Most of the recipes that I try, or invent, are inspired by my children. This for sure was for them. My two middle children are HUGE oatmeal fans. I was purchasing the boxed oatmeal in the little brown packages until I really starting looking at both how much they were eating AND the contents of those packages. One tiny package was never enough. They were eating two, sometimes more, at a time per kid. So that’s at least 4 packets, 6+ if big sister was eating it too.
I also was discovering something about the behavior of my oldest son. When he was eating processed sugar, not just candy, but this packaged oatmeal, he was getting mean and angry. Consistently with processed sugar. If you take a quick look at the ingredients list on the back of one of those boxes (I’m looking at the Peaches & Cream) there are 18 ingredients and not ONE of them is peaches OR cream. Totally startling to me.
Now, I don’t want to get on any kind of soap box and I am not judging anyone who eats these. It was just such a huge awareness moment for this mom about my kid. I had to do something.
I figured that making something as easy as oatmeal from scratch couldn’t hurt if it might help the behavior of my child. And I was right. Switching from this highly processed oatmeal to something all natural made a huge difference in my son’s behavior afterwards.
If you are new to steel-cut oats, I should explain that they are a less refined version of the old-fashioned and quick-cooking oats you already know. All oats start out the same, as an oat groat. Steel-cut oats are oat groats that have been sliced into smaller pieces, whereas old-fashioned oats are oat groats that have been flattened. They all contain the same pieces and parts, but the difference between slicing and flattening explains why steel-cut oats take longer to cook.
Steel-cut oats shine in the texture and flavor departments. They are exceptionally creamy and delicious, especially if you toast them beforehand. Steel-cut oats are also a fun way to change up your morning oatmeal routine. They reheat beautifully, so you can make one big batch that lasts all week.
If you want to change up your oatmeal each morning, make a basic batch and add whatever toppings sound good the morning of.
Here are some of my favorite toppings for steel-cut oats:
- Peanut butter, almond butter or pecan butter
- Homemade chia jam or your favorite jelly/jam
- Applesauce, preferably the chunky homemade variety, or grated fresh apple
- Coconut whipped cream or regular whipped cream
- Yogurt or a splash of cream
- Sliced bananas, strawberries, pears, mangos…
- Fresh or frozen blueberries, raspberries or blackberries
- Dried fruit, like dried cranberries, cherries, blueberries, raisins, chopped dates or apricots…
- Toasted chopped nuts like walnuts, pecans, almonds…
- Toasted pepitas or sunflower seeds
- Flaxseed or chia seeds
- Toasted or raw shredded coconut
- Dark chocolate, either chopped or mini chocolate chips
The hands down best way to make it quick and easy, especially for kids, is to use frozen berries at the bottom of your bowl and sweeten with a drizzle of honey or agave nectar. The frozen berries soften when you top with the steaming oats AND it helps cool the oatmeal faster so you can eat right away!
- 3 cups water
- 3 cups milk (cow's or dairy-free)
- pinch of salt
- 2 cups steel-cut oats
- ¼ cup berries or other toppings
- drizzle of honey
- Bring the water, milk and pinch of salt to a boil.
- Add oats and reduce heat to simmer.
- Simmer about 8 minutes. Check for desired thickness.
- If using frozen berries- place in bottom of a bowl, place a few scoops of hot oats on top, drizzle honey and other toppings.
MAKE IT GLUTEN FREE: Use certified gluten-free oats and make sure your mix-ins/toppings are gluten free, too.
MAKE IT NUT FREE: Easy. Use nut-free milk and don’t add nuts.