Sunday, March 21, 2010

Not your grandmother's porridge

Just about everyone knows that a big part of eating properly is to start your day with a healthy breakfast. None the less it's still the meal that people seem to struggle with more than any other.

Hey, we're all busy.
For me mornings are usually about hitting the snooze button one or two too many times, rushing to get ready for work while answering phone calls & questions from my opening crew, purveyors & clients. Taking time out, even if it's only five minutes, to prepare breakfast just doesn't fit in to my typical morning "schedule".
Of course as I'm out buying food & supplies on my way into the kitchen I find myself wanting something to eat.

I'm one of those people for whom the mornings are when I crave something sweet the most. In the days when I used to work in hotels, the aroma wafting off the racks of fresh baked breakfast pastries coming up from the bakeshop would call to me like a siren's song. These days the temptations usually take the form of grab & go coffee shop pastries.

They are quick, convenient and seem to fill the void. However after a night's sleep and usually too much of a delay before eating at all, a bunch of empty calories, sugar & simple carbs is exactly what you do not want to eat.

What you need is solid food with a good, complex fibrous carbohydrate like ... OATMEAL!

Yeah I know, "Oatmeal? Yuck."
To be fair though, have you seen the way most people cook oatmeal? Boiling it in just water or milk and maybe topping it with a little sugar: bor-ing.
How many other grains do you tend to eat that plainly? How often do you sit down to a meal of just plain boiled white rice?

Oatmeal is so good for you though and gives you good, long burning source of energy to get your day going. Can't get yourself started with out that triple grande latte? Try switching to oatmeal for a week. Find yourself running out of gas by late afternoon? Fill your tank with some oatmeal in the morning and see what kind of mileage you get out of your body.

There are a lot of different ways I like to prepare my oatmeal to make a breakfast I really enjoy. A simple tricks is cooking it in apple juice instead of water with a touch of cinnamon and some fruit like diced apple & dried cranberries. Just be sure you use an good, natural, unsweetened apple juice rather than some sugary crap.
Of course I highly recommend adding a source of lean protein into your breakfast as well. Hard boiled eggs are a favorite accompaniment of mine.

As tasty as the apple juice trick is, I often like to jazz up my oatmeal a bit more. Let me show you one of my favorites. It's tasty, healthy, satisfies my need for sweet in morning and made ahead of time it's convenient enough to fit into my hectic mornings.

Chocolate Cherry Banana Oatmeal

Makes 3 to 5 servings

1 1/2 cups Regular Rolled Oats Don't use quick oats.
3 cups water
2 ripe bananas, sliced
1/3 cup dried tart cherries I like the Dried Monterey Cherries they sell at Trader Joes
6 scoops Chocolate whey protein powder This is where it gets a little tricky. All protein powders are not created equal, in fact they are all very different in flavor as well as quality. For this recipe I used 6 scoops (1 1/4 cups) EAS brand. It's sold commonly in a lot of stores from Walgreens to Costco. GNC's "100% Whey" brand is also a good choice.

Combine the oats, water, bananas & cherries in a medium sauce pot.
Put it over medium heat and bring to simmer stirring occasionally.
I like to mash some of the bananas while I'm stirring.
Continue to simmer for 4 to 5 minutes until thick & creamy.
Many recipes tell you to add the oats to boiling liquid but starting it cold & bringing it to a gentle simmer produces a smoother, creamier result.
Remove from heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
Stir in protein powder.

I like to do all this in the evening or on the weekend when I have time and then immediately divide into microwaveable containers that can be quickly zapped for a fast breakfast.

It's pretty rich and dividing this recipe into five gives you one cup portions that make a decent breakfast: 250 calories, 20 grams of protein, 40 grams of healthy carbs.

If you are particularly active & need a bigger boast in the morning if can be divided into 4 or even three portions.
At three portions it breaks down to 413 calories, 34 grams of protein & 69 grams of carbs. If you are working out regularly, that's a good choice for your morning meal.

I'm never going to claim that chocolate protein powder is as delicious as actual chocolate but with the added richness and sweetness of the fruit, this makes a very enjoyable morning meal.

Ten minutes of cooking yesterday and I have breakfast all set for the next few days and I'm ready to face the week.


  1. Does whey protein powder contain wheat gluten? Husband & I have been into oatmeal lately but his chief complaint is that it doesn't carry his hunger late enough in the morning. Adding the extra protein seems a good alternative but he has a wheat gluten allergy.

    Recipe sounds delicious!

  2. I am a huge fan of oats, but I never do rolled. I tend to do either steel cut or whole (I cook the whole much like rice and then mix it with dried fruits and nuts, and some honey - dried cherries & almonds are one of my favorite combos).

    I have also found that you can freeze oatmeal well too, in pint sized freezer bags (squeeze out the air). It makes for easy breakfasts that you can just grab and go with, and you can make up lots ahead of time. I haven't had any in my freezer longer than 6 months, but it is fine up to that point at least. :)

    I am going to have to try this recipe sometime. Mmmmm.

  3. Larissa,

    Both the EAS protein and the GNC brand are gluten free.

  4. Yeah, I started doing oatmeal breakfasts at work when I realized "Hey, if I want to travel more on my budget, I can cut out the lattes and pastries and save some cash- plus eat healthier".

    The neat trick is Microsoft gives you FREE milk to do this with, along with microwaves and utensils. :) I've used the TJ's dried cherries and blueberries, but not the chocolate why powder- may try this. (I also do not usually have an appetite for an hour or two after I get up in the morning, so deferring breakfast until I get to work helps with that.)

  5. I'm lucky that I have time to prepare breakfast every morning. When I worked in an office, I used to eat at my desk after getting to work. Oatmeal is pretty popular with my toddler. I make it with half water/half soy milk, add in a Tbsp of flaxseed meal and wheat germ and mix in honey and berries. When I was working out regularly, I also put in tofu to help bulk it up and give me the energy I needed to work out.

  6. Lovely! Thank you.

  7. These sound yummy. I tend to save oatmeal cooked as cereal (as opposed to in cookies or bread, which I do all the time) for special occasions, because I prefer steel-cut and it takes so long -- and also because oatmeal for breakfast requires significant amounts of insulin for me, unless my portions are small, and who has time to spend 45 minutes for 3/4 cup of cooked oats? But I didn't know you could freeze cooked oatmeal and have the texture survive the thawing, I'll have to try that. And the chocolate version above sounds divine.

  8. I took your idea and ran in a different direction. Bob's 10 Grain cereal (YUM), mixed with "better'n peanut butter" (a low-fat PB. Normal would, of course, be awesome, too) and vanilla whey powder. (I'm using the "Whey to Go" brand at the moment, but I bet there are better ones). My partner reports that when I make my weekly batch, the house smells "like baking cookies." It tastes pretty awesome!!!! Yay for breakfast! I mix in some non-fat milk after I nuke it.