The prospect of oatmeal for breakfast always draws cheers at our house. As much as BeanOne and BeanTwo like The Luck of the Loch Ness Monster, they passionately disagree with the premise that all kids dislike oatmeal. As BeanTwo says every time we read the book, “They just don’t make it the way that we do.”
However you may feel about pre-flavored instant oatmeal packets, you’ll find that upgrade in texture and flavor of regular rolled oats or steel-cut oats is entirely worth the small amount of effort required to make it.
My choice of oat depends on the amount of advanced planning I have done. If I wake up in the morning and decide to make oatmeal, it will be rolled oats cooked in the microwave, and made entirely with milk, rather than water. Here’s the method:
- With a milk/oat ratio of 2:1, measure out the necessary amount of milk into a large microwave safe dish or large pyrex measuring bowl and then add the oats. (For my two Beans, I use 2 cups milk and 1 cup rolled oats. For one adult, try 1½ cups milk and ¾ cups oats.)
- Toss in raisins, if desired.
- Microwave on High for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the power of your model and the amount of oatmeal you want to make.
- Stir and return to microwave. At this point it should be very hot, but not much changed in consistency.
- Microwave again for 1 to 3 minutes, keeping your eye on the dish. Let the oatmeal bubble up, but not enough to spill out. Stop and stir as needed and continue microwaving until the oatmeal starts to thicken.
- Let the oatmeal rest for a minute or two to finish cooking. Then serve with mix-ins and toppings.
After a couple of times, you’ll figure out the exact times you’ll need for microwaving and it won’t require so much oversight. Just be sure to have enough room in your dish to let the oatmeal bubble up. You can experiment with quick oats vs. old-fashioned oats; texture will determine your preference. Quick oats are more processed, less flavorful, and cook up smoother than old-fashioned oats.
If you have a slow-cooker and a bit of foresight, go for steel-cut oats, which are superior in taste and nutrition – and start it the night before you want to eat them. You can cook steel-cut oats on your stovetop in the morning, but it will require 35 to 40 minutes and constant stirring to prevent burning. On the other hand, if you put the oats and water in a slow-cooker and let it go for 9 hours while you sleep, your oatmeal will be perfectly cooked and waiting for you in the morning, needing only a few easy finishing touches. The method:
- Find a large glass dish that will fit inside your slow-cooker.
- Put water and steel-cut oats in the glass dish at a ratio of 4:1. (I typically cook 1 cup oats in 4 cups water.)
- Fill the slow cooker with about an inch of water and place the glass dish carefully inside. Add more water to the slow-cooker as needed to approximately match the water level in the glass dish.
- Add a some drops of vegetable oil to the glass dish. Do not mix; let it float on top. This will make cleaning the dish easier later.
- Cover the slow-cooker and cook on LOW for 9 hours.
- In the morning, stir in salt (1/4 tsp of salt for my typical batch).
- Optional: For a protein boost, I beat two eggs, temper it by mixing in some hot oatmeal, then add the warmed egg mixture back into the dish and stir thoroughly. Other options for adding protein include substituting half the water with milk, or adding protein powders at the beginning of cooking.
If you like to add raisins or other dried fruit, you can soften them as needed by soaking them for a few minutes in a small dish with some of the hot “bath water” from the slow cooker. The oatmeal can stay warm in it’s bath all morning until it’s ready to be served. Leftover oatmeal can be refrigerated and reheated in a microwave with a splash of milk.
In my next post I’ll talk about the many permutations and combinations of interesting toppings and add-ins that make oatmeal really great.