Berries, syrup and banana sweeten this oatmeal bake. (Photo: Daniel Higgins/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)

Breakfast’s importance in my life hinges on how quickly the food can be prepared and my fullness factor. I want to get to lunch without feeling like I’ve been fasting for 24 hours.

A bowl of quick oats, banana and water zapped for a minute and a half in the microwave then finished with a glop of peanut butter works every time. I thought myself a genius when I switched from smooth to crunchy peanut butter to contrast oatmeal’s creaminess. 

Then Brenda Korinek in Manitowoc for emailed this recipe to remind me that oatmeal — with a moment’s forethought the night before — brings more than fiber to the breakfast table. And by table, these days, I mean desk.

Berry Baked Oatmeal 

Servings: 6 

2 cups rolled oats (not quick cook or steel cut) 

1 teaspoon baking powder 

2 teaspoons cinnamon, or more to taste 

Pinch of sea salt 

2 cups milk

1 large egg 

⅓ cup pure maple syrup 

2 teaspoons vanilla 

1 medium ripe banana, mashed 

½ cup berries (raspberries, sliced strawberries, blueberries; fresh or frozen) 

Heat oven to 350 F. 

Spray 8×8 pan with cooking spray. 

In a bowl, mix dry ingredients. 

In a medium bowl, whisk milk, egg, syrup and vanilla.

Add wet ingredients to oat mixture and thoroughly stir. Mix in berries and mashed banana. 

Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes. 

Cool on rack. Cut into 6 pieces to serve.

May be refrigerated in pan or frozen in individual servings. Warm in microwave. 

(Recipe from Brenda Korinek )  

TASTING NOTES: Cinnamon and oatmeal scents fills the kitchen as this dish bakes. It’s worth making for the smells alone. 

It tastes like it smells. Cinnamon, oatmeal and banana flavors dominate the gooey cake texture. Syrup’s flavor is missing but not its sweetness.

I used strawberries in my bake. Their flavor was missing. That was my bad. I pureed the strawberries (sometimes I do dumb things) instead of slicing them. Biting into a sliced strawberry, whole blueberry or hunk of any berry would provide a pop of fruit flavor.

EQUIPMENT: One measuring spoon, three measuring cups, two mixing bowls, whisk, fork, spatula and baking pan. 

PRACTICALITY: Basic skills and ingredients make this a super easy bake.

COST: $7 to $8, more depending on your maple syrup and berries of choice. 

HACKS/INSIGHTS: First of all, do as the recipe says and use sliced or whole berries.

I did follow the instructions to use old-fashioned (rolled) oats instead of instant or steel cut, so experiment with those oatmeal versions at your own risk.

The batter will be as thin as making instant oatmeal in the microwave. I baked it for the full 35 minutes and used a glass baking dish so I could keep an eye on the oatmeal below the surface.

I let the dish cool for about 10 minutes. Each slice came out warm and firm enough to hold its shape.

Brenda likes to top a slice with a dollop of yogurt. 

Diced apple might work in place of berries. A handful of pecans or walnuts mixed in or as a topping would add a nice crunch. 

ABOUT THIS SERIES: I test recipes found on food packages in my very average kitchen with my moderately above average cooking talent and meh presentation skills. I’ll provide some insights and basic cooking tips. If you don’t find these stories useful, hopefully you find them entertaining. 

ASK ME CULINARY QUESTIONS OR TEACH ME YOUR RECIPES: Please keep sending your questions, feedback and recipes you’d like reviewed. I’m always happy to consider a family favorite recipe (regardless of its consideration as part of the No Budget Cooking Series).

More: Links to past No Budget Cooking Series stories here 

More: Grandma’s Molasses recipe delivers on its crinkle top promise for these molasses cookies | No Budget Cooking Series

More: Make this Bolognese sauce if you’re a novice home cook with a few extra minutes to spare | No Budget Cooking Series

Contact Daniel Higgins [email protected]. Follow @HigginsEats on Twitter and Instagram and like on Facebook.

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