For many of us, some form of cereal is a staple in the morning meal rotation. Boxed cold cereals and precooked grains are convenient and can be particularly nutritious when done just right. The darling of the Internet, overnight oats, makes oatmeal easier than ever. It’s a simple, versatile and healthful recipe that’s portable, too.
Another make-ahead idea for oatmeal-on-the-go is granola. Chocolate granola combines bittersweet chocolate, flax seeds and honey and is customizable with your choice of dried fruits and nuts. On its own or with a bit of yogurt or splash of milk, it’s a delicious and decadent way to start your day.
But oatmeal isn’t the only grain worthy of breakfast status. Amaranth, barley, quinoa, bulgur, buckwheat and sorghum each offer unique textures and flavors, as well as special health benefits. They can be cooked ahead of time and allow for a lot of variety in breakfast bowls.
A good ol’ box of cereal is not to be discounted. This fast breakfast-on-the-fly can get a health boost in a number of ways:
Add flavor, texture and boost nutrition with a few toss-ins, like fresh or dried fruit and nuts or seeds.
Mix flakes with granola or biscuit-like cereals, Os with bran buds or puffed grains with checkered grain squares.
Make a cereal smoothie by blending 1 cup each cereal, frozen fruit and dairy or non-dairy milk or yogurt.
- ½ cup old-fashioned oats
- ½ cup skim or low-fat milk
- ¼ cup 2 percent plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tsp. maple syrup or honey (or more to taste)
- ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon or vanilla extract (optional)
- berries of choice
In a single-serve container, stir together oats, milk, yogurt and syrup. If desired, stir in cinnamon or vanilla. Fold in or top oatmeal with a handful of berries. Cover, and store in the refrigerator overnight (eight–18 hours). Enjoy cold or gently warmed in the microwave.
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 Tbsp. canola oil
- 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 4 cups regular oats
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ⅓ cup flax seeds
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
- ½ cup raw cashews or other chopped raw nuts (optional)
- 1 cup dried cherries, chopped (optional)
- 1 cup dried cranberries (optional)
- ½ cup raisins (optional)
In a microwave-safe mixing bowl, warm honey and oil for 30 seconds. Stir in chocolate until completely melted and smooth (if necessary, return bowl to the microwave and reheat in 10 second increments). Stir in vanilla; set aside. In an extra-large mixing bowl, combine oats, nuts, sugar, seeds, salt and cinnamon. Pour chocolate mixture over oat mixture; stir until well coated. Pour onto a large, rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper; bake in a preheated 325 degrees F oven until granola is dark at the edges (20–30 minutes), stirring two to three times. Cool on pan for 45 minutes; stir in fruit, if desired. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three weeks. Serve alone or with milk or yogurt.
Basic Breakfast Bowl
- 1 ½ cups cooked grains, pearl barley, bulgur, farro, freekeh quinoa or brown rice
- ½ cup unsweetened almond milk, vanilla soy milk or skim milk
- 1–2 Tbsp. sweetener, such as maple syrup, brown sugar, molasses or honey
- ¼ cup dried fruit or ½ cup fresh fruit
- ¼ cup nuts or seeds or 2 tbsp. nuts or seeds and 2 tbsp. toasted coconut (optional)
- Spices, to taste, such as ground cinnamon or nutmeg (optional)
In a small saucepan, combine grains and liquid. Bring to a boil over medium heat; stir in sweetener and dried fruit. Reduce heat to low and simmer five minutes or until liquid is mostly absorbed. Stir in fresh fruit, nuts and spices. Serve immediately.
Rachael Perron is the culinary and brand director for Kowalski’s Markets, where she specializes in product development and selection, culinary education and communications.