My adoration of oats began during college, when I was both hedonistic and impoverished-qualities that do not happily coexist, except in the realm of oatmeal. I;d hold the bowl close to my face to take in the earthy scent, warm my hands on the bowl, and watch the brown sugar melt. Soon I decided that the addition of walnuts and apples transformed the cereal into a respectable dinner. And for a treat, I would sprinkle uncooked oats over ice cream. I was hooked.
But I wasn't alone. Nutritionists had long been praising the benefits of oats. The soluble fiber so plentiful in oatmeal and oat bran can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Oats also have plenty of vitamins B1, B2, and E. And not many calories--only 150 in a half-cup of dry oats, which also carries 4 grams of dietary fiber.
The wonderful grain became my new companion to almost anything: fruits, bread, waffles--even dusted on potato chips. As I've matured, so have the dishes I use oats for. Instead of simply sprinkling them on, I've learned to use them to plump up a meat loaf with a nutty richness (Garlic-Herb Meat Loaf), add texture to a fruit crisp (Apple-Cranberry Walnut Crisp), and give an upside-down cake a right-side-up face-lift (Apple-Oat Upside-Down Cake). Of course, if I ever need to put some oats on my ice cream, I know where to find them.