February in Seattle: despite the fact that it’s literally the shortest month, it always feels never ending to me. It’s that bridge month between winter and a tiny glimpse of spring, when we all start counting down the days until daylight savings time. Or said another way, it’s a major oatmeal, cocoa and hunker-down month and this year is proving to be no exception. Except now with two small people instead of just one, I’m all about taking as many shortcuts as possible, so hellllooooo Instant Pot oats!
My sisters badgered me for a long time to get an Instant Pot and I resisted and resisted. I’m a kitchen luddite, I’d say. We don’t have the space. Seriously, I have a slow cooker — who needs it? Well it turns out, they and virtually everyone else I know was right: pressure cookers are pretty great.
This winter we’ve been making Instant Pot soups, stews and chili as well as braised meat and velvety oats. Right before Frances was born I started making Coco Morante’s Pressure Cooker Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal to get us through the cold mornings, and began thinking of ways to tweak the recipe using coconut milk, coconut sugar and real coconut. So here we are.
Making Perfect Instant Pot Oats
For this recipe you want to be sure to choose steel cut oats versus rolled oats or instant oats — they have a heartier, more toothsome texture and cook up really well in the pressure cooker. And of course, making the perfect pot of oats has so much to do with personal preference. so while this recipe is a great guide, if you end up liking a much looser oatmeal simply stir in additional liquid at the end.
Experiment with Cook Time
While I like my steel cut oats to cook for about 9 minutes, I’ve heard from many people who cook them in as little as 4 minutes so it really depends on how chewy or creamy you like them (keep in mind the machine takes about 10 minutes to come to pressure and then you’ll naturally vent it for 10 minutes, so consider that when thinking about total time spent here). I’d say if this is your first time cooking oats in the Instant Pot, follow the recipe below but after that, feel free to tweak the cooking time based on your preferred texture (decrease the cook time for super chewy oats and increase it just a touch and add 1/4 – 1/2 cup additional liquid for creamier oats).
Make Ahead & Reheat
One of the great things about making a big pot of oats is having leftovers as they reheat so well. I love making a big batch on the weekend and then Oliver and I have a few breakfasts to kick off the week together. To reheat, I generally add a splash of liquid and microwave for about 1 minutes (time depends on serving size), stopping halfway through to stir.
If you want to enjoy your oatmeal and then freeze the rest for later, I occasionally use this cool muffin pan trick (I did this before Frances was born so we had easy single-serve portions at the ready). Once frozen you simply take these straight from the freezer, add a splash of liquid and microwave them until soft and warm. The best!
Serving Your Oatmeal
Again, the way you like your oatmeal is such a personal thing so feel free to adapt and go your own way here. This recipe is quite low in sugar — you can certainly add more after tasting it or sprinkle additional sugar (or maple syrup) on top; I just prefer to add it later should you desire rather than sweetening the whole pot.
And while I call for serving this recipe with extra coconut and Diamond Nuts’ Heirloom Fruit and Nut blend, you can use any dried fruits and nuts that you like here.
One of the secrets to better oatmeal is toasting your oats and coconut in a little coconut oil before cooking: this will give the whole pot a slightly nutty, toasty flavor that you’ll come to really love. If you’d rather use butter instead of coconut oil, feel free (it just obviously wouldn’t be dairy free or vegan in that case). While you can play around with many of the ingredients here, don’t substitute real dairy for the coconut milk as the dairy can scorch in the Instant Pot.
Select the Sauté setting on your Instant Pot and melt the coconut oil. Add the oats and coconut and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring often, until fragrant.
Cancel the Saute program. Stir the water, coconut milk, sugar and salt into the oats.
Making sure the pressure release is set to its sealing position, place the lid on the pressure cooker. Press Manual setting and set the cooking time for 9 minutes at high pressure (do note that it’ll take 8-10 minutes to come up to pressure first before the actual cooking begins).
Once done cooking, release the pressure naturally for 10 minutes then vent.
Stir well. If oats are a bit liquidy at this point that’s ok: they’ll continue to soak up some liquid as they sit for a few minutes.
To serve: Spoon the oatmeal into bowls and top with extra coconut, coconut sugar, and nut and fruit blend.
Note: If the oatmeal firms up more than you’d like for it to, simply stir in additional water, coconut milk or dairy milk until the consistency makes you happy.
Healthy Comfort Food
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)