Oatmeal is one of the Food Channel’s top 10 breakfast trends for 2011, and it’s making a comeback with more options than ever.
The Country Corner Cafe in Saratoga Springs has been serving hot cereals like oatmeal, Cream of Wheat and grits for the 20 years it has been in business. “We have found that over the years a lot of people really do like to have cereal in the morning,” said owner Roseann Hotaling. “The most popular is oatmeal.”
People love oatmeal for it health benefits, including high fiber and protein. But now that oatmeal has become chic, they love it for its different varieties and the way one can dress it up for breakfast.
There are different add-ins, such as brown sugar, raisins, various fruits either dried or fresh, and granola. “We add different things like that, so the variety changes all the time,” Hotaling said.
Dennis Gilliam, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Bob’s Red Mill, likes to add raisins and toasted slivered almonds. He puts the slivered almonds on a cookie sheet and bakes them at 350 degrees until they are a light golden brown. Then he stores them in an air-tight container. Other add-ins are currants, dried cherries, dried cranberries, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and hazelnuts. Sometimes he grates half of an apple on top of his oatmeal.
Variety of choices
Some people like to use agave nectar or honey in place of brown sugar, and some prefer no sweetener at all but opt for the natural sweetness in the fruit they add.
The oatmeal available today is not your grandmother’s oatmeal. There are many different types that vary in texture and consistency.
There’s the oat groat, which consists of the entire piece of oat after the hull has been removed. These take the longest to cook.
When that groat is cut into four pieces with steel blades, you have steel-cut oats, a term that has become a household word in the past few years.
Scottish oatmeal is made by grinding the oat groats between two quartz millstones. Bob Moore, founder of Bob’s Red Mill, visited Scotland around 25 years ago to tour the mills and learn how the Scots ground their oats. He took the company’s Scottish oats to Scotland in 2009 to compete in the World Porridge Making Championship and left with the top prize — the Golden Spurtle. (A spurtle is a porridge stirring implement invented and used extensively in Scotland.) Scottish oatmeal has a creamier texture than its counterparts.
If you infuse an oat groat with steam and roll it flat, you get a rolled oat, which is probably the most familiar type.
Memories of mush
If you mention oatmeal and get a less-than-receptive response, it probably has something to do with childhood memories of the hot cereal. “When I was a kid, my grandmother served me mush, and I just couldn’t choke it down,” said Gilliam. If someone tells him they can’t stand oatmeal, he surmises that the person’s mother or grandmother “cooked the living daylights out of it and rendered it near to wallpaper paste.” Overcooking makes it unpalatable.
But with so many different varieties, it’s worth giving the oat another try. Packages come with clear cooking instructions.
If the time it takes to cook oatmeal puts you off because your mornings are too rushed, try it overnight in a mini-crock pot. I’ve tried all the varieties cooked this way. The oat groats, with a ratio of one-quarter cup groats to one cup of water, come out the best. I put them in the night before and voila — breakfast is already made when I get up (along with freshly brewed coffee set on a timer. What more could one ask for?).
Another time-saving trick is to prepare the oatmeal ahead of time and reheat it in the microwave.
The Country Corner Cafe offers a twist on oatmeal on its menu. After a customer had mentioned seeing “fried oatmeal” on a menu when traveling, Hotaling began experimenting with recipes for it. After the oatmeal is prepared, it is pressed into a loaf pan until firm, then sliced, pan fried and served with maple syrup, if desired. She first offered it as a special featured item, but it became so popular that she added it to the regular menu.
Recipe by Roseann Y. Hotaling of the Country Corner Cafe in Saratoga Springs.
Bring 1 quart of water to a boil. Add 8 ounces of quick oats. After oatmeal is cooked, approximately 5 to 7 minutes, remove from heat and add 1⁄4 cup light brown sugar and 8 ounces of fruit (almost any dried fruit or fresh fruit may be used depending on what is available and in season). You can also add 1⁄3 cup nuts or granola if desired. Once all ingredients are blended, pour into a lightly greased loaf pan and chill. Once it has cooled, cut into slices and pan fry until heated through. Serve. Yield: 1 loaf.
Pennsylvania Dutch Baked Oatmeal
Recipe from Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods by Stephanie Norris, 1st Runner Up of the Gluten Free Oat Recipe Contest.
1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1⁄2 cups Bob’s Gluten Free Rolled Oats
1 apple, sliced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or spray an 8-by-8 baking pan.
Wash and slice apple. Layer on the bottom of the pan. (Optional: sprinkle with cinnamon sugar). Mix oil, egg and sugar together until well blended. Stir in milk. Add baking powder and salt and mix again. Stir in oatmeal.
Pour oatmeal mixture over apples and spread evenly. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the oatmeal begins to brown at the edges. Cut into four squares and serve with milk and sugar or syrup. Makes 4 Servings.
Other fruit may be used such as canned pineapple chunks, frozen peach slices or frozen blueberries.
Apple Pie Oatmeal
Recipe from Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods by Jolleen Washburn.
1 apple, cored and sliced
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon yellow D Sugar (brown sugar)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1⁄4 teaspoon nutmeg
1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1⁄2 cups regular rolled oats
1 1⁄2 cups water
1 1⁄2 cups apple juice
Place sugar and butter in a 2-quart heavy sauce pan to melt and then add the apples and spices. Cook for about 4 minutes on medium high heat until the apples release their juices. Add the oats and cook for about two minutes, until they soak up the juices, stirring so they won’t stick to the pan.
Add the apple juice and water and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 7-10 minutes, until the oatmeal is thick and apples are soft. Remove from heat and let rest two minutes. Sprinkle brown sugar on top of oatmeal, and serve with nuts and more fresh fruit if desired. Makes 4 Servings.