5 quick ways to upgrade your bowl of morning oatmeal

Joey Skladany is an In The Know cooking contributor. Follow him on Instagram and visit his website for more.

Frigid winter temperatures may be bidding adieu, but your morning bowl of oatmeal will likely remain a constant. The comforting, warm, nutritious and filling dish certainly knows how to set a positive mood for the day, promising hours of satiation and a jolt of much-needed energy to complement the caffeine from your cup of coffee or tea.

But the complex carb can also get a bit redundant and boring. After all, it’s just a humble whole grain in need of some culinary inspiration beyond water and your favorite toppings. So I’ve rounded up five quick and clever ways to take your oatmeal from drab to fab. Now you’ll never grow tired of it and can focus all of your attention on enhancing painfully simple egg whites.

  1. Make your oatmeal savory

Breakfast time may be your one excuse during the day to indulge in something sweet. But the allure of brown sugar, maple syrup or fresh fruit can only last so long. Vary things up a bit by swapping water or milk with chicken or vegetable broth. You can also cook down your favorite vegetables (and even meat!) to use as hearty toppings. A few aromatics like onions, garlic or ginger can also go a long way, as well as the addition of fresh herbs like rosemary and chives. You can even top your bowl with a fried egg and a dash of something spicy like sriracha or red pepper flakes. Treat your oatmeal like a risotto, but without the required effort to get the texture just right. Finish with grated cheese (or sliced truffles if you’re fancy), and voila — you now get to enjoy a five-star dinner for breakfast.   

  1. Switch your oatmeal to overnight oats 

If mush is what you crave in the a.m., then mush is what you shall receive. Try soaking your oats in a mason jar overnight for a cold take on the typically warm classic. You can also tailor the consistency to your liking based on the amount of milk or milk alternative you add. Pro tip: Here is where you can also get really creative with different spices by mixing pinches of cinnamon or even allspice directly into the jar before you put it into your fridge. You can also add chia seeds for a gelatinous pop to create a chia pudding/overnight oats hybrid. (It may be self-explanatory, but avoid adding anything with crunch until right before you eat it.) 

  1. Bake your oatmeal

As adults, we’re really just grown-up children who get excited when something is presented in a new or different way. With that in mind, did you know you can easily put oatmeal into muffin tins or bake it in a casserole dish? If not, you’re welcome for this life-changing alternative. For anyone carb-counting, this is also a wonderful way to trick your brain into thinking that you’re eating actual bread. There are thousands of recipes to choose from, but this is a great starter for any amateur cook. 

  1. Up your protein 

A simple upgrade to your morning oats is adding a scoop of fun-flavored protein powder (like birthday cake or peanut butter cup). This will impart an exciting (and perhaps nostalgic) taste to the mix while increasing your protein intake without having to nosh on meat or legumes. Most protein powders are manufactured to blend like a dream (since they’re typically used in smoothies). So as long as you have a bit of excess liquid, it will sop the powder right up, dissolving effortlessly into your bowl. 

  1. Experiment with liquids

While nothing makes a bowl of oatmeal fluffier than hot water (thank you, steam), opt for flavored varieties of your favorite milk, cream or milk alternative to cook down your oats. One of my all-time seasonal favorites is eggnog. The decadent beverage’s notes of nutmeg and cloves shine through since oats are already quite flavor-neutral. Adding dashes of extract like almond, lemon or vanilla is also a wonderful upgrade. But use them sparingly as most have a significantly high alcohol content and can overpower and, frankly, ruin a dish.

If you enjoyed this story, check out this complete guide to eggs!

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