There are so many traditions associated with the new year -- midnight kisses, shiny New Year's resolutions and, of course, the guilt-laden, mid-January plunge into a pint of Ben and Jerry's. That's what happens when you go draconian on yourself.
But if the healthful hopes of Jan. 1 included such resolutions as "eat a healthy breakfast" and "more whole grains, baby," here's some happy news:
You can have your waffles and eat healthfully, too.
At least you can when you've packed them with toasted oatmeal, buttermilk and a hint of cinnamon.
Packed with antioxidants, high-fiber oatmeal fills you up, warms your soul and makes your heart (and other body parts) happier and healthier. Bake up a batch of berry-laced oatmeal, whip up a bowl of chai-spiced oats or dig into a jar of Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough's Not-Just-Oatmeal Granola, and you'll make your taste buds happy, too.
Health issues first prompted food writers Weinstein and Scarbrough's efforts to incorporate more whole grains into their diets, but they soon discovered the delicious benefits of farro, freekeh, bulgur, oats and groats (the latter, they say, "taste like oatmeal squared.") The beauty of whole grains for breakfast, Scarbrough writes in the duo's new book, "Grain Mains" (Rodale Books, $24.99, 232 pages), is that "lunchtime rolls around without a hunger pang in sight. We can't think of better morning news than that."
Their version of granola pumps up the nutritional volume by augmenting the usual oats with Kamut, wheat and barley flakes -- which can be found in gourmet markets, health-food stores or online -- as well as almonds, wheat germ and nonfat dry milk. The goal, Scarbrough says, is to "grain it up" -- and by "it," he means everything. Mix the crisp, crunchy results with milk for morning cereal, use it to top yogurt parfaits or nibble the granola as a hearty, healthy snack.
Warren Brown, a Washington, D.C. attorney-turned-baker and proprietor of the very popular CakeLove bakeries in the D.C. area, does plenty of decadent sweets, of course, but he calls oatmeal the best way to "make the body feel nourished in all the right ways."
His new breakfast cookbook, "CakeLove in the Morning" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $24.95, 208 pages), offers everything from sticky buns -- decidedly not resolution-fare -- to chocolate pancakes (ditto). But Brown also shares his love for hot, creamy porridge, especially when the flavors are amplified with spices and fruit. He steeps traditional chai spices -- cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and star anise -- in the milk he uses to cook oatmeal in one version, and mixes crystallized ginger, sliced bananas and flaxseeds into another.
As for those toasted oatmeal waffles, they're the creation of San Francisco food writer and pastry chef Dawn Yanagihara, whose new book "Waffles" (Chronicle Books, $16.95, 108 pages) is devoted to everything crisp, golden and pocked with those signature imprints.
Here, rolled oats are toasted first, an idea that a colleague at Cooks Illustrated magazine first came up with a decade ago to add a light nuttiness to your basic porridge. However, Yanagihara takes the concept much farther.
"You make these resolutions, but if the food doesn't taste good, you won't want to eat it," she says. "I love oatmeal. It made sense to do it -- and I knew I needed to bring out the flavor. I pushed the envelope with the toasting to get that nutty, caramelized, butterscotch-y flavor."
Buttermilk is added to the still-warm oatmeal mixture, along with melted butter, eggs, flour and brown sugar, before the batter is baked in a waffle iron, forming a crisp exterior shell for the tender, custardlike interior.
OK, so melted butter and brown sugar aren't exactly health foods. But a toasted-oatmeal waffle is much better for you than ice cream.
Just go easy on the syrup.