An Ode to Oats

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I like a personal challenge, particularly when it involves food. So when my son invited a few friends to a sleep over, I resisted the immediate gratification I would receive from indulging them with a breakfast of pancakes, doused in syrup with a side of bacon. Imagine those happy faces. Instead, I decided to make oatmeal. And guess what? They all loved it! Yes, sure, bacon sells, but so do oats! Come and cook with us!

Oatmeal is ubiquitous on healthy breakfast lists thanks to its high fiber content – it counts as a whole grain – and low glycemic load. Specifically, it’s the soluble fiber known as beta-glucan that is responsible for giving this cereal its high nutritional accolades. Beta-glucan helps lower cholesterol levels and significantly reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Thanks to this type of soluble fiber, the USDA allows the makers of oat cereal to state the claim that this product reduces the risk of heart disease. Oatmeal is also very low on the glycemic load, meaning that it has a very limited effect on blood sugar. If that is not enough, oatmeal is also packed with trace minerals including phosphorus, potassium, selenium, manganese and iron. As for that side of bacon, oatmeal also has the highest protein content of any popular cereal: 8 1/2 g of protein in 1/2 cup of oats. Now what’s there not to like?

For some, it’s the consistency. But before you give up on this grain all together, try out some of the many different types of oats available. They come whole, steel cut, rolled, old-fashioned, or instant. It seems as if there is something for every palate. And while you don’t have to go overboard on the sophistication of an oatmeal recipe, cooking it to mush won’t help. We love the whole or steel-cut variety, have experimented with different cooking methods (soaking, stove-top or slow-cooker) and like to keep things interesting with toppings. At least that is what made a difference with the boys. Everyone made their very own personalized bowl of oatmeal. And they all came back for seconds.

We like to bring 1  cup of steel-cut oats to a boil in 4 cups of water. Let them stand covered over night. The next day, we uncover the oats, add 1/2 cup of rolled oats and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the oatmeal is creamy but still a little chewy. Each oatmeal cut requires a different cooking method – the larger the grain, the longer the cooking. Pre-soaking helps cutting down the time you’ll need in the morning, so you don’t have to relegate oatmeal to weekends only.

So reach for those oats and give them a try. Whether topped with banana, maple syrup and cardamom, or raspberries, honey and hazelnuts, or blueberries, brown sugar and cinnamon, we can but sing the praises for breakfast oats over here. May we suggest you ring in your cold winter months with a warming bowl of oatmeal, too. Come and cook with us!

Slow-Cooker Oat Groat Porridge

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