Ask any of my close friends or family and they’ll tell you, I’m a creature of habit. I wear the same t-shirts until they have holes in them. I eat an apple and peanut butter every day when I get home from work. I consult the same food blogs for recipes time and time again. I always buy bagels and cream cheese on SundaysAnd, I eat a bowl of oatmeal nearly every morning for breakfast.

It’s still fuzzy as to when my infatuation with oatmeal began, but I can say that the relationship has been going strong pretty much since my later years of high school. As I’ve never been much of a coffee drinker, I’ve always felt at a loss for a morning ritual—those traditions that make you "somewhat" eager to get out of bed and take the edge off the pre-sunrise hours. 

Oatmeal is my coffee, always providing that ideal combination of fuel, comfort, and familiarity needed to start my day off right. 

Just as most people can operate their French press or Mr. Coffee in their sleep, so too can I whip up a pot of oatmeal with my eyes still half shut at 6:00am. This humble breakfast has become so much a part of my life that, after much practice, I’m now able to time my oatmeal production and consumption down to the minute before heading off to work. The timeline typically plays out as follows:

5:50 Alarm blares, eyes open, covers come off 

5:51 Enter kitchen, put a pot of lightly salted water on the stove, turn on the heat, take out bowl/spoon/oats/respective toppings

5:52 Brush teeth and wash/makeup face

5:58 Pour oats into the now boiling water and stir to incorporate

5:59 Get dressed

6:05 Check on oats and stir again

6:10 Pour oatmeal into bowl and mix in toppings

6:11 Eat oatmeal 

6:18 Wash out dirty pan/bowl/spoon 

6:19 Put on coat/grab bag

6:20 Head off to work

And that’s how the first 30 minutes of my day go about 95% of the year. I will admit that at times the routine becomes redundant even for my liking. But, the best thing about a simple bowl of oatmeal is its versatility. I think people have such negative associations with this type of breakfast because they’ve never had a bowl dolled up in an exciting or appetizing way. I mean, I love oatmeal, but the thought of sitting down to an unseasoned, and probably overcooked, bowl of it every morning holds little appeal. 

I’ve found a simple formula of fruit + nuts + sweetener + milk helps remedy the boredom while also opening the door to some creativity and experimentation. 

That’s why I am particularly excited about my recipe selection for this week courtesy of Heidi Swanson, my personal food blogging hero and champion for natural/whole food based cooking; her first cookbook Super Natural Every Day is a permanent fixture on my kitchen counter. While recently flipping through the breakfast chapter of said book, I stumbled across an oatmeal recipe that looked too good to pass up and, coincidentally, followed my above formula to a tee.

After cooking her oats, Heidi mixes in chopped prunes, toasted hazelnuts, maple syrup, cream, and tops it all with a drizzle of brown butter (possibly my favorite ingredient of all time). This combination proved so sublime that I actually blurted out an audible “oh my god!” upon taking my first bite. If that isn't the ultimate stamp of approval, I don't know what is. 

I hope this recipe brings an “oh my god!” moment to your next breakfast and helps revamp oatmeal's image from just a bowl of mush to something to be desired.    

 

Although oatmeal has become my go-to quick breakfast, this recipe really deserves to be savored leisurely on a weekend or day off. Feel free to substitute any of the toppings/mix-ins to fit your preferences. Don't like prunes? Try currants, dried apricots, or raisins. Not a hazelnut fan? Almonds, walnuts, and pecans would all work beautifully as well. Whole milk/almond milk/plain yogurt can easily replace cream, as can honey/brown sugar/raw sugar for maple syrup. 

Oatmeal: Prunes, Hazelnuts, Brown Butter & Cream

Adapted from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day 

3 cups water

1 1/2 cups rolled outs 

1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

1/4 cup cream

8 prunes, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons maple syrup, or to taste

**20 hazelnuts, toasted and chopped (see recipe below)

**drizzle of brown butter (see recipe below) 

Bring the water and salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir in the oats. Turn down the heat and simmer until the oatmeal has thickened and the oats are tender, about 10 minutes. Make sure to check in and stir the oatmeal from time to time so that it doesn't get stuck to the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat and fold in the cream and most of the prunes. Taste. Add maple syrup and sweeten to your liking. 

Divide the oatmeal into four small bowls and top with the remaining prunes, the hazelnuts, and a hefty drizzle of brown butter.

**Toasted Nuts

Adapted from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scatter the hazelnuts on sheet pan in one even layer. Toast in the oven for 5-7min, shaking the pan every once in a while to ensure even cooking. Pull the tray out of the oven once the nuts have taken on a light brown color and a fragrant, toasty aroma. 

**Brown Butter

Adapted from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day

Gently melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. After 2-3min, the butter will begin to separate into three distinct layers. Foam will appear on the surface of the butter, the milk solids will sink to the bottom of the pan, and the bright yellow, clarified butter will remain in between the two layers. As the butter continues to cook, the milk solids will begin to darken in color and take on a nutty aroma. Pull the butter off of the heat once all of the milk solids turn a deep chestnut brown color. Be sure to keep an eye on the pan during this process as the butter can go from browned to burnt very quickly.