Oatmeal Enthusiast: Meet Sandra!

It’s April! My favorite month of the year. Today I’m happy to introduce you to Sandra, whom I “met” last fall when I did the comment contest. Sandra was one of my top commenters, leaving a response on every post. She continues to be a regular visitor to the blog and leaves the most enthusiastic comments! I could not wait to invite her to be April’s Enthusiast.

Hello Oatmeal Connoisseurs!!  Sandra here.  I’m a 21-year-old college student. Besides school, my life revolves around cooking, nail art, fashion, leisurely walks, celebrity obsessions, scientific curiosity, writing, photography, Cappuccino, my cat/mountain lion, friends, and family. 

In the past, I neither loved nor hated oatmeal.  It was just there, for it was either blandly healthy or chemically enhanced. I lacked the time and appetite for hearty breakfasts on early school mornings, yet I’d long for weekend brunches prepared by my parents or at my favorite restaurants. Daily nourishing breakfasts are pretty new to me because of how my life evolved.

I’ve always loved eating despite lifelong picky eating and vegetarianism since 2010.  Food was always there for me during joyous occasions and stressful circumstances.  Sadly, body image was a concern because of unrealistic beauty standards and insults.  I also felt inadequate amongst my peers because I was a socially awkward introvert, I lost passion in extracurriculars, and community college being my only option after graduation.  In 2012, my insecurities got the best of me causing a love-hate relationship with food.  My attitude had to change.  I had to make the best of my surroundings.  While staying on top of my college responsibilities, I learned to appreciate the luxuries of home.  I’ll never trade my well kept mattress, access to high quality food, full kitchen, studying with Cappuccino, and always having my family present for the full college experience. 

Not so ironically, I never refused dessert because of my sweet tooth.  I love ice cream, and froyo, but desserts made from scratch are always my first choice.  Cookies, bars, cakes, crisps, and pies made with family recipes are my absolute favorite.  I bake to alleviate negative emotions because it’s cheaper than therapy and I can unleash creativity while sticking to exact measurements.  The compliments I receive for sharing my homemade desserts are very uplifting. 

I find it funny that my love for sweets lead to learning how to cook nourishing meals.  In 2014, I was craving oatmeal cookies, so I impulsively purchased a ginormous bag of oats from Costco. Before baking oatmeal cookies, I disregarded the package’s directions and microwaved oatmeal with directions from Pinterest.  As a California-hippie and designated dishwasher of my family, the less dirty dishes, the better for the planet and my sanity.  Surprisingly, my first attempt at microwaved cinnamon-apple oatmeal was deliciously edible.  Then berries, chocolate, nuts, seeds, bananas, pumpkin and inspiration from this stellar blog sparked as oatmeal enhancers.

I share my oatmeal concoctions with my mom because it ensures that us vegetarians have a nourishing breakfast. She’s the only other person in my family who loves oatmeal just as much as I do.  My dad and two younger siblings aren’t fond of oatmeal, but they’ll eat my oatmeal-based desserts.  Sorry to brag, but my mom says I’m the Oatmeal Princess because I spoil her with the world’s best oatmeal. 

Eating nourishing meals is one of my top priorities. If I don’t, the wrath of Sandra is endured.  I always try to make oatmeal with a complete protein, healthy fat, and fiber source so I’m happily satisfied until lunch.  I learned this the hard way by skimping, and I’m majoring in Nutritional Science while minoring in Psychology and Business.  I’ll use the credentials to educate society on how food choices impact mental health. Fun fact, oatmeal reduces stress because the complex-carbohydrates help the brain produce serotonin to make you happier.  

Creativity, generosity, self expression, fitness, yummy food, and good company is a great way to feel happier.  Eat to feel good mentally and physically by knowing what you love and what your body needs. Life is too short to resist happiness and knowledge. Never let insecurities win. Share what’s important to you. Spend time with those who treat you with the respect you give them.  And don’t be afraid to do the impossible.

Now the moment you’ve all been waiting for: oatmeal pictures! You’re in for a double feature because you get to see what I prepared for my mom and me!

 3/22/16 Sweet Potato Cinnamon Craisin Oatmeal

Day 1

It may be spring in the northern hemisphere, but the cold weather had me craving autumn comfort foods.  I impulsively purchased a bag of sweet potatoes from Trader Joe’s and almost forgot about them.  Food waste is really uncool when not everyone in the world has easy access to food!!!  Then I thought, “why not use the sweet potatoes in oatmeal? But how?” This blog is full of so many scrumptious sweet potato oat combinations it was impossible to choose which ones to make. I decided to make sweet potato oatmeal with craisins and cinnamon for my mom and me.  My mom and I both had chocolate chips on top because we’re chocoholics.  For protein I added peanut butter.  

Day 1b

My mom added milk because she’s allergic to nuts and the milk cools down the oatmeal faster.  For a crunch factor I microwaved the sweet potato skins into chips.  My mom added pumpkin seeds for her crunch factor.  Thank you Lauren for the stunning flavor inspiration!

3/23/16 – 3/30/16 Banana Oatmeal

Day 2

My nails may be leopard print, but the monkey is my spirit animal because of my love for bananas.  I thought I was such a hipster for mashing bananas in my oatmeal, but it turns out that oatmeal artists have been doing it for who knows how long.  Adding bananas is a sweet way to add potassium and make use of the one extra banana that won’t be used for banana bread.  The banana flavor meshes with almost all flavor components such as creamy vanilla, rich chocolate, sweet berries, tropical fruits, nuts, or just about anything.  I wasn’t able to eat this bowl the day I made it because my dad wanted to take my mom and me out for breakfast on the day he chose to work remotely.  Luckily, these bowls froze and reheated well. I honestly think that reheating the bowl made the banana aroma even better.  I topped my mom’s bowl with chocolate chips and milk.  While I topped my bowl with chocolate chips, peanut butter, and frozen bananas.

 3/24/16 Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Day 3

In honor of Throwback Thursday, I made my very first oatmeal creation: Apple cinnamon oatmeal.  When I first made it in 2014, I made it with just apples, oats, and cinnamon then topped with raisins and brown sugar.  It was delicious, but didn’t keep me satisfied for too long. This time around, I revamped it with more nutrients.  I didn’t have any raisins on hand so I used craisins instead. I topped it with additional craisins for more fiber.  Peanut butter for fat, more fiber, and protein.  Edamame for protein and more fiber.  And chocolate chips for iron, magnesium, fats, and funz.

Day 3b  My mom also had chocolate chips and craisins on top.  For her fat and protein sources she chose milk and pumpkin seeds.

 3/25/16 (Acai) Banana Blueberry (Cocoa) Oatmeal

Day 4

As the weekend approached, I found myself getting lazier and needing a grocery shopping expedition.  I was running out of chocolate chips so I willing gave them to my mom.  I wouldn’t call it taking one for the team because I got my chocolate fix by adding cocoa powder to my oats.  Powdered foods are a great way to add nutrients and flavor to oatmeal which is why I love acai powder more than the frozen packs.  My mom wasn’t feeling too keen on the acai and cocoa powder, so made her a bowl of good old banana blueberry oats.  

Day 4b

For toppings my mom and both had sliced banana, blueberries, and sunflower seed seed butter.  Fortunately I still have a lot of peanut butter to get through, I just chose to change it up by adding sunflower seed butter instead because I really didn’t feel like washing another knife.  Since I wanted my mom to have the last bit of chocolate chips for the crunch factor, I added chia seeds to my bowl.

 3/26/16 Pear Oatmeal

Day 5

I actually poached a total of three pears that morning.  I made my dad and sister a whole poached pear, while my mom and I each had half a poached pear.  Poaching pears in the microwave does take 15 minutes at most, but it is all worth it.  Not only do you get delicious tender pears to garnish your oatmeal, the remaining water can be used to cook the oatmeal.  Bonus: the water is already heated and spiced so it saves time when cooking the other half of pear in the oats.  To add to the pear and cinnamonny goodness, I topped both bowls with sunflower seed butter.  My mom added chocolate chips to her bowl.  I added edamame and ginger because I like the combination of edamame and fruit.

3/26/16 Banana Crisp

Day 6

Remember how I said that I love bananas? Remember how I said that my dad and siblings only eat oatmeal in the form of dessert? Remember how I said that baking helps to soothe my negative emotions?  If you forgot, sorry for drowning you with wordiness.  This is the second to last oatmeal creation I’ll be sharing.  This was the second oatmeal concoction I had on Saturday because I really wanted to make an oatmeal crisp for Easter brunch (despite not celebrating the holiday), but my family decided to go out instead.  So I decided to make the crisp on Saturday night. I went with banana because it’s the only fruit that everyone in my family eats.  And of course it was served a la mode.  Life is all about balance.  

3/28/16 Cherry Garcia

Day 7

For the last oatmeal concoction worthy of sharing, I had my mom choose which one she liked best.  My mom loves the combo of cherries and chocolate, so I recreated Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia in oatmeal form.  She was also craving my cherry oatmeal that day.  I revamped my usual frozen cherries cooked in oats by adding a splash of vanilla extract, which made the oatmeal taste way less tart.  My mom and I both had chocolate chips on tops to carry on the inspiration, and a few frozen cherries for garnish. For protein, my mom chose milk; I added peanut butter. 

Thank you Lauren for bestowing me the amazing opportunity to share my love of writing, food photography, and beyond basic oatmeal while bringing awareness to important causes.  I honestly cannot thank you enough for your support and answering all my emails at weird hours of the night. And thank you to all you readers!! Your comments and guest posts have been nothing but inspirational! I couldn’t be happier to be a part of such a great community of unique and creative individuals! Rock on!!

About Lauren Smith

Lauren is a herbivore, Slytherin, and connoisseur of oats. She is a former teacher who is currently studying to earn a master's degree in curriculum development. You can follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

12 Responses to Oatmeal Enthusiast: Meet Sandra!

  1. Christine says:

    Thank you for sharing your story and photos, Sandra! It’s sweet how you make oatmeal for your mom too. My mom is also an oatmeal fan, only she prefers it plain.

    All of your oatmeal creations look delicious, but my favorite was the banana crisp topped with ice cream. That looked decadent! I generally use yogurt to replicate the “a la mode” taste and texture, but will have to try using ice cream soon.

    • Sandra says:

      Thank you Christine! I’m glad to meet a fellow oatmea enthusiast who is also I descendent of an oatmeal fan. I wonder why your mom only prefers it plain.

      I’m glad that you love the look of the banana crisp! I would totally recommend using ice cream. I have no shame in topping the crisp with ice cream because I listened to my cravings. Life is all about balance. Which is why I will definitely consider your idea of using frozen yogurt for the a la mode feel.

  2. Christine says:

    You’re welcome, Sandra! My mom has rather bland taste in food – that’s why she prefers her oatmeal plain. I can’t even convince her to put banana slices on top, much less try one of my oatmeal creations.

    I actually use regular, not frozen yogurt as a topping for my oatmeal. I use Greek-style or whipped yogurt, which has a mousse-like texture. Yoplait Greek 100 whipped yogurt in vanilla cupcake flavor tastes especially delicious on the Oatmeal Artist’s Strawberry Shortcake Oatmeal. That has to be one of my favorite breakfasts.

    How did you make the Banana Crisp oatmeal? Did you make baked oatmeal in the oven or somehow make it in the microwave? I’m still working on my microwave baked oatmeal, by the way. I’ve tried several ways, but am not quite happy with my of them yet. I’ll keep trying, though!

    • Sandra says:

      That’s interesting that your mom can only handle plain oatmeal due to her plain tastebuds. I just hope that she’s able to get other nutrients during breakfast along with her oatmeal.

      I do apologize for incorrectly comprehending what you said about using yogurt to give oatmeal a dessert like feel. Now that you mentioned it, I do recall topping oatmeal with Greek yogurt. And yes, I did take a picture of it for IG. ;P @sandralikesfood I will definitely consider using vanilla favored yogurt next time. Especially in the form of strawberry shortcake, it sounds heavenly!!

      To answer your question, I took my family’s crisp recipe, used sliced bananas instead of apples, sprinkled the fruit with a oat-sugar-flour-butter mixture, and baked in the oven. I have great faith in you perfecting microwave crisp recipes, Christine!! If you want, I can send you a recipe that I had pinned for over 2 years.

      • Christine says:

        Hi Sandra: No need to apologize! Thanks for answering my questions about your oatmeal recipes.

        If you don’t have objections to additives or artificial sweeteners (in moderation, of course!), I highly recommend trying whipped yogurt as an oatmeal topping. It’s great on the dessert-like oatmeals, where you might otherwise use ice cream or whipped cream. Of course, vanilla (or other flavored) Greek yogurt makes a delicious oatmeal topping too.

        Is your microwave baked oatmeal recipe single-serving? If so, I would be interested in seeing it!

        • You’re welcome, Christine!

          I honestly avoid artificial sweeteners and additives at all cost. But when I do have vanilla flavored yogurt, I always go for the Organic ones. My favorites are Wallaby and Stoneyfield. The vanilla flavors are amazing! I do plan on making my own vanilla yogurt by adding a splash of vanilla extract (if it’s possible).

          In terms of the microwave crisp, I found it on the Averie Cooks website. It serves one generously or two modestly.

  3. Cassie says:

    I love that Sandra shares this oatmeal love with her mom. Health and cooking are great ways for mothers and daughters to bond–my mom and I love cooking together too! Anyways, I totally agree that with oatmeal, you can do the impossible. Sweet potato oats, cherry garcia, crumbles, Sandra is a wonderful chef!

    • Sandra says:

      Thank you Cassie! I find cooking for others way more rewarding and fun than cooking for myself. I love that you cook with your mom too! Indeed, sharing food is an excellent means of bonding! Whether the recipes came from this stellar blog, Pinterest, school, family recipes, or the synapses firing, sharing the creations can bring people closer together and even challenge the impossible!

  4. Jade says:

    These are so creative!!!!! Great to see you featured here – definitely well-deserved. Coming back from college I’ve rediscovered how amazing the food we get in the bay area is, and I never want to get rid of my access to it either!

    • Thank you Jade!! I couldn’t agree more with on the fact that Californians have access to some of the world’s greatest food! Talk about them avocados and strawberries. I’m really happy to see your appreciation for your access to great food, Jade! The Bay rules in that respect. And Go Warriors!! I am fortunate to have food security, but it’s heartbreaking to know that there’s people unintentionally starving across the world, across the continent, and across the Bay Bridge. When there’s food waste, prepare for a rant. Food is a valuable resource. Take only what you can stomach and willingly share with the hungry.

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