Feeding the Family: Simple Good and Tasty Oats

McDonald's recently added oatmeal to their breakfast menu. Behold, the ingredients of a "simple" bowl of McDonald's oatmeal:

Oatmeal: whole grain rolled oats, brown sugar, food starch-modified, salt, natural flavor (plant source), barley malt extract, caramel color.

Diced Apples: apples, calcium ascorbate (a blend of calcium and vitamin C to maintain freshness and color).

Cranberry Raisin Blend
: dried sweetened cranberries (sugar, cranberries), California raisins, golden raisins, sunflower oil, sulfur dioxide (preservative).

Light Cream: milk, cream, sodium phosphate, datem, sodium stearoyl lactylate, sodium citrate, carrageenan.

With added sugar and eleven non-food ingredients, the end result of 290 calories (and a few additives) suggests that one might be better off with a plain cake donut. Even a Snickers bar has fewer calories than McDonald's oatmeal -- and an Egg McMuffin has only ten more.

Oatmeal can be quick, and isn't hard to prepare. When added to cookies, oatmeal can be enjoyed as a sweet treat in moderation. Here are a few better breakfast options with oats, and an oatmeal cookie recipe.

A few tips: buy the rolled or steel-cut oats in bulk; they'll be fresher and far less expensive than packaged ones. For the cookies, you can use honey or maple syrup in place of the white and brown sugars, but the cookies will rise and brown differently. As with most baked goods, though, even if they don't look picture perfect, they'll still taste delicious, and be more healthful for their lack of refined sugars.

Here is your simplest oatmeal: Pour one cup milk over one cup rolled oats. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or mix in the morning and let sit for 15 minutes. Stir in fresh or dried fruit, or chopped nuts. Drizzle with maple syrup or honey. Add citrus zest, spices (cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger) or vanilla. You can also heat the oats and milk in the microwave or on the stovetop if you like.

You can make steel-cut oats the same way. Pour one cup of steel-cut oats into a bowl, mix with two cups milk, and any other ingredients like sweetener, fruit or flavorings. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, they will be soft enough to eat, though still very chewy. You can heat them or not, and top with fresh fruit or nuts.

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Hell's Kitchen Oatmeal, adapted from Damn Good Food by Mitch Omer and Ann Bauer

(serves 4)


2 1/2 cups whole milk

1 cup steel-cut oats

1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon sea salt)

1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

Optional toppings: warm half and half, brown sugar/maple syrup/honey, fresh berries, or Omer's suggestion: a dollop of sweet cream butter.


Heat milk over medium-low heat to a simmer. Stir in steel-cut oats and salt. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes. Stir in rolled oats and cook till all milk is absorbed, about 15 more minutes. Serve immediately, with optional toppings of your choice. (If you use all of Omer's suggestions your oatmeal will likely be as caloric as McDonald's, but at least it will be made with whole ingredients, and it will be delicious.)

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Chewy Oatmeal CookiesChewy Oatmeal CookiesBig, Chewy Oatmeal Cookies, adapted from a recipe by Cook's Illustrated

(makes 16 to 24 large cookies)


2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 cup light brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of spice(s) to your taste: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, clove, cardamom

3 cups rolled oats

Options for add-ins: 1 1/2 cup raisins, chocolate chips, chopped dates, dried cherries, or toasted nuts


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. With electric mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add sugars, beat about 3 minutes, until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time.
  2. Mix flours, salt, baking powder, and spice(s) in medium bowl, then add to butter mixture and stir together by hand with wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Stir in oats and optional add-ins.
  3. With an ice cream scoop or tablespoon, make 2-inch balls of dough, with about 8 per cookie sheet. Bake until brown around the edges, about 22 to 25 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Let cool on pans for 2 minutes, then on wire racks for at least 30 minutes.

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Kristin Boldon is a frequent contributor for Simple, Good and Tasty, who also writes for the Eastside Food Cooperative's newsletter on health and wellness, and for her own blog Girl Detective. Her last post for us was "Chowgirls: Much More Than Killer Catering!"