CASA GRANDE -- We all grew up eating bowls of creamy oatmeal, usually prepared as a porridge. Oats are one of the oldest grains, and oatmeal one of the oldest warm cereals.

But oatmeal has evolved from the porridge-type breakfast cereal we all know and love. Last year, overnight refrigerator oats were the breakfast trend and this year, it’s baked oatmeal. While baked oatmeal is great for breakfast, it can also be sweetened up and eaten almost as a pudding-like dessert. It’s healthy, sweet and versatile.

With baked oatmeal, the oats are combined with a custard-like mixture of eggs, milk and sweeteners and baked. Fruit, raisins, nuts or other items can be added to it.

It comes out so creamy and delicious that even those who don’t like oatmeal will like it.

Oats are among the oldest cultivated grains, dating back thousands of years. But they haven’t always been valued as the breakfast food people know and love today.

They were cultivated by the ancient Egyptians and Chinese and eventually the Romans, who considered the grain a food for barbarians or animals.

But oats made their way through Europe and into Scotland, where the grain grew in popularity and eventually became the porridge-like cereal we know today.

Oatmeal is rich in soluble fiber. Because soluble fiber moves slowly through the digestive system, oatmeal has long been known as a “stick to the ribs” breakfast food. They can also lower cholesterol levels, help to control blood sugar, assist in weight loss and improve heart health.

And they are among the more versatile grains. They can be boiled, baked, ground or used in granola bars or baked goods such as muffins or cookies.

While baked oatmeal might be a new trend, it’s actually a classic and traditional dish. It’s a popular Amish breakfast food and is usually made with fruit and nuts.

Baked oatmeal is easy to make and comes out super rich and creamy. It’s great as a breakfast or even as a dessert.

Basic, easy baked oatmeal

2 cups instant oats

1/3 cup white granulated sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 cup milk or milk alternative

2 slightly beaten eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine wet ingredients in a bowl and stir until well mixed. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix well.

Mixture will be very runny. Pour into a greased 8-inch square glass baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 to 45 minutes.

Baked apple oatmeal with raisins

2½ cups whole milk

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups old-fashioned oats

¼ cup brown sugar

2 eggs

2 Gala apples, peeled and diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon. Stir in the baking powder. In a baking dish coated with non-stick cooking spray, add the oats and apples. Pour the milk mixture over the oats and stir just until combined. Top with raisins and brown sugar. Baked 35-40 minutes.

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.