Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day for me before get to work. Often my typical breakfast consists of freshly cooked grains in a voluminous portion. Sometimes my breakfast prep starts the day before, prior to going to bed. I rinse grains—such as short grain brown rice, steel cut oatmeal, or sometimes barley—with clear water, and after that it is soaked in water overnight. In this way I can be sure it won't take the grains too long to get tender when I cook them. Another reason why I like pre-soaking the grains is because it pre-sprouts the grain. Pre-sprouting activates beneficial nutrients and makes the grain easier to digest.
Just about on any day in the wee-hours I set the soaked grain over the fire and season it with a pinch of sea salt. Yes, I’m an earlier riser, so it’s usually around 5AM. Rice takes about 40 minutes to get soft. If I’m in a hurry to get out the door, I gravitate to already cooked grains that I most likely have sitting in the refrigerator from another batch from earlier in the week. I put the grains in the pot with a bit of water and reheat it, stirring every so often, and within five minutes my piping hot bowl of grains is ready.
Over the years I have learned plentiful finishing touches for my morning grain bowl. Here are a few of my favorites:
- a pinch of cinnamon and maple syrup or honey
- seasonal berries such as blueberries in fall, or raspberries and strawberries in late spring
- baked granola for texture sprinkled over the top
- nut milk: once the grain is finished cooking, add 1/4 cup almond milk or rice milk per cup of warm cereal.
- I love toasted nuts: almonds, walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds; one tablespoon of nuts per cup of cooked cereal does the trick for me.
- Sometimes I feel going the savory route, so leftover beans from a prior day’s dinner make it into my breakfast bowl, finished with a tiny bit of miso—I find it very calming.
- Warm cereal seasoned with a teaspoon of miso and a touch of maple syrup is one of my favorite versions.
- For summer mornings I enjoy refreshing rich, whole milk Greek yogurt.
- Often it happens that I have several different cooked grains leftover in my fridge, so I mix and match, which makes for a diversified eating experience.
- I fancy dried chopped cranberries, dates or apricots to add a sweet note to my cereal. It’s always available in my cupboard.
When it comes to rolled oats there is no cooking involved, the overnight soaking process is all that it needs. I do that in the refrigerator in addition to a grated green apple, sliced almonds, yogurt and a touch of honey. My method for rolled oats is modeled after Bircher Muesli, named after Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher Brenner, who was a big defender of that preparation for himself and his patients. Growing up in the mountains of Austria, my mother would feed me Bircher Muesli when I was little boy and I still like it today. Following is my preparation for it:
(recipe makes approximately 1 cup)
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup water
1 green apple, grated, such as Granny Smith
1 tablespoon sliced almonds
1 orange, juiced
Fruits such as ½ banana, sliced or 1/4 cup fresh blueberries or strawberries
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt (almond or rice milk)
1 teaspoon honey, to top (optional)
1) In a bowl combine oats, apple, almonds and orange juice and let soak covered in the refrigerator overnight.
2) Add fruit(s), yogurt or non-dairy milk and honey. Stir with spoon.