A hot, steamy bowl of oats is what many people start their day with, and for good reason. Their slightly nutty flavor and creamy texture taste great as-is, or as a backdrop for most any fruit flavor under the sun. As an added bonus, oats are cheap, low in fat and high in fiber. They will fill you up, keep things moving along, help lower cholesterol and are easy on the wallet. Oats are not just for breakfast, but are also good to use in soups, stews and cookies.
Rolled oats are made by heating and pressing the hulled grain. These oats are sold under the names of old fashioned, quick cooking and instant oatmeal. Old fashioned have the largest oat surface and longest cooking time. Quick cooking is about one-half the size and generally cooks in five minutes or less and instant oatmeal is the most processed with the finest texture and cooks the instant boiling water is poured over the grains.
Steel cut oats, also called Irish oats, are made when the oat grain centers (groats) are chopped into small pieces and toasted. Steel cut oats are the least processed of the varieties and contains the most nutritional value and health benefits. Instant has been processed the most and additional flavors and sugars added, making it the least in nutritional value.
Where to Buy
Rolled oats can be bought almost anywhere food is sold. Old fashioned and quick cooking oats are sold in the familiar round, red boxes. Instant oatmeal usually comes in individual packages and sold in a bulk box of six, eight or more packages. Flavors, like apple cinnamon, are already added to the instant variety.
A trip to a health food store may be in order to locate a box of steel cut oats.
How to Use
Rolled oats are the best choice for baking, they will provide the strongest oat flavor and texture in recipes. Quick cooking can be substituted for rolled, but instant can not. Both rolled and steel cut oats make the best hot cereals.
Oats have a high starch content and work great as a thickener for soups and stews. Plus oats will add fiber without adding many calories or fat.
Basic Oatmeal Recipe
In a medium saucepan, bring four cups of water to a rolling boil. Add one-half teaspoon of salt and two cups of rolled oats. Reduce heat and cook until oatmeal is tender and creamy, about eight minutes. Stir often during cooking. Stir in one-fourth cup of heavy cream (or reduced fat milk). Makes four bowls of oatmeal.
After pouring oatmeal into bowls, top with favorite flavors- like a pat of butter, spoonful of maple syrup, dried cherries, diced apples, raisins or cinnamon.