Dote on Oats: This Whole Grain Powerhouse Is More Than Breakfast

Jan 10, 2014

Dote on Oats: This Whole Grain Powerhouse Is More Than Breakfast

Did you know that January is National Oatmeal Month? More oatmeal is eaten in this month than any other time of the year. Maybe that's because at New Year's resolution time, many are looking to clean up their diet. Heart healthy oats are high in fiber, low in calories and have an amazing shelf life, making this whole grain a great staple.

So what's not to love? Some consider oats bland, while others aren't wild about the texture of a traditional hot cereal preparation. The good news is, it doesn't have to be breakfast time to employ this nutritional workhorse. Chefs at Culinard, the Culinary Institute of Virginia College, are often found using oats at lunch and dinner. Here are three ways they put the whole grain to work:

1. Grind oats into a fine powder, using a high-speed blender, then

  • Use the oat flour as a gluten-free flour substitute. You'll get twice the fiber of white flour with added nutrition and fewer calories.
  • Thicken soup, stews and sauces. Oats work great as a replacement for flour or cornstarch, perfect for people with food allergies.
  • Add a little into your favorite muffin recipe. This gives baked goods a more chewy texture and nutty taste.

2. Break oats down into a coarse meal, using a food processor, then

  • Use the oats as a breadcrumb substitute. You'll get a heartier texture and more fiber to boot.
  • Throw them into meatloaf or veggie burgers as a binder. Forget boring white bread. Oats work in a similar capacity, and bump up the nutritional profile of your dish.
  • Use oats as a topping. Streusel, anyone? Mix oats with cold butter, flour and brown sugar then sprinkle over your favorite baked goods. This delicious crumbly topping makes a great finishing touch for banana bread or fruit crisps.

3. Keep the oats intact, then

  • Go savory. Since oatmeal is bland side, why not use it as a substitute for risotto or in an Asian dish like congee? Food writer Mark Bittman is a huge proponent of savory oats, and you'll find plenty of recipes on the web.  
  • Make granola. Use this high fiber, crunchy treat as a topping for yogurt or as a delicious base for trail mix.
  • Make overnight oats. Combine oatmeal, milk, yogurt and your favorite toppings and refrigerate before you go to bed. Wake up to a ready-to-eat cold breakfast.

The diversity of oats doesn't stop in the kitchen. Should you have leftover raw oats, you can use them around the house as an odor neutralizer, a skin-refining treatment for pores or a way to soak up oily spills. There are even recipes to make modeling clay and soap. In short, oats are beyond versatile!

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