I enjoy sharing delicious traditional recipes that have been modified to meet the needs of those who are vegan or gluten-sensitive.
Growing up in the 1950s and '60s in wintry, rural Saskatchewan, Canada, I believe that most farm kids took in a breakfast that included either oatmeal or cream of wheat or some other such hot cereal variety. My mother was a big promoter (at least in our family) of the benefits of eating oatmeal porridge. She said it "stuck to your ribs". We ate it with a generous coating of brown sugar and milk. Some days it tasted like a lovely creamy pudding, possibly even a little too decadent for breakfast, and other days it was dry-lumpy, cold, and gritty.
When I attended boarding school (technically, a convent) at age 11, the morning porridge was an oatmeal gruel . . . heavy on the water and thin on the oats (think Dickens' Oliver Twist). I was also introduced to the cream of wheat cereal there. I didn't much like it, because I am a fan of creamy texture, and in spite of it being called "cream" of wheat, it was actually a sort of gritty, taste-less white concoction, not at all creamy.
When I married, my German mother-in-law dazzled me with her wonderful creamy oatmeal, made in a double boiler.
Over the years I have discovered that there are other ways to prepare breakfast porridges that sometimes don't even contain oats (and certainly not wheat) and that are healthier, heartier, and definitely in the "comfort foods" category. And I find that the slow-cooker or crock-pot is by far the easiest method of putting together a yummy, nutritious breakfast meal with a minimum of morning stress. Because I am gluten-sensitive and vegan, the following recipes are designed to use gluten-free ingredients and are dairy- and egg-free.
I hope you enjoy the recipes that follow. Two are what you might call "traditional" and two are a little more exotic. Enjoy!
1. Any Excuse Decadent Slow-Cooker Oatmeal
Just like you might look for any excuse to use your grandmother's "best china" or to wear a favourite dress, you will look for any excuse to cook up this delicious, dessert-like take on traditional oats.
- 2 cups steel-cut gluten-free oats
- 2 tablespoons chia seed
- 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut shreds
- Handful dried cranberries
- 4 Turkish dried apricots, unsulphured, chopped
- Pinch Celtic sea salt
- 6-8 cups water
- Coconut or almond milk
- Splash maple syrup (optional)
- Chopped raw walnuts or hemp hearts
Directions (Night Before)
- Combine oats, chia seed, coconut shreds, cranberries, apricots and salt in water in a slow cooker or crock-pot.
- Turn on to low heat.
- Stir with a wooden spoon for about 10-15 minutes until the chia seed is beginning to gel and is not clumped but absorbed into the rest of the ingredients
- Put on the lid and leave until morning
- Stir when you take the lid off to serve
- Spoon into bowls and pour on almond milk and a splash of maple syrup (or other sweetener or not).
- Sprinkle on chopped walnuts and/or hemp hearts (both high in healthy omega-3s)
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2. Cornmeal Polenta Slow-Cooker Porridge
When you cook up cornmeal with water it turns into a thick viscous material called "polenta". The original porridge here is still fairly moist early in the morning and will turn into polenta as more water evaporates. I put the remainder of our porridge into a small glass baking pan and put it into the freezer with plastic wrap over it. The next day we cut the thawed polenta into squares and fried it as you would pancakes on a griddle. Another hot breakfast, served up with maple syrup!
- 1 1/2 cups medium or coarse ground cornmeal
- 6-8 cups water
- Pinch Celtic salt
- 1/2 cup chopped dried figs and raisins
- Almond milk or non-dairy yogurt
- Walnut pieces
- Maple syrup
- Combine cornmeal, water, salt and dried fruit in a 4-quart slow-cooker or crock-pot.
- Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.
- Pour on a little almond milk or spoon on non-dairy yogurt.
- Crown with walnuts or hemp hearts when the porridge is ready to serve.
- Spoon into serving bowls and drizzle with maple syrup.
3. Brown Rice and Green Tea Slow-Cooker Porridge With Brown Lentils
This is one of the "exotic" porridges I referred to—a version of "peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold". It can be eaten throughout the day as a rest from rich foods, a light cleanse. It is delicious and a nice change-up from the sweet porridges.
- 1 cup short-grain brown rice
- 1/4 cup firm brown lentils (not red lentils, which will turn into mush)
- 3 green tea bags (macrobiotic purists might use loose tea in a sort of bouquet garni cheesecloth rig-up, but tea bags are by the far the easiest)
- 1/4 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
- 6 cups water
- Rinse the brown rice in cold water and discard floaters.
- Put lentils, salt and rice into slow-cooker
- Add tea bags, and pour water over top.
- Turn to low heat and put on the lid.
- Take out the tea bags first
- Stir and serve. It might be a little soupy but it will be comforting to the tummy.
- You may want to add in some salty sesame seeds (gomashio), tamari sauce, umiboshi plum pickle, or miso. I dissolved a little miso in the sauce in my bowl and then added my porridge to that, mixing it up. So tasty and comforting!
4. Quinoa Veggie Slow-Cooker Porridge
This is another gluten-free savory porridge that some might recognize from a long-ago macrobiotic cooking class (although they probably used brown rice or millet instead of the quinoa). This porridge is a satisfying and pleasant way to start your day.
- 1 piece kombu, dried sea vegetable
- 1 yellow onion, chopped fine
- 2 stalks celery, chopped fine
- 1 cup kuri squash, peeled and chopped (or other squash)
- 1/2 cup quinoa
- 8 cups water
- 2-3 green onions, sliced thin on the diagonal
- Layer kombu, onion, celery, squash, and quinoa in a slow cooker.
- Gently add in water.
- Turn cooker to low and put on the lid.
- In the morning, turn off the cooker. Add miso (to taste) to your porridge bowl and mix in some of the liquid from the porridge. Stir to dissolve. Add in the rest of the porridge serving and enjoy!
- Makes about 6 servings and is appropriate for all meals.