Pears are not well accepted by centrifugal juicers that normally destroy very soft fruit. The Forelles held their own against the high speed whirling blades and transformed into a slightly thick and sugary sweet juice. It was great to drink on it's own, but my mind had grander ideas to pursue with my new find.
Forelle Pear & Cranberry Baked Oatmeal
(Vegan & Gluten-Free)
makes an 8-inch square pan
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 forelle pears, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons coconut nectar by Coconut Secret + extra for drizzling
1 cup homemade almond milk (or unsweetened original almond milk)
1 cup of forelle pear juice (see the how-to above) (or Pear juice/nectar from the store)
1 tablespoon of flaxseed meal in 3 tablespoons of warm water (this is the egg replacement)
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup coconut crystals by Coconut Secret
1 teaspoon baking powder (aluminum and gluten-free)
2 cups gluten-free old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and chopped * Preheat oven to 375° F. Grease an 8-inch square pan with the coconut oil, making sure to cover the sides too. Scatter the roughly chopped pears and a 1/4 a cup of the fresh cranberries into the pan. In a small bowl mix the flaxseed meal in warm water and set aside until it becomes thick and gelatinous, about 10 minutes. Then in a large bowl whisk together the coconut nectar, almond milk, pear juice, vanilla extract and almond extract. Add the flaxseed "egg replacement" into the liquid and whisk to incorporate. In another bowl toss together the coconut crystals, baking powder, rolled oats, and a 1/4 cup of the toasted and chopped almonds. Pour the dry oat mixture over the fruit in the pan. Slowly drizzle the liquid ingredients over the oats. Sprinkle the 1/4 cup remaining fresh cranberries and remaining 1/4 cup of almonds on top of the whole thing. Bake in preheated oven for 35-45 minutes or until it looks browned and set. Serve it warm out of the oven and drizzle some extra coconut nectar over the top. * To toast almonds I normally just place them in an ungreased frying pan over medium high heat and toss them around until they are golden brown. Just wait until they cool down before chopping and adding them to the recipe.
You could also toast them in a 400° F oven on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes, tossing them half way through cooking.