The other day I was in Costco, and I always like to check out the food demonstrators’ tables to see what is new (and copy-worthy). I was bemused to find that they now offer “pre-made” (as in you heat, presumably in a microwave) cooked steel-cut oatmeal. The popular, pre-packaged powdered abomination (the stuff in the envelopes) made by various cereal manufacturers which passes for oatmeal is bad enough – full of sugar and not a whole lot of goodness, and ridiculously expensive for what it is. This stuff at Costco actually tasted all right – there were two varieties, berry- and maple-flavoured – but worked out to about a dollar a serving. Pretty steep in my opinion, as one package was about eight bucks. I can cook a lot of steel-cut oatmeal myself for that kind of money.
Oatmeal has a bad rap, as it is often poorly presented or badly cooked. It is bland, but with a little love can make a very tasty breakfast and need not have sugar added. When I was a kid I used to load it with brown sugar and milk, which I found delicious then, but my pancreas doesn’t like it now 😉
Oatmeal comes in the aforementioned steel-cut form (which does require a little patience but for oatmeal aficionados such as myself, as it takes longer to cook, it is worth the wait) – as well as rolled, quick-cooking and Scottish versions. My favourites are rolled and Scottish (British oatmeal is cut more finely, and therefore cooks quite quickly).
I generally use slightly more than twice the amount of liquid to oatmeal – a single serving of dry oatmeal being 1/3 cup, so about 3/4 cup liquid is what I use. I much prefer to use milk over water, as it makes the cooked oatmeal more like rice pudding in consistency, and of course, you get the boost of calcium and protein.
To prepare, combine however much you are making (i.e. increase recipe amount according to the number of mouths needing oatmeal) in a pot, bring to boil, reduce heat immediately and simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, until done – about five minutes (maybe slightly longer for larger amounts). Who needs a microwave?
Now the fun part – you really don’t need sugar. My personal favourite is cinnamon (or a combination spice from Epicure called “Poudre Douce” – recommended if you can get it in your area). Sprinkle cinnamon/spice of your choice to taste, and add a couple of tablespoons each of hemp hearts (best deal is at Costco!) and ground roasted flax seed (same!), as well as a handful of almonds, blueberries or some cut-up peach, nectarine, apple or plum, or use a small handful of dried raisins or blueberries if you have nothing fresh.
Another way that I love is one that I learned from my daughter, Chantal – the addition of egg to oatmeal. You can poach the egg and add it to the cooked oatmeal, but my favourite way is to cook the oatmeal in water (the egg provides protein) until it is *almost* done (as in, very slightly runnier than you would serve it). Now, add one egg per serving and stir like crazy, continuing to cook for another minute or so. The egg cooks with the remaining liquid in the oatmeal, making a “custard”. Add a teaspoon vanilla and some cinnamon (and any or all of the additions mentioned above), and you’re done 🙂