Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
During a typical work week, I combine half a cup of oatmeal, a quarter cup of Bran Buds and water and microwave on high for two minutes and enjoy this luscious feast with about 12 oz. of black, cold-brewed coffee.
Recently, I’ve been adding a little protein in the form of either Amano or Okuhara fishcake, whichever happens to be on sale. I once used the Quick Cook Quaker’s Oats then switched to the Old-Fashioned variety; the Quick Cook tasted like wallpaper paste. But then, at some point, even the Old-Fashioned oats resembled construction paste. Then my mom turned me on to Coach’s Oats which is currently my breakfast standby.
Why stick with oatmeal? Over the years I’ve had the traditional yogurt and dry cereal as well as dinner leftovers, but I found that oatmeal was the only breakfast that kept my stomach from “speaking” to co-workers by mid-morning. And the soluble fiber in oatmeal also helped to lower LDL or “bad cholesterol.” So to this day, I continue to consume some form of oatmeal as my workday breakfast.
How About Muffins?
While attending Pharmacy School in the Bay Area in the late ‘80s, I cooked a lot more than usual, as the University of California, San Francisco, is primarily a graduate school for the health sciences. There was no dormitory to speak of, so students had to find living accommodations on their own. Which meant either purchasing all of your meals from the UC Medical Center cafeteria or brown-bagging it. I found that quick breads or muffins were the perfect meal to carry on those brown-bag days. While I found multiple recipes for savory muffins to serve with salad for a light dinner, I also kept one recipe for a sweet muffin found on the canister of Quaker Oats; the applesauce oatmeal muffin (quakeroats.com/cooking-and-recipes/applesauce-oatmeal-muffins).
The Famed Oatcake
For several years, the local Starbucks chain sold an oatcake that had patrons fawning over it; apparently it was a local phenomenon, since only O‘ahu Starbucks had a partnership with Honolulu Baking Company to sell these oatcakes. Local food writer, Betty Shimabukuro, said it was one of the most requested recipes but she constantly reminded readers that 1) Starbucks purchased the product so they didn’t have the recipe and 2) Honolulu Baking Company did create the recipe but wasn’t willing to release it to the public. Then about 16 years ago, a reader named Margo Lynn created her own version of these oatcakes which was a very good facsimile and submitted the recipe to Betty Shimabukuro (see archives.starbulletin.com/2005/04/06/features/request.html).
I’ve made the recipe on several occasions but tweaked it to my own tastes as I use dark brown sugar instead of Splenda. I never use Splenda, since it’s simply a bi-chlorinated sucrose molecule; if there’s one thing I learned from biochemistry, nature has a difficult time dealing with chlorinated organic compounds, so I’m not sure if Splenda simply sits in your liver, forever, after ingestion.
Since this is a healthy recipe, I also just use egg whites as a binder instead of the whole eggs or Egg Beaters in the original recipe. And finally, because I don’t like the texture of raisins in baked goods, I blitz them along with the dried blueberries. I don’t mind the flavor of raisins, I just don’t like biting into that swishy texture.
Two cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup warm water
1 cup dried blueberries
1 cup raisins
4 cups quick rolled oats
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 egg whites
1 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-by-13-inch pan. Sift together flour and spices. Put warm water, raisins and dried blueberries in a blender and purée (depending on the strength of your blender, you might want to start with 1/2 cup water until the berries are pretty well chopped, then add the rest). Add blueberry and raisin purée to the oats.
Beat together applesauce, brown sugar and vanilla. Beat in the egg whites. Stir in oat and flour mixtures. Fold in cranberries then press the mixture evenly into the pan. Sprinkle raw oats on top.
Bake 30 minutes, or until cake is cooked in the center. Cool, then cut. Makes about 20 squares.
Oats in a Libation?
No, I don’t mean simply throwing a shot or two of vodka into your morning oatmeal, though that might make the workday go by a lot faster. I’m actually talking about infusing toasted oats into a libation. At the end of 2020, I did a take-out from Senia restaurant in Chinatown. The meal was themed around Portuguese specialties and because restaurants were hit hard by the COVID pandemic, the Liquor Commission allowed patrons to also take-out alcoholic beverages as long as food was also purchased.
So along with the Portuguese delicacies, Senia also offered several cocktails including the Fall & Oates which was described as St. George Spiced Pear liqueur, Angel’s Envy bourbon, Red Breast whisky and toasted oats. Earlier this year I purchased a bottle of St. George Spiced Pear. I used my own Breckinridge bourbon and Bushmills Irish whisky, as Red Breast is a high-end Irish whisky. But because I had no idea how the oats were incorporated in the cocktail, I simply omitted them. After varying the proportions of the liquor, it was still missing something.
Therefore, I pan-toasted about 1/4 cup of old-fashioned oatmeal then infused a simple syrup (1/4 cup of sugar dissolved in 1/4 cup of water) with the toasted oats overnight. After adding equal parts of the bourbon, Irish whisky and this toasted-oat-infused simple syrup to two parts of Spiced Pear, I think I have a reasonable facsimile of Senia’s Fall & Oates.
Not Just for Breakfast or Happy Hour
As I’ve previously highlighted in my Thanksgiving column last year, I used quick rolled oats as a binder in my lentil loaf, though quick rolled oats can also be used in place of breadcrumbs for ground beef, pork or turkey based meatloaves. Oatmeal can also be used to fortify the nutrition of pancakes and waffles, and when oatmeal is finely ground in a food processor, they make the perfect vehicle to thicken hearty soups and stews as the soluble fiber in oatmeal increases the viscosity when mixed with any liquid. Oatmeal isn’t just the breakfast of champions, it’s the food of champions!
Ryan Tatsumoto is a clinical pharmacist by day. In his off-hours, however, he and his wife enjoy seeking out perfect marriages of food and wine. Ryan is a certified sommelier and a certified specialist of wine. The Windward O‘ahu resident also writes a column for San Francisco’s Nichi Bei Weekly called “The Gochiso Gourmet” (nichibei.org/columns/gochiso-gourmet/).