McDonald’s has made oatmeal a hot topic. Here’s how to make your own.

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March 1, 2011 by Ashlee Clark Thompson

Photo courtesy of nate steiner via Flickr.

It took two minutes and three ingredients for my fiancé to change the way I look at breakfast.

It was a cool February morning. We were hungry and chilly and needed some food that would stick to our bones.

Rob removed a carton of Aldi-brand oatmeal from my cabinet. Then he showed me how real grown ups eat a proper breakfast.

Oatmeal has had its place on my kitchen shelves in every apartment in which I’ve lived. But oatmeal was just an item I needed on hand to whip up a batch of oatmeal-raisin cookies when the mood struck me. Occasionally I would by bags of the pre-flavored oatmeal that’s quick and easy to prepare when you’re in a hurry. But I never looked at those rolled oats in the cardboard carton as food with which I could satisfy my urges to get creative in the kitchen.

Rob got to pouring and measuring and stirring. Less than five minutes later, I was eating a bowl of hot oatmeal with raisins, cinnamon and brown sugar. This humble bowl of oatmeal was the beginning of my adoration of this bastion of fiber.

Oatmeal has become my go-to breakfast. It’s a blank canvas that waits for your personal touches. It’s easy, quick and cheap. It keeps you full until lunch. In a word, oatmeal is wonderful.

Recently, McDonald’s and a couple of oat-loving food writers have brought oatmeal to the front of internet food conversation.

Food columnist Mark Bittman just wrote a widely read article for the New York Times condemning McDonald’s oatmeal, which he said has been altered so much by the fast-food giant that the dish has more sugar than a Snickers candy bar. Bittman’s piece prompted a response from Tom Chiarella at Esquire Magazine based on his own experiences at the restaurant that defends the chain’s oatmeal.

While you decide if McDonald’s has bastardized oatmeal or brought a healthier option to the masses, why not make your own? It takes only two steps:

  1. Follow the directions on the carton of oatmeal. If you use milk instead of water (which is what I do), watch your oatmeal closely and stir often because it can easily bubble over the pot or bowl.
  2. Add your favorite ingredients.

Here’s a breakdown of some possible additions to oatmeal. Choose something from each category and make your own combinations.

  • Something sweet: Sugar, brown sugar, sugar substitute, honey, syrup
  • Something crunchy: Nuts (walnuts, pecans, etc.)
  • Something fruity: Dried fruit (raisins, golden raisins, Craisins, etc.), mashed banana, chopped apple, applesauce
  • Something flavorful: Cinnamon, nutmeg

Do you have your own oatmeal combination? Share the knowledge in the comments.

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7 thoughts on “McDonald’s has made oatmeal a hot topic. Here’s how to make your own.

  1. bwilberding says:

    My fiance also opened my eyes to the world of oatmeal. I also tried McDonald’s oatmeal, and it is pretty yummy if you are out and about for breakfast. Also, golden raisins are incredibly addictive. I wish you hadn’t blogged about them in the past.

  2. J says:

    Steel cut oats are an even better option health-wise as they are less processed. They’re chewier and have a stronger, nuttier flavor which I also prefer. They take longer to cook, but if you make a big batch on Sunday it’s easy to microwave a small portion on workday mornings.

    I do mine with plain, unsweetened almond milk, raisins, cinnamon and a little real maple syrup.

  3. I like to put brown sugar in the water before I add the oatmeal, it really adds a nice sweet touch. Then I add some dried blueberries. YUM!

  4. Tara says:

    Vanilla soy milk + dried cranberries + walnuts

    Bittman also has a bunch of intriguing suggestions for savory oatmeals: http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/01/23/about-steel-cut-oats-and-what-i-ate/

  5. [...] Buy more basic ingredients. A stocked pantry full of basics and motivation to cook have helped me survive between visits to the grocery store. For example, I wanted some cornbread to go with some beans I had bubbling in the Crock Pot, but I didn’t have any cornbread mix. I did, however, have a carton of cornmeal, milk, flour, an egg and the Internet. Twenty minutes later, homemade cornbread muffins without having to go out of my wallet. My new favorite staple? Oatmeal. [...]

  6. Stephanie says:

    First, I always use old fashioned oats. They have more fiber. I have yet to try steel cut oats, which are even more “fiber-ful”.

    For over a year, my go-to oatmeal preperation has been agave syrup & dried cranberries.

    I picked up some dried cherries a bit back, and ohhh-weee… using those are like eating cherry pie. Awfully sweet for me in the morning.

    My NEW favorite blend is maple syrup and the coconut granola from the bulk bins at whole foods. There are a few almonds in there, too. Yummy.

    I also try to keep flax seeds around to sprinkle in food for brainy omega-3s.

    Tip: Anyone that works somewhere with a coffee maker that has the hot water spout, put just enough hot water on your oats to cover, let sit for about 30 seconds & they will expand, then microwave for only 20 seconds. Perfect texture!

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