When confronted with the choice between a pile of gray grains and two sunny-side up eggs, crisp red-brown bacon and buttery toast, most will find the latter breakfast much more appetizing.

Lately, though, there’s nothing I’d rather see for breakfast than the gray grains of oatmeal, which for years I’d avoided as being just too drab to consider as the first bite of the day.

No one will ever say that starting the day with a bowl of cooked oats is a bad idea. Heart healthy, weight loss-promoting, cholesterol-lowering, fiber-full, gluten-free, immunity-boosting, with more protein than most grains, oatmeal is, it turns out, awesome.

But oats are so…gray.

To spruce up my oatmeal, I add berries (generally recognized as a good breakfast food) and maple syrup. About maple syrup, we discovered years ago that we preferred Grade B maple syrup to Grade A maple syrup: Grade B seemed to have a deeper, more complex flavor than Grade A. Because Grade B sounds less good than Grade A, there are now several layers of Grade A, and I choose Grade A, Dark Color & Robust Flavor. It’s still sugar, of course, but maple syrup, like agave syrup, has a lower glycemic Index, and a little sweetness helps the oatmeal go down.

To boost the protein in my oatmeal, I sprinkle on three tablespoons of hemp hearts, which have a light, nutty flavor and no crunch at all. The hemp hearts contribute about ten grams of protein to the bowl of oatmeal, which added to the protein in a half-cup of uncooked oatmeal, nets out to about 16 grams of protein.  Adding a few tablespoons of MCT-fortified creamer (for brain health), this is a bowl with about 18 grams of protein. That’s more protein than a breakfast of eggs/bacon/toast, with way less fat and calories. Also, less mess to clean up.

Which brings us to the issue of making oatmeal in the morning. I used to think it was a drag spending my early morning moments stirring a steaming pot of grains, but there are easier ways to make oatmeal. We put a cup or so of rolled or steel-cut oats into a pan with about a cup and one-half of water and let it all sit overnight. In the morning, all you must do is heat up the oats, give it a few stirs, and it’s done in like three minutes.

There are many places in Oak Park where you can procure oatmeal for breakfast, including an “oven-baked” version at Delia’s Kitchen. However, oatmeal is something I’d rather just make at home, which is exactly what I intend to do on National Oatmeal Day (October 29) and into the foreseeable future because, turns out, oatmeal doesn’t need to be boring.

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David Hammond

David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of LTHForum.com, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...