Spring may have officially started over a month ago, but these chilly mornings remind me that pleasant spring weather hasn’t arrived just yet. As we patiently wait for it, now is the perfect time to indulge in winter treats once or twice more, like sipping hot cocoa or pulling on a cozy sweater. In that spirit I decided to try our baked almond oatmeal — what breakfast food suits a chilly morning better than a piping hot bowl of oatmeal?
Oats, widely praised by nutritionists as an energy-boosting source of fiber and other nutrients, weren’t always held in such high regard. When Europeans first began cultivating them 3,000 years ago, some viewed oats as nothing more than a diseased version of wheat. Greeks and Romans, in particular, considered oats unfit for human consumption and fed the crop to their horses instead. Maybe their negative reputation was due to the fact that oats spoil quickly after being harvested, though nowadays that isn’t an issue because the oats have been processed in some way to prolong their viability: steel-cut, rolled, flaked, or ground into flour to avoid going rancid.
While Romans may have refused to eat their oats, “barbarian” Germanic tribes to the north used the tiny beige circles as a staple food and went on to eventually crush the Roman Empire. During their conquest the barbarians would chop oats with steel blades, mix them with water, and bake oat cakes over a fire – a snack that fueled them through the many long days of violence. After the fall of the Roman Empire, oat cakes became increasingly common fare over the centuries. Thank goodness they’d lost their stigma as animal feed, because no matter who or what eats them, oats seem to do a body good.
I reaffirmed the ‘goodness’ of oats when I ate our baked almond oatmeal for breakfast. Next to our amazing breadpudding pancakes or savory selection of omelets, the thought of oatmeal might seem a bit uninspiring. Not at Southport Grocery! The baked almond oatmeal can easily hold its own in our breakfast menu.
What’s so special about our oatmeal? It isn’t the just-add-water, microwavable mush being peddled on most grocery store shelves these days. Those “convenient” products are quick to prepare because the oats have been processed to the point where water is the only thing necessary to make them palatable. Our oatmeal is a much more natural combination of steel-cut and rolled oats, then we toss some thinly-sliced almonds in, add a beaten egg and a tiny bit of sugar, and bake to a hot and crisp perfection. The first thing I noticed when digging my spoon into the oatmeal is that I could actually see whole pieces of almond and oat – no beige amorphous mush here! The oats have a dense and chewy mouthfeel, contrasting with the crunchy almonds.
What really sold me on the baked almond oatmeal is its flavor. The few simple ingredients give the oatmeal a clean and earthy taste, with a hint of sweetness. It’s finished with a dusting of powdered sugar, and is accompanied by seasonal fruit and a ramekin of cream. I mixed the sides in to my liking and felt satisfied after eating only half, but I wasn’t bouncing off the walls from a sugar high that some other breakfasts have been known to induce. In fact, while my to-do list that day didn’t include crushing the Roman Empire, I did have the steady energy I needed to complete my work. And that’s what I appreciate about our oatmeal: it’s a perfect choice for when you want a breakfast that’s simple yet satisfying.
For those who also want to enjoy quality oatmeal at home, we do carry the steel cut oats in our grocery. The baked almond oatmeal recipe is printed on the packaging.