Just say ‘no’ to the 9-year-old oatmeal

Myriad factors are at work in the widespread rancidity of many processed foodstuffs, as explained in this week’s A la Carte.

One aspect that I glossed over, perhaps because I’m a frequent offender, is thriftiness. While I don’t buy economy-sized groceries, I do have a keen aversion to throwing foods away. That “grassy, paintlike odor” of rancidity cited in the article? I’m assaulted with it every time I open my bin of whole-grain flour.

I figured it wasn’t exactly good, but the experts quoted in this week’s story spell out exactly why it’s so bad. That’s the smell of free radicals, my friends, ready to play havoc with your body’s operating systems. What’s the point in eating supposedly healthful, whole-grain flours if they’re harbingers of toxins?

Researching this story provided the best justification yet for purchasing my flour by the ounce, rather than by the pound, whenever I have an imminent baking project. Otherwise, I just don’t use enough flour to go through a standard-sized bag in a year’s time.

Nor do I use enough of baking supplies like quick oats. While making a batch of oatmeal cookies a couple of months ago, I could imagine one of my most reliable food sources throwing up her hands in horror when I asked my husband: “Do you want to use the oats from 2003 or the ones from 2005?” Needless to say, 7-year-old oats seemed like the lesser of two evils.

To be fair, the package didn’t indicated the oats had expired, merely the date they were packed. But when there’s no discernible difference between the smell of the cardboard container and the oats themselves, there’s little reward for my thriftiness.

So I tossed those batches and bought a couple of scoops out of my grocery store’s bulk bin. I could use them in the following recipe, courtesy of McClatchy News Service, which would be hands-down fresher and tastier than packaged breakfast bars of any variety or health-oriented marketing.

MCT photo

Breakfast Bars

1⁄2 cup butter, softened

1 1⁄4 cups packed brown sugar

2 eggs

1⁄3 cup molasses

1 3⁄4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups oatmeal

3⁄4 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup raisins, dried cherries or dried cranberries

1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces or chunks (may substitute coconut)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

Combine the butter, sugar, eggs and molasses in a large mixing bowl.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add dry ingredients to moist ingredients and stir to combine.

Stir in the oatmeal, walnuts, dried fruit and chocolate or coconut. Spoon into prepared pan, cover with waxed paper and press to spread mixture evenly into pan. Discard paper.

Bake in preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until done. Cut into bars.

Makes about 16 servings.


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