One thing I’ve learned about traveling, which I put into practice after my trip to Chicago for the previous Spice Islands spice tasting: when you get home, before you do anything else, unpack your suitcase. Otherwise it’s going to languish in your apartment or house for a few days while you tend to all the other things that have piled up in your absence. I’ve learned this from experiencing living out of a suitcase weeks after previous trips.
However, even before I unzip my usually-jammed suitcase, I make myself a bowl of oatmeal. Invariably when I travel, I try to eat as much as I can, wherever I’m visiting. I rarely pay attention to eating “healthy” when I’m on the road, because I’d miss all the good stuff – like hot chocolate, caramel corn, and pork-filled tacos.
But by the time I arrive back, I’m stuffed and feel the need to do a bit of cleansing. Oatmeal, I’m always convinced, acts like a brush to scrub away all the butter, chocolate, and guacamole I’ve consumed. Whether or not that’s true is another matter, but I like to believe it. Plus oatmeal tastes good to me, so I’m happy to have a warm bowl of it after a long airplane ride, or a long layover eating airport food.
I spice it up a bit with fragrant Spice Islands Saigon cinnamon and a few swipes of fresh Spice Islands nutmeg, whose smell I always find both inviting and intoxicating. To keep things in the “healthy” category, I add some dried fruits to dial things up. Because some people find oatmeal a bit staid, you can also dress it up with some candied, cinnamon- spiced almonds. Kids like them too, and they’re a good way to wean them off sugary breakfast cereals, toward something healthy.
Spiced Oatmeal with Candied Almonds
This recipe makes one bowl of oatmeal but can be scaled up accordingly. The almond recipe is more generous and extras will keep for about ten days in an airtight container.
For the candied almonds (makes 2 cups)
For the oatmeal
1 cup water
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
Pinch of salt
Pinch of Spice Islands ground Saigon cinnamon
A few swipes of freshly grated Spice Islands nutmeg
1/4 cup mixed Spice Islands crystallized ginger and dried fruits (such as cherries, raisins, or diced apricots)
To make the almonds:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
In a skillet, heat the water and sugar to a boil.
Remove from heat and stir in the almonds and cinnamon, until well-coated. Spread the nuts on a non-stick baking sheet (or one lined with silicone baking mat) and sprinkle with sea salt.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring several times during baking, until they’re golden brown. Let cool completely.
To make the oatmeal:
In a small saucepan, combine the water, oats, salt, cinnamon, grated nutmeg, candied ginger, and dried fruit.
Bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer gently, stirring frequently, until most of the water is absorbed.
Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for about ten minutes.
To serve, top with almonds, maple syrup and a small pat of salted butter.