The cooler weather is here, and it'll get a lot colder before it gets warmer. This time of year, a cold, dry bowl of corn flakes doesn't always cut it for breakfast.
Food writer Emily Vikre shares recipes, inspiration and useful tips on the Five and Spice blog. Vikre joined MPR News' Tom Crann to chat about the most important meal of the day.
Tom Crann: You write a column that's all about breakfast. What should I be eating for breakfast these days?
Emily Vikre: Porridge. It sounds kind of old fashioned, but I think different varieties of porridge, including basic oatmeal are having a moment in the spotlight right now. And there's not much that's nicer than a warm bowl of porridge on a cold, dark morning.
Crann: What are some ways I can spruce up my morning bowl of oatmeal?
Vikre: Try switching up toppings by using seasonal produce like apples, pears, pumpkin puree, or citrus and tropical fruits. There are lots of different types of milk including almond milk or coconut milk to try too. Oatmeal can be savory as well. Make miso or soy sauce flavored oatmeal with vegetables mixed in. Top oatmeal with a fried egg or crumbled bacon or try mixing in cheese. You can also switch up what grain you're using. Consider using buckwheat, farro, millet, quinoa, wild rice, or a breakfast polenta.
Crann: How long does it take to make porridge? Is this something that will work on a weekday morning?
Vikre: Most of these grains take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to cook. It can be a bit hard to make them on a weekday morning unless you get up early. But, you can partially precook your porridge grain of choice ahead of time, and then it will only take five to 10 minutes to cook up in the morning. You can also use a slowcooker to slowly cook the porridge overnight. Or, another thing I love is making baked oatmeal ahead of time.
Crann: Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day — we used to hear that in school?
Vikre: It depends, but I do think it's an opportunity to start your day on good culinary footing.
Recipe: Chai-Spiced Baked Oatmeal
• 2 1/2 cups whole milk (nondairy substitutes work as well)
• 2 teabags of chai-spice tea
• 2 1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats)
• 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans (optional)
• 1/3 cup maple syrup (preferably grade B for its stronger flavor)
• 2 large eggs
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 3 tablespoons melted butter
• Maple pears for serving (see recipe below), optional
1) Heat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9 x 13 baking dish. Place milk in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, add the teabags and allow to steep, covered, for about 5-7 minutes. Take a small taste of the milk to test whether the chai flavor has infused. Remove tea bags and pour the milk into a large mixing bowl.
2) In another bowl combine the oats, salt, baking powder, and pecans (if using).
3) Whisk the eggs, maple syrup, and vanilla into the spiced milk. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together then scrape into the prepared baking dish. Bake about 40-45 minutes or until golden and set.
4) When the oatmeal is done, drizzle it with melted butter and serve with the maple pears or fresh sliced fruit or berries. The oatmeal keeps well and reheats nicely for a few days.
Recipe: Maple Pears
• 2 to 3 large pears
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 3 tablespoons maple syrup
• 3 tablespoons maple syrup
1) Core the pears and thinly slice them. Heat the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat, and when it's foaming, stir in the pears.
2) Saute the pear slices until they are starting to soften, about 3 to 5 minutes, then add the maple syrup, stir and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring to coat the pears. Serve warm atop the baked oatmeal.
Recipe: Pumpkin Mush
Serves three to four
• 2 cups milk (non-dairy milk substitutes like almond or coconut milk also work well)
• 1 cup pureed pumpkin (canned or fresh both work)
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 2/3 cup coarsely ground cornmeal (grits)
• 1/3 cup cold water
• For serving: butter, maple syrup, honey, or brown sugar, toasted nuts, dried or fresh fruit. Or, take the dish in a savory direction with Parmesan cheese and eggs.
1) In a heavy bottomed pot, combine the milk, pumpkin, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg and stir until smooth. Cover and heat over medium heat until it reaches a bare simmer.
2) Meanwhile, stir together the cornmeal and cold water in a smallish bowl (this will help prevent cornmeal lumps). When the milk-pumpkin mixture is warm, stir in the wet cornmeal.
3) Cook uncovered over medium to medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture has thickened and is making big spluttery bubbles, about 15-20 minutes. Serve hot, topped with butter, maple syrup, and nuts, or whatever other fixings you fancy.