Steel Cut Oats and Slow Cooker Oatmeal

Traditional 28-ounce tin of McCann's Steel Cut...

I love to run. And that’s really pretty funny because I’m not very fast or agile.

Growing up, I never ran and wasn’t even athletic. I was the “creative” one, and somehow that excused me from participating in sports. When I was about 30, a friend loaned me a book that changed how I viewed running. The book was The Courage to Start, and it detailed the progress of John Bingham from heavy, smoking, drinking, middle age dude to svelte, non-smoking, still slow-as-molasses runner. I wasn’t in terrible shape when I started running, but it was comforting to have someone tell me it was ok to be the penguin, not the gazelle.

It sounds silly now, but growing up, it never occurred to me that you could be athletic and not be consumed with competition. Or with being super fast. I always assumed people ran because they wanted to be faster than everyone else, not because they wanted to feel good or to challenge themselves to just be better than yesterday.  I loved that book, and it encouraged me to find a love of running and an appreciation for what my body can do and not be critical of what it can’t. I will never be a gazelle, but I can be the penguin who is thankful for every day that my legs and lungs are strong enough to see me through.

Tom and I started training for a half marathon last fall, and we will run our big race at Disney in a couple of weeks! Our long runs are now at 15 miles and we are setting our sites even higher! Last week, we registered for the City of Oaks Marathon in November. Really, every time I write or say that, I kind of freak out a little.

Here’s the thing about running. Running makes me hungry, and when I bump up my mileage, I become voracious. But if I eat what I feel like eating, I will be way less of a gazelle and more like a sloth. One of my favorite fill ‘er up foods is steel cut oatmeal.  If you haven’t tried steel cut oats and you think you don’t like oatmeal, I’d encourage you to try it. It’s a whole different animal from those paper packets of highly sugared, processed oats. Steel cut oats are very high in fiber, higher in protein and high in iron. In fact, I don’t know why Popeye wasn’t eating oats, because they have more iron than spinach!

Steel cut oats take longer to make (about 30 minutes) and that can be daunting when you’re hungry and tired. They are, however, a great make-ahead dish. I like to make a batch, pop it in the fridge and heat up single servings in the microwave as I need it. Also, steel cut oats can be made in a crock pot overnight, so you’ll have hot oatmeal first thing in the morning. Easy peasy.

Think oats are boring? Add dried cranberries or any other dried fruit and maybe even a tablespoon of brown sugar. Or maple syrup. Or chopped nuts. My favorite is dried cranberry, pecan and brown sugar. The trick is to keep the sugar to a minimum.

So fuel up, get outside and have fun! The recipe below is for basic steel cut oats and here are some links to my favorite add-ins!

Toasted Oats with Cinnamon Almond Butter

Chocolate Pecan Oatmeal

Banana Pudding Refrigerator Oatmeal

Banana Bread Oatmeal

Cherry Vanilla Oatmeal

Gingerbread Oatmeal

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Steel Cut Oatmeal (stovetop)

  • 1 c. steel cut oats
  • 4 c. water
  • dried cranberries, chopped pecans, brown sugar, whatever makes you happy
  1. Combine oats and water in a small pot and heat to boiling.
  2. Boil oats for about 1 minute and turn the heat down to medium. Stir.
  3. Cook oats on medium for about 30 minutes or until it is very thick like porridge. Stir frequently to keep from sticking to pot.
  4. Ladle into bowls and top with your favorite toppings.

Steel Cut Oatmeal (crock pot)

Note: you will need to experiment with your slow cooker to see what setting works best. For mine, the low setting was still too high, but the “keep warm” setting works like a charm.

  • 1 c. steel cut oats
  • 4 c. water
  • 1/2 c. milk or cream
  1. Add all ingredients into crock pot.
  2. Cover and heat on low or warm.
  3. Cook for 7-8 hours
  4. Ladle into bowls and add your favorite toppings
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Summer Corn and Black Bean Salad

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When summer starts blazing with heat and humidity, I usually lose my desire to cook anything complicated. I love cold vegetable salads in the summer–their fresh flavors add a a lot to grilled foods and if you add some protein (like sustainably caught tuna), you can turn a side dish into an entrée in a snap!

I found a corn salad recipe on Pinterest recently, and it looked promising. The photos were artful and lovely and the description sounded very tasty. I made it according to the directions, and not only was it not tasty, it didn’t look anything like the photo. Grrr. This made me wonder if anyone had actually made the recipe or if they were just re-pinning a bit of food porn. Pinterest is weird like that. Also, what is up with all the processed food recipes calling themselves “Amish” recipes? Pretty sure Amish people don’t eat cheese spread and Nutella. Just sayin’.

Once I found myself with a sub-par recipe, I re-assessed the situation, and came up with a plan to fix the salad. This is what I ended up with. The photo may not be beautiful, but the flavors are, and I vouch for the recipe because I actually did make it and eat it myself!

To update you, I finished my first 10K race, the Athleta Esprit de She, in the blazing heat and had such a great time, even if my time wasn’t great. It was wonderful to run with a group of women–what terrific, positive energy! I met some wonderful people, including a lovely lady named Pam, who encouraged me to run the Disney races. At 59, she has been running for 3 years, and has finished 8 half marathons with her daughter. Her blog, We Run Disney, is HERE if you want to check it out! As I close in on 50, I have been really giving a lot of thought to what I want to accomplish before that milestone. Pam was so friendly and encouraging, that I emailed her for more info. and now, I have set a new goal–Tom and I are going to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February 2014! Yes, yes, you wonder how Tom qualifies as a “princess”. Turns out, princes can run with a qualifying princess, so now our decision is what kind of matching costumes to wear (Tom would vote for “no costume,” but what fun is that?). And at some point soon, we will start training. Fun!

Salads like this will help us train in the sweltering months ahead! You can make this full recipe or divide everything in half for a smaller amount. Either way, it’s all good!

Summer Corn and Black Bean Salad (makes about 8 servings)

  • 4 ears of organic corn
  • 2 cans organic black beans
  • 1 pint organic cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped chili peppers (I used 1/2 can of roasted Hatch New Mexican peppers)
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Cook corn in your preferred method. I leave the cobs wrapped in the husks, cut the bottom inch off and microwave the cobs two at a time for 3 minutes. Let the cobs cool a bit, then grab the tops of the husk and silk and push the cob out the bottom. You should end up with one naked cob and a handful of husk and silk.
  2. Using a sharp knife or a scraper, remove the corn kernels from the cobs and put in a bowl.
  3. Drain and rinse the black beans and add to the bowl.
  4. Wash and halve the tomatoes. Add to the bowl.
  5. Whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Pour over the vegetables and mix well.
  6. Cut up the avocado (or mash like guacamole) and fold into the vegetable mixture.
  7. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  8. Serve chilled.
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