Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Oatmeal Any Time.

Oatmeal has been, well as far as my life time is concerned, been advertised as one of the best foods to have for breakfast.  On its own, oats are low in fat, high in protein and fiber; contain antioxidants that reduce inflammation, and relax arteries which means “heart healthy”. Oats are naturally gluten free, but high in carbohydrates, so folks with blood sugar issues need to watch out for the latter. 

So, I have used the words “oatmeal” and “oats” in the same paragraph, and are they referring to the very same thing?  Sort of.  Typically, when we hear the word “oatmeal”, we picture a steaming bowl of, what was initially called, porridge. This might be eaten as is, or topped with a sweetener such brown sugar, sugar, maple syrup, or even jelly or jam.  Cut up fruits can be added for more flavor, and slightly different texture.  However, oat meal, and oat flour, are processed the same way while meal is coarse in texture, and the flour is a powdered form; both used in cooking and baking recipes.

Historically, China was cultivating oats around 7000 BCE, and its main function was medicinal.  Oats were thought to have the ability to tone, and circulate, “qi” (energy) which calmed spirit, and cleanse blood.  Ancient Chinese texts describe oats as "restorative" to the major organs: lungs, spleen, stomach, heart, large intestine, and kidneys.  Now in ancient Greece and Rome, oats were looked down upon as a weed that stowed away during the transport of wheat and barley.  The oats were grown, but used as cattle feed, since it was “inferior” for human consumption.

It was not, until around 1000 BCE, the Bronze Age, that oats proved to be a reliable crop in cold and wet conditions.  It grew better, than wheat and barley, in Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Poland, and Germany; and the people of these lands needed to feed themselves as well as their cattle.  As tools were being invented, harvesting and processing of grain became easier; so, creating and experimenting with oat flour produced edible breads.

What got me started on this oatmeal journey?  Woke up this morning to a very dark sky and cool breezes coming down from the Abajo mountains, and it smelled of rain. This was the perfect weather for cookie baking as there is nothing like a cool breeze to cool a hot kitchen, and carry the scent of baking cookies throughout the house.  Also, a good time to try out a pioneer recipe for oatmeal bread.

This recipe for oatmeal bread was passed down from Scottish immigrants, and is found in The Pioneer Cookbook, Recipes for Today’s Kitchen by Miriam Barton, page 102. The bread is not as firm as a typical bread, that could be sliced and placed in a toaster; but laid on a baking sheet and toasted in the oven is plausible.  This is a rustic bread with full flavor of the molasses, and sweetness coming from the raisins.  No yeast is involved, so it is a quick and easy recipe to create, and I liked that!  In parenthesis, on the recipe, is what I used to make the bread.


Oatmeal Bread



1 and ½ cups of milk (2%)

1 cup rolled oats (old fashioned)

1 cup raisins

1 egg, well beaten (large egg)

¼ cup molasses

2 cups flour (all-purpose)

1 and 1/2Tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. butter, melted (unsalted)



Preheat oven to 325F.  Lightly butter (non-stick baking spray) a bread pan (loaf pan).  In a small saucepan, heat the milk, but do not let it boil.  Remove from heat and stir in the oats and raisins.  Cool for about 10 minutes, then stir in the egg and molasses.


In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Gradually stir the sifted mixture into the batter.  Stir in the melted butter.


Spread the batter into the prepared bread pan and bake for about one hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.


Makes one loaf.






Since I did previously mention cookies, here is a favorite oatmeal cookie recipe of my own creation.  Instead of just raisins though, I add another dried fruit to make it doubly comforting.  


Double Fruit Oatmeal Cookies



1 cup softened butter

1 large egg

¾ cup brown sugar

¼ cup sugar

1 and ½ cups all-purpose flour

¼ tsp. salt

¾ tsp. each baking powder and soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. nutmeg

½ cup each of two dried fruits (raisins, golden raisins, dates, cherries), diced

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 cups Old Fashioned Quaker Oats (or your favorite brand, but do not use instant oats)


Preheat oven to 350F. Use nonstick baking sheets, or spray with baking spray (contains flour).

In a large bowl, cream together butter, egg and sugars. In another bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder and soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix dry ingredients into creamed mixture.

Add dried fruits, vanilla and oats; mix thoroughly. Place tablespoons of batter 2-inches apart on baking sheets. Bake 12-15 minutes; until cookies are golden brown; remove to wire baking racks to cool.

Makes 3 dozen.

Enjoy your oatmeal any time, it does not just have to be for breakfast.

...and since I had a couple of very ripe bananas, making banana walnut bread was a bonus!

 Mary Cokenour