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.
The Thanksgiving Table
Today is a different kind of day. Usually posts on this blog come about with the narrative and I manage to squeeze in a recipe. But sometimes when you really stumble upon a winning recipe, it speaks for itself. We'll likely make these beans for Thanksgiving this year. They're one of those simple stunners that you initially think couldn't be much of a thing. And then they come out of the oven all sweet and withered and flecked with herbs. You try one and you realize they are, in fact, a pretty big thing.
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
It has begun. Talk of who is bringing what, where we'll buy the turkey, what kind of pies I'll make, early morning texts concerning brussels sprouts. There's no getting around it: Thanksgiving is on its way. And with it comes the inevitable reflecting back and thinking about what we're thankful for. And about traditions. The funny thing about traditions is that they exist because they've been around for a long time. Year after year after year. But then, one Thanksgiving maybe there's something new at the table.
I didn't expect green beans to bring up such a great discussion on traditions, sharing of poems and how a piece of writing can linger with you. So thank you for that. Your comments pointed out how important people and place are and how food takes the back seat when it comes right down to it. Even if you feel quite warm towards Thanksgiving and are looking forward to next week, reading about recipe suggestions and meal planning online and in magazines can start to feel tiresome right about now. Why? Because I suppose when it all comes down to it, in the big picture it doesn't matter what we all serve anyway. Next year, you likely won't remember one year's vegetable side dish from another. What you'll remember are the markers that dotted the year for you: whom you sat next to at the table, a toast or grace, and the sense of gratitude you felt for something -- large or small.
I got a text from my mom the other day that read: demerara sugar? I responded back with a question mark, not sure what she was referencing. It turns out she was experimenting with a new pie recipe that called for the natural sugar and wasn't sure why she couldn't just use white sugar as that's what she's always done in the past. A few days later we talked on the phone and she mentioned she'd let me take charge of the salad for Thanksgiving this year as long as there was no kale. No kale! And I wanted to do the mashed potatoes? Would they still be made with butter and milk? In short, we're always willing to mix things up in the Gordon household. Whether it's inspiration from a food magazine, friend or coworker, either my mom or one of my sisters will often have an idea for something new to try at the holiday table. But what I've slowly learned is that it can't really be that different: there must be pumpkin pie, the can of cranberry sauce is necessary even though not many people actually eat it, the onion casserole is non-negotiable, the salad can't be too out there, and the potatoes must be made with ample butter and milk. And while I was really scheming up an epic kale salad to make this year, there's a big part of me that gets it, too: if we change things too much we won't recognize the part of the day that comes to mean so much: the pure recognition. We take comfort in traditions because we recognize them -- because they're always there, year after year. And so today I present to you (mom, are you reading?): this year's Gordon family Thanksgiving salad.