Ode To Oatmeal

Well, blow me down – they were right.

My doctor recommended steel cut oats as part of my diet to increase fiber and all that happiness. Oatmeal is high fiber, fat-free complex carbs…and a safe, down the middle healthy recommendation for 99% of everybody. But I’ve never had the steel cut variety before, so if you say oatmeal to me, I automatically think of bland, gooey tasteless baby mush. The only way you can make that stuff palatable is to load it up with brown sugar and cinnamon. The cinnamon is the only good part of that deal…it is supposed to help regulate blood sugar. Its different for everyone, but for me, if I was smart, I’d avoid sugar and processed carbs like Dracula avoids sunshine.

Then Alton Brown saved the day.

It’s no secret I love to cook…and eat. “Good Eats” has been one of my all time favorite TV shows ever since it first hit the air. I don’t know how it happened, but I missed the oatmeal episode until recently. The clouds parted, rays of sun shown down, and I tried his recipe for steel cut oats in a slow cooker. It was delicious! His recipes usually are, but I didn’t think even Mr. Brown’s genius could salvage this one.

As always, his science in the show was spot on. Insoluble fiber doesn’t mix with water, and lets the digestive tract grab onto food and move it through and out before it can sit around and cause any digestive funkiness. Soluble fiber mixes with the water to make that well known baby food goo texture we all know from the texture of oatmeal. That traps the cholesterol in food right where it is and makes the body use what is in the blood stream and so decreases the cholesterol available to do any artery-clogging. For those of us with more of a focus on glycemic index and carbs, oatmeal is a winner there too, believe it or not. The carbs are complex, and slow burning, as long as you don’t load it up with sugar or a ton of fruit.

Like I’ve already said – I’m not a nutritionist, or dietitian, or doctor (well, not THAT kind of doctor)- I haven’t done scientific studies or memorized the studies other people have done. All I can say is that I had a big bowlful of the tasty stuff for breakfast for a couple of days, and I felt good. I actually felt lighter – which at my weight is no small feat. Usually, after eating the super-sugary add hot water packets of pre-fab oatmeal I felt as low-energy and run down as the “Being Human” vampires did after a night on the town.

I don’t want to infringe on Alton Brown…if anything I want to give him free advertising and tell you to watch “GOOD EATS” for heavens sake. And get his cookbooks while you are at it…on the other hand, in my kitchen, a recipe just isn’t a recipe until I’ve mucked around with it myself and adapted it to our particular tastes. That being said, here is my version of his recipe…

I used almond milk as a deliberate substitution for the cream in his recipe for a couple of reasons. First it is ALMOND milk…sounds like a good match to amp up the flavor of the oats and that “nutty” flavor quality everyone says the steel cut oats have. Second, some of my family is lactose intolerant, so using almond milk in place of cream is a no-brainer. It also eliminates any cholesterol and fat, but I personally don’t care about that.

In a ceramic slow cooker (crock pot, etc) mix:
4 Cups water
1 Cups almond milk
1 Cup steel cut oats
(YES – it makes a HUGE difference. Blow the extra buck or two for the STEEL CUT oats!! It’s worth it – a little goes a long way. These things suck up water like crazy)
dried apricots, cut into slivers. 1 cup of slivers gives the batch a nice amount of sweetness
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt

stir and let simmer, using all of your common sense safety precautions, on low setting overnight.

Wake up, shamble out to the kitchen, make yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy a bowlful of cinnamon-y goodness. The texture really is different. The goo is more creamy than with rolled oats. The larger bits have a pop and chewiness that reminds me a little bit of the texture (NOT the taste) of caviar…sort of. This is actually a breakfast fit for humans over the age of 2. If it still isn’t sweet enough for you, try stirring a couple of tsp of stevia powder into the batch right before serving it. Or drizzle some honey over the bowl as you serve it. Or give in to the monster and go for the brown sugar – but on your head be it if you do.

Well, blow me down. There really is a healthy oatmeal that tastes good. They were right.



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