Oatmeal add-ins

The Sustainable Food Center here in Austin sponsors a 6 week cooking program called The Happy Kitchen. I'm one of the teachers, and next week is my first class. The topic is grains, so we've decided to make their very basic oatmeal recipe. (They have a cookbook. The recipes are very straightforward, and all recipes have to be seasonal, healthy and inexpensive.) I want to demonstrate that you can make food in a basic way, but then make it more interesting by putting a personal touch on it. So, community: what are your favorite ways to gussy up a bowl of oatmeal? (Remember: seasonal (no berries; it's winter), healthy (no bacon; sorry), and inexpensive.

Thanks for your help!

  • Posted by: drbabs
  • January 12, 2015


Nancy January 27, 2015
Barbara, sounds like your class took place last week. Will you tell us how it went? Interesting student reaction to our add-ins?
drbabs January 29, 2015
The student reaction to your add-ins (which we printed out and gave each of them) was…they didn't try them. In fact, only two people in the class tried the recipe (which is basically making oatmeal with milk instead of water and then stirring in applesauce, cinnamon and brown sugar). One described it as "life changing." The Sustainable Food Center has it right--the people who take this class aren't cooks, even though they're responsible for getting food on the table every day. Last night's lesson was fruits and included a discussion of reading labels. Very eye opening. (No, Capri Sun, Sunny D and Dr. Pepper are NOT juice. Not even food, in my opinion.) Next up--vegetables. We're going to show them how to roast vegetables, and will introduce brussels sprouts, parsnips and beets. (The oven is tiny.) Should be fun.
Nancy January 30, 2015
Barbara - yes, eye opening! I hope the remaining classes go well. Thanks for letting us know how the oatmeal curtain-raiser went.
Kathy G. January 21, 2015
Dried cranberries, almonds, walnuts, cinnamon, chopped candied ginger,raspberry or mario berry jam, marmalade, raisins, chopped dried apricots or pears - fresh pears.
Brain H. January 20, 2015
Olive oil, sea salt, chocolate chips and orange slices if I have them, marmalade if I don't.
CPJC January 18, 2015
Half an avocado. Goat cheese crumbles. Some sundried tomatos (the kind packed in oil). Black pepper. Salt. Olive oil
Anna L. January 18, 2015
Perhaps slightly unconventional, but I cook my rolled oats until thick and creamy with a bit of salt and oregano. Mix in some thick Parmesan flakes toward the end for an even more delicious option. Serve with shredded toasted nori, poached egg, and sprinkle with sesame/nori rice seasoning.
foofaraw January 16, 2015
I love savory oatmeal. It is the most transportable food for office lunch, where I usually store old fashioned oats, soysauce, sesame oil, and some eggs in the fridge. Cook 1 serving of oatmeal as normal in microwave (/stovetop). When the oatmeal is still piping hot from microwave, crack one egg into the oatmeal, and with 1/2 tsp of each sesame oil and soysauce. Stir rigorously until you see that the leftover streaks of egg are not transparent anymore = egg is cooked. For some crunch, I like to add a pinch of toasted sesame seeds on top.
Very filling, has protein, no added sugar/fat, and can be stored in (office) drawer too.
sara D. January 15, 2015
OH! One of my favorite dishes is Ethiopian Cracked Wheat porriage (Yesinde Qiniché) - served cooked loose, and with ample berbere flavored ghee - called niter kibbee. Delicious! You could make (something like) this using steel cut oats.
Nancy January 15, 2015
Sara Diamond...what a good idea! I have avjarbof homemade Berbere on hand, but never heard of inter kibbee. Any other steps than make ghee and add berbere?
sara D. January 15, 2015
roasted cashews and almonds; a tablespoon of raw cacao nibs - expensive to buy, but a package lasts a long time; mixed dried fruit; chia and or flax seeds; nut butters (tahini is great); frozen blueberries; fresh chopped fruit in season; various grains - I use a mix of rolled grains, but whole grains can also be used; cooked adzuki beans; roasted sweet winter squash or pumpkin diced; yogurt; jam or marmalade.
Maedl January 15, 2015
I forgot to say that I fry julienned ginger in butter and then add the milk and raw grains to cook. I think you could try using raw turmeric in place of or along with the ginger.
spiffypaws January 14, 2015
cinnamon, banana and sometimes bittersweet chocolate
Andigol January 14, 2015
This is not healthy but wow is it good!
When I was in England I was served oatmeal with brown sugar and double cream and a drizzle of Scotch!
Stephanie January 14, 2015
I agree with the chopped, dried fruit. My dad loves crumbling frozen raspberries on top...when they are frozen, the little bubbles (bursts, what are the tiny pods that make up blackberries and raspberries called, anyone know? I digress...) separate so you end up with a bit of berry in every bite. I'm keen on adding spices to add variety...ginger, cinnamon, even cocoa powder (which without the sugar added meets the healthy criteria!)...or if you want to go more of the savory direction, you could jazz it up with a curry powder and dried fruit or a bit of chipotle or other dried chile powder.
AntoniaJames January 14, 2015
Almond butter, ground flaxseed, "forbidden" or black rice (which is quite sweet on its own and a beautiful deep purple hue), cooked quinoa, chopped dried apricots (soak in cider or Madeira to soften), and then the usual: toasted pistachios, toasted pecans, Nekisia Davis's granola (just a fat pinch) . . . and then there are a multitude of savory options. See this link for ideas: https://food52.com/recipes/search?q=antoniajames+savory+porridge
Cinnamon + cumin + bay + cashews is one of my all-time favorites, inspired by a Julie Sahni brown rice pilaf from her early vegetarian book. ;o)
AntoniaJames January 14, 2015
Almond butter, ground flaxseed, "forbidden" or black rice (which is quite sweet on its own and a beautiful deep purple hue), cooked quinoa, chopped dried apricots (soak in cider or Madeira to soften), and then the usual: toasted pistachios, toasted pecans, Nekisia Davis's granola (just a fat pinch) . . . and then there are a multitude of savory options. See this link for ideas: https://food52.com/recipes/search?q=antoniajames+savory+porridge
Cinnamon + cumin + bay + cashews is one of my all-time favorites, inspired by a Julie Sahni brown rice pilaf from her early vegetarian book. ;o)
boulangere January 13, 2015
I share your quest, Dr. B. I'm always looking for ways to make oatmeal (steel cut) more interesting in winter months. I have a serious nut allergy, which creates some restrictions, and am also terribly allergic to chocolate. That said, I'm very fond of adding dried fruits, especially figs, but also dried cherries and blueberries, dried apricots and cranberries. And I love, love, love chia seeds and add them to anything I can catch, including oatmeal. I toss them in towards the end of the cooking time so they retain some of their wonderful, subtle crunch. The zest of any citrus fruit is a heavenly addition as well. And to really gild the lily, scrape half of a vanilla bean pod into it along with a tablespoon of butter to better convey its flavor. Not exactly inexpensive, but heavenly nonetheless. Enjoy your class!
kimhw January 13, 2015
Pumpkin. Pumpkin butter swirled in. My most favorite breakfast!
creamtea January 13, 2015
I usually put in chopped dried apricots and/or dried Montmorency cherries (Trader Joes' or Whole Foods), broken or chopped pecans or walnuts, and either honey (raw is good) or grade B pure maple syrup. I prefer Scottish oatmeal, which is good without any salt, but regular is also good.
aargersi January 13, 2015
I sometimes stir in apple butter (I know where you can get some! :-) but also consider a savory version or two. I often have mine with a poached egg and Crystal hot sauce. Also you might think about a kimchi / poached egg version (kimchi from Oh Kimchi, eggs from one of the folks at the farmer's market) or maybe even a sort of oatmeal Bibimbap with veggies and tamari and an egg - eggs make everything better!!!!
cookinginvictoria January 13, 2015
Hi Barbara, the Sustainable Food Center sounds lovely. What a fun class to teach!

We eat a lot of oatmeal and other grain-based hot cereals. Porridge is my nine year old daughter's favorite breakfast.

One of our tried and true ways to dress up oatmeal is with quickly sauteed fruit. In the winter, I usually turn to apples or pears. I peel them, thinly slice them and put one tablespoon or so of butter in a small skillet to melt. Once it is bubbling, I add the fruit. (For a really decadent treat, browned butter is also very delicious.) I add some flavorings (a drizzle of vanilla or maple extract) and a sprinkling of spices (usually cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and/or cloves) and a pinch of salt. Sugar or other sweeteners are optional. It tastes great with or without. Cook for just a few minutes until fruit is tender but not mushy. Layer the fruit with the cooked oatmeal and top with toasted pecans or walnuts and sunflower or pumpkin seeds or Genius granola (my favorite).

As for other simple add-ins, we also love dried fruit, especially thinly sliced dried apricots. We always use a variety of nuts and seeds and homemade nut butters. Instead of topping with milk, a dollop of creme fraiche or Greek yogurt is unexpected (a hint of tartness) and very tasty.

Emily C also has a delicious recipe for oatmeal topped with cocoa nibs, which I highly recommend: https://food52.com/recipes/16152-spiced-oatmeal-with-cocoa-nibs
Maedl January 13, 2015
Oat meal is my least favorite grain for porridge, but I eat a lot of hot cereal made from other grains and pseudo-grains. Right now I top my porridge with cranberry sauce, nuts and full-fat plain yogurt. I make the cranberry sauce and use orange, ginger and a bit of vanilla along with honey for a bit of sweetness. It tastes good-the tartness is a good wake-up in the morning--and looks colorful and tempting.
pamelalee January 13, 2015
This is my favorite way to use leftover cranberry sauce following Thanksgiving.
Maedl January 15, 2015
Yes, I tried this as a way to use up cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving and liked it so much that I have been making sauce just for the porridge.

trampledbygeese January 13, 2015
By the way, I think this kind of class is a marvelous idea. Please tell us all about how it goes. This Sustainable Food Center looks amazing, we need one in our town.

Thinking more about oats as I cook my porridge this morning, another idea came to mind.

IF (and that's a big, capital IF) you are of the school of thought that believes fats to be healthy and essential to brain function, &c and so on, (in moderation of course), then oatcakes is a fantastic recipe to add to their kitchen arsenal. Oatcakes made from uncooked oats and drippings leftover from bacon or roast beast, or even butter. Oat cakes made from yesterday's leftover oatmeal, even better.

Or even bread made from yesterday's leftover oatmeal, mashed veg, and whatever. A basic bread recipe, and then ideas how to incorporate leftovers into it, what tastes good, how to adapt texture, &c.

Including what to do with the leftovers is, in my opinion, is just as important as how to cook the initial dish. Knowing how to take advantage and gussy up (great expression) leftovers = less waste = less environmental impact and more importantly, = less burden on the budget.

ps. a simple oat only oatmeal with toasting the oats first, fantastic.
trampledbygeese January 13, 2015
What I've been doing these last few weeks is using about 1/8 to 1/4 tsp of amaranth seed, toasting it in the bottom of the pan until about half the seed is popped, then take off the heat to cool down, add oats and water (I'm using coarse ground oats, so they get added at the beginning), and cook oatmeal as usual with a few drops of cream/milk added to the cooking liquid. Serve with a few drops maple syrup or honey. I think amaranth is pricy, but it's such a small amount with such a huge flavour punch. Quinoa or a similar grain might also work.

Deepest winter January, I usually add apples - as they are getting a bit spunky and taste better cooked this time of year - and spices (cinnamon or better still, poudre douce https://food52.com/recipes/32717-poudre-douce ).

Dry fruit is another tasty oatmeal treat this time of year. A single, unsweetened, dry plum/prune per person, cooked with the oats, makes a sour touch. Dry apples and raisins. Ground almonds leftover from making almond milk.

No matter what kind of oats I'm cooking, if I'm adding dry goodies, I cook it in the water from the start, even nuts, as it softens up the fruit/nuts and adds flavour to the oat cooking liquid.

The strangest thing I've added to oatmeal this time of year was leftover roasted yam and sweet potato with raisins. It was actually quite good, but not something I would go out of my way to make again. Though if I had the leftovers, I might.

Love this thread, what great inspiration. I might just have to try some of these savory oatmeals. Squash and spinach? mmmm, interesting.
Barbara January 13, 2015
Butter and salt and a little grated cheddar cheese mixed in. This is best with the texture of steel-cut oats, but you can do it with regular rolled, as well, though the pasty texture of instant might be a little weird this way. In general, there's no need to go sweet, always -- savory is really good with oatmeal.
klrcon January 13, 2015
Diced pear, dried cranberries, shot of vanilla, roasted pecans or hazelnuts, shot of maple syrup. Fresh or frozen cranberries, roasted walnuts, vanilla or cinnamon, maple syrup or brown sugar. For savory at this time of year I like diced butternut squash and a little spinach and leek cooked with the oatmeal and then topped with a little sage and toasted walnuts and maybe some goat cheese. Or go Asian inspired and do the squash and spinach but then top with a little soy sauce, sesame oil and scallion and toasted cashews or peanuts. Other variations include curry with edamame or peas and no nuts or Spanish inspired with smoked paprika, a little cumin and I think I usually do walnuts with that. Also plain spinach and leek or scallion and topped with a poached egg when I'm feeling the need for something plain.
Uhhh....I eat a LOT of oatmeal at this time of year. Good luck.
trampledbygeese January 13, 2015
>" ...I like diced butternut squash and a little spinach and leek cooked with the oatmeal and then topped with a little sage and toasted walnuts and maybe some goat cheese."

Could you tell me more about the method for this? Do you boil up the veg first? Do you add the leek in as is, or fry/blanch/something else to it first? Sounds intriguing. Feta's expensive here, but I bet it wouldn't need that much to pick up the flavour.
klrcon January 13, 2015
I'm not a morning person at all so I'm lazy about it - just sauté the veggies together briefly in a little butter to soften them, add the oatmeal (usually steel cut) to brown it a bit, then the liquid and let it cook together. If I'm REALLY lazy I just cut them up and toss them in as the oatmeal is cooking. Also, grated parmesan is good too if the other cheeses are unavailable/expensive. And no, I don't use a ton of cheese for this - just a little sprinkle on top at the end.
Nancy January 12, 2015
Don`t know what`s in season in Austin...but here are 3 or 4 avenues to explore. Anything you`d put on a scone - so butter, cream, jam, fruit, nuts. Flavors from cookies on a base of oats not flour e.g., peanut butter, chocolate chip. Savory with inexpensive meat for a protein boosted breakfast - think haggis or meatloaf recipes and adapt (oatmeal instead of bread crumbs). Last, something local or nearby...desert produce or Tex Mex, using the oatmeal instead of tortilla as base. Good luck and please tell us afterward how the class goes.

Voted the Best Reply!

Nate D. January 12, 2015
Chopped apples, cinnamon, pecans/walnuts; various jams and perhaps a bit of peanut butter; granola, dried cranberries and coconut; Canadian bacon and a poached egg; honey and slivered almonds. These are just a few to get you started. Still love bacon and maple syrup in my oatmeal!
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