I love oatmeal. And, who doesn't love an oatmeal-raisin cookie, crisp and chewy? Well, there' s more to oatmeal than meets the eye.
Oatmeal is a whole grain, a staple, and an ingredient in many recipes, including cookies and apple crisp. That makes it something I always have in my pantry.
A whole grain is simply a grain that contains its original bran, germ and endosperm; nothing added, nothing taken away. Sometimes things are removed from grains and added back in to make food more nutritious. I say, "don't take it out in the first place."
Oats come in two ways from your local grocer. Old-fashioned or quick. Both have the same whole grain oat, but quick oats have been cut before rolling and therefore cook faster. I think they lose some of their crunch in baking also, so I try never to buy quick oats.
What's in a kernel? The germ, endosperm and bran:
Wholegrain oats contain seven B vitamins, and vitamin E. Oats have nine minerals in all – iron, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, copper, manganese and zinc.
Oats are quite versatile in the kitchen. They are not just for oatmeal anymore. Although, I love Irish oats after a hike in the Badlands at the crack of dawn shooting photos, oh yummmmmmm.
There's a difference in the processing old-fashioned oats versus Irish oats. Old-fashioned oat groats are rolled and crushed into flat flakes. Oat rollers can still be found in old barns around the state as folks used to grow their own. Irish oats are not rolled but can be found in the grocery stores as steel cut or course cut oats. The oat groat is cut with steel blades into smaller pieces and thereby considered less processed.
That gives Irish oats more texture and longer cook time. Most Irish oat breakfast recipes include the addition of butter, cinnamon, berries and nuts, making them a high fiber and chewy-good breakfast.
As a young mother with limited income, I spent more time coupons and calculator in hand using my grocery dollars wisely. Saving labels also paid in spades as many companies offered up free recipe books for some "proofs of purchase" from its products, including Quaker Oats. Besides Bob's Red Mill brand, you will more than likely find Quaker Oats a familiar round box on your grocer's shelves.
Most of my recipe books are premiums from brands. It used to be that you could get more than recipe books from oatmeal and Duz Detergent in my mother's day.
In times like these, I am reminded of "depression glass." In the 1920s and '30s, you would find beautiful cut glass dishes in boxes of oatmeal, detergent, or when you filled your car with gas. My mom collected many a saucer and coffee cup from boxes of food purchased at the store.
There are still collectors of Depression glass today with many a website chronicling this unusual time in American history. (One that may be repeating itself at this moment in time?)
From the website https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/depression-era-glassware-colorful, we learn that Depression glass brought some much-needed joy to kitchens during a bleak year following the stock market crash of 1929. Before the crash, glassware was often clear and handmade from cut crystal, making it too pricey for the middle-class family.
Anchor Hocking, a name we are still familiar with, developed a machine that could acid etch glass from molds that could produce thousands of dishes. Of course, that increased the speed of glass production and greatly reduced the cost.
"Depression glass was the first glassware in American history to be produced by a completely automated method without need for skilled glassblowers, so the major glass companies could sell complete 20‐piece dinner sets for as little as $1.99," wrote Diane Greenberg in The New York Times, years later. It also meant that many American families could afford to purchase beautiful glass cups, plates, bowls, and pitchers in brilliant shades for the first time.
As the glassware adorned tables and cupboards, it lifted families' spirits. "They glimpsed an old, sweet dream shining in the darkness just ahead of them," wrote Hazel Weatherman in Colored Glassware of the Depression Era. "For many, many families [the Depression glass] became something they could focus on, group around, work towards, in its own small way."
At this time, we'll be buying oatmeal without any dishes in it anymore. However, the recipe book from Quaker oats highlighted five ways to use oatmeal in your everyday meals. This is helpful if you are married to someone who refuses to eat it as breakfast food.
Then there's oat milk. A product quickly made at home. Oat milk is an excellent choice for people with allergies or intolerances. It's naturally free of lactose, nuts, soy, and gluten if made from certified gluten-free oats. Not to mention, it's delicious and may benefit bone and heart health.
It's relatively easy to make: Oat milk is made by soaking, blending, and straining oats. It's often enriched with nutrients and naturally free of many allergens or irritants. So, when stocking your pantry, be sure and add oats to your staple's list; and get creative in the kitchen.
NOTE: on my podcast with Prairie Public Radio, I misnamed this "rose" moon. The Strawberry Moon is in June, I believe... and April is traditionally called the "Pink Moon."
My husband harasses me to no end when I tell him that I have to get my radishes planted because it's going to rain. I based that estimation on the fog days in December. Keeping a gardening diary for years, it is so close to that time I can count on it. He, of course, thinks its hogwash.
Before weather and meteorologists, some farmers knew their land like the back of their hand. There were signs everywhere in nature connected to the weather. It is, after all, a weather "pattern." Our "long hot summer" weather pattern may be interrupted with climate change, but there are some things we can count on – like the moon.
There are two ways to look at planting by the moon, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac. You know it has weather predictions based on an ancient (or nearly ancient) formula.
Gardening by the moon uses the moon's cycles. It has more to do with the gravitational pull of the moon, which also affects the tides. Like the oceans rising and falling, the moon pulls the moisture in soil much in the same way. Science says seeds will absorb more water during the full moon and the new moon when moisture draws to the surface.
In case you don't want the moon, the new moon is completely dark – just the opposite of the full bright orb that brightens our life once, or maybe twice in a blue moon, a month.
From Wikipedia: In astronomy, the new moon is the first lunar phase, when the Moon and Sun have the same ecliptic longitude. At this phase, the lunar disk is not visible to the unaided eye, except when silhouetted during a solar eclipse. Daylight outshines the earthlight that dimly illuminates the new moon. The actual phase is usually a skinny crescent. (SOURCE: https://wikimili.com/en/Earthlight_(astronomy))
Have you heard of the old moon in the new moon's arms? A very cool sight to see as the moon begins to wax. You can barely see the outline of the moon, and in the lower right-hand corner, the waxing moon begins to shine, holding the dark moon in its arms.
Oh, back to gardening.
How plants respond to gravity through geotropism can be used to plan your planting. It would explain how plants decide where to grow and what direction to take as they search out things to climb on? And for crying out loud, how do they find something to climb?
Well. Roots grow downward in the direction of the earth's gravitational pull, and stems grow in the opposite direction – upwards.
You can see this happening if you plant a clove of garlic or onion bulb in the wrong direction. It will not grow down; it will take a 90-degree angle upwards in the soil, without fail.
Plants are such complex organisms. I could talk for days. Now, the second school of thought is planting with the zodiac.
I'm not a believer in astrology, really, but I do watch the constellations move around the sky. The concept of the zodiac originated in Babylonian astrology and influenced later by Hellenistic culture. Again, before weather forecasters.
(On a side note, have you have noticed lately the sky seems brighter than usual. Less pollution from less traffic or maybe we are looking through more hopeful eyes in our isolation. At any rate, I'm not the only person noticing it.)
Astrological "best days" to plant are based on the moon's position in the zodiac. The order of the astrological signs is Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. I am, and proud of it, an Aries.
Here is a chart from the Old Farmers' Almanac outlining the best times to plant-based on where the moon is in the zodiac.
Activity Associated Signs
Plant, Transplant, or Graft Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces, or Taurus
Harvest Aries, Leo, Sagittarius, Gemini, or Aquarius
Build/Fix Fences or Garden Beds Capricorn
Control Insect Pests, Plow, or Weed Aries, Leo, Sagittarius, Gemini, or Aquarius
Prune Aries, Leo, or Sagittarius
So, plant annual flowers and fruits and vegetables that bear crops above ground during the waxing of the moon from the new moon until full. (corn, tomatoes, watermelon, and zucchini). As the moon grows brighter, plants grow leaves and stems. Below-ground crops like onions, carrots and potatoes should be planted as the moon wanes beginning the day after it is full. As the light decreases, plants grow roots and bulbs.
Not a moon gazer by nature? You can find the moon rise and set times https://stardate.org/nightsky/moon has tons of great info and also alerts as to cosmic events you may learn to love.
I also have an app for identifying objects in the night sky called Sky Guide because I love the night sky.
It may or may not be a good time to talk about this, but anytime is a good time to consider a well-stocked pantry.
Before staples was an office supply store, it was a word that meant "a main or important element of something, especially of a diet or a main item of trade or production." A common term before people had options for eating out, shopping online, etc., staples were a part of every kitchen.
My dad tells the story of my brother's birth in 1948. It was December 1, when he drove my mother to the hospital in Bismarck to give birth to their first son. Mom stayed in the hospital for a week, and the bill was about $120. Things have changed a bit since then.
When he brought his wife and child home, they did not leave the farm until April. Imagine that? Were it not for "staples," people would have been in dire straits in those days.
At the end of this article, you will find a list of staples. I'm not recommending you run out and purchase all these things. You have to be a bit sensible about the room you have in your pantry. Yes, it's more than the name of a delivery service from Amazon. Everyone used to have a root cellar and a pantry to store non-perishable items for times such as these.
Think about the things that don't spoil. That's what usually fills your pantry. Without divulging too much about my stash, in case my husband is listening, let me begin.
Some essential staples for baking are flour, sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, shortening, oil, yeast, Karo syrup, honey, maple syrup, baking powder, baking soda, baking spices (ginger, cloves, cardamom, anise, cinnamon, etc.), vanilla and chocolate chips.
None of these items spoil in the amount of time you would use them up; unless you never bake cookies, which I cannot believe.
Staples for cooking are oils, kinds of vinegar, salt, pepper, Penzy spice blends or things like cayenne pepper, paprika, oregano, cumin, etc., plus things like oatmeal, rice, dried beans, whole grains for grinding into flour, seeds (sesame, sunflower, flax), dried pasta, etc.
You get the drift. A well-stocked pantry means you could find a recipe online and go to your cupboard and create it. It may not be the same, but there are substitutions for things. And, the more you express creativity in the cupboard, the better you become at winging it when you are cooking supper.
It also pays to stock your refrigerator weekly and your deep freeze monthly. Things to have on hand are bacon, sausage, chicken, ground beef, maybe round steak or roasts. You get the drift. The less processed your staple foods, the simpler it is to combine them.
In the canned area of your house, condensed soups for gravies, tomato paste, canned beans, fruit and veggies. You could also do some canning after you plant a vegetable garden. Freezing is fine, but if the electricity goes out, you won't experience mass spoilage.
Potatoes and onions last a long time in the pantry, just not next to each other. Celery, cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables hold up well in the crisper draw of your refrigerator. This past Christmas, my daughter sewed up some produce bags. They work wonderfully. You wet them and place your produce in the bags to keep them humid. It works to make things last longer. Also, if you can purchase products at the farmers market, the shelf life is two to three weeks longer because it didn't take that long to transport to our middle-of-the-country state.
Don't forget the eggs, canned milk, dried milk and cheese. We eat a lot of quiche and baked egg dishes. If you don't have a friendly farmer, you will not have access to fresh dairy.
Below you will find a list of staples to begin supplying your pantry with more than three days-worth of good food for your family. Yes, folks, as my travels with my local foods job, it was a common statement that if the interstate system shut down, food in the grocery stores would last about three days. That includes toilet paper.
Sue B. Balcom
Writing, or maybe talking, comes naturally to me and under the guidance of a great newspaper editor I have acquired skills that led me to author four books.