Today at The Unlikely Homestead, it is about 40 degrees with a strong wind out of the North. It’s cloudy, thanks to the edges of Hurricane Sandy’s might, and most of the stunning autumn leaves have fallen from the trees, leaving the countryside bare and stark.
This is a difficult transitional time of year for me, going from the radiant beauty of fall to the dingy brown starkness of early winter. Once the snow falls (provided we get any this year,) it will improve things significantly, but for now… it’s dreary. Couple the weather with my best friend moving to England for 5 months this Friday, and we have a recipe for the blues. I’ve been sleeping a lot, and not doing much of anything.
When I start feeling the beginnings of winter, I want to hibernate – curl up into a ball in front of a warm fire, read, and generally stay warm and cozy. It takes every ounce of willpower I have to leave the house (let alone to go to the gym,) and if I don’t pay attention to what I’m eating, I’ll either short myself in nutrients or go way over on sugars or fats (or both!) Many of us seek comfort foods this time of year, perhaps heeding an instinctive draw to put on some winter pounds for the lean months ahead. Our lizard brains haven’t quite caught on to 24-hour grocery stores yet. 😉
Today, I have a mighty task list ahead of me, and my energy levels are low. I needed a breakfast that would provide a bunch of protein and other nutrients to help kick-start my day, and it being fall, I wanted something pumpkiny. Here’s what I put together (and will put the leftovers in the fridge and enjoy them for several days’ worth of breakfasts this week) – this makes a pretty huge vat of food, and it holds me over from breakfast almost through til dinner. One serving runs less than 400 nutrient-packed calories, and is loaded with fiber, and it’ll keep me firing on all cylinders for most of the day.
Pair it with a cup of coffee or tea – yum!
- 1 cup organic steel cut oats (soaked, or straight from the container)
- 4 cups water (normally, I would use 3 cups of organic, whole, raw milk and 1 cup of water, but we’re budgeting. Also works great with coconut, almond, rice or soy milk.)
- 1 15-oz can organic pumpkin puree
- 4 organic pastured eggs
- ~1 cup organic dried apple slices, crumbled a bit
- ~4 organic medjool dates, cut into small pieces
- grade B maple syrup to taste (I usually use between 1/4 and 1/2 cup. You could use honey, molasses, rapadura, sucanat, stevia, or other sweeteners as you please, adjusted.)
- organic vanilla to taste
- organic cinnamon to taste
- organic ginger to taste
- organic nutmeg to taste
- organic cloves to taste
- organic salt to taste
- dash of organic black pepper
Other toppings and mix-ins I love:
- Sweet potato (Add raw chunks at the beginning of cook time, or raw shreds as a raw topping. I usually don’t add sweet potato when I use the pumpkin, though.)
- Raisins (you can cook these the whole time for soft, plump raisin, or add as a chewier topping in the bowl)
- Chopped nuts
- Coconut (flaked or shredded, cook with or add in the bowl)
- Dried cranberries (cooked with, or added upon serving)
- Other dried fruit
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
It’s an easy recipe, and you can modify the heck out of it to suit your tastes and dietary needs. Substitute, omit, add to your heart’s content. Experiment and enjoy!
In a large pot, bring the 4c water (or milk) to a boil. If you’re using milk, be sure to stir often and not use too high a heat to avoid scorching. At the first sign of boil, add the 1c steel cut oats, pumpkin puree, sweet potato chunks (if using,) dried apple slices, and dates. Stir well. While the mixture is regaining its boil, scramble the 4 eggs in a large bowl – we’ll be tempering the eggs, so we need a lot of room. When the oats begin to boil, reduce the temperature to a simmer.
After the eggs are scrambled and the oat mixture is back up to temperature, take a small ladle full of the hot oats and drizzle it into the eggs, stirring constantly with a fork or whisk. What we’re trying to do here is to bring the eggs gradually up to a temperature close to the oats, so when we add them they won’t clot up – rather, they’ll mix in and make it nice and custardy. Once the first ladle of oat mixture is incorporated, add another in the same fashion. Add at least 3 and check to see if the egg mixture is approximately the same temperature as the oats. If not, add a few more ladles.
Once the eggs are tempered, stir them into the oats and mix well, stirring for a minute or so to make sure they’re well-mixed and not clotting.
Watch the temperature to maintain a simmer, and stir occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Add in the rest of the ingredients you’ll be cooking, including the spices. I don’t have amounts listed here, because tastes vary so widely, and I usually don’t measure them myself. However, I know what it’s like to be new to cooking whole foods, and thinking “I have no earthly idea if I should add 5 cups or 1/4 teaspoon – HELP!Where do I start?!” I hear you, I sympathize. If I had to guess, I’d say I use approximately these amounts:
Organic vanilla – I’m a vanilla freak. I love it. I use probably 3 – 4 tablespoons.
Cinnamon – I like cinnamon, but not in strength. I’d say 2 teaspoons here.
Ginger – I love ginger, and probably add 3 tablespoons.
Nutmeg – A bit less than 1 teaspoon.
Cloves – about 1/8 teaspoon.
Salt – I’d guess maybe 1/2 teaspoon.
Black pepper – just a dash, a little kick to offset the sweetness – probably about 1/8 teaspoon.
Cook everything until the oats reach an al dente state (or your preferred doneness.) Of course, soaked oats will cook much more quickly, so bear that in mind if you’ve soaked the oats overnight.
Serve warm, with any toppings you like (I love cream, chia seeds, and a sweetened vanilla paste which is my favorite vanilla-based thing ever: Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste) or put into the fridge and serve cold – I think it’s almost better this way! The flavors have time to marry, and it sets up into a lovely custardy form. It’s hard to beat the undeniable comfort which comes from a warm bowl of porridge… but I find myself nibbling from the cold pot right out of the fridge more often than I care to really admit.
I hope you enjoy this delicious porridge, hot or cold!
Our thoughts go out to all of you on the East Coast, where hurricane Sandy is already causing massive flooding. Be safe, everyone!