Oatmeal — that breakfast staple of our grandparents — reigns supreme in your breakfast recipe repertoire. But it can also become one of your family’s favorite mealtime side dishes with just a little imagination.
This week the entire US is experiencing a blast of truly cold weather with many states not even getting above zero. This is a very good week to warm up the kids and family with gourmet oatmeal breakfasts.
My family has battled the worst symptoms of Alzheimer’s for over a year. My Mom was diagnosed three years ago with the disease. Surely by now, everyone knows the disease affects memory loss, but unless you’ve witnessed the decline of a loved one you probably don’t realize that the disease is accompanied by a loss of taste, anorexia and an inability to eat and digest a lot of food types. However, oatmeal has remained one food that Mom would eat and we were able to add all kinds of supplements and flavors to keep her strong.
Oatmeal is a power food — high in fiber, calcium, and potassium — with a low glycemic index. It is known to reduce blood pressure and help maintain heart health. Oatmeal is rich in nutrients and phenols that provide antioxidants and it is naturally anti-inflammatory.
Best of all, oatmeal — rolled oats or steel-cut oats — are neutral in flavor and provide whole grain benefits while accepting a variety of flavor additives. They are also budget-friendly and available in every American grocery store.
Here are just a few ideas to amp up your oatmeal and expand your whole grain culinary taste.
Oatmeal and your favorite fruits! Oatmeal pairs well with almost any fruit for a perfect breakfast cereal. After cooking your oats, mix in blueberries, honey, and cinnamon: Or mix apples and maple syrup, or pears and pecans with this great grain. Add any dried fruit and your favorite seeds or nuts to change out the routine like apricots and toasted pumpkin seeds or cranberries and pistachios.
- Put a tropical twist on your oatmeal by adding yogurt and pineapple, mango and coconut to your bowl. Yummy!
- Chocolate oatmeal — absolutely yes. Add a drizzle of melted semi-sweet chocolate and 1/2 a banana to your morning oatmeal for a dessert-style breakfast that’s still pretty healthy. For a healthier version at 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa, 2 teaspoons of raw honey and a banana to 1/2 cup of uncooked oats and 1/2 cup of coconut milk. Refrigerate overnight.
- Oatmeal pancakes put a new healthy twist on a family favorite weekend breakfast. Oatmeal pancakes keep the family from getting hungry all morning and they taste great with any traditional pancake toppings.
- Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies
- Steel-cut Oat Risotto. Replace the arborio rice with steel cut oats in the preparation and mix in mushrooms, asparagus and Parmesan cheese for healthy side dish option.
- Roasted tomato and basil oatmeal is a fabulous side dish for any lean protein meal.
- Roasted vegetable oatmeal creates a filling base for eggs for a lighter evening meal.
Basic refrigerator oats are made by adding 1/2 cup of rolled oats (Use old-fashioned rolled oats for the texture. If you use quick cooking oats you’ll end up with a pasty, gummy texture.) to 1 cup of milk (soy, almond, coconut, or even plain old 2% or whole milk) in a jar or container. Top with fruits, nuts, spices, and sweeteners. Refrigerate overnight, and in the morning it magically has become a hearty and flavorful breakfast porridge.
Here you are only limited by your own imagination. My favorite recipes are:
- 1/2 cup oatmeal, 2 teaspoons Chia seeds, 1 cup milk, 1 diced apple, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 tablespoon of honey. Cover, shake and refrigerate overnight. In the morning top with a drizzle of homemade caramel or chocolate sauce.
- 1/2 cup oatmeal, 2 teaspoons Chia seeds, 1 cup coconut milk (remove the cream at the top of the can), 2 rings of pineapple cut in chunks, 1/4 cup of blueberries (frozen or fresh), 1 tablespoon blanched almonds, 1 tablespoon of honey. Top with a spoonful of Greek yogurt and toasted coconut.
- For picky eaters – mix 1/2 cup of oatmeal, 2 teaspoons of Chia seeds, 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa, 2 tablespoons of honey, 1/2 a small banana, 2 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter, and 1 cup of milk. It will taste like desert to them, but you’ll know it’s packed with good things.