I intended on baking holiday cookies to share with you today, but when I sat down to brainstorm all I could think about, truly, was the morning porridge I’ve been making and how that’s really what I wanted to send you away with. The holiday season always seems to zoom on by at its own clip with little regard for how most of us wish it would just slow down, and this year feels like no exception. We got our tree last week and I’ve been making a point to sit in the living room and admire the twinkle as much as possible. I have lofty goals of snowflakes and gingerbread men and stringing cranberries and popcorn, but I’m also trying to get comfortable with the fact that everything may not get done, and that sitting amongst the twinkle is really the most important. That and a warm breakfast before the day spins into gear. This multi-grain porridge has proved to be a saving grace on busy weekday mornings, and it reheats beautifully so I’ve been making a big pot and bringing it to work with some extra chopped almonds and fresh pomegranate seeds. While cookies are certainly on the horizon, I think I’ll have this recipe to thank for getting us through the busy days ahead.
We had a bit of a fluke snowstorm in Seattle a few weeks ago, and it took everything I had not to race in at 6 a.m. to wake Sam up to tell him (I always get up far before he does). Instead, I puttered about taking photographs of our backyard and sending exclamatory texts to family members, and experimenting with this porridge recipe. By the time Sam woke up, we had something good on our hands.
If you have my book Whole Grain Mornings or you’ve made the oatmeal recipe that many have posted about, you know that I have some tricks up my sleeve when it comes to dressing up a humble bowl of oatmeal. The first (and perhaps most important) is toasting the oats in a bit of butter before you get anything else started. This draws out their natural nutty flavor, and has the added bonus of making the house smell pretty dreamy. In addition to oats, this porridge relies on two other grains: quinoa, and buckwheat groats — and I toast the whole blend in a bit of butter before cooking it down in almond milk and citrus zest and topping it with chopped toasted almonds and juicy pomegranate seeds. There is ground flax seed for an extra boost of nutrition and a drizzle of honey to bring the whole thing together. It’s vibrant and nourishing and — in my humble opinion — feels much more special than the effort it warrants to pull it together.
If you’re not familiar with buckwheat groats, they’re a naturally gluten-free grain (sometimes called kasha) with a charming triangular shape and a mild, earthy flavor. Sam introduced me to them (he ate a lot of them when he lived in Poland); I use the flour a lot when baking, but I’ve come to love the whole grains for porridges and whole grain salads. Bob’s Red Mill stocks buckwheat, as do many natural foods stores in their bulk bins.
In addition to porridge, I wanted to leave you with a few links today in case you’re in the throws of gift-searching. I’ve come across some inspired gift guides and edible gift recipes that I’m excited about this year, and if you’re on Pinterest, I created a festive board where I’ve been pinning seasonal inspiration if you want to come and follow along:
Have you come across Tim’s epic gift guide’s yet? They make me chuckle out loud, and his finds are always top-notch.
I’d like one of everything in Heidi’s shop (the honey’s alone are worth a peek!)
My friend Olaiya’s chestnut jam would make a fine, fine homemade gift this year (she gave me some this weekend and it’s been taking everything I have not to eat it, simply, by the spoonful).
Ashley’s Salted Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix is taking the world by storm. Truly.
If I may, Marge Granola has a pretty handsome Holiday Gift Box this year with our popular Original flavor as well as our seasonal exclusive flavor, Cherry Vanilla Almond. They’ve been hard for us to keep in stock, but I know we’d love to send one your way …
Speaking of granola, did you all see this Gingerbread Granola recipe? Perfect for edible, homemade gifting ….
If you measure out everything the night before and have it on the counter, this can be a pretty doable weekday recipe if you find yourself with 25 minutes or so to spare in the morning. And it reheats beautifully, so feel free to double the recipe if you’d like — I always add a little extra almond milk (or liquid) when reheating to loosen it up, and I love to top it with fresh fruit and freshly toasted nuts if possible.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the grains and toast over medium heat, stirring occasionally until they begin to smell fragrant and nutty, 5-7 minutes.
In a large heavy-bottomed pot, bring the almond milk, water, salt, and cinnamon to a slow boil over medium heat. Add the toasted grains and gently stir to incorporate them into the liquid. Simmer the porridge uncovered, stirring every now and then to avoid sticking, until just tender, about 20-25 minutes. Stir in the ground flax seeds and orange zest.
To serve, warm a bit of extra almond milk on the stovetop (or in the microwave). Portion out the porridge into serving bowls; top with almonds, pomegranate seeds, a drizzle of honey and hot almond milk.
Winter Comfort Food
I intended on baking holiday cookies to share with you today, but when I sat down to brainstorm all I could think about, truly, was the morning porridge I've been making and how that's really what I wanted to send you away with. The holiday season always seems to zoom on by at its own clip with little regard for how most of us wish it would just slow down, and this year feels like no exception. We got our tree last week and I've been making a point to sit in the living room and admire the twinkle as much as possible. I have lofty goals of snowflakes and gingerbread men and stringing cranberries and popcorn, but I'm also trying to get comfortable with the fact that everything may not get done, and that sitting amongst the twinkle is really the most important. That and a warm breakfast before the day spins into gear. This multi-grain porridge has proved to be a saving grace on busy weekday mornings, and it reheats beautifully so I've been making a big pot and bringing it to work with some extra chopped almonds and fresh pomegranate seeds. While cookies are certainly on the horizon, I think I'll have this recipe to thank for getting us through the busy days ahead.
We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine). Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).
If I asked you about what you like to cook at home when the week gets busy, I'm willing to bet it might be something simple. While there are countless websites and blogs and innumerable resources to find any kind of recipe we may crave, it's often the simple, repetitive dishes that we've either grown up with or come to love that call to us when cooking (or life in general) seems overwhelming or when we're feeling depleted. While my go-to is typically breakfast burritos or whole grain bowls, this Curried Cauliflower Couscous with Chickpeas and Chard would make one very fine, very doable house meal on rotation. The adaptations are endless, and its made from largely pantry ingredients. I never thought I'd hop on the cauliflower "rice" bandwagon, but I have to say after making it a few times, I get the hype.
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
We recently had our favorite day of married life yet. When I tell you what it consisted of, you may worry or chuckle. Sundays used to be sacred in our house in the sense that it was our one day off together. We'd often read the paper, get a slice of quiche at Cafe Besalu, or take walks around Greenlake or Discovery Park. But now Sundays are generally when I work the farmers market for Marge Granola, and Sam helps me set up and take down each week, so they've taken on a very different feel, one more of work than leisure. So a few months ago, after mildly panicking that we no longer had any routines or days off, we reclaimed Saturdays as 'the new Sunday' and last weekend set the bar pretty high. The day began really cold: in the high 20's and graduated, eventually, to the 30's. We decided it'd be nice to just stay inside; Sam had a little work to do and some letters to write. He had a few articles he'd been wanting to read. And I'd been thinking about this lasagna recipe, so I puttered around the kitchen roasting squash and slicing garlic. The afternoon ticked on slowly. Sam made us baked eggs for a late lunch and I tried unsuccessfully to nap. I think it was the calmest we'd both felt in a long time. I'm lucky to have found a man who loves spending time at home as much as I do. While we both love going out to see friends, traveling, and having people over to our place, we also gain the most, I'd say, by doing simple things around the house -- straightening up, making a meal. organizing records or books or photos. Especially in this season of cold temperatures and early-darkening skies, it's what I crave the most. And last Saturday closed in the best of ways: we opened a bottle of "wedding wine" (thanks to my neurosis and fear we'd run out, we over-ordered wine when planning for our wedding) and dug into generous slices of this very special vegetarian lasagna, a hearty layered affair with caramelized onions, a sage-flecked tofu ricotta and a simple, savory butternut squash purée.