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

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.

The top 4 worst Halloween candy choices

Two types of candy dominate the sugar landscape during Halloween season.

There are the sweets that can drive trick-or-treaters to stalk their neighbors on Halloween night (here’s looking at you, lady with the full-sized Snickers bars).

And then there’s the candy that never disappears from the bottom of the bowl.

Here is a breakdown of four candies in the latter category – selections that can spoil a Halloween bounty.

1) Candy corn. This candy could be easily labeled as the poster child for Halloween because it only seems to appear on stores shelves once a year. Thank goodness. Candy corn stays fresh for about two days before it begins to taste like hardened candle wax. Even fans of this candy have to admit that it’s hard to find a fresh batch – candy corn often ends up piled decorative Halloween bowls for the entire season.

2) Peanut butter taffy. Most people know this selection as “that candy in the orange and black wrappers.” It takes at least 10 minutes to soften this blob of hard peanut butter, and that’s not counting the time you will spend chewing the wad down to a digestible form.

3) Black licorice. What is black licorice supposed to taste like? It’s hard to enjoy a candy if its flavor is unrecognizable.

4) Wax bottle candy. The concept is fun – candy shaped like an old-school soft drink bottle and filled with liquid. But in practice, this sweet is nothing more than colored sugar water in wax.

Photo: Flickr/emilyonasunday

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