This morning, I was eating World's Best Oatmeal for breakfast while flipping through my Jamie Oliver Jamie at Home book, and thinking about how I relate differently to food than I did a year ago.
Let me explain.
These thoughts came as I was savoring my delicious breakfast and looking at the beautiful pictures of food in the book (printed on paper made from sustainably managed forests). Jamie, known for being a real cutie-pie, is also known for being a champion of real food, sustainably-produced, and without lots of chemicals, preservatives, and weird stuff that pollute both our bodies and our ecosystem as our food is produced. But the real treat about this kind of food, and a fact that Jamie celebrates in his books, is that it just tastes better.
That alone is reason enough to change one's eating ways. Since I've cut back on processed foods (and I am by no means perfect at this -- I love a Taco Bell burrito as much as the next person) I've noticed that the deliciousness factor in my meals has really gone up.
Take oatmeal, for example.
As a kid, I wasn't a huge fan of oatmeal. I learned to like the instant kind, however - you know, the kind that comes in a little packet with cinnamon and sugar dust at the bottom. As long as everything natural was disguised in my oatmeal, I was happy.
Take a look at the ingredients list for one brand of instant, though:
WHOLE GRAIN ROLLED OATS, SUGAR, RAISINS, CHOPPED DATES, WALNUTS WITH BHT ADDED TO PROTECT FLAVOR, SALT, CALCIUM CARBONATE, OAT FLOUR, GUAR GUM, CINNAMON, NIACINAMIDE*, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, REDUCED IRON, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE*, RIBOFLAVIN*, THIAMIN MONONITRATE*, FOLIC ACID*.
(If you're wondering what BHT is, it's a food additive that's also used in cosmetics and jet fuel. I guess they aren't joking when they say that oatmeal gives you fuel for your day)
I tried to re-create what I love about instant-flavored oatmeal (sweet, fruity goodness) while cutting the preservatives. And what do you know, not only was the result chemical free, but it is hearty, satisfying, and much yummier than the instant kind (and takes about the same time to prepare once you've cooked the almonds).
World's Best Oatmeal
(Note: look for ingredients that have no additives and only a single ingredient.)
raw almonds (you're going to roast a bunch in the oven and save some for later, so I'd get a nice big handful)
1/2 cup quick cooking rolled oats (I like McCann's)
1 cup organic milk (you can use water, but milk provides protein and lots of nutrition)
dried fruit (I like cherries and blueberries - if you buy them in the bulk area of your super-market, they will be packaging-free and have fewer additives)
organic dark brown sugar
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. While doing so, roughly chop the almonds. Put them in a baking dish and cook for around 15 minutes, or until they are toasty brown. When your house smells delicious, it's time to check on them to make sure they don't burn.
When the almonds are done, let them cool. You will use about a tablespoon for the oatmeal. Put the rest in an air-tight container and place in the fridge for other oatmeal breakfasts or to put on salads or in curries.
Put the oatmeal and milk in a DEEP, microwave-safe bowl. If the bowl is shallow, you will get oatmeal all over your microwave. Microwave for 2-3 minutes -- experiment to get the consistency you like. I go for 2 minutes, 15 seconds, because I like mine a bit milky.
When the oatmeal is cooked, add about a tablespoonful of the almonds, 1-2 tablespoons of dried fruit, and 1-2 teaspoons of brown sugar. Sit down with your favorite book, and savor the world's best oatmeal.