A Well Balanced Breakfast

And by well balanced I mean just enough “East meets West”.

I previously have discussed how to make oatmeal, not glue.

I’ve reduced my daily portion to 1/3 of a cup. Actually, for a long time it was down to 1/4 of a cup and is back up to 1/3. Half a cup proved to simply be way too much to try to get down every single day. I’d feel overfull all morning and not want lunch until three.

But that aside, I’ve been sticking largely to the basics; steam with water in just a hair more than 2:1 ratio for 30 minutes after browning in olive oil, with salt, for 30 minutes. Then add almond milk, honey (or agave nectar) and all spice, nutmeg, cinnamon or clove depending on my mood.

However, when Liz got back from her Summer in Tokyo and was talking about the traditional Japanese breakfast including miso soup, I got a funny idea. What if instead of sweet oats, I went for savory? So, I have tried steaming the oats in water, then finishing them with veggie broth, miso paste and toasted nori sheets. The result was way too salty, but had a lot of potential. If I can find a way to control the salt, this will prove to be a fantastic savory alternative to sweat oats. Suggestions on getting the salt down are welcome. Perhaps steaming wakame with the oats instead of toasted nori is a good start…

Well, this morning I took another direction. I steamed my oats in Ti Kuan Yin oolong tea and then flavored with soy milk and Chinese five spice. This was also very tasty, but not quite savory. Anyone know anything about Chinese breakfasts?

Breakfast Djinni (in a jar)

I picked up a breakfast conjuration from Lifehacker and ran with it for this week.  My regular breakfast wish is something quick, healthy, and able to keep me from overindulging for my mid-morning snack.  And so, this morning I rubbed the magic breakfast lamp and *poof* I had breakfast in a reasonable amount of time without it being a shake. [1]

The premise is simple:  prepare some kind of cooked oats on the weekend, put them in jars, reheat each morning for breakfast.  The nice thing is that it really is that simple.

I cooked about 1c of steel cut oats in 3c of water to get something firm but not chewy and also something that would take well to reheating with a little water added.  I’ve learned that oats do not reheat well without some kind of hydration.  This means when following this plan, making something slightly under-cooked is required because it is going to slightly cook when reheated in the microwave.

Oh no!  Use of black magic!

Before you point back to a previous post, remember that this is reheating.  You can’t reheat without cooking something a little bit more, especially in the microwave, so I dare say reheat and cook in the same context here.

I portioned the cooked amount of oats into 5 jars, tossed a dash of cinnamon in each, sealed them, and got them into the fridge.  It is best to do this while the oats are hot as this will help seal the jar as they cool.  In theory, this should help them keep better over the week, especially if you aren’t using small jars and end up with a fair amount of air in the jar.  Ideally, appropriate sized jars would be used to minimize the amount of air within.

I also prepared a jar of mixed fruit and put that in the fridge.  I used frozen fruit [2] and dried cranberries in about equal ratio.  This consisted of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and the dried cranberries.

This morning I added about a tablespoon of water to the jar and heated it for about 22 seconds in the microwave.  Heating slowly helps ensure the jar doesn’t explode from any heat change.  It should’t as canning jars are meant to handle high heat, but don’t tempt the Black Magic Box.  I then stirred the oats and heated for another 44 seconds.  I was aiming for warm not hot so I could eat these immediately.  I then added a few table spoons of fruit, a teaspoon of molasses, and a bit of soy milk to make this mixable and quickly consumable.

The outcome was quite good, and the upside of using a larger jar was that I could continue to summon this strange Djinni in this bottle without dirtying anything else.  Tomorrow I plan to add soy yogurt instead because it is good to get the little Health Gremlins in yogurt on a daily basis.

Another variation I will try is to reduce the amount of steel cut oats and use a balance of rolled oats — mostly because steel cut oats are crazy expensive, and party because variety is good.

[1] I have recently hit a wall with this vegan diet I am temporarily on.  This includes a slight aversion to intense soy.  There are studies that indicate too much soy for Westerners isn’t a good thing as it hasn’t been a part of our dietary culture and our metabolism isn’t properly geared towards it.

[2] Quality frozen fruit can be second best to fresh fruit because it was frozen at its peak freshness.  Don’t shun it because it came from the freezer, but certainly shun Ye Generice Brande — goodness knows the quality and origin of that!

Breakfast Gruel ~ Or How to Make Oatmeal, Not Glue

Unlike John, I simply can’t cope with drinking my breakfast. I love milkshakes, I even like some smoothies. Maybe I’ve seen WALL-E and taken it too much to heart, but I just can’t do breakfast-in-a-cup. But, also wanting to get through my day without getting into the chips left over from the last gaming session, and wanting to acquire some basic daily nutrition, I too have a daily morning routine.

Half a cup of steel cut oats, steamed (basically).

Now, I never liked rolled oats as a kid, nor cream of wheat, or really any kind of hot cereal, whether it was breakfast fare or otherwise. To me they always ended up in a form better suited to papering walls than filling my insides. But this radically new approach has changed all that, especially with the switch to steel cut oats. Steel cut oats have much more fiber than rolled, they just take a lot longer to cook — typical Western approach to food, convenience over nutrition, right?

I will freely admit that a lot of what I know about generalized technique I got from Alton Brown’s early seasons of “Good Eats”. Over time, I’ve noticed a pattern when he’s dealing with starches in some kind of small, pellet like form (rice, oats, barley, polenta, &c.) – start with high heat and fat (butter, oil, what have you) to get some caramelization going, get boiling water into the situation as quickly as possible, cover as tightly as possible, and then let things go low and slow for as long as possible without losing a very gentle simmer/very low boil. Because this is almost like baking, and the margin of error is very narrow, I actually have this down to fairly precise details at this point to avoid disaster.

I use my smallest sauce pan, with a lid, and a kitchen towel (for weight on the thin lid, if you have a heavy lid, don’t bother). In the small pan I heat a silver dollar sized pour of olive oil. Once good and hot, into this goes the half cup of steel cut oats. Begin moving them about immediately and quickly so that all the kernels are coated in oil and none are sitting there deep frying in a small pool. Keep this over fairly high heat, moving frequently. When you start to hear consistent popping noises, pour in one and one eighth of a cup of water, a pinch of salt and whatever spices you like. I usually go with cinnamon, but powdered ginger, clove, nutmeg or all four can be very nice. Heck, I’ve even had it with zatar and it was really good, too. If you have an electric kettle and don’t mind the effort, make that cup of water already boiling when it goes in. Otherwise, get it up to a boil as fast as you can. Once boiling, slap on the lid, pile on the towel to help keep it down (being sure none of the edges hang over near your flames!), and reduce the heat to low. I sometimes do this on two different burners, the big one for the very hot stages and my tiniest one for the simmering stage. Set a timer for 30 minutes. Yes. That long. If you do the first half in your jammies, breakfast is ready by the time you get dressed and have a cup of tea.

When the timer goes off, uncover, add a reasonable amount of honey and if you like, a splash of milk (not half and half or cream!) or almond milk works on certain days. Stir briefly and serve immediately.

No more cereal of limitless sticking potential! Hello daily fiber.