A note from Katie: Cath was a fellow Mitchell Scholar and is a good friend from my Belfast days. She's the founder and driving force behind Peace Meals, an exciting organization focused on bringing people together for healing and community building around food. She's currently in culinary school to become a Natural Foods Chef, and shares today's recipe in the spirit of healthy eating and joyful living that makes her such an inspiration. (Scroll to bottom of post for recipe card)
NOT YO MAMA'S PORRIDGE
Forget Quaker Oats. It’s time to add some variety, culinary panache, and nutrients to breakfast (or lunch or dinner or study time snack or whenever you eat oatmeal.) Did you know that there are many other grains that pack a whole lot more punch than simple rolled oats? And don’t even mention those microwave packets of instant oats + refined sugars + other unpronounceable flavorings.
I promise you, buying grains in bulk and cooking a batch for the week will save you time AND money – two things we all need more of, right? Cook up a big batch of this porridge and save it in the fridge for as long as you want, taking servings out when you start to get munchy. Use sweet or savory toppings and you’ve got a complete meal.
Why not oats?
I mean, nothing against oats (or the peaceful Quakers…). But there are other grains out there that have tons more fiber (keeping your plumbing system and blood sugar in balance), tons more vitamins and minerals, and tons more protein. It is always a good idea to start your day off with protein, which energizes you, gets your brain primed, and keeps you feeling fuller longer…so you don’t crash and reach for that Poptart at 11am.
Where will I get these non-Quaker grains?
You can usually find these grains in bulk at health foods stores, or more and more frequently in packets at your local grocery. You may be surprised at how affordable they are, and how long they last you.
A secret you never learned in Home Economics
Always soak your grains. “Excuse me??” you may ask. “Who has time to wait for grains to soak…I mean, that’s why I’ve been eating instant oats with freeze-dried blueberries all this time.” But something your high school Home Ec teacher never told you: soaking is necessary to neutralize the phytates in the grain. Phytates bind to some minerals like iron and calcium and can slow or block absorption. So, soaking makes grains more digestible makes the nutrients more available and cuts down on cooking time.
So, measure out the portion you want to cook and cover with water, plus about a teaspoon of an acid like vinegar or lemon juice. Leave to sit at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. When you want to cook, drain and rinse and add fresh water. Bring to a boil then turn down the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 20-40 minutes, depending on the grain. As a general rule: 1 cup grain + 2 cups water, but watch and taste periodically. Basically It’s done when it’s soft enough to chew.
Sooo…what grains are we talking about?
Here’s a few of my favorites, and why (oh yeah, they’re all gluten free too!)…
- Millet. Rich in energy-boosting iron, B vitamins and amino acids (AKA protein).
- Quinoa. This is a complete protein, so it will keep you fuller longer. It has tons of calcium, iron, phosphorous, B vitamins and vitamin E (good for skin and nails!). This is my breakfast porridge of choice, if I had to be biased.
- Amaranth. Even though the seeds are TINY, it packs a protein punch. According to Elenore Bendel-Zahn, “1 cup cooked amaranth provides over half of your daily protein needs, is higher in calcium then milk (cup for cup) and packs incredible amounts of minerals and vitamins. Amaranth was the sacred grain of the Aztecs and highly revered for it’s energizing properties.” SOURCE: http://www.earthsprout.com/?p=5469
- Buckwheat. Buckwheat (not related to wheat at all), is also a complete protein, and has tons of calcium. It’s also great with fiber, so it has a longer transit time in your gut, which stabilizes the blood sugar and keeps you feeling fuller longer.
- Brown Rice. Rice is a breakfast staple in many Asian countries. Go for brown rice, which is a whole grain with more fiber. It is also super cheap, but be sure to soak it overnight as it could take up to 45 minutes to cook!
But a bowl of porridge seems so…boring.
Not so! Add toppings any way you want.
Even better: tell your friends you’re cooking up a big batch of hot porridge and ask them to each bring a topping, potluck-style. See the crazy combinations that happen, as well as the friendships that blossom naturally around the table. I used to have Porridge and Pancake parties in college and it was fun to see how creative people got…or what they needed to clean out of their cupboards.
I mean, really, what’s better than a soul-warming bowl of porridge on a wintry day? So go amp up your porridge game!