This is not your mama’s oatmeal, unless you grew up in a far different country than I did. My mother was always a fan of oatmeal, but it came in a round box with a picture of a Quaker man in period garb on it. Later on, she bought us boxes of assorted flavors of instant oatmeal in packets, for breakfast before school. We’d eat all the yummiest flavors first, leaving the plain oatmeal for last. Eventually my sister and I would give in and make the plain oatmeal, then load it up with way too much brown sugar (and probably white sugar, too) and throw in a few raisins. Even though we resisted those plain oatmeal packets until the bitter end, it always ended up pretty darn tasty.
I believed that the apples and cinnamon oatmeal was the be all, end all of hot breakfast cereals, until I discovered steel cut oats. Steel cut oats are the Big Momma to instant oatmeal. These delicious nuggets are steel cut 100% wheat, instead of rolled, which gives a more toothsome texture. You have to chew this oatmeal. They are tender, nutty and have heft to their tiny little bits, which is a much better eating experience than the rolled oatmeal version. And they are easy to make!
All you need for four servings of oatmeal is water, oats (I buy them in bulk, it’s cheaper), salt, and whatever fruit and sweeteners you enjoy. This week I used an apple, some shriveled up raisins that no one wanted to eat from the box, a few golden raisins and a handful of dried cranberries. I gave it a dash of vanilla extract, too. I also used brown sugar and maple syrup. Side note: buy real maple syrup, not those blends. You’ll thank me later, when you taste the difference. After bringing the water to a boil, dump in the oatmeal and a pinch of salt, then stir in all the fruits. You can always top your oatmeal with fruit after it has cooked, but I like mine cooked all together. Cook until you have a soft yet firm oat (think al dente), then add desired amount of sweetener. Done, and done!
Steel Cut Oats with Apple, Raisins & Cranberries
3 cups water
1 cup steel cut oats
Pinch of salt (1/8 tsp or so)
Medium apple, cut into large dice or chunks
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup raisins
Dash of vanilla extract (or go wild, use real Mexican vanilla)
Brown sugar, to taste
Maple syrup, to taste
In a medium-sized pot bring water to a boil, then add oats and salt, and stir. Bring back to a boil, then lower to simmer. Add fruits and vanilla, and stir again. Cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring often, until desired texture is reached. I like my oatmeal to be tender yet firm. Turn off heat, add sugar and syrup to taste.