Oatmeal, goatmeal, double-boatmeal. I hate OATMEAL! I grew up eating pasty, plain glops of oatmeal. every. single. morning. Yuck.
I buy it in bulk now because my children love it, my husband loves it, and even the dogs love it (sometimes I let them “prewash” the pans before loading them in the dishwasher). So, why couldn’t I learn to love it too?
Oats are nutritious (check out what the World's Healthiest Food page has to say about them). The bran (the outer casing that protects the germ – the part that grows) is high in fiber and including oats in ones diet is thought to prevent heart disease and lower cholesterol, so this reformed breakfast skipper vowed to try. But, first I had to do some research.
The oats used in oatmeal are Avena sativa – a member of the grass family grown for its nourishing seed. Oats are sold for human consumption in several forms:
-Groats are hulled and cleaned whole grains. In this case, oats. They may be eaten as such but are more commonly found in their cut or rolled forms (oatmeal) or ground into oat flour (another story for another time).
-Steel cut oats are whole grains cut into a few pieces that produce a hearty, chewy cereal but take the longest to prepare (upwards of 30 minutes).
-Rolled oats (aka old-fashioned or regular) are the most common form used as breakfast cereal (five minute cooking time) as well as in baking (like my beloved oatmeal scotchie cookies!)
-Quick oats are rolled extra thin to reduce cooking time to one minute and are best used to make pasty globs of mush (ok, ok, sometimes I use them in meatloaf, smeatloaf, double-beatloaf.)
-Instant oats are akin to parboiled rice (and are just about as flavorful, or un-flavorful, I should say). They are rolled thin and precooked and often found individually prepackaged and loaded with sugar. I guess that’s better than nothing, but I still won’t eat them…or the aforementioned quick oats.
While I will choke down rolled oats on occasion, I've found steel cut oats to be delicious. A popular (but expensive) brand is McCann's Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal. I’ve tried them and I know people who swear by them, but I find the ones in the bulk section of the grocery store to be just as good (and usually less than $1 a pound). I will say the McCann’s webpage is packed full of great information including this cool graphic showing how steel-cut oats are produced and seven, yes seven, different cooking methods as seen here (who knew I could use my rice cooker? I might have to try that sometime).
Although I’ve prepared my steel-cut oats several ways (toasted in a bit of butter and cooked on the stove top is pretty good), I'll stick with my favorite method. It seems to be the easiest and produces the best final texture. And, I can start it before I go to bed at night and have breakfast ready when I wake!
-1 cup steel-cut oats
-3 cups water
-1 cup milk
-4T unsalted butter
-Optional – I let people dress up their own oatmeal after it’s cooked but any of these may be added prior to cooking: raisins, dried cranberries, figs, dried fruit, nuts, cinnamon, brown sugar, maple syrup.
Put all ingredients in a crockpot, stir to combine, set on low, and cook for 9 hours. Easy-peasy!
(Makes 4-5 servings)
I've changed my mind about oatmeal and have included it in my breakfast repertoire. As a matter of fact, this morning I had a bowl topped with homemade granola - another totally acceptable rolled oat preparation - which I'll talk about later in the week. (Stay tuned!)