If I were to pick a favorite comfort food, I would have to say it's cereal. Nothing lifts me up more than a bowl of Frosted Flakes (or Shreddies, or Honey Nut Cheerios, or Mini Wheats, or…) drenched in milk. And as much as I love cereal, my kids love it more.
And therein lies the problem.
Whenever a box of cereal comes into the house, it is quickly devoured. A “family pack” will typically last a week, if that. On top of that, cereal does not exactly make for a great breakfast. Most cereals are chock full of sugar and refined flour. When describing breakfast cereal, phrases like “food product” and “not fit for human consumption” get thrown around.
THEY’RE (not) GREEEAAAATTTT!!!!!
Fortunately, my wife turned me on to steel cut oats a couple years ago and I have never looked back. If the internet – which is always a source of truth - is correct, steel cut oats are a power food that cut back on cholesterol and are a source of protein, fiber and vitamins and minerals.
And while all this is well and good, what’s most important is that my kids will eat it.
My favorite brand is Bob’s Red Mill which comes in 11 KG bags and sells for $11.99 (CAN) at Costco. As well as being economical – a bag will feed my 3 daughters and I breakfast for about 14 days – it’s also easy to make.
Over time, I’ve learned to veer away from the instructions on the package. They’ve never worked for me and I have managed to find my own way. Here’s how I made my own oatmeal recipe:
1. Take a small (3 liter) pot and fill 3 quarters full of water. (Note: I usually free pour. More water usually means a longer cooking time).
2. Boil water.
3. Add 1 cup of steel cut oats and drop temperature to medium low.
4. Add a pinch of salt.
5. Let oats cook for 20 minutes until water starts to evaporate and oats start to expand.
6. Add flavoring. A tablespoon of brown sugar or dollop of maple syrup are good sweeteners.
7. Add any additional ingredients like fruit. Frozen fruit is a nice addition (be warned: berries will often colour the oatmeal) as are dates and apples. I like dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries and currants, as they absorb the water and take on a nice sweetness.
8. Continue stirring the oatmeal so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn (feel free to add a few table spoons of water to keep from drying out.)
9. When oatmeal is done to your satisfaction, remove from heat.
10. If serving immediately, you might want to add some milk.
This technique really works for me and it's been kid-approved for some time now. And since I'm an early riser, making oatmeal for myself and my kids has become part of my daily routine. All in it generally takes about 30 – 40 minutes including cleaning time (my wife doesn’t eat oatmeal and doesn’t want to clean it up). While making oatmeal, I can generally iron my clothes, get dressed, make my lunch, download some podcasts and enjoy morning coffee and conversation with my wife.
For me, making oatmeal for my kids and I is an important part of my day. As I am usually out of the house by the time my kids wake up, it makes me happy to know that they have a warm breakfast that I've made for them. When I get home at night, I usually ask them how the oatmeal was and if they had any feedback. It’s a bit corny and my wife, who is the real chef of the house, tends to smile and roll her eyes at this.
So if your kids are spending the morning with Tony or the Captain, you might want to give Bob a try. And if you like your oats cut by steel, but do it in a different way, feel free to share your thoughts.