Curb Your Hunger with this Delicious Breakfast Food

All About Oatmeal

Quaker Oats LogoAs a child in the 50’s and 60’s, the oatmeal my mother prepared was the most familiar “Quaker Oats” brand. Back then, Quaker Oats came in a red, white and blue cardboard canister and still does today. Bearing the image of a friendly-looking man with long, gray hair under a wide-brimmed hat, (at the time I thought he was a pilgrim, not a Quaker,) this canister held what is referred to as rolled oats.

Rolled oats is a term applied to oats that have been cleaned, toasted, hulled, steamed and flattened into flakes. Depending on the thickness of the flakes, they are labeled either ‘old-fashioned’ (thicker flakes which take longer to cook) or ‘quick-cooking’ (the more ‘instant’ variety.) Don’t, however, confuse quick oats with the instant packaged oatmeal that has become so popular today. They have a ton of added sugars, so they are NOT your friend!

According to the official website for the Quaker Oats Company, the oat kernel consists of the following four parts: the hull, bran, endosperm and germ. The hull is the protective covering on the outside of the oat kernel. It’s very tough and fibrous, so tough in fact that it is inedible and therefore removed during the milling process. One amazing fact from the site states that after being removed the hulls are burned for fuel at the University of Iowa. That’s a lot of hulls!

Once the hull is removed, what is left is called the “oat groat” which is comprised of three parts. The exposed outer layer is called the “bran” and is what provides the heart-healthy, soluble fiber. The “endosperm” is the largest part of the oat and gives us with the energy boosting carbohydrate and protein, essential for healthy muscles. And finally, the “germ” or heart of the grain, which contains many essential nutrients our body needs.

Of course, back when I was a youngster sitting down to a piping hot bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, I knew nothing about the biology or nutritional quality of the breakfast in front of me, nor did I care. What I was interested in was how it tasted, and quite honestly, it was not the oatmeal itself that I relished, but rather the added ingredients I generously lavished on the bland looking mound of mush in my bowl.

First, I’d create a sizeable crater in the center of the mound, then I’d spoon on brown sugar, after which I’d pour ice-cold, whole milk in a moat around the mound before methodically eating each sweet spoonful. I’d finish by scraping the bowl to get every bit. I will even admit that once in awhile, when my mother was not looking, I’d lick my bowl clean!

Basically, there are three types of oats from which to choose: rolled a.k.a. old fashioned, quick or steel cut. Whatever type you prefer, the milling process or preparation of the whole oat grain is the same: first they’re hulled after which the groat is cleaned and then the groats are heated to 215 degrees Fahrenheit which deactivate their enzymes and stabilizes them for storage. Without this heating process, the oils in the oats would oxidize, turning them rancid and making them inedible in a short amount of time.

Once the groats have been hulled, cleaned and stabilized they are ready for the next step. Steel cut oats are the closest form to the whole groat, except they’ve been cut into small bits that look like a lot like little broken kernels of brown rice. To make rolled oats, the groats are steamed to soften them, then flattened or rolled out into flakes. Quick oats are either rolled oats that have been chopped up a bit in order to make them cook faster, often in less than 5 minutes. Some quick oats are whole flakes, but they are rolled thinner for the same purpose, faster preparation.

Today, I no longer eat rolled oats, nor do I dress the oatmeal I eat with brown sugar or whole milk! The oatmeal I prefer these days is called steel cut oats, which have a much heartier texture. They also take longer to cook (approximately 25 to 30 minutes simmered on the stove top or half that time if you pre-soak them) but in my opinion from the standpoint of flavor alone, they’re well worth your time to prepare.

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