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overnight oats in jars

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Overnight oats with assorted toppings

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6 ways to make actually tasty overnight oats for healthy breakfasts, lunches and dinners

Quick cook, slow cook, instant from a small paper package — oatmeal is an easy and nutritious breakfast that can be made quickly in the morning for parents on the go or for people like me who work at home and just want to get started on the day's work as soon as possible.

The clock's tickin' in that deadline each and every day. I live in a place where it's 100 degrees for days on end, and on most of those days I can't even think about cooking something on the stove in the morning, even with air conditioning. 

Now, I make overnight oats the night before or in a batch on the weekend, no heat needed. My little ramekins of oats dotted with banana and nuts or strawberries and a touch of honey or chia seeds and coconut are ready in the morning for me to pull out of the fridge and enjoy. I'm eating more of this more healthful breakfast and much less of what I used to make — fried eggs in way too much butter. I've also been experimenting with savory overnight oats for lunch or a quick dinner. 

The premise is simple. Rolled oats and a liquid like milk, either dairy or non-dairy, are placed in a jar (a half pint Mason jar works nicely) in equal parts to sit overnight. Add yogurt, fruit, sweetener, spices, vanilla, nuts — the combinations are endless. The oats become a creamy mingling of great flavors and some are downright dessert-like. 
overnight oats with fruit
Overnight Oats
Serves: 1

Ingredients
1/3 to 1/2 cup rolled oats
1/3 to 1/2 cup milk of your choice
1/3 to 1/2 cup yogurt (optional)
1 to 2 teaspoons sweetener, such as honey or maple syrup
Pinch salt
Fillings (see below)
Topping (see below)

Instructions
In medium bowl, combine the oats, milk, yogurt (if using), sweetener and salt. Stir well. This is your base mixture. Mix in the filling ingredients, if desired. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. You might need to add more liquid if it dries out. Sprinkle with the toppings. Serve.

You can also try layering the base mixture with the fruit and nuts for a colorful look. Let it all sit in the fridge overnight and add additional toppings, if desired.

Pumpkin Spice Filling and Toppings
Filling
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch ground nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves

Toppings
1 tablespoon dried cranberries or chopped dates
1 tablespoon toasted pumpkin seeds

Chocolate Banana Nut Filling and Toppings
Filling
1/2 well-ripened banana, mashed
1 tablespoon creamy nut butter, such as peanut or almond
2 to 3 teaspoons high-quality cocoa powder
1/4 tsp vanilla

Toppings
1 tablespoon shredded coconut 
1 1/2 teaspoons cacao nibs 

Hawaiian Filling and Toppings
Filling
2 tablespoons diced kiwi
2 tablespoons diced pineapple

Topping
1 tablespoon toasted coconut flakesovernight oatsNeapolitan Overnight Oats
Note: This one is like a dessert, mimicking the layers of Neapolitan ice cream. This recipe is adapted from Lee Hersh at www.fitfoodiefinds.com.

Serves: 1 to 2

Ingredients
Vanilla Layer
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup milk 
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon chia seeds
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Chocolate Layer
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup milk 
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons maple syrup 
1/2 teaspoon chia seeds

Strawberry Layer
1/4 cup milk 
2 large strawberries, hulled
1/3 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon chia seeds
Pinch salt

Instructions
For the vanilla and chocolate layers: Mix all ingredients in two separate small bowls and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

For the strawberry layer: Place the milk and strawberries in a small food processor and puree. Mix with the rest of ingredients in a third small bowl. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

In the morning, serve layered like Neapolitan ice cream.


Curried Chickpea Overnight Oats
Note: These overnight oats come out almost like risotto, rice or congee (which is eaten for breakfast in many cultures) and are great warm or cold. 

Serves: 1

Ingredients
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 cup unsalted canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup coconut milk
Pinch salt
Sweetener-Free Overnight Oats Base (above), prepared the night before
2 tablespoons chopped roasted red peppers
1 tablespoon chopped Thai basil

Instructions
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the curry powder; stir until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Stir in the chickpeas. Add the coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and toss to combine. In a serving bowl, place on top of the Overnight Oats Base. Top with the peppers and basil. Serve. 

More savory ideas:
In addition to milk in your overnight oats, add a touch of miso or soy sauce. The next day, top with toasted nuts or seeds, chopped green onions, shaved daikon radish, a soft boiled egg, avocado, mushrooms and so much more. Slices of marinated pork and teriyaki chicken are great, too. 

Rachel Forrest is a former restaurant owner who lives in Austin, TX. Her column appears Thursdays in Go&Do. She can be reached by e-mail at rforrest@gatehousemedia.com.

Photo (oats with fruit): Brooke Lark/Unsplash
Photo (oats in jar): Pixabay

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