Oatmeal is one of those “love it or hate it” foods. Fans extol its dietary virtues while foes turn up their noses at this dish of gruel.
In case you ever wondered what the heck gruel is, ponder no more – it is simply “a light, usually thin, cooked cereal made by boiling meal, especially oatmeal, in water or milk.”
Oatmeal and other breakfast cereals are favored by economical cooks because they are quite inexpensive, especially in bulk-size quantities or large containers. Indeed, oats are a staple found in many American kitchens.
Scientific studies have linked eating between 40 and 60 grams (or roughly one bowl) of oatmeal daily to lowered cholesterol levels in adults. Adding 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber to your day can decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol by 3 to 5 percent.
Hot oatmeal sticks to your bones and is warming on a cold day. The grainy gruel is loaded with carbohydrates (weight-loss dieters beware!) and digestive-boosting fiber. Oats are also packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant plant compounds.
Just look at all these nutritional benefits a bowl full of dry oats provides. One half-cup or 78 grams breaks down into:
- Calories: 303
- Carbs: 51 grams
- Protein: 13 grams
- Fat: 5 grams
- Fiber: 8 grams
- Manganese: 191% of the RDI (recommended daily intake)
- Phosphorus: 41% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 34% of the RDI
- Copper: 24% of the RDI
- Iron: 20% of the RDI
- Zinc: 20% of the RDI
- Folate: 11% of the RDI
- Vitamin B1 (thiamin): 39% of the RDI
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): 10% of the RDI
- Smaller amounts of calcium, potassium, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin B3 (niacin)
Oats may be slow-cooked on a stove top but why wait for all that cereally goodness? The only substitution required is a different cooking container. The ingredients are the same.
BASIC MICROWAVE OATMEAL
In a microwave-safe bowl, combine 1 part 100% Whole-Grain Quick Oats with 2 parts of water plus a dash of salt to taste.
Cover and heat at 80%-100% for 90 seconds to 1 minute.
Remove, uncover, and moisten with milk (or more water) to desired consistency.
Cover and microwave at 80%-100% for 30 seconds.
Let stand covered for 30 seconds to 1 minute. (Oatmeal will thicken as it stands and absorbs milk and water.)
Oats swell after they absorb heated water so cook them in a container big enough to allow for this natural expansion. They may splatter on too-high heat so adjust the power settings down as needed.
I’m a petite woman so I cook a half-portion of 1/4 cup of oats in 1/2 cup of water with milk mixed in before the end of the cooking time.
Larger and more athletic people could eat two or three times this amount with ease. You’ll figure out how big a portion you can handle without too much trouble. A half-cup of oats is considered a standard portion of gruel.
The basic recipe is highly nutritious but has very low taste appeal to many of us.
Gruel is not a bad thing at all if some embellishment is added. Oats have a mild taste but are pretty bland. Here’s how I jazz up a basic serving of quick-cooking oatmeal, the kind sold by every grocer:
Extra ingredients may be added to cooked oatmeal or other cereal gruels toward the end of the cooking time.
In my basic recipe above, I add flavoring ingredients with even more nutrition before the last 30-second cooking cycle.
Let your imagination go wild. These are merely my serving suggestions. Stir in shortly before or after cooking the basic oatmeal recipe any or all of these:
Brown sugar. Not much, just a rounded spoonful. For a sweeter taste, add some natural stevia sweetener, local honey, or – for the hard-core – molasses. Avoid adding white granulated sugar. That stuff is White Death and highly addictive.
Canned fruit cocktail. Peaches, pears, plums, pineapple, mango, and cherries are all great for a healthy immune system but also bring natural fruit sugars (fructose) with them along with more dietary fiber. I’ve tried all the canned varieties, from 100% sugary fructose syrup to a water pack with no added sugar. My favorite is the very light syrup type but it can be hard to find. There is no reason you couldn’t use fresh fruit or dried fruit rather than from a can. I do so for pure convenience and time-saving.
Nuts. Ever since I read that almonds are the most nutritious food in the world – no kidding! – I started adding a small handful of sliced almonds to my morning gruel. All nuts are high in protein, fats, and calories – so limit the quantity unless you want to gain weight. I add them with the milk and fruit before cooking the final 30 seconds or so.
Chocolate chips. Oh no I didn’t. (Yes I did.) Dark chocolate chips in oatmeal are the mainstay of the toll house cookie, am I right? Just don’t overdo it. One ounce of dark chocolate with 70-85 percent cacao solids 46.3 grams has 2.2 grams of protein, 12.8 grams of carbs, 3.1 grams of dietary fiber, and 6.7 grams of sugars. A single ounce of dark chocolate delivers 168 calories: that’s 600 calories per 100-gram chocolate bar. So have some oatmeal with your chocolate, ok?
As with the basic recipe, after you’ve added extra ingredients, cook half a minute to a minute or so longer, then let this glorious oatmealy concoction stand a while before uncovering. If needs be, adjust the liquid to taste with more warm water or milk – although your bowl of cooked oatmeal should be perfect.