January is National Oatmeal Month.  Did you know that oats are the most popular grain sold during January?  Because January is a pretty cold time for most of the United States, oatmeal can be the perfect way to start your day!

Oats are a good source of energy, protein, dietary fiber, thiamine, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium.

Health benefits of oats include:
* Healthy heart
* Weight management
* Cholesterol control
* Blood sugar control
* Blood pressure control
* Boost immunity
* Skin protection
* Relief from constipation

In this month's post, I show you how I incorporated oats in my breakfast and snacks.  Check out these yummy recipes below:

Chewy Fruit and Oatmeal Bars
(Adapted from: Teresa Dotson, RD, CDN)

Total time: 40 minutes
Yields 12 servings


Wet ingredients:
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
8 oz plain Greek yogurt
½ cup egg substitute
¼ cup light vanilla almond milk
2 Tbsp vanilla extract
½ cup unsweetened applesauce

Dry ingredients:
1½ cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp ground flaxseed
1 Tbsp baking cocoa

3 cups quick cooking oats
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup dried cherries
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Heat oven to 350℉.
2. In a small bowl, mix all "wet" ingredients together using an electric mixer.
3. In a medium bowl, combine all "dry" ingredients, mix well then combine with wet ingredients and mix well.
4. Stir in "mix-ins".  Consistency will be very thick.
5. Spread dough into a greased or non-stick 9x13-inch baking pan.
6. Bake 28-32 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool completely on wire rack then cut into bars.  Store in an airtight container or freeze.

Oatmeal Carrot Spice Cookies
(From: Kroger Mymagazine.us)

Total time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
Yields 20 cookies

½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
½ tsp baking powder
⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 medium carrot, grated
¼ cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup vegetable or canola oil
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup walnuts, chopped
¼ cup dried cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 350℉.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Combine flour, oats, baking powder, nutmeg, salt, cinnamon, coconut and carrot in a large bowl.
3. In a medium bowl, combine maple syrup, oil, eggs, walnuts and cranberries.  Pour wet mixture into dry; mix until dough forms.  Refrigerate 30 minutes.
4. In heaping tablespoons, place dough onto prepared baking sheet, leaving two inches between cookies.  Bake until cookies begin to brown around edges, 10-12 minutes.
5. Leave on baking sheet until completely cool and firm to the touch.  Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Blueberry Cinnamon Overnight Oats
(Adapted from: General Mills Bell Institute)

Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 8 hours, 5 minutes
Yields 1 serving

⅔ cup plain Greek yogurt
¼ cup light vanilla almond milk
2 Tbsp uncooked old-fashioned oats
3 Tbsp Honey Nut Cheerios
¼ cup + 1 Tbsp fresh blueberries
Pinch of ground cinnamon

1. In container with a tight-fitting lid (e.g., Mason jar), mix yogurt, almond milk and uncooked oats.  Coarsely crush 2 Tbsp of the cereal and stir into mixture.  Stir in ¼ cup of the blueberries.
2. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours (but no longer than 3 days) before eating.
3. Top with remaining 1 Tbsp cereal, 1 Tbsp blueberries and cinnamon just before serving.

Protein Energy Balls
(From: Kroger Mymagazine.us)

Total time: 10 minutes
Yields 20 servings

1½ cups old-fashioned oats
¾ cup cashew butter
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp chia seeds
2 Tbsp ground flax seeds
½ cup mini dark chocolate chips
½ cup dried cranberries

1. In a large bowl, combine oats and cashew butter.
2. Add honey, chia seeds, ground flax seeds, chocolate chips and dried cranberries.  Stir until well combined, and roll into golf ball-sized balls (I used 2 Tbsp per ball).
3. Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated.

Have fun with these tasty dishes!!

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