Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wheat berry and steel-cut oatmeal

**This is not a gluten-free recipe and was posted before I eliminated gluten from my diet.**

wheat berry and steel-cut oatmeal
I love breakfast, and sometimes it's the only reason that I'm able to get out of bed in the morning. But I don't like your traditional bacon/sausage, eggs, etc. breakfast (it's great at other times of the day, but it's too heavy for me to eat in the morning). For years I ate All-Bran Yogurt Bites cereal almost every day and loved it like nothing else. But, last summer when I decided to avoid all packaged foods and preservatives, this had to go. I had a box left and decided to finish it off while I did my research to come up with good breakfast alternatives. I didn't come up with good alternatives... I came up with great ones.

I started making muesli with oats (rolled, in my first few batches) and anything I felt like throwing in (such as cinnamon, raisins or other dried fruits, seeds, nuts, wheat germ, and flax meal). I ate it just like cereal. At the beginning I would let it sit in milk for 5 min or so to soften, but I got to the point where I liked eating it immediately. That was good, but the magic didn't start until I started using steel-cut oats, and I immediately fell in love. These things have an insanely better flavor than their more processed relatives (in fact, if I didn't already know, I would swear that they weren't the same grain). They'll really give your jaw a workout, but the nutty, sweet flavor is like nothing else. They also keep you amazingly full. The great thing about muesli is that I can make up a batch to take on trips to make hotel breakfasts tolerable. And it's so filling that a quart-sized bag of it lasts for about a week.

Well, last week I had a full bag of SC oats and right before I was about to put it in my muesli container (yes, I now have a container dedicated to it), I decided to cook it. I got so addicted to the raw oats that I never bothered cooking them. Plus, they take about 25 min, and I usually can't wait that long for breakfast. But, after all of the hullabaloo on blogs in the last few weeks about Mark Bittman's SC oats with soy sauce and scallions, I was inspired to use the "quick" method. So I soaked them overnight and then they only took about 10 min of cooking in the morning (plus, they were already measured out in the pan). They're really good. Even better with a dash of half-and-half :). This week I couldn't decide whether to make more or to cook wheat berries and see how they work as cereal. I'm horrible at making decisions, so I decided to combine the two.

Wheat berry and steel-cut oatmeal

Wheat berries
1 cup wheat berries (picked through and rinsed)
3 1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt

SC Oats
1 cup steel-cut oats
4 cups water (use 3 if you're not adding wheat berries)
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 tsp salt

2 Tbsp half-and-half (or milk)

To cook the wheat berries, combine everything in a pot, cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about an hour. They never get completely tender, but have more of an al dente texture (one of the things I love about them!). Then drain and store in the refrigerator until you're ready to use them.

To cook the oats, combine oats and water in a pot, cover, and let sit overnight. In the morning, bring to a boil and let simmer until it's fully cooked (about 10 min). Add the cinnamon, raisins, salt, and wheat berries, and stir well. Serve with half-and-half, if desired. Honey would be another good addition, but the whole grains bring their own sweetness, so I don't think it's necessary. Serves 6.

It's good. Very good. I'm still curious to try the wheat berries on their own, but I'm sure I'll get to it. It's been weird to deviate from my normal muesli routine, but it's been a very fun (and delicious!) journey.


Katie said...

MUESLI!! yes! I realize that you were emphasizing how easy it was to make the muesli, and how you could just be spontaneous and creative about what you tossed in... but could you condescend to the lazy parts of your audience, and post a recipe for one of your favorite Muesli combinations to date? I'd love to try some, but it would be really nice to be able to just write down a list for raiding the Berkeley Bowl!

Katie said...

Hmmm... I'll do my best to come up with some measurements. Here's what you could start with, and then see if you want more/less/different things:

6 cups steel-cut oats
1/2 cup raisins (I like the big organic ones, but any will do)
1/3 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1/4 cup flax seeds
1 Tbsp cinnamon

Mix it all up and add milk when you're ready to eat it. Sometimes I also add a dash of vanilla with the milk. Then smile.