Over the Christmas holidays, as the temperatures dipped below -25 celcius, we hunkered down enjoying leisurely breakfasts over large cups of coffee. There were crepes, toasted homemade bread and pancakes. But now it’s January, and we’ve returned to regular life and regular breakfast. In the mornings I need something fast, satisfying, and easy to feed a 4-year-old. Over the past couple of years oatmeal has become our (surprising) default breakfast. It’s quick, warm, and a favourite around these parts.
Today I’m going to share my secret oatmeal trick, some tasty toppings, and other oatmeal variations.
The great oatmeal secret:
As a kid, I hated oatmeal. It always tasted runny and bland to me, no matter how much sugar I piled on top. The secret to creamier, tastier oatmeal? Make it partly with milk. Check the directions on your oatmeal, and replace a third of the water with milk. If you’re cooking it on the stovetop, you’ll have to stir it more often to prevent the bottom from burning, but it’s worth the extra effort.
What kind of oatmeal is best?
Unless you’ve been hiding from the internet for the past 5 years, you know that steel cut oats are supposed to be the tastiest, healthiest, all around best oats on the planet. But me? I don’t like them. The texture just doesn’t do it for me. But if you love them? Go for it. They take longer to cook, so I recommend using a slow cooker or pre-cooking a batch and keeping it in your fridge.
Rolled oats are partially processed and flattened, but take longer to cook than instant or quick oats. They keep their shape better than quick oats, and lack the “chewiness” of steel cut oats.
Instant oats are the ones I pick. I like the soft texture, the quick cooking time, and the fact that I can buy a huge bag of them at the grocery store for practically nothing.
But, which kind of oats should you pick? Whatever tastes best to you, and works with your cooking time. They all have exactly the same nutritional profile. Who knew?
How to make your oatmeal more exciting
Let’s be serious, as much as I love my oatmeal, it’s not going to win any awards for Most Exciting Breakfast (french toast will always have my heart). But you can jazz it up a bit in a number of ways:
After cooking your oatmeal, add any combination of the following to your bowl: fresh fruit (bananas and peaches are my favourites), dried fruit (raisins, blueberries and cranberries), yoghurt, shredded coconut, chopped nuts or cooked fruit (I’m thinking of chunky applesauce here, but don’t let me limit you).
Before cooking, add any of the following to your oatmeal:
- Diced fruit: I recommend apples, peaches or bananas
- Spices: cinnamon might be the standard spice, but what about nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, or cocoa?
- Coconut milk: all that great coconut flavour, without the texture of the dried stuff
Alternate cooking methods
Instead of the standard stove top method, try baked oatmeal. There are a number of great recipes out there.
Oatmeal isn’t the most filling food in the world. If a regular bowl of oatmeal just isn’t doing it, some of these tricks may help:
Add some healthy fat to your toppings
Choose from chopped nuts, higher fat yoghurt, full fat coconut milk, nut butter, or ground flax.
Add an egg
This one might sound weird, but you can add an egg to your oatmeal with little change in flavour. Start your oatmeal cooking in a pot, beat a single egg, add it slowly to the pot while stirring the oatmeal. When your oatmeal’s done the egg will be cooked. Season however you prefer, and enjoy your breakfast!
Toddler friendly options
When my daughter started daycare at a year old, and I went back to work, I wanted one breakfast I could make for both of us that didn’t require a lot of extra work and was fairly healthy. Oh yeah, I wanted her to enjoy eating it too.
Now, ymmv, because toddlers are tiny little individuals with crazy ideas, but I found this oatmeal combination to be the best breakfast variation that would give us a healthy start to the day we would both enjoy:
Ingredients: half a banana, quick oats, milk
Directions: mash the banana in a bowl, add quick oats (I used 0.5 cups for the two of us), add water as per the package directions replacing approximately one third of the water with milk, microwave for 45 seconds, stir, microwave for another 45 seconds. Enjoy!
Mashing the banana helps it to cook quickly and the cooked banana adds a bit of sweetness with the oatmeal without having to add additional sugar.
Whatever flavours you like, there might be an oatmeal out there that’s just right for you,