A food that is a classic breakfast staple to some may seem more like an abomination to others. I’m talking about oatmeal. Few other foods evoke such colorful discussions among people. Some people love it all year round, but for others it is more of a fall and winter delicacy. Some people would never choose this hot cereal because of the texture, the look, the flavor or just about anything else you can think of.

In reality, however, there are so many ways to eat oatmeal without actually eating oatmeal. Oatmeal is the perfect ingredient in recipes for desserts and breakfast foods alike. Apple or peach “fruit crisp” desserts, energy bites and smoothies are just a few of my favorites.

But wait, what’s the big push about oatmeal? Oatmeal raisin cookies always seemed like a poor excuse for chocolate chip cookies to me, so why are we trying to sneak it into all these other foods?

Oatmeal gets an A+ nutritionally, even though most people wouldn’t stand up for it in a crowd. First of all, oatmeal is a whole grain food. You may have heard the recommendation “make half your grains whole." Incorporating oatmeal into your diet, even discreetly, is a great way to increase your consumption of whole grains.

A half cup serving of uncooked oatmeal also provides four grams of fiber, and we all know the rest of that story. According to a study from the University of Kentucky, oatmeal’s benefits for heart health might even be greater than originally anticipated. Consumption of oatmeal is a great way to improve your cholesterol and blood lipids.

If you are willing to resurrect the oatmeal from the back of your kitchen cabinets, give it another chance! A little "Pinterest-ing" inspired me to put my own spin on these fun recipe ideas.

The great news is that there are several ingredients shared among the recipes, meaning that you can easily try several with only one grocery run. Another benefit is the accompanying ingredients: fresh fruits, nuts and spices are all healthy as well! Try oatmeal the alternative way and you may find that something great has been in your pantry all this time!

Baked Apples with Crispy Oats

Ingredients:

3 apples, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons white sugar

2 tablespoons flour

Topping:

1 cup quick oats

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Mix ingredients in a large bowl and pour into a 9” baking dish. Combine topping ingredients in a second bowl and sprinkle evenly over top. Bake at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes or until apples are soft and topping is golden.

Banana bOAT Smoothie:

1 ripe banana (fresh or frozen)

1 cup ice

2 tablespoons vanilla Greek yogurt

1/3 cup cooked oatmeal

2 tablespoons almonds

1 teaspoon honey

2 tablespoons skim milk

Add all ingredients to a blender. Put in the ice last and blend until smooth.

Peanut Butter Oat Bites:

1 ½ cup old fashioned oats

½ cup peanut butter

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup chocolate chips

1/3 cup dried cranberries

Stir together ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and chill for 30 minutes. Using hands, form into balls and store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.