Last night, with reports of the impending snowpocalypse, I was hoping that the university might close and that I would get a grownup snow day! I waiting and hoped–thinking that even if I didn’t get a snow day, I would at least want to be prepared for a warm and delicious breakfast in advance of a treacherous trip to the office.
Going through my cupboards (not wanting to venture out for groceries) and settled on oatmeal because it’s always good for a cold morning. So what did I find?
Dates. And I thought of my grandmother’s date bread and had an idea. Dates are great for breads and a recipe like this because they add sweetness without adding a lot of calories. Also, they pair well with other ingredients that make oatmeal delicious as well! The trick to preparing dates for any sort of dough or batter is to soak them with hot water and baking soda so they soften up and blend in nicely with whatever you’re making. Also, you can chop and soak the dates up to a day in advance so if you want to get everything ready for this dish so it can be assembled quickly when it’s time for breakfast, that works.
I ended up with something of a snow day and it was great to wake up and make a nice breakfast in my jammies while the ice and snow continued to blow outside. The oatmeal turned out really well! It was the perfect treat to start a day indoors.
Grandma’s Date Bread Oatmeal
What you’ll need:
1/4 cup dried dates finely chopped
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup oatmeal (quick oats, steel cut, whatever you have on hand–just not instant oatmeal!)
1 Tbs Brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground (powdered) ginger
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups water
Optional: 1/2 cup crushed/chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans are probably best)
What to do:
I started with whole dried mejool dates and chopped them into fine pieces until I had filled a 1/4 c measuring cup and put them in a small stainless steel bowl, but any heat-resistant bowl that holds up to a cup of liquid will do.
Then, sprinkle the dates with the baking soda and pour the boiling water over the top. Let them sit in the bowl and “steep” until they are cool. They don’t need to be cold-cold, room temperature should be fine. If you are making the recipe ahead, you can pop the bowl in the fridge overnight and probably still get the same effect.
After the dates have been prepped, combine the dry oats with the other dry ingredients in a small saucepan:
Just a quick note on oats–I used quick oats because that’s what I had available. Steel cut, rolled or any other sort of oat that requires stove top cooking methods is suitable for this recipe. The main variation as far as preparation is concerned is cooking time and you may have to adjust the amount of liquid in the recipe. If you use steel cut oats, add a little extra water. I like my hot cereals on the drier side, so if you like yours a bit more porridge-like, add up to an extra half cup of liquid to the pot when cooking.
Once the dry ingredients are mixed, add the liquid ingredients (water, vanilla extract) reserving the date mixture (save that for later!). Cook over medium-high heat until the oats start to soften, stirring frequently. Once the oats soften, add in the date mixture and continue stirring until the oats are fully cooked.
Divide oatmeal evenly between two bowls and sprinkle with chopped nuts if desired. If you like a little extra sweetness, drizzle with honey/maple syrup/agave nectar or sprinkle with extra brown sugar. As is, this is plenty sweet for me.
Yield: 2 servings
The great thing about starting with plain oats and making breakfast is that you can customize it to your own tastes. I have a few suggestions for variation that would be delicious with this recipe:
–Add in 1 tsp of orange zest or 2 tsp candied orange peel when you stir in the date mixture; or top the oatmeal with the zest/peel when serving
–Use natural maple sugar or syrup in the place of the brown sugar
–Instead of water, use almond/rice/soy/coconut milk instead of water to prepare the oats. It will make it a bit more rich and add some calories, but if you’re a big breakfast eater, it will also make it a bit more hearty and nutritionally dense than only using water
–Use quinoa or quinoa flakes instead of oats for a breakfast higher in protein
This might not be a practical weekday morning breakfast, but if you have some extra time it’s definitely worth making!