I would like to begin my blog as I begin my day – with breakfast.
Growing up we frequently had a box of flavored instant oatmeal in the pantry next to the cold cereal. I remember choosing it often in the winter and making it in the microwave. My favorite flavor was strawberries and cream and I am pretty sure I would make 2 or 3 packets at a time. As an adult I didn’t buy instant oatmeal very often but I didn’t cook it from scratch either. I didn’t find the instant packets to be very filling and once I started paying attention to the nutrition labels I found the volume I wanted to consume to be full was 2 or 3 times the volume I wanted to consume calorie wise. I didn’t cook it from scratch because it seemed like a much more involved process than I wanted to engage in and more than that I envisioned the results to be bland and unappetizing.
As I have been losing weight I have found myself revisiting foods that I had previously written off. Part of the joy in this process has come from discovering that I do like many things I thought I didn’t, I just needed to cook them differently. When my son was born I read and was told by several people that oatmeal was a good food for nursing moms. I immediately went out and bought a package of oatmeal cookies. I knew the packaged cookies didn’t contain the amount of oats I would get from a simple bowl of oatmeal so I had to move on to the grain in its more wholesome form. Initially I cooked the old fashioned variety just as the recipe on the package suggests; on the stove with water. This did not last long since the simple recipe does yield the results I had envisioned previously, bland and boring oatmeal. The good news was it turned out to be a quick and easy breakfast food that my husband was willing to make too. I was motivated to find ways to like oatmeal because it was good for me and benefited my son so in the following weeks we added the standard raisins, cinnamon and brown sugar. I wanted to up the protein a bit and tried cooking the oats in half fat free milk and half water. The milk made the oats creamier and I don’t think I have used only water since then, I frequently will cook them in only milk and alternate between cow and soy milk for variety.
I was delighted to discover that oatmeal really is a great platform for other flavors and textures. Here are some of the things that I regularly combine with my oats:
- Spices such as Cinnamon, All Spice, Ginger, Pumpkin Pie Spice
- 1/2 tsp. Vanilla or 1/4 tsp. Lemon Extract
- Unsweetened Apple Sauce or slices
- Frozen Berries – warmed
- Fresh Berries
- Dried fruit – especially raisins
- Citrus Zest
- 1 -2 tsp. Chopped nuts – pecans and walnuts are my favorite especially toasted first
- Flax Meal
- 1/2 tsp. honey
- 2 tsp. sugar-free pancake syrup
- 1/2 tsp. Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
One morning I was playing with ideas for getting more protein into my breakfast and stirred in a blob of peanut butter. This was not good. The texture was gluey, the smell was odd and it tasted more savory (think Thai food) than I like for breakfast. My advice is to skip the nut butter and grab a boiled egg if you want more protein with your oatmeal.
All of these are fun, quick and easy for an everyday breakfast and changing the added ingredients keeps it from becoming boring. Oatmeal is also a great special occation or holiday treat too. One morning I posted on Facebook that I was stirring Pumpkin Pie Spice into my breakfast and was rewarded with a link to a recipe for Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal on The Good Life Eats blog. Thank you to Rainy Day Gal for pointing me to what has become my absolute favorite breakfast.
Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal
- 1 cup old fashioned oats
- 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
- 3/4 cup milk (cow or non-dairy)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 2 tsp butter, crumbled in small pieces
- 1 Tbs brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or 1/4 tsp all spice, 1/4 tsp ground ginger)
- 1/2 tsp lemon or orange zest
- optional – 1 cup fresh cranberries, 1 tsp Stevia
- 1/4 cup pecans, minced
- 2 tsp butter, softened
- 1 Tbs brown sugar
- a dash of cinnamon
- a dash of zest
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
- In an oven-safe pot or casserole dish, combine the pumpkin, milk and butter then mix in the dry ingredients. (the topping comes later) Place the oatmeal in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
- While the oatmeal is baking, mix the topping. After 10 minutes spread the topping evenly over the casserole and return to the oven for an additional 7 minutes.
- Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
- Use maple syrup in place of the brown sugar in the oatmeal
- Toss a few dried cranberries or raisins on top for some added texture and sweetness.
- Use any type of nut you have on hand, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and sunflower seeds are all great in this recipe.