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Friday, April 19, 2013

Homemade Instant Oatmeal

I assumed going into this motherhood thing that, since I had a fair amount of childcare experience, I had it all figured out. What I hadn't realized, having always taken care of children six months and older, is that infants are quite a bit more time consuming than I had anticipated. I guess it's hard to entertain yourself when you can't sit up on your own, let alone reach out and hold something. On top of it all, my little boy is opposed to sleep. Oh, he sleeps great at night. In fact, last night, I got over six hours in a row and then a few more to boot! The problem is that my boy, who is almost ten weeks old now, doesn't like to nap much during the day. I looked up online how much infants should be napping at his age and it says around five hours a day. I'm lucky to get two out of him most days. The good news is that he isn't crabby with that little sleep. He's wide eyed and bushy tailed and ready to face the world... if only he could interact with it more!

As you might guess, between this sleep issue and keeping him fed, there isn't a huge amount of time for playing in the kitchen, but I've been making a concerted effort lately. I miss that tasty, creative outlet! So, in the last week, I've developed three new recipes. Of course, now the trick is to have the time to post them!

The first recipe I put together is for a homemade instant oatmeal. Once you've made the mix and put it in the pantry, you can prepare a serving in less than a minute and it is very, very tasty. It took me a few tries to get the flavor right, but I definitely think I've got it now. It's a brown sugar and maple flavored oatmeal with just a hint of cinnamon and vanilla. Very satisfying.

As I've mentioned before, muffins are usually my go to breakfast; it's my husband that's been consuming all the instant oatmeal up to this point (although that may change now!). As you might imagine, it galled me just a bit every time I put that box in the grocery cart. I just knew I could do better and cheaper. This recipe makes six servings for less than a buck. It looks very similar to what comes out of the box, doesn't it? But it doesn't have all those fillers in it! Just oats, salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and real maple syrup.

You start by mixing a portion of the oats with all the flavorings and then baking to dry it out and make it shelf stable. You then grind up that mix in a food processor (I suppose a blender might work too) until it is fairly finely ground. Finally, mix in the remaining oats and put it in a jar in the pantry. That's it! 

Obviously, you can make the servings as large or as small as you want and add the water to your taste, but as a general guide, five tablespoons of dry mix makes a serving. That's approximately 40 grams. A Quaker Instant Oatmeal serving is 34 grams and has 120 calories. Based on the nutritional information and measurements for my recipe, it comes to about 170 calories a serving. If it was a similar serving size as the Quaker, it would be 145 calories. Why the difference? It's not that my version is sweeter. I think it has to do with the fillers they have in there. 34 grams of oats have 128 calories. Oats are less calorie dense than sugar, so to be able to have only 120 calories per serving, there must be a bunch of other, very low calorie stuff in there... perhaps the guar gum, sucralose, or calcium carbonate. 

Homemade Instant Oatmeal
Yield: 6 servings

1/2 tsp table salt
4 or 5 TBS packed light brown sugar
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1 or 2 TBS real maple syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup quick oats, divided

I have added some flexibility into the measurements of the sweeteners. My husband ultimately decided he wanted it slightly less sweet, so I've been making it with 4 TBS brown sugar and 1 TBS of maple syrup. Feel free to adjust to your tastes.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. In a small microwave proof bowl mix the salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, maple syrup, and vanilla. Stir together and then heat gently in the microwave to liquefy the mixture, about 25-30 seconds.  Add 1/2 cup of the oats. Stir to completely mix. I like to use my hands to really ensure things are well mixed, which helps keep hard sugar balls from forming. Sprinkle out on a sheet pan lined with parchment. Bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring once, until the mixture is dry looking. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Once cool, place the mixture in a food processor and process until the mix is fairly finely ground. Pour into a glass jar. Add the remaining cup of oats and shake to mix. Store tightly capped for maximum freshness. This recipe can be multiplied as many times as necessary to obtain the desired amount of mix.

To prepare the oatmeal, spoon 5 tablespoons of the instant oatmeal in a bowl. Add between 1/3 and 1/2 cup very hot water and stir. Let sit 30 seconds, stir again, and enjoy. The amount of water you use will be a matter of personal preference. Using 1/3 cup of water will lead to a thicker, more pasty oatmeal while 1/2 cup will be somewhat watery. Personally, I think halfway between is the perfect balance.

NOTE: A triple batch of this recipe will just about fill a one quart jar. 

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