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Also called old fashioned oats, flaked oats, or oat flakes this versatile foodstuff is nutritious, handy and can be a delicious and inexpensive source of many essential nutrients. The terms oatmeal and rolled oats are often used interchangeably, but many cooks seem to feel that oatmeal is the hot cereal porridge which you make by cooking rolled oats with milk or water.

In order to produce rolled oats, oat grains have their hull removed—the resultant kernels are called by the marvelously fun-to-say name oat groats. The groats are then steamed (often lightly roasted as well) and then flattened by a big steel roller (thus the presence of the word rolled in the name).

Oats have been grown in China since at least the third millennium BCE, and in the Middle East for nearly as long. Europeans have used oats as an important staple crop since around 2000 BCE. Historians believe the plants were first noticed as weeds, growing among other food crops. Because their low gluten content makes oats difficult to bake into bread, and because of their extreme hardiness, oats were long considered fit only as food for animals or for the very lowest classes of society. This remarkable grain is notoriously tricky to store, spoiling rapidly if the temperature and humidity are not carefully controlled, another reason oats were not well-regarded in ancient times. The people of classical Greece and Rome considered oats to be a runty, diseased version of wheat and ‘oat-eating’ was a pejorative used by Romans to describe the scary, hairy people of the barbaricum (which was pretty much anywhere that the Empire had not conquered).

Nutrition Facts

Rolled oats are a very healthy food. A single serving has about 10% of a daily allowance of iron and a healthy shot of vitamins, trace minerals and protein. Most processed grains lose their bran and germ, but since oats do not, they are much higher in fiber than most other grains. There is increasing evidence that a diet with plenty of oats can actually help to lower cholesterol levels in the bloodstream.

Rolled oats contain a high quantity of complex carbohydrates and have been therefore a favourite food of athletes for a long time. The fats contained in rolled oats are reasonably healthy, breaking down to approximately 20% saturated, 37% monounsaturated and 43% polyunsaturated. A single serving of rolled oats (about ½ cup) contains between 100-150 calories (obviously, once you start pouring on the sugar and cream all bets are off!).

Enough of That...Let's Eat!

Rolled oats have a pleasantly complex, nutty flavor that is good by itself or in many combinations ...

By far the most popular use for rolled oats. Cooked with milk or water, oatmeal may be served hot with honey, sugar, apples, raisins or other fruit.

Most of the rolled oats not destined for the breakfast table wind up in cookies. Oatmeal cookies are delicious and chewy, frequently enhanced with vanilla, chocolate chips and/or raisins. Oatmeal cookies may be made as sweet (or not) as the cook wishes and they also allow the snacker a vague pretense of healthy snacking (I mean, it is oatmeal, right?). There are an amazing variety of oatmeal cookies out there, so here are a few from the wonderful world of Everything2 recipes: jumbo Candy Oatmeal Cookies, Oatmeal white chocolate cranberry cookie, Peanut butter oatmeal cookies, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, old dutch oatmeal cookies, Oatmeal Chocolate Butterscotch Chip Cookies, Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies

Meatloaf / Meatballs
This is another very popular use for rolled oats. Meatloaf and meatballs are typically made with bread, but rolled oats may be added instead of (or in addition to) the bread for a wonderful texture and flavor (see enth's writeup under meatball for more information).

Breads / Cakes / Muffins
Rolled oats lend a wonderful taste and heartiness to baked goods. Add to that the healthful benefits of oat bran and this makes a natural combination. A few of the baked oat goodies: Kick Ass Oat Bread, Oatmeal banana pancakes, Oatmeal molasses bread, Staffordshire Oatcakes

Confections / Bars
Rolled oats can be used to make any number of tasty and hearty snack items. Some of the many ways they may be enjoyed: Oatmeal Carmelitas, Oatmeal balls, Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

Gorp / Trail Mix
Another way to enjoy rolled oats is by making trail mix or gorp with them. Start with rolled oats and sunflower seeds, nuts and/or granola, then add raisins, roasted pumpkin seeds, dried fruit or whatever suits your taste.

A note about recipes: unless it specifically calls for the instant kind, do not substitute instant oat flakes in your recipes. Results can be kooky and unpredictable.

Hats off to tem42 for providing the idea for the writeup
and to rootbeer277 for helping to turn it from mediocre to good
Oats by anthropod
Oatmeal by fuzzy and blue
Cook’s Thesaurus, Oats : http://www.foodsubs.com/GrainOats.html
Rolled Oats: http://cruisenews.net/recipes/oats.php
Walton Feed: http://waltonfeed.com/self/oats.html
Wikipedia: Oatmeal: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oatmeal
HungryMonster.com’s Oatmeal Facts: http://www.hungrymonster.com/FoodFacts/Food_Facts.cfm?Phrase_vch=Oatmeal&fid=6826

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