Breakfast in Bed

Rolled Oats

“How do you feel about oatmeal, buddy?”

“I feel yes about oatmeal.”

“You mean you want some right now?”

“No, I mean oatmeal is yes.  Especially with a little syrup.  And it’s warm and makes my stuffy nose clear up.”

So there you have it folks, the word from the experts on oatmeal is YES.

For the last day of the pre-Easter season, I want to return to Sugar Busting that breakfast bowl.  Have you re-visited oatmeal yet?  REALLY?  In my last oatmeal-related post, I pointed out to you that oatmeal is WAY cheaper than boxed breakfast cereal, that it packs much more of a nutritional wallop, and that it is WAY lower in sugar than most options.  What I failed to point out explicitly is that a serving size for oatmeal is also much smaller because of the whole expandy thing when cooked with liquid.  So when the serving size on the carton says 1/2c, that is actually a reasonable quantity for a person.  Boxed cereals often say 1/2 to 3/4c, which as Big Sis pointed out the other day, is not enough cereal for most reasonably hungry people; I’m pretty sure that’s not even enough for my 5 year olds.  So all of the nutrition and price differences are actually that much bigger.  One serving of oatmeal is a true serving, with less than one gram of sugar.  One serving of Frosted Flakes, on the other hand, is only 3/4c, and has 11 grams of sugar; so if you eat more than 3/4c, like say 1.5c, that’s 22g of sugar.  That’s just 1g shy of a Nestle Crunch Caramel bar. How’s that for a nourishing breakfast?

Not sure you eat that much cereal? I wasn’t either until several years ago when my husband and I were both following a Weight Watchers program. Nothing gets you honest about quantity faster than measuring every flipping bit. I’m not going suggest that you do that, because frankly, it’s annoying, but just for the sake of reality, you may want to measure that morning cereal just ONCE to see how much you are really eating. Then take a look at that label and see how it pans out for you. If it’s more than 5 grams of sugar (a serving of oatmeal with one teaspoon of brown sugar), then perhaps the time has come for an oatmeal revelation.

My Low-Tech Crock Pot

Here I am making the case for oatmeal again, and this is when you say: “It takes too long,” which is where we left off last time. I pointed out that it takes between 5 and 12 minutes to cook oatmeal. To which you say: “You don’t understand what it’s like around here in the morning.” And I say: “But wait, there’s another answer… how’d you like to wake up to breakfast that’s already made?” Five minutes of nighttime prep and you can be in low-sugar oatmeal heaven in the morning. How, you say? Our old 1970’s friend, the Crock Pot. Oh yes, the Crock Pot.

For hot overnight oatmeal, I prefer to use steel cut oats as they hold up to the long low heat better, in my opinion. Steel cut tend to be slightly more expensive than rolled oats, but if you DON’T get the ones in the fancy can (which is lovely, I agree), the price difference is less. I can buy them in bulk for the same price as rolled oats, so if you have a store with a bulk section, this might be a good option for you as well. There are also plenty of folks who used rolled oats in crock pots and recipes online abound. For either type, basically you mix it all up the night before and give it 7-8 hours to cook and voila, it’s hot and delicious, waiting for you. You can’t get much easier or faster than that, friends.

SIMPLE OVERNIGHT STEEL CUT OATS

  • oil for pot
  • 2 cups steel cut oats
  • 8 cups liquid – I mixed mine half water, half almond milk
  • cinnamon or nutmeg to taste

VERY lightly oil the bowl of the Crock Pot.  Add ingredients.  Stir.  Cook for 7-8 hours on low.  When you open the lid, it may not look like yummy oatmeal, but this is a result of the long low cook.  Give it a stir, and voila, there’s your hot oatmeal, ready to go.  Serve with preferred oatmeal toppings.  Here’s where you say: “THAT’S IT?!”  And I say, “Yes, that’s it.”  Many people like to cook apples, dried fruit, nuts, whatever, in with their oatmeal.  We tend to like the texture that these items add when put in individual bowls in the morning.  This also allows for more individual choice (pretty much a necessity with two five year olds). Delish.

Fancy Crock Pot Feature for $4.

A Note On Crock Pots: There are a variety of Crock Pots and slow cookers on the market and you can spend very little or a whole lot. There are also LOTS of people who have Crock Pots in the back of their cabinets that they don’t use. Ask around, see what you can dig up. But wait, you say, the new ones have timer functions and all sorts of other cool features. To which I say, yes, they do and you will pay for it. Unless you’re planning on doing a WHOLE lot of Crock Pot cooking (which I do), I’d like to suggest that you consider my ridiculously simple solution: the cheapest Crock Pot you can find with one of these  little numbers.  Four dollar wall timer.  Worked like a charm.  So if you have an old Crock Pot, your Aunt Martha has an old Crock Pot, or if you’re lucky like me and attended a White Elephant holiday party with a bunch of younger folks who couldn’t imagine the utility of a Crock Pot, slap that timer on there and you have breakfast in bed (because you could actually cook it in your room, you know) ready to go.  Hot Diggity!

Lessons from the Cereal Aisle

So we’re in Costco and I HAD to go in the cereal aisle to get my big honkin’ box of Quaker Oats.  The reason I did not WANT to go into the cereal aisle is that my twin 5 year olds were with me and I have successfully kept their cold cereal world pretty limited in scope, although they have become aware over the last however long that there are other options out there.  Anyway, I HAD to do it, and being too tired and cranky to devise a clever distraction, I decided the speed method would be adequate.  Right.  It took about a millisecond for them to notice and gravitate toward the most egregious options on the shelves.  A chorus of  “Mama, can we please, ” and “This looks really yummy,” and “Sophia says HER mommy buys her these” erupted in rapid fire.  Don’t know if you’ve ever had two five year olds begging from you at a store before, but it’s not pleasant.

I took a deep breath and said, “Okay, guys, do you want to know why I’m going to say no to all of those?”  They nodded.  Right there in the Costco aisle, I began turning the enormous cereal boxes on end so we could look at the nutrition information.  I showed them the line for sugar (and we did a little reading practice, yay).  We noted the sugar content for each of the options that they had chosen (they ranged between 10 and 12 grams per serving).  We then noted the sugar content for Kashi’s Heart to Heart, a cereal we have offered them in the past (5 grams).  They were surprised by how much less it was.  I then showed them the Quaker Oats box (unfair, since it’s just oats, but it helped make the point – 1 gram).  I was expecting continued complaints, because that’s what they’d been doing for most of this particular store visit, but miracle of miracles, they then offered to help put the oats and the Kashi in the cart.   Simple as that.

Now I should say that we talk about nutrition a LOT at our house, so this wasn’t really simple as that.  However, all of these conversations have to start somewhere.  I’ve found that when they believe the choice I’m forcing on them really is something I’m doing because I believe it is healthy for them and not just because I’m in charge, the level of compliance goes WAY up and the level of complaining decreases.  With that said, my kids do love some sugary stuff and cereal is particularly challenging.  In our current state of heightened awareness, I’ve decided to implement an old policy of mine, the cereal mix.  If my children want a sweeter cereal (and for us right now that means a 5-8 grams of sugar cereal), they must also have a lower sugar cereal mixed in.  I’ve got a big bag of whole grain O-shaped dealies with a 3 grams of sugar for just such a purpose.  If they resist, I suggest oatmeal instead.  They have made both choices, and have generally accepted the lower sugar payoff without much noise.  In return for my authoritarian behavior, I have the assurance that they’re having a little less sugar (good), I take one step further in re-educating their palates to healthy levels of sweetness (fruit is unbelievable when you pull this off), and I get the immeasurable pleasure of experiencing children who’s highs and lows don’t swing so very far (a blessing).  No mid-morning meltdowns or post-crash tears.

This is NOT just about kids, though, is it?  The health problems that Dr. Lustig associates with sugar affect so many adults in the United States.  And yet, breaking the sugar habit, even with the knowledge of its impact on our collective health, seems awfully difficult when we love sweet things and food manufacturers are more than happy to provide them for us.  It calls for a certain level of vigilance that may seem unreasonable.  But what if we just take it meal by meal, decision by decision, baby step by baby step?

So maybe your own breakfast needs a little review.  I’ve been working on my own morning bowl, at the moment a mix of three different cereals with raisins and nuts plus almond milk.  The first couple of days I was okay with it, but honestly not wildly enthusiastic.  It wasn’t yucky or anything, it just didn’t give me that morning sweety-yum.  Now I look forward to my big bowl of mixed bits that has helped retrain my tastebuds.  I CRAVE my breakfast bowl.  I kind of want to go make one right now…  The inspiration for my breakfast bowl was Rip Esselstyn’s Big Bowl.  Now before you go copying Rip’s breakfast item for item, I would like to point out that Rip is a firefighter AND triathlete, so while everything in there is awesome for you, you might find the quantity overwhelming if you choose his bowl without editing.

MY BIG BOWL

  • 1/4c raw old fashioned oats
  • 1/4c Ezekial brand grape-nut type cereal
  • 1/4c Kashi Cinnamon Harvest
  • small palmful raisins
  • small palmful walnuts
  • almond milk

Delish.  And lower in sugar than any of my previous breakfast encounters.  So satisfying.  No sugar high, no gross greasy feeling, just good healthful and yummy fuel that will keep you feeling satisfied FAR longer than a bowl of sugar poo.  So here’s to the naturally sweet life, one bowl at a time.  More to come in our Sugar Busting series….