Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How to make perfect oatmeal using only an in-room coffee maker

When I overhauled my eating habits a little over two years ago, I came to appreciate it was all built on a simple but wonderful daily breakfast:  A bowl of Oatmeal.  Humble.  Plain.  And full of good, filling nutrition with under 300 calories.

At home, oatmeal is easy to make on the stove-top or in the microwave.  But when I travel, it can be more difficult.  While some motel rooms have microwave ovens, many don't.  And, besides, how DO you eat smart when traveling?  It's been a big topic for my systems-oriented mind.  Here's a trick I've used quite a bit and photographed for you on a recent trip.

Fundamentally, you have to realize you CAN eat smart, even on the road.  It takes a little planning but not much and I find I feel better and spend much less money when I do.

The supplies are easy.  I pack some "one-minute oatmeal" (not instant oatmeal) in a baggie.  I also pack a simple plastic bowl, plastic spoon and some packets of sweetener, all of which goes through airport security more easily than my cell phone.  If I find myself in a room with a microwave or at a friendly relative's house, I'm set.  But, even if there is not a microwave, virtually all hotel/motel rooms nowadays have an in-room coffee maker.  And here's how to use the coffee maker to make a hot bowl of delicious oatmeal.

Start by measuring out the dry oats into a bowl.  You can use the ubiquitous foam or plastic or ceramic cup which is always supplied next to the coffee maker.

From Run with Perseverance
Here you only have to keep track of the ratios.  Most oatmeals require a ratio of 1 part oats to about 1 3/4 parts water.  I've found for this method I need to cut back a little bit on the water, to somewhere between 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 parts water.  

Put the dry oats into the bowl, pour the first portion of water into the coffee maker (without the coffee, of course) and turn it on.  In about 30 seconds, the coffee maker will begin to dispense very hot, nearly-boiling water into the cup.  Let it finish and then pour the water onto the oats.  Stir vigorously, to get all the oats in contact with the hot water. 

Now, unless you are in the Ritz, the coffee maker may only make one cup at a time.  This means you need more hot water to get to the correct ratio.  So, pour more water into the coffee maker and get the rest of the water you need hot.  While you wait, put the bowl of now-heating oats onto one of the big fluffy towels in the bathroom and then cover it completely.

From Run with Perseverance
When you get the rest of the water hot, open up the towel, pour the water on and, again, stir very thoroughly.  This is the last time you'll need to touch the oats, so make sure you don't have any lumps of oats in the bowl.  

Now, cover the bowl completely again, tuck it in, and go away for five minutes or so.  Finish up your stunning Power Point presentation or text your bff about how awesome your room is or fill out your expense report or pack your bags.  Whatever.  Just let the oats cook inside their heated cocoon, all alone, for about five minutes.

From Run with Perseverance
Have that final inspirational slide done?  Good.  You deserve some oatmeal.

Open up the towel and you will find an amazing thing.  The oats have soaked up all the water and are fully cooked and are HOT!  It's amazing how warm the bowl will be.  Now, fix it up however you'd like it.  I add sweetener  the pink stuff you can see.  If I've planned really well, I'll also have some raisins and/or chopped walnuts to throw in.  It's ready to eat, topped however you like.  And I've also found a bowl of oatmeal is a great end-of-a-long-travel-day munchie.

From Run with Perseverance
And that's how you do it.  It's not magic.  This method uses the heat of the water to cook the oats and uses the layers of toweling to keep all that heat in one place.  It takes a little longer than cooking on the stove or in the microwave but the result is the same.  

It's not easy to eat well and it's particularly difficult to eat well while traveling.  But you can do it.   

Persevere.  And enjoy your oatmeal.