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Hot Cereals Are the Hot Breakfast Items : An Old Market Is Revived Through Convenience, New Flavors

May 16, 1985|CAROLE SUGARMAN | The Washington Post

Call them the Pop Tarts of the '80s. Mix-in-the-bowl flavored hot cereals have become the fast-food generation's quick, at-home breakfast.

While certainly not new, this genre of hot cereal fits today's marketplace, one in which speedy, nutritious-sounding fare is dangled in front of health-conscious people on the run.

Instant products in such flavors as raisin spice, honey graham or apples and cinnamon are reviving the hot-cereal market.

According to Advertising Age magazine, the $420-million hot-cereal category has grown 10% in dollar volume over the past year, due to the "more expensive cook-in-bowl products."

Quaker Oats leads the instant segment, according to Advertising Age. In 1984, Quaker Oats introduced two new flavors to its 10-flavor line: strawberries and cream and raisins, dates and walnuts. Ralston Purina has just introduced a line of instant cereals under the Sun Maid label, and in 1982 Nabisco reformulated its Mix 'n Eat Cream of Wheat and added four new flavors.

The cereals, say company representatives, are targeted either to the busy professional who has neither the time nor inclination to prepare a steamy pot of oat groats, or to children as a cold-weather alternative to sugary cold cereals.

Sugar Second on the List

In fact, like many cold cereals, the majority of the instant, flavored hot cereals list sugar as the second most dominant ingredient; some even contain two kinds of sugar (sugar and corn syrup, for example). In addition, some contain artificial flavors, and all list some kind of preservative.

The fact remains, however, that you can still buy unsweetened, fiber-packed cereals in supermarkets in either the natural-food section or in the regular hot-cereal section. (Quaker Oats, for example, has a relatively new product marketed under the "Mother's" label in oat bran, oat and whole wheat, and there are a variety of other plain, packaged whole-wheat cereals or whole-grain cereal mixtures.)

In addition, there is a host of grains available in bulk at health-food stores--without the preservatives, the artificial flavors and the fancy packaging.

Here then, are some suggestions beyond Maypo on how to make your own flavored hot cereal--the old-fashioned way. It's an all-weather comfort food that should never go out of style.

GRAINS

For those cooking with bulk grains, the following are some hints on cooking times and procedures. Remember that instead of using water to cook hot cereal, you can substitute half or all of the liquid with milk, preferably skim. (This will make the cereal creamier in taste and texture.) Figure about 1 cup of raw cereal for four generous servings.

Oatmeal: The difference between the various kinds of oatmeal and their cooking times has to do with the size and way they are cut.

Oat groats are the whole, hulled grain. Simmer 1 cup whole groats in 2 cups water or milk in a covered saucepan for about 1 hour.

Steel-cut oats are oat groats that have been sliced thinly lengthwise. Cook 1 cup steel-cut oats in 3 cups water for 45 minutes.

Rolled oats come in three varieties: old-fashioned, quick-cooking and instant. The old-fashioned oats are made by husking, toasting, steaming and rolling oat groats; they take five minutes to cook. Quick-cooking oats are made from groats that have been cut into pieces before they are rolled, producing a thinner flake and thus reducing the cooking time of the old-fashioned variety by three or four minutes. Instant oatmeal, or the mix-in-the-bowl variety, is rolled from groats cut into even thinner pieces. They are precooked, dried and processed with salt.

According to the Quaker Oats Co., the three types of rolled oats do not differ nutritionally. Ruth Matthews of the Nutrient Data Research Branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture says all kinds of oatmeal are excellent sources of protein and fiber.

Wheat: Instead of wheat berries, which take a long time to cook (two or three hours), try cracked wheat. Bring 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Stir in 1 cup cracked wheat, cover and simmer about 25 minutes.

Buckwheat: Buckwheat groats, or kasha, can be eaten as a breakfast cereal. Bring 2 cups salted water to a boil, stir in 1 cup buckwheat groats and simmer, covered, about 20 to 30 minutes, or until all water is absorbed.

Millet: For 1 cup whole millet, use 4 cups boiling water. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes. Millet is especially good cooked with milk.

Flake cereals: The following cooking times are for 1 cup of cereal and 2 1/2 cups of water. Rice flakes: three to five minutes. Barley flakes: six minutes. Wheat flakes: eight minutes. Rye flakes: 16 to 20 minutes.

Mixtures: Mix together three to seven different kinds of cereal in one pot.

THINNERS

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