Replace your toast with oats and groats

August 12, 2009

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.

Everyone’s a winner!

June 23, 2009


Photo credit: Tracy Cox

Thanks to everyone who entered the Oster Blender contest here on my blog. I know I said I was going to pick the winner using the Dine-O-Matic but I couldn’t figure out how to put in customized info. (I’m just not as smart as Charmian at Christie’s Corner!) So I used the old entries in a hat method to make a selection. And, the lucky winner is: LORRAINE . Congratulations!  I’ll email you later on today to get your mailing coordinates.

Since I’d like to be able to pull an Oprah and give everyone a prize, I’ve also pulled two more names out of my pudding bowl. They are JOHN and RACHEL and they each win a copy of my last book Dana’s Top Ten Table. For the rest of us, I’m posting two more Bula Smoothie & Nutrition Bar inspired smoothie recipes. If you can’t have a free blender, at least you can have something yummy to make in the one you bought and paid for, right?

Cranberry Thyme (pictured above)

3/4 cup (175 mL) 100 % cranberry juice

1/2 cup (125 mL) each ice cubes and frozen cranberries

2 tbsp (10 mL) honey

1/4 cup (50 mL) strawberry or raspberry sorbet

1/2 tsp (2 mL) chopped fresh thyme leaves

Combine all the ingredients in a blender. Mix on high speed until well combined.

Chocolate Mango Chipotle

1/2 cup (125 mL) each frozen mango, ice cubes and milk

1 single serve container vanilla yogurt

2 tbsp (30 mL) chocolate syrup

1/4 tsp (1 mL) chipotle pepper sauce

Combine all the ingredients in a blender. Mix on high speed until well combined.

PS: Topline Trends Tuesday will return next week.

Breaking (good!) news

May 29, 2009


Photo Credit: Tracy Cox

In what can only be called a serendipitous turn of events, it has come to my attention that June 1st, besides being Doughnut Day, is also the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s World Milk Day.

While Canada’s love of milk seems to be sadly under represented on the roster of events planned for June 1st , you can commemorate and celebrate the goodness of a cold, tall glass of bone-strengthening milk at the same time as you celebrate Doughnut Day.

All I can say is: don’t just do it; do it and tell two friends!

Cereal killers

January 8, 2009


When corn flakes were launched in 1898 the Kellogg brothers started a vast industry of convenient breakfast foods. Since then cereal trends have gone through various stages — from the sticky and colourful 60’s to the crunchy granola 70’s and the organic 90’s.

The newest innovations in the cereal category are taking convenience to the extreme since they come ready to eat from the package.

Rockit Fuel, which contains 15 whole foods, simply needs cold water to be added to be delicious (so they say). And, if you can settle for less than delicious, you can ditch the water and the spoon and just dump the package into your mouth. Weird but true.

• Slightly more appealing (at least to me) is Ready Grains, the new all-natural range of ready-to-eat cereals from Kozy Shack that are made with low fat milk. Although these cereals can be eaten cold, they can also be heated in the microwave and eaten hot, too. Perfect for a cold winter day in Canada!

Do you have a favourite breakfast cereal? I certainly do. When I have time, steel cut oats are on the menu and when time is shorter, I’m a raisin bran girl.

Note: As you know, I’ve been spending the last week or so talking about some of the emerging food trends that we’ll be seeing develop in 2009. Tomorrow you can see some of these items and a few others on Canada AM. Tune in if you can!

Justifying cake for breakfast

September 24, 2008

Last night O and I watched Monday’s Heroes season 3 debut on our PVR and all I could think about during the episode was sweets – the craving still hasn’t subsided. In fact, all I wanted for breakfast this morning was cake. And not just a small piece but a big honking wedge.

Call them muffins, tea loaves or quick breads, cake for breakfast isn’t really all that unusual. In fact, I think that Bill Cosby was completely correct when he pointed out that chocolate cake contains eggs, milk and flour – the very same ingredients in many other balanced breakfast favourites.

And, depending on your sleep habits, having cake for breakfast could be considered just a very, very late dessert.

Excluding muffins and other permissible breakfast cakes, have you ever tucked into a wedge of black forest cake or a square of cream cheese frosted carrot cake for breakfast?

I’ll admit that in my 42 years I‘ve raised a cake-laden fork to my lips on more than a few morning occasions. I don’t indulge in early day cake often, but when I do, it’s always a good day.

Cooped up

September 3, 2008

Photo credit:

Readers of my regular Friday posts about gardening will know that I am an enthusiastic locavore; however, this Eglu, a UK innovation, definitely takes the concept further than I want to go.

No, I’ll let Burnbrae Farms raise the hens that lay the eggs I use to make morning omelets. It’s bad enough when the raccoons get into the garbage and the garden (more on this topic on Friday), the last thing I need is the neighbourhood fox tearing apart my chickens.

What about you, does the idea of raising chickens in an urban backyard inspire you or make you roll your eyes?

If you love this idea, you may want to sign this petition promoted by Gail Gordon Oliver at Edible Toronto.

Pileos a la Melanie

July 3, 2008

Every once in a while, a bright and enthusiastic young person crosses my path and I’m reminded of how food inspired and enriched my own young adult life. Melanie Chislett is exactly that kind of person.

Melanie was our June intern at the test kitchen. As part of her intern duties I asked her to research a French company that makes an ingenious little coffee time snack called pileos, cone shaped confections that are filled with chocolate. The idea is that you set a pileo over your coffee and the steam from the drink warms up a chocolaty centre so that you have a super yummy snack to go with your latte or espresso.

We found the website for the ingenious pileo makers and Melanie contacted them and learned all about their product. I was thrilled. She’d done her job very well. I popped their info into my trend tracking file and felt satisfied that I had all the info I needed to write about how this cookie is an emerging food product idea in an upcoming issue of Topline Trends.

The next day, Melanie surprised us by bringing in her own version of pileos (which she calls mileos) for us to have with our morning coffee. I was thrilled by her enthusiasm and wanted to share her story and her biscotti based recipe for pileos (um, I mean mileos) with you today.

Melanie Chislett’s Mileos

1 cup oil
3 whole eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup refined sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 box semi-sweet bakers chocolate (for the center)

Preheat oven to 325oF. Beat eggs and sugar to blend together, add oil. Add 3 cups of all-purpose flower and mix until well blended. Place in fridge for 30 minutes. Fill well-greased tart pans 3/4 full with dough and place 1/3 of a semi sweet bakers chocolate bar in the middle of the tart before placing in oven. This creates a pileo. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Place back in the oven and let bake for another 5 minutes to give the pileo a hard biscotti crust. Remove, let cool, then gently remove the pileos from the tart pan. If desired, sprinkle icing sugar on top of the inverted pileos.

Enjoy the smooth chocolate center after letting the pileo sit on top of your hot espresso cup for about 30 seconds.