Toasted Oats with Cinnamon Almond Butter

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Are you sick of winter? Our winter here in NC has been pretty mild, but that point from late January to late February is a big ol’ grumpy time for me. Much of the northeast is seeing record snowfall, and for me at least, that means oatmeal. Not those dusty packets of super sweet instant oats, but rich, hearty toasted oats. Toasted oats? Yes, indeed!

Sometimes I read foodie articles and marvel at my own lack of creativity or insight. I read an article recently that revolutionized my oatmeal making, and I kept thinking, “why didn’t this occur to me?”. The article asked why, when we toast rice and other grains prior to cooking, we don’t ever toast our steel cut oats before making oatmeal. Toasting brings out wonderful flavor in nuts and grains–what would risotto be if we didn’t toast the arborio rice prior to adding the stock? I know right?

I decided a dark, cold, rainy morning was a good time to experiment with this technique. I don’t think I will ever make oatmeal another way again. Oh. My. Goodness. Toasting the steel cut oats gives the oatmeal an amazing depth of flavor and a wonderful nuttiness. And since grumpy winter mornings call for going a little over the top with our breakfast, I added some cinnamon and almond butter to the oatmeal for a protein-packed, super healthy start to the day. This is crazy delicious. I want to eat this all the time.

So go ahead, toast your oats! Let me know what you think. I think you will never look at oatmeal the same way again!

Toasted Oats with Cinnamon Almond Butter (makes 4 servings)

  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter per serving
  • Cinnamon, to taste
  • Pinch of kosher or sea salt
  1. In a saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until melted and just foamy.
  2. Add the oats and stir well. Continue to cook the oats, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. The oats should darken slightly and give off a wonderful, nutty aroma.
  3. Add the water and continue cooking and stirring for about 30 minutes or until the oatmeal is to your desired consistency (I like mine very thick, so I cooked it for 40 minutes).
  4. Plate the oatmeal in serving bowls or mugs. Add one tablespoon of almond butter, a little pinch of salt, and a generous sprinkling of cinnamon.
  5. Stir and serve immediately.

NOTE: You can freeze the oatmeal in greased muffin tins, giving you servings ready to heat in the morning. Also, this oatmeal will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

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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

Toasted Oats with Cinnamon Almond Butter

20140130-090322.jpg

Sometimes I read foodie articles and marvel at my own lack of creativity or insight. I read an article recently that revolutionized my oatmeal making, and I kept thinking, “why didn’t this occur to me?”. The article asked why, when we toast rice and other grains prior to cooking, we don’t ever toast our oats before making oatmeal. Toasting brings out wonderful flavor in nuts and grains–what would risotto be if we didn’t toast the arborio rice prior to adding the stock? I know right?

So since we have had three snow days in a row (rare here in North Carolina), I decided a lazy morning was a good time to experiment with this technique. I don’t think I will ever make oatmeal another way again. Oh. My. Goodness. Toasting the steel cut oats gives the oatmeal an amazing depth of flavor and a wonderful nuttiness. And since snow days are mornings where we go a little over the top with our breakfast, I added some cinnamon and almond butter to the oatmeal for a protein-packed, super healthy start to the day. This is crazy delicious. I want to eat this all the time.

So go ahead, toast your oats! Let me know what you think. I think you will never look at oatmeal the same way again!

Toasted Oats with Cinnamon Almond Butter (makes 4 servings)

  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter per serving
  • Cinnamon, to taste
  • Pinch of kosheror sea salt
  1. In a saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until melted and just foamy.
  2. Add the oats and stir well. Continue to cook the oats, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. The oats should darken slightly and give off a wonderful, nutty aroma.
  3. Add the water and continue cooking and stirring for about 30 minutes or until the oatmeal is to your desired consistency (I like mine very thick, so I cooked it for 40 minutes).
  4. Plate the oatmeal in serving bowls or mugs. Add one tablespoon of almond butter, a little pinch of salt, and a generous sprinkling of cinnamon.
  5. Stir and serve immediately.

NOTE: You can freeze the oatmeal in greased muffin tins, giving you servings ready to heat in the morning. Also, this oatmeal will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Banana Pudding Refrigerator Oatmeal

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During our long, hot summers, I typically have sprouted grain bread/toast with homemade jam and a frozen fruit smoothie for breakfast. While I absolutely love steel cut oatmeal, the thought of making or eating hot oats before heading out into the humidity is just not appealing.

So I was intrigued by the experiments of a fellow blogger, Melissa at My Whole Food Life. She has been blogging all summer about no-cook refrigerator oatmeal recipes. I posted a list of links below! Like the whole chia seed thing, it took me a while to work myself up to eating cold oatmeal (yes, you can heat it in the microwave, but follow along with me here). Wouldn’t cold oatmeal be gross? Could the overnight process really soften the steel-cut oats? What would cold oatmeal taste like?

There was only one way to find out, and since I ran out of food a day short of grocery shopping day, this was the week for brave new discoveries! Armed with a very ripe banana, some steel-cut oats and some almond milk, I decided to put a southern recipe to the test with this Banana Pudding Refrigerator Oatmeal. In keeping with Melissa’s recipe proportions, I added chia seeds, vanilla bean and one chopped medjool date for sweetness. The date pieces dissolve a bit and taste like caramel. YUM!

How was it? Chock full of cold banana and creamy oats, this banana oatmeal won’t fool you into thinking it’s banana pudding, but it is clean tasting, filling and a little sweet. More like rice pudding? I am enjoying taking my jar of oatmeal from the staff refrigerator, to the great outdoors for some al fresco lunches. These late summer days are still pretty warm, so the cold oatmeal is appreciated. It is refreshing and not at all gross, like I feared. When winter comes, you can pop your jar of oats into the microwave and have a warm lunch in no time.

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Banana Pudding Refrigerator Oatmeal (makes one pint-sized serving)

  • 1/2 cup steel-cut oats (you can use rolled oats for a softer texture)
  • 1 teaspoon organic chia seeds
  • 1 large banana (or two small), peeled and slightly mashed
  • Seeds from 1 vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 organic medjool date, pitted and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups almond milk

Combine all ingredients in a bowl or in a pint sized jar. Shake well. Refrigerate overnight or up to three days.

Want some more ideas? Check out these recipes from My Whole Food Life!

Almond Butter Chocolate Overnight Oats

Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats

Coconut Vanilla Overnight Oats

Banana Bread Oatmeal

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I think part of me is on a mission to figure out how many cozy flavor combinations I can make into oatmeal. I’m a big fan of bananas–banana pancakes, banana cream pie, banana pudding and, of course, banana bread. I am bananas for bananas!

This banana bread oatmeal uses steel-cut oats, organic bananas and raw honey to make a delicious, cozy oatmeal perfect for these last days of winter. My first attempt at creating this oatmeal worked out great–creamy with lots of banana flavor. The recipe below is for making overnight oatmeal in a crockpot, but you can make this on the stovetop as well.

Banana Bread Oatmeal (makes 4 servings)

  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • 2 medium organic bananas, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 cup raw honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups organic vanilla soy milk
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • Chopped pecans
  1. In the bowl of a slow cooker, add all the ingredients except the pecans. Stir, cover and set heat at the lowest setting (I use the “keep warm” setting).
  2. Let cook for 6-7 hours. NOTE: banana slices may float to the top and the exposed sides will brown a bit.
  3. Stir and serve with chopped pecans on top.

Cherry Vanilla Oatmeal

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I have always found cherries disgusting. Cherries and clowns. While I love all fruits, I have always steered clear of anything with cherries in it. A clown eating cherries would probably be my ultimate nightmare. Add a llama into the picture and I’d need definite therapy. Now, my introduction to cherries seemed innocent enough. Someone gave me a cute little red foil box of cherry cordial chocolates for Valentines Day, and I was probably about 10 years old. I ate the entire box of 6 chocolates in one sitting, because at 10 you don’t know better. I won’t go into what occurred next, but let’s just say I have had an aversion to cherries or anything cherry flavored ever since. I’ll save the clown and llama stories for another time.

You can imagine my surprise and dismay to read the positive research for tart cherries and tart cherry juice for joint inflammation. Could I break my 36 year ban on cherries? As an experiment, I bought some dried tart cherries and some 100% red tart cherry juice at Trader Joes and tried them. Really, amazingly delicious. And they live up to their “tart” name! Not the disgustingly sweet cherries of my traumatic childhood experience, these cherries are flavorful and pleasantly tangy. The juice (I take about 4 oz. per day) is astringent like grapefruit juice and, I have to say, it would make a mean cocktail 🙂

Using my dried cherries, I came up with this absolutely delicious oatmeal recipe last week that takes advantage of the fiber and healing properties of steel-cut oats and adds in anti-inflammatory tart cherries and soy as well. The recipe below is for making your oatmeal in a crock pot overnight, but you can make it on the stovetop as well.  So now I have scratched another childhood aversion off the list. Clowns are definitely still there. And llamas. Definitely llamas.

Cherry Vanilla Oatmeal (makes 4 servings)

  • 1 cup steel-cut oats (not quick cook oats!)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup organic, vanilla flavored soy or almond milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup local honey or organic, unbleached cane sugar
  • 1 cup dried, tart cherries
  1. Add all ingredients to the bowl of a crock pot. Stir well and cover.
  2. Set your crock pot for the lowest setting (“low” on my crock pot is still too high, so I use the “keep warm” setting and that works perfectly)
  3. Cook overnight or for 7-8 hours (if you know you will be cooking your oatmeal longer, add a bit more liquid).
  4. Serve and enjoy!

Gingerbread Oatmeal

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When the high for the day is going to be 32 degrees, toast just doesn’t cut it for breakfast. I love steel cut oats both for their flavor and for their satisfying warmth. But plain oatmeal gets, well, boring after a while. During the chilly mornings of last fall, I fell in love with THIS recipe for pumpkin pie oatmeal. But winter is a time for gingerbread, peppermint and chocolate, so I was looking for something a little different. I figured if I could make gingerbread pancakes, muffins and bread, there must be a way to bring that flavor profile to oats, right? Right!

After some experimenting with spices, I think I have a good balance of spice and sweetness. Note: I like my gingerbread pretty spicy. If you like a subtle taste, cut back a bit on the spices. I love this oatmeal and although you can add some brown sugar, this recipe just uses molasses for sweetness and a little kick. I also added some chopped organic dried apricots and that was delicious! Enjoy!

I’m including the crock pot recipe here, but you can make this the normal stovetop way as well.

Gingerbread Oatmeal (4-6 servings)

  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. dried, ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • Dried apricots or apples (optional)
  1. In the bowl of a crock pot, add the water and spices. Use a whisk to combine.
  2. Add the molasses and stir.
  3. Add the oats and stir again.
  4. Set your crock pot to its lowest setting (I use the “keep warm” setting on mine).
  5. Cook overnight for 6-7 hours.
  6. Top servings with dried fruit, if desired.

Oatmeal and Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

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This oatmeal is so good, I could have it for supper! If you love pumpkin pie, you will go crazy for this oatmeal. I think this is like a Snuggie in a bowl!

Steel Cut Oatmeal (stove top)

  • 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

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Using the crock pot recipe above, substitute 1 cup of water for one can of organic, unsweetened pumpkin. Add a healthy tablespoon or two (I use 2) of pumpkin pie spice and cook overnight.

In the morning, the pumpkin will be at the top of the pot. Just stir it all back together and top with chopped pecans and a drizzle of maple syrup. Mmmmmmm, mmmmmmmm!

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