Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Strong Breakfast: Steel-Cut Oats

Years ago, I got my dietary consciousness raised by the Nutrition Action Healthletter, put out by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (which, due to the realization that the standard American diet really is SAD, is slowly shedding the reputation as food scolds it's had ever since it pointed an accusatory finger at movie theater popcorn back in the early 1990s). It features no-nonsense reporting on diet, nutrition, and exercise.

One of my favorite features in the newsletter is the "Brand Name Rating," a look at of the relative health merits of all the different brands of a particular food. This issue's topic was hot cereals. Unsurprisingly, they love whole grain un-gussied up brands and shun the sugar-laden instant variety. They provide a list of suggested toppings for oatmeal and other hot cereals, too, like dried fruit, chopped nuts, and bits of brown sugar.

All of those toppings seem well and good, but I like my oatmeal on the savory/spicy end of the spectrum.

I've really been enjoying steel-cut oats lately. They have a texture that's chewy and creamy at the same time, not at all like yucky, gummy quick oats. And you can plop a saucepan of steel-cut oats and water on the stove as soon as you get out of bed, and by the time you've finished your morning routine, it will be ready (give it a stir a couple of times as you pass by the kitchen on your way in and out of the bathroom).

I've been breakfasting on a bowl of steel-cut oats with spinach and Indian spices, and I've really noticed an increase in my endurance for both weights and cardio when I eat it about an hour before going to the gym. With the vitamins from the spinach and the whole grains and protein in the oats, it really is a superfood. It tastes a lot like a dal you might get in an Indian restaurant.

Here's how to make it: Cook the steel-cut oats according to the package directions. About five minutes before they're done, heat a couple of teaspoons of olive oil in a skillet. Toss as many dried chili pods as you can stand into the oil, as well as a quarter to a half a teaspoon of tumeric. Add some mustard seed if you have it. When the chilis are toasted and the mustard seeds are popping, throw in a couple of handfuls of washed spinach leaves from that big bag you keep in your fridge. Stir it around until the spinach wilts. Put the oats in a bowl and dump in the spinach mixture. Stir it up, add salt to taste, and enjoy.


MamaShift said...

My whole family needs a major breakfast overhaul -- too much sugar (cereal, jam) and bread.

There is no way, though, that I will ever convince Nicolas to eat something savory for breakfast. Maybe the girls (evil laugh).

Miriam said...

Well, for goodness sake, leave out the hot peppers if you make it for I. and V.! Nicolas doesn't ever eat eggs for breakfast? Quel dommage!

MamaShift said...

No, man, he eats about 6 pieces of dark bread with butter and jam.

Jonanna said...

Uh, hellz to the yeah!
I never would have thought of savory oatmeal. I'm gonna try it. This a.m. I had a big ol' bowl of oatmeal and a couple hours later went for a workout. I just ran and ran and ran, and then I got home and just wrote and wrote and wrote, so I can't wait to see how much of an even extra boost the added spinach will be.

Also, is there another grain this little recipe might be good with, for say a dinner side?

Miriam said...

Hey Jonanna, well, sure you could try brown rice or even something like quinoa, but why not just make dal? Get those little yellow or red lentils, boil them until they're soft. Add chopped fresh garlic and ginger and dried coriander. Then saute the turmeric (really really good for you, don't leave it out), peppers, mustard seed and spinach in oil and add it to the lentils. Easy as pie.