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Vegetarian Journal May/June 1998

Cereal: It's Not Just for Breakfast Anymore!


Check out the recipes!

In days gone by, cereals may not have snapped, crackled, or popped, but they were the silent basis of finance in medieval France and a leading economic indicator in England from the twelfth to the nineteenth century. Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, claimed that the only noble way to grind grain was between two stones (and today we know that this technique is a good way to preserve the germ).

Cereals continue to be just as important today as in the past. Close to forty percent of the world's population currently relies on cereals for the majority of its daily nourishment. Many of us think to include cereal only in the breakfast portion of our daily intake. Consider that cereals are low in fat, sodium, and calories (if you select wisely-more about that later), are high in fiber and nutrients, are relatively inexpensive, store for long periods of time without refrigeration, can function as thickening agents in cooked foods, and can add color, flavor, and texture to many dishes.

When selecting cereals, be sure to check the labels for ingredients. Ready-to-eat cereals may contain lots of the good stuff (wheat, barley, oats, bran, fiber, etc.), but may also have some of the not-so-hot stuff (sugar, corn syrup, salt, fat [from vegetable oils or nuts], artificial color and flavor, etc.). Long-cooking cereals are less likely than ready-to-eat or quick-cooking cereals to have unwanted ingredients. Shredded Wheat has virtually no sodium or fat (about 3 milligrams of sodium per 1 ounce serving), but All-Bran checked in with 320 milligrams. Just to confuse the matter, All-Bran has 8 grams of fiber per serving while Shredded Wheat has only 4 grams. Most "cream" cereals (Cream of Wheat, Cream of Rice, Farina, etc.) are lower in fiber than whole cereals (brans, flakes, etc.). Did you know that the only difference between regular whole oats and quick-cooking oats is the processing? Quick oats are cut so that the oat flakes are smaller and shorter and so need less time to absorb water and cook. During this processing a small amount of fiber is lost (regular oats have 4 grams of fiber per serving and quick oats have 3). If you purchase ready-to-eat cereals, be sure you are getting nutritional value for your dollar. Become a label reader!

Once you've brought your cereal purchase home, you'll want to store it for optimum shelf life. At the market, check expiration dates (for ready-to-eat) and sniff cereal packages (aroma should be fresh and "toasty," not musty). All whole grain cereals should be stored tightly closed and kept away from humidity. All cereals benefit from good ventilation in a dry area. Store either in the original container (unopened) or in an airtight container (don't forget to label and date).

Now for the fun part-including cereal where you'd least expect it. One cup of cooked cereal may be used instead of 1/4 cup flour in baking recipes, but, you must reduce the amount of fluid by one cup for each cup of cereal used. Mix the cooked cereal into other fluids in the recipe and then combine with dry ingredients. This works well in fruit and vegetable quick breads (think zucchini bread or cranberry-orange muffins), vegetable and nut loaves, and in bread puddings. If you would like to thicken soup, bring the soup to a boil, stir in one teaspoon of oats, 2 tablespoons of wheat germ, or one teaspoon of barley to one cup of liquid. Reduce the soup to a simmer and allow to thicken. This also works well with stew. Uncooked whole wheat cereal can be added (about 1/8 cup to a quart of batter) to quick breads, muffins, or cookies for extra texture, color and a nutty flavor.

Leftover cooked cereal need not go to waste. Allow corn meal mush to thicken (it will do this if you just allow it to stand), cut into squares and bake, season with fresh herbs or tomato sauce, and you have a great side dish to add to your starch repertoire. Ready-to-eat cereal can be used as a topping for vegetables and casseroles (toast whole grain cereals, crush with a rolling pin, and use instead of breadcrumbs). Unsweetened crunchy cereal can be used to garnish soups and can be tossed into stir-fries or can be used to top frozen desserts or fruit salads. Ready-to-eat cereals can even be made into a more-than-usually-nutritious pie crust. Cereal-it's not just for breakfast anymore-it belongs at every meal you serve.

Here are some consumer comparisons (source: The Healing Foods, Hausman & Hurley, Rodale Press, 1992):

CEREAL (1 oz.) Sodium (mg) Fiber (g) Calories
All-Bran 320 8 71
Bran Chex 264 5 91
Grape-Nuts 200 4 102
Nutri-Grain 187-193 3 102-108
Shredded Wheat 3 4 102
Wheat Chex 190 3 104
Oats (regular, * uncooked)
*Regular oats means rolled, raw, long-cooking oats
2 4 110


Recipes

Good Ol' Granola

(Makes about 6 cups, 12 servings)

A great snack or garnish; serve with soy and/or rice milk.

11/2 cups whole buckwheat groats
1 cup regular oats (slow-cooking)
1 cup cold cereal (your choice)
1/2 cup hulled sunflower seeds
1/4 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 cup chopped dried fruit

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place groats in a baking dish and allow to toast in the oven, stirring frequently. When toasted, add oats and cold cereal and continue to toast about 15 minutes. When toasted, add seeds, nuts, wheat germ, and fruit; allow to toast another 5 minutes.

Store covered. Keeps about 2 weeks.

Total calories per serving: 184 (using Cheerios™)
Fat: 4 grams


Cereal Pie Crust

(Makes one 9-inch crust)

Crunchy and flavorful, this crust will complement your favorite pie filling.

5 cups flaky or puffed-style cold cereal
1/8 cup oat bran
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a rolling pin, crush cereal (should get about 11/2 cups total yield). Mix oat bran with crushed cereal. Add oil and toss until well coated. Press mixture firmly into a nine-inch pie tin. Bake for about 10 minutes, until golden brown. Fill with pie filling and return to oven to bake until filling is set.

Tip: Crust can be prepared, baked, and frozen until ready to use. Can also be used for tart shells.

Total calories per serving (1/8 of pie): 95 (using 1/2 wheat flakes and 1/2 puffed wheat)
Fat: 5 grams


Over-The-Top Oats

(Serves 8)

This crunchy topping can be used on cobbler and crisp or as the top "crust"

1/2 cup finely chopped dried dates or prunes
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup regular oats (slow cooking)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
Vegetable oil spray

Mix first five ingredients together until well combined. Spray (sparingly) mixture so that ingredients are lightly moistened. Mix well. Use to top fruit desserts or pies. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Total calories per serving: 72
Fat: 1 gram


Kasha Filling

(Makes 2 pounds, 6 servings)

This hearty filling can be used to stuff pasta, baked potato skins, tomatoes, squash, or peppers. Use leftover kasha (use medium or fine) from breakfast

Vegetable oil spray
2 cups finely chopped onions
1 and 1/2 cups cooked mashed potatoes
3 cups cooked kasha
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Spray 10-inch skillet with vegetable oil and sauté onions until soft. Stir in potatoes, kasha, and pepper. Mix well. Allow to cool. Use as stuffing for pasta, vegetables, and potatoes.

Hint: This stuffing freezes well. For more information on kasha, see the November/December 1996 issue of Vegetarian Journal.

Total calories per serving: 161
Fat: 1 gram


Apple Upside-Down Pie

(Makes one 9-inch pie)

The surprise is on the bottom!

3 cups sliced, cooked apples
1/2 cup rice syrup (or other liquid sweetener)
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup crushed ready-to-eat cereal flakes
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon orange zest
1/8 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Cereal Pie Crust (see above)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place apples and syrup in a heavy skillet and saute , stirring constantly. While apples are sauteing, mix together walnuts, cereal, cinnamon, and zests. When apples are soft and golden, alternate layers of apples and cereal into the pie shell, ending with cereal. Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly. Allow to cool and invert pie onto a large plate. Cut into slices and serve.

Total calories per serving (1/8 of pie): 189
Fat: 6 grams


Steamed Oatmeal Date Pudding

(Serves 6)

This is a "throw together" dessert or snack, easy to make, great to eat.

1 cup finely chopped dates
1 cup regular oats (slow cooking)
1/2 cup molasses (or other liquid sweetener)
1/4 cup soy or rice milk
1/8 cup water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

Mix all ingredients together and place into 2-quart mold or baking dish. Steam for three hours. Serve with a fruit sauce or topped with raisins.

Hint: Steam on top of the stove if you have a steamer, or steam in the oven by pouring batter into a well-sealed container and placing in a pan of water. Be sure to check periodically and make sure that there is water in the pan.

Total calories per serving: 205

Fat: 1 gram


Excerpts from the May/June Issue:


The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine. Anyone wanting to see everything should subscribe to the magazine.

This article was converted to HTML by Jeanie Freeman



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