It totally kills me that my kids prefer those instant oatmeal packets over real cooked oats. But lately I'm really trying to focus on choosing my battles, and trying to force people to learn to like oatmeal with some texture over the creamy, mushy stuff, just seems like a fight that's not worth fighting at this stage, especially on an already manic school day morning. But instant oatmeal packets have all kinds of strikes against them, and I just can't bring myself to buy them any more. The artificial flavorings in so many of the mainstream brands, the amount of sugar, and the cost - with 4 kids eating two packets each, we would use whole box at one meal. I have bought some organic ones before, which are a little better, but they still have so much sugar and are even more expensive. I had seen several mentions on various food blogs and pinterest boards about making your own, so I thought I'd give it a try.
There are lots of different versions of recipes out there, some of which are no healthier than the store-bought ones, calling for things like non-dairy creamer and way too much sugar. But I did find a few that I liked. I can't seem to find the exact page that I got the final recipe from that I ended up using, I'll certainly link back to it when I come across it again. But I don't think it was a totally original recipe anyway, as so many of them have the same basic proportions in common.
Homemade Instant Oatmeal
- 10 cups of quick cooking oats (I use this brand - 10 cups was almost the whole bag, so I think you could use the whole bag and be just fine)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup brown sugar (I actually substituted coconut sugar because that was what I had, and I really like the flavor). Use more sugar if you know you want it sweeter, but I like the idea of keeping it less sweet to start, and then I can add a little maple syrup if someone really wants sweeter.
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 cup powdered milk (I use this organic one).
Here's the key that all the good recipes seem to have in common: some of the oats need to be blended and broken down - that is what gives the softer consistency. So, put 4 cups of the oats in your blender or food processor and blend until almost like flour. Then just mix all the ingredients together. That's all.
I think you could easily go ahead and add in some chopped up dried apples or apricots, or nuts, at this stage as well. Given how fast I think we'll go through it, I think it would keep just fine. Maple sugar would probably be really good in this, or vanilla sugar too.
Most of the other recipes out there have you portion it out in 1/2 cup servings in individual snack bags. But I thought that seemed like way too much waste, so I just put it all in a couple of big containers and I measure it out when I am ready to serve it. I also thought for home use you could just as easily measure out your portions into pint sized jam jars, and then just add your water and serve right out the jars. For eating right away, using equal parts water to the dry mix seems about right, which I think would be the same as the packets. But I've noticed that instant oatmeal tends to get thicker as it sits, so if making ahead for lunch I would add a little extra water, so it's not too thick by lunch time. Maybe 3/4 water to 1/2 cup dry mix. I also like to add just a little cream or half & half to the finished oatmeal.
I made this last week and my kids ate it up for breakfast. And today I used it for breakfast for lunch (which my kids love). I measured the mixture out the night before, and just added hot water this morning when I was ready to pack up the lunches.