Tag Archives: morning

Quick & Easy Oatmeal on Busy Mornings

Have you ever looked at the amount of sugar & sodium in most instant oatmeals? But who has the time to make a pot of “real” oatmeal on a busy school day morning while hunting for socks, & locating homework & smelling (yes I said it!) teenagers before you kick them out the door in time for them to mope off to their bus stops?!

Well, you guessed it! Just like my frozen waffles…I make my own “instant” oatmeal!

A little about oats…

Steel-Cut Oats – We get steel-cut oats when the whole groat is split into several pieces. Simmered with water, steel-cut oats retain much of their shape and make a chewy, nutty porridge.

Rolled Oats – Whole grains of oats can also be steamed to make them soft and pliable, and then pressed between rollers and dried. The resulting “rolled oats” re-absorb water and cook much more quickly than whole groats or steel-cut oats. When a recipe calls for “rolled oats” or the packaging mentions it, they generally mean the thickest rolled oat, which retains its shape fairly well during cooking.

Old-Fashioned Oats – The source of much confusion, old-fashioned oats are actually the same as rolled oats. You’ll usually see them called “Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats” on packaging.

Quick or Quick-Cooking Oats – These are oats that have been pressed slightly thinner than rolled oats. They cook more quickly, but retain less of their texture.

Instant Oats – Pressed even thinner than quick oats, instant oats oats often break into a coarse powder. They cook the quickest of all and make a very soft and uniform mush. 

I tend to use “quick oats.” I can find organic quick oats in the bulk section of our local grocery store & our natural food stores, I can never find organic instant oats. Also, if you are a “real” oatmeal fan, & you don’t over water your oats, quick oats can have a similar texture to the whole grains your used to, especially with some mix-ins. I don’t think you can EVER say that about instant oats! You can use “rolled oats” with these recipes too, just keep in mind, the further up the “oat food chain” you travel the less quick your prep time. (If it’s going to take you more than 5-7 minutes, you might as well use the stove!)

*Let me start by saying that ideally I wouldn’t be making packets. I am currently in the process of reorganizing my cupboards & pantries. So until I am finished, space is what it is. I prefer making these in jars. That way you can eat directly out of the jar, wash & sterilize it & make more. There is little, if any waste using this technique. I will say that making packets out of the snack-sized resealable baggies, I reuse the baggies over & over. You will see below that I write the flavor on the bag with a Sharpie, you don’t need to wash them just refill them, dump into the bowl or mug, reseal the bag & put back with the other packets until you make more (that way you won’t lose it).*

OKAY…Here we go!

First you need to get your space ready…I saw this on Pinterest & it has made these cooking projects so much easier…


Now, on pinterest, the woman had the hanger hanging from a cupboard knob. I was bummed at first because I don’t have knobs on my cupboards. Then I realized…I can hang it off of the handle to my suspended microwave! I worked perfectly! It allows me to glance up quickly & double check quantities of ingredients or measurements. Because the microwave is over the stove, I can’t really use this method for cooking like she meant it to work, due to fire safety, but for projects like this, it is perfect!

I usually take out all of my Ingredients to start with:


each packet (or jar) contains:

1/3 C quick oats          2 tsp oat bran          1-2 tsp dry nonfat milk                 1 tsp chia seeds          1-3 tsp coconut sugar or maple sugar                                                    1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

(I, personally, make it with 2 tsp dry milk & about 2 tsp coconut sugar for plain oatmeal. For making the flavors below, I only use 1 tsp dry milk & between 1 & 1.5 tsp coconut sugar as a base. The maple sugar has more flavor than the coconut, so I only use it if I want a maple flavor. You should mix & match & find your own preference!)

1st, I sort & label all of the baggies:

Label & Organize the bags

then I fill them all with the basics above (set aside the bags that have a different type of sweetener or a different amount of dry milk & do them last).

One flavor at a time, put the baggies into a rectangular container, like a loaf pan or plastic one, like this:

use a rectangular container to hold packets while you fill 1 flavor at a time

Now add the mix-ins below & set them aside.

When you're all done with a flavor set them aside & begin the next flavor!

Now you can move on to the next flavor!

I have found 8 flavors that my family enjoys:

Plain: (as mention above) use the full 2 tsp dry milk & 1-3 tsp sweetener of choice (I use coconut sugar).

Apple-Cinnamon: double the cinnamon & add 2 Tbsp  chopped dried or freeze-dried apples.

Blueberry: add 2 Tbsp freeze-dried blueberries.

Cranberry-Orange: add 1 tsp dried orange zest & 2 Tbsp dried cranberries.

PB & J:  add 2 Tbsp peanut butter powder & 2 Tbsp freeze-dried raspberries or strawberries.

Maple Nut: use maple sugar instead of coconut sugar & add 2 Tbsp of chopped nuts (I usually use either walnuts or almonds).

Brown Sugar & Cinnamon: use brown sugar as sweetener & double the cinnamon. (I like to add 1-2 Tbsp of ground almonds to this one too since it has the least nutritional value of the lot, shhh don’t tell).

Raspberry(or Strawberry) & Cream: use the full 2 tsp dry milk plus an additional tsp (total 3 tsp) & 2 Tbsp freeze-dried raspberries or strawberries.

{Note about fruit…I have found that freeze-dried fruit ALWAYS works better in these packets than dried fruit. Dried fruit usually has added sugar & it grows when it is hydrated. The freeze-dried  fruit, & berries, stays about the same size when hydrated, is very easy to find natural (no sugar added), & has a nice texture in the oatmeal once reconstituted.} 

To prepare:  BOILING WATER METHOD:  Pour the contents of the packets into a mug or bowl & add 2/3 C boiling water. Stir. Let sit for 2-3 minutes. [If you use rolled oats, cover & let sit 4-5 minutes (you may need more water)]. MICROWAVE METHOD:  Pour into microwavable container & add 1 C cold water. Microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes, stir, then let sit for 2 minutes.

If you are using jars: simply add the boiling water, stir, let sit & enjoy! (Of course be careful when you pick it up! I always tell my kids to put a plate or a saucer under any bowl or jar that will have hot contents, before it is heated, just in case it is too hot to pick up.)

Here’s a few links about the benefits of some of the ingredients I choose to use:

I do my best to use organic ingredients, natural when I can’t find organic. I buy most things in bulk, as well. Coconut sugar & Maple sugar are still sugars (like honey), but if you find organic, they are natural & your body processes them differently than white sugar. If you are diabetic, you should use stevia instead if you choose to use a sweetener. With fruit, cinnamon, or a little vanilla, you may not need a  sweetener at all. My kids were used to the boxed instant oatmeal, so we’re working our way from white sugar, to natural sugars & sweeteners, & eventually out of needing as much sugar at all. Use what you feel you need to for your family.

I hope you find that these make your mornings more nutritional (& run a little more smoothly).

If you come up with any new flavor combinations please post them in the comments below! I look forward to seeing what you come up with!


Frozen Waffles

My 15 year old son has asperger’s. One thing about our awesome kids is that they tend to get stuck in their routines–now this isn’t a bad thing, routine is good for them, too. I tell you this because today is the first day back to school after the longest holiday break I can recall…EVER! If we didn’t have what my son needs to eat for breakfast on school mornings, there is no guarantee how his day may have gone.

Waffles are amazing! We love carbs in my house, I wish we didn’t, but we do! Ryan has had waffles with peanut butter on them nearly every school morning for as long as he can remember. Mostly because it’s only recently that I’ve been able to get him to eat oatmeal & I don’t always have time to make eggs. My requirement has always been nut-butter. Pancakes or waffles are just cake, unless you add protein to them…then they become the conveyor in which the protein travels to your gob!  Much like bread for tuna fish or chips for bean dip! Plus, there’s the rule of 3’s…a meal requires a minimum of 3 food groups, you add peanut butter to your waffle, then all you need to do is drink a glass of juice or milk & technically you can tell mom that you’re not breaking the “3 rule.” Less than 3 food groups is a snack, no matter how well intended, or which groups you choose.

The problem with frozen waffles (which are super convenient) begins a few years before boys get into their tween years. They now eat a minimum of 2. If you’re buying “buttermilk” or “homestyle” (probably spending between $2-$3 a box unless they’re on sale) they are mostly fluff & not filling at all & the average boy in this age group could probably eat the whole box (of 8-12) if he was being honest with you. If you are buying the “natural” ones (probably closer to $4 for a box of 6-8 not on sale) they may or may not like the taste & because there are fewer in the box you will go through them faster, (It is also near impossible to find the “natural” brands in bulk stores, like Costco, in many areas, so you have no choice but to buy the small boxes.

The other problem for a gal like me is all of the excess packaging. Luckily, the outer packaging is cardboard (for most brands) which is easy enough to recycle. However after living in NW Montana for 6 years, I am well aware that not everyone lives where recycling is easy to do. The bags inside the cardboard box, however, are often not marked, so most folks, including myself, don’t know, without a lot of research whether they can be recycled or not.

My final issue was the space that the Costco-sized box of waffles was taking up in our freezer. (I don’t have a problem mentioning Costco by name in my blog, because I do most of our shopping there. They shouldn’t be upset that I no longer buy their waffles, they get plenty of our support.) We don’t have a large freezer, we have a small chest freezer & a tiny freezer in the top of our refrigerator.  Being able to save room in our freezer for meats, leftovers, soups, sauces, & some easy-to-heat stuff for the teens is much appreciated!

On to my solution!

13"L x 7"W x 3"D Rubbermaid container fits perfectly in bottom of fridge!
13″L x 7″W x 3″D Rubbermaid container fits perfectly in bottom of fridge!

Above is my tiny fridge/freezer, well the leftmost 1/3 of it. The bottom shelf is between 3.5 & 4 inches high, so random little things end up down there like half bags of frozen berries & single popsicles that have lost their way. This box I found is PERFECT! It is a Rubbermaid brand & it said “freezer safe” on the packaging. It is a little more than 3-inches high, about 13-inches long (so I can still put a thing or two behind it if needed), & just over 7-inches across.

about 13 inches longabout 3 inches deep

It came in a 2-pack for less than $4, if I’m remembering correctly. The container being clear was important to me too so that at a glance I could peek in & see if we were getting low. One thing about my son, he announces that we’re “running low” of something when he’s leaving the last of something. So he should be saying “we’re out” not knowing if shopping is occurring that day…awesome.

Begin with your favorite waffle mix. I usually use Krusteaz because it is so simple & I trust the ingredients. I have been hunting for a homemade mix recipe that doesn’t involve adding eggs. If anyone comes across something, I’m a fan of DIY when it comes to mixes and things, please pass it along!

Krusteaz Pancake Mixwaffle directions

I use the instructions on the package, then I double it. I think that it important to give the kids some extra fiber & protein to get them through their mornings at school, so in addition to the water & oil I add about 4 Tablespoons of Oat Bran, 3-4 Tablespoons of Powdered Peanut Butter (you can find it at most health food stores). Then I add Cinnamon to taste, I tend to not measure it just sprinkle it until it looks & smells how I like. (Some say that you shouldn’t waste things on children…I think that the only way that their pallets will develop is if you cook for them with flavors that real people enjoy. Children after all, are real people…give them the cinnamon!)

Oatbran, Cinnamon, Powdered Peanut Butter
Oat bran, Cinnamon, Powdered Peanut Butter
to save cleanup time, I use my 8-cup pyrex measuring cup to mix & scoop out of. No sense cleaning a bowl & measuring cup!
to save cleanup time, I use my 8-cup pyrex measuring cup to mix & scoop out of. No sense cleaning a bowl & measuring cup!

When you remove the waffles from the waffle iron, it is important that they cool completely  before you put them in the container.  Otherwise, the extra moisture in the container will cause freezer burn. If they are completely cooled, they won’t stick together & won’t have excess frost related issues while in the freezer.

let them cool completely, on a rack, before putting them into the container.
let them cool completely, on a rack, before putting them into the container.

  Once they are completely cooled I put them between layers of parchment paper in the Rubbermaid container. (Make sure that there is a layer on the top & bottom of the container as well. If food never touches the container, you don’t have to wash it in between batches!)

I put 2 per layer, with parchment paper in between.
I put 2 per layer, with parchment paper in between.

This makes about 25 waffles. If you buy the Krusteaz bag (above) at Costco, it will cost you less than $6.00 & make you between 112 & 118 waffles or pancakes. That means that it costs around $0.18 per waffle, (That is assuming I did my math right, of course!) Only my 15yr old eats waffles, most days, & he only eats them on school days. All of this considered, in about 40 minutes, for less than $6 (plus a little oat bran, a little cinnamon, & a little peanut butter powder), I made breakfast for my 15yr old for every school day from now until the end of the 1st week of February.

Not bad for the 1st day back from a Holiday Break!

Happy New Year Everyone!