November 27, 2013

Breakfast In a Hurry: Slow Cooker Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Weekday mornings.  The thought alone invokes a feeling of panic.  Most weekday mornings in our household are a whirlwind  with Jon and I trying to get showered, dressed and out the door while making sure Tyson is clean, dressed, fed and ready for daycare – all before our departure time of 7:15am.  It doesn’t help that Tyson is an early riser.  He’s usually up between 5-6am, so add in the task of trying to distract/entertain/appease him to the mix.  Ahhhhhhhh!

This is a familiar scene for most families.  Mornings are typically plain old chaos.  I know that a lot of parents roll their eyes when I go on about how important it is to start their kids’ day with a healthy and complete breakfast consisting of Real Food.

Trust me, I get it.  

Cooking breakfast is just not option when you are fighting with children to brush their teeth and actually put on clothes so that you aren’t late for work.  I only have one child and I have trouble with it so I’m sure it’s impossible when there are multiple children involved.

So here’s my secret.  I don’t do it.  I don’t cook breakfast on weekday mornings.  Nope, I simply refuse.  It just adds another level of stress to the morning and I don’t want to start my day like that.

Now before you start thinking that I’m serving Tyson boxed Lucky Charms for breakfast (ummmm…let’s not even go there), I will let you in on a little secret.

I prepare breakfast for the week on Sundays.  

Yep, I take an extra 20-30 minutes on Sunday evening to prepare one (or two) things that both Tyson and I can eat for breakfast on those crazy, busy, weekday mornings (Jon usually grabs some groceries on his way into work on Monday morning and eats breakfast when he gets there, so I don’t have to worry about him).

If you already meal plan, it’s just a matter of adding one or two breakfast recipes to the meal plan before going grocery shopping.  It is time well spent, as it will save you more time (and anxiety) during the week because breakfast is pretty much ready to go.  Don’t you already feel more relaxed just thinking about it?

Since pre-making breakfast is likely a new concept to some people, I thought I would start sharing some of my go-to breakfast creations.  Thus “Breakfast in a Hurry” is something you may see now and again on the blog.

The recent re-introduction of the slow cooker into our lives inspired today’s recipe.  Don’t get me wrong, I love, love, love the slow cooker.  It is a phenomenal tool for preparing meals ahead of time.  But in the summer, slow cooker meals don’t really appeal to me, so it has sat in the back of the pantry for 4 or 5 months.  Now that the weather has cooled off, I once again am craving big, warm, cozy dishes – the kind of dishes that the slow cooker is made for.  Like oatmeal.

Oatmeal is a great choice for breakfast.  Not only is it hearty and filling, but it is full of soluble fibre that is important for a healthy digestive system, and it is one of the top foods for lowering cholesterol levels naturally .  Oats are excellent for keeping insulin levels stable, as they don’t cause the spike in blood sugar that refined carbohydrates do (like toast or cereal).  What most people don’t realize is that oats actually contain protein too, not to mention a whole bunch of vitamins and minerals.

I find that a lot of people’s only experience with oatmeal involves little packages from Quaker containing highly processed “quick oats”, as well as sugar and questionable ingredients such as “natural and artificial flavour”.   Sorry folks, this is not what I would consider a healthy and complete breakfast.

A much better choice is steel-cut oats.  Steel-cut oats are whole oat groats that have been chopped up into smaller pieces, so they have been through very little processing.  Of course, they also take a lot longer to cook than quick oats, or even rolled oats.  We’re talking around 30-40 minutes if you make them on the stove.  This is another reason why using the slow cooker to cook the oats works so well.

On Sunday night just throw all the ingredients into the crock-pot, set the timer and go to bed.  You will wake up in the morning to the lovely aroma of apples and cinnamon, and breakfast will be hot and ready to serve.

 You’re welcome.

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal2

Slow Cooker Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours (in a slow cooker)

Ingredients

1.5 cups steel-cut oats
3 cups almond milk
1.5 cups water
2 apples, diced (or shredded for younger kids)
3 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp vanilla
1-3 tbsp maple syrup (optional)*

Directions

1. Place all ingredients in slow cooker, preferably before going to bed.
2.  Cook on low for 6-7 hours.
3.  In the morning just serve and enjoy.  You can eat it as is, or top with nuts, raisins, coconut, nut butter, hemp seeds or whatever else you would like.

*I tend to leave this out and sweeten afterwards but I included it in the recipe as most people like their oatmeal with at least a touch of sweetness.  I usually add Blackstrap molasses to  Tyson’s bowl instead and I find mine sweet enough with just the apples.

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This recipe makes a lot so you can eat it throughout the week –  just heat it up on the stove with a touch of water or milk.  It will only take 3-5 minutes.

Tyson does get a snack/breakfast at daycare in the morning, so I’m not overly concerned if he doesn’t eat a huge amount in the short amount of time that we have.  But I do like to get at least something filling and nutritious into him first thing to make sure his blood sugar is balanced for the day.

Give this a try, and I promise you will start your day with a little less stress and a little more zen.

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What are mornings like in your household?  

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