What the Three Bears Knew

by Jeanne

Mccanns_2 Oatmeal is one of the all-time great breakfast comfort foods. In addition the slow-burning carbs keep you going long past mid morning, while the fiber keeps your insides healthy. Simple, budget and time friendly oatmeal is one of the best ways to start the day off.

The world over eats porridge of some kind. Scottish shepherds traditionally made their porridge once a week only, pouring it into a draw to set to a gelatinous firmness. Each day, they would cut off a slice or two of this gray mass to take with them to work. Today Scotland plays host every September to the Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship. La Ba Zhou, a mix of rice, millets, peanuts, chestnuts, Chinese dates, lotus seeds and red-beans is served on served on the 8th day of 12th lunar month in China.  More commonly found jook, also known as congee or rice porridge which is said to have healing proprieties. Polenta tiragna, a thick maize porridge made with butter and cheese, comforts many an Italian on a cold morning. In India, to herald the coming of summer, bowls of Khara pongal, a savory porridge-like dish made of rice and dhal, is traditionally prepared in the south during the Makar Sankranti festival.  It’s flavored with curry leaves, tumeric, chiles, ghee, mustard seed and cashews.

The recent recommendations of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report for Americans suggests that we should be eating more grains. One of the easiest ways is with oatmeal–either for breakfast or as an afternoon snack with some dried berries or fruit. The benefits of insoluble fiber to a healthy digestive system have been known for a long time. Insoluble fiber speeds food through the intestine, promotes regularity and helps prevent colon cancer.

In the May issue of Healthmagazine, awarded Quaker’s Golden Maple flavor a part of their Quaker Take Heart Instant Oatmeal product line the best Hot Cereal in its first ""Best of Food Awards". Two of my other breakfast favorites, Kashi GoLean Frozen Waffles Original Flavor and Stonyfield Farm Organic Lowfat Yogurt Just Peachy are other winners in the breakfast category.

So for those of us who are looking to get a bit healthier, Shape <shape</shapemagazine offers the following nutritional tip–"aim for at least 3 grams of fiber and less than 8 grams (2 teaspoons) of sugar per serving, as some hot cereals get 30 percent of their total calories from sugars." Okay but there’s many types of oatmeal out there. Most Americans, according to A.C. Nielsen, (64%) prefer the instant oatmeal followed by quick oatmeal (20%) and regular oats(16%). What’s the difference? 

  • Instant is thin, precooked oats that need only be mixed with a hot liquid, and may have salt added to it–it’s ready in a flash.
  • Quick/quick-cooking are also thin flakes of oats that are ready in about three or four minutes, typically it is made without added salt.
  • Old-fashioned oats take longer to cook than instant and quick or quick-cooking oats and are usually made without salt.

All of the above oatmeal variations are known as rolled oats which are flaked oats that have been steamed, rolled, re-steamed and toasted.  All of this additional processing causes the final product to lose some of its natural taste and texture. These are also the types of oats you’ll find added raw to granola or muesli mixes, and of course used to make oatmeal cookies.

Then for the discerning gourmet oatmeal eater there’s steel-cut oats. Irish and Scottish oatmeal fit into this category. Whole grain groats (the inner portion of the oat kernel) cut into two or three pieces to enhance the flavor of the oat. Some sources say that one cup of steel-cut oatmeal contains more fiber than a bran muffin and twice as much fiber as Cream of Wheat. This variation of oatmeal is chewier and takes longer to prepare. In addition Irish oatmeal, which is steel-cut, reportedly, has a lower glycemic number than the traditional oatmeal eaten in the US.

One of the finer Irish oatmeals you will find on the shelf is McCanns. It tastes nothing like Quaker oatmeal and once you try it you will find it’s worth the extra time spent in preparation time. Whatever the brand or style, oatmeal is a food we can all easily fit into our daily menus in some form.  Just like Goldilocks and her bears knew all along.

Irish Steel-Cut Oat Pudding– via IrishAbroad.com- made with eggs, Kerrygold butter, orange zest, raisins and Irish Cream liqueur.  Wake me when it’s ready!