Oatmeal

I recently realized that I haven’t done a post on oatmeal yet!  Doh!

Oatmeal is my foundation meal just about every day, which is probably the reason I never thought to do a post on it until now. When I was a kid, I’d make some Cream-of-Wheat on the weekends (it was moreso a pile of white sugar in a pond of evaporated milk than it was Cream-of-Wheat).  I later got into the Quaker packets of oatmeal, but as I learned more about nutrition in college, I realized that I was essentially getting the same nutrition from those packets as the Cream-of-Wheat when I was a kid.  Those pre-made “strawberries and cream” packets pack quite a bit of hidden sodium as well an outrageous amount of not-so-hidden sugars.  They were portioned out so that it wouldn’t be so bad to just have one, but one never filled me up enough, so I would double it up.  And an hour later I’d wonder why my energy level would drop significantly.

I had heard great things about oatmeal – it’s low glycemic, helps lower cholesterol, is full of fiber, and keeps you full for a long time – so while in college, I made my way through the many types of oatmeal offered at whole/natural food stores like Sundance (my favorite in Eugene!).

I was never a big fan of rolled oats (unless I was making granola) because they were too thick and mushy for my liking.  Quick (1 minute-type) oats never caught my fancy either, because they seemed to just melt into themselves and create a paste.  Scottish oats had that same – too mushy – effect for me.  I like fiber and needed something heartier to fill my stomach.  And that is when I found Irish oats (a.k.a. steel cut oats).

I immediately fell in love with the nutty flavor of steel cut oats. They’re denser, much thicker and chunky compared to the fluffier oats because they aren’t processed in the same way.  Steel cut oats are simply husked oats cut into pieces.  By leaving them as they are, the oats naturally contain more fiber and protein than other types.  Because they are thicker groats, they take a bit longer to cook – about 15 minutes – and cannot be made in the microwave, but they are well worth the time and effort.  I usually make three servings of oats at once and then warm it up for breakfast for the next few days.  They’re also surprisingly versatile.  I’ve recently started using steel cut oats in place of rolled/old fashioned in recipes (and am overjoyed to find that they work well for muffins!).

Over the years I’ve gone though many oatmeal-topping phases. Fresh fruit, nut butters, protein powder, plain, coconut milk, just berries, maple syrup, jam, chopped nuts, agave, chia seeds, coconut butter, cinnamon with raw sugar – even seasonal toppings like persimmons!  The variations are endless and I never get bored with my foundation meal!

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Steel Cut Oats with Chia

[Ingredients]

  • 1/2 c steel cut oats
  • 1 1/4 c water
  • 1/4 c milk [I use almond]
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds

[A quick chia seed recap (taken from my ABC french toast post)]: most of us can recall the ch-ch-ch-chia pet infomercials from back-in-the-day, but many–including myself, until recently–realize that chia seeds are edible.  Not only that, they’re an excellent source of nutrition!  A great gluten-free source of  protein, antioxidants and fiber, they help stabilize blood sugar (reducing cravings and allowing sustained energy) and can absorb 10x their weight in water (which helps endurance athletes stay hydrated)!  Chia seeds provide calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, molybdenum, niacin, zinc, and even boron.  I buy mine in bulk at Down-to-Earth or Whole Foods and add them to just about anything (shakes, oatmeal, french toast?) since they’re practically tasteless.

[The chia seeds can easily be omitted in this recipe – to make simple steel cut oats, the ratio is 1:2, oats:water.]

Add oats to boiling water.

Lower heat to medium-low and cook, partially covered, until the oats have soaked up most of the water and the oats have softened. Stir often.

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Add in chia seeds and milk, then bring back to a boil.

Cover and let sit for a few minutes (it’ll look a bit thin to start, but the chia seeds will pick up moisture and thicken the oats).

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Enjoy! Makes 3 Haley-sized servings (Ben likes more).

Nutrition Facts [1 Haley-sized serving]

Calories 112 • Fat 3g Sodium 15mg • Carbs 19g • Fiber 4g • Sugar 0g • Protein 5g

I totally recommend getting creative with your oatmeal!  I especially love coconut butter and protein powder in mine.  This morning, however, I mixed it up and enjoyed mine with peanut butter, all-fruit jam, and a few chopped almonds!

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Are you as big of an oatmeal fanatic as I am? What’s your foundation food?

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