I think I need to detox from Halloween’s sugar overload by posting about something healthy — oatmeal!
I start almost every weekday morning with a hot bowl of steel cut oats. But I was not always a fan of oatmeal. I used to associate it exclusively with those little packets of microwaveable instant oatmeal — bland, mushy and gross. But a few years ago, I grew tired of my usual bowl of cold shredded wheat and wanted something new to eat before I left for work or school. I decided to give steel cut oatmeal a try, and discovered it’s not so bad!
Steel cut oats are less processed than the more ubiquitous instant and old-fashioned oats. They are not “rolled” flat, leaving part of the bran (and thus important nutritional content) intact. As a result, they take longer to cook, but I much prefer the taste and texture of steel cut oats.
When I first started eating them regularly for breakfast, I would set them up on the stove top as soon as I woke up, showering and getting ready while they cooked. To cook them this way, combine one part thoroughly rinsed oats with approximately 2.5 parts liquid and simmer for 20-30 minutes. I usually use plain water but many prefer milk or cream. If you like a thinner consistency, just add more water.
It is possible to ease or lessen the time spent preparing steel-cut oats in a variety of ways, however.
Overnight oat preparation: Before going to bed, bring the oats to a boil, cover, and turn off heat. After soaking in hot water overnight, you should be able to heat them on the stove or in the microwave for just about 8-10 minutes the next morning.
Slow cooker: You can cook steel cut oats overnight in your slow cooker and they will be ready when you wake up. Here is a recipe from Alton Brown. If you have a large and cumbersome slow cooker (as I do), I have also seen versions where the oatmeal is cooked in a bowl placed inside a slow cooker filled with a few inches of water. It is worth experimenting with, but I personally did not like the texture of my oatmeal made in a slow cooker. Thus I ultimately settled with this method:
Programmable rice cooker: I have extolled the virtues of my rice cooker before. One of its many benefits is the ability to wake up to a steaming pot of steel cut oats. The rice cooker I own has a porridge setting which, after some initial experimentation with the amount of water, is perfect for oatmeal.
There are myriad ways to enjoy your oatmeal. I vary my mix-ins from time to time, but most often default to a few teaspoons of honey, some cinnamon, a tablespoon or two of ground flax seed (for flavor, extra fiber and omega 3 fatty acids), walnuts, and frozen berries of some sort. When I don’t have honey available, I’ll use some of my homemade strawberry jam to sweeten it up. Adding in fresh or frozen fruit is a great way to make sure you are getting your 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day. Lately my fruit of choice has been frozen wild blueberries. They are small and therefore thaw more easily when mixed in.
This Washington Post discussion has numerous additional suggestions, including some interesting savory curry-flavored oatmeal. I will have to try that soon.
With its high fiber content, oatmeal keeps you fuller for longer, so you can make it through the morning hours free of hunger pangs. I can’t start my day without a nutritious breakfast — I’m glad I finally discovered the wonders of oatmeal!