Oats, oats, oats!

When the days were toasty warm and hovering in the low-80s just a couple weeks ago, I made some “Overnight oats.”  After reading many posts by Kath Younger of Kath Eats Real Food about her love of these oats I finally decided to give them a try.  Her recipe is simple: 1/3 c uncooked rolled oats, 1/3 c milk of some form, 1/3 c yogurt mixed together and left in the fridge overnight.  That’s it; no cooking involved.  It sounded great for a warm, late-summer morning when the time was not yet ripe for cooked oats.  To the three ingredients, Kath adds any number of toppings either the night before to meld with the oats or the next morning to give some extra texture and flavors.

I followed that recipe, using 1% milk and Trader Joe’s Organic Vanilla yogurt with Quaker rolled oats.  To it I added four juicy strawberries in the morning.  My first reaction to a bite of just-oats?

…This is bland.

Then I thought about my typical oatmeal, laden with brown sugar or maple syrup. The mixture in front of me was quite different, getting only the sweetness from a little bit of vanilla yogurt in the mix.  On my second bite, I included the berry, and that definitely jazzed it up. Now, it’s important to mention that these aren’t just any grocery-store strawberries.  For whatever reason, Key Food on Avenue A and 4th Street offered up an AMAZING box of strangely ripe strawberries for September.  I’m talking red to the core, bursting with sweetness, could-be-a-June-berry strawberries. Without the berry, the oats would have been rather sad.  Looking back over Kath’s creations listed on her blog, I realized she definitely tosses in a number of fixin’s that liven up the oats, oftentimes a couple of sweet ones.  Jams, berries, sweet cereals…

So I gave it another go, this time with some berries as well as my mom’s homemade Strawberry Rhubarb jam (which I successfully snuck out of the cupboard on my last visit) along with some granola from St. Mark’s Market.  I’ve been on a granola hunt, looking for one with just the right texture and this local one is so far my favorite: crunchy and sweet with some slivered toasted almonds.

That’s right, I said almonds. For years I claimed to hate all nuts besides peanuts, despite secretly liking almonds. Whenever the fundraiser World’s Finest candy bars would show up around middle school, I’d snatch up two or three even if they had the almonds. They’re not nearly as bitter as other nuts, though I still like them to be toasted to really enjoy their flavor.

The second take on overnight oats was much better than the first.  The jam swirled into the oat and dairy mixture created something akin to a parfait, with fresh fruit and crunchy toppings.  Because the bulk was mostly strawberries, it wasn’t too calorie-dense either.  At about 250 calories, it’s quite a bit more than an all-fruit smoothie, but much less than two (or four…) heaping bowls of cereal, my formerly favorite breakfast.

Friday will be the autumnal equinox, and I’ve decided to mark the occasion a couple days early with some steel cut oats.

Steel cut and Quaker Old Fashioned are nearly nutritionally identical for a 40 gram serving: 150 calories, 5 g protein, 4 g fiber – the only difference is a half gram less fat in the steel cut version. Both are a great start to the day.  The steel cut oats take 8 minutes to boil up, so I like making a half cup of oats with a cup and a half of water, and then eating a third of it.  It’s easy to pop the other two thirds in the fridge for another day, and enjoy 100 calorie servings to pair with lots of fruit. More strawberries on the side, this time leftover from a museum event the night before.

Warm, chewy, cinnamon, real maple syrup… THAT’s my favorite kind of oat.  I’ll keep the overnight oat recipe on the shelf for next spring, but for now I’ll stick to my cooked versions.


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