Whole Grain Mornings

2/11/2014 11:09:00 PM

I am really excited to tell y'all about this new book I got: Whole-Grain Mornings by Megan Gordon. Sandra bought it for me a couple of weeks ago, because she is awesome and knows I am always on the lookout for nourishing breakfasts. This one had a lot of good reviews online, and she thought I would like it. Well, she was wrong - I LOVE IT!

Whole Grain Mornings

She actually bought a couple of other cookbooks for me at the same time - all focused on whole grains and other health conscious foods - but I've been so obsessed with Whole-Grain Mornings that those books have barely gotten a look yet. Oops. I haven't been this excited by a new cookbook since Fuchsia Dunlop's Every Grain of Rice, and before that, Nigella's Kitchen. And if you know me, you know that this means I rate this book very, very highly.

The main thing I like about Whole-Grain Mornings is Megan's laid back approach - although the book is focused on whole grains, it's not a "health" book as such, and ingredients like maple syrup, butter, full-fat milk, cream and bacon appear throughout. Refreshingly, she's not prescriptive or judgmental about the foods you "should" eat. She writes that she personally is not afraid of fat, but chooses to limit her intake of sugar because this works for her, and then notes: "we're all different. Thank goodness". Love this attitude! And, whilst she does note which grains and flours are gluten free, "in case that's a health concern for you", there's no crap about gluten being evil or generally "bloaty" or difficult to digest. Yay.

The book is also really well organised - Seasonal chapters, each divided into "Busy Weekdays", "Slow Sundays", "Brunch", and "Spreads and Toppings"; a "Basics" chapter; and a comprehensive introduction which includes a handy chart for cooking different grains. I don't know about you, but I really dislike haphazardly arranged cookbooks, and appreciate it when a book is set out thoughtfully.

Before getting this book, I had no idea who Megan Gordon was, but I now know that she is the founder of Seattle-based Marge Granola, which I believe is very popular over there, and writes a great blog called: A Sweet Spoonful!

In the two weeks I've owned the book, I've already made eleven recipes, with many more on my "to do" list. I wanted to blog it the whole time, but kept thinking: "Ooh - I've just got to make this recipe, or that recipe before I do so". And then I realised, if I kept doing that, I'd have made everything in the book before even blogging about it! So here we go.

The Very Best Oatmeal

From the The Basics chapter. I've already made this one a few times. It's just like porridge, but the difference is in the cooking technique. Firstly, Megan instructs you to toast the rolled oats in a little butter (ZOMG), then to pour them into just-boiled water and milk, turn off the heat and clamp on the lid. Seven minutes later you have a bowl of ready-to-eat oatmeal! I used to find it a pain cooking porridge before work, but this recipe fits perfectly into my morning routine - it takes just a couple of minutes to set it up, then I can get dressed and do my makeup while the oats are steeping.

I think it tastes fantastic too - the toasting really makes a difference. (And I think you could leave the butter out if you wanted to; you'd still get a nice flavour by toasting the oats in a dry pan). Because you don't "cook" the oats, they don't go all mushy and gloopy, but stay nice and firm.

"The Very Best Oatmeal" with light muscovado sugar and butter

I like them with a little brown sugar (coconut or light muscovado), sometimes a splash of cream or butter (decadent!), or fresh berries. I've also chucked a spoonful of currants in before the steeping, and that's a great way to add sweetness too.

"The Very Best Oatmeal" with blueberries and raspberries

California Barley Bowl with Lemony Yogurt Sauce

This recipe is a tasty and nourishing mixture of cooked barley (I used freekeh), with sprouts, white cheese (I used goats), nuts and a sliced avocado, with a lemony yogurt sauce. (The sauce is a separate recipe, so I'm including it in my count of "eleven" recipes!)

California Barley Bowl

Huckleberry Cornmeal Custard

This one is a barely sweetened, cornmeal cake-slash-custard. I served it for a dessert one night, and leftovers made a fab breakfast. We don't have huckleberries here, so I substituted blueberries and raspberries. (Actually, the only other place I'd ever heard of huckleberries was on The Simpsons - I can't be the only one, can I?)

Nelson Muntz: [talking to a group of kids] The thing about huckleberries is, once you've had fresh, you'll never go back to canned.
[Skinner walks by]
Nelson Muntz: Uh, um... uh, so anyway, I kicked the guy's ass!
[Skinner nods and walks off]
Nelson Muntz: Now, if the berries are too tart, I just dust them with confectioner's sugar. (Source).

Berries in the pie dish

With the cornmeal batter

and a splash of cream

I think the cream is supposed to kinda sink and form another layer beneath the cake, but for some reason mine stayed in the same spot. Perhaps I used the wrong type of cream, but not to worry - it tasted great. Really tasty in slices with some Greek yogurt and maple syrup.

Huckleberry cornmeal custard

The cornmeal custard recipe is available on Megan's blog.

Greens and Grains Scramble

This is a really simple recipe - you just fry some cooked grains (I used freekeh) in a pan with some spring onions and greens (I used snow pea sprouts, but think spinach would be nicer), and eggs. It was a really warming, hearty breakfast, and a great way to use up leftover cooked grains. I always seem to cook too many grains with dinner, like rice or quinoa or whatever, and this is a great way to use them up.

Greens and grains scramble

Peanut Butter Crispy Brown Rice Bars

Peanut Butter Crispy Brown Rice Bars

I made these on Chinese New Year's Eve - the previous night I'd made a batch of peanut cookies, which I stuffed up (boo!), and I still really wanted a sweet peanutty treat! I happened to have all the ingredients at home, so I whipped up these rice peanut butter crispy brown rice bars, and they were so delicious! They're made of crispy brown rice cereal, sesame seeds and roast peanuts and a little salt, bound together with a mixture of peanut butter, butter, honey and brown rice syrup and then refrigerated until solid. The recipe doesn't specify whether the peanuts should be salted or unsalted, so I used salted peanuts, and halved the amount of salt that the recipe states. However, when I tasted the bars, I realised they were super sweet, and definitely needed the full amount of salt plus the salted peanuts. It was too late to mix in more salt, so I chopped more salted peanuts and pressed them into the top of the bars - pretty and functional.

A quick note: I definitely don't think of these bars as breakfast fare - way too much sugar and fat for me! Nutritional content aside, I just find them too sweet early in the morning, or even in full-sized bars, no matter what the time of day. Rather, I like these in little squares as a treat with tea or coffee.

Vanilla and Cream Steel-Cut Oats Porridge

I bought a packet of steel-cut oats ages ago, put them in a container in the pantry and promptly forgot all about them. They're the whole-grain inner portion of the oat kernel - essentially the "rolled oat" before it's "rolled". Just like "The Very Best Oatmeal", you start by toasting the oats in butter.

Toasting the steel-cut oats

Steel-cut oats take quite a bit longer to cook than regular oats, about 25-30 minutes, so they're definitely a weekend breakfast. I was expecting this to taste quite healthy and virtuous, but it was actually a real treat! I added the optional spoonful of cream, which was lovely, but not a dealbreaker - this porridge would still taste good without it.

Vanilla and Cream Steel-Cut Oats Porridge

Triple-Coconut Quinoa Porridge

Triple-Coconut Quinoa Porridge

Triple-coconut quinoa porridge sounds like the kind of thing I'd love, but I must admit I wasn't a huge fan of this. Whilst the taste was good (coconut milk and fresh vanilla pods, anyone?), I didn't like the texture of the quinoa, finding it quite hard even though I cooked it for ages. I have some quick-cooking quinoa flakes at home, so I'm going to experiment with them. If the results are good I'll share them with you!

Whole-grain Buttermilk Pancakes with Honeyed Ricotta

Pancakes! This breakfast counts as three recipes: the whole-grain pancake mix, the pancakes themselves, and the honeyed ricotta I chose as an accompaniment. The pancake mix is a mixture of plain, buckwheat and spelt flours, with rolled oats, sugar, leavening agents and salt - you make up a big batch and store it in the pantry, just using a cup at a time when you want to whip up a batch of pancakes.

How good does this stack look? I made a double batch of pancakes (i.e. 2 cups of the pancake mix) when we had friends over for breakfast before a roadtrip to Sorrento!

Whole-grain Buttermilk Pancakes

The accompaniments were blueberries, blackberries, maple syrup and icing sugar, as well as the honeyed ricotta.

Whole-grain buttermilk pancakes with honeyed ricotta, blackberries, blueberries, maple syrup, icing sugar

Whole-grain buttermilk pancakes with honeyed ricotta, maple syrup, blueberries and blackberries

The buttermilk in the batter makes the pancakes soft and tender, whilst the combination of grains gives them a great flavour and aroma. They're soft, fluffy, fragrant, wholesome but not heavy. These are literally the best pancakes I have ever made or eaten.

So that's all I've cooked so far! Have you got this book? Can you recommend any recipes? What are your favourite breakfasts?

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  1. That's wonderful-11 recipes in 2 weeks is better than what I manage to make from most cookbooks in a year or two! :)

  2. Right then, you brilliant literally MADE ME order this book before I even got to the end of your post!!
    I'm so excited to receive it . Yaaaaay!

  3. 11 recipes out of one book already is more than I make from most cook books in their lifetime - go Sarah - that's a great recommendation

  4. I'll have one of everything please! And toasting oats in butter sounds like a BRILLIANT idea!

  5. It's so great to see how much you have made out of this already! I have only managed the granola so far but am really looking forward to trying the oatmeal, the cornmeal custard, the scramble... Yum!

  6. I've seen this cookbook on a squillion blogs lately, and it's clear that the recipes inside are what my heart is made of. MUST GET.

  7. Oh my god,that all looks incredible! I've been trying to limit my grains in the morning (especially as I'm not having dairy, and oatmeal/cereals are better with milk!), but I think I could definitely do the cooked grains/greens scramble.

  8. This is brilliant! Been drooling over the instagram posts. i'm always curious about using grains in cooking, it also means adding ingredients to my alredy bursting pantry! Can i come over for breakfast plz!



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