Anne Foster Coleman/Demand Media

It's the middle of the night, and your child is poking you awake. He (or she) can't sleep and wants a bowl of your special oatmeal. You can't deny that pleading face and crawl out of bed and shuffle into the kitchen. There's something warming, comforting and appealing in a bowl of Quaker oatmeal, especially when it's ringed with milk and dotted with brown sugar. In fact, you not only make your child a bowl of the heavenly mush, you make one for yourself as well. Patting your tummies, satisfied and comforted, the two of you trot off to the land of nod.

Health Benefits of Quaker Oatmeal

We've all read that whole grains are good for us. Whole grains come from bread, pasta, crackers and even brown rice. Oatmeal is another whole grain that has considerable health benefits. It's been recognized as instrumental in lowering "bad" LDL cholesterol, contributing to fiber intake, and containing the protein your body needs, especially when living an active lifestyle.

Whether you choose old-fashioned oats, quick-cooking oats or steel cut, all are healthy breakfast or middle-of-the-night choices.

Beyond the Original Formula

Almost everyone recognizes that familiar cardboard cylinder with the smiling face of the Quaker Man staring from the label, just as he has since 1877. The Quaker Oats Company has been around for more than 140 years, and the formula for preparing the breakfast cereal hasn't changed. But the oats in the box have.

Variations on a theme punctuate the Quaker Oats Company, so, now, in addition to Old Fashioned Quaker Oats, you can buy Quick 1-Minute, Instant, Steel Cut, Steel Cut Quick 3-Minute, Gluten Free, Weight Control Instant – the list goes on.

The basic preparation of all of them is basically the same, with the exception of steel cut, which requires a longer cooking time. Also, the introduction of the slow cooker adds another dimension to the cooking process. In the United Kingdom, mothers have been known to prepare a pot of Quaker oats on the Aga (a funky, always on, strange-looking stove) the night before to feed their families on chilly British mornings.

Making Old-Fashioned Oatmeal

It's not rocket science. Just don't rush it. And you can substitute milk (fat-free to whole milk to almond milk) instead of the water for a better-tasting breakfast cereal.

  1. In a saucepan, boil 1 cup water or milk.
  2. Reduce to a simmer.
  3. Add 1/2 cup oats and stir.
  4. Simmer for 5 minutes until the oats are tender.
  5. You may need to add a dash more liquid.

Add a ring of milk around the cereal in your bowl and sprinkle with brown sugar for a tasty morning treat. Health-conscious breakfast eaters may enjoy topping the cereal with fresh fruit.

Prepare 1-Minute Quaker Oats

The quantities are the same for 1-Minute Quaker Oats as they are for Old Fashioned. The only difference is that you only need to cook them for – get ready for it – 1 minute!

Steel Cut Quaker Oats

Steel-cut oatmeal is a different animal. Also known as Irish oatmeal, steel-cut oats are not flat grains like regular oatmeal. Instead, they are made from the whole grain, known as the groat, and chopped into little bits, giving them more texture than old-fashioned oats, along with a nutty taste. They need more liquid and also take longer to cook.

  1. Bring 1 1/2 cups of water or milk to a boil.
  2. Add 1/4 cup steel-cut oats and stir.
  3. Let simmer for up to 30 minutes, until the oats are tender.

Slow-Cooker Steel-Cut Oats

Because steel-cut oats take a long time to cook, prepare them the night before in a slow cooker. It's ideal for those who like a hearty breakfast but don't have the time to fix breakfast in the morning. You can add dried fruit, apples, cinnamon, brown sugar, whatever ingredient that whets your appetite.

  1. Add 1 cup steel-cut oats to 3 1/2 cups liquid in the slow cooker. Combine water or different milks, whatever your diet recommends.
  2. Add 1/2 cup raisins, 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and any other ingredient  you want.
  3. Stir until well-mixed. 
  4. Cover and set the temperature to low and cook for 6–7 hours for firmly cooked oats, and 8 hours for softer oats.