I think it’s safe to say that before starting college, most of us had the preconception that we were going to get by on ramen noodles. However, ramen noodles do not make the best breakfast food and most ramen flavors contain animal products, ruling them out as an option to vegans. Cornell’s wonderful dining halls definitely have plenty of vegan options, but after spending the summer on West Campus, I think that breakfast is the hardest meal for vegans to find options, since most breakfast foods involve cheese, milk or eggs.
Now, after being a vegan for two years, I have found many ways to take the simplest of foods and combine them in order to make something “fun” that my friends would not even know is vegan.
One of the handiest instant breakfast foods vegan college students will ever meet is oatmeal. It’s usually sold anywhere from Bear Necessities to Target in boxes of about eight packets.
This specific recipe only involves oatmeal, water, nuts and fruits. Fruits, nuts and sugar are optional depending on what type of oats are used.
Oatmeal is usually cooked using either milk or water, and using water can result in a bland taste, but milk is not vegan. Although there are plant-based milk options, such as almond, coconut or soy, not all of them work when heated, causing foods to burn and stick when heated. Because of this, the best choice is to avoid anything other than water, especially since the toppings can easily add flavor back.
Start off by preheating your oven to 300°F. Boil one cup of water, then add half a cup of oats and a pinch of salt. Turn the heat down and simmer and cook for five minutes, making sure that the oatmeal does not stick. Once the oats have cooked, remove them from the heat and let them sit for about two minutes.
If you know that you will not have time to boil the water and oatmeal, simply microwave the same amounts of both ingredients for about two minutes. If the oatmeal does not seem to be cooked after two minutes, let it cool for a few seconds before microwaving it again for 30 seconds. Letting it cool will ensure that it doesn’t spill.
Transfer the oatmeal to a ramekin or any other oven-safe dish. At this point, if you would like to add berries, fruits, nuts or anything else, do so. I have found that walnuts, cranberries or dried strawberries taste best on oatmeal. If you did not choose to use pre-sweetened or flavored oatmeal, now is the times to sweeten it. Maple syrup and brown sugar works, but agave syrup, honey or just sugar will work fine as well.
Once the oatmeal has been sweetened, put your ramekin in the oven to broil for about five minutes, watching it carefully to make sure the oatmeal does not burn. This specific step is what makes the recipe unique. After five minutes, check that it has not burned and that it is fully cooked and remove it from the oven.
Once the oatmeal is done, it should have a darker brown color. Putting it in the oven accents sweet flavors, causing toppings such as dried cranberries or strawberries to taste sweeter. Additionally, the oatmeal will no longer have a watery, mushy consistency, but rather a firmer one. Using a plant-based milk such as almond, coconut or soy would causes foods to burn and stick when heated in an oven, so the best choice is to avoid anything other than water, especially since the toppings can easily add flavor back.