- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 13, 2005

In this season of special days, entertaining often centers around late-afternoon tea with fancy cookies or elaborate festive dinners. On the few occasions when we have guests for breakfast, we feel compelled to make something over the top.

Here’s an idea for a different sort of breakfast. How about inviting people over and making something very simple and basic but with a twist of unexpected flavor? Consider socializing over a bowl of oatmeal.

In cold weather, it can be a modest little miracle in a bowl. In the recipe that follows for chai oatmeal, rolled oats are simmered in sweet, spice-infused milk with exquisite results.

Green pistachios sprinkled over the top look beautiful against the light golden glow provided by the turmeric and saffron. It takes just minutes to prepare, so you can do this with minimal planning or effort.

Oatmeal is easily the world’s humblest superfood. The slenderest of grains, oats are naturally sweet and soothing. For people who want to add more whole grain to their diets, oatmeal is a perfect place to begin.



Oats are easy to find, inexpensive to buy, simple to cook and pleasant to eat. They also happen to be a good source of B vitamins, calcium, protein and fiber and are known to help regulate blood sugar levels.

When oats are prepared for human consumption, they are cleaned, toasted, hulled and, in the case of old-fashioned rolled oats, steamed and flattened with heavy rollers. Quick-cooking rolled oats are the same, except that they are cut into smaller pieces and rolled thinner.

Both kinds of rolled oats can be used interchangeably for oatmeal cookies and other baked goods, the only differences being that the quick-cooking kind will blend into the batter more readily and the final product will have a somewhat smoother appearance.

Instant oats (the type to which you simply add hot water for a quick breakfast) are a different story. They’re cooked and dried before being rolled, which makes them turn gooey when cooked.

Also, instant oats are often mixed with artificial flavors and a heavy dose of sweetener. In general, when shopping for oatmeal, I recommend sticking with rolled oats, which, when you think about it, are instant by their very nature.

Chai oatmeal

1 cups milk (low-fat or soy milk will work)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon powdered cardamom

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

A pinch of saffron, optional

A drop of vanilla, optional

2 teaspoons light-colored honey

3/4 cup rolled oats

2 tablespoons oat bran

OPTIONAL TOPPINGS:

Raisins

Pistachio nuts

Chopped almonds

Yogurt or buttermilk

Pour milk into medium-size saucepan. Add salt, cinnamon, coriander, cardamom, turmeric and saffron, if desired, and whisk to blend them in. Place pan over medium heat.

Just before it comes to a boil, lower heat and let the milk simmer for about 5 minutes.

Stir in vanilla, if desired, and honey, and whisk until honey dissolves. Sprinkle in oats and oat bran and stir once or twice.

Cover pan and leave it over very low heat for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until thickened and cooked through.

When it is thickened to your liking, serve hot with any of the optional toppings. Makes 2 servings, but is easily multiplied.

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