When did the mornings get so cold? As soon as I sleepily clamber out of the sheets, I’m fast tracking to the tea kettle lately. The days are still quite warm, but I’ve been feeling hot breakfasts in the early, brisk hours before the sun peeks out over all of the pretty trees and buildings. I love a big bowl of whole grain porridge once the deep fall sets in, lightly spiced and still a bit chewy with a heavy drizzle of maple syrup. It’s steamy-warm, filling and wholesome.
Truth bomb: I don’t exactly love standing over the stove, endlessly stirring oats for 20 minutes on a work or school day. It makes me stress-y because I know there’s probably a million other things I should be doing besides lingering over the pot. Sunday morning in my jams with some tea and my man? That’s a whole other (wonderful, dreamy, cozy etc) thing. I needed a plan-ahead strategy that could make this healthy porridge work for my every day.
This recipe features raw buckwheat and quinoa in addition to the more typical steel-cut oats. They lighten up the mix and provide a lot of nice texture and flavour variation. I toast the grains in a bit of extra virgin coconut oil and warming spices before adding hot almond milk. It has a bit of an indulgent chai tea and rice pudding effect. The final, teeny addition of some vanilla extract seals the deal. Also, I’ll show you how to make it so that you can have wholesome hot cereal from scratch all week without 20 minutes of stirring and ravenous waiting. Neat, huh?
chai spiced multigrain porridge
notes: Toasting the grains in the warmed spices and oil makes this porridge so delicious. Also feel free to use all oats if you like, the amount of liquid would stay the same. All quinoa or buckwheat? Use double the amount of liquid (ie 1 cup grain: 2 cups liquid).
1 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil (or butter, other oil etc) + a bit extra
2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 cups steel cut oats
1/2 cup raw buckwheat groats (not kasha, these are light green and not toasted)
1/2 cup quinoa, soaked and rinsed
3 cups boiling water
3 cups milk of your choice (I’ll usually reach for almond or hemp), warmed to a simmer
heaped 1/4 cup dried currants (or other dried fruit)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish with some of the coconut oil. Set aside.
Heat the remaining coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cloves. Stir the spices around in the oil until fragrant and not so raw-smelling, about 3-4 minutes.
Add the oats, quinoa and buckwheat to the oil and spices. Stir the grains around in the pot, evenly coating all of the grains and toasting them up a bit. You should be able to smell the oats getting a bit nuttier. Keep stirring and toasting for about 4 minutes.
Add the boiling water slowly and give the mix a good stir. Scrape the bottom of the pot if necessary
Once the grains have absorbed a good amount of the water, start adding the hot milk in 3/4-1 cup increments. Once the milk gets to a simmer, I usually just put it on low and leave it to the side of the porridge pot, slowly adding it in as the grains absorb the liquid. Keep stirring the porridge frequently.
Once the porridge has absorbed all of the milk and the grains are cooked to your liking, add the currants and vanilla. Stir to combine. Scrape the mixture into the greased 9 x 13 baking dish and smooth it out. Let cool at room temperature for about an hour. Cover and cool in the refrigerator completely. Once cooled, cut into 10 even portions.
To serve: remove one serving of the porridge from the dish and place in a small sauce pan with a heavy splash of milk or water over medium heat. Start breaking up the porridge with the back of a wooden spoon until it returns to its original consistency. Stir until mix is uniform and hot, about 2 minutes. Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup and fruit/chopped nuts/whatever you like. Alternatively, you could sweeten the actual porridge in the pot as it’s heating up.
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I was lingering over this recipe for concord grape sorbet and seriously thinking about making it. There’s a heaping basket of coronation (similar to concord) grapes in my fridge. The early crops are conveniently seedless and still have a bit of a tartness to them. The skins are a little bitter and sort of winey, while the grapes themselves are so undeniably grape-y, like the platonic ideal of grape-ness. I really, really love them.
So I wanted to make this sorbet into something special. Then I started thinking about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, my childhood lunchbox favourite hands down (on squishy, mysteriously dissolvable bread no less). The time to enjoy ice cream sandwiches is wrapping up so I thought I’d make some soft peanut butter cookies, lay the super grape-y sorbet in there and voila! Brilliantly new-fangled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Unlike my childhood lunchbox main of choice, this treat is a little healthy miracle. Whole grain flour (fibre!), natural peanut butter (protein!) and antioxidant packed sorbet (vitamins!) push this sammy a tiny bit closer to the breakfast column. I’ve always found peanut butter cookies a bit too heavy on their own, so the really fresh and slightly acidic sorbet cuts through the richness just right.
peanut butter and jelly frozen treats
sorbet recipe from Raw Food Real World and cookie recipe adapted from Jae Steele’s Get it Ripe
serves: 12 (or you can do what I did: make 6 sandwiches and leave the rest of the cookies and sorbet for solo enjoyment)
special equipment: an ice cream making machine or this method seems perfectly do-able.
notes: almond or sunflower seed butter would be so yummy in these cookies if you have allergies.
4 cups coronation or concord style grapes
1 cup filtered water
1 cup agave nectar
1 cup whole spelt flour
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour (you could do all spelt or whole wheat pastry flour as well)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup natural peanut butter
1 cup maple syrup (or 1 1/4 cups brown sugar, you may have to add more oil if you go this way)
1/3 cup grape seed oil (or olive, sunflower etc)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Make the sorbet: Put all of the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend/process until the skins are visibly finer or have disappeared. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to remove pieces of grape skin, seeds etc.
Place grape mixture into an ice cream machine and follow manufacturer’s instructions or use the previously linked to method. Store in the freezer.
Make the cookies: preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk the flour, baking soda and sea salt in a large bowl (or the bowl of an electric mixer) until combined. Mix in the peanut butter, maple syrup, oil and vanilla until the flour is just barely absorbed.
Drop the dough in heaping tablespoon portions onto parchment lined baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Flatten out with a dampened finger. Bake for 11 minutes, remove and allow to cool on the sheets for a bit. They will seem undercooked, but by the time they cool they’ll have firmed up. Besides, you’re kind of going for a more cakey texture if you’re applying it to the ice cream sandwich thing.
Make the sandwiches: set up a baking tray or large, flat tupperware dish with fresh parchment. Remove sorbet from freezer and allow it to soften up a bit. Place a teeny bit less than a standard ice cream scoop sized amount of sorbet on one cookie and smoosh it down with a spoon. Place another cookie on top. Repeat with remaining cookies and sorbet. Place finished sandwiches on baking sheet and freeze until they set up. remove from the freezer five minutes before serving.
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I’m not a regular coffee drinker. A piping hot cup of earl grey is my drink of choice for most mornings: not too much caffeine, lively flavour and I don’t feel so jittery/panicky/weird after a giant cup of it. If it’s my day off however, I’m having coffee. I’m going to my local purveyor with purpose to drink a steamy, espresso-based beverage, guaranteed. I like the ritual and comfort aspects involved and it feels sort of, I don’t know… celebratory. I like it.
Coffee in a dessert is a no brainer though. I’ll always reply in the affirmative if offered a treat with the quasi-forbidden substance as its star ingredient. This pudding is a vegan version of one posted here. Coconut milk stands in for cream pretty well (in the actual pudding and the cream on top) and cornstarch fills in the thickening agent role. I know cornstarch isn’t exactly health superstar material, but there are organic and non-GMO brands available. If Whole Foods sells it, it can’t be that bad, right? (right?!)
I added some raw cacao powder for a slightly bitter, dark chocolate taste. It worked out perfectly, really enhancing the coffee flavour. The pudding isn’t too sweet and has lots of complexity happening. Then you top it off with an airy and rich cap of coconut cream. Is this description starting to sound familiar? If you serve it in clear glasses, it looks adorably similar to the layers of a sweet, little cappuccino.
vegan coffee pudding with coconut cream
adapted from Not Without Salt
notes: Don’t forget the saran on top! Pudding skin = so gross.
1 1/2 cups canned coconut milk (1 can usually covers this, stir it up real good)
1/2 cup brewed espresso or very strong coffee
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder (I used raw, but any type is fine)
1 can coconut milk, chilled overnight
1 1/2 tbsp agave nectar (or sweetener of your choice)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
For the pudding: combine the cornstarch, salt, brown sugar and cocoa powder in a small bowl. Whisk to remove as many lumps as you can. Set aside.
Combine the 1 1/2 cups coconut milk and espresso in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once it reaches a simmer, add the cornstarch mixture and whisk until thoroughly combined. Once mixture reaches a boil, let it go for 1 minute, whisking frequently.
Remove from the heat and pour through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top to prevent a skin from forming. Place in the fridge until completely chilled.
For the coconut cream: open the chilled can of coconut milk. There should be a decent layer of completely solid, butter-esque coconut cream formed on top. Remove this layer with a spoon and place into a medium bowl, being careful not to take up any of the coconut water on the bottom. Beat the coconut cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks form (I’ve heard this works in a food processor as well). This takes about 3-5 minutes. Fold in the agave and vanilla.
To serve: divide the pudding among 6 vessels and top with coconut cream. Add a pinch of cinnamon if you’re fancy.
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I know, more zucchini and tomatoes. Just what you needed, right? The cooler breezes and necessary wooly sweaters at night are hinting at autumn’s arrival (and I’m so, so excited about that), but summer vegetables are still plentiful in the veggie gardens and at farmer’s markets. I would call this tian a transitional dish of sorts. The vegetables are sunny and new, but the slow cooking method makes it hearty and warming.
It’s so impressive looking, while the flavours are comforting and appealing to almost anyone. Also, casually mentioning that it’s a provencal kind of thing will put you into too-cool territory, guaranteed. Most of the work is in the assembly, then you push it into the oven and get on with the rest of your things for an hour or so. It takes a little while, but the results are so worth it. The smell of thyme, garlic and tomatoes bubbling away while some cool, late summer breezes float in is cozy and homey. Maybe you’ll want to eat this outside with some warm barley, greens and a glass of wine (like me!). And maybe you could enjoy it with a warm knobby blanket hanging over your lap, perhaps with someone you like… seriously, I always get sentimental this time of year.
summer vegetable tian
special equipment: A mandoline makes quick work of the zucchini and potatoes, but isn’t necessary.
notes: Sometimes eggplant is featured in this particular dish. If you have some smaller, Japanese eggplant, they would go really well in here. A little parmesan or pecorino grated on top of this would be yummy too.
1 medium onion, cut into thin slices
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
6 sprigs of thyme
1 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
5-6 small new potatoes, sliced into slightly thinner than 1/4 inch thick rounds
7-8 small-medium tomatoes, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a medium saute pan over medium. Add the onions and 3 whole sprigs of thyme. Stir them up or flip them around occasionally until the onions are soft and slightly browned. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant and garlic loses its raw-ness, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, remove mixture from the heat and set aside. Remove any twig-y bits left behind from the thyme sprigs.
Grease a 2 quart baking dish with some of the olive oil. Place the sauteed garlic and onions on the bottom of the dish. Layer the zucchini, potato and tomato slices in the pan in rows or circles, whatever works for you. Arrange them around until the dish is full (there might be leftover slices of vegetables). Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil on top. Remove the leaves from the remaining 3 thyme sprigs and scatter them around the surface. season with salt and pepper and cover with foil.
Bake for half an hour. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes. This would be the point to add some parm or pecorino if you’re feeling that. Once the veggies are all soft and a bit browned on top, it’s ready. Serve immediately.
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I had been dreaming up this combination for awhile. I love spaghetti with pecorino, lemon and lots of black pepper. It hits me just right, time and again. For this salad I wanted to take my much loved trio in a different direction. I’m not sure what it is about summertime, but I go absolutely wild with food. There’s always a) a cold beer, b) an ice cream treat, c) a seasonal fruit baked yum-yum or d) all of the above within arm’s reach. Worthy of note: my ability to resist anything that looks even remotely good is nonexistent. It doesn’t even have to be amazing, seriously.
So grains and vegetables were sounding good to me in a big way. I thought roasted zucchini would play off of the nutty qualities of wild rice beautifully. If you haven’t tried zucchini sliced up and roasted, you’re in for a treat. I can say with reasonable authority that roasting is the best cooking method when handling this particular summer veggie. If you season it up generously, the little browned edges and slightly sweet interiors are gonna blow your mind.
The pecans play their little crunchy, toasty part and teeny flecks of parsley make it fresh. The flavours and textures play off of each other so well. It’s almost like a party in your mouth, but the kind of party where only people you really, really like show up and you’re just having casual drinks in your jean shorts by the pool. Translation: It’s really easy to throw together, perfect for summer and it tastes amazing. Makes sense, no?
wild rice and roasted zucchini salad with pecorino
notes: I know wild rice can be crazy expensive so feel free to substitute half or all of the amount with brown basmati rice or whatever type you’re into. Also, cooking rice is my nemesis so I just approach it like pasta sometimes: lots of salted water and drain when it seems done.
1/2 cup wild rice, rinsed
2 medium zucchinis, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
ground black pepper
1 tsp lemon zest, finely grated
juice from half a lemon
1/4 cup finely grated pecorino romano cheese
1/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
3-4 sprigs of parsley, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cook the rice: in a medium saucepan, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add the rinsed rice and a pinch of salt. Lower heat to a simmer, place lid on top and cook until whites start to emerge from inside the grain and rice is slightly softer (but still a bit toothsome). Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water. Set aside
While rice is cooking, roast the zucchini. Toss slices in 1 tbsp of the olive oil and lots of salt and pepper. Lay the slices out onto a wire rack positioned over a parchment lined baking tray. Place in the oven until edges are browned and interiors are soft, about 20 minutes. Chop into small pieces when cool enough to handle.
Place rice and chopped zucchini in a medium bowl. Add remaining olive oil, lemon zest, juice, cheese, pecans and chopped parsley. Season to taste (I like a lot of black pepper here). Serve immediately or chill and store for later.
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