Monday, February 22, 2021

How a Mistaken Identity Led to an Unexpectedly Delicious Oatmeal Recipe

Most of us know it is a wise practice to label food items before storing them in the freezer. Sometimes, though, we get lazy or just assume that we will recognize them. Or at least I do. 😊 

Food without a label can acquire a mistaken identity. This can have unexpected consequences, as proven by the oatmeal I made for breakfast.

A bowl of bright red oatmeal

My recent oatmeal "oops" 

To improve my diet and also just because I enjoy the taste, a while back I started eating oatmeal almost every morning for my breakfast. Not the prepackaged sugary kind. I get out a pot, place it on the stove and add some 5-minute oats (or more recently some steel-cut oats) with water, a pinch of salt, and some fruit. I cook these until they are nice and creamy, then scoop them into a bowl. A dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprinkling of nuts, and I see no need for any sugar. 

I recently read that while quick-cooking or 5-minute oats are better than the sugared individual-packet kind, steel-cut oats are even more nutritious. They take a little longer to cook, but the benefits (and the texture) are well worth it. 

I flavor oatmeal without sugar in all sorts of ways. Sometimes I add a little peanut butter and/or jam. It is really yummy with the addition of some fruit. Most often I just add part of a banana or some sort of berry. Fresh or frozen fruit cooks up equally well. 

This week, though, I accidentally added something quite unique ...

Mystery package in the freezer

It was my intention to grab some frozen blueberries. Reaching into the basket of frozen fruit in my deep freeze, I instead pulled out an unlabeled baggie. I glanced at the bright red contents and thought, "Mmm, cherries, that would be quite scrumptious!" I assumed the bag contained the Montana Flathead cherries I pitted and froze last summer.


I dumped part of the contents of the bag into the pot with my morning oatmeal. To my surprise, the oatmeal immediately took on a deep crimson hue. 

"Pretty," I thought, "though quite a different shade of red than I would have expected."

A pot of bright red oatmeal

It wasn't cherries
Stirring, I got a whiff of an odor which at first I could not identify. It did not smell like cherries. As the frozen red lump warmed and separated, I did not see the round shapes one would expect of cherries. Instead, squarish cubes emerged. My brain connected the information my eyes and nose supplied ... and I realized with horror that it was beets, not cherries that I had added to my oatmeal!

The beets were from my garden, oven-roasted, and flash-frozen several months ago. I must have been in a hurry and forgot to label that bag, which somehow ended up in my freezer basket of frozen fruit instead of the one for vegetables.

Beets! For breakfast? My initial reaction was "oh, ick." But, not wanting to waste food, I became curious and continued cooking until the oatmeal reached the right consistency. It took some courage to work up the nerve, but I finally tasted my bright pinkish-red error.

A Discovery

In case you've never tasted them, beets roasted in olive oil are almost candy sweet. To my surprise, the oatmeal was delicious! I added a sprinkling of sliced almonds and it actually made a delicious breakfast. This sweet but also savory, slightly chewy dish would also have been very good for lunch. (See this recipe, below.)

A bowl of beet oatmeal sprinkled with sliced almonds

I am not suggesting that you intentionally store foods in your freezer without first labeling them. Most of the time, those labels are important. It is wise to always name and date what you are freezing. 

How to label food before it is frozen

I recommend noting not just the contents and the date, but anything else you may need to know when it comes time to thaw. 

Helpful information to write on the label:

  • identity of the contents 
    • i.e. "Grandma's famous casserole" or "blanched garden green beans"
  • the date the food was frozen. Don't forget to add the year!
  • the weight or volume measurement of the contents 
    • i.e. "1 pound ground beef" or "2 cups grated zucchini"
  • the thawing or reheating directions, if pertinent. 
    • TIP: Adding a layer of saran wrap before sealing a casserole dish with foil can add extra protection from leaks. However, if the casserole is baked with the saran wrap still intact, that would be a disaster. When I do this, I always add this note on the label: "Remember to remove saran wrap before heating!
Be sure to use a label that will stick well in the freezer and a pen that doesn't smear.

I find this special freezer tape adheres better than masking tape, and these markers can help labels from smearing. 

While this is all sound advice, should you forget to add a label or if one becomes detached, do not despair. All might still be well. You may get lucky, and discover something new and tasty.

Like I did. Otherwise, I doubt I ever would have known that Roasted Beet Oatmeal is delicious.

Roasted Beet Oatmeal

(single serving)


1/2 cup water
1 pinch of salt
1/2 cup pre-roasted beets, fresh or frozen (no need to thaw)
1/4 cup sliced almonds
2 TBSP plain Greek yogurt.


  1. Add oats, water, salt, and the beets to a small pot. (The directions on your oats may say to bring the water to a boil first, and then add the oats. I find it doesn't make any difference if I add it all together.)
  2. Bring contents to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Stirring occasionally so the contents don't scorch, cook about 7 to 10 minutes until oats reach desired tenderness. 
  3. Spoon your beautiful bright red oatmeal into a bowl. Top with almonds and Greek yogurt, if desired.
  4. Enjoy!
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Have you ever mistaken the contents of something in your freezer? How did that turn out?

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This post contains affiliate links. The opinions expressed, however, are entirely my own.


  1. That sounds delicious. I am a big fan of beetroot - and cakes made with them are delicious, so why not porridge. And yes, I do label the things I freeze.

    1. I made a red velvet cake a long time ago with beets in the ingredients. Had forgotten all about it until your reply here. Good for you for being consistent with your labeling ... I am, unless I'm in a rush!

  2. I've done the same thing, when in a hurry grabbing the wrong item from my pantry. Sometimes it's come out really great, like your roasted beet oatmeal, and I was grateful to have made the mistake because it's something I wouldn't have tried. But sometimes, not so much.

  3. I love beets. Delicious AND nutritious! And now I'll have to try them for breakfast! Happy mistake!

  4. I've done the "oops" thing too, especially as hubbie (who does much of the food prep) tends sometimes not to label stuff. Beets are supposed to be the New Food of 2021, so you may have hit on a new trend. Beet oatmeal. Who knew?

    1. Beets as the New Food of 2021 makes me laugh, as they have been around forever. Maybe knowing that, I'll have to write about a few more beet recipes!


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