More and more health-conscious cooks are adding oats to their pantries and pastries these days. No wonder, considering all the emerging research proving that this whole grain is a powerhouse when it comes to health.
Health Benefits. Studies have shown that oats and oat bran may help lower cholesterol, maintain healthy blood pressure levels and control appetite. Whole grains (such as oats) form a major portion of the food pyramid, recently updated and renamed MyPyramid by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA now recommends that consumers substitute whole-wheat or oat flour for at least some of the white flour called for in most recipes.
Types of Oats. Several types of oats are available in supermarkets or health food stores. Oat flour (ground oats) has a delicate texture that produces moist and tender baked goods; you can buy the flour ready-made or grind oats in a food processor or a blender at home. Oat groats are chewy, nutty-tasting grains similar in taste and appearance to wheat berries; they are a good substitute for rice in soups and stews. Steel-cut oats have a mild flavor and a starchy texture; they can be substituted for rice in pilaf or risotto or used as a topping for salads. Regular or rolled oats, commonly called oatmeal, are made from steamed oat groats that have been flattened; they are a great binder for meat loaf and can be used in stuffing for chicken or turkey.
Cooking With Oats. The good news is that it is easy to incorporate whole oats into one’s diet. Regular oats, steel-cut oats and oat groats work well in most recipes, from soups to desserts. Because many baked goods rely on the gluten in wheat flour for stability, it’s best to replace only about one-third of the regular flour cited in the recipe with oat flour. Toasting steel-cut oats and regular or rolled oats in a dry skillet will enhance their flavor while preserving their shape. Oat groats can be boiled in a large pot of water for 45 minutes until tender, and then drained.