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The Most Crowd-Pleasing Breakfast Is Also the Most Unexpected

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Brunch begets a crowd, so we partnered with The Quaker Oats Company to share our strategy on making a big batch of oatmeal—and what to have on hand to make it a party.

No one wants to fry 40 sunny-side up eggs for 20 people at 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning. The short order cook at your local diner probably doesn't want to be doing that, and you don't want to be doing that—and you shouldn't have to. So let's just forget the idea, okay? Because while eggs are great, making oatmeal for a crowd is just as good—and much, much easier.

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Can you say, "easy breakfast?"
Can you say, "easy breakfast?" Photo by James Ransom

Neither bland nor boring, oatmeal is an unexpected-yet-crowd-pleasing breakfast. Here's what you need to do: cook a big batch of oatmeal, set out a plethora of add-ins (you can label them, if you're feeling motivated), and be done. Your friends are great. Their requests for "just 5 hazelnuts and a 3/4 teaspoon of brown sugar?" Not so much.

Let everyone get to building their bowls and help yourself to your most low-stress brunch yet:

Photo by James Ransom

Using the 2:1 liquid-to-oatmeal ratio, decide on the amount of people you're serving and scale your needs accordingly. Here's a trick: The amount of water needed equals the number of people. So, for 8 people, you'd use 8 cups of liquid and 4 cups of oats, for 11 it'd be 11 cups of liquid and 5 1/2 cups of oats, and so on. As far as liquid goes, I prefer half milk and half water, and make sure to add salt, too, about 1/2 teaspoon per cup of oats. And if your get-together is going to be a while, haul out the crockpot—you won't have to tend to your oats and it'll keep things toasty.

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While plain oatmeal is, of course, worthy all on its own, here are some flavoring suggestions:

  • Toast the oats prior to adding water.
  • Stir in a tablespoon or two of brown butter (or just butter).
  • Add a cinnamon stick, freshly grated nutmeg, cloves, or cardamom.
  • Substitute some apple juice for the water or milk for added sweetness.
  • Stir in some grated citrus zest, like lemon or orange.

And then set out the toppings.

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Fresh fruit Pomegranate seeds Jam or compote Caramelized apples Brown sugar Honey Apple butter Maple syrup Dried fruit Chocolate chips Mini marshmallows Crushed cookies (Cookies for breakfast? Yes, see cookie cereal.)

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Miscellaneous (but awesome) stuff

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We get it, oatmeal is personal—so tell us in the comments below what's in your favorite bowl.

We partnered with The Quaker Oats Company to help them uncover a new oatmeal flavor—submit your favorite to their contest here for a chance to win $250,000. Ends 3/12/16.