Oatmeal must be one of the best breakfast foods you can have and it is unquestionably my favorite, though pancakes are a fairly close second. Oatmeal is high in fiber and low in fat, has protein, iron and no cholesterol. In fact, it has even been shown to lower cholesterol. Oatmeal may be rather plain on its own, but its nutty flavor perfectly compliments honey, maple syrup and just about any type of fresh fruit you wish to top it with. A handful of chopped pecans or hazelnuts are also a good addition to the cereal.
There are many types of oatmeal that you can buy, though all come from the same oats. Steel cut oats are whole oat groats that have been chopped into smaller pieces. Rolled oats are oat groats that have been steamed, rolled and flaked for easier cooking. Quick cooking oats are rolled oats that have been chopped into smaller pieces and "instant" oats are basically powdered oats. "Instant" oats do not produce a good bowl of oatmeal, instead forming more of a paste. For the oatmeal lover, steel cut are the only way to go. These pieces of oats take longer to cook than the other, precooked varieties, but they are worth it. The oatmeal is creamy and the oats are chewy. The texture is unlike any bowl of breakfast cereal you've ever had. McCann's is the most famous brand, but other brands are beginning to become more widely available. You can buy steel cut oats very inexpensively at natural food stores, as well.
Steel Cut Oatmeal
1 cup steel cut oats
4 ¼ cups water
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup dried blueberries/currants/other fruit (optional)
fresh fruit, maple syrup and/or butter, for serving
Combine oats and water in medium saucepan and bring water to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium. Once 30-40 minutes of total cooking time has elapsed, you need to watch the oatmeal, stirring occasionally for the next 5-10 minutes. Add the salt, vanilla and dried fruit, if using, and remove from the heat when the oatmeal has reached the consistency that you like (thinner or thicker); 10 minutes should yield an oatmeal of medium thickness. If you like yours very thick, continue cooking for an extra five minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
Top with butter, syrup and/or fresh fruit. Serves 4.
[Photo by Nicole Weston]