Last week Mark Bittman wrote his New York Times opinion piece about the abomination that is McDonald's "oatmeal." Like most things that come from McDonald's, it is more than likely that the oatmeal tastes good. I may be a local-eating, Michael Pollan-loving mom, but I also think that a Quarter Pounder with cheese is delicious. Despite the yumminess of its foods, there is really no arguing that McDonald's produces some of the least healthy food products on the planet; not only is that burger really bad for you in terms of fat, calories and sodium, you can be sure that meat was grown in a manner that was harmful to the environment and workers. But I digress...Bittman's piece points out just how strange McDonald's oatmeal is - it contains over 20 ingredients, for example.
Since Bittman didn't need to sell me on avoiding McDonald's food, I was more interested in the link to a blog called The Simple Dollar that provided an analysis of how much money one could save by making your own packets of instant oatmeal. Very cool.
And all of this discussion about oatmeal led me to consider some ways to make oatmeal for breakfast more do-able in our house. See, everyone in my family loves oatmeal. But I don't really like to purchase the instant packets - I suspected they were a rip-off, which turns out to be true, and I knew that they were far less healthy than what I could make on the stove. But I live with a toddler and a five year old who are not always the picture of patience in the morning, and I am not typically the picture of organization as we are getting ready to for our busy day. Given these variables, how could we have homemade oatmeal without the fuss?
Consulting the Google, I came up with a solution: soak the oats overnight. I am sure this is completely obvious to most people, but it was news to me. Friday night I gave it a try. (Have I mentioned that we have a thrilling social life?) In a glass bowl I put about a cup of rolled oats, a few shakes of salt and cinnamon, and poured about 2 cups of milk. I didn't really measure the milk; I just poured in enough to cover the oats. I covered the dish and put it in the fridge. In the morning, it was a creamy bowl of breakfast happiness. I added raisins and warmed it up on the stove. Since everyone liked it so much, I made a larger batch on Sunday night. This time I used half milk and half water to cover the oats. And on this rainy Monday morning, everyone got their own bowl to microwave for about a minute. (Why I used the stove the first time is a mystery to me.) Delicious!
My internet "research" indicates that you can easily add other grains like quinoa or millet to the mix. Also a good application for added flax meal or wheat germ if you are looking to up the fiber. Any dried, fresh or frozen fruit would be a nice addition. Finally, you can do the same type of overnight preparation with steel cut oats. Here is Bittman's version of this variation.
One last oatmeal tip: If you like oatmeal, definitely try to buy it in bulk. Even at Whole Foods, not known for low prices, the bulk grains are way cheaper than buying a branded product.