Every September, I come to a screeching halt and resume eating warm oatmeal for breakfast in the morning in place of my standard summer pie/crumble/piles of granola with berries and yogurt. This year was more abrupt than usual, when we went from a sunny 25 degrees to zero overnight, with enough snow to crush nearly every tree in the city.
Early mornings in the dark combined with enough wet snow to keep us shoveling off everything beyond the front door and going from flip flops to damp, cold socks really requires some extra effort to adjust to being awake – at the very least, plenty of espresso and a bowl of something warm. (Half a foot of snow a week into school is also a free pass to get a pain au chocolat at the coffee shop, just FYI.) Oats are my usuals, although I recently discovered that quinoa can be eaten for breakfast in the same way – warm with brown sugar and raisins and milk. Its light texture and mild flavour reminds me of the cream of wheat I grew up with, only quinoa is far more nutrient-dense, with more protein and fibre. (I usually make blonde quinoa, but happened to have some red on hand.)
I’ve heard rumours that you can cook quinoa in a rice cooker. I’ve never owned a rice cooker, nor even used one, but know owners of them, and from what I do know those who own rice cookers tend to be over-the-top enamoured with them. And so to make up for my extended lack of kitchen, I’ve allowed myself to accumulate a small army of small appliances in the dining room. Who needs a kitchen? Maybe we’ll just keep it taped off and keep doing the dishes in the bathtub forever.
With a rice cooker I can go back and forth between quinoa and steel-cut oats, which also do well in a rice cooker – combine 1 part oats to 3 parts water and turn it on – add some cinnamon, stir in some raisins, whatever your usual is. I like to chop up a tart apple and stir it in – the apple softens but doesn’t compromise the texture of the steel-cut oats, which hold their own.
For my first rice cooker experience I decided to go a little higher-end with a Cuisinart, partly because it’s BPA-free, partly because I was wooed by the insert that allows you to steam veggies, chicken or fish at the same time, and once the machine detects that all the moisture has been absorbed from your rice (or quinoa), it flips itself over to warm until you’re ready for it.
I’ll be honest – my first try didn’t go well. Not sure if I wound up with a dud.. it kept prematurely flipping itself over to warm, and when it did get going boiled violently, spewing much of the liquid out from around the lid and through the blowhole. Maybe it’s me? It can detect my indifference to rice cookers? So many have convinced me they’re worth the cupboard space though – one friend set hers out on the table at a party recently, so that friends to serve themselves rice bowls and Korean lettuce wraps – and I do love the idea of not having to tend to a pot on the stove-especially when I don’t have a stove. There are plenty of other rice cookers in the sea, so if this relationship fails, I’m moving on.
Because I do love the idea of dumping quinoa + water into it in the morning while I make coffee and starting the day feeling like I’m on top of things.
Pecan & Berry Breakfast Quinoa
2 cups water, or half milk, half water
1 cup quinoa (rinsed in a sieve if it needs it)
a shake of cinnamon
1 cup fresh raspberries, blackberries or blueberries
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
a drizzle of honey or maple syrup
milk or cream, for serving
Combine the milk, water, quinoa and cinnamon in the rice cooker. Cover, turn it on and let cook until it turns itself off. (Alternatively, combine the milk, water and quinoa in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer 15 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed. Turn off heat; let stand covered 5 minutes.)
Transfer to bowls and top with berries and pecans. Drizzle with honey or maple syrup and serve with milk.
* This post was sponsored by London Drugs to help get through the back to school crunch – and to help me pay my web hosting fees – but all words and thoughts are my own. Thanks, London Drugs!