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.


Breakfast wine

March 18, 2009

breakfastwineDon’t panic! I don’t need an intervention just yet. I’m still miles away from reaching the rehab centre door (although I do seem to be taking crooked pictures!). That said, breakfast was all I could think about when I tasted this new wine that Martin brought home from Vintages.

One sniff and I could pick up the delicious aroma of the coffee beans in this affordable pinotage (it’s $13.95 at the LCBO) wine that is short on fruit but has a soft, round, mocha finish.

It would be the perfect choice if you’re having eggs for supper, heading to a mid day brunch or just can’t decide between having a coffee or a glass of vino.

What do you think? Is coffee flavoured wine a good idea? Or, should coffee mugs and wine glasses keep to their respective corners of the kitchen?


Cereal killers

January 8, 2009

kozyshackreadygrains

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!


Real breakfasts

June 23, 2008

We’ve all heard and acknowledge as correct that a good breakfast should be the way we start our day. In fact, a new study shows that women who eat a big breakfast lose more weight than other dieters. But, how many of us eat a morning meal that nutrition experts would classify as balanced and appropriate?

New York Magazine recently polled 60 people to see what real people were eating for breakfast. The results ranged from the expected bagels and oatmeal or coffee and Danishes to more peculiar choices. For instance, one man had a bloody Mary for his morning meal while another admitted to indulging in a gut wrenching protein binge that included four hard boiled eggs, two fried eggs and a ham and cheese sandwich washed down with orange juice. I need to lie down just after reading that menu!

What interested me was how many of the respondents had savoury food such as salads, pizza, Moroccan cous cous with grilled chicken and hummus, and chicken melt on rye.

Curious to know if New Yorkers are a breed unto themselves or a North American barometer, I held my own poll. I asked my 300 or so facebook friends what they ate for breakfast and almost 25 people replied. It turns out my friends stick to more traditional breakfast fare. Below are the results of my poll. Although I’ve excluded names, I’ve used bold text on the responses shared by people who have jobs as food industry professionals. Can you guess which entry is mine?

1. Nature Valley Instant Oatmeal (flax flavour).
2. Starbucks breakfast sandwich.
3. Flax seed bagel with greaves peach jam, almond butter and local maple butter, half each an apple and pear, glass of cranberry blueberry juice and a big cup of home roasted Ethiopian Yirgachaffe.
4. Strawberries and a glass of water.
5. Eggos with fresh strawberries and syrup, toast with peanut butter and chocolate milk.
6. Farm fresh eggs with fresh smoked bacon made the night before at Harvest Restaurant, sour dough toast fresh baked at Harvest with blackberry jelly from Prince Edward county.
7. A slice of homemade no-knead bread, toasted, with peanut butter and kawfee made from instant espresso.
8. Toasted light rye with peanut butter.
9. English muffin with bacon and tomato.
10. Homemade muesli with organic yogurt, raspberries, black berries, walnuts, grated apple and oats, dash of cinnamon and a drop of pure vanilla extract.
11. Oatmeal with 2 tbsp soy protein, 3 tbsp cottage cheese, 1 tsp non-hydrogenated margarine, 3 tbsp brown sugar and 2 cups of coffee.
12. 2 starbucks double tall, non-fat, bone dry cappuccinos and a spinach breakfast sandwich that was found sadly lacking in spinach.
13. Raisin bran and decaf coffee.
14. Coffee.
15. Slice of deli roast beef, the cold heel of my child’s abandoned, toasted buttered, whole-wheat bagel.
16. Shake made with whey protein, greens+, almond milk, sesame seeds, frozen wild blueberries and plain yogurt.
17. Toasted cashews.
18. 2 slices white toast with a bit of butter and coffee.
19. Apple and glass of water.
20. Toasted whole wheat bagel and peanut butter.
21. Whole grain toast and peanut butter.
22. Homemade muesli, 1/3 cup bran buds, ground flax, unsweetened soymilk, 1/2 cup yogurt (Dana’s note, this respondent reports losing weight since she made this her daily breakfast!).
23. A healthy bowl of cereal and a chic dark chocolate cupcake.
24. Raisin toast and earl grey tea with milk.

As you can see, my facebook friends stick pretty close to the expected breakfast menu even when they make less than stellar choices. What about you? Are you more like the New Yorkers or like my pals? Tell us what you had for breakfast today.


Best meal ever

May 7, 2008

Last night, like most nights, I made my son dinner. At 11, he’s one of the most active people I know. He cycles to school and plays outdoors after school doing all the stuff that marks a suburban childhood: skateboarding, shooting hoops and chasing friends around playing tag.

I’d eaten my fill at the test kitchen during the day so I threw something quick together for Oliver: a three egg omelet with ham, cheddar and red onion, a green salad and some leftover boiled new potatoes that I seasoned with lots of sea salt and pepper and pan-fried. It took about 5 minutes to make this meal.

O came to the table and gobbled the entire meal down with few pauses for sips of water or conversation. After he finished his plate of food he professed this dinner one of the best meals I’d ever prepared. I laughed, since really, this was hardly cooking on a grand scale. But he insisted that he had never eaten anything as delicious. In fact, he requested that I make a duplicate omelet for breakfast today (I obliged, by the way).

His exuberance reminded me how long it has been since I was truly hungry from an active day outdoors. Usually when I’m very hungry it’s because it has just been a long time between meals; that kind of hunger, although urgent, is different from activity-based hunger. It tends to make me bitchy and picky. Activity based hunger is more open and accepting. It’s grateful for any effort at all.

My mom made (and still does make) the best mashed potatoes ever. They are fluffy and light, salted and buttered perfectly. They’re the perfect little starchy cloud to cradle dark, beefy, homemade gravy. Although I still love and crave them, they never tasted as good as when I came in from running around the neighbourhood to find them waiting for me.

Do you remember how great food tasted when you were a kid? What did you love to find on your family’s dinner table?


150-calorie breakfast

January 21, 2008

2brekkieslr.jpg
To lose weight, I follow a very low-calorie, low-fat regime. With only 1,000 calories per day to consume, I carefully choose every bite to ensure it delivers not only as much nutrition as possible, but also as much enjoyment as possible.

Breakfast is a difficult meal for me. I’m often rushed in the morning and, truth be told, scrambled egg whites with salsa get boring after a couple of weeks. When I was gaining weight, I often grabbed a tall latte and a blueberry-white chocolate scone from Starbucks on the way the work; however, that 560-calorie indulgence (100 for the latte, 460 for the scone) didn’t make my fat ass any smaller.

To find a breakfast option that’s easy and makes for a satisfying meal with less than 180 calories, I turned to a black coffee and bars. No, I didn’t drink martinis for breakfast — a dry vodka martini is about 210 calories so it exceeds my calorie criteria! I’m talking about meal replacement bars.

While shopping for breakfast bar options, I discovered that most energy bars are higher in calories than I wanted. Here’s a list of the bars that did fit my criteria. I tasted each one and recorded my impressions so that you don’t have to read as many labels or suffer through the bad breakfasts I endured:

Atkins Endulge: Coconut (40 g, 180 calories). Super sweet with a terrible artificial sweetener aftertaste that not only lingered for hours but also ruined the taste of my coffee.
Bottom line: Yuck!

PowerBar Pria: Chocolate Peanut Butter Crisp (45 g, 170 calories). Cloyingly sweet but satiated me for quite a while.
Bottom line: Not my favourite for morning but may be good for people who love sweets and miss them while dieting.

SlimFast Optima: Chewy Caramel Crunch (30 g, 130 calories): The caramel flavour is super fake and there’s a weird crystallized texture at the finish that isn’t appealing.
Bottom line: Better than most, but still not on par with an egg white scramble.

Dr. Bernstein Protein Bar: Coconut Almond (40 g , 150 calories): This bar goes very well with coffee and actually tastes darn good. The texture is dense and although the bars are small, it takes long enough to finish each one so you feel like you ate something.
Bottom line: My hands-down favourite. (Note: I also tried their Chocolate Peanut Crunch variety but didn’t like it as much as the Coconut Almond.) Have you tried any of the other flavours? If so, please comment below.

Check out an Almond Granola breakfast recipe for about 150 calories/serving and Oats Plus Porridge for 118 calories/serving at homemakers.com.

Have a low-cal breakfast tip you’d like to share? I’d love to hear it!