I’ve dropped about 15 pounds in the last four weeks. As part of my new eating regimen, I’ve been heating up some oatmeal each morning. It helps to keep my cholesterol down, keeps me full until lunchtime, and tastes great. I didn’t like oatmeal growing up. That was because I ate the pre-flavored instant varieties that taste like flour and have the consistency of wallpaper paste. I figured I could do better, and I did.
I started by buying what’s commonly accpeted as the best brand, McCann’s Steel-Cut Oats, and experimenting with different cooking methods. One of the drawbacks of using real, steel-cut oats is that they take 30+ minutes to cook. Since I’m not going to stand over the stove for a half-hour every morning, I started making my oatmeal on Sundays and heating a portion in the microwave each morning. That way, I get the quality without the big production.
In my typical nerdy fashion, I started with a control and introduced variables. I tried just oats and water, water and milk, buttermilk, toasted oats, and flavorings like brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. I eventually settled on a recipe that was easy to make, and ingredients that were budget-friendly while preserving the high quality of steel-cut oats.
I buy my oatmeal from the bulk bin at Whole Foods. It’s around $1.40 per pound. Two pounds makes about three weeks worth of oatmeal, meaning I pay around $1 per week for my breakfast. Compare that with McCann’s Irish Oatmeal, which is almost $7 for less than two pounds. It’s just not worth paying the premium for the old-timey paint can.
I make my oatmeal with water and milk and a little seasoning, and I finish it in the morning with a splash of soy almond milk. I’m not anti-dairy or anything; I just like the taste of the almond milk with the chewy, nutty oatmeal.
The Best Oatmeal
- 2 cups steel-cut oats (from Whole Foods)
- 3-4 cups water, depending on your prefrerred thickness
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1½ tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 pinch kosher salt
Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Slowly whisk in the oats. Pour in the milk and turn the heat down to low. The milk should bring the temperature down immediately. Set a timer to 35 minutes and stir the oats occasionally to make sure they don’t stick to the bottom. At this low of a temperature, the pot should just barely bubble. You can go and do something else as long as you check on the pot every now and then.
After about 25 minutes, the oatmeal should be starting to thicken. Pour in the sugar, cinnamon, salt, and mix until incorporated.
At the 35-minute mark, remove the pot from the heat. It’ll get thicker as it stands. When it’s room temperature, put the pot in the fridge.
In the morning, scoop out a bowl of cold oatmeal and microwave it for 1 minute. Pour in some almond milk. How much you add depends on how creamy you want your oatmeal. I pour it in the bowl like I’m adding milk to cereal and break up the lumpy oats with the back of a fork.
Microwave again for another 30 seconds and enjoy. Top with nuts, berries, sliced fruit, granola, or whatever else you like. I like it plain.
This is a base recipe, meaning it’s supposed to be tinkered with. I don’t like sweets, so this oatmeal isn’t very sugary. There’s just enough seasonings to add a little flavor. Feel free to add more of any ingredients that will make it more appetizing without canceling out the nutritional benefits.