Thursday, March 25, 2010

Set It and Forget It: Soaking Oats For Breakfast


Alright friends, grab your mason jars and chef's hats because this week we are heading into the kitchen and things are going to get WILD...

Have you ever looked at the ingredients on the back panel of your favorite packaged foods?  Neither did we until recently, but part of the reason Matt and I have been going to the farm is to learn more about where our food comes from, how it grows and simply what it actually is.  

For the last few months Matt and I have been discussing different ways to make breakfast in a hurry, but with his long commute and my longing for sleep, this didn't give either of us much time to make things happen in the mornings.  We then turned to instant oatmeal, which was easy to make right at the office.  

Looking at the back panel, we realized that there was more than just oats in our oats.  We decided to bring this up to The Captain and Zach and see what they thought.

While we did not get into the details of what all the extra crap was in the ingredients section, they did offer us a simple solution:  "Why eat stuff you don't know, if you don't want to and you don't have to?"  Great point, if we don't have to eat "guar gum" and have no idea what it is even after looking it up, then maybe we shouldn't eat it.  They explained that there were many other easy and delicious ways to make oats without having to ingest all the extra "stuff."  

Here's how to save time AND enjoy more health benefits from oats.

They're Alive! They're Alive!
Sometimes when things are cooked they will lose valuable nutrients as well as enzymes that can help with digestion and food absorption.  To avoid losing these helpful elements found in grains, you can simply bring them to life!  Well sort of...if you soak the oats overnight they will unlock the essential nutrients found genetically inside.  This process is similar to sprouting seeds by soaking them in water overnight, as many people do with raw-food diets.  

We chose between steel-cut and rolled whole grain oats. Clearly we went with steel-cut oats...they sounded more tough, which was important for our farm-cred.

First we needed some glass jars to soak these oats.  I prefer these mason jars because the glass is thick and they seal well. Under $2 a pop too, which in Manhattan is a great deal in my opinion.  The only place I knew that had them was Surprise Surprise (I'll give them a little shout-out here since I called them at 6:59pm and they were willing to stay open an extra ten minutes for a $3 sale as I literally ran through oncoming traffic to get there).  You can easily use old jam or honey jars too if you have them lying around.

There are a variety of ways to soak oats, each offering different nutrients and tastes.

Here we have two jars, milk, a little bit of yogurt, steel-cut oats and a banana to complete the attempted smiley face.  

Doesn't this kind of look like that skateboarder 7up cartoon dude from the 90's, Fido Dido, only happier? 

You want to fill up the jar with oats, as much as you would like (about 1/2 a cup for 1 person generally works).  

Putting in the oats first helped determine how much water/milk to add.  You want to fill up a bit above the oats since they will expand and you want to make sure they have enough water to absorb.  After some trial and error you will get comfortable with the liquid levels you prefer.

Let me warn you now, in the words of the great roots reggae band The Gladiators"looks is deceiving, man."  No, this was not the jar with milk (see dirty water jar below), but avoid the fact that it looks like sewage water at this point, stick it out and you will not be disappointed.

Since we had never tried this before, we dove right into both methods we were taught.  Now, I am open to trying new things, but I was definitely a little skeptical about leaving milk sitting in a jar overnight, unrefrigerated, with active cultures getting crazy.  Nevertheless, I sucked it up, prayed and pushed forward.

While water does a great job of softening up the oats and releasing the health benefits, milk and yogurt help activate even more nutrients and enzymes.  Zach explained that by fermenting the oats in a combination of milk and about half a teaspoon of yogurt, the enzymes in the oats react to the live cultures in the yogurt and activate the nutritiousness hiding inside.

Simply stir the yogurt in the milk and then pour over the oats, making sure the milk entirely covers the oats

Milk with yogurt

You seal the tops and leave for 6-8 hours.  Don't forget to pull up a chair and watch as the magic happens, you won't want to miss a minute!
The next morning the oats will absorb the water/milk and expand.  Looks pretty good too.
It's all about personal preference, but when the oats expand you realize how many there are and you may want to reduce the amount used for one serving.
Once I drain out the excess liquid, these steel-cut babies are ready to eat so I pack up a bag and bring them to the office.
Although they have a nice chewy, nutty texture, they are not jam-packed with flavor (or much flavor at all) so you have to get creative.
I started off with some Grade A Dark Amber maple syrup, a bit of raw sugar and a banana

That was plenty of fixin's to make it fantastic, but almonds, apricots, raisins, or any other dried fruit and/or nuts taste great too.

Another great trick is to throw in some walnuts and raisins when you soak the oats overnight.  Just like sprouting the grains, these nuts will also activate important enzymes that otherwise would stay hidden if not soaked.
So it's cheap, it's easy to make and you really do feel amazing after eating oats for a few weeks.

ENJOY yourselves and let us know what you think right here in the comments section below.


  1. I thought the banana smiley face was Matt in his fro days! Looks yummy - can't wait to try! Tina

  2. "Just like sprouting the grains, these nuts will also active important enzymes that otherwise would stay hidden if not soaked."

    I tell my gf that all the time.