January 30, 2012

Oatmeal: It's What's for Breakfast!

Oatmeal?!? Yes, oatmeal. Warm, delicious, satisfying, versatile oatmeal. 

For the longest time, (about 25 years), I thought that oatmeal was the stuff that cookies were made of, or the powdery, sugary, unsatisfying stuff that came in a paper envelope that cooked in the microwave. (A box of which would last me six months). On cold mornings, I would sometimes throw a bowl of said powdery stuff together in an attempt to eat healthy and warm myself up... only to end up sugared up and hungry 30 minutes later.

Then I found steel cut oats. My mother made them for me the first time I had them, and I felt like I was being treated to a gourmet breakfast. She cooked the oatmeal, then added sliced banana, toasted walnuts, and a dash of cinnamon... It was like warm, gooey banana bread, but better, (and healthier!). For a long time, steel cut oatmeal was something of a treat for me... something my mom would make when she was up visiting- an indulgence that made me feel like I was on vacation at a great bed and breakfast... but, I talked myself out of eating them more often, getting stuck in the mindset that it was too labor intensive or time consuming for a regular breakfast. 

Then came baby. Then came baby weight. Then came the quest for a "diet" that I could actually stick to, to help me shed the baby weight. I decided I needed to consistently eat breakfast, (and not just a granola bar on the run), a breakfast with protein and fiber to keep me full, something I could eat everyday and not get tired of...so, I decided to eat more real oatmeal. My plan: make a large batch of steel cut oats on Sunday to enjoy throughout the week. 

I have never come up with a more fun and delicious plan.

To start, I cook my oatmeal (I use Quaker Steel Cut Oats) with water, (I don't care for the flavor of warm milk). They take about 30-40 minutes to cook... and as they cook, I plan my fixin's. Then, after they have cooled, I package them in serving sized containers, and add a few fixin's. In the morning, I stick the container in the microwave with about 2 tbsp of skim milk, stir it up, and enjoy every bite. I have had a lot of fun coming up with different "oatmeal recipes" to try out. I have yet to find a combination I don't like... 

Here are a few that I've really enjoyed:

- Craisins, cinnamon, brown sugar
- Banana slices, cinnamon, brown sugar, walnuts (great with or without the nuts!)
- Toasted coconut, banana slices, cinnamon, brown sugar
- Toasted coconut, chopped dried apricot, cinnamon
- Diced dried figs, honey, cinnamon
- Crunchy peanut butter, strawberry jam
- Maple syrup, cinnamon, walnuts

...there are endless possibilities. 

Peanut butter is an awesome addition because it adds a good amount of protein, but also makes the oatmeal creamy and velvety... very filling. I think one morning, I will try it with just a little bit of Nutella and see what happens... though it might not be the healthiest option. Other ingredients I plan to try out are: molasses, blueberries, apple pieces (I'm going to see if I can make it taste like apple pie...), and different nuts. 

So far, so good... It has been about a month, I'm shedding weight, eating breakfast, and having fun with it. I look forward to my bowl of oatmeal in the morning. Any ideas for more oatmeal recipes? Anything delicious you think I should try?? Please share!!

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