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.
Healthy Comfort Food
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.
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)