Nothing seems to hit the spot like a hot, creamy bowl of oatmeal on a cold winter morning. Top it with melting butter and brown sugar, add a few raisins or dehydrated cranberries to the mix, and you have a bowl of comfort food at its best. Oatmeal cereals and porridges are the breakfast choices of millions of folks around the world – but there’s more to the grain than mush. Cooking with oats is a great way to eat healthful, hearty dishes that taste delicious.
In the late 1800s, “receipt” books called for cooking oatmeal three hours for a healthy mush. We certainly have come a long way. Instant oatmeal needs just a few seconds in the microwave and comes in different flavors. Quick-cooking oats can be found on most cereal aisles and take just five minutes to prepare. Even old-fashioned oats take only 15 minutes for a wholesome breakfast.
With the latest health reports about the goodness of whole grains, adding oats to our meals and snacks is a healthy, smart idea. Whole-grain oats contain seven B vitamins and vitamin E. They contain nine minerals, including iron and potassium, and they are cholesterol free. Oats are also versatile, in that they fit into baked goods, dinner menus, snacks and even ice cream parfaits.
Mom used to start my brother, sister and me off with hot oatmeal on most school mornings. An even sweeter breakfast came during vacations, when Mom cooked oatmeal the night before and chilled it in the refrigerator. After calling us to the table, she assembled Oatmeal-Fruit Parfaits in tall ice cream sundae glasses. With layers of oatmeal, fresh fruit (my favorite is peaches) and scoops of vanilla ice cream, our breakfast was as wonderful as the summer’s adventures ahead of us.
Like my mom, I’ve searched for interesting ways to incorporate oats into my family’s meals and snacks. Skillet Oats from the Quaker Oat Co. make a tasty alternative to potatoes and rice because the nutty, chewy grains go well with meats and salads. Moist Mini Meatloaves are a hearty dinner entree. Oatmeal Cake and Toasted Oat Drops are sure pleasers. Oatmeal Bread toasts up golden or makes a sturdy, wholesome sandwich. Oatmeal-Almond Pie is a county fair blue-ribbon winner.
Here are some tips I’ve found helpful in using and keeping fresh oats on hand year-round.
- Up to a third of a recipe’s flour can be substituted with oats or ground oat flour.
- To grind oats, place about 1 cup uncooked quick or old-fashioned oats in a blender or food processor. Process for 60 seconds. Check consistency, processing a few seconds longer if needed. Store in a cool, dry place if not using right away. Lock-top freezer bags are great for keeping fresh ground oats on hand. Press air out, seal, mark date processed and store in the freezer for up to a year. Thaw at room temperature.
- Keep a variety on hand. Store instant, quick-cooking and old-fashioned oats in canisters with tight-fitting lids in a cool, dry area for up to six months. Store steel-cut, Scotch oats or Irish oatmeal in the refrigerator; they have higher fat content.
- To toast oats, place up to 2 cups quick or whole oats on ungreased baking pan with sides. Bake in preheated 350°F oven for 15 minutes, or until light brown. Stir once or twice to ensure even toasting. Cool.