Baked Oatmeal with Orange and Almonds

baked-oatmeal-with-blood-orange-and-almondsI’m getting really real today, peeps. That was your fair warning, so if you’re just here for some cozy baked oatmeal, now would be the time to scroll to the recipe.

I’ve touched on my anxiety from time to time over the years, but to be perfectly honest, shit majorly hit the fan in 2015 on the stress and overall health front. For the sake of context, I should probably tell you that I’ve always been a pretty serious stress case. I didn’t start having actual panic attacks until I was 22, but looking back, I regularly lost my cool as a kid/teen/young adult. I was what they call a neurotic “high-achieving” youth, and I often cracked under the (self-inflicted) pressure.

Just to give you a point of reference, starting in the second grade, I routinely begged my parents to let me stay up past my bedtime to study for various tests, and when they denied my requests, I would dissolve into a hot mess of tears, claiming that they didn’t understand! I would fail!! And my life would be over!!! (If you’re not picturing me in a button-down pajama set and headgear, you should be.) While these meltdowns were mildly melodramatic, and I never actually failed, the FEAR of failure was overwhelming. Shades of my future.

Orange-and-Almond-Baked-Oatmeal-2Being an extreme Type-A personality, the academic stress only got more intense in high school and then college. However, I always found it somewhat manageable because I was able to channel that stress into productivity, knowing that as soon as I wrote the paper or took the test in question, it would be over. I took solace in the fact that there was a finite, short-term objective, and once I accomplished it, the panic would (momentarily) disappear. Hallelujah!

Unfortunately, post-graduate, real world stress was an entirely different beast, especially since I had absolutely zero idea what I wanted to do with my life. Having no specific goal (other than to wear sassy work wear and be surrounded by an army of hot male assistants) was terrifying, and with no place to assign my fear/anxiety, I felt increasingly adrift, riddled with self-doubt and uncertainty about the future. Cue my first panic attack during graduation week and the start of my new life with an acute anxiety disorder.

While my close friends and family were aware of my anxiety back in the early days, very few of them understood the extent of it. I may be a Type-A personality, but I give off strong Type-B vibes based on my seemingly laid-back disposition and general love of hanging out (and cocktails). Plus, I got really good at managing my anxiety and was therefore able to mask its severity with (relative) ease. In fact, it wasn’t unusual for me to have an apparently normal, animated conversation at a cocktail party in the midst of a full-blown panic attack. I’d be standing there, smiling and laughing, as I took calculated breaths, sweat through my dress, and focused on not dropping the glass in my tingly, numb hands. With the exception of Logan, nobody could ever tell that I was freeeakingggg outttt, man.

Orange-and-Almond-Baked-Oatmeal-3It took a few years (and a lot of therapy), but I slowly got my anxiety under control and stopped having panic attacks on the reg—something I largely attribute to focusing so much on this little blog and settling down with my kickass roommate—but last spring, things took a turn.

In February, I inked a deal to write The Dude Diet book. This was easily the greatest accomplishment of my non-traditional career thus far, and I couldn’t have been more excited about the project. I threw myself into the recipe testing and writing process wholeheartedly (read: obsessively), and before I knew what was happening, it had completely taken over my life. I was scared shitless.

On good days, I worried about finishing the book on time, and on bad days I felt like I wasn’t qualified to be writing a book in the first place. The latter fear would then spiral, and I’d think something like, “What if this book sucks? Nobody will buy it, I’ll never get another book deal, and people will stop reading my blog because I’ve let them down, and then I’ll have to change careers, and I’ll be forced to start at the bottom somewhere because I don’t have any traditional work experience, and I’ll age prematurely because of the stress, and I’ll never have an assistant, and I will fail, and my life will be over!!!” Melodramatic? Duh. But again, the fear was very real.

Orange-and-Almond-Baked-Oatmeal-4My anxiety had reached unprecedented heights, and by April, it had begun to affect my health. I developed chronic eczema on my cheeks, chest and hands, which no amount of prescription medication or homeopathic cream seemed to help. I couldn’t get a good night’s sleep to save my life, and I started having debilitating stomach pains, which, after several expensive tests and doctor’s visits, ultimately landed me in an gastroenterologist’s office, where I was told that my stomach lining was severely inflamed and the technician could hardly move the camera during my colonoscopy (sorry) because my intestines were so tightly clenched. The doctor looked at me sternly and, in so many words, insisted that I chill the fuck out before I did more serious damage to my body.

You’d think that these ailments and that doctor’s warning would have served as a wake up call and prompted me to get a handle on my stress, stat, but no dice. The concept that my own worry had gotten me to this low point made me feel extremely guilty. And ungrateful. After all, it’s not like I was curing cancer—I was blogging and writing a book about my roommate’s obsession with chicken fingies! I was so lucky! What right did I have to be this stressed? Why couldn’t I just get my shit together?

So, in an attempt to avoid feeling like a pussy weak and guilty, I convinced myself that there was another underlying cause for my health issues, like a food allergy or a mysterious virus, and that I would figure it out just as soon as I turned in my manuscript.

I continued writing, and itching, and stressing.

Orange-and-Almond-Baked-Oatmeal-5But there was no underlying issue. And funnily enough, it was The Dude Diet photo shoot that provided the proof. After turning in my manuscript at the end of the year, I spent most of January in LA shooting the book, and I loved every. single. second. I loved being in the studio, I loved figuring out how the book as a whole would look and feel, and I loved bringing that vision to life with the help of an insanely talented, unbelievably passionate and fun team. It was as if a weight had been lifted off my chest, and at the end of the shoot, I looked in the mirror and was all, “HOT DAMN, GIRL!!”

My eczema was completely gone, I’d been sleeping through the night, and I hadn’t had a stomach pain or a panic attack in weeks. It was a miracle!

Except it wasn’t.

As soon as I boarded the plane back to NYC last Sunday, I experienced an all too familiar tightening in my chest. And when I started tackling my inbox Monday morning and discovered an email from my editor saying that she would start sending notes on The Dude Diet by the end of this week, I instinctively started itching a fresh patch of eczema that had sprung up on my palm. Heyo, ANXIETY.

Orange-and-Almond-Baked-Oatmeal-6Deep breaths.

Now that I realize the very physical dangers of severe stress, I’m trying to avoid undoing my recent good health by remaining as even-keeled as possible. I’m not exactly sure how to do it, or what it will look like (apologies if you thought I was going to tie up all this oversharing with a nice, neat bow), but I think the first step is to stop beating myself up. Stop feeling guilty about having anxiety. Stop immediately jumping to the worst-case scenario. Stop worrying that I’m not good enough, or talented enough, or qualified enough, or tough enough. Stop panicking about the future, and start focusing a teensy bit more on the present. In short, I’m going to try to treat myself like I’d want my personal assistant to treat me—i.e. give me lots of compliments (“You is smart. You is kind. You is important.”) and generally help me take a load off.

I’ve decided to jumpstart this “journey” (ew) by doing more cooking for myself. Before it became my job, I cooked to relax, and it’s been a long time since I made things just for the fun of it—not for the book or this blog. I want to make time for that kind of cooking again and focus on making recipes simply because I have a craving, or they’re on my personal cooking bucket list. This Baked Oatmeal with Orange and Almonds, which is a slight riff on a Heidi Swanson classic, falls into both categories. I made it once in early January on a whim and took some photos because it was pretty, and then I made it again yesterday for no other reason than that I wanted something nourishing and delicious, and the idea of a nutty, citrus-y smelling kitchen on a rainy day appealed to me. It seemed like the right recipe to share today.

I know this hasn’t been the lightest of posts (and dear GOD, it’s long), but I do my best to keep it real around here, and anxiety is a big part of my reality. Plus, I figured a few of you might be able to relate. And if that’s the case, you could probably use a friendly reminder that you are not alone. Your shit, whatever it may be, is real, and valid, and important. Cut yourself some slack. And maybe make a warm bowl of fancy oatmeal every once in a while…

Orange and Almond Baked Oatmeal: (Serves 4-6)

Orange-and-Almond-Baked-Oatmeal-7Ingredients:
2 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking!)
½ cup sliced almonds
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
Scant ½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 large egg
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1½ tablespoons liquid virgin coconut oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange zest
4 oranges of your choice, skin and pith removed and sliced into roughly ¼” rounds (I used a mix of Cara Cara, Valencia and blood oranges, but you do you.)
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (optional)
For serving: (optional)
Almond milk
Maple syrup

Preparing your Orange and Almond Baked Oatmeal:

-Pre-heat your oven to 375 with a rack in the top third of the oven. Grease a medium baking dish with coconut oil. (8”x8” or 7”x11” work well, but I think this would also work in a 10” ovenproof skillet.) Briefly set aside.

-In a mixing bowl, combine the oats, half of the almonds, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.

Orange-and-Almond-Baked-Oatmeal-step-1-In a separate bowl, whisk the almond milk, egg, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla extract and orange zest.

Orange-and-Almond-Baked-Oatmeal-step-2-Arrange half of the sliced oranges in the bottom of the baking dish.

Orange-and-Almond-Baked-Oatmeal-step-3-Top with the oat mixture. Then pour the milk mixture over the oats. Lightly tap the baking dish on the counter a few times to help distribute the liquid through the oats.

Orange-and-Almond-Baked-Oatmeal-step-4-Bake for 20 minutes until the oat mixture is just beginning to set. Top with the remaining almonds and orange slices.

Orange-and-Almond-Baked-Oatmeal-step-5-Return to the oven and bake for another 20-25 minutes until the oatmeal is set and the top is very lightly browned.

Orange-and-Almond-Baked-Oatmeal-step-6*Personally, I like to sprinkle the orange segments with turbinado sugar and pop the oatmeal under the broiler for a minute or two to caramelize the citrus. This is totally optional, but it’s pretty easy, so…why not?

-Serve warm. Feel free to get a little almond milk or a drizzle of maple syrup involved.

Orange-and-Almond-Baked-Oatmeal-10

Baked Oatmeal with Winter Citrus and Almonds

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking!)
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Scant ½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1½ tablespoons liquid virgin coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 4 oranges of your choice, skin and pith removed and sliced into roughly ¼” rounds (I used a mix of Cara Cara, Valencia and blood oranges, but you do you.)
  • 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (optional)
  • For serving: (optional)
  • Almond milk
  • Maple syrup

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 375 with a rack in the top third of the oven. Grease a medium baking dish with coconut oil. (8”x8” or 7”x11” work well, but I think this would also work in a 10” ovenproof skillet.) Briefly set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the oats, half of the almonds, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the almond milk, egg, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla extract and orange zest.
  4. Arrange half of the sliced oranges in the bottom of the baking dish. Top with the oat mixture. Then pour the milk mixture over the oats. Lightly tap the baking dish on the counter a few times to help distribute the liquid through the oats.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes until the oat mixture is just beginning to set. Top with the remaining almonds and orange slices. Return to the oven and bake for another 20-25 minutes until the oatmeal is set and the top is very lightly browned. (Personally, I like to sprinkle the orange segments with turbinado sugar and pop the oatmeal under the broiler for a minute or two to caramelize the citrus. This is totally optional, but it’s pretty easy, so…why not?)
  6. Serve warm. Feel free to get a little almond milk or a drizzle of maple syrup involved.

Notes

Adapted from Heidi Swanson via Food 52.

If you're not into citrus, feel free to mix up the fruit. Heidi's recipe calls for a mix of bananas and blueberries, but almost any fruit will do. Think thinly sliced (or finely chopped) apples and pears in fall/winter, peaches and cherries in summer, etc.

http://domesticate-me.com/baked-oatmeal-with-winter-citrus-and-almonds/

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  • You actually wrote a cookbook, that’s huge! I go through phases of anxiety too, and it doesn’t help that we’re having a baby literally any day now, and I’m scared out of my mind. Lavender oil and lots of bubble baths helps me–and playing candy crush when my mind starts to race because it makes me completely zone out.

    • Serena_Wolf

      Girl, I can only imagine the baby anxiety–but you are going to be such a fabulous mother! (I literally typed, “but you are going to kill it!” and then realized that was not the thing to say…) Thank you for all your support around these parts, and I’m gonna get me some lavender oil, stat! I’m already queen of the bubble bath.

  • Becky Young

    Wow. Thanks for sharing your story. I was literally reading ‘How to stop worrying and Start living ‘ by Dale Carnegie when I heard my phone ping with an email alert from you. Thank you again. I know it’s not easy to put that out into the world let alone deal with it everyday. I think you’re amazingly talented and I love the way you write…makes me feel like you’re a gal pal of mine sharing a wicked recipe I should try Stat. Your recipes are a balance of fancy meets approachable, so us newbies can’t help but feel we could totally pull the recipe off….Serena said so. You got this. One day at a time.
    Hugs,

    Becky

    • Serena_Wolf

      Thank YOU for the incredibly kind words and virtual hugs, Becky. Honestly, (anxiety aside) I love doing what I do because of people like you that come here to read/cook/hangout. And I think I may steal your lingo to describe my recipes from now on. “Fancy meets approachable” pretty much epitomizes my recipe (and life) goals.
      p.s. Should I look into “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”? Does this Dale have any earth-shattering advice?

  • Sarah S.

    Coming from a complete stranger, I absolutely love reading this blog and share it with all my friends, family and co-workers! It’s hysterical, healthy and delicious. You’ve singlehandedly made me try/stock up on quinoa, chia seeds etc. I’m sorry to hear you’ve had a tough year but 2016 is going to be AMAZING for you. I can’t wait to buy your cookbook and I’m sure your legions of fans agree 🙂

    • Serena_Wolf

      Ah, Sarah! Thank you for the amazing compliments and the grassroots PR! They are appreciated more than you know. And I’m obviously thrilled to hear that you’re now hoarding my favorite superfoods. 😉

  • Karen Stauffer

    Your blog is simply, the tits. You’re a great writer, photographer, nutritionist…and I’d be willing to bet overall good person too. So what if you’re not curing cancer….most of us aren’t! But this is your contribution, and it rocks. Please keep it coming! Maybe read some fan mail (like these comments) when you need some perspective during a stressful/anxious time. You have many supporters, even if we can’t be there in person to help.

    • Serena_Wolf

      Karen, you are the tits for writing this. I obviously love me some fan mail, and I am beyond grateful for your support. (I also appreciate that you called me a nutritionist–I’m considering putting that on my business card.) Thank you for being here!

  • Robin Woodcock

    Chickadee — I found your blog a couple of years ago on the recommendation of Amo Loring, one of my besties who is a sister to one Miss Mallie. I started reading your blog because you were a friend-of-a-sister-of-a-friend…but I’ve stuck around because your blog–and what I really mean to say is YOU–are awesome. And your recipes are fantastic, as is your style (both literary and sartorial). I live in PWM and head up near MDI in the summer. I hope to pop over to NEH at some point and actually meet you! Keep up the great work — and by that I mean, do whatever the F you want because it’s working. I mean, but if you don’t want to that’s also TOTALLY OK and we will all survive. We’ll be sad and hungry, but we’ll survive.

    • Serena_Wolf

      Robin–I love that you found me through the fabulous Loring sisters, and thank you so, SO much for these incredibly flattering words. I’m trying to do lots more of whatever the F I want, but that will always include writing the blog. Thank you for being an amazing Friday morning reminder of why I love sharing recipes and ridiculous stories on this site. I hope you make it to NEH at some point in the near future!! xo

  • Mimi

    My naturopath says that stress is the biggest killer. What I learned in the past when I was a professional of a different kind, is that it did no good to think and worry about what I didn’t know. Instead, it’s good to realize what you do know, and think about what you’ve accomplished, how far you’ve come. Most people don’t get book deals. Be proud of yourself – we all are!!!

    • Serena_Wolf

      You could not be more right, Mimi! I’m really trying to be more present these days and stop obsessing over the future and things I can’t possibly control. (Sometimes it’s easier than others…) And thank you for your incredibly kind words and ongoing support–I’m always thrilled to see your name pop up on my screen!

  • CakePants

    I’m sure it wasn’t easy but thank you for writing this post! My anxiety about homework began disrupting my sleep in 4th grade, and by 6th grade I was furious with my parents for not understanding how imperative it was that I study and ace my test about basketball rules in P.E. (sigh), so I can certainly relate. For whatever it’s worth, I am definitely planning on buying your book (and I already know from the few recipes I tested that it will be awesome!)!

    • Serena_Wolf

      Thank you, Mara! I’m so grateful for your continuing support, and thank you again for being a part of the crazy book process–it means a lot! xo

      p.s. Isn’t it hilarious to look back at our younger selves and the ridiculous academic stresses we had? (i.e. P.E. tests, dioramas, memorizing the Gettysburg address…)

  • Kara

    Thank you for sharing your story! I am not usually a big “commenter” on blogs but I LOVE this bloggity blog so much that I just have to. Your recipes are amazing and your stories behind them always make me smile or laugh. My husband loves your recipes too. Literally when I made your kale, sweet potato enchiladas this week (again) he said “domesticate me has never made anything bad!” That being said, don’t try to please us too much and “you do you”. Make what makes you happy even if you need some time off from blog recipes. Glad you put your story out there and that you are taking care of yourself. Health is so important! XOXOXO from Charlotte, NC.

    • Serena_Wolf

      Kara- Sorry that I’m just getting to this now, but thank you for being a “commenter” just this once!! I so appreciate your support and these fabulous compliments, and I obviously love that you make DM recipes on the reg. I’m also pretty thrilled that your husband is on board (I’ll take all the dude street cred I can get). xoxo

  • J Kirk

    OMG, I want to be your best friend and/or your pen pal. Your blog is amazing! I just found it today and have a lot of reading ahead of me. I love recipes that are written as/with a narrative! Do you “know” Laurie Colwin? Your style reminds me of hers. She was a writer for GOURMET and published many of her columns in 2 books. I just re-bought both books this week because I wanted new copies. My others are falling apart. I am also an overachiever/anxiety sufferer, especially since being diagnosed with cancer 5 years ago,

    • Serena_Wolf

      HAHAH I am now taking applications for best friends and pen pals! Thank you for your incredibly kind words. I was not familiar with Laurie Colwin, but I just did some “light” Googling and ended up ordering “Home Cooking,” which I’m very excited about. I’m sorry to hear that you too are an anxiety sufferer, and I can only imagine how challenging it must have been to deal with a cancer diagnosis. Thank you for being here!
      p.s. I will look into darkening the font, stat.

  • J Kirk

    I forgot to mention that, as someone with problematic and old eyes, it is VERY difficult for me to read the grey font that you use on your website/blog. Would it be possible to make it a bit darker? Thanks!

  • Molly R

    I just wanted to say I relate to EVERYTHING you said in this post about anxiety! It is such a relief to hear from someone else who has such a similar story. Thank you for sharing!!