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Volume III
June 8, 2012

Weekly Home / Cook'n & Eat'n

OATS... There's a LOT to Know!

By Alice Osborne

Most folks today know that oats are a highly nutritious and valuable food. Their fiber fights cholesterol and promotes a healthy heart. And their slightly nutty flavor makes them easy to eat, whether in a sweet or savory dish. But there's a lot more to know about oats, and it can get a little confusing.

First, let's look at groats. They are minimally processed whole oats with just the outer hull removed. They are very chewy and really need a good soaking before actual cooking. In fact, they require a lengthy cooking time. Be careful not to overcook them, however. The technique I've found that works best is cooking them overnight in my slow cooker.

Then there's rolled oats. These are simply groats that have been steamed, rolled and flaked so they cook more quickly. This is the most common type of oatmeal used for breakfast and in Swiss muesli. Rolled oats usually take about 3 to 5 minutes to cook.

Ever heard of pinhead oats? This is a variety of oatmeal that has been slivered or flaked so the cooking time is hastened. These oats are OK for baking, but the rolled oat is far superior. Pinhead oats are often an ingredient in birdseed, by the way.

And don't forget steel-cut or Scotch oats. These are groats that have been chopped into even smaller pieces. The steel cut oat is the chewiest form of oatmeal and provides the most textural experience. This is another oat that does well in the slow cooker overnight.

Finally we have the instant oats. This is what makes up the pre-packaged oatmeal (those single serving packets grouped together in boxes). These oats have been rolled extra thin so they are easier and quicker to cook. While these oats may be convenient (ready in seconds instead of minutes), they are often loaded with unnecessary salts and sugars and often, chemicalized flavorings.

Oats are a versatile and remarkable grain, and they're not just for breakfast. They are great in breads and muffins, as a thickening agent in soups and stews, as part of a fruit crisp topping, and as part of the coating for fried chicken. There aren't many places oats can't go, so let's eat more of them.

Then there is the cosmetic side of oats: ground oats added to honey, yogurt, and egg yolk make an amazing facial mask!

In fact, let's conclude with plans to eat more oatmeal as well as the recipe for this wonderful moisturizing and skin-toning face mask:

Oats & Honey Face Mask

Yield: about 1/2 cup

1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon plain yogurt
2 teaspoons honey
1/3 cup rolled oats, coarsely ground
Water as needed

Whisk egg yolk, yogurt, and honey together. Add oats. Add water, only if needed, a 1/2 teaspoon at a time, to make a thick paste. Apply to cleansed skin, avoiding skin around eyes and mouth. Allow to sit and harden somewhat - approximately 20 minutes. Rinse with warm water.

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