Oatmeal for every season

Oatmeal is probably my favorite breakfast. I don’t know if the oats are really the best part though.

Sure, oats are great. When grown organically, they pack huge nutritional punch and keep me really full until lunchtime. But seriously, plain oatmeal is pretty bland.

But, I guess all breakfast grains, and grains in general are bland. I don’t know about you, but I don’t stand around my house eating plain toast or bowls of brown rice without anything else.

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Thoroughly enjoying some overnight oats. 2014

So oatmeal, alone, is not my favorite breakfast. And that is where the title comes in! Oatmeal is so darn amazing because it can be customized with toppings, cooking methods, and sides! It can also be eaten at pretty much any moment of the day, so yeah, you go oatmeal!

Because eating seasonally is really important for sustainable agriculture, here are some ways to top your oats year round, as well as some ways to vary cooking methods to make oats bring out seasonal flavors.

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Yummy seasonal blueberries. 2015

Okay, that last line kind of sounded like a spice commercial slogan or something… But whatever, you get the idea and are fully aware that I am not a spice company.

One more note: these are based on seasonal availability in New York. It is a good idea to see what is available in your area during these seasons and then make substitutions. For example, if strawberries are available in April where you live, then use the summer recipe in spring but omit raspberries.

Spring: This is the season where things vary a bit. In April, for example, there might not be a lot of fresh produce around (in New York at least, where Spring is more of a week than a season). At the same time, keeping things light and bright helps us recover from the dark winter days, and power up for the more intense work that always seems to arrive in May and June.

Cook them oats:

  1. Boil 1 cup of water.
  2. Turn the heat to medium and add 1/2 cup rolled oats, and stir occasionally until most of the water is absorbed.
  3. Add 1 tsp. honey, a pinch of cinnamon, and 2 tbsp. plain almond milk.
  4. Keep stirring until the consistency is porridge-y, but still thick.
  5. Turn off the heat but keep the pot on the stove.
    1. If it is early spring/still frigid: Add 1/4 cup bing cherries and 2 tbsp. crushed pistachios.
    2. If it is late spring: Add 1/4 cup golden raisins and 2 tbsp. crushed almonds.
      1. I like to toast the almonds for 5 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Overnight them oats:

  1. Add 1/3 cup plain yogurt, 1/3 cup plain almond milk, 1/4 cup freshly squeezed apple juice and 1/3 cup rolled oats to a bowl.
  2. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Add 2 tbsp. sunflower seeds, 2 tbsp. pumpkin seeds, and 2 tbsp. golden raisins to the mix.
  4. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Add 2 tbsp. pure maple syrup and a healthy pinch of cinnamon.
  6. Mix thoroughly, place a cover over the bowl, and refrigerate overnight.
  7. The next morning: place half of the oaty mixture in a clean bowl.
  8. Top with big cherries, raw and runny almond butter, and optionally, a sliced banana.
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If you live in a warmer climate, blueberries are a nice oatmeal addition in the spring. 2015

Summer: Finally! Real, fresh produce is available. In the summer, I prefer oatmeal that still tastes good a bit cold and has a lot of juicy fruit that deems additionally sweeteners unnecessary.

Cook them oats:

  1. Boil 1 cup of water.
  2. Turn the heat to medium and add 1/4 cup steel cut oats, and stir occasionally until the water is absorbed. While stirring, add 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract.
  3. Soak fresh strawberries and raspberries in clean water.
  4. Take the oats off the stove and pour into a clean bowl. Let stand for one minute as you drain the fruits and hull the strawberries. Chop the strawberries in quarters.
  5. Add your berries to the oats, placing them atop the oatmeal instead of mixing. You don’t want to break the raspberries.
  6. Add some fresh mint sprigs, if you like eating herbs. Or, make yourself some fresh lemon juice and add mint.
160725 D'Oree
Summer oatmeal from D’Orée in London. 2016

If you’re hiking or spending a day outside and want some power, then try this:

  1. Boil 1 cup of water.
  2. Turn the heat to medium and add 1/4 cup steel cut oats, and stir occasionally until the water is absorbed. While stirring, add 1 tsp. cinnamon.
  3. Once the oats absorb all the water, add 1 tbsp. milk of your choice.
  4. Take the oats off the stove and pour into a clean bowl.
  5. Add 2 tbsp. crushed walnuts, 1 tbsp. pumpkin seeds, 1/4 cup golden raisins OR pitted/chopped fresh cherries. Mix a lot. Don’t worry if the oatmeal cools down. It actually tastes better after it warms the nuts and fruit but still isn’t super gooey and hot.
  6. Once you’re sure everything is mixed and the oats aren’t too warm, add 1/4 cup chopped raw, refined sugar free chocolate.
  7. If you’re feeling extravagant, pour 1 tsp. maple syrup on top of everything.

Fall: So in New York, fall is apple season. Apples!!!! The fruit that the world cannot live without! Additionally, fall is the time of year where everything gets a little cozier. It is the best time to enjoy warming flavors that will actually give you energy.

Cook them oats:

  1. Wash 1 granny smith apple.
  2. Boil 1 cup of water.
  3. In the meantime, core the apple and chop into 1-2 inch pieces (roughly).
  4. Turn the heat to medium and add 1/2 cup rolled oats, and stir occasionally until the water is absorbed. While stirring, add 1 tsp. cinnamon, tsp. nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. cloves, and 1 tbsp. maple syrup.
  5. In a separate small pot, warm 1/2 cup plain almond milk.
  6. Once most of the water in the oats is absorbed, add 2 tbsp. of warm almond milk and continue to stir.
  7. Add most of the chopped apples to the pot of remaining almond milk, along with 1 tsp. cinnamon. Place a lid on the pot and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  8. Turn the heat off under the oats, and let stand for a minute, stirring when necessary.
  9. Separate and then add as many chopped apples as your want to the oats, adding the warmed almond milk if you want as well. Stir the mixture and transfer it to a clean bowl.
  10. Top with some raw, runny almond butter and maybe a pinch of nutmeg. If you’re in the mood for added comfort, have a chai latte on the side.
  11. *You can also save the warmed apple/almond milk you don’t use and warm it another morning.

Bake them oats: Baked oatmeal is perfect for fall and winter, when weekends become lazy and comfort becomes a priority. I love baking oatmeal during Thanksgiving or on October Saturdays when New York gets it first taste of the cold.

  1. Place 1.5 cups rolled oats, 1/4 cup chopped pecans, 2 tbsp. pumpkin seeds, and 2 tbsp. coconut chips in a bowl. Mix in 1 tbsp. cinnamon and 1 tsp. cloves.
  2. Melt 1 tbsp. coconut oil in a pan, and add 1/4 cup maple syrup and stir until everything is melted together.
  3. Turn the heat off and let cool (a bit: make sure that the coconut oil stays liquid though)
  4. Add 1 cup plain almond milk, 3/4 cup water, and an egg (or flax egg alternative) to the oat mix from step one.
  5. Mix thoroughly, and then add slightly cooled coconut/maple mix and continue to mix and cool.
  6. Slice 4 ripe bananas.
  7. Brush coconut oil over baking pan. Make sure the pan is well-oiled. If you use butter to grease the pan, make sure the butter comes from organic, grass-fed cows (you can usually find this at local farms that raise cattle).
  8. Line the pan with the sliced banana and pour the oat mixture on top. Place some crushed pecans over everything, and drizzle maple syrup (be stingy with the maple syrup, though).
  9. Bake for 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees F. The mix should be set, but still slightly gooey.
  10. If you want to be fancy, take the oats out 5 minutes early and broil them on high broil for 5 minutes.
  11. Take out of the oven and let cool for 5 minutes.
  12. Serve alone, or add some more milk (whichever type you prefer) and banana slices.

Winter: Basically, no fruit is available in the winter except for cranberries. So, this is the time to use preserves, compotes, dried fruit, and lots of nuts to make oatmeal both comforting and delicious. I prefer more porridge-y oats during the winter, as they are warmer and have more staying power.

Unlike other seasons, winter demands summer preparation. When strawberries, raspberries, peaches, and cherries are in season, it is a good idea to buy a few extra and make preserves and compotes. They maintain nutritional value while also adding really great taste to toasts, oatmeal, desserts, and more.

I also find that purchasing fruit preserves and compotes in the store are really difficult, since most (except for Trader Joe’s fruit preserves) are sweetened with refined sugars.

Make compote is really easy though:

  1. Slice your fruit (unless you are using small berries) and add to a pot of boiling water. Make sure the water is high enough that the fruit do not touch the bottom of the pan, but low enough that the fruit is not layered and sinking to the bottom. Lower the heat to a simmer.
  2. It is better to make large batches of compote and then separate the batches into small jars, so use a lot of fruit. I find that 5 cups of fruit is usually good.
  3. Once the fruit has been simmering in the water for long enough that the fruit is nice and soft, add 2.5 cups (or half the fruit measurement) of either agave or maple syrup.
    1. Agave is better for cherries and peaches.
    2. Maple syrup is better for strawberries, raspberries, and apples (apple compote would be made in the fall, obviously).
  4. Let that mix simmer for a few minutes, until your kitchen is super fragrant. You want to make sure that the integrity of the fruit is kept if you are making compote. If you are making preserves, then you can blend the fruit mixture at this point.
  5. Take the mix off of heat. As an option, you can add chia seeds to give a bit more bite.
  6. Add 2-3 tbsp. lemon juice if you want a fresher flavor or if you’re making apple compote.
  7. Separate the mixture into 5-10 air-tight jars (mason jars work best).
  8. After you open the compote jars, be sure to refrigerate them.

So to cook them winter-y oats:

  1. Boil a mix of 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of plain almond milk to a boil. Add a pinch of pink himalayan salt.
  2. Turn the heat to medium and add 1/2 cup rolled oats, and stir occasionally until the water is absorbed. While stirring, add 1 tsp. cinnamon, tsp. nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. cloves, and 1 tbsp. maple syrup.
  3. Add cinnamon generously as the oats continue to cook, making sure to stir well.
  4. Once all the liquid has been completely absorbed, add 2 tbsp. plain almond milk (or heavy cream, if you’re feeling risky) and stir to keep warm.
  5. Transfer to a bowl. In winter, it is nice to keep bowls in a very low heat oven until they’re ready to use. But that is optional.
  6. Top with a generous dollop of fruit compote or preserves.
160725 Gail's
Porridge with raspberry compote. Yum!! 2016

*For people who don’t like fruit compote, raw almond butter is also a great topping. However, use more water in step 1 (reduce the almond milk so that the full liquid amount is 1 cup) and add more almond milk in step 4. Don’t use heavy cream, unless you want to feel lethargic.

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It’s not as pretty, but it tastes mighty fine. 2016

As a seasonal bonus, winter is the season of Christmas!! And Christmas baked oatmeal is a must in my house.

For the best Christmas baked oatmeal EVER:

  1. Place 1.5 cups rolled oats and 1/2 cup chopped, skinned almonds in a bowl. Mix in 1 tbsp. cinnamon and 1 tsp. cloves.
  2. Melt 1 tbsp. coconut oil in a pan, and add 1/4 cup maple syrup and stir until everything is melted together.
  3. Turn the heat off and let cool (a bit: make sure that the coconut oil stays liquid though)
  4. Add 1 cup plain almond milk, 1/4 cup water, 1/2 cup apple sauce, and an egg (or flax egg alternative) to the oat mix from step one.
  5. Mix thoroughly, and then add slightly cooled coconut/maple mix and continue to mix and cool.
  6. Wash 200 grams of fresh cranberries.
  7. Brush coconut oil over baking pan. Make sure the pan is well-oiled. If you use butter to grease the pan, make sure the butter comes from organic, grass-fed cows (you can usually find this at local farms that raise cattle).
  8. Line the pan with the cranberries and pour the oat mixture on top. You can drizzle some maple syrup here, but that is optional.
  9. Bake for 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees F. The mix should be set, but still slightly gooey.
  10. If you want to be fancy, take the oats out 5 minutes early and broil them on high broil for 5 minutes.
  11. Take out of the oven and let cool for 5 minutes.
  12. Serve alone, or add some more milk (whichever type you prefer). I find that whole, cow’s milk tastes the best, but make sure you buy it 2 days before Christmas. Your local dairy farmer will thank you.

I really hope you try out all of these oatmeal recipes. They are super versatile, and always bring a smile to my face. I also find that oatmeal is a breakfast that makes sustainable eating a lot easier, as its deliciousness does not depend on artificial sweeteners or thickeners. Be sure, however, that when using the ingredients you purchase them from local farmers who use organic practices. Just because something is local does not mean it is environmentally friendly, so please be aware of that (especially in the winter, when produce is more difficult to find).

Happy oatmealing!

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