Beyond Mush

February 6, 2018 in Cooking & Baking Hints, Diabetic Menu Item, Whole Grains by Joyce Bunderson

Sometimes I ask Vic what he wants for breakfast; and he comes back with “mush.” It is without doubt not a term that entices my appetite. It’s probably one of those terms that are tied to his childhood. But since it’s not tied to my childhood, it sounds, well ….. mushy.

A month or so ago, a friend was telling me that she was trying to figure out some breakfast options. She started right out with the elimination of oatmeal as an option, because she could not endure mushy oatmeal. I shared that I eat oatmeal four or five times a week in the cold weather, which in the mountain west is from about September to June. And I also don’t like a mushy breakfast. But I shared that I wonder if I’ve not thought of oatmeal as mushy, because I always sprinkle it with sliced almonds. Fruit is always part of the mix too; it’s either just on top or cooked in. The nuts really do give it crunchiness, for those like me who are texture eaters.

January ended last week; too bad; it was National Oatmeal Month. Who Knew? Even though it’s too late to celebrate with the nation, let me share some reasons you may want to consider the lowly oat. At the beginning of the list is a goal that I hope you embrace – including whole grains in your diet. Of course, oatmeal is not just a good source of fiber (4 grams), but also add the complex carbs that we seek; along with many nutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, like polyphenols that reduce oxidative stress). Let me go back to the fiber for a moment. It is mostly soluble fiber; and if you consume a diet low in saturated fat, the fiber in oats may reduce the risk of heart disease. In addition, that soluble fiber may help you feel full longer than a processed grain breakfast cereal. The very same soluble fiber also releases energy slowly into your blood – a good choice for diabetics or those who do not want to spike their blood sugar. Also, oats are a good whole grain for those who need gluten-free grains. Some oats are contaminated with gluten in processing so be sure to look for the gluten-free symbol if you are certain you must avoid a tiny amount of gluten.

In addition, to oats being nourishing I think you should remember the family budget. If you’re trying to increase the nutrient density of the family intake, don’t forget budget friendly oats.

Let me share a few hints of how I serve oats so frequently, but don’t make it too monotonous or too time consuming for myself.

First, we make packets. Making packets means that the cook doesn’t get the big ole box of oatmeal, the sweetener, the cinnamon and measuring spoons out each day. Most of the time the two of us are having breakfast together. So we take Ziploc sandwich bags and scoop in three servings of dried Old Fashioned Oats; next we add the sweetener and finally a fourth teaspoon of cinnamon – and zip ‘em up. When I get up in the morning; I unzip one of the packets and dump it into a large microwave safe bowl. I add the fruit and three cups of hot water. It takes 6 or 7 minutes to cook on high. If I’m not using frozen fruit, I may reduce the time by a minute or so.

When you have access to add-ins for oatmeal breakfast, freeze them in sandwich bags. I have fruit trees, berry vines and rhubarb plants; if I have more than I can use at the harvest time, I package them in sandwich bags and freeze them. So it’s amazingly easy to pop in the dry oatmeal/sweetener/spice mix packet; the fruit pack – add water, zap in the microwave and serve with milk and almonds

There are months that fresh berries are in season, I buy those from the local farmer’s market. I chop the berries, and sprinkle on top of the cereal with the sliced almonds. But the reality is that we have quite a variety of fruit that works well with hot oatmeal. Since we have apricot and plum trees, those are two of the frequent options. If you don’t have a tree, consider buying when you can get them at a good price during harvest time. Chopped apples are a favorite cooked in the oatmeal. Berries, bananas, peaches, even mangos are all tasty additions. In a super rush a hand full of raisins or craisins are enjoyable eating.

Of course, there are more ways for you to be creative, than Heinz has pickles. Many people like overnight oats with milk or yogurt. I’ve noticed that there are countless recipes for overnight oats in a jar – here’s one website, but there are so many, I couldn’t count them.

Oats are also a frequent ingredient in blended smoothie breakfasts; that’s a nice option for on the run breakfasts.

One other make ahead idea is to make quick breads or muffins using oats. Grab the muffin or quick bread slice and you’re set. If your recipe makes too many, freeze in breakfast portions and set out the night before or microwave till slightly warm.

Not the traditional use of oats, but since I’m on the oat train, I’ll mention that some people like to use oats in their ground meat, to make patties, meat loaf or meatballs. It helps the final product to be moist and tender.

Last but not the least is the traditional use of oats in cookies – a nice treat from time to time. Why not include whole grain oats when serving a treat? You can even use both whole wheat and whole oats and make delicious cookie treats.

Mush does not have to be an unadorned plain bowl at breakfast, make it easy and spark it up a bit. You may be pleasantly surprised with the healthy tasty outcome.