While the health benefits of oats have been documented in dozens of studies, the question becomes not if one should be eating oats, but how. A bowl of oatmeal morning after morning can get pretty boring. Then again, the arguments for oats get compelling fast. Some of them are: in no particular order,
Oats may reduce asthma risk in children.
Oats may boost nutrition profile of gluten-free diets.
Oats increase appetite-control hormones.
Oat beta glucans improve immune system defenses.
Oats help cut the use of laxatives.
Oats may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Oats may improve insulin sensitivity.
Oats lower bad cholesterol.
Oats help control blood pressure.
Perhaps most interestingly, oats rank first among breakfast foods for creating satiety, or the feeling of fullness, and third among all foods.
Basic oatmeal can be jazzed up with all kinds of toppings and add-ins. A recipe follows for oatmeal with blueberries, sunflower seeds and agave. Use it as a template varying sweeteners, fruits and seeds. Honey and maple syrup vary the taste and there’s a world of fruits out there. But when one more bowl of oatmeal is just not worth an unexploded heart, it’s time to get more creative.
Baked oatmeal is an amazing variation. The texture is a little different and adventurous souls can even eat it cold for lunch, or so some adventurous souls claim. Vary the fruits by season, strawberries in the spring, raspberries and blackberries in the summer and frozen blueberries all year long. Flax meal, chia seeds, sunflower or pumpkin seeds add extra nutrients and texture. A schmear of almond or cashew butter is also delicious and adds some protein.
Making your own granola is another way to get oats into your diet. Even kids like it. It makes a portable breakfast, edible in a moving car or treat it like cereal and serve it with milk or yogurt. Since you make it yourself, you control what goes in it.
And if too healthy a breakfast is just unappealing, try some chocolate oatmeal cake or apricot oat bars. It tastes so good, you’ll barely notice the decline in your bad cholesterol.
Blueberry Baked Oatmeal
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup maple syrup or honey, plus more for serving
2 cups milk, plus more for serving
1 tbsp. canola oil or melted coconut oil
1 1/2 cups fresh mixed berries, plus a few extra for topping
1/4 cup sliced almonds or chopped pecans
2 tbsp. brown sugar
Jam and/or nut butter, for serving (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350° F. and lightly oil an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the rolled oats, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Whisk together the maple syrup, almond milk, vanilla and oil. Add the wet ingredients to the oat mixture and stir to combine. Fold in the berries. Turn the mixture out into your baking dish. Top with a few additional berries. Transfer the oatmeal to the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle the almonds or pecans and brown sugar over the top and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the oats are spongy, but solid. Allow them to cool.
You can serve the baked oatmeal either warm or cold. Cut the oatmeal into squares and drizzle with additional milk and some fresh jam or maple syrup, if desired.
3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups nuts and seeds of your choice (almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, flax seeds, etc)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed apple juice
1/2 cup maple syrup (or honey for a non-vegan version)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 325°F. In a large bowl, combine the oats with the nuts and seeds. In a small sauce pan, combine the apple juice, honey, oil, vanilla, and spices. Over a very low heat, warm the mixture just until the honey has softened and everything is well combined. Remove from heat, and pour the mixture over the oats and nuts. Stir until thoroughly mixed.
Spread the mixture in a single thin layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Make sure there is plenty of space on the sheet to spread out the granola. If there is too much piled onto the baking sheet, the granola won’t be able to get crunchy. You may need to bake the mix in two batches depending on the size of your baking sheet and oven.
Bake for 30-40 minutes total, stirring every 12-14 minutes to make sure the granola browns evenly. When the granola is an even golden brown, remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.
Oatmeal With Blueberries, Sunflower Seeds, and Agave
1 serving quick-cooking or old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup blueberries
1tbsp. sunflower seeds
1 tbsp. agave nectar
Prepare the oats according to the package directions. Top with the blueberries and sunflower seeds. Drizzle with the agave nectar.
Banana Oats Breakfast Cookie
1 1/2 cups oatmeal, quick or old fashioned, uncooked
2 ripe bananas, mashed with fork until creamy
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup raisins, or to taste
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted or plain
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. cinnamon (or more, to taste)
Preheat heat oven to 350°F. Mix vanilla extract & cinnamon into the applesauce. Blend applesauce mixture with all other ingredients and let sit for 10 minutes Drop cookie dough, by spoonfuls, onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and flatten cookies into rounds. Bake approx. 20 – 30 minutes, or until golden and done. Remove from oven and let rest on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then move to cooling rack. Store in a covered container when completely cool.
Apricot Oat Bars
Vegetable oil cooking spray
1 (13-ounce) jar apricot jam or preserves (about 1 1/4 cups)
8 dried apricots, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1/3 cup)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 packed cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. fine sea salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 3/4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup (4 ounces) coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 egg, at room temperature, beaten
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9 by 13 by 2-inch metal baking dish with vegetable oil cooking spray. Line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper with vegetable oil cooking spray and set aside.
Filling: In a small bowl, mix together the jam and the apricots. Set aside.
Crust: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Stir in the oats and walnuts. Add the butter, egg and vanilla and stir until incorporated. Using a fork or clean fingers, lightly press half of the crust mixture onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Using a spatula, spread the filling over the crust leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge of the pan. Cover the filling with the remaining crust mixture and gently press to flatten. Bake until light golden, about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool for 1 hour. Cut into bars and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Chocolate Oatmeal Cake
If using old fashioned oats, let stand in boiling water for a full 10 minutes. There will be a somewhat oatier texture to the cake than there will be with quick cooking oats.
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
½ cup butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten with fork
1¾ cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1½ tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1¾ cups boiling water
1 12 oz. bag chocolate chips, divided
6 tbsp. butter
6 tbsp. milk
1½ cups sugar
½-3/4 cup chocolate chips
½-3/4 cup mini marshmallows
Preheat oven to 350°F. With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars. Add the eggs and mix well. Add flour, soda, salt and cocoa and mix until just incorporated. The batter will be very thick. Add water to oatmeal and let stand for a few minutes (10 minutes for old fashioned oats). Once oats are soft, add oats/water mixture to the batter and mix well. Stir in half of the bag of chocolate chips (6 ounces). Pour into a greased or buttered rectangular 9×13 cake pan. Sprinkle the top of the cake with the rest of the bag of chocolate chips (6 ounces). Bake at 350°F. for 30-40 minutes or until the surface springs back lightly when touched. Do not overbake. Let cool completely.
For the frosting, melt the butter, sugar, and milk in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring to a boil and boil for 30 seconds. Reduce heat to low and add chocolate chips and marshmallows. Stir or whisk until frosting is smooth. Pour immediately over the cooled cake. The frosting crystallizes almost immediately as it cools so it’s important to get it on the cake while it’s still piping hot. If possible, allow the frosted cake to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
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Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699, on Twitter @BillColvard.