Overnight oats are a huge breakfast craze right now. They are a simple way to make busy mornings a little less hectic, allowing you to skip the time needed for breakfast preparation. Overnight oats are also a healthier alternative to sugary cereals and calorie-laden muffins while still offering the ease of a fast morning meal.
The typical recipe includes oats, milk and yogurt, nuts or chia seeds, all combined in a mason jar and stored overnight in your refrigerator. The oats soak up the liquid and soften, making them perfect for breakfast the next morning. Unlike traditional oatmeal, overnight oats are eaten cold straight from the refrigerator. They can be topped with any combination of nuts, fruits, sugars, spices, and even chocolate chips and flaked coconut! You can keep overnight oats in mason jars or airtight containers in your refrigerator for up to five days. Make an entire week’s worth of breakfasts on Sunday night and enjoy a little calm in your mornings.
The overnight oats trend burst onto the American food scene in 2015 and has done nothing but pick up speed ever since. But, guess what? Overnight oats aren’t new at all!
The predecessor of our overnight oats was developed by Dr. Maximilian Bircher-Benner in the late 19th century for use in his Zurich, Switzerland health clinic. Dr. Bircher-Benner was a pioneer in holistic medicine and, after a jaundice diagnosis, became fascinated with the healing effects of raw foods. This fascination grew into a new way of life that he promoted at his clinic. As a guest at Dr. Bircher-Benner’s clinic, you would be served a breakfast consisting of a single chilled portion of soaked oats sweetened with condensed milk mixed with lemon juice, apples and nuts.
This concoction was aptly named Birchermüesli. Müesli — a Swiss-German word for “mix” — is the combination of oats, nuts and seeds. It is one of the most popular breakfast dishes in the world.
In the late 19th century, thousands would flock to the Swiss Alps region for a hiatus at health clinics similar to Dr. Bircher-Benner’s to take advantage of the restorative air and altitude. The good doctor’s ideas on diet, however, were not well received by his professional colleagues — at least not until the discovery of vitamins in fruits and vegetables in the early 20th century. After Bircher-Benner’s death in 1939, the clinic was operated by his children and, later, grandchildren until it closed in 1994.
Take a break from processed cereal puffs and sugary flakes and try a serving of Birchermüesli. And while you are indulging in this creamy goodness, remember that you are consuming a piece of history well over 100 years old.
So many types of oats, so little time!
There are several different types of oats available at the grocery store. Being able to identify them and determine their cooking time will help you decide which variety is best for your recipes. Typically, the more processed the oat, the less time it takes to cook.
Whole Oat Groats
The whole oat groat — or kernel — is the oat in its purest form. Only the husk is removed during processing, leaving the bran and germ. Cooked whole oats have a chewy texture and can take up to an hour to cook. This is a good choice for overnight slow-cooker oatmeal recipes or if you generally prefer the chewy texture.
Also known as Irish oats, these are whole oat groats that have been toasted and cut into smaller pieces by a steel blade — hence the name. They have the same chewy texture as the whole oat groat, but cook in about half the time. They are also good for overnight slow-cooker oatmeal recipes, pressure cooker oatmeal recipes or overnight oats.
Similar to their Irish counterpart, Scottish oats are whole roasted oats. Instead of being cut, Scottish oats are stone-ground resulting in a finer texture. This makes them perfect for use in baking, especially quick-breads or muffins. Cooked Scottish oats have a creamier texture than other varieties, and more closely resemble traditional porridge.
We know these as ‘old-fashioned oats’, probably because they have been around since the early 19th century in this form. Rolled oats are the whole oat groat that has been steamed, rolled, and flattened resulting in that familiar oval shape. This process allows them to cook substantially quicker than most other varieties, approximately 3-5 minutes on the stove for a single serving. These are great for traditional oatmeal or overnight oats and are the most common oat found in grocery stores. There is also a thinner, quicker cooking variety that only takes a couple of minutes to cook through.
Instant oats are the most processed oat variety. These are simply rolled oats that have been steamed longer and chopped, thus reducing the cooking time required for oatmeal. The nutritional value is very similar to other oat varieties as long as you stick to the plain oats. Instant oats are often packaged in individual serving sizes ready for microwave cooking. These packets almost always include added sugar and other flavorings. This is a great option when traveling if you only have access to a coffee pot and microwave.