Monday, November 22, 2010

Simple Make-Ahead Creamy Oatmeal

Oatmeal is well known as a wonder food, offering many health benefits including reducing cholesterol.  It is a whole grain food, full of minerals, fiber, and a good source of protein.  And not only is oatmeal good for us, it is also absolutely delicious! 

The really unfortunate thing is that instead of real oatmeal, many people are eating those pouches of  overly refined, super-sweetened "instant" oatmeal.  If you look at the nutrition panel on a simple flavor of a popular brand of pouch oatmeal such as maple and brown sugar, you will find that one tiny pouch contains about two teaspoons of sugar, along with a few chemical additives.  If you really want a wake-up call about the kind of fooling around food companies are doing with our food, look at the nutrition panel on a popular brand of "peaches 'n cream" flavored instant oatmeal.  What is all that stuff?  Why does it need to have so many chemicals?  It doesn't even have anything vaguely resembling peaches in it! 

What makes this even more sad is that it is so incredibly simple to make quick to heat, portable oatmeal where you have total control over what goes into it. 

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm!  For my easy way to ditch the pouch and take control of your oatmeal, click "read more"!

A couple of quick things right off the bat.  First, these are my photos, not my photographer/husband's, and I'm nowhere near the photographer he is, so blame any poor picture quality on me. ;-)

Second, although I use a rice cooker for this, it is absolutely not a necessity.  You can do the same thing in a pot.  I happen to really like the rice cooker for this because I can just dump everything in, turn it on, and ignore it for a period of time.  I will post in the near future about why I think a rice cooker is a very useful thing to have around the kitchen, and well worth the money.  And believe me, cooking rice is way down on the list (because we only rarely eat rice).  Same thing with the kitchen scale...tremendously useful, but if you don't have one you can still do this.

That said, here goes!

Step 1:  Gather together the basics for the oatmeal. 

In this case I'm actually using an organic steel cut multi-grain hot cereal.  Half the time I make this recipe I use multi-grain cereal, and half the time I use steel cut oats (a/k/a Irish oats).  It also works just as well with old-fashioned rolled oats or rolled multi-grain cereals.  Besides the oats you need milk (any kind, but to keep it low fat I use skim), water, and pure vanilla extract.  And that's it.  (What do you suppose the food companies do with all those other ingredients anyway?)

Step 2:  Measure 106 grams of the oatmeal.  If you don't have a scale, 106 grams is about a generous 1/2 cup.

Dump the oatmeal into the rice cooker.  Measure 1 cup milk, dump it into the rice cooker.  Measure 2/3 cup water, dump it into the rice cooker.  Pour 1 to 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract into the rice cooker.  It will look like this:

Step 3:  Close the slow cooker lid, select the "Porridge" setting, and turn it on. 

If you're using steel cut oats, set a timer for 30 minutes.  If you're using multi-grain cereal, old-fashioned rolled oats, or a rolled multi-grain cereal, set the timer for 20 minutes.  If you want to check on it before the timer goes off, go right ahead, it doesn't seem to bother anything.  Just pop open the lid, have a look, and assuming you want to keep going push the lid closed again.

Again, if you aren't using a rice cooker, you can still do this, just use a pot and do the usual cook and stir routine.

Step 4:  When the oatmeal is done, pop open the lid, carefully pull out the (hot!) inside pot, and it will look pretty much like this:

Step 5:  Portion it out into 2 or 3 microwave safe containers, and if you're planning on taking this to work like I do every other day, be sure the containers are also spill-proof.  I use my kitchen scale to divide mine into three equal servings.  FYI, if you have deeper containers than I'm using here, use them so it's easier to reheat in the microwave without boilovers. 

Once you have the oatmeal portioned into the containers, stir in another 1/3 cup of milk.  It will look too wet, but remember, this is to put in the fridge and eat over the next few days, so much of the milk will be absorbed leaving you with perfect, creamy oatmeal.  If you're eating some of it right away, you don't need to add the extra milk unless you want to thin it out.  Here are two without the extra milk added, and one where I added it:

Step 6:  A/K/A the fun part!  When you're ready to eat it, just add your favorite flavorings, reheat, and enjoy!

Here are some of my favorites:

a.  A small ripe banana cut into slices and a tablespoon or so of chopped walnuts (no extra sweetener needed);

b.  About a cup and a half of whatever berries I have and a tablespoon or so of chopped walnuts (no extra sweetener needed);

c.  A peach cut up into small pieces and tablespoon or so of chopped walnuts, with a teaspoon of honey if the peach wasn't quite sweet enough;

d.  An apple cut up into small pieces, a tablespoon or so of chopped walnuts, a teaspoon of honey, and a sprinkle of cinnamon;

e.  A tablespoon of peanut butter and a teaspoon of honey;

f.  1/2 cup of your fabulous homemade pumpkin puree (okay, you can use canned too!), a teaspoon of honey, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Be creative!  Use your favorite oatmeal flavorings!  The important thing is that you've made something that is so much better quality and healthier than those stupid pouches, with real fruit, not artificially flavored fake fruit.

Anyway, in all the examples above except the berries, I mix the stuff in, microwave 1 minute and 30 seconds, take it out and stir, then microwave another 30 seconds.  You do have to keep an eye on it for boilovers, but it helps a lot if your bowls are deeper than mine.  With the berries, I heat up the oatmeal without putting the berries in, and dump in the berries after the oatmeal is hot (totally a personal preference, either way works).

Yum!  The version pictured is apple-walnut-cinnamon with a tiny bit of raw honey.



  1. Looks very tasting!

  2. Okay...I'm a convert! My mouth is watering just reading the text and looking at the pictures! I finally have something to do with my rice cooker!!!