With the December holidays behind me, I'm trying to be a little more heart healthy. This doesn't mean I'm dieting -- as I'm a miserable failure at all diets. Tell me I can't eat butter and I'll day dream incessantly about buttered toast. No, in my world, being healthier means trying to eat more whole grains and vegetables, which usually isn't a problem as I love both.
So to start off my new year, I vowed to make and eat more steel-cut oats. Steel-cut oats are the actual oat grain buds (or groats) that have been cut into two or three pieces by steel blades. Unlike their flat rolled oat cousins, they plump up when you cook them, much like rice or wheat berries. And although they can take 30-40 minutes to cook, the earthy nutty flavors and satisfying chewy texture are worth the wait. But waiting a half hour or more for your breakfast to cook can cramp your weekday morning routine. This is why I try to make a large batch of steel-cut oats on the weekend. You can also purchase precooked steel-cut oats at Trader Joe's (in the freezer section).
So what do you do with the oats once they're cooked? Eating them with brown sugar or honey plus a handful of nuts and/or dried fruit is a great and simple breakfast. If you're avoiding sugar, just use cooked apples or pears, which add deep fruity undertones. But if you want something really special, try baking with your precooked steel-cut oats. For years I've made Nut and Fruit Oatcakes and Strawberry Oat Squares. This week, however, I tried something slightly different and loved it.
In the mood for something a little lighter and airier, I decided to make steel-cut oat muffins. Much like my oatcakes and oat squares, I started with a base of steel-cut oats, flour and butter. Yet unlike those baked treats, I used a little less butter and instead added in some buttermilk (which is naturally lowfat) for added tangy flavor and to moisten things up a bit. For a burst of sweetness, I nestled some cherry jam into each muffin (being sure to include at least one cherry in each). Hot out of the oven, the muffins smelled and tasted a bit like cherry pie.
So if you're looking for a heart-healthy breakfast that tastes like an indulgence, or simply another way to use your leftover steel cut oats, try some jammy oat muffins. Served warm, they are the ultimate morning treat.
Note: these muffins taste best when warm, so be sure to either eat them all soon after baking, or just reheat in the microwave the next day.
Low-fat Steel-Cut Oat Muffins with Cherry Jam Inside
Makes: 1 dozen muffins
1 cup flour
½ cup bran or oat flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup cooked steel cut oats
¼ cup brown or regular sugar
4 Tbsp cold butter cut into small pieces
½ tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
½ cup cherry jam (or another fruit preserve)
½ cup dried cherries (optional)
¼ cup slivered or chopped almonds (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, mix flour, bran or oat flour, cinnamon, sugar and salt.
3. Cut in your butter (you can do this in a food processor, with a pastry cutter, or just squeeze the butter between your fingers and into the flour until you have something resembling small floury butter pebbles).
4. Mix in your steel-cut oat (do not do this in the food processor) with either a wooden spoon or using your fingers, mixing until fully incorporated.
5. In a separate bowl, beat your egg into your buttermilk and then add to the flour and oat mixture, stirring until combined. If adding dried cherries and nuts, mix in now.
6. In a prepared muffin pan (either sprayed with oil or with muffin liners inserted) divide your batter evenly for 12 muffins.
7. Using a teaspoon, indent a hole into the middle of each muffin and then spoon in about 1 tsp of jam plus at least one or two cherries.
8. Set in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until you can insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.
9. Serve warm and enjoy.