Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Look, Ma! I'm eating my...oat groats!?

I know this throwback Oatmeal Crisp commercial hints at the idea that nobody really likes oatmeal, but for as long as I can remember, I have been a fan.   I remember my mom cooking up pots of oatmeal on the weekends and serving me a steaming bowl of the mush.  I would pour on some cool milk and shower it with spoonfuls of beautiful, white sugar, then watch it dissolve into a sweet, grainy blanket for my cereal.  I believed that because I was eating oatmeal, like it said in the commercial, I was doing my body a healthy favor.  Oh, how much I have learned since then.

Now, my mom was good in the way that she didn't usually buy the instant oats, but cooked the "real stuff" (aka:  highly processed, commercial oatmeal cereal) for us when we had oatmeal weekends.  But, let's face it...it was usually overcooked (with plenty of salt), then loaded with gobs of milk (which, I know, some of you will argue is healthy) and sugar.  Nothing healthy about that!  I still love oatmeal, but not the way many people eat it.  In fact, I can't even imagine I would enjoy oatmeal that way, now that I know how good pure oats really are.

To be fair, I probably shouldn't call this oatmeal, because it's not like traditional oatmeal in any way, except that it's made with oats.  The texture and flavor are totally different.  Instead of using rolled oats, I use what are called "steel cut oats".  These are whole oat groats which have been cut into two or three tiny pieces.  They look like this:
Nice picture, right?  I got it off the internet...

I buy these for making cereal because they are minimally processed, and I enjoy the chewy texture.  "Traditional" oats, called rolled oats, are further steamed and then pressed with rollers into the flat shape that most of us recognize as "oats" or "oatmeal".  They look like this:

Google Image Search is my friend. :-)
  I use organic rolled oats when I'm making granola or muesli, or for baking.  You can find organic oat groats (aka steel cut oats, aka Irish or Scotish oatmeal), as well as organic rolled oats packaged at many grocery stores.  I buy mine in bulk at my local specialty grocery (for you locals, I go to Georgetown Market, but you can also check out Good Earth or Whole Foods).  Check out this article for a good rundown of the different ways to buy oats and how to cook them.

OH, with all the preaching I'm throwing at you about oats, you must be wondering where the recipe is!  Okay, okay!  After sleeping in on my impromptu vacation (being a teacher can be great for that) and shut in by the winter ice storm here in Indy, I thought a nice hearty bowl of warm oats would be just the thing.  And here is how I enjoyed them:

Ice Storm Oat Bowl

*1/4 c. steel cut oats (soaked overnight, 10-12 hours)
*1-2 Tbsp. chopped almonds (I use raw, soaked almonds)
*1/2 Tbsp. maple or agave syrup (or more if you want it sweeter)
*handful raisins (about 1/4 c.)
*cinnamon to taste

Stir all ingredients together.  Microwave 45-60 seconds.

**Optional:  If you like milk in your oats, you can add 1/4 c. non-dairy milk (almond is my fave).  For softer, creamier oats, add the milk before microwaving (this will cook the oats a bit more).   If you put the milk in after, your oats will be sturdier and chewier.  Both are excellent and delicious ways to eat your oatmeal!

**Additional note:  When the weather is warm, enjoy this as a cold bowl.  Just soak your oats for an extra couple of hours and nix the microwave step!  Makes a great on-the-go nearly-raw granola!

Who needs Quaker Instant Oatmeal when you have this healthy, hearty bowl of chewy goodness?

Now...back to looking up more throwback commercials on YouTube.  Aaaaahhhhh...lazy snow days...

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