My kids, like Mike and I, are polar opposites when it comes to breakfast. Mike and Elena could care less about breakfast, and wouldn’t think twice about skipping it. Mike is a grown man, so I let him get away with it. I shudder at some of the things Elena manages to call “breakfast” in her attempt to appease me by eating something before heading out the door in the morning (Cheese and pepperoni at 6:30 am? Yuck!), but at least she’s getting some food in her belly. Hangry, decaffeinated Angie is a real monster, so I have to eat something and have a cup of tea or coffee in the morning. And Eli? I swear he consumes his entire caloric intake for the day at breakfast.
Because he eats so much and is more open to trying new things in the mornings, I try to make breakfast his best meal of the day. One of the things that he loves to eat is oatmeal. I love it, too, because in one fell swoop I can serve him whole grains and protein that will last him all morning long. Throw in some fruit on the side and the kefir he loves to drink, and it’s easily one of the most nutritious meals he eats all day.
The only issue I have with oatmeal is that if I don’t have any on hand, it’s not easy to whip up on a school morning. My very favorite oatmeal recipe involves cooking oats with milk low and slow for about an hour. It’s easy to make a big batch, and it reheats beautifully, but there are plenty of times when I haven’t gotten around to making a batch. We’re also fans of overnight steel-cut oats, but again, I don’t always think that far ahead.
I’ve eyed those easy packets of instant oatmeal many times in the grocery store, knowing that Eli would love them and it would make those mornings when I’m out of my homemade oatmeal easy. But I also know that they contain lots of things I don’t necessarily want to fill him up with, and that once I get into the habit of just ripping open a packet I’d have a hard time giving up the ease of it.
Instead I got to work in the kitchen, and concocted my own recipe for instant oatmeal. There are quite a few suggestions online, and I tinkered with a few different recipes until I got it exactly the way our bellies like it. And the bonus? Our groggy, decaffeinated selves approve of it at the crack of dawn as well. We still love a good, slow-cooked batch of oatmeal. But for those mornings when ain’t nobody got time for that, it’s nice to have quick, easy (but still delicious) instant oatmeal to fall back on.
DIY Instant Oatmeal Mix
This makes about 14 1/2 cup servings. You can easily double or triple the recipe to have a big batch on hand.
6 cups quick-cook oats
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup powdered milk
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla powder (optional)
Blend 2 cups of the oats in a food processor into a coarse powder. In a large bowl, mix the powdered oats with 4 cups of whole oats. Add the salt, powdered milk, brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla powder (if using). Stir to combine.
Store mixture in an airtight container.
When ready to serve, scoop a heaping 1/2 cup of the oatmeal mixture into a bowl. Add 3/4 cup of boiling water or hot milk. Stir and let stand for 3 minutes. Depending on how you like the consistency of your oatmeal, you can adjust the amount of water or milk you add. Fancy up your oatmeal with chopped fruit and/or nuts, if you like. Eli’s a purist – oatmeal only for him. I’m loving mine with roasted coconut chips and a spoonful of peanut butter at the moment!