Sunday, January 22, 2012

Resolutions for Breakfast: Overnight Steel Cut Oats with Pears and Cranberries

So I still haven't posted resolutions for this year.  Keiko had the fabulous idea to set micro-challenges in six focus areas, mapping out something that she could do every day for a month.  In my experience, it's this kind of commitment, not the grand, sweeping resolutions, that actually promote changes in habits and--therefore--in lifestyle.  I still working on my list of micro-challenges, but so since I don't have one for January, I was hoping Keiko wouldn't mind if I borrowed hers ... because imitation is the highest form of flattery, right?

One of the characteristics of a successful resolution, I think, is that it's characterized not by deprivation, but contribution to your life.  Not "I'm going to lose 20 pounds," but "I'm going to be good to my body."  Because for each resolution like that, you can assign yourself a concrete task, like eating a healthy breakfast, for example.

Actually, quite a few people I know have resolved to eat breakfast this year.  I'm notoriously bad about this; though I feed my kids a healthy breakfast every morning, I tend to down a double latte made with almond milk and rationalize that I've eaten a handful of nuts and drunk a glass of milk.  Which is totally breakfast.  Um ... yeah.

The curious thing is that I really like breakfast foods.  I remember luxuriating over brunch when I lived in L.A., at the Kings Road Cafe or one of the places on Melrose whose names have since evaporated from my memory, feeling like I was epitomizing decadence.  There's something about breakfast that both fills you up and slows you down, putting you in a better frame of mind to face the day.

We let I. choose his own breakfast (from a few different options), and he's been eating oatmeal every morning of late, studded with dried cranberries, sprinkled with cinnamon, and kissed with maple syrup.  I happened to have some steel cut oats in my pantry that have been begging to be used for a while, and decided that it would be nice to wake up to warm oatmeal and snow, which was predicted for this weekend.

I read about toasting the oats years ago in a Cooks Illustrated article given to me by a colleague, and I've done it that way ever since.  It makes a world of difference, and it only takes a few minutes.  A few more minutes of preparation, and you've got yourself a week's worth of breakfasts that you can customize to your taste.  So that whether you're running out the door, or getting everyone else out the door, or both, you can still do something good for yourself.

Overnight Steel Cut Oats

1 T. butter
1 c. steel cut oats
2 1/2 c. milk
2 c. water
1 large pear (or apple), diced
handful of dried cranberries (apricots, raisins ... even candied ginger bits!)
1 t. cinnamon
3/4 t. cardamom
2 T. brown sugar or agave
dash salt
Nuts (optional)

Melt butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat until just bubbling.  Add your oats and stir to toast, until the oats begin to turn light golden brown and smell like popcorn.  Be careful not to overtoast them!  They will change color quickly.

Put oats, along with the rest of the ingredients (except nuts), into an oven safe bowl or casserole dish that will fit into your crockpot with the lid on.  Wad up a bit of aluminum foil to put on the bottom of your crockpot, to lift it the bowl a bit off the main crock; this will prevent your crockpot from cracking.   Fill the crock with water until the water level more or less matches the same height as the cooking liquid inside the bowl.  Congratulate yourself on your bain-marie.  (You've essentially turned your crockpot into a double boiler.)

Set the temperature to low, and cook for about seven hours.  When you wake up, your kitchen will smell wonderful, your oats will be ready, and you won't have to spend an entire day scrubbing burned oats off the side of your crock.

Add oats and whatever other toppings you might like.  If you're doing this in a regular double boiler instead of a crockpot, you'll want to cook the oats for about 1 1/2 hours over a double boiler.
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  1. Boyfriend makes some awesome oat waffles oh and we totally wave to the trash guy. Babe used to be super scared of loud noises so this was the best solution I could come up with and I can already tell that Moon will be joining us in greeting the trash man very soon.

    1. With three kids waving, you'll be guaranteed royal treatment. :)

      And mmmmm, oat waffles.

      I love Blogger's new threaded comment feature!

  2. Justine, I'm impressed. When I saw the bowl of oatmeal in my reader, I thought "Oh, that looks good. I love oatmeal." But I never thought that I would learn two new methods for cooking oatmeal! Seriously, with the oat toasting and the double-boiler...I'm amazed that you can make even oatmeal seem like something new and different. I love your blog so stinking much.

  3. I like the idea of the micro challenges. This is a great reminder for me---I thrive best that way. When I just make a sweeping resolution, I end up quitting (or forgetting about it). The small steps work way better for me, even though they don't feed my instant gratification desire!


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