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Sure, you can make a fast breakfast with quick or rolled oats, but for the most delicious oatmeal, you need steel-cut. What's the difference? All oat varieties start as whole kernels, called groats. These have a chewy texture and nutty flavor and make a good substitute for barley in soups, grain salads and pilafs. Steel-cut (also known as Scottish or Irish) oats are made by slicing groats. Rolled (old-fashioned) oats are groats that have been steamed, then flattened by large rollers. Quick-cooking oats are cut up before they're steamed, then rolled into thin flakes. Oat bran is the outer layer of the groat, and a nutritional powerhouse. (For more on its health benefits, see below.) 

beauty of oats
"Growing up in Minnesota, I often started the day with oatmeal. Cold cereal was unthinkable when it was freezing outside," says Ellen Davies, the creative director and co-owner of Davies Gate, explaining why her company included Oat Paste Cleanser ($23) in its new Seeds & Grains skin-care line. "I wanted this product to be as soothing as the oatmeal I remember from childhood," she adds. The cleanser, one of the line's best-sellers, is filled with ingredients often found in a bowl of hot cereal, like oats, honey and yogurt. Oats exfoliate and soothe skin, while honey and yogurt moisturize. Other Davies Gate products--Whole Wheat Body Lotion, with moisturizing wheat-germ oil ($28); Rye Water Toner, with astringent rye-seed extract ($23)--also use familiar ingredients in unusual ways. As mom always said, breakfast is the most important meal of the day (888-398-9887). 

--Leesa Suzman 

oats & health
As a health food, oats are powerful medicine: One study has shown that adding a half cup of oat bran (the amount in about 31Ž2 cups of cooked oatmeal--rolled, steel-cut or quick-cooking) to one's daily diet may reduce LDLs (bad cholesterol) by as much as a quarter. Oats also help reduce the risk of certain cancers and are a good source of B vitamins and iron. High in complex arbohydrates, oats are also a feel-good ingredient, raising mood-lifting serotonin levels in the brain and decreasing food cravings. 

muesli love
David Colman, a writer and F&W contributor, has had a sweet tooth his whole life. A friend swore by muesli for satisfying sugar cravings in a healthy way, and now Colman keeps a big bowl of this al dente version in the fridge. "Do not try to circumvent the soaking time by cooking," he says. "Cooking will destroy the oats' firm, nutty texture." In a heatproof bowl, mix 2 cups of steel-cut oats with 3 cups of boiling water. Cover and let stand for 1 hour. Stir in 1 cup of mixed raisins and dried cherries and cranberries and refrigerate overnight or up to a week. Stir in 1/2 cup of chopped toasted pecans and 2 tablespoons of light brown sugar. To serve, add 1/2 cup of muesli and 1/2 cup of milk to each bowl. 8 servings. One serving Calories 340 kcal, Total Fat 11.4 gm, Saturated Fat 2.9 gm 

Published February 2002
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