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Article updated: 11/28/2012 9:34 AM

Oats for breakfast and dinner; get tickets to a Q&A with Rachael Ray

By Deborah Pankey

I'm one of those people who will eat oatmeal for breakfast in July, but I know plenty of people who wait until the temps dip below freezing to dig into a steamy bowl of creamy oats.

If this snap of cold, windy weather has you planning to work oats into your daily menus, here are some things to consider:

First, if you haven't tried them, cook up a pot of steel-cut oats. Steel-cut oats, also called pinhead, are groats (the oat grain with the outer husk removed) that have been sliced one or two times. Rolled or old-fashioned oats, on the other hand, are groats that have been softened by steam and flattened on a roller (hence the name). I was worried that my picky eater would shun them because of their more sturdy texture, but he happily dug right in.

Steel-cut oats take longer to cook than the microwave-ready flakes we're so used to. You can soak them in hot water over night to shorten cooking time in the morning or put them in a slow-cooker at bedtime and wake up to a hot breakfast.

If you're looking for a way to spice up your morning bowl, consider these suggestions from the Irish Food Board.

Ÿ Add chopped fresh apple or pear to the oatmeal three to five minutes before cooking is complete; the fruit will be cooked and ready to eat.

Ÿ Stir in canned pumpkin or chunky applesauce (and some pumpkin or apple pie spice if you like) at the end of cooking; heat through.

Ÿ Add a favorite dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries, cherries, chopped prunes, apricots, apple, pineapple, mango (or a combination) two to three minutes before cooking is complete to blend with the oatmeal and soften the fruit.

Yet oats aren't just for breakfast. John Brown's Trout in Oatmeal (provided by Flahavan's Irish Oatmeal) is a quick dinner that can use any white fish fillet.

Simply season four fillets with salt and pepper and set aside for 30 minutes. When ready to cook, pat the fish dry and dip into a shallow bowl of milk (about 2 ounces), then into another shallow bowl of rolled oats, pressing lightly so the oats stick. Heat 1 tablespoon each butter and oil in a fry pan until foamy, and fry fish on both sides until golden brown. Serve hot with lemon wedges.

Party Hearty: Steve McDonagh and Dan Smith, aka "The Hearty Boys," will share recipes from and sign copies of their new book, "The New Old Bar: Classic Cocktails and Salty Snacks," at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5, at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville.

The pair rocketed to fame after winning the first season of "The Next Food Network Star" and now run a popular Chicago restaurant and catering business. I still turn to their 2007 cookbook "Talk With Your Mouth Full" for party recipes. And by the photos I've seen on their Facebook page, this new book will be another keeper.

Anderson's Bookshop is at 111 W. Jefferson Ave. in Naperville. (630) 355-2665.

Rising to the occasion: Got a passion for baking? Have a signature scone or specialty cupcake that your friends and family can't get enough of?

CBS is looking for bakers for a new culinary competition based on the UK hit "The Great British Bake Off" and is holding an open casting call Saturday, Dec. 8, in Chicago.

If you think you have what it takes to "whip" the competition, sign up at cbs.com/bakingshow. The Chicago auditions will be held between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. at Kendall College, 900 N. North Branch St.

Rachael Ray in Naperville: Tickets are available for a special event with Food Network celeb and daytime diva Rachael Ray.

Ray comes to town at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14, to share stories, tips and recipes from her new cookbook, "My Year in Meals." Purchase a pre-signed copy of the book at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville to receive your admission for one to the program and the Q-AND-A session that will be held at Naperville North High School, 899 N. Mill St. Questions? Call Anderson's at (630)-355-2665.

Ÿ Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at dpankey@dailyherald.com or (847) 427-4524. Be her friend at Facebook.com/DebPankey.DailyHerald or follow her on Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest @PankeysPlate.

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