by Henry Schliff
During the last week in August the pace of life here on Ocracoke slows down dramatically. Early August’s last chance family vacations are over and the children, who just a few weeks before were building sand castles at the life guard beach, are now back at home getting ready for their first day of school. Ocracoke Island families are also shifting gears after a busy summer and the beginning of the fall term at Ocracoke School. With this in mind I thought it would be timely to reiterate the benefits of starting the school (and work) day with a nutritious breakfast and provide a recipe for steel-cut oats that I have found to be both healthful and delicious.
After sleeping through the night, the body which has fasted overnight, has used up its store of easily available energy. It needs to recharge to provide the energy that is necessary for the busy day that follows (break-the-fast). This is especially true for children. Studies have shown that children who eat a healthful breakfast have better concentration and problem solving skills in the classroom, perform better on tests, and have fewer behavioral problems than children who have had either no breakfast or one that has little nutritional value. Studies have also shown that people who eat a healthful breakfast tend to weigh less. Having an inadequate breakfast often leads to overeating at lunch and throughout the day as the body tries to play catch up. A healthful breakfast contains high quality protein and/or whole grains, not meals loaded with fat, sugar and empty calories (little or no nutritional value). Good examples are whole eggs, egg whites, meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and soy.
Steel Cut Oats
Steel cut oats are made by cutting the whole oat kernel into 2 or 3 pieces using steel discs. Steel cut oats contain the entire bran and are the most nutritious form of oatmeal. Second best nutritionally are rolled oats which are made by first removing most of the bran and then rolling the oats flat for faster cooking. Instant oatmeal is made by cutting rolled oats into smaller pieces for even faster cooking. Flavored instant oatmeal usually contains artificial flavors, excess sugar, salt and is best avoided.
Oatmeal is a complex carbohydrate and when combined with a small amount of milk and dried fruit provides a complete breakfast that gives the body an ample amount of fuel and nutrition to start the day. Oatmeal has a low glycemic index which causes it to be digested slowly by the body which keeps insulin levels steady and reduces the risk of type-2 diabetes and the feeling of hunger. In addition oatmeal is rich in beta-glucans which are soluble fibers that help to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
All forms of oatmeal and all other grains contain phytic acid which can make them hard to digest. It is always best to soak oatmeal overnight before cooking. Not only does soaking remove most of the phytic acid but it also speeds up the cooking time so that it is easy to prepare steel-cut or old fashioned oats for breakfast.
Steel cut oats are becoming more available in super markets as their popularity increases. They keep well when cooked in quantity and have a delightful chewy texture that holds up well when reheated. The following recipe can also be used successfully with old-fashioned rolled oats if steel cut are not available
- 1 cup steel cut oats
- 2 cups water (if using rolled oats
- 1 Tbs. plain yogurt (optional)
- ½ cup milk
- ¼ cup raisins (or other dried fruit)
- ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 – 2 Tbs. dark brown sugar
Place the steel-cut oats in a fine sieve and rinse well under cold running water. Place the oats in a small bowl and stir in the water and yogurt (if using). Cover the bowl and let stand overnight (at least 8 hours). Place the oats with their liquid and the milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the raisins, cinnamon, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat, partially cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Henry Schliff has been the chef of a French, Italian, and Mexican restaurant and was most recently the owner of the Orange Blossom Bakery in Buxton. He is the author of two cookbooks