If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, then what you have for breakfast is a big decision. Is your family fueling up for a day at work or school with sugary cereals, or worse, nothing but coffee? Breakfast is prime time to fuel up with whole grains, fruit and real food that energizes for the long haul.

If those last few moments of sleep are just too precious to sacrifice, go with something really easy. It’s called a “soak” or “overnight oats.” The soak is the no-cook, no sweat way to have a whole-grain breakfast, all week long. It just takes a few minutes, whenever you have time, and it’s good for the whole week. The magic happens while you sleep.

Muesli was the original overnight oats, but now that we call tips and tricks “hacks,” we have soaks. If you want to give it some hipster cred, you can even make it in a canning jar. That makes it easy to carry if you are taking it with you.

At its most simple, a soak is just equal amounts of rolled oats and the liquid of your choice. Put a cup of oats and a cup of water in a container, stir and refrigerate for three to eight hours, and the oats will have absorbed the water. But really, where’s the fun in that? You can add flavor and protein by soaking your oats in milk or yogurt — or your favorite smoothie. Almond and other nondairy options are popular, too. I like to add some colorful fruit juices to the mix, such as pomegranate or blueberry.

You can get as creative as you want to, even go savory and use broth. Then you can put your soak under a scramble with veggies. Savory porridges are a nice break from toast.

As long as you’re leaving the oats in the refrigerator to hydrate, you can add dried fruit and it will plump and soften with the oats. Or add frozen fruit, which will thaw overnight. Then you can stir the juices into the oats, tinting and flavoring your whole concoction. Layering it with fruit, nuts, and yogurt is optional, but pretty.

Let those oats soak for a breakfast that’s ready when you are.


Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan,” “The Whole Grain Promise” and “Great Bowls of Food.” Find her at robinasbell.com.

Raspberry Pear Oat Soak

Serves 2.

Note: If you prefer a smooth mix, blend the yogurt and fruit together, as indicated below. For a chunkier approach, simply stir it together. Frozen or fresh berries work well, as will just about any berry you like in place of raspberries. From Robin Asbell.

• 1 c. rolled oats

• 1/2 c. plain yogurt

• 1/2 c. milk

• 1 c. raspberries, plus more for garnish, divided

• 1/2 tsp. vanilla

• Honey, optional

• 1 medium pear, sliced

• 1/2 c. blackberries

• 1/2 c. red grapes

• 2 tbsp. shelled pistachios, chopped

• A few fresh raspberries


Measure the oats into a 4-cup storage container.

In a blender or food processor, place the yogurt, milk, 1 cup raspberries, vanilla and, if desired, a couple of tablespoons of honey. Blend until very smooth. Pour over the oats and stir. Cover the container and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or up to 4 days.

To serve in a large stemless wine glass: Place 1/2 cup of the oats in the glass. Place a few sliced pears on top, then blackberries, pressing them up against the sides of the glass. Drop in 1/4 cup oat mixture, and top with more pears and a layer of red grapes. Top with 1/4 cup oat mixture, then garnish with pistachio nuts, a slice of pear and remaining raspberries and grapes.

Or to serve in a bowl: Spread 1 cup of oat mixture in a low bowl. Arrange fruit and pistachios on top. Drizzle with honey, if desired.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 390 Fat 8 g Sodium 75 mg Sat. fat 2 g

Carbs 69 g Total sugars 28 g

Protein 14 g Chol 5 mg Dietary fiber 14 g

Exchanges per serving: ½ milk, 2 fruit, 2 starch, ½ lean protein, 1 fat.