Oh the holidays.
Yesterday when commuters on the metro were looking a little more down and people were dreading going back to work, I was excited to return to “normal life.” Actually this is not technically true, because I slept in, did a mad dash to get ready and rushed to get to work, but once on the metro I felt excited to return to some semblance of a routine.
Like many people, my holidays were filled to the brim with seeing family and friends, wrapping presents, eating lazy dinners together and drinking bubbly. My sister, her boyfriend and brother also came to visit from out of town, and during that time I also tried to cook as much as possible for them. Cooking and feeding people is my main love language, and since they’re some of my favourite people in the world I wanted to cook as much as possible. Sometimes I overdid it.
There was one day when I braved the malls with my sister, then came home and made pizza dough. While the dough was rising, I made pesto and some sides, then made a few pizzas for dinner. When everyone went to bed, I proceeded to make 2 types of granola and 3 kinds of cookies, so that they could take it all back to Toronto on Christmas Eve.
Combined with days of waking up and sleeping at all manners of hours, my body was pretty tired out even before New Year’s Eve. The lack of sleep and abundance of holiday food really weighed my body down. Mornings were getting increasingly painful, and as much as I was eager to begin a routine again, I needed a motivator.
And the perfect motivator is breakfast, my favourite meal of the day.
With the mornings so cold and sunlight so sparing, I thought of a warm, comforting breakfast that tastes good but that I’d feel good eating too. This is where this oatmeal comes in. It’s simple and hearty, with a great toothiness from a mix of oats and bran, and a deep sweetness from maple syrup. Grated apple on top adds fruit for nutrition but also a fresh, juicy lightness. Topped with some dried fruit and nuts and seeds, it is a dreamy bowl to wake up to. Best of all, it takes 10 minutes flat to make (including time to fresh-grind flax!).
The grated apple part may sound odd, but it really is what makes this oatmeal special. I first came across this way of serving oatmeal when I worked at a café in the Old Port. Once I tasted it, I was convinced that fresh apple was one of the best sweeteners for a bowl of hot porridge. Give the recipe below a try, and follow it as loosely as you’d like since I see it as more of a base recipe. Just make sure to keep the wet to dry ratio similar.
Finally, if you’re in Montreal, I really recommend the Grade A Medium Amber maple syrup from that little stall in front of the fishmonger at Atwater Market. It’s dark and complex and better than most I’ve tried from elsewhere.
How about you dear reader, what is the breakfast that gets you out of bed?
Winter oatmeal with grated apple
Serving size: 1
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
- 1/3 c. rolled or old fashioned oats (see note)
- 1 c. milk of your choice
- 1/2 apple, a harder and more sour variety such as Macintosh or Granny Smith
- 1 tbsp. whole flax seeds
- 1 tbsp. wheat bran
- pinch of salt
- dried fruit (see note)
- nuts (see note)
- seeds (see note)
- maple syrup
In a small pot, heat the oats and milk on medium-high heat. Once it comes to a boil lower the heat to medium-low.
While the oats and milk are cooking, put 1 tbsp. flax seeds in a blender and grind until no whole seeds are left (alternatively, use pre-ground flax). Add flax, wheat bran, and a pinch of salt to the milk mixture.
Heat until cooked through, which should be under 5 minutes. Once cooked, put oatmeal into a serving bowl.
Grate the half apple with a coarse (box) grater. Add the apple on top of the oatmeal in a little mound.
Garnish with the dried fruit, nuts and seeds. Add another splash of milk if your oatmeal has started to congeal and thicken a bit too much. Drizzle with a touch of maple syrup (start with less – the apple is already sweet!) and enjoy with a big mug of tea or coffee.
If quick or minute oats is all you have, the cooking time will be even faster. You lose some of the toothiness in the texture though.
For the topping ingredients, use whatever you like and have on hand. In the spring I love using chopped dried apricot, candied ginger and roasted almonds. Right now I’m using dried cranberries, crushed walnuts and pecans, and some pumpkin seeds.