the morning chaos

overnight steel cut oatmeal in jars | the merry gourmet

I wake suddenly from another bad dream, my heart racing. The bedroom is dark, and other than the sound of my husband’s rhythmic breathing beside me, there is silence. I turn my head to look at the clock. It’s 4:47 a.m. In three minutes, the alarm will go off, insisting that I start my day. I close my eyes again, exasperated. Those three extra minutes of sleep would have been nice.

I switch the alarm off and climb out of bed, disturbing the cat that had been sleeping on my feet. Another cat is already waiting for me in the bathroom. Maggie either has a keen sense of when I’ll be waking each morning, or she sleeps in the bathroom, ready and waiting for me to turn on the faucet so she can drink from it. I haven’t yet figured out which it is.

This morning is a gym morning. I change into my workout clothes, wash my face, and brush my teeth. I pull my hair back into a pink and purple headband I’ve stolen from my daughter. My eyes feel puffy with sleep. My cheek is embossed with sheet marks and the imprint of a hand. One of the best things about going to the gym at 5 in the morning is that everyone looks like crap. It’s expected.

At the neighborhood gym, I spend 40 minutes on an elliptical machine, climbing and arm pumping for three miles but never getting anywhere. I am proud that I’ve already consumed an entire bottle of water. I am proud of my sweat. I want to know the ending of the Law and Order episode I’ve just watched, but once again, I will leave the gym too soon to find out if the bad guy gets caught. I’m pretty sure he does.

Back at home, I’m still the only one up. The quiet calm is short lived, however. The morning chaos is imminent. In the next hour, children must don their school clothes, wrangle on their socks and tennis shoes, and find lost homework pages. The kids must be fed breakfast, and packed lunches must be assembled. Maddie’s class planner must be signed, a library book must be found, and a check must be written for some school activity or function or club or fundraiser. We must leave the house at 7:00am, or maybe 7:05, but not any later than that, ever, if I want to get to work on time. Which I do.

I take a deep breath and pull my breakfast out of the refrigerator: a jar of steel cut oats that I’ve prepared in advance. I make five jars of these oats on Sunday, one for each weekday. After removing the lid, I warm it in the microwave – just two minutes, with a stir halfway through – and mix in some milk and sugar before pausing long enough to taste a spoonful. The oatmeal is warm, creamy, and tender. It makes me feel warm and fortified. I grab the jar containing my breakfast, herd the kids into the minivan, hug my husband, lock up, and we’re off. The real work of the day can now begin.

overnight steel cut oatmeal in jars | the merry gourmet

Yield: 5 servings.

Overnight Steel Cut Oatmeal in Jars

For this recipe, I use wide-mouth pint (16-ounce) jars, such as these.
You may be hesitant to leave these jars of oatmeal out overnight, as I was when I first began making this recipe. However, leaving the jars out overnight gives the oatmeal the best texture. If you're nervous, feel free to refrigerate them immediately, but know that the oatmeal will not be as thick and creamy that way.


1-1/4 cups steel cut oats
4 cups water
1 pinch kosher salt

Granulated sugar or light brown sugar
Cinnamon or nutmeg


In a medium saucepan, bring the steel cut oats, the water, and the pinch of salt to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and divide the oats and water evenly into 5 pint-sized jars. Put the lids and rings on the jars and tighten. Allow to sit at room temperature overnight.

In the morning, refrigerate the jars of oats, except for the one which you wish to use immediately. Remove the lid from the jar, microwave the jar for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring about half-way through cooking time. Remove jar carefully from microwave (it will be hot), and stir in any of the optional add-ins, such as milk and sugar.

Slightly adapted from this recipe.

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10 Responses to “the morning chaos”

  1. 1
    Paula — September 8, 2014 @ 8:51 am

    I admire your discipline. Managing your work and family life and still squeezing in some time at the gym by getting your day started at 5:00 a.m., very impressive.

    Making these oats before hand and having this nutritious breakfast at the ready is a smart idea. Wishing you a wonderful week.

  2. 2
    Mallory — September 8, 2014 @ 8:54 am

    Fall is the season for oatmeal (my breakfast is generally seasonal) and this is the only way I make steel cut oats. Makes life just that much easier…however, putting them in jars for the entire week is as close to genius as one can get! Thanks for the tip!! And God bless you for waking up at 450 to hit the gym…you are kicking butt!

  3. 3
    Gail — September 8, 2014 @ 10:23 am

    You have unbelievable fortitude.

    Here…hit this when you need to:

  4. 4
    dixya@food, pleasure, and health — September 8, 2014 @ 3:51 pm

    i have just started doing steel cut oatmeal and im so pleased by it. kudos for waking up that early for workout – good for you MJ.

  5. 5
    Boyce D. George — September 8, 2014 @ 6:55 pm

    Hey MJ . . . . RISE AND SHINE. Ya done good girl. 🙂

  6. 6
    Aimee @ Simple Bites — September 8, 2014 @ 9:52 pm

    Yes and yes. I love seeing a glimpse of how you do all that you do. Oatmeal is a favourite around here and this would be well received by all.

  7. 7
    Mardi (eat. live. travel. write.) — September 14, 2014 @ 6:54 pm

    You are such an inspiration MJ. My morning routine could benefit from a dose of your discipline!

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