DIY Instant Oatmeal

Both my little guys love oatmeal for breakfast, and for that matter so do their parents. There’s something about eating a warm meal to start your day that just can’t be beat. And it’s nice to know that you’re feeding your children something that will stick with them… at least until snack time. I do love the convenience of those little oatmeal packets — especially on days when I am called upon to make breakfast while still half asleep — but I don’t love all the sugar and what-cha-ma-call-it contained inside. Take a look at the ingredients sometime, you might be pretty surprised.

It turns out that making your own super yummy, customized, much better than the store bought stuff, instant oatmeal at home is a pretty darn easy. I’ll call this one “an hour and you’re done”- type activity which makes it perfect for an afterschool project or a weekend quickie. It would also be a great one to do as a foodie playdate with a few buddies. Even though ziplock bags or old yogurt containers will do just fine for storing your awesome artisan oats, we highly recommend going the extra mile and making your own groovy DIY packets from recycled lunch bags — that is if you don’t find a few zips on a sewing machine off-putting. We loved the oatmeal we made, but in the end I think we loved our handmade packets even more.

Gather your ingredients:

  • Oats — plan on 1 cup of oats per ~8 packets . Quick oats will be most like the instant oatmeal you know and love, but you can use rolled oats too. We found we needed to give rolled oats a little zap in the microwave after adding hot water to really soften them up to our liking.
  • Dry nonfat milk powder
  • Other no-cook or quick cooking whole grains and seeds (optional): puffed rice or wheat, whole wheat couscous, bulgur wheat, amaranth seeds, flax seeds, etc.
  • Dried or dehydrated fruit, chopped nuts, shredded coconut, etc. Scissors work great for snipping larger pieces of dried fruit into small slivers.
  • Spices and Sugar (we like a sugar with some flavor like turbinado or vanilla sugar made by storing a vanilla bean inΒ  small jar of sugar)

If you are making your own packets:

Grab some old lunch bags and for each packet, cut a rectangle 10″ x 7″. Fold the rectangle in half so you have a 5″ x 7″ rectangle doubled over. [We used a 4″ x 6″-sized packet which worked for the amount of oatmeal described here, but it was a little tight.]Β  Sew a straight stitch along 2 of the open sides, leaving one side open so you cal fill your packet (this took me less than a minute per packet). Decorate your packet and then fill it up. To close up your filled packet, push the oatmeal away from the open side and hold it there while you make a quick seam along the open end (sounds harder than it is). You’ll be able to tear into the un-sewn side when it’s oatmeal time.

Mix up the oatmeal base for each packet:

After some tinkering, we decided that we like this base for for our oatmeal packets. This is just the right size for a kid-sized portion:Β  1 TBL whole oats, 1 TBL oat powder, 1/2 TBL dry milk powder, 1 TBL whole grain of your choice (we used a combination of bulgur wheat and puffed wheat). To make oat powder, just pulverize whole oats in your blender or food processor.Β  If you like more texture, just increase the ratio of whole oats to oat powder. Definitely mix one up and doing a taste test before assembling the rest of your packets.

To each packet add your favorite extras. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Tropical Fig: slivers of dried fig, toasted coconut, toasted sliced almonds, turbinado sugar, a pinch of ground ginger (pictured below, topped with cara cara oranges and a splash of milk)
  • Apricots, Apricots: tiny slivers and bigg-ish chunks of dried apricot, vanilla sugar
  • Strawberries n’ Cream: dehydrated strawberries, brown sugar, and a little extra dry milk powder
  • I Love Apples: tiny pieces of dried apple, cinnamon, teensy pinch of allspice, brown sugar (mix in apple sauce and a dash of apple cider syrup after adding hot water)
  • “Hi Mom/Hi Luca”: dehydrated strawberries, dehydrated blueberries, vanilla sugar, chopped up dried cherries (and a tiny pinch of coconut thrown in while Luca wasn’t looking)

Hungry for more? You might also like these other breakfast favorites: Granola-yogurt Fruit Towers, Snack Attack (or Anytime) Granola, Orange Vanilla Creamsicle Smoothie, Becky’s Carrot Zucchini Pineapple Muffins

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DIY Recycled Kitchen or Office Whiteboard

This is by far one of the easiest and most useful things I’ve made in a while. A place to keep track of our cooking projects for the week or to jot down shopping lists (it would be great for an office too). I’m one of those people who tends to write things on little scraps of paper that get lost in the far corners of my purse or that magically fly out of my jacket pocket. Let’s face it, not great for staying organized. So this is a vast improvement.

  1. Get yourself (or recycle) a large picture frame with glass. I picked mine up at my local Goodwill for a few bucks. Clean it up, give the frame a fresh coat of paint if needed, or have your favorite budding artist help you decorate it.
  2. Cut a piece of heavy cardboard just a hair smaller than your glass.
  3. Hit the fabric store or raid whatever stash of fabric you may have laying around and cut a piece a bit larger than your cardboard (adding 4″ to the length and width should do the trick). In my case, those small pieces of fabric that they sell for quilters called “fat quarters” happen to work great. Pick lighter fabrics and patterns without too much contrast for optimal legibility.
  4. Secure the fabric over the cardboard (I used masking tape), pop it into your frame and voila, you’re ready to hang and use. Any dry erase marker will work. The beauty of this is you can easily switch our your fabric background whenever the urge strikes.

[No fabric? No problem! You could also use wrapping paper or draw your own background picture on a piece of paper.]