“Oatmeal is our friend,” e-mailed Carol Cooke, a realtor from Alexandria, Virginia. Just as passionate was Sheila Velazquez. Along with her family, Sheila is working hard to resurrect the old Rice farm on Pudding Hollow Road here in Hawley, Massachusetts. They are basically camping out (brrr!) while nurturing their children and chickens, reconstructing the historic house’s interior, and reading seed catalogues as they dream of the garden they will plant in spring.
Sheila wrote that on chilly winter mornings she enjoys oatmeal almost every day. She buys organic oats in bulk and cooks them with water, dried fruit, and cinnamon. She throws in a little salt at the very end. “So good and also a good way to use up fruit that’s getting past its time,” she added.
Sheila offered me a recipe for oatmeal pie, which she termed a sort of “faux pecan” concoction. She said of oatmeal in general, “It seems that some of the most delicious foods are also the least expensive and best for us.”
I don’t eat oatmeal every morning. Unlike the noble Sheila I always add at least a little brown sugar or maple syrup to my morning porridge. I do yearn for the warmth and comfort of oatmeal at this time of year, however. I’m apparently not alone. More Americans eat oatmeal in January than in any other month, a statistic that prompted Quaker Oats to name January National Oatmeal Month.
Of course, Quaker had a vested interest in creating a month devoted to its signature product. I forgive the company because oatmeal is indeed the perfect food in this dark and cold season. The old cliché that it sticks to one’s ribs turns out to be true. Whole grains like oats take longer for the body to process than many other foods.
The best oatmeal for health purposes is a long-cooking type such as steel-cut oats. If you’re in a hurry, old-fashioned oats take only five minutes to prepare and are still very good for you. Avoid the small packages of instant oatmeal, however. They tend to go overboard in adding salt and sugar.
Oatmeal always appears on lists of super foods. It is good for cholesterol and blood pressure. It also delivers several nutrients, as well as some protein.
Best of all, it is versatile. Broccoli is also a super food, but there are only so many ways a person can disguise broccoli. Believe me, I’ve tried! As well as making a tasty breakfast cereal, oatmeal can be tucked into fruit crisps, cookies, breads, muffins, and meatloaf. It can even be used to construct a facial mask. (Take that, broccoli!)
In this post and the next few I’ll share recipes to boost oatmeal intake this month. If you’re looking for a basic oatmeal cookie, you can’t do better than the formula for Vanishing Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies on the inside of the Quaker Oats box top. Dan Turner of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, told me how to get the best consistency with these cookies: use a Crisco stick instead of the butter or margarine called for in the recipe. You’ll find that the cookies really do vanish quickly.
Rice Farm Oatmeal Pie
Sheila Velazquez says that she originally found this recipe in Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook, published in 1972. At one time she managed a farmer’s market, where the pie was a best seller. Sheila explains that the oatmeal forms a chewy crust on the top of the pie.
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) soft butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark corn syrup
1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the spices and salt. Stir in the corn syrup. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring after each addition until all is blended. Stir in the oats.