Spiced Whole Grain and Fruit Porridge

I never give myself time to sit at the table and eat breakfast in the morning before going to work.  Even cereal seems like a bit of a hassle, what with all of that crazy box-opening and milk-pouring and whatnot. Yes, I am supremely lazy, and no, I do not think that is ever going to change.  If I don’t manage to pack something up the night before, the morning is a mad scramble to grab a few pieces of fruit, scavenge a few leftovers out of the fridge and toss whatever is nearby into a bag for lunch.  My morning routine is down to a carefully timed science, you see, and  God forbid that I should wake up 20 minutes earlier than necessary for something (essential and enjoyable) like BREAKFAST.

That said, by 9:30 a.m. I am generally googly eyed with hunger and ready to eat the arse end off a donkey. I will eat anything within arms reach, and If I don’t want to devour the entirety of my lunch before most people are done their first cup of coffee, something needs to slip down the gullet.  If it is something that I can just grab and go…perfect.

Enter my good friend, oatmeal.   Cheap and cheerful, nutritious and filling, oatmeal porridge is the kind of breakfast which costs just cents to make but is worth its weight in gold.  I got into the habit of making up a big batch of steel cut oats Sunday night and portioning it out into weeny little breakfast sized containers so that in the mornings I can just grab one as I run out the door.

I’m not the only one eating my weight in oatmeal these days, either. With the confusing trendiness that is usually reserved for things like Sally Jessy Raphael glasses (do we REALLY need to bring them back, people?) or wedge-heeled sneakers (just..don’t. I even prefer your Uggs, and that is saying something), hot oatmeal has been steaming into the fast food breakfast arena at coffee shops like Starbucks and Tim Hortons for a while.

As much as I love oatmeal, sometimes it does get a bit boring, and shaking it up ever so slightly by adding raisins one week, maple syrup the next, well, eventually it all just gets old. I found that one of the best ways to vary my porridge was to play with the variety of oats, and from there to experiment with different combinations of whole grains.  This recipe took inspiration and direction from the slow cooker spiced porridge by The Kitchn, the overnight slow cooker super healthy porridge by Prep Ahead and Dine In, and my good friend Sue, who adds shredded carrots to her quinoa, just because she can.  It is worth noting that here I have used the grains that I always have on hand (oats, quinoa, bulgur, barley), but you could really use any combination of whole grains that you like, including millet, brown rice, spelt, farro or teff.

Spiced Whole Grain and Fruit Porridge

Makes 10-12 servings of appx 1 cup each

** Recipe is easily halved if you aren’t actually making breakfast for the army barracks **

  • 2 cups oats *
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 1/2 cup coarse bulgur **
  • 2 medium apples (~2 cups, grated)
  • 2 large or 4 small carrots (~2 cups grated)
  • 1.5 cups raisins
  • 4 cups ‘milk’ ***
  • 6 cups water
  • small knob fresh ginger (1″ chunk)
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup wheat germoptional
* With the low and slow cooking in your crock pot, either steel cut or regular rolled oats (NOT quick cooking) will be fine.  I love the chew of steel cut oats, but recently found a brand or rolled oat that is mixed with wheat germ and flax, so I have been using that instead and omitting the  addition of wheat germ.
** Bulgur (aka bulghar, burghal, burgal, bulgar, etc) is a whole grain and high fiber wheat product.  Fine bulgur is used in dishes like tabouli, but coarse bulgur makes an excellent pilaf, stuffing or porridge.
*** Like a barefoot hippie, I used flax milk. What the hell. However, rice milk, soy milk, any nut milk or even plain old cow or goat milk will suffice to add just a bit of creaminess to the dish. If you want you can leave the milk out and add an equal amount (6 cups) of apple juice if you want the porridge sweeter, or more water if you do not.
Give the quinoa a quick rinse under cold running water.  Put the quinoa, oats, bulghur, barley and wheat germ (if using) into your crock pot along with the dried spices and salt.
Peel and finely grate the ginger.  Coarsely grate the apple and carrots and add both along with the raisins.  I like to give them a thorough scrub and then grate both with the peel still on. It saves time, and I am still hanging on to some anachronistic notion that “all the nutrients are in the peel”.  They aren’t, but leaving the skin on also ap-peels (ha!) to my lazier side.
Pour in the liquids and vanilla extract. Give the mixture a good stir.
Set your slowcooker to low heat for 8 hours.  And that’s it.  When you wake up in the morning, if the hot and freshly cooked porridge looks a little bit dry, simply stir in a splash more water.
If you like your porridge a little bit on the sweet side, feel free to stir in some honey or brown sugar. I find that the raisins add a sweetness that builds as you dig in to the bowl, and a handful of fresh fruit on top is all the sugary sunshine that I need.
Heart healthy and filling, this is a great way to start the day with one of those recommended servings of whole grain goodness. It is also a fabulous make-ahead breakfast for when you have overnight visitors and don’t want to be fussed the next morning. Or, if you’re anything like me, a big batch can be portioned out into smaller containers and your breakfast is made for over a week!
UPDATE:  one of our fabulous readers shared with us that she halved the recipe and got around 8 servings out of it. This makes me strongly consider two things:
1) Apparently, despite my best efforts, I still produce Paul Bunyan servings which are larger than need be.
2) Halving the recipe is probably a good idea unless you are the Octomom.
  • Susan

    Is it sad that I have been excitedly awaiting this post and cannot wait to try a new porridge recipe? I just conquered bulk barn and will be having this for breakfast tomorrow:)

  • Kmehl04

    Do you think I could add cubed or diced sweet potato, or would it just fall apart?

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Hi Kmehl04,
      My experience with slowcookers and sweet potatoes is that they really do break down quite a bit and if you give them a stir they’ll turn into mush. That said, maybe not such a bad thing for your porridge? I can see it looking almost like butter ripple ice cream with pockets and veins of sweet potato running throughout. But, you know, healthier. And with more oats. So…yeah. I think you have a great idea there.

      Thanks for the comment!