I’m convinced the essence of motherhood is delayed gratification. Or, more realistically, the hope that our hard work and dying to self will yield positive results in our children. This dying-to-self business is a challenge. In my dream world, my children sleep until 9am (and go to bed at 7pm). I wake up, run, shower, read and prepare a healthy breakfast before they cheerily wake up, go potty (wiping themselves) and come to the table dressed, ready to eat without whining and without spills. My current reality is that the children often wake me up and it’s a race against the clock to prepare breakfast before they melt with hunger. And when I say melt, that’s what I mean. My two-year-old falls into a puddle of self-pity on the floor because it’s too difficult to obey – be kind, stop fighting over the purple spoon, etc – and follow simple instructions – sit in your chair for the fifteenth time – when she’s hungry. Then I’m reminded it’s worth getting up before my children arise in order to have their breakfast prepared in advance.
It’s oh, so easy, to wake up and prioritize “me time,” to include turning on my electronic device of choice and checking for messages or texts that I’m sure couldn’t wait until after breakfast. Or reading the headlines or wall posts that, again, I’m positive are important to read at the top of the morning, not after my children are fed. However, I know that if I prioritize my children’s needs (food, water, shelter/clothing, wiped bottoms/changed diapers), we will all be happier. And healthier. If I don’t prioritize making breakfast, my two-year-old inevitably will grab her favorite cold cereal box and wail until it’s in a bowl in front of her. Cold cereal is my favorite too. But it’s not cheap and it’s not filling. I like pancakes, but they’re way too much trouble to make frequently. Eggs are always a good option, but aren’t part of a complete breakfast on their own. Enter oatmeal.
No, not instant oatmeal packets chocked full of enough sugar to qualify as dessert. I’m talking old fashioned rolled oats. I was never a fan of oatmeal growing up because I would eat until stuffed to the wind pipe and then feel famished two hours later. I needed something that would last through the morning. When I realized I couldn’t serve my family cold cereal for breakfast every morning, I needed a economical, healthy alternative. This is oatmeal with a few twists. I started making it when we lived in California and variety of grains and fillers were readily available. Everyone in the family, from the 6-month-old to the daddy, eats this around the table for breakfast. It is filling and the kids love it. Make extra one morning and reheat it in the microwave the next day for a very easy second day breakfast. When this hot meal is waiting in the children’s bowl when they come to the table in the morning, we are all happy campers. I may not be up on what’s trending, but I am completely gratified that I was able to give my children my undivided attention (for at least five minutes) and I am nourishing them appropriately.
Here’s the secret to satisfying oatmeal – coconut oil. A little healthy fat goes a long way convincing your body it’s full (unlike fat-free products). If you don’t have coconut oil in your cupboard, don’t fret. Substitute canola oil. It’s tasteless and, of all oils, highest in unsaturated fat. We’re only talking a tablespoon of oil here, so don’t freak out when you see that I recommend adding fat to oatmeal meant to serve four people.
First, put water in a pot based on the amount of oatmeal you want to make (reference the oat container). Bring to a boil and add one finely chopped piece of fruit. In today’s recipe I use an apple. Add a tablespoon of oil. Allow it to simmer several minutes, cooking the fruit. Add oats and one teaspoon of your spice of choice. With apples, I add cinnamon. Other combinations include peaches and ginger or pear and cardamom. Add several tablespoons of any of the following: almond meal, flax meal, oat bran, wheat germ, or dried milk powder (adds protein). Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom of pan. And now would be a good time to toss in small amounts of any leftover cooked grains you have in your fridge, provided they aren’t seasoned – rice, couscous, barley, etc. If the fruit does not make the oatmeal sweet enough for your taste, add small amounts of honey, brown sugar or molasses to individual bowls. Another sweetener option is to substitute apple juice for half the water. There are an endless number of toppings you could add, but I usually stick to the basics, otherwise it takes too long to prepare and my kids aren’t inclined to wait patiently for their first meal of the morning. If they did, that would be truly gratifying.
Prepare the ingredients while bringing the water to a boil. I find it’s more efficient if I run around the kitchen and grab all the items at once before I begin to cook. Do I always collect them before I cook? Hardly. It’s a challenge remembering to be efficient first thing in the morning.
Instead of adding milk, I add unsweetened plain yogurt. It helps the cereal stick to the spoon (very important factor when toddlers feed themselves) and adds other important nutrients. In this version, we also had a special treat of mini-chocolate chips and honey.
Disclaimer: I am NOT a food photographer. My kitchen has horrible lighting and I take quick pictures while I’m cooking. The purpose of my cooking is to feed my family, not take stage food (though I wish I could). If you make this oatmeal and take a picture that actually looks appetizing, feel free to send it to me and I’ll post it, giving you full credit!