This post was in partnership with and sponsored by The Quaker Oats Company. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting Chickpea in The City.
About three weeks ago, I had the pleasure of going on an exciting press trip for a brand I’m so fortunate to have worked with this year.
Before I get into it – has anyone ever seen the show where you would watch your favorite childhood products and how they were made from candy to cereals… it was the dream, right? I loved watching the process of how it was boxed in the factory, what ingredients went into it and the stores it was shipped to.
When Quaker asked me to come visit their facility in Cedar Rapids, Iowa at the beginning of November, I had no idea what to expect besides exactly what I listed above. The trip was developed so that we could see how oats go from “Seed to Spoon.” To see the process of how Quaker Oats are milled first hand, along with meeting the people behind the oats, from the oat millers themselves to a Direct Grower (who grows oats for Quaker and traveled from his farm in Canada down to Cedar Rapids just for the trip – how awesome!).
I arrived on Wednesday night with 7 other bloggers ranging from a Holistic chef to a few Registered Dietitians. After meeting one another and arriving to our hotel with personalized goodie bags (including a Quaker branded Moleskin notebook and top that said “I love Oats”), we ventured off down the street for dinner at a local restaurant, Cobble Hill. The restaurant is known for their upscale dining; using seasonal, sustainable and local ingredients in all of their dishes. Before the dinner, it was mentioned to us that each of our menu items that night would include oats in some form or another. Probably my favorite part of that meal.
Due to the fact that they used seasonal and local ingredients, our first dish included apples, our entree included sweet potato and our dessert even included a local housemade yogurt in the form of a small little egg that when tapped, burst in half. It was truly incredible.
Not only were the ingredients fitting to the seasons, but also fitting to our dietary restrictions. From vegetarian to gluten-free and dairy-free, there were plenty of us dining that evening who had a restriction that the chefs so graciously respected. For example, my oat risotto was made with Quaker Quick 1-Minute Gluten Free Oats and no dairy!
Out of all three of the dishes we feasted on, hands down my favorite was this kale salad below. The pecan vinaigrette with tahini, small oat crisp crackers and diced apples tasted so close to something I would make at home. The oat crackers were small and light, which paired perfectly with the massaged kale – and not TOO much dressing! 🙂
Once we finished dessert and drinks, we headed back to our hotel so that we could prepare for the following day of touring the Quaker plant that was conveniently a 5 minute drive away.
For those who have never been to Cedar Rapids, the city primarily revolves around the Quaker plant – which is actually incredible if you think about it. Many of the employees have worked there for over 30 years and their parents, grandparents, etc. have had some role there. Our waitress at Cobble Hill even mentioned her dad has worked there since he was 19! Pretty cool. Another bonus? The whole city smells like oats and cereal. It’s like your very own personal Quaker Oats candle.
The next morning, room service came to each of our rooms to deliver us breakfast in the form of Quaker’s new Overnight Oats. Available in four different flavors: Blueberry, Banana & Vanilla Bliss; Orchard Peach Pecan Perfection; Raisin Walnut & Honey Heaven; and Toasted Coconut & Almond Crunch. I chose the Blueberry, Banana & Vanilla Bliss because I’m a sucker for anything blueberry and they even brought it cold-steeped in almond milk instead of dairy milk.
What I’ve been loving about Quaker’s new Overnight Oats is that you can cold-steep them the night before in whatever milk you prefer and in the morning, they’re ready to go right out of the fridge in their handy little container. No messy measuring cups or forgetting ingredients, it’s all there! From the oats to , flaxseed quinoa and fruit- it’s the ultimate Oat-tastic way to start the day.
After breakfast, we all arrived at the Quaker Oats Cedar Rapids Plant around 10am for our two-hour tour, lunch and group discussion for any questions we had on the manufacturing of the oats, the facility itself, the differences between the oats and more.
When we walked into the main lobby, a huge display case of oats and cereal products caught all of our attentions. Even the walls in the main floor of the plant were lined floor to ceiling with pictures that dated back to over 100 years when the plant was first built. It was incredible to see the history of Quaker from way back when (literally – they are a 140 year old brand) to now – especially having grown up eating Quaker’s oatmeal before school.
Before heading into the plant itself, we had a quick outside walking tour to see the trucks that bring in the oats and the small building in which the oats are heavily inspected to ensure they meet Quaker’s standards before being milled. We also learned that back in 2009, Quaker created the Direct Growers program, which has grown to include more than 400 oat farmers up in Canada, that are committed to growing the highest quality oats.
One interesting point to me that the employees at the plant noted to us was that despite the different textures all of the oats have, from steel cut to quick oats – they all hold the same nutritional value.
The power of the oat itself has more possibilities than we think. The versatility (as evidenced by the dishes I ate at Cobble Hill the previous night), adaptability, affordability and strong nutrient composition of the oats make them one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to get important nutrition. They’re 100% whole grain, a good source of fiber, and low in sugar and sodium. So what can oats NOT do is the real question!?
Once we headed back into the plant itself, we saw the actual tubes of Quaker Oats being produced inside as well. The Cedar Rapids mill is the epicenter of the brand’s oat processing and is powered by state-of-the-art technology which not only helps meet today’s demand for oats but also produces multiple varieties to meet consumers’ evolving dietary needs – like their Quaker Gluten Free Quick 1-Minute Oats.
After touring the plant and getting a behind-the-scenes view of Quaker with other like-minded bloggers and dietitians who care about health and eating wholesome food like myself, I felt extremely lucky to be included on this trip. It’s not everyday that we get to see where our food comes from, to hear about where it’s grown and how it’s produced, so it was an eye-opening experience. Knowing that a large brand like Quaker puts so much energy and care into their products was a comforting feeling to know that the food I consume is being milled in the best way possible.
Now I have a new appreciation for oats and all that they can do for us – and not to mention how versatile they can be. From using them in my oatmeal every morning to blending them into a flour to create baked goods, oats can do no wrong!