It’s been coooooold here in Seattle over the last few weeks. Like two pairs of socks, three layers of long sleeves and a hat kind of cold. I don’t do well in this kind of weather. I can’t sleep, my hands always hurt, my feet are always numb and I have a continuous red Rudolph nose.
Aside from adding more layers, I need hot soups, spicy teas and warm breads to help heat up my body from the inside so I don’t turn into a very short popsicle. Thanks to an inspiration from a recent trip to London that Chet and I had the opportunity to take, a slow cooker full of porridge made its appearance on the menu for this week, and boy am I glad it did!
First things first, London is awesome. British people are so much more interesting to listen to and I left hoping and praying that a little bit of their accent would stick with me once I got home. Nope.
Secondly, it’s cold in London too. Jackets, boots and scarves were the main items in my suitcase and I probably could have brought a couple more. Since the weather wasn’t keeping me warm, the food had to. Thus, porridge happened. With every bite I felt life coming back into my limbs. Blood was now pumping again in my toes, my face was starting to get movement back and my fingers were returning to their happy pink color. Not only was I warm, but I was full. One cup of that stuff and you’re ready for a full day of tourist activities!
If you’re an oatmeal person, then you’re a soon-to-be porridge person too. This recipe uses steel cut oats as the main grain, with handfuls of chewy, sweet dried fruits and warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. This stuff screams the holidays to me more than peppermint mochas and cranberry bliss bars. It’s the kind of breakfast you’ll want to have before a long day of snowman building, followed by sledding and shoveling with a snowball fight or two thrown in.
Oh the crockpot. You either love it or you’ve never taken it out of the box since your wedding. I’m the latter. Ours has been sitting on top of our fridge collecting an obscene amount of cat hair and dust, waiting for me to utilize its ingenious warming capabilities. Why don’t I use this thing all the time? I thought to myself after making this recipe. I literally dumped everything in (uncooked) added water, set it to low and went to bed. In the morning it had magically made all of the ingredients into a B&B worthy breakfast.
Ladies and gentlemen, get out your slow cookers, brush off the dust and go be lazy. This is the lazy persons dream kitchen tool. It’s the two-job single mom’s saving grace for getting dinner on the table. It’s the terrible cook’s miracle meal maker. It’s the bachelor’s only break from pizza and burritos. I think you get what I’m saying…
One thing you might have noticed is that this recipe calls for a whole vanilla bean. The other option is vanilla extract, but if you go the vanilla bean route you’re going to have more fun and have a delicious DIY project leftover.
How to cut a vanilla bean:
- Hold the vanilla bean at the hooked end
- With a knife, slice the bean down the middle, leaving the hooked end un-split (see photo)
- With the back of your knife, lightly scrape the black seeds out, slowly sliding the knife all the way down
- Do the same with the other side
- Add seeds to recipe
This vanilla flavored sugar is perfect for sprinkling on top of baked goods, in your coffee, in your oatmeal or porridge, etc.
- Cut the empty vanilla bean pod into 4-6 pieces
- Fill a small jar with white sugar (bulk!)
- Add the vanilla bean pods to the sugar and slightly mix
- Tighten the lid and let sit for 2-3 weeks
- Give as a quick DIY Christmas gift!
Everyone has their own way of eating oatmeal. Similarly, everyone has their own way of eating porridge. Do you like it thick or creamy? Milk or yogurt? Honey or brown sugar? Dried or fresh fresh fruit? Nuts or no nuts? The possibilities are endless, but here’s my favorite:
- 1/4 cup of vanilla almond milk
- a handful of chopped walnuts
- a drizzle of honey
That’s it! That’s all I need for a perfect winter breakfast porridge.
What to Bring to the Store
In order to reduce your packaging waste while making this recipe, bring the following reusables with you to the store and go straight for the bulk aisle:
- 6-10 reusable bulk bags for the oats, dried fruits, brown sugar (if needed) and any toppings you like
- 2-3 reusable bulk spice bags or jars for the cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla bean and ginger
If you’re planning on adding any fresh fruit, bring a few reusable produce bags as well. Always remember your reusable grocery bags to prevent plastic bags from ruining everything.
Waste Meter – 5 out of 5!
Since this is a bulk heavy recipe and you made sure to not buy any of the ingredients pre-packaged, this recipe gets a 5 out of 5 on the waste meter! Zero garbage should be entering your bin in the making of this dish. Your recyclables might be empty milk or yogurt cartons, or other packaging that came with your desired toppings. If you have leftover food, make sure it goes in your compost! Although you most likely won’t have leftovers…
- 2 cups steel-cut oats
- 8 cups water
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup chopped apricots
- 1/2 cup chopped dates
- 1/2 cup chopped raisins
- 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Chopped walnuts
- Dried fruit
- Vanilla almond milk
- Fresh fruit
- Place all ingredients into a 3-quart or larger crockpot. Set the crockpot on low, cover and let cook for 8-10 hours (preferably overnight).
- Once cooked, stir thoroughly. Serve with your favorite toppings!
- The best way to reheat leftover porridge is to add about a 1/4 cup of milk and cook in the microwave for 1 minute. Stir and add more milk if needed.