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.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.
In a few short weeks, we're headed to New York, Vermont and New Jersey to visit family and see my sister Zoe get married. In starting to think through the trip and do a little planning, I found Oliver the cutest tiny-person dress shoes I've ever seen (and he's quite smitten with them), sussed out childcare options for the night of the wedding, and found what feels like the most expensive (and last) rental car in the state of New Jersey. I try very hard not to be one of Those People that begins lamenting the loss of a season before it's remotely appropriate to do so, but this year, as we'll be gone much of September, I've felt a bit of a 'hurry, make all the summery things!' feeling set in. So we've been managing increasingly busy days punctuated with zucchini noodle salads, gazpacho, corn on the cob and homemade popsicles (preferably eaten shirtless outside followed by a good, solid sprinkler run for one small person in particular. Not naming any names).
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
A triple berry summer crisp made with oats, quinoa flakes and hazelnuts. Summer in a skillet.
I had a weak moment on our honeymoon in Italy when I decided that I should be making gelato for a living. My enthusiasm for Italian gelato wasn't surprising to anyone. I'd done extensive research, made lists, had Sam map out cities in terms of where the best gelaterias were. I took notes and photos and hemmed and hawed over flavor choices: Sicilian Pistachio! Chestnut Honey! Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig! In truth, on that particular trip, I cared far more about treats, sunshine, and cobblestone walks than I cared about famous landmarks or tourist attractions, often leaving the camera back at the hotel in favor of my small black notebook which housed detailed jottings on dessert discoveries in each city we visited. Our friends Matteo and Jessica happened to be in Naples on the one night we were there, and we all went out for pizza together followed by a long stroll around the city. At some point the conversation turned to gelato (as it's bound to) and Matteo brought up the famous school in Bologna where many renowned gelato artisans study. My wheels were spinning. Maybe we should visit Bologna. I should see this school! I should talk to these students! I could make Sicilian Pistachio; Chestnut Honey; and Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig each and every day of our lives. Or at the very least, travel to Bologna to learn how and then come back to Seattle to take our Northwest city by storm. Well here we are six months later, back to reality, and the impetus to pack up my bags and head for Bologna has subsided for the time being ... but not the unwavering gusto to sample. That part will always be with me. It's been awhile since I mixed up a batch of ice cream at home, but the other day a beautiful new cookbook landed on my doorstep and I flipped right to a recipe for dark chocolate sorbet with toasty, salty almonds. I didn't need much convincing.