Five-second oatmeal mix-ins

oatmealOatmeal is one of my favorite foods.  I especially love the Quaker Instant flavored packets of oatmeal.  Late last year, B bought a giant box of them from Costco, ate two packets, and they’ve been sitting in our pantry ever since.  As much as I love them, I try not to eat them too often.  Although delicious, they’re loaded with sugar and I’ve been going through a phase of eating oatmeal every day, so I’ve been trying to keep it a little healthier.

If you frequent Pinterest like I do (sigh), you’ve seen a billion and a half “recipes” for really exciting oatmeal concoctions.  Like “Healthy Blueberry Cheesecake Oatmeal” and “Vanilla Cake Batter Oatmeal.”  Um, I’m drooling just reading those names, but with a 12-week-old baby, I’ve got about two minutes to make my oatmeal.  When I purchase a tub of quick-cooking oats, I hardly imagine extending that cook time to 20 minutes just to make it taste like a delicious slab of cheesecake.

So what do I do?  I find whatever I can in my fridge or pantry to toss into my oatmeal and give it a little instant flavor without TONS of sugar.  Below are my top choices, plus two I wish I never would have tried.

  1. Brown sugar and cinnamon. Even just a nice, packed teaspoon of brown sugar in one serving of oatmeal gives it a nice syrupy sweetness.  The cinnamon I use VERY sparingly.
  2. Jam or jelly. I use about half a tablespoon.  I have to stir for a minute or so to thoroughly mix it in, but it’s tasty.
  3. Alpine Spiced Apple Cider mix. NOT a whole packet—usually 1/4 to 1/3 of a packet mixed into one serving of oatmeal.  This is probably my favorite of all the mix-ins I’ve tried.
  4. Hot cocoa mix. Again, not a whole packet—about 1/4 does the trick.  The kind I’ve used has been Starbucks cinnamon dolce, but I’m sure any hot cocoa would taste pretty good.
  5. Honey. It doesn’t take much since honey is so sweet.

Two things I mixed into my oatmeal that were just awful are applesauce and peanut butter (separately, of course).  Considering that I am addicted to peanut butter and eat it EVERY day, this is saying a lot.  I even tried to salvage it by adding some hot cocoa (because nothing is better than peanut butter except for peanut butter and chocolate together), and it still ended up in the trash.

What about you?  Do you mix anything into your oatmeal?

Weak sauce

I can’t decide which is worse:  food that tastes bad, or food that tastes like nothing.  Last night marked my second meal in a row that was as bland as a glass of water.

Earlier in the week, I whipped up some simple pork meatballs:  ground pork, egg, bread crumbs, garlic, and onions.  While they baked in the oven, I combined butter, maple syrup, and soy sauce for a glaze.  I didn’t follow a recipe, although I had used several maple glaze recipes for inspiration.  I did make sure to taste test along the way and it truly was pretty tasty.  When the meatballs came out of the oven, I dumped them in the pot of glaze and let them simmer in the sticky mixture for a bit before I spooned the finished product over a bed of white rice.  The glaze was pretty good by itself, but once it was on the meatballs and the meatballs were on the rice, you could hardly taste it.  It was like eating plain meatballs and plain white rice.  *Pout*

So I tried again last night.  I didn’t have anything planned for dinner and wasn’t up for a trip to the grocery store.  Using what I had in my kitchen, I made up a pasta dish.  I sauteed chicken breast pieces in a ridiculous amount of garlic, and then I added butter to the remaining juices and made a simple white sauce.  To the white sauce, I added corn, black pepper, and two strips of chopped bacon.  I stirred the chicken into the sauce and poured it all over a serving of egg noodles.

On the bright side, I have finally mastered the thick, creamy texture of your basic white sauce.  The downside:  the sauce tasted like liquid flour.  Even with the garlic, the chicken juices, the pepper, and the bacon, it tasted like a whole lot of nothin’.  How could I have been so stupid to not taste it before I served it?  After my first bite, I made a face at my fiance and reached for the salt shaker.  I’d assumed that since I was adding bacon, the sauce wouldn’t need any salt.  My fiance laughed when I said this, informing me that it would take WAY more than two strips of bacon to flavor a sauce to that extent.  Guess I’m not a bacon expert quite yet…

I’m really struggling with the concept of flavor.  I try to keep it simple because I’m still learning which flavors work well together and which flavors don’t, but simple is equating to bland, bland, bland.  What’s the best way to learn how to combine flavors when cooking?