(See raw variations towards bottom of article)
I originally titled this post “Incredible Custom Homemade Oatmeal (with Raw Oatmeal Variations)”, but “Oatmeal 1-2-3” is a snappier description of the yumminess we’re going to wreak here.
This “create-your-own” recipe has very few ingredients, and takes about 3-5 minutes from empty stove/bare countertop to food on the table. There’s little to no cooking know-how involved, unless you are absent-minded like some people ::tentatively raises hand:: and may burn or overcook the bottom forgetting to stir.
So why bother to post it? For one, using something besides water to cook it is a bit of a creative leap that some of us might not make; for a very long time, I didn’t, even while trying to think of ways to make oatmeal tasty without resorting to objectionable ingredients. But maybe more importantly, it’s easy to forget that sometimes simple food can be incredibly tasty, and doesn’t necessarily have to keep you in the kitchen for extended periods of time. I’d guess that well over 90% of the recipes on the web have more than 5 ingredients and take more than 15 or 20 minutes to make (at least on the sites I’ve been to).
So this post is really about bringing us back to the basics to encourage the creative freedom of riffing on the classics. And best of all, since it’s custom-made to what you like (assuming you like oatmeal, since you clicked on this post to read it), you’re just about guaranteed to find this useful.
It goes like this:
1. Select a cooking liquid: Whatever sounds tasty, or tastes acceptable to the health benefits you’re after. Apple juice, V-8 Fusion (fruit and veggie blends that taste like fruit), coconut milk, almond milk, hemp milk, goat milk, soy milk, cow milk, water.
2. Throw the oatmeal into the cooking liquid and turn on the heat. You can cook it quickly or slowly – with quick oats I never go above medium. With steel-cut, you’re going to want to crank ‘er up at first to get it going before you turn it down to simmer.
3. Mix-ins. Can be added before, during, or after cooking. The beautiful thing with chopped dates is that they will melt in straight and smooth if you boil them with the oats. Raisins added at this point come out plump and juicy. When I want berries, though, I like to take them straight from the freezer and add them after cooking. This cools the whole thing and keeps the berries intact. Try fruit (dried, frozen, fresh, even canned if that’s what’s handy and what you like), nuts, seeds (chia, sunflower, hemp, am I leaving any other awesome ones out?), miscellaneous (bran, germ, psyllium husk and the like, vanilla or almond extracts, chocolate chips), spices. This is so easy to do, oats are well-cheap, and you’re not going to waste a lot on an experiment gone wrong. I’ve had a few that didn’t turn out so great, but they weren’t inedible.
If you used water, you may want to add a sweetener, preferably natural. Real maple syrup, molasses (or both of these, for a natural “maple and brown sugar” flavor; just go easy with the molasses as it can be pretty strong), agave nectar (though agave is little better nutritionally than sugar syrup, but it’s low glycemic), honey… There are a lot of great options out there. A few weeks ago I came across this awesome site, NaturallySweetRecipes. I loved their natural sweetener guide, and I highly recommend that you go check that out for other ideas, though if you used dates, applesauce or apple juice, you may not need or want to.
The combinations are limited only by your imagination and the foods available to you. Some ways I’ve done our oatmeal:
Raw: Done simply by soaking the oats in the chosen liquid instead of cooking them. I don’t think this would work well or quickly with steel-cut, but a lot of people reduce the cook time of their steel-cut oats with an overnight soak, so maybe they’d be edible by morning.
Apple Spice: Apple juice, cinnamon and cloves, or pumpkin pie spice. Tastes better than the store-bought packets. Nut lovers may want to add some walnuts or pecans. This is an easy and tasty one to do raw.
Pumpkin Pie: Apple juice, couple dabs of pumpkin puree, mashed banana, pumpkin pie spice, maple syrup, touch of molasses, chopped pecans.
Raisin Spice: Water, chopped dates, raisins, cinnamon.
Cinnamon Roll: Coconut milk, vanilla extract, maple syrup, cinnamon, raisins.
Cherry Almond: Cherry juice, almond extract, chopped frozen cherries. Ooh… next time I should try this one with chocolate chips, and make it Black Forest! I also did this with a jar of Morello Cherries from Trader Joe’s, using the juice for cooking liquid.
Strawberry Banana: I don’t remember how I did this one. I think I mashed in the banana and chunked the frozen strawberries to cool it.
Chocolate chip cookie: This one was a while back, too… I think I used a bit of vanilla extract and some chocolate chips. And I think it ended up not being as good as it sounded. But if you find a way to make this one work, I’d love to hear about it!
One last idea: if you’re adventurous and like savory stuff, you could experiment with some herbs and cheese. I don’t eat cheese anymore, and sweet oatmeal sounds much better to me than savory, but if you try that, let me know how it goes!