Sunday, April 20, 2008

Berries n' Cream Steel Cut Oatmeal

Breakfast has always been a bit of a challenge for me, actually eating it that is. I am now finally in the habit of eating breakfast every morning. One of my most favorite breakfast foods is steel cut oats, which are more nutritious than quick cooking oats, and definitely more nutritious than instant packaged oatmeal. The more you process a food, the less nutritious it becomes. But, instant oatmeal is always better than a sugar cereal, so I am not denouncing it.

If you have the inclination, and time, steel cut oats are worth it. They make a substantial breakfast, have a wonderful chewy texture, and sweet, true oat flavor. They are not hard to prepare by any means, they just need to cook for about 20 minutes with occasional stirring. Steel cut oats, or Scottish oats, are whole oat groats that have been cut into two or three pieces. Oats are great for helping to lower cholesterol (as is any whole grain), are high in soluble fiber (which helps to remove cholesterol), have good amounts of B vitamins, calcium, and protein. Oats are good anytime of the day depending on how they are prepared. In countries where oats are an important food source, places such as Ireland and Scotland, oats are eaten as a simple porridge just flavored with a little salt and fat. Oats have a natural affinity for many foods. Examples are berries, bananas, apples, pumpkin or butternut squash, nuts and seeds, cinnamon, and root vegetables. Berries happen to be my favorite, and since organic strawberries have shown up at the market, I can't seem to get enough of the following recipe; Berries n' Cream Steel Cut Oatmeal. I don't actually use cream, but you can if you like, it will be much richer than my version. I like to use a thick, homemade almond milk, or full fat soy milk. If this was to be prepared on a weekend, say for company, I would set out a basic, piping hot pot of cooked steel cut oats and put all the garnishes on the side, like a buffet, and let everyone make their own. It's hard to say how much milk and sweetener a person likes in their oatmeal, it's quite personal actually.When finished, this oatmeal turns a beautiful purple and smells heavenly with berries. This oatmeal is a great start to any day. The below recipe serves two if you have a hungry husband and are yourself pregnant, or 4 with other foods along side, like toast or scrambled eggs.

Berries n' Cream Steel Cut Oatmeal

-1 cup organic steel cut oats
-3 cups water
-pinch of salt
-4 cups of berries, fresh or frozen (defrost before hand)
-soy milk, almond milk, cow's milk, or even real cream (you will need much less if using real cream)
-real maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, or brown rice syrup

Place the oats, water, and salt in a 4 quart saucepan and bring up to a simmer. Simmer the oats, stirring often, until quite tender and the oatmeal is very thick, about 20 minutes. Set up a large bowl of the berries, a pitcher or two of chosen milks, and a bowl of chosen sweetener/s. Ladle the very hot oatmeal into each bowl and let everyone garnish their own. Alternatively, add the berries to the oatmeal and stir in while still on the heat to slightly soften the berries. Serve as above. I like to add frozen blueberries and blackberries to the oatmeal while still on the heat, stir in to defrost and soften, stir in strawberries and maple syrup off heat, and then top with a good pouring of fresh, homemade almond milk.

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