Peanut Butter-Banana Oatmeal

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Oops I did it again … got lost in the game, signed up for another half. The big race is in April, which means that for the next few months, I’ll be spending a lot of time complaining about training, wandering through the hills of Central Park with only a 30% certainty of where I actually am, and gleefully carbo-loading without reason.

While training for my first half last summer/fall, my go-to breakfast before long runs was a slice of whole-grain bread with peanut butter and banana slices. This time around, it’s been between “very cold” and “reallyeffingfreezing” every time I head out (true story: on my first run it was 18 degrees out, so I wore my leather gloves and a knit hat. After 3.5 miles of WTF looks, I got actual running gear the next day). Needless to say,  I’ve been craving something more hearty than toast.

Oatmeal is perfect for winter mornings. It’s comfort food at its best: filling and warming and simple. Plus, it’s healthy, unlike most typical winter fare. Steel-cut or Irish oats are the most nutritious, since they’re the least processed. But they also take much longer to cook, and I’m not a patient person even on my best days, and definitely not early on a weekend before 1+ hours of exercise.

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Rolled oats thankfully take 5-7 minutes from start to finish, and can be prepared on the stove or in the microwave. I’m a big proponent of ditching the packets–you know, “Peaches and Cream,” “Maple and Brown Sugar,” “Apple Cinnamon”– they’re loaded with sugar and all sorts of artificial flavors. Real oatmeal takes little time and zero effort, and can be SO flavorful without any added sugar or weird powdered milk!*

I love the combination of peanut butter and banana in all its forms, so of course I added it here. The banana gets soft and slightly caramelized as it heats up. Adding cinnamon, nutmeg and ground ginger adds banana bread-like flavor, and swirling in a bit of peanut butter makes the oatmeal creamy and lush without any actual cream. The banana should be borderline “banana bread-ready,” ie. yellow and starting to spot. Less ripe bananas are a bit too starchy and won’t break down in the oatmeal as much (plus, you should really be eating these on their own anyway — they’re perfect).

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Whether you’re training for a half or not, everyone needs more oatmeal in their lives!

*Other easy oatmeal ideas: 1 diced small apple + 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; 1/4 cup pumpkin puree + 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger and allspice) + 1/2 teaspoon pepitas; 1/2 cup berries + 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/4 cup diced dried figs + 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract; 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder + 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract + 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts. #ditchthepacket

Peanut Butter-Banana Oatmeal
Makes 1 serving, but you could easily scale up to feed a crowd

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– 1/4 cup rolled oats

– 3/4 cup almond milk (or regular milk)

– 1 medium banana, sliced (preferably with this <– if you do nothing else today, read the reviews for this. You’re welcome.)

– 1 teaspoon ground flax seed

– 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

– 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

– 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

– 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter

1) In a small saucepan, bring the oats and almond milk to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Stir in the sliced bananas, ground flax seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

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2) Simmer until the oats have absorbed most of the liquid, 3-5 minutes.* Remove from the heat and stir in the peanut butter, until it is fully incorporated. Serve immediately.

*I like my oatmeal to be very thin, so I don’t simmer for very long. If you like your oatmeal thicker, simmer a few minutes longer. BUT it’ll thicken a bit when you add the peanut butter, so take it off a bit sooner than normal.

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