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Reader’s Request: What The Heck To Do With Oats

June 28, 2011

My friend Jenna sent me this message yesterday:

I have a blog post I would be interested in reading. The subject would be “What the Heck To Do With Oats” and you would teach me how to go from picking out the oats/oatmeal in the grocery store (there are too many types and I get confused and give up), and then teach me how to make some sort of granola. It’s really hard to find a granola without dairy in it, so I thought this would be good to learn.

Consider your request granted, Jenna!

As I’ve mentioned before, oats are one of my favorite versatile healthy staples. I realized pretty quickly that I could do way more with oats than just make the obvious bowl of oatmeal (although I have some good tips for that, as well!)

Choosing Your Oats:


Picking what type of oats you should eat seems like it should be relatively simple, but as Jenna points out, there’s actually a pretty wide variety of oats in most supermarkets. The most common are instant oats (the pre-flavored ones that come in the little packets), quick-cooking oats, and rolled or old-fashioned oats. There are also steel cut oats, but I generally find those difficult to find in your average store (although I know they sell them at specialty stores and Whole Foods).

From what I’ve read, just like any other food, the more oats are processed, the less nutritious they become. That being said, you generally want to avoid instant oats (not only because the oats are more processed, but also because there are usually added sugars and preservatives in this type) and you want to shoot for rolled or steel cut whenever you can.

What’s funny is that I used to only purchase instant oats, assuming that rolled oats would take too long to cook. What I soon realized that, not only is this not true (rolled oats generally take a whopping 3-4 minutes to cook per serving), but that I liked the taste of unprocessed oats WAY more than instant ones. They are less sickly sweet, and thus easy to customize based on your tastes. Added benefit: oats are CHEAP! A large container of store-brand rolled oats costs under $3. You can’t beat that!

Cooking Your Oats:

This is the fun part! There are so many things to make using oats: cookies, granola, breads, muffins, cakes, pancakes, and, yes, standard bowls of oatmeal.

Kath has an awesome tutorial about how to make the perfect bowl of oatmeal that I’ve used with great success many, many times. Using her technique as a base, I had a lot of fun messing around with different flavor combinations this winter. Some favorites:

  • PB&J Oatmeal (1 tbsp crunchy PB + 1 tbsp homemade blackberry jam)
  • Cheesecake Oatmeal (1/4 cup cottage cheese and 1 tbsp jam stirred in at end)
  • Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal (1/4 cup pumpkin, 1/2 tbsp maple syrup, and 1/2 tbsp pumpkin pie spice stirred in at end)
  • Apple Pie Oatmeal (1/2 chopped apple, cooked, 1/2 tbsp maple syrup, and apple pie spice stirred in at end)
  • Chocolate Oatmeal (1/2-1 tbsp cocoa powder and Dark Chocolate Dreams PB stirred in at end)

I also love using oats to make healthier (or not so healthy) cookies.

Ironically, both are equally delicious. In fact, Nick told me this weekend that he preferred the healthier version (he said this without any idea that one was healthier than the other, so he was truly unbiased)!

I’ve also recently taken to making my own granola.

I lurve granola, but I do not lurve the high calorie and sugar content of the pre-packaged kinds. Just like any other foods, I prefer to make my own granola because I control the fat and sugar content and can adjust it to my liking.

For example, granola is usually packed with different nuts and seeds and dried fruits; while these additions can be healthy (nuts have protein, dried fruits have some antioxidants, etc.), they also add a HUGE amount of added fat and sugar. When I make my own granola, I can control these factors and make my batch a little bit healthier.

Since Jenna specifically wanted a non-dairy granola recipe, (and since I conveniently needed something to bring in for snacks at my curriculum writing session later this week), I rummaged around in my pantry and came up with this very basic (and very customizable) granola recipe:


2 cups rolled oats

1 cup Kashi GoLean (for protein and fiber without the added fat of nuts)

1 tbsp cinnamon

1/2 tbsp pumpkin pie spice

pinch salt

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup raisins (or other dried fruit)

1/3 cup chocolate chips (optional)


Preheat oven to 325*. Mix oats, Kashi, cinnamon, pie spice and salt in medium bowl. In small bowl, mix honey, sugar and vanilla until completely combined. Pour wet ingredients over dry and use hands to completely coat oats. Transfer mix to large baking sheet. Bake in ten minute intervals, using a spatula to stir mixture at the end of each interval. Remove from oven, cool completely, and add in dried fruit and chocolate. Transfer to airtight container. Enjoy!

If you’re looking for a more decadent (and dessert-like) granola recipe, you cannot go wrong with my current favorite. Be warned: it is addictive, and you will quite possibly realize that you have eaten the entire batch less than a day after making it. Not like I’m speaking from personal experience or anything.

And that, my friends, is what the heck you do with oats! I hope this was helpful and that you found some ideas that have you itching to get into the kitchen.

What’s your favorite thing to make with oats? Any recipes out there that an oat lover like myself needs to try?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 28, 2011 8:16 pm

    Awesome information HIllary! I can not wait to buy rolled or steel cut oats and start eating fresh granola! Also, I am getting so sick of english muffins, and I am excited to try all your different oatmeal options for breakfast. My other immediate cooking goal is to make smoothies as you have suggested in another post.


  2. June 29, 2011 3:47 pm

    Great post!! I love oats, they truly are a genuine superfood. I find that no other breakfast sates my hunger the longest. Peanut butter and oatmeal is one of my favorite combos. AND I’ve also very recently started making my own granola. I never realized how easy it is to whip up a batch! Home-made is always so much more healthier. šŸ™‚

    • June 29, 2011 3:55 pm

      Had I known that granola was so easy, I would’ve been making my own for years! Glad you enjoyed it!


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