Thursday, January 30, 2014

Overnight Oats

This week is all about oats, it seems. Oat week! Anyway, one of the most obvious oat recipes is oatmeal but I am not a fan (though I do enjoy The Oatmeal). For me, texture is a huge part of enjoying food and the texture of oatmeal just doesn't do anything for my mouth; it's just too mushy and soft.

I've been seeing overnight oats everywhere for probably over a year now and I automatically assumed it was just going to be too similar to oatmeal so I had no motivation to try it. However, I pride myself on being the type of person who will try (almost) anything once. I have my limits but in general, I don't like to write things off on the assumption that I won't like it. I want to try it and confirm whether I dislike it or be pleasantly surprised and since I had purchased a humongous tub of oats (to make granola with) it was the perfect time to try. And obviously, since I'm sharing, the result was that I was pleasantly surprised to find that I like overnight oats.
There are several recipes out there but I'm sharing the proportions that I prefer. Most recipes I've seen use a lot more liquid (equal ratio of oats to milk to yogurt) but I prefer to use a little less milk and yogurt so that the oats have less liquid to soak up and end up having a little bit of chew (remember what I said above about the texture of oatmeal?). Plus, I like when it's less soupy and goopy. If you prefer the soupier, goopier version, then go Google someone else's recipe. I won't be offended, I swear. But please come back and take a look at some of my other recipes!

Ingredients [for one]:
½ cup old fashioned oats
¼ cup milk (I prefer almond milk but you can use regular old cow's milk or soy or coconut, whatever you like)
¼ cup yogurt (I prefer Greek yogurt and flavored yogurts are yummy too)
+ optional flavorings (I've listed a few ideas below)
     fruit - berries, apple, pear, banana, melon, mango, peach
     sweeteners - honey, brown sugar, raw sugar, caster sugar, agave nectar, maple syrup, stevia, etc.
     flavorings - cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, nut butter, cocoa powder
     other toppings - chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, nuts, dried fruit, flax seeds

There's a lot of flexibility to this recipe and so many flavor combinations out there. Get creative and experiment until you find your perfect recipe. If you're having a hard time, just think about some of your favorite flavor combinations and work from there. For example, if you like banana splits you can add a little cocoa powder, banana slices, cherries, and chopped walnuts. If you're into apple pie, mix in some apple chunks, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a little brown sugar. If you're a pb&j person, mix in a little jelly and chopped peanuts. Get it?
You're going to want to make this the evening before you want to eat it. So, after dinner, whip this together and you'll be able to enjoy it the next morning. All you need to do is chuck the oats, milk, and yogurt into a lidded container (I used a stout little mason jar) and stir everything together.
After that, you can add in the flavorings. I just do it all at once and mix every ingredient in, but you can certainly use the fruit and sweetener as toppings instead and add them in the morning after the oats have soaked. As you can see, I opted to mix in a little squirt of honey and a handful of raspberries and blueberries.
Refrigerate the oats overnight (duh!) for at least 8 hours. If you use more liquid, you can probably reduce the soaking time but for the proportions I gave, I find that a full 8 hours yield the best results.

If you want a nutritional breakdown, here's a generalized one. The actual can depend on the brand of yogurt you use, the brand of oats you use, if you use cow's milk instead of almond milk, etc. But, at least you can get an idea of what you're putting into your body.
Ingredients
Serving Size
Calories
Fat (g)
Cholesterol (mg)
Sodium (mg)
Carbohydrates (g)
Fiber (g)
Sugar (g)
Protein (g)
old fashioned oats1/2 cup15030027415
yogurt1/4 cup3300202026
almond milk1/4 cup7.50.5037.50.250.2500.25
berries1/4 cup160.200.254210.5
honey1 teaspoon150004040
Totals221.53.7057.7537.256.25811.75

And here's what the oats will look like in the morning. They'll have soaked up some of the liquid and any liquid that's left will be thickened slightly. They're ready to eat straight out of the fridge but I like to give them a few minutes at room temperature to get the chill off, especially during the winter. This is now one of my favorite breakfasts, not only because it's yummy but because it's so easy and low-maintenance.
Less than 250 calories, very little fat, no cholesterol, low sodium, plenty of fiber and protein - overall, a really good breakfast.

Oats have plenty of health benefits and they contain heart-healthy fats. Oats have anti-itching and anti-inflammatory properties - remember taking oatmeal baths when you had the chicken pox? I'm not sure how well they work from the inside, but I have a feeling it's still good for your skin even when it's not applied topically. The fiber and protein will keep you full, the carbs will give you energy, the fiber will help you "go," ahem, your heart will be healthy, your skin will look prettier, and you'll have little to no excuse for missing the most important meal of the day.

Seriously! I don't know how people skip breakfast. I'm certainly not the hungriest of ogres first thing in the morning but after I've brushed my teeth and done my hair and gotten dressed, my stomach is usually roaring for some sustenance. Eating breakfast everyday is a great habit to have and I sincerely encourage it. It gives you energy to start a brand new day and once it's a part of your routine, it becomes a task that helps you wake up and get going.
Oh, and the best, best part about this breakfast, other than the simplicity factor and the health benefits, is the portability. You can grab your container from the fridge in the morning and take it to work. I like to eat my oats as soon as I get into my office and check my email between spoonfuls. And on weekends, I just take this upstairs to my "home office" (a.k.a. a minute sliver of space in my living room where my desk is) to sit down for an intense session of photo editing and recipe tweaking and blogging like a maniac.
Here's the (relatively unnecessary) recipe page:

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