Am I the only person who operates at less-than-optimal capacity within the first half hour of waking up? Some mornings, I shuffle through my routine like a confused wind-up toy, barely getting everything done on time.
I’m what’s known as a “night owl.” I generally like to stay up late (although that means something very different now than it did when I was younger…). Don’t get me wrong—I don’t have trouble falling asleep. I’m like one of those dolls that shuts its eyes when its head’s horizontal. It’s just that my brain fires on all its cylinders when the sun goes down. By morning, only one has reported for duty, and chugs along to get me through.
I’ve learned how to survive my mornings by doing as much the night before as is humanly possible. Like packing lunches, for instance. It’s much easier to prepare them the night before while I’m awake. I make some healthy sandwiches, get the fruit and dessert ready, put them in the fridge, and I’m done. That same task in the morning is monumental and time consuming.
So I was hopeful when I saw a recipe for slow cooker oatmeal. A quick hot breakfast that can be made the night before? One that’s not loaded with sugar and preservatives? Sign me up! It sounded fantastic, so I gave it a try. Let’s just say ew. It was thick, dry, burnt, and tasted like wallpaper paste. Not that I go around licking people’s wallpaper (that sort of activity is frowned upon after all), I just have an imagination. I tried to make it again, and again (much to my kids’ chagrin in the early days). Finally, I made it work! It’s a bit on the dry side, which my family likes. Everyone simply adds their own milk in the morning to bring it to the desired consistency. It’s moderately flavorful, and has texture. I serve it with a variety of topping options: nuts, fresh and dried fruit, cinnamon, brown sugar or honey, and everyone’s happy!
Alright, maybe everyone’s not doing backflips and celebrating, but they’re content. I am well aware that oatmeal isn’t the most glamorous food. It’s the minivan of breakfasts—it’s very practical and gets the job done, but little kids don’t race matchbox minivans, do they?
I learned something in my trials. The most important thing is to use steel-cut oats, also known as Irish oats. No old-fashioned oats and absolutely positively no quick-cut oats are allowed for this recipe. They only take a minute and a half to cook anyway, so there’s no need to boil them to oblivion. Steel-cut oats are, as their name suggests, cut. That’s it. Not rolled or steamed or processed any further. They’re just little chunks of the oat grain, which is why they can withstand a few hours in the slow cooker. They have a nutty flavor and chewy texture. They are by far my favorite oatmeal. I don’t know about you, but I hardly ever have the 30 minutes that it takes to cook them in the morning. And you can adjust this recipe to suit your tastes–if you love rich, milky oatmeal, then make it with milk instead of water. If you’re one of those salt-and-pepper-oatmeal types, just forego the apples and cinnamon.
I’m sure you know this already, but oatmeal is ridiculously good for you—it’s got fiber, protein, Manganese and iron. Oats have been shown to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol and help regulate blood sugar. They’re slow digesting and allow for better mental focus. In fact, people have been eating them for thousands of years—steel-cut oats are literally what porridge is made of. If you’re feeding your fairytale-loving children, you can call it porridge, and maybe have them sit on a tuffet while you’re at it.
I hope this helps you navigate your busy mornings, and perhaps even take one more task off the to-do list, so you can get yourself and everyone else out the door with smiles on your faces.
Slow Cooker Oatmeal
1 Cup steel-cut oatmeal (no substitutions)
2 ½ Cups water
2 Cinnamon sticks
1-2 Tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced (or ¼ cup of raisins)
The night before—place all ingredients in slow cooker. Cover. Cook on Low for 3 hours.
Serve in a bowl topped with any of the following ingredients:
Milk or cream
Fresh fruit (blueberries, bananas, kiwi, etc…)
Dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, cherries, etc…)
Nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, etc…)
Seeds (chia, flax, sunflower, etc…)
Brown sugar or honey
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