Bites and Pieces: Roll Those Oats

Oatmeal Oatmeal is my go to breakfast for the family. It cooks while I’m getting lunches or coffee ready, it’s happily eaten, and it’s a substantial breakfast. I tend to wake up about 20 – 30 minutes before the boys on school days, so that gives me enough time to make a basic oatmeal. I like to make it creamy, so I start it off cold and use half milk and half water.

Basic Oatmeal

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup milk
1 cup water
pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until thick. Primo likes his sweetened with blueberries and pecans on top. Secondo just goes for maple syrup. I stir some maple syrup in before serving so that it’s not just on top (and a bit sweeter than Primo realizes). For Keen, I serve it in a low soup bowl with blueberries around the edge of the oatmeal, pecans sprinkled on top, maple syrup around the edges and a bit more on top.


Better known here as steel cut or Irish oatmeal, this is worth the time. It takes the better part of an hour, so works if I’m a bit sleepless and wake up way too early. We tried a slow cooker recipe once, but didn’t like the results. To do it right, you have to take the time and stir it. It’s also good for a weekend breakfast if I don’t feel like making pancakes or waffles.

1 cup steel cut oats
~4 cups water (or 2 cups each of water and milk)
1/4 tsp. salt or to taste

Bring the liquid up to a near boil and gradually stir in the oats. Bring up to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 – 40 minutes or until you get the consistency you like. I make mine thick and creamy.

Steel cut oats are variable. We generally buy ours from Trader Joe’s, which calls for a 4 to 1 ratio. I’ve seen higher and lower ratios and different cooking methods, so trust what’s on the box. The steelcut oats have a slightly nutty flavor to them and a bit more chew to the texture. Once made, I serve the oatmeal as with the regular kind. That is, until recently.

Oatmeal Brûlée

Doodles is a restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky, that specializes in breakfast. We stopped there on our last trip between DC and KC. One of their dishes is a bruleed steel cut oats. Basically, oatmeal with a sugar crust. I tried making it myself this weekend, as we’re at my parents and they don’t have maple syrup. Lacking a torch, I caramelized the sugar by heating it in a small pot until it melted and poured the syrup on top of the oatmeal. It worked beautifully. I figured I’d split a large bowl with Keen, but one of my sons became interested. Despite already having had a bowl of oatmeal, he polished off half the remainder.

Savory Oatmeal

For all that, you think I’d love oatmeal. Humphrey Bogart once summed up my feelings about hot breakfast cereals. If me and the boys wanted to eat mucilage, we would have ordered mucilage. I used to think it was an issue with texture, but that can’t be the case. I love risotto, which is Italian for mucilage. Then it hit me. It’s not the texture, but it’s sweetness combined with the texture. I started experimenting with savory oatmeal. I’ve haven’t had a chance to experiment much, but like what I’ve tried. For my first effort, I stirred in some leftover tomato sauce and some sriracha, then topped with grated parmesan cheese and a bit of fresh cracked pepper. Voila! Oatmeal that I enjoyed. Another effort is to mix in some chopped herbs and parseley and top with cheese. I think I’ll try bacon and eggs next. Break up crispy bacon and stir into oatmeal, top with a sunny side up egg. Perhaps a bit of cheddar cheese on top.

Savory oatmeal is not a terribly original concept. I’ve eaten something similar at Café Aurora, an Eritrean restaurant in Alexandria. GA’AT is an Eritrean porridge made from barley, bran, whole wheat flour lightly roasted porridge served with melted butter, spiced red pepper and side yogurt. Here’s a few other takes on the idea.

Olga Berman

Serious Eats

Mark Bittman

So, how do you roll with your oats?


2 Responses

  1. I am a big oatmeal fan. I use oatmeal instead of bread crumbs in meatballs and meat loaf and meat stuffings. For meatballs, processing the oatmeal down and adding egg yolks and 1/2+1/2 and seasonings and stirring works. For meat loaf, the whole rolled oats work fine without being ground down.

    I usually top my oatmeal with fresh fruit. Before I restricted my salt intake I enjoyed cottage cheese as a topping. Either sliced peaches or apples can be cooked in the oatmeal. Raisins cooked in the oatmeal puff up a bit, which is a good thing.

    Using whole rolled oats to microwave oatmeal is a 2-step requiring a BIG BOWL so the oatmeal does not overflow the sides. one serving for me requires 2/3 cup. Pour 2/3 cup in bowl. Cover oats with water. MW on high for 2:30. Remove, stir, add more water to cover oats again – milk does not do well in microwaved oatmeal, IMHO. MW on high for 2:20. Let cool a bit, stir, and eat. Favorite MW whole oats variation: slice one apple into the bowl, first. Add 1 TBSPN apple juice and a bit of nutmeg. MW on hi for 1 minute. Then add the oats and water and prepare as above.


  2. Good point on using oatmeal as an ingredient. I’ve used leftover sushi rice to make malai kofta, an Indian, vegetarian meatball.



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