I wasn’t a big fan of cereal for breakfast when I was a kid. Partly because my mom only bought the very plain varieties, and partly because I was such a slow eater that I refused to put milk on my cereal lest it become a soggy, sodden mess. So I would snack on dry Cheerios or Kix like they were potato chips, but I didn’t usually eat them for breakfast.
My childhood morning meal of choice? Oatmeal, of the instant-from-a-packet variety. And for some reason, Mom didn’t insist on buying plain oatmeal. Instead, she either bought the variety pack (which inevitably included a few packets of unflavored oats), or she would buy whole boxes of my very favorite flavor, maple brown sugar. Mammaw would microwave me a bowl of this stuff just about every morning before school, from kindergarten until sometime in middle school (which I think is when I discovered how much I love bagels).
I remember the first time I tried real oatmeal: slow simmered on the stove…thick with big, fat rolled oats instead of the quick-cooking variety…lightly seasoned with butter, a pinch of salt, and just a touch of sugar. That old-fangled oatmeal was substantial and creamy, and it didn’t taste like maple or brown sugar, and I had to chew because the oats actually had some texture.
It kind of grossed me out.
But as I grew up, I somehow figured out along the way that this was how oats were supposed to feel and taste. Now, I prefer my oatmeal made from real whole grains, and it’s been a while since I revisited the done-in-two-minutes-oats of my youth. While old-fashioned oatmeal takes a lot longer to cook, it might be just about the most satisfying thing to warm up with on a crisp spring morning.
So when I rose well before Micah last Saturday and decided to wake him with breakfast in bed, and it was a little cool in the house, and we had an apple and some dates and pecans in the kitchen just begging to be cooked…well, how could I resist?
What’s in it:
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons chopped pecans
- 1 small apple, diced
- 2 dates, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
- In a small saucepan, bring the oats, milk, water, and salt to a low simmer. This will cook for about 20 minutes until it’s nice and thick and creamy.
- In a small skillet, melt the butter on medium heat.
- Add the pecans and cook until lightly toasted.
- Add the apples, dates, maple syrup, and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to a thick glaze.
- Stir half of the cinnamon into the pot of oatmeal and half of it into the skillet of fruit.
- Divide the oatmeal into two bowls and top with the fruit and nut mixture, or go ahead mix the fruit and nuts into the oatmeal before serving.
How did it turn out? The oatmeal was thick, creamy, and just a touch salty (exactly how I like it), while the apples and dates added just the right amount of sweetness. The best bites were the ones with some crunchy toasted pecan, and when I make this again, I’ll probably add more nuts.
What’s your favorite oatmeal add-in?