Pimp my oatmeal!
April 9, 2008 7:52 AM   Subscribe

I eat oatmeal for breakfast pretty much every day. Help me build a bowl that is as jam-packed with nutrition as possible, while still tasty.

I've never been much of a breakfast person, so whatever I eat in the morning has to be worth it in terms of nutrition and flavor, or I'll skip it and just drink extra coffee. Recently, I've figured out a process that works for me: I make a big batch of steel-cut oats in my slow cooker once a week or so, and store in serving-sized plasticware in my fridge. It's just oats, water, and salt. In the morning, I dump a serving into a bowl and add a fistful of frozen fruit from the various bags in the freezer - blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, peaches, or cherries - and microwave. After it's hot and the fruit is thawed, I add some raw walnuts or pecans, cinnamon, a spoonful of ground flaxseed, a spoonful of Benefiber (powdered guar gum supplement), and either unsweetened almond milk or regular cow milk. It's very "one from Column A, one from Column B" and it is delicious.

What else could I add that would boost the nutrition even more? I am interested in both sweet and savory approaches, vegetarian or not, that will fuel my day. (Bacon's nutritious, right?) Ideas involving other grains (rice, wheatberries, groats, but probably not kasha first thing in the morning) are also excellent.
posted by catlet to Food & Drink (32 answers total) 132 users marked this as a favorite
Some vanilla flavored protein powder would make your oatmeal pretty much the most nutritionally complete breakfast food ever.
posted by jtfowl0 at 8:01 AM on April 9, 2008

You could dice firm tofu really fine and toss it in there.
posted by Penelope at 8:04 AM on April 9, 2008

Your sweet approach (fruit, cinnamon, nuts and flax) sounds like mine. So why not treat it like a neutral grain some morning and add more protein, which helps you keep full longer?

1. After you heat it and add flax, add some sliced leftover meat, or tofu and hot sauce.

2. Dice up some veggies and sweat them in a pan with oil, then add a thin layer of cold oats, then add some beaten eggs and cook gently on the stove top until firm, to get a veg-and-grain frittata.

3. Heat a little oil in a pan, add a lump of oatmeal, then break 1-2 eggs on top and cover the pan. You'll get oatmeal that's crunchy brown on the bottom and perfectly poached eggs on top. Mix it all together in your bowl for complete taste and texture contrasts. A little paprika would be nice.

(Note: I have tried none of these savoury examples with oatmeal, but I do use leftover rice, couscous, mash and colcannon in examples 2 and 3.)
posted by maudlin at 8:10 AM on April 9, 2008 [3 favorites]

Another protein option is fat free, unsweetened (plain) yogurt, which I find complements the consistency of oatmeal better than milk does.
posted by kittyprecious at 8:14 AM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

A handful of crushed walnuts.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 8:15 AM on April 9, 2008

I think some coarsely crumbled turkey sausage might be nice, especially if you also add a little maple syrup to the party.

It seems like peanut butter would be optimal, but I'll be darned if I can figure out how to mix it into oatmeal without the result being an un-swallowable lump.
posted by Shohn at 8:18 AM on April 9, 2008

Peanut butter, whey protein power, strawberries, and and flax oil is a delicious combination. It would probably work well with some almonds too.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:20 AM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Spirulina? Powdered spirulina would actually be great for you because it's very, very high protein - and a complete protein, at that. You only need a teaspoon.

Be warned: it will turn your oatmeal blue. Yes, blue. And it has a taste, although how strong a taste varies between brands. People routinely put it in smoothies and stuff though, and either don't notice it or get used to it.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:22 AM on April 9, 2008

For variety's sake, you could use other hot cereals (mixed with your oats, or as an alternative on some days) -- there are a bunch of good multi-grain cereals, for example; some cook very quickly and others are more like your steel cut oats. Tastes are so personal, and cereal so cheap, that I'd suggest going to a store with lots of "natural" products and buying an assortment of hot cereal packages and seeing which ones taste good to you. (I really like Roman Meal, for example, but there are lots and lots of alternatives.)

Hippy cookbooks from a few decades back (eg Laurels Kitchen, Diet for a Small Planet, Tassajara cookbook, etc) tend to have lots of whole-grain hot cereal recipes, and would be worth looking at for ideas.

I don't think it would work well with oatmeal, but with other grains (especially rice) you could use the grain as a base and pile savory (pre-cooked with spices and refrigerated) meat and vegies on top, microwaved hot. It's more like what gets eaten for dinner in the US, but works fine as breakfast. Or make it more like Korean bi bim bop -- rice, vegies, meat, plus a fried egg and chili sauce, all in a bowl, eaten cold or hot. Again, not a traditional breakfast food in the US, but good and very nutritious.
posted by Forktine at 8:30 AM on April 9, 2008

A couple tablespoons of plain wheat bran is a killer fibre addition and doesn't really affect the taste.
You could also go the savoury route and add cheddar, hot sauce, diced chicken, and diced tomato.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:43 AM on April 9, 2008

Toasted almond slices, honey and yogurt make oatmeal a very hearty, yummy meal. When I bother to cook breakfast, that's what I cook. (Or sometimes Rye, which is nice for a change of pace.)
posted by small_ruminant at 8:47 AM on April 9, 2008

I do honey and bananas in my oatmeal. I eat it virtually every day, as well. I sprinkle in some wheat bran as well.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 8:53 AM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I melt cheese on my oatmeal. Yummy
posted by gt2 at 9:04 AM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

I do the same cook-once-a-week thing. Yum!

One thing to try in your basic recipe: add half the oats as you normally do, and the other half halfway through the cooking process. Adds a lot of nice texture.

I do this with rolled, YMMV with steel cut.
posted by quarterframer at 9:23 AM on April 9, 2008

Things I have tried:

Various protein powders into "instant" oatmeal.
Verdict: Pretty disgusting. Gritty. Weird flavors combinations. Not sure if you'll find the same with steel-cut.

Cooking in milk instead of water.
Verdict: Awesome

Infusing it by putting various fruit tea bags in the water before cooking.
Verdict: Teas have anti-oxidants, right? And tastes super-awesome.

Apple and cinnamon oatmeal with actual cinnamon sticks and apple chunks.
Verdict: Tastes like YES!

Something I haven't tried:

Peanut butter and bananas
Meat (bacon, jerky, butter etc?)
posted by metajc at 9:25 AM on April 9, 2008 [4 favorites]

Wheat germ is delicious and nutritious.
posted by bricoleur at 9:49 AM on April 9, 2008

I don't know how nutritious this is, but using coconut milk or coconut cream increases the deliciousness factor by about 200%. Some berries, crushed pistachios, coconut cream, and ground cardamom would probably be great for variety's sake.
posted by booknerd at 10:00 AM on April 9, 2008

I often treat steel cut oatmeal like a chinese rice porridge. You can add a couple of over easy eggs and soy sauce or even dried shredded pork (I don't know what to call this).

You could also treat it like a risotto. Try adding mushrooms, cream, Parmesan cheese etc...
posted by jefftang at 10:02 AM on April 9, 2008

Puffed amaranth. Healthy and tasty.
posted by kamelhoecker at 10:05 AM on April 9, 2008

I have a friend with a minor oatmeal obsession. I chatted her a link to this thread so she could try all this stuff, and she says "Tell them to put canned pumpkin in it" to which I said "what???" and she said "i use anywhere between 1/8 and 1/2 cup, depending on how much i want to bulk it up. then, cinnamon and cloves, and also you have to have some kind of sweetener. brown sugar or honey". So, there you go. Jenny says pumpkin.
posted by donnagirl at 11:09 AM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I can't bring myself to try it, but some people mix in a raw egg before cooking oatmeal.
posted by yohko at 11:10 AM on April 9, 2008

Runny honey and a grated apple.
posted by brautigan at 11:17 AM on April 9, 2008

On most mornings, I add boiling water directly to a bowl of quick oats, honey and dried cranberries. When I'm feeling less lazy, I toast oats, cinnamon and cloves ina saucepan, then add milk and cook as usual. The result is really really tasty.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 11:43 AM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

Another grain you can try is quinoa --- high protein content, has all the amino acids a growing breakfaster needs, and can be made sweet or savoury. I like oatmeal but it can become a big gummy glutinous mass --- quinoa is gluten-free so its texture doesn't overwhelm all those fruits & nuts you toss in. I'll second plain yoghurt over milk, yum!
posted by headnsouth at 1:29 PM on April 9, 2008 [2 favorites]

oh my god. this all sounds delicious. i'm seroiusly craving some oatmeal right now!

i love the quaker raisin, date and walnut instant, so i tried to make that myself once. it didn't turn out very well, but i think with the addition of some brown sugar it would have been delish.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 1:40 PM on April 9, 2008

My kids love peanut butter in their oatmeal.
posted by keith0718 at 1:58 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I really enjoy oatmeal with soy sauce and nutritional yeast.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:10 PM on April 9, 2008

I'm surprised this hasn't been mentioned: CINNAMON!
It supposedly has nutrional value in that it may help maintain stable blood sugar levels.
(FYI: blood sugar wise, steel cut oats like you are using are lower glycemic index)
posted by cloudgazer at 11:23 PM on April 9, 2008

Bananas, definitely bananas. Lovely potassium. And add the milk before reheating along with some dried raisens or sultanas, they'll swell and it'll taste like pudding. A mix of nuts for minerals and protein, some yummy greek yoghurt - mmmm creamy, and then whatever other fruit and bran sprinkle you want to add.
...I'm hungry for some now.
posted by Kerasia at 4:02 AM on April 10, 2008

I'm not sure if this works with steel-cut but it's what I do with rolled:
instead of cooking in milk or water, I boil the oats in left-over smoothie. Whenever I make a smoothie, I make a larger batch than I currently want and then freeze the remainder. I then thaw it out at breakfast time and maybe add some water to thin it out a bit and cook the oats in it. Just two days ago I blended a cup's worth of watermelon and honeydew and used that as the liquid and it tasted quite nice. This gives you a lot of the vitamins that you get in the fruit plus you don't have to add any sugar, as it is quite sweet this way.
posted by shokod at 5:22 AM on April 10, 2008

Flax seed is always a good addition. Problem is it gets rancid really fast, and most brands you get are rancid in the store. Fiproflax is vacuum packed, totally fresh, and delicious with oatmeal:
I'd stir it in AFTER cooking.

before cooking, as in right-in-the-cooking-water, add some small tear-offs of trader joe's dried mango. vastly improves texture and flavor.

yogurt is a favorite addition, but add to serving bowl (too much heat - i.e. in the pot - will kill the live culture).

I always add a chopped banana and a handful of trader joe's dried wild blueberries after cooking, and let it sit in pan covered for five minutes to work in (I stir violently to get the stuff to mix).

Try steel cut oats......just start it the night before at very low heat in a tightly sealed cooking vessel in the oven (if that's safe with your oven set-up), or crock pot.
posted by jimmyjimjim at 7:08 PM on April 12, 2008

Soup. A cup of oatmeal, a can/cup of soup and maybe a tablespoon of butter/oil.
posted by stavrogin at 2:50 PM on October 11, 2008

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