Oatmeal epiphanies: Gluten-free and pod-ready

08/26/2014 11:57 AM

08/26/2014 11:59 AM

Mr. Tidbit is astonished to announce two (count ’em) breakthroughs in oatmeal. One oatmeal breakthrough per lifetime is all that a reasonable person has any right to expect.

Mr. Tidbit must acknowledge that he may have anticipated the first breakthrough a few weeks ago, in connection with Chobani Oats (Greek yogurt with oats). He noted that Chobani claims to use oats that are “carefully selected gluten-free.”

At the time, he didn’t go into what that “selection” process might involve, but here’s the deal with oats, as he understands it: Oats are naturally gluten-free, and would be fine for almost anyone, including folks avoiding gluten and even those who have celiac disease, the exception being those few who don’t tolerate an oat protein called avenin.

The problem is that oats are often processed in the same facilities that handle wheat, barley and rye, all of which contain gluten. Thus oats are often contaminated with gluten. (Oats simply grown next to a wheat field can contain enough gluten to be a problem.)

So, anyway, it’s possible to take enough care in growing and handling oats to make them gluten-free. Chobani says its yogurt has gluten-free oats. And outfits such as Bob’s Red Mill offer bags of gluten-free oats.

That’s not good enough? Well, Country Choice Organic, an Eden Prairie firm that already sells organic oats, now offers organic gluten-free oats, both old-fashioned and steel-cut, at prices it says are similar to regular gluten-free oats.

As breakthroughs go, that one might seem a little low-impact. But Mr. Tidbit thinks one will make you sit up and take notice: General Mills announces “the first-ever premium food product for Keurig Home Brewing Systems — Nature Valley Bistro Cups Oatmeal.” Two flavors: Apple Cinnamon Almond and Brown Sugar Pecan. Suggested price is $5.99 for a three-pack.

You pour the envelopes of oatmeal and mix-ins (apples, pecans, whatever) into your mug, put the Bistro Cups pod into the machine (it contains the flavorings — cinnamon, brown sugar, etc. — which could have been included in the envelopes, but then there’d be nothing in the pod), and press the 6-ounce-brew setting. There you go (after a pause to heat the water): A $2 cup of instant oatmeal!

Mr. Tidbit is a weekly feature that examines new grocery products.

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