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Overnight oatmeal is power packed for pennies

When it comes to cheap eats it doesn’t get more frugal and fabulous than oatmeal. It’s a whole grain, packed with fiber and nutrients, the taste is compatible with endless variations, and costs mere pennies per serving. Are you sold yet? How about this: you can literally make it while your sleep. Does that appeal to your inner multi-tasker? Yup. Mine, too.

Unlike traditional stove-top oatmeal where we cook the oats, we place uncooked oats with added liquid into the refrigerator. The oats become thick and creamy by absorbing the liquid as it sits overnight and loses that “raw” flavor even though it’s never cooked. What a pleasure to wake up to a delicious concoction that puts instant oatmeal to shame.

The best thing about this technique is the pure convenience. You can make individual servings or prepare it in quantity according to your family’s need. The dry, shelf stable ingredients can be mixed and stored indefinitely in either single serving containers or in a bulk container to be scooped when needed. Your perishable ingredients are added as you put them in the fridge. Once in the fridge they can be stored safely for up to five days. We can literally make a week of healthy family breakfasts in under 15 minutes.

And now, here’s my commercial for ch-ch-ch-chia seeds because I want you to love them. These minuscule seeds are a nutritional powerhouse. They absorb 10 times their weight in liquid and transform into a neutral flavored gel-like substance. The unique combination of soluble and insoluble fiber slows down your body’s conversion of starches into sugars. They are the richest non-marine source of Omega-3 fatty acids (better than salmon) which is important for heart health. They’re high in protein and loaded with calcium, potassium, Vitamin B, and antioxidants. Add them to oatmeal and you won’t even know they’re there, but your body will. I promise!

Depending on your morning appetite, 8-ounce, 12-ounce, or 16-ounce size containers will work. You can use any container you like that holds at least one cup and has a lid. You can use plastic containers, reuse glass jars, or bust out those mason jars.

OVERNIGHT OATMEAL BASE

This is a single-serving recipe, easily multiplied. It’s delicious by itself, but you will add goodies for endless variety.

Yield: 1 (12-ounce) serving

What You’ll Need:

½ cup old-fashioned or thick-cut rolled oats

1 tablespoon chia seeds

1 to 2 teaspoons brown sugar or sweetener of choice

Pinch salt

1 cup milk or milk substitute

Here’s How:

In a jar or bowl, mix the dry ingredients. The night before serving, add the milk and stir. Add any additional ingredients desired. Cover tightly and place in refrigerator overnight or up to 5 days. To serve, stir in a little extra milk if it’s too thick and sweeten to taste. Delicious served cold. Grab a spoon. To serve warm, place the oatmeal in the microwave for about 45 seconds.

Variations to the recipe above – add:

Maple Cinnamon – 2 teaspoons maple syrup, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Apple Pie – ½ cup chopped apple or ¼ cup dried apple, 1 tablespoon raisins, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract.

Almond Joy – ½ tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon unsweetened shredded coconut, ½ tablespoon mini chocolate chips, 1 tablespoon slivered or sliced almonds.

Peanut Butter and Jelly – 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 1 tablespoon your favorite jam or jelly.

Brownie Batter – 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, ½ tablespoon mini chocolate chips, 1 tablespoon chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts), ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract.

Now here’s where you get to endlessly customize your practically instant breakfast. Use any kind of milk you wish, dairy, almond, coconut, soy, or rice milk. For added creaminess you can add a splash of cream, half and half, yogurt, or coconut cream. For extra protein add protein powder, yogurt, nuts, seeds, peanut powder, or nut butter.

Substitute any sweetener you wish, sugar, honey, agave, jam, maple syrup. To add bursts of flavor, fresh or dried fruit, drained canned fruit, jam, nuts, nut butter, or crystalized ginger (my fave!). The list is endless. When you’re ready to rise and dine, I recommend topping it with fresh add ins like bananas, berries, or peaches, and add crunch with nuts, seeds, or a sprinkle of granola. Don’t be shy, you want this to be flavorful.

I hope this provides a strategy that makes it as convenient as possible to get a healthy breakfast. Here’s hoping the rest of your day is as satisfying.

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is the recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com

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