Monday, February 21, 2011

Steel-Cut Oatmeal

 In an effort to reduce my caloric intake and save money, I've been packing a healthy breakfast and enjoying it at my desk during my first hour at work.  I'm a big fan of Chobani Greek Yogurt (fat-free varieties only) and recently I've started preparing large batches of oatmeal and reheating them in small portions for weekday breakfasts.  What?  Reheating oatmeal?  No instant oatmeal?

I grew up eating instant oatmeal.  My favorite was the cinnamon and raisin flavor.  However, I really prefer old-fashioned slow cooked oats.  These oats remind me of holidays and snow days when my mom would make a special, home-cooked breakfast for us.  There's something gourmet about making oatmeal from scratch and seasoning and spicing it up to your preference.  Until recently, I only enjoyed old-fashioned oatmeal on weekends.  Now I realize that you can make a huge batch of oatmeal on a Sunday and enjoy it reheated for breakfast during the week.  It's far superior to the instant variety and it's less expensive than the cups of old-fashioned oatmeal sold at the cafe in my office building (or at McDonald's) for nearly $2.

Once I realized how easy was to reheat old-fashioned oatmeal, my next step was to move on to steel-cut oats (a.k.a. oat groats, Irish oatmeal, or coarse-cut oats).  I enjoy making my own oatmeal (steel-cut or old-fashioned) because I can control the sugar content and therefore maximize the cholesterol-lowering benefits of oatmeal.   As an oatmeal connoisseur, I prefer the nutty, chewy texture of steel-cut oats over their old-fashioned counterparts.

I opted to purchase my steel-cut oats (for a mere $1.49/pound) at my local farmer's market.  It's significantly less expensive to purchase steel-cut oats from bulk bins or farmer's markets than from the cereal aisle at your grocery store, but regardless of what you pay, you're saving calories and money by preparing a healthy breakfast.

The major disadvantage of steel-cut oats over old-fashioned, and especially instant, oatmeal is that they take a long time to cook.  Stove top cooking instructions suggest a minimum cooking time of 30 minutes.  I found a way to turn steel-cut oats into a convenience food - I use my rice cooker.  I simply set the rice cooker before I got to bed and I wake up to the cinnamony, nutty flavor of hot oats floating up the stairs.  It's like mom moved in and cooked us breakfast.  It reminds me of snow days in elementary school.  When I wake up I enjoy a bowl of oatmeal and pack the rest of for weekday breakfasts.  The first time I did this, E asked, "Where's the bacon and eggs?", but now he just grabs a bowl and helps himself.  Healthy and convenient, that works for me.

Steel-cut oats look more like rice than oatmeal.  The thick cut provides a chewy consistency.
The recipe below is intended for a rice cooker with a delay timer.  (I'm in love with my new rice cooker, but that's a future post.)  If you don't have a rice cooker, follow the instructions on your oatmeal package (steel-cut or old-fashioned).  If you do have a rice cooker, you just found a new use for it!

Steel-Cut Oatmeal
a Keeley original

yield 6 servings

1 1/2 cups steel cut oats
6 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
brown sugar (or your preferred sweetener), to taste

Special equipment - rice cooker equipped with a delay timer - If you don't have one, follow traditional cooking instructions.

The night before breakfast:
Put oats in the cooking pot for a 12-cup (or larger) rice cooker.  Sprinkle salt and cinnamon over oats and stir to coat the oats.  Pour water over oats.

Set rice cooker delay timer for the time you want to serve your steel-cut oats (example:  If you go to bed at 10:00 p.m., set the delay timer to ten hours to make oatmeal ready at 8:00 a.m.).  If your rice cooker has a "brown rice" or "porridge" setting, please use that.
When oats are cooked (the next morning):
Stir oats.  If some are stuck to the bottom, stir gently to remove the stuck-on oats and separate the stuck-on oats from the creamy oats (this only happened once and the oats were still good).  Stir in vanilla extract.  If the oats are too thick for your taste, add warm milk or hot water to thin them out.  Season to your liking with brown sugar (or other sweetener).  Enjoy oats immediately or refrigerate for up to three days.  Reheat portions with a bit of water to get oats to a creamy consistency.


  1. If a reader doesn't have time (or the plan-ahead) for the slow-cooked kind, I buy regular, plain, quick oats and 1% milk to keep at the office. I make them, plain, in the microwave (with milk not water), then sprinkle a little brown sugar and crushed peanuts. Best with some presliced strawberries or banana. :) Absolutely saves $$, saves ridiculous amount of sugar from the presweetened stuff, and very healthy and quick!

  2. you already know how i feel about prison slop, I mean oatmeal :( but I'm still going to give greek yogurt a try

  3. Yum! Such a delicious and healthy breakfast :)

  4. I eat oatmeal amost everyday and I love it! it definitely keeps me full until it's time for lunch and helps with the digestive system...if you know what I mean ;o) I don't use the instant kind, but I use the Quaker Oatmeal, pop it in he microwave with skim milk for a few minutes and voila!

  5. Tim eats this daily.

    There are such great ways to spruce it up too! Oatmeal can be a ton of fun.

  6. My husband likes steel cut oats, but I can't bring myself to like them. Or any other kind of oatmeal. The rice cooker tip is a great one though. Mine does not have a delay, nor does it even have a timer, just an on button, I'm not entirely sure how it knows when to turn off. But I'm going to suggest my hubby try it, he hates standing over the stove making sure the pot doesn't boil over.

    BTW, LOVE your food photos!

  7. I'm going to have to try these at your house first. I don't really like oatmeal, but I've never had the steel cut oats. I'm willing to try new things, especially in the name of healthy eating


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