Thursday, January 14, 2010

Oats (gluten-free??)

Why have I not posted about oats yet?  Luckily ejm reminded me about it the other day via a comment on my apple and rice bran muffin post.  I love oats and eat them almost every day for breakfast (and even got my mom hooked on steel-cut oats).  Here's the big question: are oats gluten-free??  It's a complicated answer.  In short, most oats are contaminated with wheat in processing facilities, but there are some dedicated gluten-free facilities (I typically buy Bob's Red Mill).  That being said, the protein in oats is similar to that found in wheat, and some people react to oats even if they are certified gluten-free.  Luckily I don't have this problem, and I can continue to eat oats.  I've also experimented with non gluten-free oats (I don't have Celiac disease, so I'm willing to try), and I'm usually ok with steel-cut oats, but not rolled ones (I'm guessing that less processing means less surface area for wheat to become attached).

What are oats?
Oat is a very common grain in the American diet.  It's usually used in its rolled form, but can also be cooked as groats (the whole oat kernel) and steel-cut oats (groats cut into smaller pieces).  In fact, you may have never seen an oat groat.  I saw some for the first time when I started using prairie voles in my research, and I give them a mixture of food including oat groats.  Steel-cut oats are my personal favorite because they are less processed than rolled oats and taste nutty and rich, but cook quicker than whole groats.

What do oats taste like and how are they used?
Wow, how to describe the taste of oats??  I suppose they have more of a nutty taste than most grains (particularly steel-cut oats, for some reason) and they blend with many flavors, from sweet to savory.  In fact, steel-cut oats made a big splash in the media when Mark Bittman said that he likes to eat oatmeal with soy sauce and scallionsI tried it, and he's right - it's delicious!  Oats are used in a million ways.  Most commonly they're made into oatmeal, but can be thrown into batter for cookies, muffins, and just about anything else that you're baking.  Of course oats are a large component of granola, and I also love eating raw oats (both rolled or steel-cut) as muesli.  There have even been a few times when I've grabbed a handful of steel-cut oats to satisfy extreme hunger.  I know I'm weird.

Where do you buy and store oats?
It depends.  If you need gluten-free oats, you're not going to find them in bulk bins (at least not that I've seen).  You're probably going to have to go to Whole Foods or your local natural foods store, or order them online.  And they're not cheap.  If gluten isn't an issue, then I prefer to buy them from bulk bins at natural foods stores.  That way I can get the amount that I want, and they're usually cheaper that way.  Also, I've found that bulk steel-cut oats are often much tastier than some pre-packaged versions.

I store oats at room temperature, but you can always throw them in the refrigerator or freezer if you have the space and plan on keeping them an extremely long time.  They never last long around me.

How do you cook oats?
First off, please don't buy quick-cooking oats.  Just don't do it.  Rolled oats still cook quickly, but they taste a whole lot better.  For every 1 cup of rolled oats (about 2 servings), simply bring 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt to a boil, add oats, and let simmer until the oats are your desired consistency (about 15 min), stirring occasionally.

For steel-cut oats, bring 3 to 3 1/2 cups of water and a pinch of salt to a boil, add a cup of oats, and let simmer until oats are the correct consistency (about 40 min), stirring occasionally.  If you want to dramatically reduce cooking time, soak the oats in the water overnight before cooking, and they'll only take 15-20 min to cook.  This makes 3-4 servings.

Cook oat groats the same way that you cook steel-cut oats, but they'll take longer (60 min or so).  You can also cook steel-cut oats and oat groats in a crock pot.  For steel-cut oats, use 3 cups of water for every cup of oats, and let cook for 7-9 hours on low.  I've already posted about oat groats in the crock pot.

My oat recipes 
Crock pot oatmeal with oat groats
Crock pot mixed grain porridge
Gluten-free apple and rice bran muffins
Gluten-free granola bars
Date and oat bars (these aren't gluten free as is, but you could easily substitute a gluten-free baking mix for the wheat flour)
Mushroom and pecan burgers (make sure to use gluten-free breadcrumbs and wheat-free tamari)
Bulgur, oats, flax, and bran bread (definitely not gluten-free, but it's one of my favorite breads, so enjoy some for me if you can eat gluten!)

Other great oat recipes
Pomegranate and blueberry oat smoothie from Lisa's Kitchen
Baked blueberry oatmeal breakfast pudding from Diet, Dessert, and Dogs
Bright green oats from Dani Spies
Zucchini bread oatmeal from Diet, Dessert, and Dogs
Autumn breakfast cookies from Find Your Balance
Easy peasy breakfast bars from What does your body good?
On-the-go bars from Organic Goodness
Hippie granola bars from Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Sugar-free
Sweet potato squares from Duo Dishes (minus the wheat germ for gluten-free)
Gluten-free strawberry rhubarb crisp from Daring to Thrive
Carrot cake breakfast cookies from Find Your Balance
Nikki's healthy cookies from 101 Cookbooks
Albondigas from Serious Eats
White bean and spinach burgers from The Reluctant Vegetarian


Jenna said...

Nice to know other folks are hooked on oats as well. Almost every night finds me making one last trip to the kitchen before bed to set my morning oats (steel cut - 1/4 cup oats to 3/4 fresh apple cider and 1/4 cup water) to soak so I can have my fix quickly each morning. I nearly sat down in the store and cried when I finally found gluten free oats after my diagnosis - somehow missing my morning staple was harder than bread!

Tasty Eats At Home said...

You know, I didn't give much thought to oatmeal before going gluten-free. Once gluten-free for a few months, I tried Bobs Red Mill gluten-free rolled oats. They were SO good. They're cut a bit thicker than regular rolled oats, but I love them that way. I was SO happy to have them in my life again. They don't take long to cook - I'll throw some in a saucepan along with a bit of hemp milk, water, agave nectar, a cinnamon stick, and some raisins, and allow it to simmer while I'm taking my morning shower. When I'm ready to leave for work, my oats are ready - and I throw them in a lidded bowl and go! Yum!

Katie said...

Jenna - I really like the idea of using apple cider, and I'll have to give that a shot next time.

Alta - I like the thicker rolled oats, too (I think they make better oatmeal and muesli).

reluctant veggie said...

thanks for linking to my recipe! we enjoy oats (and oat flour) in a lot of our burgers (including lentil and black bean burgers). adds such a nice flavor!

Katie said...

No problem, reluctant veggie! I just got some oat flour, so I'm going to have to experiment with that, and burgers sounds like a great way to try it out.

Ricki said...

I am an oats fiend! Love them. You've inspired me to try the savory style once more--made them that way once and wasn't crazy about them (I'm a sweet gal). ;) Thanks so much for linking my baked blueberry oatmeal pudding recipe--and for this fabulous list of oatmeal-based recipes I can't wait to try! :)

gwensans said...

Thank you for sharing! I just tried Bavarian's gluten free whole grain bread and it is delicious! I highly recommend it if your looking to get some oats into your diet.