Love the sensation of fragrant, satisfying oatmeal — maybe with a little milk, a touch of honey, cinnamon, chopped apple and a handful of walnuts? There’s nothing like it on a wintry morning to warm and fortify us from the inside out. And after school or work, who doesn’t want to grab onto to a chewy oatmeal raisin cookie with a glass of milk or cup of steaming cocoa?
Breakfast, snack, in granola, fruit crumbles or even used as a coating for chicken or fish, or in meatloaf, what’s the difference between steel cut, Irish, rolled, quick cooking or other forms of oats? With “Oatmeal Monday” traditionally celebrated on the second Monday in February, what better way to honor the versatile, vitamin-, nutrient-, and fiber-packed staple than with a tip of the hat (or spoon, as it is) to its history, evolution, and some kicked up, heart healthy recipes?
First brought to North America with other grains in 1602, oatmeal was planted on the Elizabeth Islands off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It’s reported that as early as 1786, George Washington sowed 580 acres of oats. By the 1860s and ‘70s, oat acreage shifted west, the crop moving to the middle and upper Mississippi Valley — a key growing region today.
When oat grains, which are de-husked by impact, are then heated and cooled in production, the seed inside the husk called the oat groat is stabilized. Heating produces the nutty flavor we associate with oatmeal. Oat groats can be milled to produce fine, medium or coarse oatmeal. Rolled oats are steamed and flattened whole oat groats. Steel cut oats may be small and broken groats from the de-husking process, and may be steamed and flattened to produce smaller rolled oats. Quick-cooking rolled oats are cut into small pieces before being steamed and rolled. Instant oatmeal is pre-cooked and dried, often with sugar and other items added.
In Scotland, oat crops trump wheat because of that country’s short, wet growing season which is more conducive to the former. Oats are used by Scottish cooks as a traditional stuffing for poultry, as a coating for Caboc cheese (a kind of cream cheese), and mixed with sheep’s blood, salt and pepper to make indigenous Highland black pudding. Scottish influence permeates the state of Vermont, starting with early settlements, where residents have the current distinction of consuming the most cooked oatmeal in the U.S. Traditionally, steel cut oats are soaked overnight in cold water, salt and (what else!) Vermont maple syrup. Nutmeg, ground cinnamon and ground ginger are added the next day as the mixture cooks for 90 minutes, ultimately served with milk, cream or butter.
However you like your oats, these recipes can help make Oatmeal Monday the tastiest day of the week!
Salmon Oatmeal Cakes with Dill Sauce
1/3 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
1/3 cup seeded, chopped tomato
1/3 cup seeded, chopped cucumber
1/3 cup liquid egg substitute with yolk or 1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1 large can pink salmon, drained, skin and bones removed
3/4 cup quick or regular uncooked oats
In small bowl, combine sauce ingredients: skim milk, chopped tomato, chopped cucumber, yogurt and dill; mix well. Cover and chill while making salmon cakes.
In medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients; mix well. Let stand 5 minutes. Shape into 6 oval patties. Lightly spray large nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Cook salmon cakes over medium heat 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown and heated through. Serve with sauce.