Once you wrap your head and your taste buds around the alternative uses of oatmeal in your cooking, youll discover that it just might be the most versatile grain around. Brown rice is higher in calories and cant compete with the sweet side of oatmeal; besides, it lacks that cold-weather comfort appeal.
Barley, bulgar and quinoa would be the most likely next tier of rivals, but they are typically harder to come by and much more expensive. Not to mention that these savory menu items just dont have much sweet breakfast cachet.
Oatmeal is one of the least expensive whole grain options you can buy. And now you can buy bulk because you can use it sweet or savory. Oatmeal pancakes today, oatmeal jambalaya the next.
Want to go an extra step? Look for steel cut oatmeal; it has more nutritional value.
Weve got some recipe suggestions here, but Ill tell you that you can easily swap oatmeal for grits, rice and most other grains. And wed suggest adding a little milk (whatever kind you prefer) to enhance the sweet, creaminess.
Its oatmeal; you dont have to hide that fact when it can be such a great addition to the dish.
THREE PEPPER OAT PILAF
Yield: 6 servings
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup sliced green onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 3/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats, uncooked
2 egg whites or 1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves or 2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
In a 10-inch nonstick skillet, cook peppers, mushrooms, green onions and garlic in oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.
In large bowl, mix oats and egg whites until oats are evenly coated. Add oats to vegetable mixture in skillet.
Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until oats are dry and separated, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add broth, basil, salt and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Serve immediately.
Nutrition per serving: 125 calories; 4 g fat; 0.5 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 4 g protein; 19 g carbohydrate; 2 g sugar; 3 g fiber; 325 mg sodium; 5 mg calcium.
BROCCOLI-CHEDDAR OVEN RISOTTO
Yield: 4 servings
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 bunch broccoli, cut into small florets
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 3/4 cups steel-cut oats
1/4 cup dry white wine
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Bring the chicken broth to a low simmer in a saucepan. Toss the broccoli with olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large Dutch oven or ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add the oats and stir to coat. Pour in the wine and cook until evaporated, about 1 minute.
Add the hot broth, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste; bring to a boil.
Cover and set on the bottom oven rack. Place the broccoli on the upper rack. Bake, stirring the oatmeal and broccoli once halfway through cooking until most of the liquid has been absorbed into the oatmeal and the broccoli is tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove the oatmeal and broccoli from the oven. Add 3/4 cup hot water, the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and the cheese to the oatmeal and stir until creamy (add a little more hot water to loosen, if necessary).
Stir in broccoli and serve.
Nutrition per serving: 570 calories; 28 g fat; 13 g saturated fat; 50 mg cholesterol; 26 g protein; 62 g carbohydrate; 3 g sugar; 11 g fiber; 305 mg sodium; 320 mg calcium.
SAVORY PORRIDGE WITH BACON, CHEDDAR, FRESH TOMATOES, AND CHIVES
Yield: 4 servings
8 slices bacon
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup steel-cut oats
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons for garnish
Salt and fresh place pepper to taste
1 heaping cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
Cayenne pepper sauce (optional)
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook bacon in batches, turning frequently, until browned and crisp, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Set aside on a paper towel.
While bacon is cooking, bring milk, water and stock just to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Stir in oats and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring regularly, for 25 to 30 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and oats are tender and cooked through. Stir in cheddar, chives, salt and pepper and taste for seasoning.
Just before serving, crumble bacon and stir into oatmeal. Top with cherry tomatoes and extra chives and serve cayenne pepper sauce on the side.
Nutrition per serving: 250 calories; 13 g fat; 6 g saturated fat; 30 mg cholesterol; 14 g protein; 20 g carbohydrate; 4 g sugar; 2.5 g fiber; 450 mg sodium; 155 mg calcium.
SAVORY OATMEAL AND SOFT-COOKED EGG
Yield: 1 serving
1 cup water or chicken broth
1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Nonstick cooking spray
1 large egg
2 tablespoons shredded sharp cheddar
1 tablespoon thinly sliced scallions
2 slices of cooked bacon (optional)
In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water (or chicken broth) to a boil. Add oats and pinch of salt; stir, reduce heat, and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a small nonstick pan over medium. Coat lightly with cooking spray. Add egg and cook until white is set and yolk is still runny, about 3 minutes. Season egg to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve oatmeal in a bowl topped with cheese, egg, scallions and bacon (if using).
Nutrition per serving: 295 calories; 12 g fat; 4.5 g saturated fat; 200 mg cholesterol; 16 g protein; 30 g carbohydrate; 2 g sugar; 5 g fiber; 170 mg sodium; 170 mg calcium.