I have been meaning to post this here for a while but was inspired to action by my friend Shannon and her a tasty Coconut Monkey Bowl, breakfast idea on her blog this week.
I am not sure if all kids enjoy the idea of eating bugs but for my daughter this works like a charm. Really this is one of my original ideas that I am most proud of, not that it is anything all that spectacular, people have been playing games to get kids to eat food forever. But for us, it has turned a healthy, inexpensive breakfast into something that my daughter really gets excited about and I like to eat it too.
The idea came to me one day. I was brainstorming on how to make our oatmeal just a bit more interesting and began mixing in some flax seed. Stirring my pot I realized that they looked quite a bit like ants (we had a big ant problem at the time so the reality of having a pan full of ants was always a concern in the back of my mind) and so the name stuck. The other bug names have evolved slowly but now they are set. So we can be anywhere and if Zenie is eating raisins she will refer to them as crickets, dried cherries are beetles, cranberries are lady bugs etc. Dried apricots are a favorite for us. Cut longways they are slugs but sometimes I use the kitchen shears and do a spiral cut making them into worms which are even tastier.
You can name your bugs however you like. And you can use a million different fruits, nuts or seeds as toppings. The possibilities are endless. I like my bugs mixed in about halfway through cooking though I usually leave some out so Zenie can add her own. It is amazing to watch her excitement as she dumps ants (flax seed), mosquitoes (sunflower seed) and bees (pecans) over her oatmeal. She loves it and I love it too. It makes the oatmeal taste better, gives us endless variety and increases the nutrition in every bite.
So as for making oatmeal in general, I basically just follow the directions on the back of the container. But I have found that a few small enhancements can go a long way in making a tasty bowl of oats. These are pretty basic but they go something like this:
1. Don’t get instant oatmeal if you can help it. The regular oatmeal just takes a a few minutes on the stove and is way less mushy.
2. Cook it with milk if you can. Once I made the switch from water to milk I can’t go back. You do have to watch it a bit more carefully to keep it from boiling over. But the end result is rich and flavorful, and more nutritious. I find that I end up using a bit more dry oatmeal when I cook with milk rather than water, I’m not sure why. Just make adjustments as they seem to work best for you.
3. Don’t skip the salt. It is just a dash and it really helps to balance out the sweet.
4. If raisins weird you out ,try chopping them first. I don’t usually go to the trouble to do this but I enjoy the texture of raisins in my oatmeal and raisin breads if I at least chop the raisins in half first.
5. Don’t overcook it. I think this is the downfall to many oatmeals. Oatmeal is going to be mushy, but it doesn’t have to be extra mushy.
6. Spice it up. I always add a little vanilla and cinnamon when I’m about halfway through cooking. Let’s face it, oatmeal is bland. Which means there is a lot of room to add flavor. Start with a dash of each and add more as you like.
7. Top with a swirl of sweet. I use honey (best if added at the end once oatmeal is slightly cooled to keep the honey from cooking and loosing some of its nutritional value). But brown sugar or maple syrup are great too.
Enjoy your bowl of bugs!