Eating My Words, and My Oats

Convenience foods are undeniably attractive options when compared with traditional, time-consuming dishes, and so I can see how easy it is to get lured in by the seductive notion of easy eating. Just heat and go! No need to chop, measure, or use your brain at all! Salads come pre-washed and pre-assembled, since the task of compiling 6 or 7 vegetables and breaking them down is far too difficult for the average multitasking American. Sadly, the siren song of these effortless comestibles is far too strong to resist completely- After all, who wants to make pizza dough from scratch when you’re already pressed for time and so hungry that you’re liable to gnaw off a hunk of your own steering wheel as you drive home? Homemade is always infinitely better, but unless you do nothing but cook all day long, it isn’t always a realistic possibility.

On the other end of the spectrum are those pointless conveniences that are made for the laziest and most reluctant cooks, and stumbling upon a box of frozen, steel-cut oatmeal at Trader Joe’s I thought for sure I had another one to add to the list. Seriously, frozen oatmeal? How busy/cooking-incompetent/mentally impaired would you have to be to need pre-cooked, frozen oatmeal? Passing the freezer section with just a bit more fear for the future of home cooks, I was convinced that the contents of that box were made from the stuff of nightmares. This preconception lasted for weeks, and then months before I was tempted by that ever-present push for easy meal options, and actually stopped to investigate. Only 4 ingredients, no chemicals, plenty of fiber and protein, and no crazy additives in sight. Perhaps it wasn’t completely evil? Embarrassed to pick up such a product, I brought it sheepishly to the register, trying to nonchalantly slip it in with the other groceries so that it wouldn’t seem quite so ridiculous.

What a lazy, foolish consumer I felt like, bringing home pre-cooked oats. Trying to rationalize, it was true that these were much higher-quality than the instant stuff, and I really wouldn’t have the time to make steel-cut otherwise… And so into my freezer it went. Surprisingly, it didn’t say there long- The very next day, exhausted from a demanding exam, I was convinced that nothing on earth would recharge me in time for the next class. Grasping at straws, the oatmeal seemed like the best option, and so out it came. And my heart sunk, heavy with regret, upon seeing my snack…

It would be kind to describe the appearance as frozen cat food, or even a brick of baby food. Regret reared its ugly head, but trust me on this one: While it’s not a looker, it does get better from here. Freed from its plastic casing, the beige block went into a bowl and after being nuked for a solid 6 minutes (not 2-3 as the box so enthusiastically claims), a bowl of hot cereal never looked so inviting.

Too tired to fancy it up, I dug right in, and was impressed right off the start by its thick texture, much to the contrary of its soupy appearance. Perfectly thickened, the toothsome texture of the oats was simply spot-on, something I would have never imagined possible for a frozen product. Delightfully chewy, modestly sweetened to just the right degree, this is an oatmeal that everyone could find agreeable. Adding cinnamon really brought it up to a whole new level, as did a few fresh strawberries, but the beauty of this one is that because it’s so basic, you can add in anything you want! Dried fruits, spices, additional sweeteners- It’s all good, so go crazy! Most incredibly, after eating what might have otherwise seemed like a small portion, I was incredibly full. Satisfying my hunger and boosting my energy up like magic, this stuff has earned a permanent spot in my freezer.

Far exceeding my expectations, I suppose it goes to show that all convenience foods aren’t necessarily so bad… At least in this case, this is one breakfast I can definitely feel good about!

38 thoughts on “Eating My Words, and My Oats

  1. Frozen steel cut oats? Oh my, I had no idea such a thing existed! Sometimes we all need convenience foods, and unfortunately they know how to make them so tasty! Darn. It looks delicious though.

  2. Wow frozen steel cut oats! I haven’t seen that in our grocery stores yet. I don’t feel so bad about eating pre-packaged food is the ingredient list is really minimal and doesn’t contain random chemicals that I don’t know what they are. And there are more of that type of pre-packaged food coming out so it’s nice to have a quick healthy option!

  3. I had the very same reaction when my now ex-boyfriend suggested that I try it. I also thought it was ridiculous to pay that much (not that it’s really that much) for two servings of oatmeal. Now I love it and it’s one of my Trader Joe’s staples…it’s also one of the few good things that ex left me with….

  4. Wow, steel-cut oats that normally cook forever in such a convenient way. This sounds like finally a smart convenience food. I wish I could come by steel-cut oats in Germany, let alone precooked and frozen. Glad you liked them :-)

  5. Good to know. Yeah, TJ’s French Onion Soup is not a looker either and comes shaped like that, but it is decent frozen soup. I will have to look for the oatmeal.

  6. Oatmeal is certainly a comfort food. I will have to get some of these at TJ’s and compare them to the ones made the slow way at home.

  7. Only you could make frozen steel-cut oats look like an elegant dessert! I must confess, I have steel-cut oats in my cupboard well past their prime due to my own laziness. Perhaps frozen isn’t such a bad idea?

  8. Once again I am so impressed by your presentation and charm. I love everything about your blog- it’s a burst of aesthetic sweetness.

  9. Oh, steel-cut oats! I love them dearly, and I’m happy to know that they’re quick and convienient!

    However, I read a lovely way to cook steel-cut oats from Super Natural Foods that seemingly takes less than forty-five minutes! You just bring the oats, water, and salt to a boil before going to bed, cover it and take them off the heat, sleep, wake up and beautiful oatmeal is yours for reheating at breakfast.

  10. I ADORE my steel cut oats. Haven’t seen it frozen (no Trader Joe’s nearby) but I make it 4 cups at a time in a little crock pot. Dump the ingredients 1 cup oats, 4.5 cups water, dash of salt, 1/4 dried blueberries set it on low and when I wake I have breakfast for that day and the next 3 days. Yummmmm!

  11. I felt sheepish buying them too. It’s nice to have on hand when you’re in a rush and want a healthy-hearty breakfast. Now that I know oatmeal freezes well I make a big batch of steel-cut oats in my rice cooker. I then put it in yogurt containers and freeze in individual servings. Now I don’t have to think ahead to have steel-cut oats for breakfast.

  12. I am always surprised to see the things that they package in the US. And I am usually more surprised to find packaged products that are healthy for you and tasty too. Great find on this one!

  13. You have all stuff in the US! Have never heard of pre-cooked oatmeal here in Sweden. Im not a fan of oatmeal, but if it is healthy and tasty, why not? :)
    It does look really yummy on yout pic, with the strawberrie and everything, so I can understand that it got its place in the freezer :)

  14. i’ve been cooking steel cut oats in my programmable rice cooker. just put in the oats, water and salt the night before (i do 1 cup oats, 3 cups water, 1/2 tsp salt which makes 2 large/3 medium servings), program it for wake up time and, presto! perfectly cooked, hot breakfast waiting for you.

  15. Why don’t you freeze your own? I soak about 1 pound of steel cut oats overnight (good for easier digestion and for quicker cooking) one day a week then cook up the whole big batch on the stove…takes about 10minutes covered in 2″ liquid on low heat. I do this for myself and the family I cook for so we’ve got oatmeal to eat from the fridge all week. It works great frozen too…just heat and eat and then instead of 4 ingredients you’ll have just the one (unless you’re counting water in that batch you bought).


  16. thanks for the heads-up on this product! i’m an oatmeal fanatic, but still have never mustered up the energy to make steel-cut. whoo hoo for this stuff. :) i really understand where you’re coming from: sometimes we all just need a quick meal.

  17. This sounds great. I use instant oatmeal because it’s so easy, but this sounds even easier, and better! Thanks.

  18. if we used a microwave i would have to say i would give this oatmeal a try. steel cut oatmeal is the best but does take a while. your picture makes it look so yummy!

  19. Thank you for the lovely review! I, too, have walked passed this in Trader Joe’s and thought “Ew, really?” but since I do love steel cut oats, I think I’ll give this one a try. This sounds perfect as a back-up breakfast.

  20. This is too funny. I have had this box of frozen oatmeal in my frezzer for weeks. Today I finally broke down and brought one to work. It was yummy. Next time I will try the cinnamon. Then 2 hours later I found your blog. Its like karma.

  21. I have tried this oatmeal too from Trader Joes and it is great first thing in the morning. So easy when I’m trying to get everyone ready in the morning.

  22. love them!!! But was becoming a very expensive habit. I am trying something new. I will tell you how it goes. I made a pot of oats put them in ramekins, frozen them, then food sealed them. Cross your fingers for me!

  23. You have no idea how glad I was to stumble on this post. I was actually looking for something to do with leftover cooked oats — silly me, it never occurred to me to freeze it for later. Brilliant! Thank you!

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