May 4, 2012
Unless I am camping—in the middle of the Canadian wilderness with a steaming mug of freshly-brewed Starbucks coffee that my dad handed to me as I emerged from a dew-covered tent into crisp mountain air and shafts of golden light coming up through the evergreens—I am not a morning person. I don’t like waking up or getting up. I’ve gone so far as to develop this unfortunate coping mechanism where I snooze my alarm in my sleep; try explaining that one to your boss.
Naturally, it follows that I’m not a breakfast person. I like breakfast food, yes, but at 6:30 AM when I’m simultaneously trying to put lunch together, apply makeup, and find clean clothes on the floor of the closet that passes for my dresser, food is uncharacteristically the furthest thing from my mind. I spend much of the rest of the day thinking about food, but at that moment I’m the opposite of hungry, whatever that would be in this context.
My favorite quick breakfast is a piece of toast with a fried egg and sriracha (at least it was until this morning). While this takes no more than 5 minutes to prepare, I often find myself without 5 minutes to spare in my morning ritual. Also, I’ve been trying to reduce my consumption of animal products, which rules out my other favorite quick breakfasts—a bagel with cream cheese or Greek yogurt and fruit. I thought my search for an easy, nutritious vegan breakfast was hopeless until I started seeing recipes for “overnight oats” in the food blog world.
“Overnight oats” is more like muesli than oatmeal—it doesn’t get sticky or viscous. Think of it as a wonderfully textured pudding. Most recipes—that I’ve seen at least—have yogurt, fruit juice, and/or milk; many of them also have chia seeds, which become gelatinous when soaked. I wanted to come up with a vegan version, so I made mine with applesauce and almond milk. For the sake of simplicity, I kept my experiment to equal parts of everything, expecting I’d have some tweaking to do later. I stirred together half a cup each of rolled oats, unsweetened applesauce, unsweetened vanilla almond milk, and frozen blueberries. Then I added a drizzle of agave nectar and a few dashes of cinnamon.
Magically, I got it right on the very first try. This version of overnight oats surpassed all of my high expectations—it’s tangy, slightly sweet, nutty, and each bite is bursting with blueberries. And the best part? It’s ready for me to eat whenever I manage to drag myself out of bed. Its lavender hue is also pretty easy on my morning eyes.
Even if you are an irritatingly cheerful morning person who makes breakfast while humming the tune to an Irving Berlin song (and if you are, I advise you to keep your distance until I’ve had at least one mug of coffee), I highly recommend giving overnight oats a try. I’ve yet to find an easier, more healthful breakfast option. It requires very little sweetener because of the blueberries and applesauce, and it’s otherwise 100% whole grains, fruit, and nuts with 0% of the hard work that goes into preparing similar dishes.
I also recommend shopping at Trader Joe’s for this recipe —they have great unsweetened almond milk, unsweetened applesauce, and frozen blueberries at very reasonable prices. But I’ll admit I’m a little biased because I buy almost all of my pantry items at Trader Joe’s. I mean, a jar of coconut oil for $5.99? Good luck finding that anywhere else.
I’m sure this recipe would lend itself to variations—strawberry banana, pumpkin spice, peaches and cream; I promise to report back on my experiments. If I discover anything better than this apple-cinnamon-blueberry version, I may even turn into a morning person! Just don’t expect me to sing “Blue Skies” before noon.
Vegan Overnight Oats
Mix all ingredients together and let soak in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, give it another stir and adjust sweetener to taste.