Oats Three Ways

You can feed a lot of folks on oats. And if estimates are right and the average Canadian grocery bill is set to be about $420 higher in 2017, you could do worse things than get to know this nutritious, inexpensive, and tasty grain.


Steel cut oats. Personalize your Porridge  Add spices like ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, or fresh, frozen, puréed or dried fruit. You could probably throw in cocoa, or use coconut oil instead of butter. Experiment. Porridge is incredibly versatile.

MAKES YOU THINK…The annual cost of the food we waste, by throwing out spoiled or unwanted food, is far greater than the forecast price increases.

First way, porridge

You may know porridge better as oatmeal (or gruel if you really hated it or had recently watched the musical Oliver Twist), but I grew up calling it porridge. Back then I drowned it in milk and brown sugar. I used to love watching the sugar melt onto the hot oats.

These days, I don’t use rolled oats like my mother did; I use steel cut oats. Both contain about the same amount of nutrition, but steel cut oats have more of a bite to them and don’t get as mushy as rolled or quick oats. I also make a week’s worth at a time, that way I have no excuse not to eat breakfast.

The hurry up and wait method

Melt 1 tbsp butter in pot then stir in 2-3 tsp of spices. Add 1 cup oats and coat with spiced butter. Add 3 cups boiling water. Add ¾-1 cup fruit. Turn off heat, cover pot and let stand at least 3 hours or longer. Take the time to go for a walk, run errands, or nap. Add 1 cup of milk and heat to boiling. Turn off heat, cover pot and let stand another hour (or overnight; go to sleep and dream of your morning porridge). Store in fridge. Reheat servings in microwave, 1-2 minutes. Makes about 4-6 servings, depending on serving size. Scale it up: 1 part oats to 4 parts liquid (water, milk, milk alternatives).

Second way, balls

Other ingredients could include coconut, coconut oil, cocoa, puréed fruit, honey/jelly/jam, or cereal box bottom crumbs...those last 16 Cheerios, or that single, beat up Weetabix. The possibilities are endlessly exciting. Depending on your cereal preferences, for example, your balls could put you in mind of a certain Cap’n Crunch.

Besides oats, fruit and nuts, other ingredients could include coconut, coconut oil, cocoa, puréed fruit, honey/jelly/jam, or cereal box bottom crumbs…those last 16 Cheerios, or that single, beat up Weetabix. The possibilities are endlessly exciting. Depending on your cereal preferences, for example, your balls could put you in mind of a certain Cap’n Crunch.

“I need a breakfast I can take with me,” I hear some of you say. Others are more direct: “Oh, balls to porridge!” No problem. Balls you shall have.

To make proper balls, you’ll need a food processor. Be warned, however; this isn’t so much a recipe as it is a partial list of ingredients that can be thrown together to make a tasty and portable breakfast. You can go bananas (literally) with balls. All you need is the right consistency; hence the food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, chances are someone you know does. Borrow theirs, or if they’re persnickety about lending out such things, perhaps they’d let you make this in their kitchen. I recommend enticing them with some free balls.

 Speaking of which…
The sheer variety of small appliances available on the market takes my breath away. Why do we insist on having individual copies of them, especially those we haul out, if we’re lucky, once every couple of months or so: the crock pot, the stock pot, the bread machine, the Panini press, the George Foreman grill. When was the last time you used your waffle iron/popcorn popper/pressure cooker? There’s a tool library in Ottawa. Why not a similar one for borrowing small appliances?

How to ball like a pro

1 cup dried fruit (dates, figs, raisins, cranberries, currants, etc.) or 1 cup puréed fruit (pumpkin, banana, apple sauce).  Always soak dried fruit in hot water for about ½ hour to soften. Reserve the soak water if you need to moisten your balls later.

1 cup nuts/seeds OR ¾ cup nut butter

1 cup rolled or quick oats (don’t use steel cut oats)

In the food processor, grind the fruit and nuts and/or nut butter together. Add the oats and process until the mixture starts to clump together. If it doesn’t begin clumping, or it looks too sticky, add more oats, ¼ cup at a time. When the mix is firm, add the other ingredients (see box) and process. Check it often to see what you may need to add to make it easily mouldable. Too dry? Add some of the water used to soften the dried fruit. Too wet? Add more oats or any other dry ingredient.

Now comes the rolling. Take about a tablespoon of the mixture and starting rolling it between your palms until you have a pleasingly circular shape. It doesn’t have to be ball-shaped; perhaps you’re a fan of the ovoid.

At this stage you can either roll your balls in yet more stuff, like coconut, or cocoa or ground almonds, or you can choose to leave your balls unadorned. Either way, place your balls on waxed or parchment paper inside a sealable container. They’ll keep in the fridge for at least two weeks plus they freeze well.

Third way, granola

Don’t let your natural hatred of hippies put you off this breakfast food. Like the porridge and the balls, it’s easy to customize granola to your own tastes.

When mixed with yogurt, granola is another quick way to start the day. And since it keeps for a long time in a glass container, make a crap load of it so you’ll have it on hand for weeks.

oats-granolaThe basic stuff

In a large bowl, mix together 3 cups rolled or quick oats, 1 cup coconut, 3-5 tsp spice, 1 tsp salt, 1 cup seeds or crushed nuts. Optional: bit of brown sugar. Add ½ cup oil (heated coconut oil works well, but any light tasting oil will do. Don’t use olive oil) and mix to coat. Spread mixture out evenly on parchment paper on a large baking sheet (or two). Set in the oven at 300F for 30 minutes (you don’t have to pre-heat the oven). Add 1 cup dried fruit and stir the granola well. Return to oven 15 minutes, then turn off the oven and leave it for an hour to cool. Store in glass containers.

 Strange Personal Facts…
When pressed for time, I will sometimes eat a bowl of yogola for dinner. On a camping trip, a friend once called my morning repast of granogurt, “squishy food.”

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