Sunday, March 11, 2012

Oatmeal Four Ways

Can you tell it's finals week?

If you haven't inferred it from the lack of blog posts, suffice it to say that I've been busy. Grading, researching, writing papers, editing and proofreading, analyzing, rewriting...I've been doing a little bit of everything for the past couple of weeks, and I'm ready for it all to end in the next week or so.

Don't let the lack of posts and recipes fool you into thinking that I've stopped eating, though! I certainly haven't, although I've been nomming more pre-packaged foods (thanks, Trader Joe's) than usual, and making quicker meals when I do cook from scratch.

Which brings us to the topic of this post: oatmeal. Quick, easy, cheap, and delicious.

I love oatmeal. I really do. I have fond childhood memories of the Quaker Oats instant packets, particularly the kind with the dinosaur eggs (remember those??), but also equally fond memories of my parents whipping up a pot of the plain stuff to top with raisins and brown sugar on cold Sunday mornings. While I've "graduated" from the super-sweet instant packets and I still love the raisin and brown sugar combination, I've also come up with a handful of my own variations, some of which I'm sharing with you below (with possibly more to come).

A word about oats and cooking methods: I know the steel-cut stuff is all the rage right now, but I prefer the texture of the quick-cooking oats. You can use whatever you like for these recipes (they're more about mix-ins than technique), but you'll need to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

As far as technique, I probably use the stove-top and microwave methods about equally, and I have preferred cooking methods for most of my oatmeal variations. The stove-top gives you a firmer texture, whereas the microwave tends to be creamier because everything cooks together. You can also get the creamy texture on the stove if you add the oats when the water is hot, but not yet boiling. If you do use the microwave, NEVER leave it unattended; the oatmeal will expand to fill whatever bowl you have it in, and from there it can overflow.

I also make a slightly smaller serving size than standard:

Basic Oatmeal Ingredients

3/8 cup oats
3/4 cup water (or milk)

Mix-ins (see variations below)

#1: Banana Oatmeal

This variation is great for using up bananas that are past their prime!

Banana oatmeal with a touch of milk.


Ripe banana (whole or half)
Dash of cinnamon
Nuts (optional)


1.  Peel a ripe banana, break it into pieces, and place in a bowl (I just use the one I'm going to eat from). Add the cinnamon and mash it with a fork. (You could also slice it, but mashing is faster.)

2.  The best method for this one is the microwave. Add the oats and water to the banana and microwave on high about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2b.  If you want to make it on the stove, add the banana to an empty saucepan on low heat and cook and stir it for about a minute. Then, add the water and oats. I've found that if you add everything together the banana ends up being oddly starchy; the extra cooking step fixes that.

3.  Top with a spoonful of walnuts or a splash of milk, if desired.

#2: Chocolate-Banana Oatmeal

This variation plays off the sweetness of the banana instead of adding extra sugar. It's still possibly more of a dessert than breakfast!
Chocolate-banana oatmeal.

Ripe banana (whole or half)
Heaping teaspoon of cocoa powder


1.  Peel the banana and mash in a bowl with the cocoa powder.

2.  Follow the steps for cooking Banana Oatmeal above.

#3: Pomegranate Oatmeal

Pomegranates are in season in the winter, so they're a great way to liven up your oatmeal on a cold morning.

Pomegranate oatmeal.

1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp pomegranate seeds


1. On the stove, heat the water and vanilla in a small saucepan over medium heat. When it boils (or sooner, for creamier oatmeal), add the oats. Cook and stir.

2.  When the oats are just about done, turn off the burner and add the pomegranate seeds (you just want to warm them, not cook them). Mix them in until they are distributed throughout the oatmeal. Top with additional seeds if desired.

2b.  To make in the microwave, combine water, vanilla, and oats in a bowl. Microwave on high for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. When it's cooked, add pomegranate seeds to the hot oatmeal.

#4: Savory Oatmeal with Spinach and Egg

An interesting departure from the usual sweet varieties. Honestly, this is my least favorite of the bunch, but I've been seeing savory oatmeal all over cooking blogs so I had to try it.

An Asian-inspired savory oatmeal variation.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove minced garlic
1 cup baby spinach
1 egg
Soy sauce


1.  Add the water to a saucepan and bring it to a boil.

2.  While you're waiting for the water to boil, heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Saute the garlic for about a minute. Add the egg to one side of the pan (most people cook it sunny-side up or or over-easy so that you end up with a runny yolk to mix into the oatmeal). When the egg is about two minutes away from being done, add the spinach to the other side of the pan (keep them separate) and wilt it. Remove the pan from the heat.

3.  Add the oats to the saucepan. Cook and stir until done.

4. To serve, add the oatmeal to a serving bowl. Stir in the spinach. Top with the egg and a drizzle of soy sauce.


  1. Gotta say, the savory oatmeal looks a little---like something I don't wanna eat. But then again I make these savory oatmeal cakes whenever I have leftover steal cut oats, which is often. Next time you have some leftover oatmeal add a little flour, some baking soda, an egg and a little salt. Cook like pancakes. Great with just a bit of butter and syrup or just plain.

    1. It took me a long time to talk myself into the savory oatmeal. A lot of the recipes say "Oh, but it's a grain! It's like rice!" Eh, not so much. But I gave it a shot.

      Oatmeal pancakes, on the other hand...Now that I could get behind!