Oatmeal: Pantry Staple, Survival Food, or Decadent Indulgence?

Oatmeal by: Spencer Ritenour via Park Slope Lens
Did you know this is National Oatmeal Month?  Apparently more oatmeal is consumed in January than any other month.  And no wonder!  Oatmeal is versatile, so start your oatmeal to-do list with a warm bowl of hot cereal but don't stop there.  (It's ok if you don't actually have an oatmeal to do list.)  Oatmeal is cost effective, and we all need that after countless holiday splurges.  Oatmeal is whole grain, so we can get more mileage out of our New Year's resolution to get healthier. Oatmeal lowers your cholesterol and may reduce your risk of heat disease, no really!

Pantry Staple:
It's cheap, healthy, and versatile, so let's find some delicious ways to serve more of it.  Beyond the traditional bowl of steaming hot oatmeal to cut the chill of January mornings, you can sneak oatmeal into lots of delicious foods: oatmeal cookies, homemade granola, pancakes, breads and in the crumb topping on a baked fruit crisp.  Oatmeal is also a great binder (like breadcrumbs) in entrees like meatloaf and burgers.  And I plan to try this interesting recipe for Curried Oatmeal with Caramelized Onions this week.

Survival Food:
When the power is out or the world turns upside-down, you need meals that are easy (preferrably quick, one pot filling dishes).  Hot food is simply good for your body and your state of mind.  Even in warmer weather, one hot meal a day provides peace of mind. In a pinch, quick cooking oats can be prepared by simply adding boiling water and waiting five minutes. (This is how I actually make my oatmeal in the mornings because I avoid the instant oatmeal packets that have added salt.)  And you can add all sort of items from your pantry to dress oatmeal up in a pinch: sugar, brown sugar, syrup, evaporated or sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, nuts, canned or dried fruit.  The secret to keeping your pantry ready for emergencies is to keep one extra package of items like oatmeal in reserve.  However, you need to be using stored items regularly (rotating your stock) for them to be fresh and delicious when you use them, so start now by getting more oatmeal into your family's everyday diet.

Decadent Indulgence:
Here in St. Louis, Cielo is the restaurant and bar on the top floor of the Four Seasons Hotel.  In honor of National Oatmeal Month they are preparing oatmeal specialties like: Bacon, Egg & Cheese Oatmeal, Chocolate-Coconut Oatmeal, Baked Peaches & Cream Oatmeal, and PB & J Oatmeal.  Oatmeal can be a treat! When you go to the grocery store, you'll see that oatmeal comes in several varieties: steel cut (Irish oats), Scottish oats (porridge like), rolled (old fashioned), quick cooking, and instant.  The price for each variety varies (from $2 to $10 a pound), and each type requires a different preparation time and method, so know what you're buying.  My research brought me to several recipes for "overnight" preparations, which reduces the requisite 45 minutes of cook time for steel cut oats to a few minutes with an overnight soak. You may also enjoy discovering the terroir of oats grown in different regions if you buy oatmeal (or oats) labelled as such.  And if eating oatmeal isn't enough, you can work them into your health and beauty routine, too.

Straight from www.quakeroats.com

My child has Chicken Pox and my doctor told me to give him an oatmeal bath. How do I do this?

Quick and Easy Method [Editor's note: This method is good for a many skin problems, dry skin, allergies, itching, other ailments or plain old skin pampering.  Check with your doctor first, though.]
Place 2 cups of Quick or Old Fashioned Quaker Oats into one leg of a nylon stocking; close open end by tying a knot. Place stocking under faucet; turn water on to full force, using warm water at a comfortable temperature. When finished filling tub, "swirl" stocking back and forth through water 5 or 6 times. Lift stocking above water and wring to squeeze water and starch out of stocking. Discard stocking -- do NOT reuse. Soak in tub as recommended by physician or for 15 to 20 minutes. Gently pat dry. Use once or twice daily, or as directed by physician. INFANTS: Use 1/3 cup and follow instructions above. Soak infant (in infant bath tub) for 10 minutes or as directed by physician.
Blender/Food Processor Method

Place 1 cup Quick or Old Fashioned Oats into food processor or blender; grind oats into finest powder possible. Turn water on to full force, using warm water at a comfortable temperature. Slowly sprinkle oat powder under running water. Stir water thoroughly to avoid clumping or settling. Soak in tub as recommended by physician or for 15 to 20 minutes. Gently pat dry. Use once or twice daily, or as directed by physician. INFANTS: Use 1/3 cup and follow instructions above. Soak infant (in infant bath tub) for 10 minutes or as directed by physician.

How can I do an oatmeal facial? And how can I customize my facial?
An oatmeal facial is very easy to do — all you really need is oats and water. If you'd like something a little more "exotic" you can add other ingredients.

Basic Oatmeal Facial:

1/4 cup ground oats (about 1/2 cup Quick or Old Fashioned Quaker Oats, unground)
2 to 3 tablespoons water

Mix ground oats and water until the mixture is a smooth, spreadable paste. You can add more oats or water as needed. Apply the oat paste to a clean face, avoiding the eye area. Leave on for 15 - 20 minutes. Wash off with warm water and follow with a rinse of cold water.

You can customize your facial by adding any of the following "Mix-In" ingredients to the Basic Oatmeal Facial recipe. You can use one Mix-In or several — half the fun is the experimenting! Here are some helpful hints to help you customize your facial.

Try adding from 1/2 teaspoon to one tablespoon when starting out. A good rule of thumb is the more "liquidy" the Mix-In ingredient is, the less you use. Don't worry if the paste consistency doesn't turn out right. If the paste is too thin, just add some more oats. If it's too stiff, add some more water or more of your chosen Mix-In. When adding mashed fruit, start at about a tablespoon. Be sure to decrease the amount of water by about the same amount. Add more liquid or oats as needed, until you have the desired consistency. When we refer to a "teaspoon" or a "tablespoon," we mean measuring spoons used for baking, not those from your flatware set. If you are allergic to any of these foods we don't recommend putting them on your face.

Skin Type Mix-In Helpful Hints
Avocado, mashed
Apricot, mashed Don't use the apricot skin.
Banana, mashed
Peach, mashed Don't use the peach skin.
Olive oil Start out with 1/2 teaspoon.
Whole milk Start out with 1/2 teaspoon.
Sour cream

Oily Skin
Strawberry, mashed One large one should do it!
Papaya, mashed
Tomato, mashed You might want to remove the skin, seeds and pulpy center. Try to use just the "meat" of the tomato.
Honey Warm slightly before using.
Egg white, beaten Make sure the eggshell is clean and not cracked.
Cucumber juice Or, try pureed cucumber.
Lemon juice Easy does it, especially if your skin is raw or sunburned.
Non-fat, plain yogurt
Cornmeal When applying and removing the mask, gently massage into the skin. Don't do this more than once a week.
Plain yogurt Use non-fat if you have oily skin.
Cider vinegar

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