Nutritional information—or what passes for it—abounds on the internet and in books that you can check out from the library, or find as you pass through the checkout line at the grocery store, but it’s frustrating. It’s constantly changing. Many—really most of us—don’t have the background in physiology, medicine, or the time to do our own detailed research to assess it. You can read the books, e.g. Good Calories, Bad Calories ( (Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories 2007), Why We Get Fat ( (Taubes, Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It 2010), or The Big Fat Surprise (Teicholz 2015) which are extensively researched and well documented. But it still can be confusing, especially if you want more specific information. There’s the Paleo diet, the Atkins diet, the Mediterranean diet….and even The New Atkins for a New You (Westerman and Phinney 2010). So much information, so much controversy. . .
Then there are the things that our grandmothers told us—eat your veggies, and your fruits—but the one that I remember most is that breakfast is a must-have meal. That seems to be one of the less controversial bits of advice out there. There’s only one problem—breakfast is supposed to happen when you wake up. Now, according to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary, wake up, awake or awaken, means to “stop sleeping”. The problem is that for some of us awakening is not the same as achieving a state of functioning (“performing a group of related acts and process” according to the dictionary). We awaken, and the functioning state is bestowed later–sometimes much later and only with an appropriate amount of caffeine.
Every time I have to say whether I’m a “morning person” I face a quandary—I love early mornings—the cool part of the day, with the inspiration of the sunrise. So in that sense, I’m a morning person. Add functionality to that and there is a problem. Until I’ve had my morning cafè latte or espresso function is simply out of the question. Making breakfast requires functioning—albeit minimal. I can manage the kind of functioning required to get the espresso machine to spit out the liquid caffeine portion of my latte. Actual breakfast is another issue.
Another issue for me is that first thing in the morning, even as much as I love breakfast food, I don’t want to eat. Food? Yuck! So I have my two café lattes, and by then I should be at my computer working on the current index—breakfast gets another miss.
Every New Year (and probably again this coming one) my resolutions include eating more healthily. That would include giving my body morning fuel. Every year it goes by the wayside because of non-functioning in the morning. So I’m attuned to things that will get me food with least effort in the morning. I’m willing to admit that cooking eggs seems pretty simple, but diet-wise I doubt the nutritional wisdom of bacon and eggs daily partly from the caloric point of view.
In the winter (especially if the view from the kitchen window reveals a cold, grey, damp, day) a breakfast favorite is oatmeal (don’t DO cold cereals on a taste or nutritional basis). Specifically, I want oatmeal with some tooth to it—which really eliminates the quick stuff. I want the steel-cut, slow-cooking stuff. It’s the slow-cooking part that hurts. So I’m constantly on the lookout for things that might help me keep that New Year’s resolution—and maybe even contribute to more healthy eating (and weight loss.
If you search the web, you can find numerous suggestion on how to cook steel-cut oats—some reducing the cooking time to 30 minutes. Even with that, it’s still not in my range of morning functionality—I won’t enumerate the number of ways is possible to screw up when your functioning is barely above brain-dead.
In my recent perusal of the blogs that I follow I was delighted to see a post entitled How To Make Oatmeal in Jars: One Week of Breakfast in 5 Minutes. First of all, it promised make-ahead, and then you’ve probably gathered that I’m a fan of Ball/Mason jars so I have lots of those around.
The prep is simple (see full post for discussion and details)
- Combine 1-2/3 cups steel-cut oats with 4 cups water, ¼ teaspoon salt.
- Bring to boil and cook for 3 minutes.
- Put it into jars, and when it reaches room temperature, cap and refrigerate.
- To eat, microwave 2 to 3 minutes, add whatever you wish and eat.
My only change to this is something I’ve done for a long time when I’m cooking oatmeal—substitute milk or oat milk for 3 cups of the water and divide into 7 servings since I just don’t eat that much in the morning. The three-minute boil gives chewy kernels; I actually prefer just a bit less chew, so I boil for 5 minutes.
I like to use 1/2-pint jars for this as they will sit in a coffee mug so I don’t have to handle the hot jar or put it into something else to eat–admittedly I do at times end up taking my breakfast on my “commute” into the office and eating at my desk. (I know–not a good thing to do, but it happens when deadlines are close.) Filled only to about 2/3 there’s still room to add things on top–then this recipe works for about 7 days.
Another alternative to “quicken” up the steel-cut oats is to do an overnight soak at room temperature; Maria Speck, in her book on ancient grains, suggests that this will reduce cooking time to about 7 minutes. My issues with this are that it requires planning ahead. Once the oats are soaked, they need to be cooked. I am, admittedly, a very temperamental, picky eater: I might wake up not wanting to eat oats for breakfast. By precooking and refrigerating, I do give myself a little leeway to be picky without throwing something out.
On more relaxed mornings, I’ll make other versions of steel-cut oats. A favorite is from Alton Brown via the Food Network. Love the toasting before adding liquid. Adding the milk and buttermilk adds richness and tanginess. His point here about stirring in the dairy does make a difference. I’ll admit to not being the owner of a true Scottish-style spurtle but a Holland-style spoodle to be a bit gentler with my steel-cut oats.
Now, for breakfast. . . a drizzle of some luscious varietal honey like French lavender, tupelo, sourwood, or maybe leatherwood, or thyme, or just wildflower or clover, or orange blossom, or maybe just some butter, or possibly milk, or…it may well depend on what I see from my kitchen window!