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.
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.