- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2005

I have one important piece of advice for you this St. Patrick’s Day: You can only eat so much corned beef and cabbage or Irish stew and drink so much green beer or malty stout before you’re ready for something different. So have oatmeal at the ready!

To me, oatmeal is as Irish as all those other foods and drinks. It speaks to me of robust good nutrition, not surprising since oatmeal is an outstanding source of complex carbohydrates, protein and iron. I’ve experienced its benefits many times, because a bowl of oatmeal is my favorite breakfast before a morning of skiing. Nothing I know does a better job of keeping me warm from the inside out while giving me the energy I need to shoosh down the slopes.

Oatmeal for breakfast is so easy to make, too. I like the robust-tasting coarse, steel-cut oats that you need to simmer for a while; and I always follow the manufacturer’s suggested cooking time printed on the packaging, since cooking directions will vary depending on how the oats were processed and how finely they were cut. But you can also get a very good bowl of oatmeal with old-fashioned rolled oats, which are whole oats that have been flattened between rollers into oval flakes; quick-cooking oats, which are rolled oats that have been cut up into smaller pieces that cook even quicker, in a matter of a few minutes; or even “instant” oatmeal, made from oats that have been rolled thinner and cut up into finer particles so they’re ready to enjoy moments after you’ve stirred in the water.

Whatever form of oats you start with, the real fun comes when you start adding things to your bowl of hot oatmeal. Drizzle on some milk, thick cream or even soymilk; or stir in a pat of butter. Add brown sugar or honey and maybe a dusting of ground cinnamon. Don’t forget seedless raisins, sliced banana or a few spoonfuls of toasted almonds or walnuts. Just describing it, I feel ready to hit the slopes!

To tell you the truth, though, I prefer to eat my oats another way. Give me a handful of good oatmeal cookies any day. I like to use quick-cooking oats for the recipe that follows; but you could substitute old-fashioned rolled oats if you’d prefer coarser, chewier cookies. Of course, my recipe includes just about everything I like to add to a bowl of oatmeal in the morning: butter, sweet spices, brown sugar, raisins and walnuts. If you like, try replacing the raisins with dried cranberries or dried cherries.

In fact, you might want to hide this article from the children, or they’ll demand cookies for breakfast!

CINNAMON-SPICE OATMEAL RAISIN COOKIES

Makes about 4 dozen

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Pinch of salt

8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup light brown sugar

2 eggs

2 cups quick-cooking (not instant) rolled oats

2 cups seedless raisins

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts

In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, allspice and salt. Set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle or beaters, or in a large mixing bowl using a and-held electric mixer, beat the butter at medium speed just until soft and smooth. Add the granulated and brown sugars and continue beating; once the sugars are incorporated, raise the speed to high and continue to beat for several minutes until the mixture looks fluffy, stopping the machine from time to time to scrape down the side of the bowl and under the beaters if necessary with a rubber spatula.

Reduce the speed to medium and, one at a time, add the eggs, beating just until smoothly combined. Add the flour mixture and beat at medium speed just until combined. Add the oats, raisins and walnuts and beat just until combined.

On the kitchen counter, place a sheet of plastic wrap large enough to completely enclose the cookie dough. With the spatula, scrape the dough from the bowl onto the plastic wrap. Seal the wrap around the dough and refrigerate at least 2 to 3 hours or preferably overnight.

Position the oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees and then line 1 or 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. With your fingers, pinch off golf ball-sized pieces of dough and roll them between your palms until round, then put them on the prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake a sheet at a time until the cookies are slightly firm to the touch, 13 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheet after 7 to 8 minutes to ensure even baking. With a wide metal spatula, transfer the baked cookies to a wire rack to cool. If reusing the baking sheet, let it cool slightly before placing more balls of dough on it.

Once the cookies have cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Chef Wolfgang Puck’s TV series, “Wolfgang Puck’s Cooking Class,” airs Sundays and Wednesdays on the Food Network.

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