The Breakfast of Champions - Spiced Pumpkin Steel Cut Oats with Berries & Chia
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It's taken me about three years--but I've finally settled on the perfect breakfast. Pumpkin Steel Cut Oats with Berries & Chia.
1. It tastes great! Creamy pumpkin-pie-like, with just the right touch of sweetness from dried apples, raisins, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Topped with berries, and with just the right crunch of chia seed.
2. It's quick & easy to prepare. Mix it up in minutes the night before, and you can enjoy 4-8 servings the next morning. Enough for a crowd, or to enjoy yourself for the entire week. I returned home from St. Louis very late last night--but I didn't hit the sack until I had mixed up my morning oats. So glad I did!
3. It's got the perfect combo of four nutrition powerhouses: oats, pumpkin, berries, and chia seed.
4. It's even baby-approved. My almost-18-month old grandson gives a huge thumbs up for Pumpkin "Oatma"--and he's a pretty picky eater.
The New Science Behind Oats - Avenanthramides
Old news: Oats have a soluble fiber, known as beta-glucan that helps to lower cholesterol by reducing its absorption into the blood stream. They are also low-glycemic, taking a nice leisurely time to digest, so they keep you full longer, and keep your blood sugar steady. All commendable qualities.
New to me news--the Avenanthramides--the heart healthy polyphenol found in oats: Over at the USDA-Agricultural Research Vascular Biology Lab at Tufts University, Dr. Mohsen Meydani is the "oat expert". It turns out that the polyphenols in oats, better known as avenanthramides, are the real power players when it comes to heart health. First off, they prevent LDL from oxidizing, which sets the process of atherosclerosis into motion. They work their magic by "decreasing inflammation in the artery walls, by limiting the growth of artery-stiffening smooth muscle cells inside arteries, and by preventing white blood cells from sticking to artery walls." Harvard Health Letter, May 2010.
But it gets even better. Meydani has recently found that the avenanthramides in oats are not only anti-inflammatory, but they put a stop to the kind of wild cell growth in the artery walls that starts the whole process of atherosclerosis in the first place--which can eventually lead to heart attacks. As if that weren't enough--when you ingest these avenanthramides with your morning oatmeal, you're also preventing atherosclerosis by increasing artery-saving nitric oxide production in the endothelium or lining of your arteries. That's the "magic gas" that keeps the arteries relaxed and dilated. And it's a dose-response--the more avenanthramides, the greater the nitric oxide production. Side benefit: lowered blood pressure. For Meydani's research click here and here.
Curbing colon cancer with avenanthramides, too. We knew that oats and other whole grains helped to reduce colon cancer, but the mechanism wasn't fully understood. Meydani's just-published research in Nutr Cancer 2010 Nov. 62(8):1007-16 found that the avenanthramides in oats tamp down inflammation in the colon, and inhibit the growth of colonic cancer cells.
Pumpkin Power - Bring on the Alpha and Beta Carotenes
Just one serving of my pumpkin oatmeal will give you over 150% of your daily requirement for vitamin A, in the form of alpha and beta carotene. Pumpkin, and other deep orange winter squashes are about as good as it gets in the carotene department.
Need a powerful incentive to load up daily on alpha-carotene? Check out this "just-published" article in the November 22, 2010 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, "Serum Alpha-Carotene Concentrations and Risk of Death Among US Adults"
"[O]ur findings, based on data from a large representative sample of US adults, showed that serum alpha-carotene concentrations were inversely associated with the risk of death from all causes, and death from cardiovascular diseases and cancer. These findings support increasing fruit and vegetable consumption as a means of preventing premature death."
Chia Seed for Your Daily Omega-3s & Berries for Your Brain
No need to remind you all of the benefits of chia--the omega-3 anti-oxidant powerhouse that is high in fiber, keeps your blood sugar steady, and decreases inflammation. Click here and here to read more. This oatmeal recipe will give you a hefty 3 grams of omega-3s from chia, per serving.
As for berries, their benefits are legendary. They are tops on the USDA's ORAC (anti-oxidant) index of foods. Click here if you need a berry benefit refresher.
Discriminating Palates Recommend Pumpkin "Oatma"
Pumpkin Oatmeal for Eight
I owe this recipe partly to Rebecca Katz, the author of "One Bite at a Time, Nourishing Recipes for Cancer Survivors and Their Friends". Her recipe for "Best Oatmeal Ever" gave me the idea of simply soaking all the fixings for steel cut oats overnight in a pot. Last year I was all about cooking my oatmeal in a crockpot. It's still a worthy way to cook your oats--but not everyone has a crockpot, or wants to make so much at one time. This technique produces a creamy oatmeal with only about 5-10 minutes of morning cooking time.
I owe the additon of pumpkin to my oatmeal to Dr. Neal Barnard, author of "The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook" and his recipe for "Spiced Pumpkin Oatmeal". Barnard uses rolled oats, and doesn't use the soak overnight technique.
The Healthy Librarian's Pumpkin Steel Cut Oats with Berries and Chia
Serves 4 (easily doubles to serve 8)
1 cup of steel cut oats (I use Bob's Red Mill or Arrowhead Mills)
2 cups of water
1 tsp. of Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Seasoning (or 1/2 tsp. cinnamon & 1/2 tsp. nutmeg)
1/2 of a 15 ounce can of pumpkin (I use Libby) Save the remainder in the fridge for your next batch of oatmeal. I do.
About 5 or 6 rings or more of dried apples cut into small pieces with a scissors (a handful) (I like Mariani's)
3 TBS. raisins
1/2+ cup of non-dairy milk of choice. I use oat, soy, or hemp milks.
Sprinkle each serving with 1 TBS of chia seed before serving.
Top each serving with 1/2 cup of thawed mixed berries (I prefer Trader Joe's Very Cherry Berry Blend)
Note one: Dates can substitute for raisins. Dried apricots can substitute for apples. I've used whatever is available, like dried cherries, dried pears, or dried cranberries. I stick to dried apples because they are lowest in sugar.
Note two: If I'm reheating refrigerated already cooked oatmeal in the microwave, I first top a single serving of oatmeal with frozen berries, and then reheat. I top with chia seed after cooking.
Note three: If you like a sweeter oatmeal, add some agave nectar or maple syrup into the pot--to taste.
1. Mix everything up in a medium pot with a lid, cover and let soak overnight. Refrigerate the soaking oatmeal in the fridge if it seems safer to you. I do it both ways and the results are the same. It's the soaking that provides a far superior, creamier, sweeter tasting oatmeal!
2. In the morning, add about 1/2+ cup of non-dairy milk to the pot. Stir well and reheat. The cooking doesn't take very long at all, but you'll have to watch it until it starts to boil, so it doesn't bubble over. (You don't want to clean up that mess!) This will take just a few minutes. Stir well. Then lower the heat to a simmer and cook it until it's the right consistency for you. The whole process will take under 10 minutes--from start to finish.
3. Refrigerate the leftovers to enjoy for breakfast the rest of the week. Cool first if you are storing in a plastic container. The oatmeal will stay fresh for up to a week.
4. You can enjoy the oatmeal cold, or reheated in the microwave, or on the stove.
5. Double the ingredients to make enough for eight servings.
Pumpkin Steel Cut Oatmeal wt Chia
Serving Size: 1 serving
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