Casa Kelly’s 2013 New Year’s resolution is healthier living — nutritious eating, physical activity, and enlightenment of the mind. The easy part for shopper Eve is the eating. Out go the chips, in come the fruit, veggies, nuts. Out cold cereal, in oatmeal. But the kids have grown accustomed to the quickness of cold cereal, and Patrick’s an old-fashioned-oats type of guy. He says instant oats are mushy and flavorless. So, I set out to find an instant oatmeal that would please everybody.
I hit the stores and snatched up all the instant oatmeal I could find, and then Pat and I sat down for some tasting.
“For the oatmeal ignoramus, the options in the stores are puzzling,” I admitted. “Instant oatmeal, quick oats, old-fashioned oats, and then you add in the multigrain options — it becomes dizzying. I stuck with oats that come in individual-serving packets. And all except one are unsweetened varieties.”
“Good. They’re all way to sweet,” answered Patrick.
“‘All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast,’” I read a quote from John Gunther off the first box of Nature’s Path Organic Hot Oatmeal Original ($3.99 for eight packets at Sprouts).
“But these oats would ruin the most leisurely breakfast,” countered Patrick. “They cook up like a big ball of gooey kindergarten paste. You’d have to add a good deal of milk to loosen it up. Kind of a salty finish, too.”
Several brands failed the gooey-paste test. “Some raw-grain flavor here,” offered Patrick, trying the Essential Everyday Original Flavor ($3.69 for 12 packets at Albertsons), “but at the same time, gooey.”
Some oats failed the texture (or lack thereof) test. “Almost completely homogenous,” noticed Patrick, trying the Glutenfreeda Instant Oatmeal ($5.29 for six packets at Sprouts). “I don’t like that at all.”
Then there were the packages that were short on oatmeal flavor. “Can’t really taste much oats in this,” complained Patrick after a steaming spoonful of Wild Harvest Organic Instant Oatmeal ($3.99 for eight packets at Albertsons).
“And this Trader Joe’s Oatmeal Complete looks like gruel and has no smell nor flavor,” he added ($2.99 for eight packets).
After a while we hit some winners. “My favorite aroma so far,” I noticed, smelling the BetterOats Good ’N Hearty Classic with Flax ($1.99 for eight packets at Albertsons).
“A rich, oatmeal flavor,” added Patrick, “and just a hint of flax. This would make delicious oatmeal cookies.”
Another keeper: Organic Mom’s Best Naturals Plain Grain Multigrain Hot Cereal ($2.39 for five pouches at Sprouts). “The packet doubles as a measuring package with a fill line,” noticed Patrick. “Super hearty, large flakes, it’s hard to believe it came out of a package.”
The Quaker Instant Oatmeal Original “tastes like my old-fashioned oats, not like instant oatmeal,” Patrick happily noted ($4.69 for 12 packets at Albertsons).
The Safeway Kitchens Original Flavor oatmeal looked like dry baby food flakes ($3.79 at Vons for 12 packets). “A little watery, but I do like the oatmeal flavor,” offered Patrick.
The 365 Organic Instant Oatmeal ($3.49 for eight packets at Whole Foods) cooked up a little gooey, “but I like the way it smells and the oatmeal flavor, and it has a little bit of chew to it, not just mush,” Patrick admitted.
“You slipped in a sweetened one, you sly one,” said Patrick, winking at me and tasting the Bakery on Main Maple Multigrain Muffin ($5.29 for six packets at Sprouts).
“Not for me, for the kids,” I winked back. “Do you like it?”
“I’m sure the kids would love this, but the sweetness of it makes me wince,” Patrick said. “It’s 70 percent sweeter than I’d ever sweeten my own oatmeal, but there is a hearty oatiness to it.”
Our last nibble was from Eco-Planet Gluten Free Instant Oatmeal ($5.99 for six packets at Sprouts). “This one smells different...good, but not exactly like oats,” said Patrick.
“That’s ’cause it has quinoa, millet, puffed amaranth, brown rice, sorghum, and buckwheat in it, along with whole oats,” I answered, reading the box.
“Mmmmm,” said Patrick, shoveling in a heaping spoonful, “I lub it.”