Breakfast? We don’t need no stinkin’ breakfast!*
Oh, wait… Yes, we do!
You’ll find many better resources for recipes and cooking all over the internet, but I have one time saving breakfast solution that I want to share.
All of the (very minimal) preparation can be done in advance. The only work you must do in the morning is boil water. For those of us who start the day with a cup of hot tea, this means zero extra time or effort at the busiest part of the day.
Remember that Thermos food jar that I recommended so strongly when I wrote a post with suggestions for packing a waste free lunch?
Here’s another use for that Thermos: a quick and easy hot cereal for a hurry-up-and-wait kind of morning.
In my case, there’s one day every week when I have to get up extra early and rush out the door to take my son to his violin lesson. The lesson starts at 7:45 am, and it’s 20 minutes away. Yawn!
I was getting my son up, fed, and there on time, but I was having trouble fitting in my own breakfast. This simple Thermos hot cereal solves that problem.
During the winter, I often prep several insulated jars at a time. Family members can grab one, top off with hot water from our always on (Japanese style) kettle, and eat according to his own schedule.
I also bring a thermos and containers of pre-measured ingredients when I travel. You can make this simple, filling breakfast with a hotel room kettle or coffee machine, too.
I hesitate to even call this a recipe.
- Start with a clean, dry Thermos. (I fill multiple jars at once, on the weekend.)
- Add measured quantities of dry ingredients, to taste. (I’ll specify one blend shortly.)
- 30+ minutes before you plan to eat, fill Thermos with boiling water and stir.
- Cap the Thermos and take it with you on your commute.
- Open and eat!
The longer you wait to eat, the softer the cereal grains will become. My husband likes oatmeal cooked much longer and with more water than I do. Vary according to your tastes.
Rolled oats are edible in about 15 minutes. I prefer a 30-40 cooking time for oatmeal blends. I usually include steel cut oats, and I appreciate that they retain a firm texture at 30 minutes.
Just rolled oats
Just steel cut oats
Buckwheat WITH steel cut oats
Toppings & flavors
Here are the specific quantities I used to make the hot cereal for my photos today. I want to stress, though, that I don’t normally bother to measure my ingredients at all. This is a forgiving recipe!
- 50 g Oats, rolled (1/4 cup)
- 20 g Oats, steel cut (1/8 cup)
- 10 g Buckwheat cereal (∼1 Tbsp)
- 10 g Coconut milk powder (1 Tbsp)
- Brown sugar, maple sugar, salt & raisins to taste
- 125 mL Boiling water (enough to fill the Thermos, leaving a little space to stir)
I didn’t weigh or measure my toppings, but if you really want guidance, try one spoonful each of raisins and sugar and a tiny pinch of salt.
I never measure out my boiling water. I just dispense it until the Thermos is full. I used the scale today just to provide a guideline for anyone who’s unfamiliar with cooking hot cereal from scratch.
127mL of hot water topped up my Thermos jar
Some people argue that oats aren’t healthy due to high levels of phytates. This is controversial. I love oatmeal and I think the nutritional benefits they provide outweigh these risks, but I have adopted the routine of including some buckwheat grains in every bowl.
I don’t like buckwheat cereal on its own, but I don’t even notice its flavor blended in with other grains.
You can read more about how adding buckwheat might be helpful here. Sometimes, I do soak my oats overnight in an acidic liquid according to this philosophy. Frankly, however, I don’t enjoy the taste of the resulting oatmeal as much, even when I rinse it before cooking.
Barley is another grain that works well when prepared by this Thermos cooking method. I like it combined with oats in roughly equal proportions.
I missed lunch because I was busy preparing this blog post, so I took the completed Thermos full of ingredients with me to after school pick up. I ate the hot cereal about 40 minutes after preparation, and it was just the way I like it: slightly chewy, but definitely, thoroughly cooked.
You can purchase ready made steel cut oats to eat on the go. Amazon’s price for Pacific Steel-Cut Oatmeal is $2.41 per serving when you buy them by the dozen, and this product is packaging intensive.
I calculated my cost per serving using my Thermos method by finding prices for all organic and gluten free ingredients from Amazon.com. $1.31 per serving for Thermos oatmeal is probably on the high side, but I wanted to provide a cost estimate.
My absolute favorite hot cereal is steel cut oats, brought to a boil the night before then left to sit at back of the stove overnight. Re-heated in the morning, these are soft and delicious, but retain the chewy goodness of Scottish oats. Making these requires forethought, and spending a specific amount of time both the night before—and the morning of—the breakfast.
Thermos cooked hot cereal, on the other hand, tastes pretty darn good. It can be made with any whole grains you wish at an affordable price. The minimal time you spend prepping can be done as far as days before you want to eat; the only step that is time dependent is adding the hot water.
I feel strongly that some fat is essential at breakfast if I want sustained energy to get me through my morning. This is why I always include the coconut milk powder in my blend. Powdered (dairy) milk is readily available, and costs less (even for organic) on Amazon than my brand of Coconut Milk.
If you add the boiling water to your Thermos jar first thing, say, before getting dressed, you could just pour in a liquid dose of your preferred milk straight from the fridge after giving the cereal time to cook. Dairy, soy, coconut, or almond milk—add whatever you like.
A personal trainer I know likes to use chia seeds in his hot cereal. I eat chia, but I don’t like that particular crunch in my oatmeal. Try this for added protein and fiber if you like the idea.
Nuts are another great add-in option for extra nutrition, but, if you grind or chop them for this recipe, remember that they will oxidize (become rancid and unhealthy) faster once broken, so don’t cut them up too far ahead of time. If you must prep them early, consider storing your filled Thermos in the fridge until ready to use it.
Storing a prepped Thermos jar in the fridge might add to the time needed between adding boiling water and eating your cereal. I haven’t tried it. Allow extra time if you try this, and let me know the results if you do!
This recipe will work any time you can boil water, then wait half an hour to eat. Just don’t forget to pack a spoon! I keep a Light My Fire spork packed in a silicone “popsicle mold” in my car for just such occasions.
Let’s not talk about how many times I’ve found myself waiting outside the kids’ schools or activities with my meal packed, but no utensils. I’d like to retain a shred of dignity.
*Just couldn’t resist the reference. I had no idea this popularly quoted phrase from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre took its most common form on the TV show The Monkees! Did you?