If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, it's important to look past the tacos and cereal to get a little more creative. Oats, the beloved foundation of many morning treats, deserve some serious respect. Cook them properly, and you’ll have a meal sure to turn your morning around, even if you pulled an all-nighter.
Oats in all forms are derived from oat groats that are roasted to keep from spoiling. The groats are then processed and formed into the different types of oats found on grocery store shelves, including steel-cut and rolled oats.
Oats are full of fiber, specifically beta-glucan, which helps lower bad cholesterol. They’re also high in minerals such as manganese, phosphorus and zinc. While all oat forms hold the same nutritional values, despite being processed differently, their cooking time and resulting textures vary.
Steel-cut oats are chopped into pieces from the groat and produce a nuttier flavor than rolled oats. They retain their shape during cooking and are often called for in porridges and thick, warm oatmeals.
Rolled oats are pressed and flattened into thinner oats than the steel-cut variety. Quick-cooking and instant oats belong to the rolled oat family and only vary in thickness. Instant is often so thin that it resembles more of a powder than an actual oat. The thinner the oat, the quicker it cooks, making rolled oats preferable for mornings when you wake up late and only have 15 minutes to make it to an exam.
Oats in their most pure form are naturally gluten-free, but many oats on the market today are packaged in facilities that also process gluten-containing ingredients such as wheat and barley. Those who are gluten-intolerant can still enjoy oats, however, as there are certified brands that process their oats in facilities free of cross contamination.
What do you do with all of those oats? No-bake oatmeal cookies are one sweet and healthy option. Use a nut butter to bind the oats together for a treat that won’t bust your belt buckle.
For a more savory option, oats are a great base in veggie burgers that need some heft to them. Add some seeds to the burgers for even more crunch.
Overnight oats, which often use rolled oats, are a healthy breakfast item taking Instagram and Pinterest by storm. The night before you want to chomp down, mix oats with your milk of choice, chia seeds, cinnamon and some nut butter. Store the result in an airtight container in the fridge. Wake up eight hours later to a grab-and-go breakfast that everyone on the Far West bus will be eyeing. Add some fresh fruit on top to make your creation even more of a nutritional powerhouse.
Granola is another oat-filled treat. It provides the crunch that chip-lovers yearn for without the calories and unhealthy fats. Granola is typically made with rolled oats and then combined with spices and natural sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup. It’s then baked into a crunchy concoction that stays fresh for weeks and is perfect for mid-afternoon snacks. Below is a recipe for chai-spiced quinoa granola.
- - 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
- - 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and dried
- - 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- - 1 teaspoon cardamom
- - 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- - 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- - 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- - 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- - 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- - 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon raw, unfiltered honey
- - 1/2 cup almonds
- - 1/2 cup cashews
- - Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Set aside.
- - In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oats, quinoa, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cloves. Add vanilla extract, coconut oil and honey, and use your hands to incorporate and mix them into the oat mixture thoroughly.
- - Spread wet granola onto the baking sheet into an even layer. Place in oven, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, stir in almonds and cashews, and spread granola out into an even layer once more.
- - Continue baking until the granola feels only slightly damp and the outer edges begin to brown slightly (about 10 more minutes). Remove from oven, and let cool completely before serving.