How to Make Your Own DIY Instant Oatmeal


Long time readers will remember my trauma when I accidentally bought a box of “low-sugar” i.e. artificially sweetened instant oatmeal. I took it on a camping trip unawares, and ended up trapped in the woods with nothing to eat for breakfast except Splenda soaked packets of horror. Frankly, I’d rather be alone in the woods with rabid bears or hook wielding maniacs.

At the time, some of you pointed out, “Umm…why aren’t you making your own darn instant oatmeal, Mrs. Homegrown?” To be sure, you all said it more nicely than that, but this was my takeaway.

Well, you were right. I think the impulse to bring packets of oatmeal camping is the sort of thing which, once inculcated at an early age, is never considered again consciously afterward. But yes, of course one can make their own instant oats, and even pack them up in single serve packets. So last week I took a container of homemade instant oats camping and they were a big hit. They were so much better than the sugar stuff in packets. They were scrumpdillyicious, in fact–toasty, chewy, not too sweet. I liked it so much I’ve decided to keep it around the kitchen for everyday breakfasts.

oats2You’ll need:

4 cups of rolled oats, old fashioned or quick oats. See oat notes below

1/4 cup brown sugar. This much brown sugar will result in something barely sweet, much less sweet than the store brands, which have about 3 teaspoons of white sugar per tiny packet. Of course, you could opt to use no sugar, or more sugar. Or, heaven help us, you could use a sugar substitute.

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup (give or take) of various add-ins of your choice: the dried fruit family: raisins cranberries, apricots, cherries, apples, and freeze dried bananas or strawberries; seeds of different sorts like chia, flax and hemp; additional fiber such as wheat bran, exotic substances like cacao nibs, coconut, candied ginger and powdered milk. Nuts fall into the add-in category too, of course, but personally I like to toast my nuts and store them in a separate container to keep them crunchy until needed, because no one likes soggy nuts. But do as you please.

How to:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Spread oats out on one cookie sheet and toast in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. It’s a good idea to stir them half way through. You want some color, but no burning. This step is not found in all DIY instant oatmeal recipes, but totally worth it for the flavor it adds. I think it also makes the old fashioned oats more digestible.
  3. If using old fashioned oats, remove oats from the oven and grind some portion of them in a blender or food processor. I leave half whole and process the other half until some of the oats turn to fine meal while others are still partially intact. The finely ground bits make the oatmeal more “milky” and cohesive.  This is a personal preference thing–everyone likes their oatmeal in certain ways–dry or wet, lumpy or smooth. (If you’re using quick oats, this step unnecessary because they break down fast when soaked, so they don’t need any mechanical assistance in that direction.)
  4. In a big bowl, recombine your oats (if necessary ) and stir in the sugar, salt and cinnamon.
  5. Stir in your add ins
  6. Transfer to an air tight container, or portion into single serving bags.

To use, just scoop out what you need into a bowl and pour boiling water over the top until it’s as moist as you want it to be (It’s a good idea to give your storage container a shake or stir before using to make sure stuff hasn’t settled out). Let the oats sit for a minute or so to soften up before you tuck in. Add a little more water if it stiffens up too much. I’m sure you could microwave this, I just don’t know how.

I like to put a nice chunk of grassfed butter on top of my oatmeal after its mixed to anchor those carbs with some fat–and this is also when I add my emphatically unsoggy nuts.

I’m mulling over making a savory version of this to use as a quick meal/snack. Something involving a trip to the Japanese market for some seaweed and maybe a bit of instant dashi powder?

A note on oats. There can be confusion over oats. Whole oats are called oat groats. Don’t use those. Steel cut or Irish style oats won’t work either. You want the flattened kind of oat. Those come in two basic categories under different names. In the U.S., the classic kind is called rolled oats or old fashioned oats or some people refer to them as Quaker oats. These are oat groats which have been steamed and then flattened with rollers. The other category is quick oats, also called instant or minute oats. These oats have been steamed, flattened and cooked and then dried again so they cook up super fast. You can use either quick cooking or old fashioned oats in this recipe. The main difference is texture. The old fashioned oats will keep some fight. I like that very much, personally. Instant oats will have a softer texture, more like “real” instant oats.

Convention Report: Natural Products Expo West 2016


Every spring I provide a service to you, our dear readers. With my friend Dale, I go to the massive Natural Products Expo West and sample hundreds of new “healthy” snacks so you don’t have to. When the day draws to a close I, inevitably, regret downing all those bizarre gluten-free power bars, matcha-soy lattes, puffed tortilla chips and stevia sodas. Each year I come to the same general conclusion: it’s all just a load of highly processed stuff loaded with sugar. The products in a “health” food store can be just as unhealthy as the aisle of a conventional supermarket.


The so called “natural” food business is cut-throat. At the convention thousands of vendors are competing for extremely limited shelf space while operating on razor-thin margins. Trends come and go just as rapidly as hemlines rise and fall in the fashion world. So what products will you find in your local Whole Foods in the coming year? Here’s what I observed:

  • We’ve passed peak kale. In fact I’d say there’s a full-on kale backlash. The smart folks have moved on to moringa and seaweed.
  • We may also have passed peak kombucha. Matcha is the new kombucha.
  • Gluten is still in jail but is eligible for parole. I think America’s current favorite food villain is going to switch soon to . . .
  • Sugar. Sugar is the new gluten. Since sugar is such a phenomenal preservative it will be interesting to see how these manufacturers can come up with shelf stable sugar free products. Those products, I predict, will be just as unhealthy as the many gluten free snacks out there.
  • The ascendancy of Korean food. There was an entire aisle devoted to Korean products, something I was very pleased to see.

A final note. Let me say how much I appreciate companies that staff their convention booths with knowledgeable employees (such as King Arthur Flour and Gustos Specialty Foods). Lesser companies hire attractive people who don’t know anything about the products they are representing.

German Rye Bread Recipe

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You know those people who are so excited about something that they immediately post it to the interwebs without even a thought about, say, accuracy. Sometimes those folks are us. When it came time to teach a German rye bread class for the Los Angeles Bread Bakers, I took another look at the recipe on this blog and sent it to fellow LABBer Dana Morgan for testing and revision. Thanks to Dana I have now revised and re-posted that recipe here.

If you’re into sourdough, this is an easy loaf to bake. There’s not much in the way of shaping and you don’t even have to slash the loaf before it goes in the oven. And unlike the white bread that passes for rye in the US, this loaf is actually made out of mostly rye. It does have some white flour in it, but just enough to allow making a hearth loaf.

If you’re in the LA area, I’ll be teaching some more rye classes this year. Sign up for the Los Angeles Bread Bakers on and you’ll get all the announcements and invites.

George Rector: M.F.K. Fisher’s Dirty Old Uncle

We struck gold in the depths of the library the other day when I dug up Dine at Home with Rector: A book on what men like, why they like it, and how to cook it, by George Rector, c.1937.

Rector (1878-1947) was a restaurateur and popular author. This book is ostensibly a cookbook–I don’t know what else it would be–but it doesn’t have recipes per se. Instead, he just mentions how to cook things as he’s steaming along. I’m in love with the hardboiled yet strangely comforting prose (though I do have to ignore the casual sexism and racism of the period).

Seems most cookbooks these days range from bland to, at best, passionately sincere. Old George is just in it for the fun. The pleasure of reading him is filed in my brain alongside the pleasure of reading M.F.K. Fisher, though he’s more like her dirty old uncle. Which is to say you’d happily read either them even if you have no intention of ever cooking anything ever again.

Speaking of casual sexism, I’m particularly fond of the chapter titled “When the Wife’s Away”, which steps befuddled menfolk from the basics of grilling a steak (“Steak is a good thing to begin on; don’t be scared off because it’s one of the aristocrats of the cow kingdom…”), to how to scramble eggs over a double boiler (“that’s the dingus Junior’s cereal is cooked in…”) to making “that noble experiment known as Rum-Tum Ditty” for the boys when they come over for cards. Rum-Tum-Ditty, I have to say, defies explanation. Let’s just say the ingredients include whipped egg whites, a pound of cheese and a can of tomato soup.

Speaking of befuddled menfolk, Erik is quite fond of this passage about making Hollandaise sauce (from the chapter titled “A Touch of Eggomania”), not least because it has introduced the term “hen fruit” into our lives:

For eggs Benedict, you need Hollandaise sauce, an additional contribution of the hen fruit to the pleasures of the palate, and to the confusion of cooks. Hold on to your hats and we’ll round that curve. Add four egg yolks, beaten to the thick, lemon-colored point, to half a cup of butter melted in a double boiler. Stir as you add the eggs and keep stirring–stir with the calm and temperate perseverance of the mine mule making his millionth trip down the gallery. That’s the secret–that and getting the water in the bottom hot as blazes without ever letting it come to a boil. Just before the mixture gets thick–timing again–put in a tablespoon of lemon juice and cayenne pepper to taste, and I hope and believe you’ll have a crackajack Hollandaise. Which is something to have, because it’s cantankerous stuff, as the tears shed by millions of cooks down the ages all testify.

A Guilty Pleasure: The Mid-Century Menu


Back in my time-wasting grad school days I made somewhat of a hobby out of thrift shopping. Along with the mandatory copy of Herb Alpert’s Whipped Cream, every thrift store would have a collection of post-war, space-age cookbooks. Recipes, in this period, are a kind of recombinatory matrix of industrial ingredients. You take some cocktail wieners, a dollop of mayonnaise, some ketchup and a surprise ingredient, say dried prunes and roll them all up into a ball that roughly resembles a low earth orbit satellite and you’ve got dinner.

This is the culinary territory explored by “Retro Ruth,” the genius behind the Mid-Century Menu blog. She cooks up one mid-century recipe a week and feeds it to her husband Tom who does a kind of visually documented taste testing. It’s great fun and their blog is one of my favorite internet time holes, even though I’ll never make this stuff. In the past year they’ve been covering the outer-stellar potlucks featured in the background of the Astronaut Wives Club. Then there’s the cocktails. The disasters, such as the Salmon Vermouth Casserole, are particularly entertaining.

Did you grow up with this stuff? As always, we love your comments.