“Oatnola” is what happens when you marry the crispiness of granola with the warmth and ease of oatmeal. It’s also the quick breakfast alternative when I’ve decided that the day needs more than a bowl of cereal for my little ones. It it the sort of hot breakfast that is actually totally possible in the midst of the harried “Do you have your coat?” “Don’t forget shoes!” “You did brush your teeth, right?” routine that is our weekday mornings.
Fresh ginger wakes up in a hot bath of butter – everyone should be so lucky as to wake up in a butter bath. To that we add oats and toast them in the gingered butter until they shift a shade in color – from pale to honey colored. The addition of a bit of sugar – not too much so that your teeth ache after breakfast, but enough to lure the children from their usual boxed routine. This caramelizes the oats and makes the whole bowl seize and crisp when you pour cold milk over the hot oats. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, there are nuts and seeds and a whisper of spice and then tart chewy dried cherries.
If you want your oatnola more oatmeal then granola, slowly stream in a bit of milk while the whole lot still sizzles in the skillet. If you, like me like it teetering more towards granola, place a heaping scoop of the hot oats into a bowl and pour cold, straight-from-the-fridge milk over. That sizzle and snap you hear is far more satisfying than those little men who dance around proclaiming their snap, crackle and pop.
If you don’t have cherries on hand but do have raisins add those instead. Dried apricots and pistachios would also do nicely. I’ve been known to throw in a few cocoa nibs or even a bit of cocoa powder to transform breakfast (and the milk in your bowl) into a decadent (yet still healthy) chocolate pool.
I find it a solid victory when a nutritious breakfast stubbornly slithers into our hectic mornings. It’s hard to find contenders that satisfy and sustain. So when we do, such as the case with our oatnola, they tend to be on repeat. I hope you enjoy this one as much as we do.
Cherry Ginger "Oatnola"
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 cups oats
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 cup toasted pecans (almonds or walnuts are great too)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (I used white and black)
1/2 cup dried cherries (a like something tart like a Montmorency cherry – often found at Trader Joe’s)
A cast iron skillet, I have found, works best here, but I’m sure any large skillet will do the job.
Melt the butter in the skillet until it bubbles. Add the ginger and stir until fragrant. This will happen almost immediately. Stir in the oats to coat them in the butter and continue to cook until they shift in color, turning a light golden. They will also start to smell a bit nutty. Add the sugar and maple syrup then stir well. Cook the oats until again, their color shifts into a deeper brown and they start to caramelize as the sugar cooks. Add a hefty pinch of salt along with the nuts, spices and seeds. Stir just a few minutes more letting everything just come together.
Turn off the heat and stir in the cherries.
For more of an oatmeal texture add enough milk directly to the skillet to your desired consistency.
Otherwise divide the mixture, while hot, to four bowls and top with cold milk. The Oatnola will sizzle and create satisfying clusters. The oats will start to soften in the milk. Eat straight away.