Sometimes it baffles me that normal people don’t eat oatmeal for breakfast every single day. Or, ever.
It almost made me cry when I realized that with my potential gluten and avenin sensitivities, my oat consumption is going to have to decrease markedly. 😦 People are always so surprised when I tell them oats are my favorite food–but it’s true! (Along with soup, and peanut butter. If anyone can figure out a way to combine all those, I would be eternally grateful. [I’m thinking using steel-cut oats as a more savory, barley type thing, and going with some African spices for a peanut-sweet-potato stew type thing? Oh, but I digress.])
Because oats are so obviously magical and delicious, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are only two possible reasons why SOME people don’t like them.
a.) They’re not preparing it right!!! (Don’t worry; that shall be remedied within this post.)
b.) They’re used to downing gallons of carbonated high fructose corn syrup a day, they have to drench their sweet potatoes in maple syrup and brown sugar to get them sweetened to their liking, and the only type of oatmeal they’ve ever enjoyed is those powdery, sugary instant oatmeal packets flavored with partially hydrogenated soybean oil, artificial blueberry flavor, and Blue Lake #3. Yummm. (I have to admit, I was one of these people too, when I was a wee young sprite. The good news is that if you want to turn your diet around, it’s all a matter of gradual changes, and once you get on the whole-foods track, you’ll drop that insatiable sweet tooth for good. Nowadays, I can’t even drink soda–it’s so cloyingly, sickly sweet.)
Obviously both these reasons are no excuse for not enjoying the miracle that is oatmeal; so, here are my tips, which will hopefully vanquish Oatmeal Excuse A from the lives of my readers.
To Prepare Delicious Oatmeal…
#1. Add flax. I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again now. Buy yourself a bag of ground golden flaxseeds, keep it in the fridge, and sprinkle a tablespoon or so on your brekkie every time you prepare oats. If you like your oats thick and doughy like me, ground flaxseeds are a godsend because they absorb any extra water in your oats, leaving you with this chewy pudding-type porridge consistency. As an added benefit, flaxseeds are a nutritional goldmine, especially for vegetarians, rich with lignans, omega-3 fatty acids, minerals, protein, and fiber. They have kind of a vile taste on their own, at least until you get used to them, but you can’t detect it when mixed in with hot cereal, and the insanely improved texture is worth it.
#2. Break out of the ‘oatmeal=maple syrup, brown sugar, raisins, butter’ mindset. Who founded this mindset, anyway? This flavor combination is all very well and good, but it most certainly does not represent oatmeal at its best. I NEVER eat my oats like this!
And plain oatmeal, on its own? Well, I LOOVE that stuff, but I’m weird! You probably don’t! If you’re forcing yourself to choke down unflavored oatmeal, or maple syrupy oatmeal, each day, NO WONDER YOU DON’T LIKE IT! Add STUFF to your oatmeal, for crying out loud!
Nut butter, flax and cinnamon are my default oatmeal toppers and stir-ins; I honestly can’t believe it never occurs to some people to stir things into their oats! If you need flavor inspiration, there’s plenty out there in the food blog realm–check out Kath Eats Real Food’s Tribute to Oatmeal–or, as she rightfully describes it, her tribute to “the world’s greatest breakfast”. If your brain isn’t fried by all those glorious pictures and you feel you can take on even heavier porridge plethoras, head on over to The Oatmeal Artist. This is a food blog started by an English teacher, ENTIRELY devoted to oatmeal. I thought I had met my future, alternate self when I discovered it. (And why didn’t I come up with this idea?!)
#3. Don’t cook your oats. If you haven’t tried overnight oats yet, it’s time to crawl out from under the foodie rock you’ve been living under and whip up a batch. In essence, they are oats, combined with either flax or chia, and soaked in your choice of milk overnight in the refrigerator. Usually there’s some flavorings and nut butters involved as well! Depending on your ingredients, they are a live, raw food, they CAN be made vegan, ridiculously high-protein, etc.–AND, they save you buckets of time in the morning, because all you need to do is grab them out of the fridge, top, stick in a spoon and start shoveling them into your face, cold and delicious!
Peanut Butter Fingers has a great tutorial, if you’re new to the overnight oats scene, as does Oh She Glows. More linkage: Eating Bird Food’s Ode to Overnight Oats, Kath Eats Real Food’s smorgasbord of Overnight Oatmeal Inspiration.
And don’t forget Fitnessista’s world-changing Overnight Breakfast Cookie! It eliminated most of the liquid in overnight oats to form…well, a cookie. A cookie made of oatmeal and sometimes chocolate and love and amazingness.
#4. Bake them. This tip is especially geared to those unfortunates suffering from Oatmeal Excuse B (see above). The good news is that baked oatmeal usually tastes positively confectionary, because it usually has some sort of sweetener, and the texture is like a large oatmeal cookie. That you get to eat for breakfast. (!!) Baked oatmeal is also really handy because you can bake up a tray on the weekends, which sets you up with breakfast for ~4 days to come. Talk about breakfast of champions!
Check out mah very own baked oatmeal recipes: Apple PB Baked Oatmeal, and Birthday Cake Baked Oatmeal, make them, and love them as much as I do. I greatly appreciate any feedback on my recipes, because it helps me to grow as a budding amateur recipe developer/food blogger! If you prefer to roll with the pros (sniffle sniffle), head on over to PBF’s Banana Pecan Coconut Baked Oatmeal, Apple Walnut Baked Oatmeal, and Vanilla Pecan Baked Oatmeal. Also look into the Baked Oatmeal section of the recipe index of The Oatmeal Artist. Sweet tooth still not satisfied? Break out the heavy artillery–head over to Chocolate Covered Katie’s collection of dessert-like baked oatmeals.
#5. Blend them. It is unfortunately a little-known fact that you can blend oats, both raw and of the overnight variety, into yumlicious smoothies and shakes. One of my earlier recipes, Breakfast Creamsicle Smoothie, does just this. The oats give smoothies such a lovely, doughy texture and taste!! For further proof: Kath Eats Real Food’s Dough Boy Smoothie, and Oh She Glows’ Pumpkin Gingerbread Smoothie.
#6. Switch varieties. By this, I mean to say that if you’re used to conventional rolled oats (“old-fashioned oats”), give steel-cut oats a shot. They hold their texture and somewhat nutty taste much better, but they doo take a heckuva long time to cook. (Unless you go the thermos route!) Chances are, you’ll like them much better.
If, by some hiccup of the universe’s workings, you are in fact used to steel-cut oats, like I was, definitely give rolled oats a shot! I actually prefer the rolled to steel-cut; probably because I was used to the steel-cut oats in the first place, and rolled oats are really different and cool. Also, they cook in about three minutes in the microwave and require no forethought–perfect for busy students! They are also much more versatile than the steel-cut–you can’t blend steel-cut into smoothies, for instance, and overnight oats work much better using rolled oats. (Though I have heard of some people who can get it to work with steel-cut. I have all the envies.)
So, there you have it! Six delicious, no-fail tips for “revolutionizing your breakfast”! Now, go on out into the world, fueled by the glory of the humble oat, and spread the gospel of this amazing grain!