I grew up in an evangelical Southern Baptist church. I spent much of my teen years evangelizing. It wasn’t uncommon to find me slipping religious tracts in my friends’ lockers like they were notes between friends. People probably came to fear me on Wednesdays when I invited everyone I knew to church with me. “There’s free pizza,” I’d say, hoping to entice them, “and Cokes. And a raffle.” And just when you least suspect it, just when you’re chowing down and your mouth is full of pizza: bam! Jesus.
When friends asked me to lay off, to give it a rest with the evangelizing, I got indignant. “If I had the cure for cancer, and you had cancer,” I would ask them aggressively, “wouldn’t you want me to tell you the cure?” Who can argue with those pubescent logical gymnastics?
But I’m not here to evangelize about the Bible today. Today, I’m here to talk to you about oatmeal, friends. Be prepared for your life to change.
My friend (and former Sunday school teacher, as it happens), Mina, recommended trying this recipe on my last failed attempt at overnight oatmeal in the crock pot. The last attempt was a disaster. Weird texture, flavorless, and no amount of adding sugar, Nutella, peanut butter, soy milk, or dried fruit would help.
So Mina said the name that really sort of equates with the gospel truth of culinary endeavors: Alton Brown.
She gave me this link, and I read the recipe. Simple enough. I read the comments – people either loved it or hated it, but one thing was for sure: there was a major divide on how long to cook it. Some people had no problems at all, but others said that they woke up to scorched, caked on oatmeal. No fun.
The problem is in the name: overnight oatmeal. If you sleep four and a half to five hours, then it’s perfect for you. But I don’t (usually). I (usually) go closer to seven or eight or (bless my soul) nine. So for me, this isn’t so much overnight oatmeal; it’s Afternoon Oatmeal.
And it’s amazing. This oatmeal is made with steel cut oats, full of fiber and very filling. There’s no added sugar, just dried fruit and some half and half. Don’t have half and half? No sweat. I made a batch this weekend with soy milk and heavy cream. Yum!
Do yourself a favor, and try it this weekend. If you live in the New England area, you’ll have lots of time to putter in the kitchen during the blizzard (provided your power doesn’t go out).
And here’s one more reason to try this recipe: I grew up on instant oatmeal. Little packets in waxy brown paper, and I loved that oatmeal. I’d shower it with a snowy layer of sugar over the top, and it was like candy. For breakfast. And since then, every “real oatmeal” recipe I’ve tried has sucked. My snowy instant oatmeal village kicks those other recipes’ butts regularly. But not this one. I don’t add any sugar. Any. That’s huge. I feel like I’m growing.
Overnight (or Afternoon) Oatmeal
Recipe by Alton Brown (Good Eats) (Wording adapted to reflect changes)
1 cup steel cut oats (Note: don’t use old fashioned or quick or you’ll get a soggy mush and hate me and oatmeal forever)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried figs (see note below)
4 cups water
1/2 cup half and half
1. Spray the bowl of your slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker, cover, and turn on LOW. Allow to cook four and a half to five hours, stirring once about an hour before it’s done (to check it’s done-ness).
2. Serve warm. I like mine with a little drizzle of vanilla soy milk on top. To each her/his own.
NOTE: Okay, I can barely find fresh figs. Dried figs? Please. And here’s the thing: figs are sort of bland. (There. I said it.) But you know what’s not bland and could easily be substituted: golden raisins; dried peaches. I’ve tried both with great success. Next I’m trying dried apricots. Other reviewers tried dried blueberries and dried cherries with success. Go with what you like to eat. But don’t skip the fruit entirely. They sweeten the oatmeal, and they hydrate during the cooking process, plumping up nice and soft and flavorful.
NOTE 2: And on a related note, don’t skimp on the water. It will all cook out, and it’ll hydrate those fruits. It’s important.
NOTE 3: The reason this is afternoon oatmeal for me is that my slow cooker is slow in name only: a recipe that should take 7-9 hours usually takes 4-5 for my “slow” cooker. The beauty of doing this during the day is that if you check it at 4 or 5 hours and it’s still pretty soupy and watery looking, you can cook it longer. But if you leave it and check after 8-9 hours, you may find the opposite: dried, scorched, baked-on oatmeal. No fun.
So there you have it: my oatmeal evangelism. I’ll be slipping tracts about fiber and colon health in your lockers later.