Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Steel cut oats and apple compote on a snowy day

Today's blizzard seems the perfect time to write about my favorite winter breakfast: oatmeal with fruit and vanilla yogurt.

If I'm in a hurry, I make regular oatmeal in the microwave. I usually throw in dried fruit, cinnamon, and brown sugar before nuking it. A couple of minutes on high followed by letting it sit a few minutes usually does the trick. Instead of milk, I add low-fat vanilla yogurt to the hot mixture. Hmmmmm.

Even better, although more work, is steel-cut oats, sometimes called Irish oatmeal. Instead of the flat rolled oats we normally call oatmeal, steel cut oats are chunks of the oat grain. They take longer to cook and are much more expensive than oatmeal, so many people don't bother. But steel cut oats are nutty tasting and chewy, not mushy like regular oatmeal (although I don't mind the soft texture of the standard variety.)

If the long cooking time bothers you, cooked steel-cut oats keep very well in the fridge, so you can cook a big batch and then heat up portions the next day or several days in a row. Some people cook the oats overnight in a crock pot, and this has the advantage of allowing you to wake up to hot oatmeal and a lovely smell.

My solution is sort of a mixture of these techniques: I use my rice cooker. Instead of worrying about the oats burning or boiling over on the stove, and not being much good at that sort of thing in the morning, I can throw all the ingredients in the rice cooker, go about my morning routine, and scoop out the finished product when it's all done. Rice cookers shut off or go to a "warm" cycle when the liquid is absorbed.

So here's my recipe for steel-cut oats and apple compote* with vanilla yogurt. It's the perfect winter breakfast, and will keep you satisfied for a long time.

1 measure steel-cut oats (depending on how much you want to cook and the size of your pot/cooker, this could be 1/3 cup, 1 cup, or more)

4 measures water - steel cut oats swell up big time, so you don't need much grain to make a substantial serving of finished oatmeal.

apple sauce, dried fruit, raisins, or fresh fruit as you see fit.

brown sugar, cinnamon, or other spices for sweetness and flavor

I make apple sauce, cranberry-apple compote, or some other type of fruit sauce/compote every fall when the apples are cheap. I freeze it in smaller containers, so I always have something to add to the oatmeal all winter long. This mixture already has the spices, brown sugar, etc.

The rice cooker will have the oatmeal ready in about 20-30 minutes. The vanilla yogurt adds a little sweetness and the dairy that compliments oatmeal so well.

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