Post # 211 I Hate Oatmeal

January 20, 2014 at 12:37 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 211 I Hate Oatmeal

Every time I think of oatmeal, I suppress an inward shudder and my mind flashes to a scene in A Christmas Story where little brother Randy is spooning oatmeal into his face, only accidentally getting it in his mouth.  When we were young kids, we lived for a few years in upper New York state.  Winters were harsh (although I don’t remember it being that cold) so breakfast was hot and filling and always it was oatmeal.  It was dressed up differently each morning, but it always had cool milk on top and either white sugar or brown sugar.  We like brown sugar best, but we were kids and liked anything sweet.

Then we moved to hotter climates and hot breakfast went away.  As I grew older, breakfast itself went away.  I still don’t eat immediately upon rising.  I wait an hour or two for my appetite to wake up.  The older I got, the more my tastes have changed.  Then in my mid-40s, I was diagnosed with high cholesterol.  For me, it’s an inherited condition; my dad has always had very high cholesterol.  He’s in his mid-80s now, with no sign of kicking that proverbial bucket.  As my doctor and I were working with non-chemical treatments, I learned a few facts about cholesterol and one of those is that oatmeal was a very good thing to help clean out your blood vessels.  So I started eating a bowlful every day.  Actually, it was more like I started choking down a bowlful every day.  The more I ate, the less I liked.  Finally, after several months, I was complaining to my doctor about eating so much damn oatmeal.  When he asked why I was doing it, I said because it was supposed to be good for my cholesterol.  He said, “So are two Fibercom tablets.”

I have since learned that oatmeal is a wondrous substance and its wondrous qualities continue in whatever form we partake.  So while oatmeal cookies aren’t as good for you as a bowlful of cooked oats, they’re still pretty good for you.  Before I start this discussion, though, let me clarify that not all oats or oatmeal are the same.  As with anything, the more processed it is, the less beneficial it is for you.  So when I say a “bowlful of oatmeal”, I’m not talking about the little envelope you rip open and add hot water to and stir.  Those things have a lot of sugar and very little oats, and the oats have been ground to a powder to make them quick cooking so they’ve lost a large part of their nutritional and health value.  What I’m talking about are the round boxes of oats that have been around for generations and take actual cooking time to be able to eat.  And if you don’t clean the pot right away, you have to throw it away because the stuff turns to cement when it cools.  Whatever brand you choose, if you don’t have to cook it for several minutes, it’s not part of the discussion here.

Oats are good for you for a lot of reasons, but the primary reason is they’re very high in dietary fiber of both the soluble and insoluble types.  What that means is the oats fibers break down in water or don’t break down in water.  Because of this property, the dietary fiber you get from oats is the most effective at clearing cholesterol from your system as anything going except drugs.  I’m lucky for this property because my liver doesn’t metabolize long-term meds very well, so periodically I have to stop taking the drugs for a long while.  When that happens, I eat oats to help maintain a lower cholesterol level.

According to the American Cancer Society, oats have phenomenal nutritional value for fighting certain types of cancer, as well as being high in various vitamins and minerals, in addition to what I said above.  However, oatmeal is pretty bland stuff.  It’s gluey, thick, and sticky.  However, like rice, it takes on flavors very well, especially the sweet ones.  So oatmeal can be made even better by what you add to it.  Like I said, when we were kids, we added milk and sugar.  That was standard back then in the early 60s.  Some people keep is savory by adding a little butter, or bacon bits.  But there are lots of other ways to make oatmeal tasty and original enough to have every day without getting bored.

First, talking about a plain bowl of oatmeal, try cooking it in something other than water.  I’m not talking about wine, although that’s an idea!  Fruit juices or soup stocks turn oatmeal into something else entirely.  You can cook oatmeal in milk, but you have to be very careful not to scorch the milk.  Few things are worse than the taste of burned milk.  You can add pretty much any spice or herb to cooked oatmeal to get whatever flavor combination you like.  Fresh or frozen fruit can be added to the bowl in addition to the flavorings to give the oatmeal a dessert like character.  For centuries, people have been cooking raisins in oatmeal, but you don’t need to stop there.  Any dried fruit can be added during the cooking time to add extra flavor and body.

Oatmeal cookies can made very healthy just by switching a few of the ingredients.  Cut the sugar in half, cut the oil out and use apple sauce, or substitute a healthy canola oil for other pure fat products.  Use a healthier flour, or mix AP flour with whole wheat flour.  Add more dried fruit to the batter.  Add small chopped apples or pears.  Cook per the recipe, then cool completely.  Do not store them until they’ve cooled completely.  The will fall apart from residual heat and you’ll be left with a cookie container full of oatmeal crumble.  Which actually is really good over ice cream.

Oat Bread is another way to get your oats daily.  It’s a basic bread recipe, but it uses honey instead of sugar, and replaces one cup of flour with one cup of oats.  Some people add dried fruit to it, but I prefer bread without fruit in it.  I’ve gone as high as a cup and a half of oats, but over that is pushing it a bit.  Some recipes also add various seeds and nuts, as well as other flour mixtures.  It’s really a matter of experimentation to find what you like best.

For desserts, fresh fruit cobbler with oatmeal crisp on top is excellent.  Oatmeal pudding is good.  Toasted oats as a garnish is never out of place.  It just takes imagination to figure out where to incorporate the oats.

If I’d known all this back when I was six (nearly fifty years ago), I might not have been so bored with hot breakfasts.

Enjoy!

 

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