Ode to Oatmeal

Okay, laugh all you want, dear readers from the frozen north, but this morning my Tequesta, Florida thermometer read a chilly fifty degrees so I dressed for “winter” in long running pants and thermal top. In my defense, I must tell you that there is nothing like a mini typhoon blowing off the Atlantic to cut right through to the bone so some sort of warmer apparel is crucial. The sun was shining and I was able to watch the surfers from Jupiter’s Ocean Boulevard braving a still angry, roiling, post-Sandy sea as I ran. Thanks to the chilly temps, I had the best run since summer’s humid misery departed. I also had a serious craving for a hearty bowl of hot cereal.

Hot cereal and I have always had a very dubious sort of relationship. You know; the kind that opens the door for you and buys you roses but somehow lacks the “spark” that we women sometimes look for. Let’s just say that clandestine weekend getaways on a Harley are not in your future with this relationship, if you know what I mean! 🙂 I won’t go out on a limb and say that I actually hate hot cereal however my childhood memories of hot porridge on cold winter mornings left a bitter legacy and a very rocky beginning for any new cereal courtship; no offense to all of you porridge lovers!

On snowy mornings my brother and I would pray, ear pressed anxiously to the radio, for a free day from school only to be devastated when it wasn’t to be. On such a morning we came to expect steaming hot bowls of porridge and knew that Mom would not be satisfied until it all went down. Iiccckkkk! I can’t put my finger on the exact thread of my dislike. It didn’t taste all that bad and it certainly is good for you. Perhaps it was the texture although who knows what goes on in the minds of children or more importantly, their taste buds, right?

During my baking internship, the pastry chefs ate oatmeal every morning. This culinary masterpiece consisted of oats simply cooked with fresh berries. Admirable; but no thanks! While I have spent a lifetime striving to maintain a healthy lifestyle, I need a little bit of sugar every once in a while and that particular recipe was way too spartan for me. I had something else in mind for this morning’s meal. Making a quick stop at the local market, I grabbed a box of steel cut oats, sliced almonds, bananas and peanut butter frozen yogurt; no, that isn’t an oatmeal ingredient! 🙂 Once home, I cooked up the oats following the manufacturer’s directions. While the oats simmered, I sliced a fourth of a vanilla bean and gently stripped the vanilla seeds from the pod, retrieved the brown sugar from the pantry and dug in the fridge for a quart of half and half. By the time I sliced the banana, the oats were ready.

The best way to combine the ingredients here is to simply lower the temperature of the range and add everything to the pot. This method will gently warm the bananas and cream thereby preventing the initial hot temperature of the cereal from dropping to an unappetizing room temperature and developing a “wall spackle” texture.

While this dish may look, taste and certainly smell like a desert, there is mega nutritional value here including fiber, loads of iron and a whole slew of other vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Oatmeal is known to lower “bad” or LDL cholesterol and according to the FDA is a tasty way to lower the risk for heart disease. A word of caution, however, while I am the last person to lecture about sweets and moderation regarding taste sensations like cream and butter, after all I run so that I can eat, try to be sensible when adding your toppings! 🙂 After all, we don’t want to negate all the health benefits of eating oatmeal by drowning the poor oats in a pound of fat so happy eating and stay warm this winter!

Other sensational toppings:

  • Honey
  • Maple Syrup
  • Nuts of any kind
  • Peanut Butter
  • Flax seed
  • Granola
  • Fruit
  • Butter
  • Dark chocolate shavings (MY FAVORITE!!!)

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