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Sunday, February 12, 2012

ijj's Oatmeal Medley

Ingredients: steel-cut oats; raw rolled-oats; sugar and salt.

I like oatmeal.  It's wonderful. 
Let us not confuse them with instant or 'quick' oats however. 

If you're one of those people who eats instant oatmeal for the health benefits, I implore you to switch to the non-parboiled kind sometime soon.  

Instant oats are not necessarily bad for you... they're just not as good for you.  

When the oats get parboiled (pre-cooked, basically), they lose some of their nutritive value.  If you're doing the flavoured instant oatmeal, then you've got to deal with a ton of extra sweetener and crap as well.

Just take a moment to compare the two some day; rolled oats are chewy, golden and glossy, and have a nice sproingy solidity to them.  Quick-oats on the other hand, are more often than not dry, white or colourless, brittle and thin.  Indeed, sometimes in those instant pouches it's hard to tell what is the 'sugar/spice seasoning' and what is just disintegrated oat.

Now, when I go camping, I'll pick up some instant oatmeal, cause it is DEAD simple to prepare (literally just add boiling water), and offers some good health benefits, particularly when planning a busy or active day; but for the other 99% of the time, it isn't really a chore for me to put in the extra time and effort for the non-quick oat variety.

Anyway, both kinds are very high in fibre, both insoluble and soluble (if you don't know the difference between the two, as a very simplified analogy, think of insoluble as sweeping your intestines, and soluble as sweeping your arteries). So they are both, technically, good for you; however the raw oats do have a few more of their vitamins and minerals left intact.  In any case, however, the health benefits of oatmeal has been so prevalent in our society over the last couple decades, that I'm fairly sure I don't need to go into that.  Suffice it to say, oats=good.

Recently (well about 5 years ago now already, I guess) I started to delve into steel-cut oats.  At the time they were a novelty and I felt real cool for eating them.  It was a little while later that I realized they're pretty much the exact same thing as regular rolled oat groats, just cut differently (sliced oblong, rather than pressed or rolled).  They DO, however, have a higher likelihood of retaining the husk (bran) of the cereal, rather than the rolled oats, and so can be considered a tad healthier I suppose.

In fact, look closely at (enlarge) the following two photos, and you should be able to see that:

Rolled Oat Groats
Steel-cut Oat Groats
However, the steel-cut oats are nonetheless awesome!  They have a gorgeous texture, and a more robust flavour (which I guess I'd have to term 'nuttier').  It can take a fair bit of endurance and a marathoner's stamina to chow down on a whole bowl of the stuff by itself though, so invariably I will mix the two... sometimes with some wheat bran thrown in as well, and more often than not with some fresh berries thrown on top... 

An oat medley if you will.  ;)

So, here below, I will detail how I make a large-ish batch (2-3 servings) of my oatmeal medley.  It's kind of a no-brainer, but I suppose it might be possible that someone out there does NOT know how to cook oats... or has had little success doing so... or even just finds my methodology interesting... for whatever reason.

In any case, this is something which I have honed over the last decade, and the result is (I think) blog-worthy.

I cook my oats in a frying pan (yup).  Just make sure it has a lid that fits.

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil (yup, that's a whole litre folks) over high heat.  

Often I find 'directions' for oats to not have nearly enough water in the mix.  After all, is there really such a thing as oats which are too moist?  Anyway, once that has been brought to a boil, mix in 1/2 cup of steel oats.  

You don't have to, but I like to give these a little bit of a head start, so I'll cook them for an extra 5 minutes (on high to medium-high heat) before adding the rolled oats.  The steel-cut oats are still going to be chewy, but at if you give them a good 15-20 minutes they at least will not be hard.

So, after 5 minutes or so, I'll add the rolled oats (1 cup), stir it around a bit, and then lower the heat to low and then let it simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

After a total of 15 minutes cooking time (15 for steel-cut, 10 for rolled) so far, the porridge is nice and "creamy" for lack of a better word.  Soft and smooth.  At this point I add the sugar and spice.  Basically this is a heaping tablespoon of yellow (or brown) sugar, a half-teaspoon of salt, and about a teaspoon of cinnamon.  I like to mix these altogether prior to adding them to the mix, just to help with even distribution.

Anyway, that gets stirred into the pan while it is still simmering on low:

Then I'll cover it up and give it a last 5-minute stretch.  In these last 5 minutes, pretty much all the remaining liquid gets absorbed, and the porridge is a very nice consistency.

At this point, I'll take it off the heat, and stir in a handful or two of fresh blueberries.  

Any berry, or combination thereof, will work!  For that matter, I imagine a great many fruit would work here as well.  I think I've made it with apple bits before to some success.

Anyway, that's it.  20 minutes or so is all it takes, and it is very nutritious, and extremely tasty and filling!

A breakfast like this and my wife and I are good for half a day practically before needing to refuel, so perfect for those days where you plan on going out and being active.  Even more so for the fact that while it is incredibly rich in calories, it has a relatively low glycemic index (GI) so good for a slow-release rather than a spike to those blood-sugar levels.