Growing up one of my favorite breakfast foods was Quaker Instant Oatmeal. I loved picking out my own individually-sized packet from the box of assorted flavors and "making it" myself (aka. adding hot water or milk). My favorite flavor was strawberries and cream, because the freeze-dried strawberry pieces (really, strawberry-flavored and sugar-infused milk sponges of questionable origin would be a more appropriate description) turned the milk pink. Those were the days when I thought pink milk was perfectly normal. Sweet tooth? Oh my, you betcha.
Fast forward thirty years. While my sweet tooth is still going strong, since moving to California eight years ago I've developed a passion for eating simple, whole foods. Foods with ingredients that, as Michael Pollan would say, your great-grandma would recognize (sorry, Instant Oatmeal - you don't qualify). Being a new mom has taken this interest to the next level as I'm now not only eating healthy for myself but want our kids to grow up loving wholesome, nutritious food. (Mom, if you're reading this, I want to let you know I place the blame for those Instant Oatmeal packages - and the Pop Tarts, Toaster Streusel, and unlimited Entenmenn's Coffee Cake - on Dad and thank you for all of the nourishing, delicious food you cooked for us as kids. P.S. Dad, thank you for the sweet tooth.)
Enter the oat. I'm talking about the real deal, which comes in 32 ounce round cardboard containers (or the bulk bin) from the grocery store. It wasn't until our oldest son was born that I discovered these beauties sitting quietly on the bottom shelf of the cereal aisle. It started with baby steps - buying one container and making fresh oatmeal and a batch or two of granola - and now it's to the point where whenever we walk into Target my son tells me we need to get more oats. Last week we bought four containers because they were on sale. I'm now so familiar with purchasing oats that I can even tell you, down to the penny, the cost of 32 ounces of oats at Trader Joe's, Target, and Walmart. The best deal? Target at $2.99 for 32 ounces (or $2.69 when on sale).
Oats are not only an inexpensive, healthy whole grain to feed your family, but are simple and fun to cook. It's easy to involve kids in making things like oatmeal or granola as the ingredients are straightforward, typically on-hand and easy to mix together. In our home we make oatmeal a few times a week (which is just about as instant as Instant Oatmeal), use leftovers to make oatmeal pancakes, and every Sunday my three-year-old helps me make a big batch of granola. He loves mixing (and eating) it so much that I think he wishes we made it every morning. Bonus? When baking in the oven it makes our house smell heavenly.
Below are our weekly go-to oat-inspired recipes. Have one of your own? Please share in the comments. I hope you enjoy!
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Makes 2-3 servings.
1 cup regular (or quick) oats
2 1/4 cup milk
Extras: Pinch of cinnamon, handful of raisins or cranberries, honey or maple syrup to sweeten
Add the oats and milk together in a saucepan and place on a medium heat burner. Once the mixture begins to simmer turn down to low. The oatmeal will be ready to eat in approximately 5 minutes, once the oats soften. Add additional ingredients or sweeteners to taste.
Makes 4-6 servings.
3 cups whole oats
1/2 cup nuts
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 cup butter or olive oil
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
Preheat oven to 350.
Mix together the solid ingredients in a large bowl. Melt the butter if
using. Add the other liquid ingredients to the butter or oil and blend
well. You should have about 3/4 cup fat/liquid mix to every 3 cups oats.
Mix the liquids into the solid ingredients.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Put the granola on top
and pat into a single layer. The granola will bake for 20-30
minutes, depending upon if you used butter or olive oil as the fat. You can either stir the granola at about 15 minutes when it
starts to brown on top, or leave it in the oven undisturbed the whole
time (if you do, keep a close eye on it so it does not burn).
Remove from oven when the top of the granola has a golden brown color. The parchment paper on the bottom of the tray will have browned it from below.
When cool, mix in the dried fruit of your choice (cranberries, blueberries, raisins, etc.). Store in an air tight container.
This recipe doubles easily.
Makes about 20 3 inch pancakes.
From the Joy of Cooking.
Whisk together in a large bowl:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Beat in a separate bowl:
1 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal
1/2 cup milk or buttermilk
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 mashed banana (our family's favorite addition)
Quickly stir this mixture into the dry ingredients. The batter may appear lumpy. Use 1/4 cup batter for each pancake.