Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Beating Breakfast Woes -- Homemade Oatmeal Packets

School mornings can be iffy ... Iffier still is breakfast on a school morning. Last year, while I was trying to find things that would entice little ones out of bed earlier (without forcing me to get up any earlier than I already had to ... 'cause I'm lazy like that) I stumbled across this recipe for instant oatmeal packets. L has an oatmeal obsession, and even M likes the instant packets that you buy. At that point, it was worth a shot. Who knew it would be such a hit? The girls love that they can make their own oatmeal (add water and cook it) all by themselves, and I love that I know exactly what is in their breakfast, and it's something healthy and filling. Suddenly, kids were having oatmeal for breakfast and for snacks. I felt a little guilty for only making one variety ... (I just added some cinnamon and raisins to the core recipe.)

Now that we're about to start school again, it seems like a good idea to have something easy on hand for school mornings. Oatmeal is the order of the day. (No, seriously ... it's about the only order to this whole day so far ... Hence the reason I'm still wearing Minnie Mouse jammies ... I'll get dressed -- eventually ... ) On the plus side, I now have a breakfast basket that's loaded with 40+ instant packets of oatmeal. And get this, I actually learned from the last time I made them, so this time we have SEVEN different varieties. Who says that oatmeal has to be boring?

Because it's a pretty simple recipe, it's easy to assembly-line it ...

You can make these in reusable containers (tried it, it works great ... only catch is that you need to either add more water or cook it for less time. Not sure why, but the liquid absorbs more and faster in the tupperware-style containers.) I prefer the little zip-up snack bags. They're just the right size.

Fill 'em with oats. (The recipe calls for quick oats, but I always use plain old regular rolled oats. They work fine ... )

Keep on adding ingredients one at a time -- powdered milk, salt, and sugar (this one's optional, so adjust it to your own tastes ... )

Some of the things that I've found helpful:

*Move the bags you've filled with your current ingredient to a different spot on your counter. (Yup, I'm that forgetful. Moving the bags means I don't have to shift them around trying to see if I've added something to that bag already. Trust me, some days it's just easier not to overtax the brain cells ... )

*If, and only if, I'm feeling very particular about my measurements -- this recipe is pretty forgiving -- I've found it's easier if I set a heavy(ish) knife across the top of my container to scrape my measuring spoons on. It just makes things move a bit quicker.

*Measuring salt can be a pain when you're doing it repeatedly, say, oh, forty-two times -- even when you have a nifty little dash-sized measuring spoon that's just the right size. I tend to be too lazy to deal with it, unless I abso-100%-lutely have to have an exact measurement. I've been known to A)

Measure the first one and dump it in my *CLEAN* hand, and then just fill my hand to the same spot with subsequent measurements

or B)

Find a small bowl and fill it with some salt. Then you can just scoop it out without worrying about pouring.

Although you could stop there and have the kids add things in when they heat their oatmeal -- peanut butter or maple syrup can be good -- I usually keep going. Today I made the following varieties with freeze-dried or regular dried fruits:

Blueberry (blueberries, a smidgen of allspice, and some cinnamon)
Strawberry Spice (I just added strawberries and cinnamon to the base recipe for this one)
Apple Cinnamon (apples and cinnamon obviously, but I think that I also added a little allspice ... overtaxed brain cells ... )
Craisin (cinnamon and Craisins)
Raisin (raisins and cinnamon)

Since my kids were toddlers, we've used a "Breakfast Basket." (I realize that it's neither a basket, nor is it made of breakfast. As I've said, we try to simplify things around here to make it easier on the brain cells.) It's a place where the kids look first when they want to take care of breakfast for themselves. It allows them some freedom of choice while still controlling portion sizes and what they can eat.

Currently, it's all oatmeal, but I'm hoping to make some granola bars and homemade pop tarts for the freezer so they'll have a few more options. At any rate, starting the school year off with something in place for breakfasts makes my life a little easier ...

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