Question: Would you please explain all the different kinds of oatmeal, such as Scotch oatmeal, oat bran, oat flour, old-fashioned oatmeal, quick oatmeal, instant oatmeal, etc.
Does oat bran have more fiber than old-fashioned oatmeal? Is Scotch oatmeal the same or different from old-fashioned oatmeal? Is it possible to make oat bran or oat flour by processing old-fashioned oatmeal in a food processor? If so, please give instructions.
Answer: For a complete oat story, let's start with the unprocessed whole oat, husk and all, which is usually fed to animals and is available but not popularly sold for human consumption because it takes forever to cook. Oats that are hulled or processed are known as groats. Almost as nutritious as the unprocessed whole oats, the milled groats are left whole with their original bran, germ and endosperm.
The forms of oatmeal are old-fashioned, Scotch oatmeal, quick-cooking and instant. Of these, only the Scotch or Irish oats do not undergo the rolling process. The groats are cut into larger pieces and therefore require a longer cooking period. Old-fashioned or regular cooking oats are 100% rolled oats, which means they are broken down and crushed between steel rollers to become flakes.
Made from smaller whole-grain oats, quick-cooking oats are also rolled but are so-called because they are rolled thinner than the old-fashioned oats for greater cooking speed. Heat is applied to all processed oats to improve flavor and to prevent the oil from becoming rancid and thus improve shelf life.
For instant oatmeal, which comes with various flavor additions, the groats are heavily steamed and cut and rolled into even thinner flakes than the quick-cooking oats so they will need no cooking time at all. Instant oatmeal is usually fortified with vitamins and minerals to make up for the nutrients lost in processing.
Oat bran, available in health food stores, comes in fine granules and has recently come to the limelight with the popularity of fiber to provide roughage. Oat bran is not the same as oat flour, which is ground whole oat grain. The oat bran is processed only from the outer covering of the oat grain, which provides the fiber.
You can make your own oat flour from any of the different types of oats by whirling 1/2 cup in a food processor or blender until pulverized. When using in bread recipes, replace only up to 15% to 20% of the total regular flour called for because it is low in gluten.
Q: Are the leaves of bok choy safe to eat raw or should they be cooked, as in stir-fry?
A: Bok choy, also called baak choi (Chinese white cabbage) is perfectly safe to eat in its raw state; however, the vegetable is usually prepared cooked. If the bok choy is young and tender, the vegetable may be eaten raw. Succulent and mild in taste with a gentle hint of cabbage and mustard flavors, it may be chopped or shredded and used in salads as you would cabbage or spinach. The smaller the bok choy, the more tender it is; in fact, baby bok choy is now available in many produce boutiques or specialty food stores.
Hot weather also toughens the plant quickly, so the best quality comes during cooler months. Select crisp-looking bok choy with white, unblemished stalks and fresh-looking leaves. Bok choy is wonderful in soups or stir-fry. In all types of cooking, avoid overcooking the vegetable to a dull green color; cook at high heat quickly, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Q: Somewhere I read about a recipe for mock sour cream. Now that I have to watch my calorie intake I certainly could use this substitution. Do you have the formula?
A: Try this one:
MOCK SOUR CREAM
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
Combine buttermilk, cottage cheese, lemon juice and mayonnaise in food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
Q: I've always wondered if there is any difference in the nutritional value of yellow- and white-skinned chickens. Someone said the yellow-skinned ones have more Vitamin A. Is this true?
A: No, there really is no difference in nutritional value between the yellow- and white-skinned chicken. Neither is there any difference in flavor as some people believe. The yellow tones (often preferred by Northeasterners) in the chicken may be attributed to the feed given to the animal, which in some cases contains marigold petals.