On weekends, I enjoy making involved breakfasts for my husband and daughter. There can be any combination of over easy eggs, belgian waffles, pancakes, toast and crispy hash browns. Weekdays though, are nothing to write home about. I make a scrambled egg and cut up some fruit for Little Miss, and I eat something brilliant like an apple, a small yogurt or maybe some leftovers.
On an average day, that’s fine – Little Miss tends to wake up late, and I’m giving her lunch within a few hours anyway. But it does happen, on occasion, when either I’ll be out during the day or for whatever reason, I just think maybe I should actually eat something. Eggs aren’t my favorite, and if I’m going to bother eating more than just fruit, I’m thinking about protein.
I’m on a kick now, where my go-to morning protein boost is overnight oats. The only downside to overnight oats is that they need to sit, well, overnight. So making them requires a little forethought, but they only take about 5 minutes to assemble and then time does the rest.
The first time I made overnight oats, I used organic rolled oats from Trader Joe’s and while they tasted fine, the texture didn’t do it for me. It was somewhat soft and gummy. The second time, I used steel cut oats (which I had purchased accidentally) and I was a lot more into it – the thick pieces of steel cut oats softened up nicely, but remained chewy. Finally, the third time, I hit on the perfect compromise. I just mixed the two together. Add in some flavoring, sweeteners and stir ins and there you go. This has been my overnight oatmeal of choice ever since.
Steel cut oats boast 5 grams of protein per 1/4 cup, with 150 calories. Rolled oats are looking at about 3 grams of protein and 85 calories per 1/4 cup. So I go half and half for a base of about 8 grams of protein in the entire batch (sometimes I eat the entire batch, sometimes I have a few spoonfuls and leave the rest for the next day). Oats have plenty of protein and fiber, but I’ll add some ground flax and chia and hemp hearts for good measure. If you’ve never had hemp hearts, they’re a little pricey, but mild and nutty in flavor and packed with protein and omegas; I like them mixed into yogurt too.
Now, you’ve probably seen overnight oat recipes shared on Facebook or popping up on Pinterest, full of pretty pictures of layered oats in mason jars (and I do think mason jars make everything more appealing). Here’s the thing though…I don’t think you actually need a recipe. I think what you need is a guideline, and from there, you make it your own. Here’s my favorite, for your consideration.
Cocoa Overnight Oats
- 1/4 cup rolled oats
- 1/4 cup steel cut oats
- 1 tsp cocoa powder
- 1 tsp ground flax/chia blend
- 1 tsp hemp hearts
- a handful of sliced almonds
- a few pinches of dried cranberries
- a sprinkling of mini dark chocolate chips
- a generous drizzle of maple syrup (the real kind, please)
- enough cashew milk to cover (feel free to use almond milk, coconut milk, dairy milk, or mix milk with yogurt instead)
- In a small container, place your two kinds of oats (a jelly jar is the right size but difficult to stir in, I like to use my 2 cup covered Pyrex). Add the cocoa powder, chocolate chips, flax/chia, hemp hearts, cranberries and almonds. Go on, give it a stir.
- Pour in enough of your milk or milk substitute, slowly, to cover the other ingredients. They’re going to suck it all up, so don’t worry about going slightly over. Add in a generous drizzle of maple syrup and give it a good stir. Don’t be afraid to taste the liquid now to make sure it’s sweet enough for your liking (cocoa powder by itself is bitter!), though I don’t recommend eating the oats like this, just because they’re hard.
- Cover your container and pop it in the fridge overnight. In the morning your oats should have drank up most of the liquid, softening up nicely. Give it a stir and enjoy.
So the “recipe” is, place your oats in a bowl. Add things you like – this one has chocolate in it because I’m a beast and a chocoholic, but go for nuts, dried fruits, whatever you like. It all works. Add your liquid, whether it’s dairy milk, non-dairy milk, or a combination of milk and yogurt, and your sweetener, if you require it.
And that’s it. You get a quick-to-prepare breakfast that is loaded with plant based protein and gluten free, and using milk alternatives can easily be non-dairy and vegan. Between the oats, dairy/nondairy milk, nuts and any flax/chia/hemp you add it, you get a compact little protein powerhouse. I’d say that’s worth greeting with a hearty, if not slightly groggy, “good morning”.