Replace your toast with oats and groats

Toasted Oatmeal scones

It’s confession time: I used to eat a lot of instant oatmeal. There, I said it. I was a convenience food user. Not an addict but a habitual user to be sure. More shameful, yet, I tried to drag my child down with me.

It’s not that I didn’t know how delicious homemade oatmeal tasted; it’s just that I got hooked on the convenience of instant oatmeal. This lazy girl’s gruel was a quick way to fill the void when I was too busy to sit down at the table. Instead I’d make my instant oatmeal in a coffee mug to eat at my desk while I wrote recipes for more delicious things.

After a few months, I forgot what a pleasure it was to eat the homemade stuff and I started buying instant oatmeal for my family, too. Rolled oats were still in the cupboard but they were reserved for baking cookies and the toasted oatmeal scones pictured above. These were dark times.

As I personally became more aware of the benefits of soluble fibre, I drifted back into cooking rolled oats and then I picked up a can of Irish steel cut oats. After a few good bowls of the real thing, my son banished instant oatmeal from our grocery cart forever. There was absolutely no going back to the instant stuff or even rolled oats. He just wouldn’t have it.

Does buying oatmeal confuse you? If so, don’t be ashamed, it comes in a lot of forms. Here’s a little glossary to help you choose the right oatmeal for the right cooking occasion:

Steel cut: steamed or rolled, whole oat kernels are cut into pieces and require a long, slow simmering. Although I’ve never used them for anything other than making breakfast cereal, Tara Mataraza Desmond and Joy Manning use them to replace some of the meat and add fibre to the Lamb Albondigas in their book Almost Meatless.

Quick: steel cut oats that have been steamed and then rolled to create a light, fluffy-textured meal that cooks quickly into cereal. Quick oats are often used in baking and for breakfast cereal.

Rolled: when groats are steamed and then rolled and dried, they become whole rolled oats, about the size and shape of the nail bed of your pinky fingernail; they can be used to make cereal or in baking recipes.

Instant: made from cut groats that are cooked and then dried, this form of oatmeal needs only to be rehydrated and is not suitable for baking.

Groats: when first picked, oats are a whole seed on an oat stock. Once the hull is removed by crushing the whole seed, they are called groats and can be cooked like rice.

Cavena Nuda: or Naked Oats are a Canadian oat plant variety developed by Agriculture Canada. While regular oats need heat-treating once the hull is removed, Cavena has a thin, waxy coating that the seed has developed because the hulls themselves are loose. These loose hulls are removed during threshing, leaving the entire seed intact. Cavena nuda is cooked in boiling hot water and is similar in texture to wild rice. It’s used in baking and as a cereal but also as a substitute for rice in savoury cooking.

22 Responses to Replace your toast with oats and groats

  1. Beth says:

    Um, you know those scones? They look really good. Is the recipe on your blog or in one of your books?

  2. I’m with Beth. Those scones look amazing.

    I love oatmeal cookies, oatmeal topping on crumbles, oatmeal squares or homemade granola. Sorry, but I draw the line at hot oatmeal porridge. I can’t handle the texture.

    Interesting to read about Naked Oats. I’ll have to look for them and experiment with some baking!

  3. Cavena Nuda? Love the name and now I need to find some! I can see those going over well in our family where rice isn’t very popular, especially with the girls.

    Charmian, have you tried steel cut oats? They have a totally different texture when cooked – not mushy at all. Like Dana I went from instant oatmeal and old fashioned cream of wheat to steel cut. I can’t eat regular oatmeal even now – too mushy.

  4. Barb says:

    LOL Oh Dana. I’m so glad that you have shown yourself to be human! (In my mind you are high on a pedestal) I know what you mean about convenience but yes, I’m with Oliver. Even quick oats rise above instant. I’m in the steel cut, rolled, quick, or oat berry camp myself. I wonder if oat berries are actually cavena nuda?

    • danamccauley says:

      I bet oat berries are cavena nuda. Where do you buy them – health food store, bulk store?

      Barb, I won’t tell you how very human I am. Instead I’ll just enjoy the view from up here on this pedestal!

  5. Andrea says:

    I don’t understand the “convenience” factor of instant oatmeal. One can nuke regular (“quick” or “rolled”) oats in the time it takes to boil a kettle. Add another 5 or fewer minutes for adding the liquid and other ingredients before it gets popped in the microwave.

    For awhile I was doing steel cut oats overnight in my slow cooker but then got into the smoothie habit. My old roommate’s rice cooker was good for oatmeal too. She took it with her when she moved out though and I haven’t replaced it.

    I don’t need to tell you all the crap that goes into instant oats. I’ll slap your wrist instead. 🙂
    (Bad, bad Dana! You know better!)

    • danamccauley says:

      I am chastened by your words!

      FYI – i make a big batch of steel cut oats and protion them into bowls that we micro warm in the morning. The texture isn’t as good but it’s a real time saver in the morning.

  6. Amy Snider says:

    I am a big fan of oats – as a source of soluble fibre, they not only keep you fuller, longer but they also help to remove excess cholesterol from your body.

    This winter stumbled on cooking my oats in milk – it makes for a richer, creamier oatmeal and you can add a pinch of spice, chopped fresh or dried fruit for added flavour….

    I tend to not eat enough oatmeal in the summer (winter comfort food and all) but with all the wonderful fresh berries and Ontario peaches to top it with – I should get to it.
    Thanks for the reminder Dana!

  7. Diva says:

    I will cheerfully admit to several mugs of instant oatmeal downed at my desk on winter mornings. The caveat being that I use a natural, organic, healthy brand and add a handful of nuts and fruit. That said, I far prefer the Irish steel cut oats and, when I’m not lazy, will make a big batch on weekends to nuke for breakfast throughout the week.

    I adore almost any form of oat or oatmeal – the only exception being sugary, flavored brands. I’m curious about the Cavena Nuda … sounds fantastic.

  8. Leah says:

    Hi everyone,

    this is a great post!! I personally love steel cut oatmeal.. and as a sort of advocate I have to announce that there is a McCann’s Irish Oatmeal facebook fan page.

    I love it, it’s got recipes, articles, and information about product. Think about becoming a fan (and join in on contests and coupon news.


  9. cheryl says:

    I echo the steel-cut oats fans here. What I don’t care for is washing the pot afterward. Since I make mine with milk, it often leaves a crusty mess if I don’t pull it off the stove in time.

    And thanks for linking to the albondigas on my site. Joy & Tara definitely get all the credit for the terrific recipe. I just made them, ate them, and let my camera do the rest.

    • danamccauley says:

      Two words for you: dish brush. Seriously. They are perfect for cleaning oatmeal, polenta or other gunky pots. Then I just throw the brush in the dishwasher. Get thee to the dollar store!

  10. adrian says:

    I’m a huge steel-cut oat fan too, but I agree with Amy – it’s a winter thing. Sunday mornings with the bowl of oats, cooked a la the Cooks Illustrated method and the NY Times, is bliss. (And have you ever tried Cooks recommended topping – sauteed bananas? Oh. My. Gawd.) One thing I don’t get is the concern about the time factor: the best method for cooking means ignoring the pot for 20 minutes, so I use that time to brush m’teeth, get dressed, try to remember my name etc. It’s got to take that long to get Oliver out of bed, right?! And about the crusty pots: I just used a non-stick pot for the first time (to make oatmeal) and it all came off and went right in the bowl. I’m converted.

  11. Lori says:

    I love oats and oatbran – they are incorporated into my breakfast 5 days a week!

    Oats are never boring with all the toppings and mix-ins you can do!

  12. Barb says:

    Hey Dana

    Sorry I’m so late with my response – I’ve been away for a few days. If I am thinking of the right item I got them at a bulk store.

  13. bethh says:

    I’ve never had steel cut oats, but I have nuked rolled oats with great success. However this summer I’ve been eating my rolled oats RAW and they’re awesome. I got the idea from the Food in Jars blog.

    My favorite so far has been: 1/2 c oats, enough milk to cover, pinch of brown sugar, and a bunch of blueberries. I put them all in a jar and bring it to work, and eat breakfast about 40-60 minutes after I assembled it. It’s delicious and very filling.

  14. […] McCauley gives us a brief primer on the different kinds of oats we have to choose from for a way to mix up our mornings from the usual toast.  She also features a […]

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