Oats, They’re Not Just for Breakfast

I told you a week or so ago (okay, it could have been last year, I have no idea) that I had become intrigued by the fact that people the world over eat some form of porridge and that they have it for lunch and dinner. Let me tell you what time of year is a good time for porridge for lunch and dinner – the time where it’s starting to give you lots of reason to believe that this winter may just well be as cold as the last, when leaves are crunching under foot (and blasting by in 40 mph gusts), and you’re digging in your sock drawer for that special pair you actually slip over other socks when things are really bad (just me?). I am a fan, a convert, and a chilly advocate of savory porridge.

 photo IMG_0915.jpgOur last porridge attempt was polenta, because I knew the mediterranean leaning would make it more approachable for my crew. This time I decided to go a little more full-on porridge by using oats.  In this preparation an ‘oats risotto.’ Let me confess right here that pretty much anything with ‘risotto’ in the title will get my interest, add oats to it and I’m downright intrigued. This particular oats risotto had mushrooms, walnuts and leeks. The original recipe can be found on this little treasure trove for those trying to increase their plant-based intake (or decrease their other), Meatless Monday. Continue reading

Porridge Got A Bad Rap… Polenta with White Beans and Kale

Pease porridge hot

Pease porridge cold

Pease porridge in the pot

Nine days old.

I suppose it’s entirely possible that I am of the last generation to learn this little gem from 1760. Whenever I hear the word porridge, this little ditty goes through my head. The really interesting part is that pease porridge bears nearly zero resemblance to what most of us think of as porridge these days. Pease porridge is, if I may draw an ill fitting comparison for the purposes of illustration, much more like hummus than like porridge. As I understand it, pease porridge was legumes cooked, mushed and flavored (onions, olive oil, maybe meat if it was available). When we talk about porridge today, what most people mean is a grain cooked in liquid until the two do some magic to make a soft warm bowl that is neither liquid nor entirely solid. Deeply satisfying, warming, wholesome and hearty.

As you likely already know, the Sis sisters are huge fans of porridge in its traditional Western breakfast form – a little sweetness added to cooked grains. We’ve already shared pumpkin apple steel cut oats, chocolate oatmeal, and quinoa porridge, to name just a few. Apparently the Scottish are the kings and queens of porridge, and porridge has starred in a number of culinary competitions, including the recent London Porridge Championships, not to be confused with the World Porridge Making Championships… who knew? All this attention being paid to the production of and the adornment of porridge makes those packets of precut, highly sugared, not really that much more convenient than the real thing oatmeal seem a little, well, lame (more thoughts on reasons to ditch “instant” oatmeal here).

Aside from bolstering my own love affair with oatmeal, this story of the London Porridge Championships reminded me of a historical culinary truth that I keep forgetting before I can implement it in my own kitchen. Porridge can be savory. Oh yes, and it’s not just for breakfast anymore, in fact it never was. Old cookbooks are full of recipes for savory cooked grains for lunch and dinner. We eat a lot of rice around here, and frankly a savory porridge might be just the thing our varia bowls need every now and again. And so I decided it was time for a savory porridge experiment… but how to approach it to best hedge my bets with Ms. Picky Pants?

I settled on polenta photo a313cca6-c072-4607-8036-92e5599d8d40.jpg. I didn’t want to potentially diminish the power of oatmeal in the morning here by having an oatmeal fail. Polenta’s creaminess and corniness seemed promising for my corny crowd. Mediterranean flavors tend to fare well… seemed like a good bet all around. And so, while not perhaps a traditional Scottish porridge, a grain cooked in liquid to creamy perfection is indeed what polenta is. Topped with white beans and kale? Oh yes, please.

I made this delightful dish from Patrice at Circle B Kitchen. I followed the recipe pretty closely (I AM capable, just usually not willing) except that I cut the animal products out of the polenta by replacing the liquids for cooking the polenta with 3 cups of veggie broth and 1 c coconut milk. I also ditched the cheese in favor of a smaller amount of nutritional yeast. Butter gone, olive oil in. Done. Vegan polenta. Admittedly less creamy in fat feel, but still super creamily delish. And the perfect base for white beans with kale. Thanks Patrice, for a lovely dinner and a baby step down the road to porridge for dinner.

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‘Hot & Hearty’ – Better than Porridge

Did you hear that joke about oatmeal?

It was a lot of mush…

Actually I like oatmeal, but I get tired of oatmeal, and variety is the spice… and I’ve got this big honking bag of quinoa in the pantry that I bought from CostCo, so… I had to try some different hot cereals.  Another plus is that both oatmeal and quinoa are on our list of healthy pantry items that can come through for you in a pinch.  (See post “Peeping in our pantries’)

I did, but I just need to state that I think we need a better name than ‘hot cereal’ or ‘porridge’..  Hot & Hearty is not that great either, is it?  Seriously, neither ‘hot cereal,’ ‘Hot & Hearty’, nor ‘porridge’  (please, Sir, could I have some more?) gets folks leaping out of a warm bed into that cold kitchen.  So in Little Sis’ honor, I will call my creation ‘Warm Bowl of Yum’.  This is not an instant recipe, but make a big pot, because with a little extra milk (whether dairy, soy or nut) to moisten, it works for a couple of days!

This, as is so often the case with people who cook from scratch for children, was developed over time with changes here and there to finally find the Warm Bowl of Yum that both my boys (one a smadge older chronologically, but not at heart), and I, enjoy.  I especially enjoy it because I’ve snuck some protein and lots of trace minerals in by using nuts that my son won’t eat when they are whole.  (Grind ahead of time if your children object to nuts!)

Warm Bowl of Yum

5 cups liquid : I use 2.5 water and 2.5 almond milk
1 cup oats
1 cup quinoa
1 cup ground walnuts (you can certainly try other nuts, but walnuts really seem to thicken this and they are not very noticeable either ;-)1 tsp salt (optional)
1-2 tsp allspice / or 1 Tbsp cinnamon (optional)

toppings like raisins, honey, more nuts, maple syrup, etc.

Bring your liquid and salt, if using, to a boil.  Be careful!  Almond milk is the wallflower of boilers.  It waits and waits and then suddenly gets inspired, leaps into the fray, jumps out of the pan and into the saucer under your burner there to create a rather ghastly smell and even ghastlier mess.  Do not step away from the stove until you’re at a safe simmer!

‘pot full of milk’ waiting to be transformed into ‘pot full of yum’

Once it boils, toss in your quinoa, turn down to a simmer and cover.  Let simmer about 10 minutes and then boil again Baby!

Toss in the oatmeal, turn down to low and cover. Let simmer about 5 minutes.

While it is simmering, grind your walnuts.  I am blessed with a Vita-Mix which is a noisy but effective way to grind nuts.

Noise, Noise, Noise! Why do you have to be makin’ all that noise?

Stir in the ground nuts and cook covered for a few minutes or until the oats are tender and the quinoa is tender.

A few large walnut lumps – but he doesn’t seem to notice!

Schplop into bowls with your favorite schplopper and enjoy!

I am feeling very grateful for raisins right now.

If I have leftover rice in the frig that is not ear-marked for something to be cooked, I have been known to toss that in as well at the final stages.

I’m sure some of you have your own ‘warm bowls of yum.’     Do tell – spice up my life 😉

 

 

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