Saturday, March 17, 2007

A secret shared

Have you ever noticed that it is easier to tell secrets in the dark?

When you were a child at slumber parties, the best gossip and the juiciest secrets always came out when the lights turned off. Similarly, when you are an adult, the intimate dreams, the private thoughts, the potentially embarrassing stories, and the closely-guarded secrets don't usually emerge until you are safely cocooned in darkness.

Something about the anonymity of the night makes revealing your full self easier. Lucky for you, dear readers, the blogsphere causes a similar reaction. Though you all know my name and face, and some of you know me in real life, when I sit at my laptop to post, I feel the safety of dark room. This is why I feel comfortable telling you this:

I've had the same thing for breakfast for the past *ten* years.

What? You were expecting a juicier secret? Nice try -- it'll need to be a little darker in here for that. :)

I'm not kidding, by the way, I've had nearly the exact same thing for breakfast since I was a junior in high school. Granted, occasionally (usually on a Sunday morning), I'll have something different. I'll make my famous french toast waffles, or a bagel with smoked salmon, or Cheerios with soy milk, or scrambled tofu with mushrooms and peppers, or a smoothie, or a vegan muffin from Trader Joes, or grits. But 6 days out of 7, for the past 10 years, I've had oatmeal for breakfast.

Yes, oatmeal. The dorkiest breakfast possible. And I love it. I don't just eat it because it is good for me....still, to this day, I wake up in the morning looking forward to my bowl of oatmeal. I genuinely adore the taste, the warmth, the texture, the smell,...everything. I love oatmeal, and it the relative dark safety of the blogsphere, I'm comfortable telling you all of this love.

As you may guess, I have a particular way of preparing my oatmeal that makes all the difference. I am an oatmeal snob -- no gloppy mess from Denny's will do. Neither will some powdery mess from a pre-flavored bag. Not only is the pre-flavored stuff full of sugar, but it is also often times full of dairy. Plus, it isn't as good for you as the non-instant variety. I will eat the "regular" flavored instant oatmeal if under dire circumstances (such as, I'm starving) at a Best Western continental breakfast bar...but, that is about the only time. (This is actually what the secret is: I'm letting you all know how crazy I am about my oatmeal routine.)

First, the oats themselves. I prefer the Multi-Grain oatmeal that Quaker Oats used to make (it was in an orange canister), but I haven't found them in years. Instead, I now use any quick cooking, good quality steel-cut oats. Recently, I've been buying Irish ones from Trader Joes.

To make my style of oatmeal, I start by pouring 1/2 cup of the oats into my bowl. Next comes the banana. Now, you must understand that the banana is key -- if I don't have any bananas around, I likely will opt for another breakfast. The bananas joined the oatmeal during high school when I was playing two sports and needed a hearty breakfast, and they have become such an integral part of the meal that I can hardly eat a bowl of oatmeal without a banana. It just doesn't have the proper texture or taste to me without the banana-y deliciousness.

Next, the banana is sliced into the bowl, over the raw oats. Yes, this means that the banana is going to be cooked into the oatmeal-- don't worry, it is fabulous. I used to slice the banana into the already cooked oatmeal, but I found that I liked the texture better when the bananas are cooked in.

Oh, and on the topic of bananas -- they must be barely ripe. I can't stomach bananas with spots -- I literally gag. I am convinced that one mushy, brown spot changes the taste of the entire banana -- cutting the brown spot out does not solve the problem. No sir-ee, no spots for Kristel.

Once the oats and sliced banana are in the bowl, the ground flax seeds are added. The flax seed meal is a relatively new addition to my oatmeal. It made its first appearance about two years ago after I read an article about the wonders of ground flax. (I don't put whole flax seeds in, because, as the article told me, they are not as nutritionally available to your body.) The flax meal is faintly nutty flavored, and essentially just disappears into the oatmeal. However, it adds lots of nutritional goodness. -- Ground flax is full of omega-three fatty acids, protein, vitamins, and fiber that your body can access. I usually sprinkle about a teaspoon over the top. If I'm out of flax, I use wheat germ to fill its role.

Next, I pour a little over 3/4 cup of water over the mixture and give it a quick stir. I happen to like my oatmeal "stacky" (as my Dad puts it). Meaning -- thick. Really thick. Think thick enough that a spoon can stand up in it. Thick enough that you practically have to chew your oatmeal. I know I am strange -- I don't know anyone else who likes oatmeal this way. I've accepted my odd preference, and moved on. If you like thinner oatmeal, add a full cup or more of water.

I then put it in the microwave for 3:33. Why three minutes and thirty three seconds? It is something my Dad and I both do -- it is easier to hit the same button three times in a row instead of different buttons. We don't consider it "lazy," we believe we are saving time. :)

After the 3:33 is up, I take the oatmeal out of the microwave and stir some sort of sweetener in (honey, brown sugar, splenda(!), whatever). Then, the final step --- the frozen blueberries. I occasionally skip the frozen blueberries and add fresh strawberries or peaches to my oatmeal. 99% of the time, however, the final addition is frozen blueberries -- they are delicious, they cool down the hot oatmeal, and they are chock full of antioxidants. Yum!

Then, the frozen blueberries are stirred in and my breakfast is served!

The entire process takes about 5 minutes (plus eating time) and it is a fully integrated part of my morning routine. I always eat breakfast and I (almost) always eat (my style of) oatmeal. Give it a try sometime -- you just may like your oatmeal the way I do -- thick, banana-y, accented by flax, and topped with luscious frozen blueberries. And, if you do, I promise to turn out the lights and let you share your secret!


Anonymous said...

I had oatmeal or cream of wheat for breakfast every school day for more years than I care to remember. Now it's an espresso and maybe a bagel. I think I breakfast better now.

Abby said...

I do a very similar oatmeal breakfast, but I add blackstrap molasses - try it!

Kristel said...

Anonymous -- Maybe my continuing love for oatmeal is because I didn't O.D. on it, as you did, as a child. I completely understand how that goes -- Once, in 1st grade, I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day of the year. I didn't want them again until 6th grade.

These days I go to the gym early in the morning, and an espresso just wouldn't cut it to get me through the day. The bagel would certainly help, but the complex carbohydrates of the oatmeal keep me satisfied all morning.

On the weekends, though? A bagel and espresso would be perfect. See, we aren't so different, you and I?, if only I can convince you to occasionally return to the loving arms of oatmeal. :)

Abby -- that sounds delicious - I do love the taste of molassas! However, I'm not sure I could eat it everyday. Maybe a touch of blackstrap once and while would be a treat, without overdoing the molassy-ness. Thanks for the tip!