I adore hot cereal, especially during those long winter months from December to March. However, any time of the year is a good time for a soothing bowl of hot grains. But, I’m not a fan of creamy wheat cereals or instant oatmeal packets. Creamy wheat cereal, like white flour, has been stripped of the bran and wheat germ, along with most of the fiber and nutrients. Instant oatmeal is ridiculously expensive and full of sugar and additives.
Instead, I favor hearty whole-grain choices like 7-grain cereal and old-fashioned oatmeal. Recently, I began experimenting with other cereals and even tried baking the cereal at night and in the slow cooker for busy mornings. I’ve also worked up a recipe for instant oatmeal that I plan to send with my college-bound son. Perfect for those busy weekday mornings, these cereals provide energy to last until lunchtime.
Instant Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal
This hearty cereal is as quick and simple as it gets. Quick oats have the same nutritional value as regular oats but they’ve been par-boiled so they cook faster. Buy dried apples and oats in bulk at your health food store or try an online source.
- 8 cups quick oats
- 1 ½ cups non-fat dry milk powder
- ½ cup sugar
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 1 cup dried apple pieces
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ginger
Combine all the ingredients in a large container and store in a cool, dry location. For one serving, pour ½ cup of the mixture in a bowl. Add enough water to cover the cereal, about ½ to ¾ cup. Microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the oatmeal has absorbed most of the water. Serve with milk.
Baked or Slow Cooker Cereal
Whole grain cereal varies widely in its cooking time. Oatmeal cooks fairly quickly—in 10 minutes or less, while brown rice and steel cut oats take 45 minutes to one hour. Bypass this issue for busy mornings by cooking hot cereal the night before.
To cook hot cereals in the slow cooker, place the grains in the slow cooker with water at a ratio of one part cereal to 3 or 4 parts water. Add a bit of salt and cook on low for 8 to 12 hours. In the morning, the cereal will be tender, warm and creamy.
To bake hot cereal, mix the cereal in a casserole dish with water at a ratio of one part cereal to 3 or 4 parts water. Bake in a very slow oven (150 degrees) overnight.
Hot Cereal With Apple Juice
Sometimes I replace water with apple juice as the cooking liquid. Try this recipe that calls for cracked wheat and apple juice.
- 1 cup fine cracked wheat
- 4 cups apple juice
- 4 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons butter
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ cup chopped dried apples
Combine all the ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 9 hours or overnight. In the morning, serve with milk and toasted almonds. Substitute other grains in this delicious recipe.
When you’re tired of the ho-hum, experiment with your own cereal blends. Pick up several grains in bulk at your natural food store and combine for more taste and texture. If you have a wheat grinder, you can also grind whole grains on the coarsest setting for a finer, faster cooking product. Below is one of my favorite versions:
- 2 cups steel-cut or old-fashioned oats
- 1 cup cracked wheat
- 1 cup cracked rye
- 1 cup barley grits
- 1 cup dried apple pieces
- ½ cup dried cherries
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Mix all the ingredients together and store them in a large container. To make the cereal on the stove, combine 1 cup cereal mix with 2 cups water and bring to a simmer. Cook for 45 minutes, or until tender.
You can also cook this hot cereal in the slow cooker or oven as described above.
In addition to the usual oatmeal or wheat berry options, I’ve found that almost any grain tastes delicious as a warm, creamy cereal. Quinoa has one of the highest protein profiles of any grain and cooks within 15 minutes. Just make sure to rinse it first to remove its waxy outer coating. Brown rice is another favorite breakfast cereal. Add a bit of honey, cinnamon and milk for a hearty flavor.
Try rye flakes or whole berries or oat berries instead of flakes. How about pearl barley, couscous, amaranth or buckwheat? Eating a variety of grains ensures that you get a broad range of nutrients and if you’re gluten intolerant, you’ll appreciate options like quinoa, brown rice and organic oatmeal.
If your kids are accustomed to neon-colored cereal that comes from a box, you might need to do some marketing to win them over to hot cereals. Kids seem to naturally love choices so I came up with the idea for an “oatmeal bar.” I supply hot oatmeal (or any hot cereal, for that matter), along with a variety of toppings. The kids can choose their own toppings, within reason, for a hearty, delicious breakfast. Below are a few of the toppings I include in our oatmeal bar:
- Fresh, cut fruit. Try blueberries, sliced strawberries, diced peaches, raspberries or diced apples.
- Dried fruit. Dried blueberries, apples, raspberries, raisins and cranberries are all popular.
- Bottled fruit. In the winter, we mix diced canned peaches or apples with oatmeal and other hot cereals.
- A sweetener. Offer honey, molasses, stevia, real maple syrup or brown sugar and watch portions.
- Crunchy nuts and seeds. A little goes a long way, but my kids love chopped pecans or walnuts and slivered almonds. Seeds include sunflower, pumpkin, chia or flax seeds.
- Spices. Try cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, cloves, or crystallized ginger.
- Milk or cream if I’m feeling decadent. Sometimes we have yogurt or kefir.