In the hunt for a healthier breakfast, oatmeal almost always gets suggested as an alternative to the sugary bowls of cereal and artificially sweetened pastries.  However, our culture of instant food preparation has made it a lot easier to assume that a packet of “just add water” instant oatmeal is the right way to go.

Packages of Instant Oatmeal

Three sugary servings of instant oatmeal

There is a trade off for that instant gratification, and the sacrifice involves a lot of sugar and sodium.  Although these packages like to tout flavors such as banana nut bread and apple cinnamon, the truth is that you rarely get something that actually contains real representations of those flavors, or, in other words, you end up with apple flavored “chips.”

But I have a confession to make.  I am notoriously bad at making oatmeal that is actually enjoyable to eat.  Typically it ends up too watery and too bland, and that is never a good start to anyone’s day.

So in the interest of finding some alternatives for breakfast (and to find a use for that massive canister of steal-cut oatmeal I bought a long time ago), I decided to take another shot; but this time, I brought backup.  Instead of resorting to just adding in my own cinnamon and artificial sweeteners, I wanted to have a complete overhaul of my standard oatmeal preparation.

Ingredients for an awesome oatmeal

The ingredients for our custom oatmeal

Here’s the recipe:

1/2 cup instant oatmeal

1 cup water

a dash of kosher salt

1 spoonful peanut butter

8-10 crushed walnuts

1 gala apple (sliced and/or cut into chunks)

agave syrup/nectar as needed

For the most part, all of these are standard ingredients, but you may be asking, why agave nectar?  Agave nectar (sometimes called agave syrup, both are the same thing) is produced in Mexico from the agave plant, and can best be described as similar to honey, but it tends to be sweeter, and it does not have that pesky problem of crystalizing.

A few fun facts about agave: You probably see the many variations of this plant all the time here in Texas, due to it being used in landscaping, particularly when a yard is looking for a little Mexican inspired flair.  Also, blue agave, the species used in the creation of the agave syrup I own and use, happens to be the plant used to produce tequila. Because it is a purely plant based sweetener, it is also great for the vegan crowd.  Throw in the relatively low placement on the glycemic index, which helps with keeping blood sugar down, and you can see all of the appeals of this plant.

On to the simple instructions:

1. Prepare the oatmeal as you would normally do.  I suggest bringing the water to a boil (throw in the salt right as the bubbles start to rise), and then add the oatmeal, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

2. After 5 minutes, remove from the heat and let it set for a few minutes in order to settle.

Preparing the Oatmeal

Preparing the oatmeal

3. Then, transfer the oatmeal to a bowl and add the spoonful of peanut butter.  The oatmeal should still be hot enough to help smooth the peanut butter into the mixture.  You want this to reach a “every spoonful I taste peanut butter” sort of mix.

Peanut Butter Going into Oatmeal

Adding the peanut butter

4. Now, you just need to take care of the rest of the ingredients.  Slice the apple and add as much as you feel is needed; I like having a piece of apple in every bite, so I added quite a bit.

5. Take the flat of your knife and break the walnuts into small pieces and add to the oatmeal (use your own judgement on the amount, again, I like having a little bit of walnut with each spoonful)

6. Finish it off with a good drizzle of agave syrup, and stir well.

The final product

The final product!

All and all, I have to say that this was the best batch of oatmeal I have ever made, but most of the credit goes to the assistance provided by all the other amazing flavors that were added.  If I would have changed anything, it would have been the amount of oatmeal I prepared (the recipe above has already been adjusted for this).

My advice? Don’t be afraid to try and step outside of your normal breakfast routine.  Not only can you keep mealtime in the morning interesting by stepping outside of the box, it can be a wholesome (and healthier) way to start your day.