It’s no secret that I love breakfast [exhibit #1, exhibit #2 (and a favourite), exhibit 3], but what might be a secret is how much I love oatmeal for breakfast. When the weather dips below what I consider “normal human temperatures”, oatmeal never fails to save the day!
Make it sweet or savoury, experiment with toppings, or try new fruits or vegetables you wouldn’t normally. Oatmeal offers a perfect canvas for whatever you want to throw at it, food-wise.
What kind of oatmeal do I eat?
Well, since I’m just as pressed for time as the next person (maybe you!), I like rolled oats on weekdays. Add them to a pot with some dairy-free milk or water (though they won’t be as creamy), vanilla, and any spices you like. A few of my favourites are nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice, a unique spice that tastes like a blend of clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper and juniper all rolled into one!
I usually add in some mashed banana, applesauce, maple syrup or other sweetener of choice, but you can omit it.
Steel-cut oats take a lot longer to cook than rolled oats so I usually save them for Saturdays and Sundays. Or, I might make a big batch on Sunday night and then simply re-heat serving sizes in the morning with extra nut milk and my preferred add-ons or toppings.
By the way, half-pint or similarly sized mason jars are great for storing individual servings.
Here are a few of my favourite oatmeal toppings during the coldest months of the year.
Apple and cinnamon are a classic combination when it comes to oatmeal so it’s hard to go wrong, right? But unfortunately many people gravitate toward the instant, sugar-packed oatmeal refined to within an inch of its life.
Use rolled oats and try making your own: you’ll be amazed at just how easy it is!
Rolled oats, chopped apples, cinnamon, a little honey or maple syrup, and a little sea salt to help the flavours e-x-p-l-o-d-e. For variation, try apples and nutmeg and you’ll probably fall in love like I have!
If you’re apple picking in the fall and you don’t have a cold cellar, the freezer is a great place to store extra apples. Dip cored, chopped apple slices in a solution of water and lemon juice and then freeze them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
They are PERFECT for cooking into oatmeal or using frozen in smoothies instead of ice cubes. Apples are on the “Dirty Dozen” list so buy organic if you can.
For a more savoury breakfast oatmeal option, creamy avocados provide monounsaturated fat and about 4 g in protein (that’s higher than most fruit).
For more info about avocados, check out my Couples Hazelnut Hot Cocoa recipe, in which avocados play a starring role.
Rich in antioxidants (like anthocyanins), blueberries also offer fibre, vitamin C, folate, iron, potassium, and manganese. Since fresh are hard to come by and most likely not very nutritious, frozen blueberries are ideal in winter.
You can also find frozen organic blueberries fairly easily in most large grocery stores. Pile them on top of your oatmeal for a berry-delicious breakfast!
Kiwis are never really “in season” in the part of the world I call home, but they seem like a bright spot in the winter with their gorgeous green flesh studded with black seeds in the centre.
I love cutting off the stem and then scooping out the insides or even peeling them and then slicing into rounds. They taste both sweet and tart, though they’re sometimes a bit more lip-puckering than expected.
Offering pectin to help control blood cholesterol levels, fresh kiwis provide significant vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium.
Nuts and Seeds
I include some nuts or seeds (or often a combination) in almost every bowl of oatmeal I make because they are a very effective way of increasing protein and fat in our breakfasts, which helps balance our blood sugar for long into the day.
Walnuts, cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, Brazil nuts. Try something new or change it up every day! About 1 oz. or a small palm-ful is usually the recommended serving size.
I love pears, either raw (added on top) or gently cooked (added in to the oatmeal itself about halfway through cooking). They are usually easy for the body to digest. They offer vitamin C, folate, potassium, iron, and fibre, most of which is insoluble, making it a decent support for anyone with constipation.
You can use fresh or canned pumpkin. If using canned, look for organic, BPA-free lined cans as much as possible. I’m including different varieties of winter squash (Butternut, acorn, pepper, Kabocha, etc.) in this option since they are mostly interchangeable (different flavours but collect them all – I think a tasty new variety of squash sure beats the crappy toys you get in some cereal boxes!).
My Chewy Pumpkin Spice Oat Bars recipe has some helpful nutritional insights about the benefits of eating pumpkin.
You could even make an AMAZING oatmeal out of the ingredients in that healthy oat bar recipe, namely pumpkin, raisins, walnuts, vanilla, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, flax and pumpkin seeds.
In fact, I might actually have to make that for breakfast tomorrow!
Admittedly, I haven’t tried this because I prefer my oatmeal more on the sweet than savoury side, but I love spinach with typically savoury spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric and fenugreek. One or a mix of these might be delicious in a savoury oatmeal.
Of course, omit the vanilla if using and be careful not to over-sweeten or you might end up with a breakfast that even your dog wouldn’t eat. Add fresh spinach in the last minute or so of cooking so it keeps its bright green colour and doesn’t turn grey.
Hopefully these ideas help keep breakfast interesting for the next two or three months until the snow melts and the chives and their blossoms start coming back up!
What’s your favourite topping for oatmeal?
Let me know below!
Life is a plate… Eat up,