In the 1960s, my parents called me a crunchy-granola head.
They weren't wrong.
I wore Earth Shoes. I memorized the poetry of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Kenneth Patchen. I shopped at a health food store called Erehwon, the opposite of Nowhere. I gave up chicken for tofu. I drank herbal tea and burned incense and wore love beads and actually said things like groovy, man and hep cat.
I baked my own bread (my parents saw this as incontrovertible proof of my granola-ness).
By 1978, I'd gone back to eating chicken, tossed the love beads, and traded my Earth Shoes for the Birkenstocks I wear every day (yes, I'm still a little bit crunchy-granola). I bought the newly-published Moosewood Cookbook, and Mollie Katzen's recipes sent me to the health food store once again, for exotic-in-the-1970s ingredients like wheat germ and miso paste and rolled oats.
When I first saw rolled oats in a Moosewood recipe, I was puzzled. I'd always kept some supermarket-brand oatmeal in my pantry for baking cookies. I wondered whether those oats were rolled oats.
Indeed they were. Rolled oats (a.k.a. oatmeal, rolled oatmeal, old-fashioned oats, old-fashioned oatmeal, flaked oats, flaked oatmeal, or oatflakes) are oat groats that are steamed, rolled, and flaked so that they cook quickly but still retain all of the bran and germ. Note that instant oatmeal is a different product, often made by partially cooking rolled oats, rolling them again, and adding sugar and salt.
Rolled oats have proven health benefits; high in beta-glucan, a type of dietary fiber, oats are especially effective in lowering cholesterol, as well as blood pressure and overall risk of cardiovascular disease. Oats are high in antioxidants, and lower on the glycemic index than other whole grains.
Buy rolled oats in small quantities; because they have more fat than some other whole grains, they will go rancid if stored for a long time. Keep them in an airtight container at room temperature, for up to two months, or in the freezer.
I may have been a crunchy-granola head, but I was never a farmer, so I didn't know until recently that oats are strong enough to survive poor soil and growing conditions. Maybe that's why our bodies are stronger when we eat rolled oats.
A perfect dessert for this season, this can be assembled ahead, but should be baked just before you want to serve. You can substitute 3/4 cup dark or golden raisins for the cranberries. Serves 6-8.
3-4 tart apples (Macoun, Cortland, Granny Smith, or a mix)
3-4 firm pears, such as Bartlett or Bosc
Cooking spray (PAM or other brand)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp all-purpose unbleached flour
2 cups cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Water or unsweetened apple juice
For the topping:
1 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
Preheat oven to 375F°. Peel, core and slice apples and pears until you have enough to fill an 8-9" (diameter) casserole. Grease the casserole with butter or vegetable spray, and set aside. In a large bowl, mix sliced fruit, lemon juice, 1 tsp cinnamon, flour, cranberries and walnuts. Return the mixture to the baking dish, and add enough water or apple juice to barely cover the bottom. Mix topping in a bowl and press onto top of the fruit mixture. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes, or until apples and pears are soft. Serve warm with freshly whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.
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