When I was little, breakfast was always my least favorite meal of the day. Coupled with the looming prospect of starting yet another day of school and a small appetite in the morning, it was usually up to my mom to be creative and force some food into me. Ten years later and I can barely stand the thought of going anywhere in the morning without eating at least a quick bite or planning to pick something up while out. Part of what I believe made me come around to eating “the most important meal of the day” was the routine of eating something hearty and warm. While most of my friends snacked on Pop Tarts at the bus stop, or even just a spoonful of peanut butter, I was often spoiled with Japanese noodles, cheesy omelets, and of course my breakfast staple, hot oatmeal. Although I can always go for a bowl of oatmeal with milk and maple syrup, I love experimenting with different variations (such as the Hot Matcha Oatmeal). Here in Miami I make a single serving of oatmeal every morning before work. It’s quick, easy to clean up, and starts the morning off on a nice warm note. This week two of my creations included a Peanut Butter Banana oatmeal and a Mixed Fruit oatmeal.
Taking advantage of a banana that was just on the verge of being overripe, I sliced and mashed about three quarters of the banana and put it aside in the same bowl that I would later serve my finished oatmeal. I then made my usual oatmeal, but instead of using 1 part oats and 3 parts water, I used 2 parts water and 1 part almond milk. This made a HUGE difference in the consistency of the oats and I found that the mixture didn’t stick to the bottom of the (unfortunately not non-stick) pot provided here at the hotel. When finished cooking, I added the mashed banana straight to the oatmeal along with a spoonful of peanut butter.
Since the banana significantly sweetened the oatmeal I didn’t need to add my usual spoonful of brown sugar. Instead, I simply topped off the hearty helping with rest of the sliced banana and a sprinkling of walnuts for texture. This combination of banana, oats and milk made for an extremely creamy and naturally sweet breakfast. While abroad I made a “quick and dirty” version of this oatmeal, microwaving the oats, water, milk, and banana together. However, this stove top version made for the perfect consistency.
Another extremely easy oatmeal variation I made this week was a mixed berry and tropical fruit bowl. Here at the hotel I have several bags of frozen fruit in my freezer to make into smoothies with my magic bullet. However, this morning I took out a handful of blueberries, raspberries, and peaches to mix into my morning oatmeal. I let them thaw a little bit while I was getting ready (and before cooking the oats) so that they wouldn’t be completely frozen going into the pot. The berries and fruit thawed extremely well when added to the hot oatmeal, making this both a sweet and tart dish.
***Although I forgot to previously mention this, the most important trick to making a flavorful oatmeal is to add a healthy pinch of salt when cooking the oats. No matter what toppings or mix-ins are to be used, salt always enhances the flavors, even if it seems counterintuitive or odd for a sweet dish.