We have had some chilly mornings here in Raleigh (granted, it's not all that chilly compared to some of you up north and out west), and there's nothing better to ward off that chill than a bowl of steaming hot oatmeal. All throughout my childhood winters, I remember my mom making pot after pot of oatmeal and cream of wheat for my older sister and me, and I still love both bowls of goodness, probably because both welcome the piling on of brown sugar which then melts into sweet syrupy glory.
What makes the perfect bowl of oatmeal? I like to start with steel cut oats; they have more texture and almost a nutty quality to them. The only downside is that these oats can be more expensive and take longer to cook. But guess what? Trader Joe's has come through once again, and that downside no longer exists. TJ's Quick Cook Steel Cut Oats are inexpensively priced and necessitate a mere 8 minutes to cook (as opposed to 15-20). So, while your oats are cooking, throw in a tablespoon or so of butter, a pinch of salt, and a splash of milk (or if you're feeling indulgent, go for the half and half) and stir. After the oats are cooked through, ladle however much oatmeal your stomach is craving into a bowl. I then top it with a generous sprinkling of brown sugar, a handful of chopped pecans and cranberries, finished with a swirl or two of honey. For me, this combination of flavors and textures is unbeatable, so I affectionately deem it my perfect oatmeal. You can try other toppings, from bananas and walnuts to raisins and almond slices. Oatmeal is a blank canvas for your particular palate.
Now go make some oatmeal and ward off your local chill, wherever you are.