* Note – Only the Cream of Rice version is gluten-free.
By Hannah Kaminsky, Author of My Sweet Vegan ~ Here we are, half way through October, and there’s no denying it anymore; fall is here to stay. Chilled air fills the house and meets us when we wake up, our feet meeting cold tiles when we step out of bed. Darkness settles in early these days, and the leaves have begun their metamorphosis into colorful splotches on their branches, preparing for their final descent. It’s also begun to change many foodies’ palates, causing many to seek out warmer, heartier dishes to stave off the growing cold. For me, at least, there’s only one dish I want on these autumnal mornings, and that’s hot cereal. I’m not terribly picky; contented with any sort of warm grain with a hint of sweetness to start the day, but it’s not always a cinch to cook them all quickly. Luckily, I’ve already found that these things can still be convenience food, and now there are even more options to choose from. Amy’s has joined the ring and brought four of their own creations, all found in the freezer, ready to heat and eat.
I must admit that I had never eaten Cream of Rice before, writing it off as “baby food” and steering clear in favor of other cereals. However, I was happily surprised to find that it was quite pleasant, fitting the bill for a warm, comforting breakfast food. Creamy but still slightly gritty, it’s inoffensive and easy to eat. Made of brown rice and lightly sweetened with agave, it’s a good choice for the young and all, except I would prefer to spice mine up a bit next time. My sweet tooth demanded an extra drizzle of maple syrup over the top and the last few slices of apricot for the season to liven it up, but it does make an excellent blank canvas for any flavors you want to add.
Considering the ease of whipping up Rolled Oats from scratch, this isn’t one I would naturally have gone for, but curiosity drove me to pop this frozen brick into the microwave. Unfortunately, what came out only convinced me that simple oatmeal should never be frozen like this; a dry, crusty skin lay over very thick and borderline gummy oats, making for a textural disaster in the mouth. Although cinnamon is added to this one, I couldn’t taste it and had to add more myself in addition to chopped pecans to salvage the texture a bit. Letting it sit for a few minutes to take the picture, I found that it had congealed into a solid mass by the time I was ready to continue eating… And for some reason, I found my appetite was strangely absent.
Hoping that the Steel-Cut Oats will hold up a bit better, I decided to compare them directly to Trader Joes’. Amy’s creation took second place, as the oats seemed mushier and more like a toothsome porridge than whole oats. The cinnamon was lacking in this one as well, but it had a good level of sweetness, and would still be a good breakfast option for those poor souls who don’t have a local Trader Joe’s store.
Last up was the Multigrain bowl, a mix that included a variety of grains and even some flax seeds. This is probably the dish that I would be most likely to buy again, because it’s a pain to buy lots of individual grains and then figure out how to cool them all together so that none are over- or undercooked. Creamy like the cream of rice, but with a good bit of chew from the assorted grains, I found it incredibly hearty and satisfying. It is also sweetened lightly enough that it could also become a savory breakfast, depending on what you feel like adding to it. While some may argue that it’s just plain lazy to keep simple frozen cereals on hand, I have to hand it to Amy’s- Any healthy convenience food is a good thing indeed. These would be great for reluctant cooks, younger kids who aren’t keen on stove-top preparation, and people on the go. With a handful of nuts, fruits, or spices thrown in, these bowls are just the right size to fulfill your breakfast needs and keep you going all morning.