Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ode to Oatmeal

Today we are going to talk about something special to me. Something near and dear to my heart:

Yes, that's right. We are going to talk about my undying love for the grain known to us as the oat.

Mmmm....peanut butter and bananas in my oatmeal
Let's begin the tale of the oat with a little bit of history:

  • Oats were the last cereal grain to be domesticated as they were not nearly as popular as wheat or barley.
  • They started out as weeds that grew amongst other crops.
  • Oats are primarily a North American and European crop because they require a cool, moist climate to grow.
  • They've been considered a lowly horse food by many a culture.
  • Less than 5% of oat crops grown today are for human consumption.

Poor oats! They've got a bad reputation.

What makes them so great then? Well...
  1. Oats contain more soluble fiber than any other grain. Soluble fiber is the kind that dissolves in water, making a sticky sludgy mass.  This sticky sludgy mass moves very slowly through your digestive system, leaving you feeling satiated for longer. It also slows the absorption of glucose, preventing those frightful lows and highs of blood sugar. And the neatest part? It inhibits the absorption of bile into your body.  That means your liver has to look elsewhere for it's required cholesterol, forcing it to get it out of your blood. That's right. Oats can lower your blood cholesterol levels!
  2. Aveeno has it dead-on. Oats also have anti-inflammatory properties, have been showing to relieve dry-itchy skin and have best balance of amino-acids.

I did not always love oats the way that I do now.

At first, we had a tentative relationship.

I started out by only eating old-fashioned oats.  They were finicky at best. They loved to blow up in my microwave and get sticky, gooey oat-y mess all over the place.  I had to watch it like a hawk every morning I made it, hoping to prevent the oatmeal related disaster. I used to stand at the microwave with my nose plastered against it, staring, waiting for that moment where I had to yank open the door and give them a stir.

Initially, my toppings of choice were fresh strawberries and chopped up hazelnuts, but I noticed a suggestion on the container one day. Peanut butter and bananas? Sounded like a match made in heaven to me!

Eventually I grew weary of the bland taste of old-fashioned oats.  I branched out one weekend morning and made McCann's Steel Cut oats.

Oh, they were perfect! They had a delightful nutty flavor (no, that was not the peanut butter!) and they had the perfect amount of chewiness. But ACK! Their cooking time was 15x how long it takes to make old-fashioned oats.  I went hunting for methods to cook the oats and found this one on the McCann's website.

Quick Soak Method

One of the quickest and easiest ways to prepare McCann's Steel Cut Oats is to soak the oats overnight. Before going to bed, boil four cups of water in a pot, add one cup of oatmeal. Simmer 1 minute. Cover pot and store overnight in refrigerator. The next morning cook the oatmeal on low for 9 – 12 minutes; stirring occasionally. (source)

In the morning when you awake, your steel-cut oats will have absorbed all of the water and look delicious and fluffy.  Reheat, top and devour!

I know, another gratuitous shot of the oats, but I love them so.