Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Adventures in solids: Oatmeal

In the not so distant past, most pediatricians recommended that a baby's first food be a cereal, usually rice or oatmeal. However in more recent times, a lot of doctors are changing their opinion of this and recommend starting with vegetables or fruits instead.   After the squash fiasco, I decided to take a break from vegetables and give cereals a try. I thought it would be easy for me and a nice change in texture for her.  I wanted to hold off on rice a little bit since I've been told it can cause constipation and isn't really that high in nutrients anyway, so my main other option was oatmeal.  A lot of people suggested that I try organic baby oatmeal like the type made by Earth's Best. I liked the idea of this so I went by the store to take a look at the oatmeal options they had available..
It looked great on the outside, it didn't have too many added ingredients which is something I always check for,  but what really confused me was the preparation instructions. It basically just said to add the desired amount of oatmeal cereal directly to formula or breast milk and serve right away. Hold the phone! Serve the raw oatmeal to my baby? I scratched my head for a minute and read the instructions a few more times. I kept wondering why was there no cooking involved? I was thinking there is no way people would  be serving raw oatmeal to their infants. So I read a little more about it on the box and then researched it online and  go figure, the oatmeal in the box is already cooked. {Cue dramatic music and jaw dropping to the floor} 
 On the back of the box they briefly explain the process which is very similar to the manner in which mash potato flakes are made.  They basically combine rolled oats with oat flour and then cook it, and then dehydrate it, and then grind it into flakes. Pre-cooked oatmeal in a box? Hmmm.... No thank you. Why would I want to feed my child dehydrated oatmeal flakes when real oatmeal is readily available for less and doesn't take too long to cook either?
I went back to the drawing board to figure out the best way to make oatmeal for her.  I decided to just buy oats and grind it into flour in my blender. All the baby cook books I've looked at advised not to use instant oatmeal or quick oats but to use real oats instead. This confused me a little because even though I eat oats regularly, I really never paid much attention to all the different types available.  I was aware of the different terms such as rolled oats, steel cut oats, quick oats, etc but didn't really know the difference. So I did a little more research and decided to go with steel cut oats, which undergoes the least amount of processing. I went out to the nature food store to look for it and was really surprised by what I found.

It didn't look anything like I expected it to! I felt really ignorant once I realized that in my whole entire life, I had never before seen steel cut oats. I kinda imagined it would be a bigger version of rolled oats. Like the old fashioned oats sold by Quaker. But nope it looks more like broken rice or wheat. hard knobby pieces of oats. For the first time I actually understood why Americans use the term oatmeal for rolled oats.
So anyway, once I got over my initial surprise, I was curious to see how it would all work out. I took it home and then poured a few handfuls in my blender and put it on grind. I was really worried about grinding grains in the blender since I don't have special milling blades for the blender, and I didn't want to mess up the blades or motor but it worked out great. Within a few minutes I had a pretty smooth flour. It wasn't as smooth as regular flour you might buy in the store but I was okay with that. I could have blended it for a little longer to get it smoother but I didn't see the need to.  I tell you I'm starting to really love this blender of mine, its a cheapie 10-speed by Osterizer and it cost us less than $20 so I didn't expect much from it but its been awesome.


Once I had ground the oats into flour, I cooked a few spoons of it like regular oatmeal and stored the rest of the flour in a double ziploc bag. I discovered that just like regular oatmeal it gets a bit sludgy and lumpy  once it cools down, so its best to serve it warm and add breast milk to it while its still warm. It heats up fine with a bottle warmer after being in the fridge too! So this way I can make enough for more than one meal at a time.


And that's how I made my own oatmeal from steel cut oats! Its not as convenient as vegetable purees that I freeze into cubes because I can't make large batches and store it in the freezer.  But it's still great because it cooks really fast  and is the perfect food to travel with since I can just carry the dry oatmeal flour with me and cook it when needed.


  1. wow what an adventure it was! I have never seen oats in that steel cut form before either. I wonder if we can even get that here in the UK. I have only seen two basic varieties; the ready made and just normal oats.
    Given the texture of the steel oats you did a great job blending it!
    Did baby like it?

    1. Yeah she gobbled it down! I'm thinking they may have it in england but not in a regular supermarket, maybe in a health food store.