Feeling Your Oats
It’s that time of year for a bowl of steaming oatmeal.Oatmeal is the order of the day in January when the cold winds are blowing and you need more than mittens to keep you warm. Instant oatmeal is quick, but for real flavor you need to make it from scratch. While stirring the oats at the stove, ponder the studies that claim oatmeal, amongst other whole grains, lowers your cholesterol 3.8 percent.
There are old-fashioned oats, (rolled oats) that have been steamed and flattened. Then there are the quick-cooking rolled oats that have been steamed and flattened even thinner. And finally the instant oats that have been pre-cooked, dried and then rolled. None of these three choices of oats should be your first choice for oatmeal. Steel-cut oats are simply more tasty and nutritious.
Sometimes called pinhead oatmeal or Irish oatmeal, steel-cut oats are whole-grain groats. People don’t usually eat whole oats without the husk removed. It is not until the oats have been cleaned, toasted, hulled and then cleaned again that they become oats groats.
The groat contains the endosperm, the bran and the germ, the most nutritious part of the grain. For steel-cut oats, the groats are then cut into about three small pieces using steel discs, creating oats resembling small rice particles. Because the bran is still included, the steel-cut oatmeal takes much longer to cook than rolled oats and has a much chewier texture. That chewy texture and the great nutty taste are the characteristics of a great oatmeal breakfast. Besides, oat bran is higher in soluble fiber and also high in vitamin B-1, B-2 and vitamin E.
Sometimes called Irish porridge, the standard recipe for oatmeal is one part steel-cut oats and four parts water. Bring four cups of water to a rolling boil and sprinkle in the one cup oatmeal, stirring well. When the porridge is smooth and starting to get thick, lower the heat and simmer 25 to 30 minutes. Don’t forget to stir occasionally. To add richness to the oatmeal, some of the water can be replaced with whole milk or buttermilk. A good starting point is one cup steel-cut oatmeal, three cups water and one cup whole milk. After cooking, serve hot with milk or cream and about one tablespoon brown sugar per serving. Fresh fruit is a great garnish or even swirl in fruit purée. Let your imagination run wild — how about adding toasted walnuts or almonds, or maybe raisins or currants. Try cranberries or apricots. Instead of brown sugar, substitute maple syrup or honey. Note: To achieve that great nutty oat flavor, do not overcook oatmeal.
What to do with leftover oatmeal seems to be the number one question. Try adding leftover oatmeal to mashed potatoes; they go great together. Add a little cold leftover cooked oatmeal to regular pancake batter. A great taste combination is making the cold oatmeal into small patties and sautéing them in butter. After cooking, serve with yogurt and maple syrup. If you still have oatmeal left over, try adding it to your bread dough while mixing. Start with small amounts and increase to your liking. Remember less is more.
More oatmeal is eaten in January than any other month of the year. Steel-cut, pinhead or Irish oatmeal, whatever you call it, it’s a great way to start the day and good for you, too. Stay warm.