When I was a kid, there was no such thing as the perfect bowl of porridge. I hated the stuff. Back then, I didn’t understand that I had won the global lottery just by being born into a home where A) food was available and B) my parents cared enough to get up and prepare a hot breakfast.
Some mornings, it was oatmeal and others days, Cream of Wheat—which was even worse. If I smothered it with enough brown sugar, I could choke a little down, but I preferred good ol’ Cheerios or toast. I think what really turned me off was coming home after school to the dirty breakfast dishes and seeing that leftover porridge now cold, slimy, and solid. It would land with a disgusting plop in the dog’s dish. Lady would look at us with an expression that said, “seriously?” (No one explained the lottery thing to her, either.)
When I went off to a residential high school, they served oatmeal about once a week, usually fancied up with raisins and cinnamon. I learned to tolerate it this way and years later made it occasionally for my own kids. It was never a hit. When I was no longer responsible for the nutritional intake of others, I reverted to a buttered and toasted bagel for my usual breakfast.
In 2012, I began a quest for healthier eating and discovered oatmeal is an almost perfect food. I started making my own granola and haven’t looked back. But now and then, on these frigid January mornings, I decide once again to try my oats hot.
Somehow the allusive perfect bowl never quite materializes, except in my mind.
On road trips, hubby and I invariably stop for breakfast at Tim Horton’s. He orders his usual breakfast sandwich with sausage on a biscuit washed down with a large double-double. How the man still walks around is a mystery. To avoid the undesired results of long hours in a car weighted down with a cholesterol-laden belly, I opt for Timmie’s oatmeal. It’s actually very good and I haven’t been able to reproduce it at home. Probably contains some top secret, mood-altering ingredient.
Then I discovered a crockpot oatmeal recipe you assemble before you go to bed. You wake up to the yummy fragrance of a wholesome breakfast cooking. The downside? The recipe filled my crockpot only a quarter full, but it was still a chore to wash.
When I found a 2-litre crockpot at MCC, I figured I’d hit the jackpot. I brought it home and made my oatmeal the first night. To my surprise, the next morning I uncovered a serving’s worth of edible oatmeal in the centre of the pot, surrounded by a thick ring of hard, overcooked stuff. Apparently the little crockpot uses a higher temperature or something. I solved this by waiting until the middle of the night to turn it on. While up for my nightly trip to the little columnist’s room, I merely make a detour to the crockpot and flip the switch. In the morning, my oatmeal smells wonderful and none of it is overcooked.
Here is the recipe I use, although I will continue to tweak it until perfection is achieved or I die trying:
1 cup slow cooking oats
1 cup water
1 cup milk (I use almond, but regular milk works too). A little more if you like it creamier.
1 apple, cored and cut into slices
1/3 cup raisins
1 tsp. cinnamon
A drizzle of maple syrup.
Stir it all up in your crockpot and cook on low 4-6 hours.
This makes two or three servings and I typically put the extra in the fridge and microwave it the next day. I suppose another alternative might be to get a dog.