Food cravings work in mysterious ways. Normally, I tend to crave salty snacks, like Doritos or Cheetos, and for one week every month I experience a sudden, insatiable need to ingest chocolate, but today I woke up with a strong desire to eat oatmeal for breakfast. Now, don't get me wrong, I like oatmeal, but I don't really think of it as a crave-worthy food. At least I certainly can't remember craving oatmeal before (and before you think it, no, I'm not pregnant.) So instead of any of our go-to weekend breakfast options, I did a quick Google search to locate a pumpkin oatmeal recipe I'd sent my mom ages ago, when she was looking for oatmeal ideas.
Though I could have replicated that traditional pumpkin pie flavor profile through spices alone, I feel like pumpkin itself is pretty neutral in the flavor department, and I figured that adding the real thing would up the nutritional profile of the dish, adding even more fiber as well as vitamins and minerals to the mix. The recipe I found, from Aarti Sequeira on the Food Network, called for almond milk, which we didn't have, so I went ahead and added regular milk to the dish, which probably made it a little less healthy, and certainly no longer vegan. While the texture of the dish didn't suffer from my decision, the flavor probably did, as almond milk has a certain sweetness to it that regular milk does not, and I was definitely missing sweetness in the finished dish.
As someone whose primary exposure to oatmeal came from those highly-sweetened flavored packets from Quaker (maple and brown sugar is my all-time favorite!), this healthy oatmeal was nowhere near sweet enough to appeal to my palate. I tried adding some maple sugar, but it wasn't quite enough to do the trick, but I didn't want to add any more, in fear of undoing the healthful good I was doing for my body by eating pumpkin oatmeal in the first place. As a result, I sort of suffered through the bowl, feeling a bit like I was being punished with healthy food instead of delicious food.
Justin, however, has a greater appreciation for wholesome, nutrient-dense foods (the man is thirty, and he willingly eats Grape Nuts for breakfast, because he enjoys them), and he really liked the pumpkin oatmeal, even without the extra sugar. So if you can handle an unsweetened breakfast and you enjoy warm spices, go ahead and give this a try. And if you're willing to give up the idea of having a healthy meal and are willing to add sugar to your heart's content, then go ahead and give this recipe a whirl; I suspect it could be great!
adapted from Aarti Sequeira
1 14 oz. can unseasoned pumpkin puree
2 c. water
2 c. milk, or almond milk
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 c. quick cooking oats (not the instant kind)
maple sugar, for serving
1. In a large saucepan over high heat, combine the pumpkin puree, water, milk, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Bring to a boil.
2. Add oatmeal. Turn down the heat and cook according to package directions; stir often.3. Once the oatmeal is cooked (each grain should be tender), serve with maple sugar.