Fuel Up For Winter Sports

Chocolate Oat Breakfast Sundae

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

I don’t typically make much of breakfast, but there’s nothing like a series of snow storms to work up an appetite for a hearty start to the morning. An upcoming snow shoe adventure got me cooking.

Warm oatmeal is a winter classic. Chocolate, berries and nuts make it even better. Steel cut oats are a “slow carb” (1) they are digested slower than more refined carbohydrates, so they give you sustained energy – just what you need to fuel a couple of hours of activity.

I love the nubby texture of steel cut oats, but they do require cooking, unlike rolled oats which may be soaked to make “overnight oats” or eaten raw in muesli (2). Make them a day ahead and you have an “instant” breakfast – good warm or cool trailside or in the office.

The soluble fiber in oats, beta glucans, help control blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels – valuable benefits that keep people looking for creative ways to serve oats (3). Our love for chocolate inspires the search for its health benefits, too. Research continues to examine how chocolate, rich in phytonutrients, helps promote a healthy vascular system – the heart and brain (4,5). Processing chocolate reduces the activity of some of the phytonutrients and adding sugars, and fats to make candy and baked treats mitigates the benefits. This recipe uses chocolate in a simple form, unsweetened natural cocoa powder, which has more potentially health-promoting phytochemicals than alkalized (Dutch or European) cocoa powder.

I took inspiration from the recipe “Nutty Chocolate Oatmeal” in Melissa Clark’s Comfort in an Instant cookbook. Tasty, nutrient-rich toppings are essential. Greek yogurt boosts the total protein content to 20 grams per serving – my target for a morning meal. With the other topping suggestions, this breakfast is a good source of calcium, iron, potassium and dietary fiber. Dried fruit adds chewiness and nuts deliver crunch. Walnuts are rich in plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, another heart-loving food (6).

Chocolate Steel Cut Oats with Yogurt Fruits and Nuts
It takes about 20 minutes to cook these oats  on the stove – or pressure cook them in a multicooker, considering the time to come to pressure, cook and release pressure. For a double oat experience, use oat milk for part of the cooking liquid. Personalize the topping to your taste. Make a heartier meal by swirling in a tablespoon or two of nut butter.

Yield: 4 (3/4 cup) servings

1 cup steel cut oats
2 cups water
1 cup milk of your choice (1% low-fat dairy milk, oat or another plant-based milk)
2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons honey, brown sugar or other sweetener, more to taste

To serve:
1 1/2 cups nonfat, unflavored Greek yogurt
1 1/3 cups sliced banana
1 1/3 cups sliced strawberries or whole raspberries (fresh or frozen)
¼ cup dried fruit such as cherries, apricots or figs
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts

1. Optional oat toasting step: Place oats in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir for a couple of minutes, until fragrant and toasted.
2. Whisk in water, milk, cocoa powder and salt until no lumps of cocoa remain. Bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover partially (leave lid slightly ajar to prevent a boil-over) and simmer gently for 20 minutes or until oats are tender. Stir in vanilla and honey.
3. Serve warm, or cool, transfer to a covered container and chill until ready to serve. (Reheat one or more portions, as desired.)
4. To serve, place oats in a serving dish. Top each serving with 1/2 cup yogurt, 1/3 cup sliced bananas, 1/3 cup sliced strawberries or whole raspberries, 1 tablespoon chopped dried fruit and 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts.

Multicooker Pressure Cooking: Place the oats in the pot of the multicooker. If you want to toast the oats before cooking, heat them on the sauté setting, stirring often for a couple of minutes, until fragrant and toasted. Turn off cooker. Add water, milk, cocoa and salt. Whisk until no lumps of cocoa remain. Place lid on pot, lock, close pressure release valve and cook on high pressure setting for 5 minutes. Turn off cooker. Let pressure release naturally for 15 minutes. Manually release remaining pressure. Carefully remove lid. Stir in vanilla and honey.

Approximate nutritional content of one serving with suggested toppings and using 1% milk: 20 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat, 65 grams of carbohydrate, 24 grams of sugar (7 grams added sugar) 4 grams of dietary fiber, 70 milligrams of sodium and 410 calories. It is a good source of calcium, iron, potassium and dietary fiber.

1. You don’t have to go no carb – instead think slow carb. NPR January 21, 2019.

2. What are the benefits of steel cut oats? Bob’s Red Mill. https://www.bobsredmill.com/blog/healthy-living/what-are-the-benefits-of-steel-cut-oats/

3. Betting on Beta-Glucans by Denise Webb, PhD, RD. Today’s Dietitian Vol. 16 No. 5 P. 16 https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/050114p16.shtml

4. Cocoa for pleasure and health. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/02/cocoa-for-pleasure-and-health/

5. Should You Show Your Love with (Chocolate) Flavonoids?, Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter. February 2019 Volume 16. No. 12.

6. What are the health benefits of walnuts? Megan Ware RDN LD. Medical News Today. Tue 10 July 2018 https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/309834.php

© Lorelle Del Matto 2019


lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.

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