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Cooking with oats

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As this blogger was listening to NPR this morning, she learned that the company making Cheerios is now using only non-GMO ingredients to make the cereal. This makes market sense: many people who buy low-sugar Cheerios are health-conscious and wary of "Franken-foods."

Switching to all GMO-free ingredients for Cheerios is made easier by the fact that the cereal is made mostly of oats, a food that has not, as yet, been genetically modified. It is therefore simple and not too expensive to find sources of non-GMO corn and sugar, which are present in small amounts.

Oats have other advantages: they are, at this writing, cheaper than rice and are gluten free. Technically, oats do contain avenin, a protein that is similar to gluten, but most gluten-sensitive people can tolerate it.

Most of us are familiar with oats only as oatmeal, but in fact this versatile grain can be used in a multitude of ways.

Below is a recipe for oatmeal-blueberry squares, which first appeared on the blog Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen. These delicious squares may eaten either for breakfasts or as a snack. They are vegan and low in fat. This recipe calls for maple or agave syrup as a sweetener, but these ingredients can be omitted. Oat flour has a mild flavor that doesn't really require sweeteners, and blueberries contain enough natural sugar by themselves.

The directions call for pulverizing regular--not instant--oats into a meal, but you could try using oat flour, which is available in many regular grocery stores, including Publix and sometimes Walmart.

BLUEBERRY FILLING INGREDIENTS: 1 pint blueberries
¼ cup agave nectar
¼ cup apple juice
½ tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp cornstarch mixed with enough water
or juice to form a smooth paste
(about 2-3 tsp)
BATTER INGREDIENTS:
3 cups gluten-free oatmeal (regular,
not instant)
½ tsp cinnamon
1½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup unsweetened applesauce
6 Tbsp agave nectar
6 Tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla

YIELDS: 16 small squares or 9 large squares
NOTE:This recipe is not overly sweet. If you prefer a sweeter version, add more agave nectar, maple syrup or stevia to the blueberries as they are cooking. Or add a sugar glaze on top by mixing a little vegan powdered sugar with water until it’s the right consistency for drizzling.
STEP 1:Preheat oven to 375°F. Oil an 8” square baking dish.
STEP 2 (blueberry filling):
In a small saucepan, combine the blueberries, agave nectar and apple juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When it boils, stir in the vanilla and the cornstarch mixture. Continue to stir as the mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat and set aside.
STEP 3:Put 1½ cups of the oatmeal into a food processor and process into a fine powder. Pour it into a medium-sized mixing bowl and add the remaining oatmeal, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Mix well.
STEP 4:Stir in the apple sauce, agave nectar, water and vanilla, and mix well. Spread half of the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing well to cover the bottom of the pan. Spoon the blueberry filling over the batter, and cover the blueberries with the remaining batter.
STEP 5:Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned. Allow to cool before cutting into bars.

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