Growing up we frequently had a box of flavored instant oatmeal in the pantry next to the cold cereal. I remember choosing it often in the winter and making it in the microwave. My favorite flavor was strawberries and cream and I am pretty sure I would make 2 or 3 packets at a time. As an adult I didn't buy instant oatmeal very often but I didn't cook it from scratch either. I didn't find the instant packets to be very filling and once I started paying attention to the nutrition labels I found the volume I wanted to consume to be full was 2 or 3 times the volume I wanted to consume calorie wise. I didn't cook it from scratch because it seemed like a much more involved process than I wanted to engage in and more than that I envisioned the results to be bland and unappetizing.
As I have been losing weight I have found myself revisiting foods that I had previously written off. Part of the joy in this process has come from discovering that I do like many things I thought I didn't, I just needed to cook them differently. When my son was born I read and was told by several people that oatmeal was a good food for nursing moms. I immediately went out and bought a package of oatmeal cookies. I knew the packaged cookies didn't contain the amount of oats I would get from a simple bowl of oatmeal so I had to move on to the grain in its more wholesome form. Initially I cooked the old fashioned variety just as the recipe on the package suggests; on the stove with water. This did not last long since the simple recipe does yield the results I had envisioned previously, bland and boring oatmeal. The good news was it turned out to be a quick and easy breakfast food that my husband was willing to make too. I was motivated to find ways to like oatmeal because it was good for me and benefited my son so in the following weeks we added the standard raisins, cinnamon and brown sugar. I wanted to up the protein a bit and tried cooking the oats in half fat free milk and half water. The milk made the oats creamier and I don't think I have used only water since then, I frequently will cook them in only milk and alternate between cow and soy milk for variety.
I was delighted to discover that oatmeal really is a great platform for other flavors and textures. Here are some of the things that I regularly combine with my oats:
Vanilla Extract (a small amount - about 1/4 of a teaspoon)
Apple sauce or slices
Raisin or any other dried fruit
Chopped nuts - pecans and walnuts are my favorite especially toasted first
I haven't tried bananas because I don't really like them but if you do I bet it would be tasty.
One morning I was playing with ideas for getting more protein into my breakfast and stirred in a blob of peanut butter. This was not good. The texture was gluey, the smell was odd and it tasted more savory (think Thai food) than I want for breakfast. My advice is to skip the nut butter and grab a boiled egg if you want more protein with your oatmeal.
All of these are fun, quick and easy for an everyday breakfast and changing the added ingredients keeps it from becoming boring. Oatmeal is also a great special occation or holiday treat too. One morning I posted on Facebook that I was stirring Pumpkin Pie Spice into my breakfast and was rewarded with a link to a recipe for Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal on The Good Life Eats blog. Thank you to Rainy Day Gal for pointing me to what has become my absolute favorite breakfast.
The Good Life Eats version of Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal was adapted from a previous recipe. I have in turn adapted it again to suit my taste and style. I have modified the original recipe from individual ramekins to one casserole dish for simplicity sake but it is fun to do single portions as well. Please try it, play with it, and adapt it to suit your life.
Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal
adapted from The Good Life Eats posted 9/11/09
- 1 cup old fashioned oats (not quick cook)
- 1 Tbs whole flax seeds (optional)
- 2 1/2 Tbs brown sugar, packed (or 1 1/2 Tbs of Splenda Brown Sugar Blend)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 tsp lemon zest
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 2 tsp butter, softened (or Smart Balance butter alternative)
- 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
- 3/4 cup milk (cow or soy)
- 1/4 cup pecans, chopped
- 2 tsp butter, softened (or Smart Balance)
- 1 Tbs brown sugar (stick to the regular brown sugar here for the texture)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
Combine the dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and set aside. In an oven-safe casserole dish, combine the pumpkin, milk and butter. Fold the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture and place into the oven for 10 minutes. While the oatmeal is baking, mix the topping. After 10 minutes spread the topping evenly over the casserole and return to the oven for an additional 7 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Toss a few dried cranberries or raisins on top for some added texture and sweetness. Serves 2-4.