Pot o’ porridge

I didn’t get any cooking done this morning. School work took up the whole five hours (included in that time was a ninety minute National Geographic movie on space exploration), but we had an unexpectedly fine time. For some inexplicable reason, even though it was a gray, rainy mess outside, we didn’t indulge in our usual Monday Morning Grumpfest. This unusual turn of events was a special treat, one that left me with a tummy full of warm fuzzies.

At least that’s how I would still be feeling if the kids had gone straight to their rooms when I sent them upstairs after lunch (an experiment of peanut sauce over glass noodles [oops, I guess I did do a little cooking after all]—the kids didn’t like it, but I think it was the odd-textured noodles that they reacted to and not the sauce which I happened to find delish) instead of playing a rousing game of Alligators and Chase and Shriek. I now have a sore throat, and I wasn’t even playing their game. Not intentionally, anyway.

But I’m hopeful that The Baby Nickel will soon quit bouncing around beside me here on the bed, reciting (over and over and over again) “There Was A Little Turtle,” and that my café con leche will soothe my raw throat, and that those warm fuzzies will make a return visit before the rest hour is up. In the meantime, I’m going to tell you about my new oatmeal, something that warms my tummy regardless of what day of the week it is or how well my children are behaving (or not).

I love oats in any form (if you don’t believe me, look here and here and here and here and here), but I really like oatmeal, so light and nourishing. With a thin dusting of sugar and a few glugs of cold milk, it becomes The Perfect Comfort Food. (My husband and I have agreed to vehemently disagree on this topic.)

A few weeks ago I bought a bag of steel-cut oats and tried out a new kind of oatmeal. Sadly, the kids revolted. They didn’t like the chewy little beads and begged me not to ever make it again. I only halfway respected their pleas: I don’t make it for them anymore; I make it for me.

Because as it turns out, I happen to love those chewy little nubbins. I cook me-self up a pot o’ porridge (sorry about lapse into Irish brogue; we watched Billy Elliot last night) and then stash it in the fridge. Then midmornings when I get hungry (I don’t like to eat oatmeal first thing in the morning, preferring instead to have a piece of toast with my morning coffee), I pull out my container of precooked (and, I’ll be honest here, gross-looking) oatmeal and spoon a bit into a ramekin. I pop the oatmeal into the microwave for a warming jolt, then sprinkle on some dark brown sugar or maple syrup, add some dried strawberries (or toasted walnuts and dried apples or coconut, dried bananas, and pecans), top up the cup with milk and slurp away.

The best part of the whole deal is that the kids don’t ever pester me for a taste, a bit of knowledge that sweetly gilds my warmly-fuzzied oatmeal lily.

Steel-Cut Oatmeal

I find this oatmeal to be a bit more viscous than oatmeal made with rolled oats, but once it is reheated and mixed with milk, that component almost totally disappears leaving you with just the toothsome little bits of goodness. Yum-yum.

4 cups water
1 cup steel-cut oats
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon butter

Put the water in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Add the oats and salt and stir well. Put the lid on the saucepan and remove it from the burner. Turn the burner to low and, if you have a gas stove, return the saucepan to the burner. (If you are like me and have an electric burner, keep the pan off the burner for a minute or two while it cools down; otherwise, the oatmeal will bubble over and make a mess of your stove.) Let the oatmeal simmer for another 20-40 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so (and more often towards the end of the cooking time).

When all the water has been absorbed, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla and butter. Put the lid back on the kettle and let it cool to room temperature, at which point you can transfer the oatmeal to jars or plastic containers before storing them in the refrigerater.

To serve, dish the desired amount into serving bowls, reheat in the microwave (or, if you are microwave-less, in a pan on the stove top), sprinkle with sugar or syrup, fruits, and/or nuts, and milk or cream.

Yield: 4-5 good-sized serving, or 8-12 midmorning snacks

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