When I was a kid, oatmeal meant one of two things: Either homemade oatmeal that I doctored with as much brown sugar and as many raisins as it would bear, or envelopes of instant Quaker Oatmeal from the assorted flavor pack, which I mixed before school. Regardless, the oatmeal I ate was always flavored sweetly, whether I used brown sugar, maple syrup, or, in the case of the Quaker packets, just straight up regular sugar with artificial flavoring.
I have recently become a devotee of steel-cut oats, not just because they sound a little bit badass, but because they are so much less gloppy and runny than rolled-oat oatmeal. Plus, I'm a make-ahead kind of girl -- if I can cook something ahead and have it already prepped for the week, I'm all fired up about that. I can make enough steel-cut oats to last the week, and just heat up what I need in the morning. I add toppings, and breakfast is ready to go.
For some reason, it never occurred to me that oatmeal didn't have to be sweet. Add non-sweet toppings? Really? This wasn't even on my radar screen, even as I learned about congee or jook, Chinese rice porridge that is a perfect foil for non-sweet ingredients like scallions or duck.
Then I read a post on Penny de los Santos' blog, Appetite, where she described adding really good olive oil, sea salt and sharp Cheddar shavings to her steel-cut oats. I was skeptical, but I trust Penny's judgment when it comes to food, and there isn't a single ingredient on that list that I don't like. I decided to give it a whirl.
Turns out, the combination is amazing. It's filling, delicious, and even a little bit decadent. Sure, if you go overboard with the oil and the cheese, you can tilt it toward unhealthy, but with an easy hand on both, it's a fantastic option in the morning that knocks brown sugar and raisins right out of the breakfast park, as far as I'm concerned.
I read through the comments, and discovered Penny's not the only one eating her oatmeal with a side of non-sweet ingredients. In fact, there's a surprising number of people admitting, somewhat sheepishly, that they've been keeping their non-sweet oatmeal options secret because others think it's weird.
Here are three more bloggers who are fans of oatmeal prepared without the sweet:
- Anna Stockwell sautees pears and shaves Parmesan over her oatmeal.
- Cedar of Let's Make Something Awesome has been eating oatmeal topped with olive oil, an egg and nutritional yeast since he was a kid.
- PanGravyKadaiCurry loads up her oats with vegetables and other tasty treats.
How do you like your oatmeal? Have you tried it with non-sweet toppings? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Photo by HeatedGroundPhotography, shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) License.
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