Growing up, there was a time where breakfast almost every morning consisted of instant oatmeal and cinnamon-sugar toast, usually prepared with love and care by my dear dad. I didn’t hate it, but I think the 7 year-old-me would have just wanted cinnamon toast or, even better, a sugary toaster pastry—the furthest thing from wholesome and, even as an adult with the “freedom” to make and eat anything for breakfast that I please, I wouldn’t opt to eat to start the morning.
I rediscovered and started to enjoy oatmeal again when I started working after college. It was cheap, easy to make at the office, and filling enough to tide me over until lunchtime. By that time, there were also plenty of options beyond the tiny paper packages with the same old fruit-and-cream, apple cinnamon, and brown sugar flavors that I grew up eating on a daily basis.
Enter overnight oats, which I have wanted to try for a while. A few things along my 12-hour journey from making to eating told me it would be a success.
Good sign #1: The recipe came together quickly. Preparation couldn’t be simpler: Throw all ingredients in a bowl, stir and adjust flavorings, portion into containers, and chill. Not instant oatmeal, 2-3 minutes in the microwave and done “quick,” but about 15 minutes when factoring in finding the ingredients in the pantry and measuring them out is still pretty quick for me.
Good sign #2: It didn’t require heating to taste good. Whenever I would take oatmeal to work for breakfast, it got to a point where I would heat the oatmeal and go back to my desk, start checking email while the oatmeal cooled off a little, have one bite, and forget about it because I got distracted by something. Cold, hard, unappetizing oatmeal “glue”—the last thing I wanted to come back to and eat by the end of a meeting or other task—greeted me one too many times many a morning to the point where my 7-year-old self started to rear it’s oatmeal-hating head again. Overnight oats, however, easily stood up to the commute to work and required no preparation when I got there. I opted to let the oats sit out a few minutes so they weren’t ice cold before eating and they tasted great.
Good sign #3: The recipe is versatile. Oatmeal, obviously, is a blank canvas; it tastes like next to nothing until you add flavorings to make it taste like something. As I was preparing these strawberries and cream oats, I was thinking about the flavor possibilities that I was going to try for breakfasts to come. I decided that blueberries, nectarines, or peaches would all be good choices to stand up to the heartiness of the oats; an homage to the fruit-and-cream flavors that I grew up eating, too, but better and fresher. I added some chia seeds, too, for a little extra fiber and texture.
Strawberries & Cream Overnight Oats
To make this vegan, use a dairy-free yogurt in place of the Greek yogurt and agave nectar in place of the honey.
Serves 3 (generous 1/2 cup portions)
1 1/4 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup coconut milk, almond milk, or other nut or dairy milk of your choice (I used Califia Farms brand’s Toasted Coconut Milk)
2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
1/3 cup 0% non-fat Greek yogurt or other dairy-free yogurt of your choice
1 cup strawberries, diced
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground Ceylon cinnamon
Big pinch of salt
To serve: Granola or chopped toasted nuts
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Add more milk if the mixture looks too thick and more honey if you want your oats sweeter.
If you want your oats to be portable, portion into containers. Otherwise just cover the bowl and refrigerate. These keep for 3-4 days when covered in the refrigerator.
Serve chilled or warm slightly. Top with granola or nuts, if desired.