Oatmeal is trendy again, but I love it anyway

Oatmeal with rhubarb and honey.

Oatmeal and I have an evolving relationship. We get together. We break up. I rediscover my passion. I lose interest. Lately, it’s back in favor in my kitchen, and I’ve been introducing it to some interesting fruit purees.

G. eats instant oatmeal for breakfast nearly every morning. This is largely due to ease of use. He can add hot water, stir and eat. Since there’s a hot water dispenser at his office, he doesn’t even have to use a microwave to warm it.

I grew up eating Quaker instant oatmeal, preferably maple and brown sugar or apple and cinnamon. I got away from it as an adult, but G. reintroduced me. Quaker was his oatmeal of choice too, although he wasn’t nearly as picky about flavors.

Then a few years ago, I started reading labels in an effort to reduce the amount of salt in G.’s diet. High blood pressure runs in his family. I discovered that Quaker and most other instant oatmeals have quite a bit of salt in them. That’s what makes them taste good.

I switched G. to McCann’s, which contains no sodium and little sugar. But, it’s really pricey, about $5 a box in grocery stores in our area. Then I discovered that the generic oatmeal in the bulk bins also has no sodium and very little sugar, probably because that would add to the cost of making it. That oatmeal is very cheap, and it’s what we eat now.

Starbucks introduced its oatmeal about the time we switched to the unflavored variety. It came with raisins, nuts and brown sugar. I loved it immediately — and realized I could make the same thing at home. I started keeping containers of raisins, Craisins and nuts by the oatmeal canister.

After that, it seemed like oatmeal popped up on menus all over. G. and I had particularly spectacular bowls of baked oatmeal at the Sugar Bowl Restaurant in Gaylord, Mich., on one vacation. The Sugar Bowl is so old though, it’s probably seen oatmeal come in, go out and come back in style several times.

Molly Wizenberg turned me on to stewed prunes with a recipe in A Homemade Life. From there, it was a short, and I think logical, step to fruit purees. Let me tell you, plain oatmeal with homemade peach puree beats the pants off Quaker’s peaches and cream.

Right now, I’m working my way through a jar of rhubarb and honey made with rhubarb that I froze last summer and a recipe I found in Edible Chicago. My version leaves out the rose water because I didn’t have that when I made it, although I recently found some at The Spice House.

Here’s how I made it:

Rhubarb and Honey

(adapted from “Lucid Food” by Louisa Shafia)

4 stalk rhubarb, ends and leaves trimmed

1/4 cup water

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

pinch salt

1/2 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla

Cut rhubarb into 1-inch pieces and put in small saucepan with 1/4 cup water. Cover and bring to a boil, then decrease heat and simmer, stirring occasionally.

When rhubarb starts to soften, after about 5 minutes, stir in cardamom, nutmeg and salt.

Break up any large pieces of rhubarb with a wooden spoon. Continue to simmer, covered, until the rhubarb is completely softened, about 4 minutes more. Remove from heat and stir in honey and vanilla.

Let cool. Serve over yogurt or oatmeal.


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