Oatmeal has become a staple in our pantries and a breakfast favorite among households. However, it seems that the more oatmeal we eat, the less imaginative we become with our recipes. It’s important to give our oats a makeover every now and again, to keep this healthful food from becoming bland and boring.
We all know the drill. Measure out the oats. Pour in some water, more to make it watery and less to make it thick. Put it in the microwave. Cook. Eat. There is no excitement here. If we want to wake up with our oatmeal in the morning, we need to find ways to wake the oatmeal up first. Instead of using just water to cook your oatmeal, try to experiment with different liquids.
For creamier oatmeal, use milk. For those looking to keep their breakfast low in fat, use skim or 2% milk. Soy milk can also be used. For a more flavorful milk, try almond milk (which will give your oats a nutty flavor) or coconut milk (a natural way to sweeten the oats without adding sugar). To get a quick pick-me-up, some people even use coffee to cook their oats.
The great thing about oatmeal is its versatility. It will take to pretty much anything and taste good. The best way to maximize flavor from your oatmeal is to add some spices. One of my favorite additions is cinnamon. However, there are tons of other ways to spice it up. Add some brown sugar and cinnamon and you have a delicious, homey tasting bowl of oaty goodness.
For chocolate lovers, adding a bit of cocoa will give you your chocolate fix with your bowl of oatmeal. Nutmeg, cloves, ginger and cardamom are great, especially when combined and used in the fall and winter months. Regular sugar or artificial sweetener can be used for those who like a little something sweet in the morning. For a more savory oatmeal, add salt, pepper and parsley.
While adding spices to your oatmeal is a surefire way to instantly wake it up and give it a makeover, there are other options of add-ins as well that also incorporate more protein into your meal. Yogurt is a fantastic way to do this with your oatmeal, without compromising taste.
You can try plain yogurt and dress it up with other add-ins. Another great way to instantly add flavor is by using a vanilla, fruit or your favorite flavored yogurt. Cheeses are an additional example of adding some extra protein to your morning staple. Cottage cheese, goat cheese and cream cheese are among my favorites. For a sweeter (and naughtier) treat with your oatmeal, serve it up with a scoop of your favorite ice cream or some freshly whipped cream.
Probably one of the most popular ways to add some extra flavor and dimension to oatmeal is by adding fruit. Both fresh and dried fruits are excellent options. Grate some apples in to get a creamy texture, or slice it up and throw it in for more chunkiness. The best additions to the apples are some cinnamon and/or brown sugar. Bananas are also great to achieve either creamy or chunky textures as well.
Mash it up and mix it in or simply slice and toss in. Berries are a fantastic addition to oatmeal, and they go especially well with yogurt, cheese or cream. Try blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, or any other kind of berry in season. Peaches, oranges, mangoes and apricots also work really well with oatmeal. Dried fruits add a whole different kind of fruity flavor.
Some of the best to add are raisins (especially with apples, cinnamon and brown sugar), dried cranberries, dried apricots and dried blueberries.
Nuts make an awesome addition to oatmeal. They are great not only for the added taste, but for the added crunchiness in texture. Pretty much any kind of nut will taste great in oatmeal, especially with the right complements of other ingredients. Walnuts go great with goat cheese and berries.
Candied pecans are fabulous for adding some sweetness as well. Hazelnuts taste great with some cocoa powder. Almonds and peanuts are tasty in their natural form or in their butter form. Add some almond butter or peanut butter with bananas to get an amazing flavor profile. Add the nut butter with some strawberries to get a peanut butter and jelly taste.
Or try adding peanut butter with some cocoa powder to get the irresistible combination of chocolate and peanut butter.
Pretty much anything else that you would think to put into oatmeal will taste good. Adding a maple syrup is an instant boost in flavor and contributes to the creamy texture. Add it in with apples, cinnamon and raisins for a true winter treat.
Chocolate chips add some texture and sweetness to oatmeal, as well as satisfying our chocolate cravings. Adding pumpkin along with some ginger, cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon will instantly turn your oatmeal into an ode to our Thanksgiving favorite, pumpkin pie.
Toasted pumpkin seeds make a great addition as well. Puree some butternut squash and add it for a nice winter treat. Adding a bit of vanilla extract or honey will make your oatmeal taste even sweeter, and it can be combined with pretty much any other add-in. Don’t be afraid to go crazy and liquor it up a bit. Adding a bit of bourbon or a whiskey sauce to your oatmeal is always delicious, with an added benefit only we adults can indulge in!
For those who are trying to get on track with some healthy eating habits, oatmeal is a truly beneficial way to go. It provides tons of health benefits and is a low-fat meal option. However, there are other ways to make over oatmeal and turn it into something even healthier.
Adding some protein powder will keep you fuller for longer. Flavored protein powder will also contribute to a better taste. Other great ways to increase the healthful benefits of oatmeal is by throwing in some hemp seeds, flax seeds or chia seeds. These are great sources of things essential to healthy eating, such as fiber, omega-3 and antioxidants.
Oatmeal doesn’t always have to be served up in its traditional way. Sometimes we don’t feel like eating a hot breakfast in the middle of July. Oats can be eaten as a cold cereal. Instead of buying processed oat cereal at the supermarket, try making your own. It is super easy and done in two simple steps. First, spread the oats on an ungreased baking tray.
Next, toast the oats in the oven at 350 degrees for ten minutes. They should be emitting an aromatic nutty smell. For added flavor, sprinkle the oats with cinnamon before putting them in the oven. Allow the oats to cool before eating. They can be eaten as cold cereal, by themselves or with milk, fruit and nuts.
One of the great things about eating oatmeal is its ability to fill you up. Not only do you walk away from the table feeling satisfied, it will be hours before you are hungry again. Therefore, oats are a great addition to your morning (or afternoon) shake. For a gritty texture, simply add the oats into the blender along with the other ingredients and blend.
If you don’t want to taste the oats in your shake (some people find the texture to be reminiscent of sand), place the oats in the blender first. Blend them by themselves to create an oat powder. Then add the other ingredients for your shake. The change in taste is very minimal, but the change in nutritional value is quite significant!
It is no surprised to us all that oats are great when used in baking. For some reason, eating baked goods with oats always brings me back to Grandma’s house. Oatmeal raisin cookies are a staple in the oat baking world.
However, the baking possibilities do not end there. Oat muffins and oat bars are always delicious. Make a fruit crisp by combining some oats with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Layer over some fresh fruit in a pie dish and bake until golden brown.
There are tons of recipes for different types of oat bread, including honey oat bread, oat bran bread, oat soda bread and cinnamon raisin oat bread. Oat pancakes are another alternative to giving your morning oatmeal routine a makeover. Simply substitute half of the flour for rolled oats and you have a healthier and more filling pancake breakfast.
Brace yourselves for what I am about to say, folks. Oatmeal is NOT just for breakfast! You can make it into a savory dinner meal as well! One of my favorite things to eat when I was traveling in Southeast Asia was this delicious porridge that they had. You add scallions, soy sauce and tofu or meat of your choice to the cooked oats, and dinner is served!
Hard-boiled eggs were a common addition to this dish as well. Instead of breading fried chicken or chicken tenders in breadcrumbs, use oats. Add some parmesan cheese, pancetta and salt and pepper for a delicious instant meal. Make oatmeal with curry powder and caramelized onions for a savory side dish.
Because of its versatility, oatmeal is a wonderful ingredient to have in the pantry. It will taste good with almost anything and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. What are some of your favorite oatmeal recipes?
Alex is a self-proclaimed nomad, having lived in three different countries over the past two years. When she isn’t cooking or traveling, you can find Alex curled up with a book, at the gym, or cheering on her favorite football team.
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