Friday, November 14, 2008
Posted by Kate at 3:31 PM
Now that the weather's turned cold, I'm returning to wintry ways with breakfast. Hot breakfasts are so welcome at this time of year. After an indispensable large cup of tea, I'm eating oatmeal again these days. Even with rising food prices, rolled oats are still an excellent value, and they're a good way to incorporate whole grains into your diet. Steel-cut oats are good as well, but they tend to be more expensive, and I've found that I get hungry sooner after eating steel-cut oats as compared with plain old rolled oats.
I appreciate oatmeal because it can be accessorized in so many delicious ways. I grew up on the sugar bomb instant oatmeal packets, while my husband's family favored rolled oats garnished with salt and butter. Both of us retain those preferences. I still like maple syrup on my oatmeal; he still likes it savory. Right now we have apples coming in from our apple tree. So I've been cutting one up each morning to add to our oats. I used to add sliced bananas before we began trying to eat more locally. Dried fruits are great too. I'm particularly fond of golden raisins, but just about any dried fruit will work nicely.
We're not afraid of fat in our household, so we often add some of that to our oatmeal. I used to favor a tablespoon of heavy cream drizzled over my bowl of oats in the past. More recently, inspired by that wicked idea of Mark Bittman's, I've started adding a tablespoon of cream cheese paired with a small shot of maple syrup.
There are dozens of ways of customizing your bowl of oatmeal or other rolled grains. Here are some of my favorite combinations of ingredients:
banana, walnut, raisin
maple syrup, chopped apple, cream cheese
chopped pear, pomegranate molasses
honey, dried cranberry, a little lemon zest
mixed berry jam, heavy cream, pinch of cardamom
dried cherries, vanilla sugar
Old fashioned rolled oats cook so quickly that there's really no justification for quick oats. Five minutes is all it takes. If you really want to, feel free to cook it for 20 minutes to produce a mushy porridge. The nearly al dente version appeals more to me. I usually add the smallest pinch of salt to the water when cooking the oats, and any other powdered spices I want to flavor it with. The rest of the ingredients can be added after the oats have cooked.
Home cooked oatmeal is a much better choice than breakfast cereal, in my opinion. It's usually cheaper per serving, even if you jazz it up with nuts or fruit. At bulk prices, the organic oatmeal in the photo above cost me 21 cents. True, the additional ingredients cost me something, though the apples came from our tree. But how much could a few raisins and a dollop of maple syrup really add up to? Certainly well under a dollar all together. Additionally, by preparing your own food, you avoid the chemical additives and refined corn sugar that are nearly universal in breakfast cereals. You can control precisely the sweetness and the amount of fat in your food. There's less packaging to throw away. And you get a warm breakfast that delivers sustained energy for several hours. What could be better than that?
What do you like in your oatmeal?