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Monday, September 20, 2010

Oatmeal

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When I was a pixie-haired kid, oatmeal was a gelatinous mass of gray putrescence in a shiny stainless steel serving tray in the breakfast line at camp. I have no memory of eating oatmeal at home. I watched as a smiling, steamed lady behind the counter served up a wedge of gray mush-matter onto the food tray of the camper ahead of me in line. Shudder. Thankfully there were scrambled eggs, triangles of toast and colorful honeycombs of juice glasses filled with orange, grape or apple liquid. Oh, and those one serving size boxes of cereal that you could cut open and eat from the box if you wanted. The oatmeal shudder has colored my memory darkly of that pretty log dining hall with a huge fireplace that crackled us awake while it rained outside. Dark room. Dark memory in an otherwise bright camp.

Leap forward like a grasshopper to now, when oatmeal with dried or fresh fruit, walnuts and vanilla almond milk is one of my most pleasurable meals. Before deciding something is putrid, a person really ought to taste it, in a well prepared and presented state. Steel cut oats are less milled than rolled oats, so they are a better source of fiber. For years we had brought steel cut oats to a boil on the stove the night before, boiled one minute, covered, let sit overnight, then simmered in the morning for 10 minutes, stirring all the while. This method kept me from just going to my overstuffed red leather chair and waking up with a cup of coffee, which is what I really wanted to do. (See those precarious stacks of books in the top left photo below? That's my table, next to said chair, in the family room next to the kitchen.) My sister-in-law Wilma taught us a new quick easy method for cooking steel cut oats. With this slow cooker method, because it isn't cooked on the stove, we even eat it in the summer. In fact, we eat this almost every single day and never tire of it. The amount we make provides leftovers for the two of us for a couple of days. We refrigerate what's left right in the Pyrex bowl, plastic wrapped, then we reheat it in a double boiler.

By the way (post script), we find steel cut oats at the health food store, and at Whole Foods. Those of you outside the U.S., you're on your own! But you can ask for this, and see if they laugh (at my literal translations via an online translator): Spanish: avena de corte de acero; Portuguese: aveia de aço de corte; French: l'avoine en acier de coupure; British English: porridge?)

You’ll need a slow cooker. Ours is a big one.




And a Pyrex-type (heat-proof) bowl. Ours is 2 ½ quarts (2.5 liters).

Before going to bed at night, set the bowl in the slow cooker. Fill the slow cooker, not the bowl, with about 2 inches of water.

Into the Pyrex bowl, pour 2 cups steel cut oats, 6 cups water (any 1-3 ratio), a handful of dried fruit if you wish (we do dried Michigan cherries), and a little salt. Stir.

Cover the slow cooker, and turn it to Low. (Don't forget to plug it in.)



Next morning, you’ll awaken to a house filled with a warm, nutty fragrance, and your delicious oatmeal is ready to serve and eat, though I usually turn it down to Warm and drink two cups of coffee first. Ahhh, time to read the NYTimes Op Eds Nicholas Kristoff and Gail Collins, and some blogs . . .
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50 comments:

George said...

You are a woman of many dimensions, Ruth. To pivot from high fashion to oatmeal, and do it with both grace and aplomb, is quite a feat, but one you have accomplished with great success. This is a welcome post as we approach cooler weather. I must confess, however, that I am somewhat intimidated by the aesthetic qualities of your oatmeal. My versions often have the appearance of day-old mortar. Thanks to your post, I may now be able to bring a little art to the breakfast table.

rauf said...

There used to be a brand called Quaker oats Ruth, don't know if its still available here. Have you tried oats with yogurt ? i don't know the difference between yogurt and Curd. i think yogurt is flavoured curd. Not sure. i have not seen such fancy cookers, we don't have them at home. Our cooker is some arrogant looking metal monster. i thought stainless steel is found only in India. Everybody used to carry stainless steel lunch boxes. Now some fancy lunch boxes are available here.

Oats and corn flakes for breakfast is preferred only by busy working women here. i normally have left overs for breakfast to reduce work load for my sisters. My sister defeats me by saying i have made breakfast for you. i'll have it for lunch then, i say

Bonnie said...

Mmmmm, I do love oatmeal. I can eat any leftovers cold with no accoutrements! Unfortunately I do not have a crockpot, so I have to muster the will to stand at the stove and stir. My husband does not eat it, so it becomes easy to talk myself out of the bother. However ... guess what I'm having for breakfast today!

Thank you for reminding me of a healthy, vessel-cleaning breakfast that I adore!

California Girl said...

Oatmeal has always been my favorite cereal. I don't recall eating it at school but I don't think I ever ate breakfast in school. When I was pregnant, my father had Nebraskia whole wheat sent to me. His friend had a farm there. It was bagged in gingham. I ate nothing but. For some reason, it soothed me and I craved it.

Susan said...

Nummies!! I still haven't tried your method, because I kept forgetting how you said to do it. Now I have it in writing and will follow those easy steps to steel-cut perfection for Tuesday's breakfast. I even have some dried cherries in the pantry just waiting to be used. I usually opt for raisins, but that sounds really good for a change of pace. Do you think I could do it with 1/2 milk, 1/2 water the way I do it on top of the stove, or would that not be safe?

*jean* said...

oo that's great! i'm trying it next weekend, thanks ruth!!

amuse me said...

Made my mouth water! My husband and I enjoy oatmeal on the weekends when life slows down a bit.

Char said...

you are a woman after my own heart - i adore chewy, yummy, full bodied oatmeal and cannot abide the weak, thin "instant". so i go without it a lot because i never knew a method that would get these results and allow me to be at work on time. suffice to say, i'm not a morning person. i will definitely give this a try.

ellen abbott said...

I love oatmeal. I have it for breakfast nearly every morning, rolled oats though. And I do cook them, no 'instant' for me. I'll have to try the steel cut oats.

Babs-beetle said...

I eat Quaker Oats (porridge) often. Usually raw with cold milk, though to eat it raw it has to be the rolled oats, as the other type feels raw (if you know what I mean). In the winter I eat oat bran, which is really meant as an additive in foods because it's very good at cutting down cholesterol. Mo and I discovered that we can eat a bowl of it hot, and enjoy it, much to the doctors amazement and delight.

Lorenzo said...

I haven't had oatmeal in years, no, make that decades. Don't know if I could convince my daughters to try it; my wife definitely not. Our breakfast staple is toast (great bread here in Spain) generously doused with extra virgin olive oil. Olives and olive oil are big with my family here, as my wife's father and ancestors worked as olive growers and olive pickers for untold generations.

Would you mind sending me some of those dry Michigan cherries?

Ruth said...

George, that is a gracious and kind way of recognizing that I am all over the place in this blog. :)

I really love having fresh fruit for breakfast, and I recommend it in your oatmeal.

Oliag said...

I have to admit that I only have fond memories of oatmeal eaten as a child...hot from the stove, made with milk, with a dab of butter and lots of maple syrup on it...yum!

During her illness, each week one of my sister's friends would make and deliver a large container of oatmeal loaded with healthy additions and I would get to share this whenever I was staying overnight...This simple gift of oatmeal was thoughtful, touching, and treasured. I will now always connect oatmeal to these memories.

I have been making oatmeal in my slow cooker overnight but only directly in the cooker...will try your method because I always have to put the extras in a container anyways:)

Ruth said...

Yes yes, rauf, I almost mentioned the Quaker fellow who looks like Ben Franklin in this post. We have it in several variations, from instant packets, to quick oats, and old fashioned, which take a little longer. But they are all rolled and quick cooking. We use the Quaker kind in recipes, like apple crisp, which is baked and gets a crunch top with the oatmeal and buttah. Mmmmm.

When I don't have oatmeal, I sometimes have something leftover, even soup, for breakfast.

Ruth said...

Bonnie, now cold I have not tried. Hmm. But why not?

I encourage you to look into a slow cooker. We picked this one up for about $20, and it is great for soup that's ready when we get home from work, of course. I'm just happy to have this easy way to make my favorite breakfast.

Bon appetit!

Ruth said...

California Girl, oh, so you ate wheat like oatmeal? I know some people eat it that way, it has to be in a form close to its origin, like wheat berries maybe? I'm sure your unborn baby enjoyed it too.

Ruth said...

Susie, I'm happy to oblige you, and for once offer you cooking instructions. As for the 1/2 milk, I don't know why not. Unless you think the milk wouldn't be hot enough for several hours? I wonder how you could find out.

Ruth said...

Yay, Jean! I hope it works out well.

Ruth said...

Hi, M! There is something homey and cozy about oatmeal, isn't there.

Ruth said...

Char, maybe Wilma's recipe will be just the ticket. I hope so.

Ruth said...

Ellen, cool! I love how adding things to oatmeal makes it like a meal in a bowl, like breakfast soup, like breakfast goulash!

Ruth said...

Babs, I've never tried rolled oats raw, but sometimes certain granolas seem to have almost raw rolled oats. I love almost anything with oats. Oatmeal raisin cookies are my favorite.

Ruth said...

Lorenzo, actually, that sounds heavenly, toast with olive oil from your area. In Istanbul, the traditional breakfast (as you may have discovered on your trip there) was black fermented olives, fresh bread and white cheese (like feta). With a glass of çay of course. We really enjoyed it, though our kids also enjoyed a rogue box of Kellogg's "Tiger" cereal (corn flakes or frosted flakes) picked up in Alexandroupoli, Greece on our trips out of country.

Sure about the cherries . . . what's your address? They're big, plump and juicy, so great!

Ruth said...

Oliag, those are precious oatmeal memories you store in you. The gift of oatmeal to your sister, the gift of hoped for and longed for health, to the degree she could absorb it, really touches me.

I do like this way of cooking it, partly because it's much easier to clean the Pyrex bowl than the huge and heavy slow cooker bowl. I hope it works well for you.

Ginnie said...

They say oats are one of the best things you can eat, Ruth, so BRAVO for coming up with a recipe that rocks your boat. I haven't seen the steel-cut oats here in The Netherlands, but Astrid grew up with them as a child. Muesli is a big thing here with the rolled oats, nuts and dried fruit, which I love...with qwark (a heavy yogurt) and half a banana...my breakfast every day during the week. I never get tired of it. :)

I have a feeling I'm like you when it comes to memories of cooked oatmeal...or any hot cereal. Maybe one day you will change my mind?

Jeanie said...

Thanks, Ruth. I love oatmeal and Rick is very into steel cut oats, but yes, they do take awhile, so they are relegated to weekend mornings when we have more time! This is a tip to pass on!

Terresa said...

Oh, you've done it now, an ode to Oatmeal. (mmmmm) It is a staple in our home, nearly as common as chocolate. We've raised our children eating it from the time they could hold a spoon, we've nearly put Quaker out of business. We eat it several times a week, our favorite topping? Blackberry jam.

Anet said...

Gee... and all we get is instant Quaker Oats. Shame on me!

Ruth
I loved reading about your camp experience, I felt as if I was standing right next to you in line!

Sidney said...

Wow... I just pour some hot water on my oatmeal... no wonder they don't taste good... :-0

The Bug said...

When I was a child, oatmeal was part of our breakfast "rotation." My dad was in charge of breakfast and we'd have oatmeal, fried eggs with toast, grits & eggs, cereal... I remember that the only way I could eat it was with LOTS of brown sugar & raisins. Yum!

Now I fix it with lactose free milk (it's sweeter than regular), a chopped apple & cinnamon - after cooking I'll add whatever trail mix I have handy (this week's is some sort of craisin mix with tiny chocloate chips). It's like eating extra fancy apple cobbler :)

Arti said...

You're just one resourceful lady, Ruth. While most people are trying to find faster methods, like the 1 minute Quaker oats, here you are being the ingenious contrarian. I haven't heard of using the slow cooker to prepare oatmeal, or even steel cut oats. How are they different from 'regular' oats? Your pictures and simple directions have just convinced me to give it a try... but first I've to find some steel cut oats.

Claudia said...

Never had oatmeal or porridge but I do love oat and honey granola bars.

Before I met my husband my breakfast used to be a double espresso. Now it's usually a bowl of Swiss muesli with yoghurt.

Gwei Mui said...

Great post - porridge is a love hate thing with me. My gradnmother was brilliant at making fresh porridge-oats maybe becuase she was Scottish I dont know but it was never lumpy ot was rich, with honey, a little cinamen in winter, my favourite was with sprinkled toasted almonds than my Grandmother would pick fresh and then toast and a large gloop of honey. But in the UK porridge is a bit like Marmite, you either love it or you hate it.

Montag said...

It sounds great, and I hope to try it soon.
I don't use toppings, just butter, salt, and pepper. Same way for grits. Nothing to get in the way of the taste of the ground or cut meal.

Ruth said...

Boots, it's always a plus when you love what's good for you. I know you, and you treat your body with utmost respect, eating the healthiest of things. I think I could convince you to like oatmeal next time you're here. Or maybe you'll try this in AMS, but you know what, I doubt it. :D

Do you remember what you ate at Camp Barakel?

Ruth said...

Jeanie, I hope you'll try it during the week, because it's easier than opening a box of cereal! Lift the lid and serve, et voilà!

Ruth said...

Terresa, I'm happy to hear it. Now blackberry jam I have not tried on it. Woe is me, Don did not make any this year. I think it was too darned hot to pick the berries. And I was too busy doing . . . . something . . .

Ruth said...

Anet, no shame, no shame! You eat oatmeal, and you give Noah and Brad the sweetest, most imaginative life. Will you be my mom? Is it too late?

Ruth said...

Sidney, ha! I wonder what Filipinos traditionally eat for breakfast . . .

Ruth said...

Dana, oooh, trail mix, with chocolate chips! I never thought of that. One of my favorite desserts is bread pudding with chocolate laced between the bread. I can't believe I haven't tried oatmeal with chopped apples either. I bet they would taste yum if I put them in the bowl night before. Mmmm.

Ruth said...

Arti, steel cut oats and rolled oats are cut differently, and rolled oats are steamed a bit to help them cook faster. I believe they are both very healthy and contain the whole grain. So don't worry if you eat rolled oats. We just like the texture and flavor of steel cut oats waaay better than rolled oats. And we like rolled oats! We still used rolled oats on apple crisp, in oatmeal cookies, and all that.

Ruth said...

Oh, Claudia, me too love honey granola bars, haven't had one in ages.

Sounds like your husband takes care of you. :)

Ruth said...

Gwei Mui, thank you. Oh, toasted almonds! Good one. Now Marmite I haven't tried. My nephew in Sydney brought some home at Christmas, and I meant to try it, but I forgot. I must say, it looks strange. But I refuse to refuse based upon looks alone!

Ruth said...

Montag, well then you must have Southern roots. I tried grits once, at a Waffle House. I'm guessing that is not the best presentation of grits. But, I believe many people add maple syrup or something to give them flavor. You are a purist. Why does that not surprise me?

Vagabonde said...

I was in my 20s when I had oatmeal the first time – in this country. Now I usually have a French breakfast, which is a “bol” of cafe noir (French Roast or Expresso) and some French bread with a tiny bit of butter and my homemade jam. About once a week I make extra thick rolled oats, bought from Whole Foods. I like mine heavily spiced – with cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon, with walnuts added too and berries and a little bit of almond milk and extra fiber. It tastes better when it is cold outside. Today we still had 95 degrees so anything hot is not tempting.

Denise Scaramai said...

what a beautiful blog!
elegant and very interesting
greetings
Denise from São Paulo

Pat said...

Anything sounds good the way you describe it! We've been eating Greek yogurt mixed with granola for breakfast. It's quite tasty and stays with you all morning.

Ruth said...

Vagabonde, oh I know how terribly hot it's been in Atlanta. Those spices sound interesting, cardamom!

Ruth said...

Welcome, Denise from São Paulo! I in turn visited your blog, which is absolutely gorgeous. I've never seen another blog like yours, and your artwork is splendid.

Ruth said...

Pat, ha, well. :)

Greek yogurt, so wonderful! We just had some on the weekend, with garlic in it on some pasta. Mmmm.