Preparing food with focus on nutrition requires a great deal of trial and error. I’m not intimidated by constructive criticism, even when it’s harsh. I encourage it. It’s the only way I’ll know to make an adjustment.
When I’m cooking for my boys, I know that I’ll get an honest response. I’ve offered them organic oats in the past and generally received a tepid response. I waited a few years and decided to dress ’em up a bit for my 12 year old today.
It started with a simple question. “Dane, I’d like to make you oats today. I’m going to play with some flavors. I’ll throw in bacon, apples, cinnamon and butter. What do you think?’
Kids are the best. No sugarcoating, natural or artificial in his response. “I’ll try it and eat it if I like it.” He wasn’t being a smartass; Dane is ridiculously polite. His tone told the story, not the words. He and I have a deal – brutal honesty (within reason), particularly when it comes to food. The last thing I want is for him to gag as he eats while wearing a counterfeit smile. That wouldn’t serve either of us.
I’m always searching for healthy, blank-palate options for my men that I can spice up with more intense flavors. Oatmeal in its naked form won’t be attractive for most 12 year olds (or, to be honest, most adults), but we know that it has some impressive nutritional chops. These nutrients are not lost as the oats are drawn from the earth. From whfoods.com:
Although oats are hulled, this process does not strip away their bran and germ allowing them to retain a concentrated source of their fiber and nutrients.
Yes, there is some processing that occurs, which is why I can’t give this food an A plus. If everyone was destined for MIT or Cal Tech, who would attend Harvard and Stanford? The latter two are quality universities; minimally processed foods can acquire high marks. More nutrition information from whfoods.com:
Oats, via their high fiber content, are already known to help remove cholesterol from the digestive system that would otherwise end up in the bloodstream. Now, the latest research suggests they may have another cardio-protective mechanism.
Antioxidant compounds unique to oats, called avenanthramides, help prevent free radicals from damaging LDL cholesterol, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, suggests a study conducted at Tufts University and published in The Journal of Nutrition.
There is improving healthy news about my son’s forthcoming bowl of warm goodness as my inner taste chemist emerges and I add flavor with some nutty, invigorating cinnamon. From WebMD:
Lab studies have found that cinnamon may reduce inflammation, have antioxidant effects, and fight bacteria.
While Dane’s oats are simmering in the spicy goodness, I fry some bacon until it’s perfectly crisp. My aim is to create a balance of both flavor and nutritional content. The oats provide the bulk of the carbs; the pork handles the majority of the protein and fat.
I chop up a crisp, creamy fleshed Fuji apple and put it aside. From specialty produce.com:
Fuji apples contain vitamins A and C as well trace amounts of folate and potassium. They are a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which has been shown to help prevent heart disease and promote healthy digestion. A medium sized Fuji apple contains about 80 calories
When the flame goes off, the now chopped bacon, honey and apples slink into the bath of oats along with a substantial pat of grass-fed butter.
This is perfect, right? He loved it, I can end this post here, and we all lived happily ever after.
I started this post off discussing trial and error. Well, I described my trial, now it’s time for the error. I salted the water I cooked the oats in. This is generally a good strategy, except I failed to consider the salt from the bacon. Additionally, the butter I use is salted. You start to get the picture.
My man took a bite and said, “Dad, these oats are salty.” He filled his spork a few more times, shoveling them into his mouth, then quit. My creation was in the garbage.
My biggest mistake was that I didn’t taste along the way. From thekitchn.com
We smell our food while it’s cooking and can distinguish a good smell (garlic!) from bad (burning!). We see when the onions become translucent or a soup comes to a boil…..Tasting is just taking this one step further….. Try to zero in on whether or not you like the flavors. If you do, chances are that everyone else will too.
Before Dane experienced his oats, I did not. I should have. Lesson learned.
Now, will I quit? Hell no.
“22, what do you think? You good with me trying this again soon without the salt?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I’d like the bacon on the side, though.”
God, I love that kid. Less salty oats, apples, honey and bacon on the side, comin’ up. It ain’t personal, just business.