Does your morning oatmeal need a makeover?
Mine too. Don’t get me wrong–I love oatmeal. A lot. As in, eat it for breakfast, lunch and snack all in the same day kind of a lot. But it can’t always be the same thing. That’s why I like incorporating other grains such as barley flakes, kamut flakes and, in this case, millet.
Millet is an awesome food. If you’ve never tried it, I encourage you to use this recipe as an excuse to do so. The smell of it cooking always reminds me of corn, and the finished product is pleasantly chewy. When mixed with oatmeal, it creates a great interplay of tastes and textures. And, of course, there’s the nutrition factor! Can’t beat food that tastes good and is good for you, right?
Eating millet gives you a good dose of trace minerals including copper, phosphorous and manganese, all important for healthy body function. For example, phosphorous is a necessary part of energy production. Your body uses it when making ATP, the main “currency” of energy for cells. You also get a healthy amount of magnesium, known as “the great relaxer.” It not only lowers blood pressure and helps to reduce the risk of heart attack, but it also works in tandem with calcium to promote strong, healthy bones (Millet, n.d.).
And for the, “Where do vegans get their protein?” crowd, add millet to the list. At ten to 12 percent of calories, its protein content is superior to other common grains like wheat, corn and rice (Murray, 2005). It’s got a decent amount of fiber as well, especially the kind that delivers all-important lignans which are converted by intestinal bacteria into substances such as enterolactone that have been shown to protect against breast cancer (Millet, n.d.).
Last but not least, millet is a great source of antioxidants (Millet, n.d.). That means if you serve it along with a bunch of brightly-colored fruits and/or veggies, you get a boost of the disease-fighting phytonutrients that make a plant-based diet so great for you. Antioxidants work against the kind of damage cause by the Standard American Diet as well as high stress and chemical exposure to promote healthy cells.
In all honesty, I wasn’t thinking of any of this when I came up with the idea to mix millet, apricots and diced apples (or pears) into my oatmeal. I just love the way it tastes. Thus Apricot Millet Oat Porridge was born.
I find that the texture of this porridge comes out better if you use millet that’s already been cooked, so there’s a little advanced prep work involved. Cooking the millet the night before and refrigerating it keeps it from sticking together too much and gives it a firm texture that complements the creaminess of the rest of the dish.
Since I’m not a big fan of super-sweet foods, I’ve been experimenting with ways to add natural sweetness to things like oatmeal. When added at the start of cooking, dried fruit softens and provides just enough of a sugary touch. Apricots taste particularly good with millet. I’ve also grown to like adding either chopped pear or apple to this dish along with the apricots for more texture and flavor.
Adding a cinnamon stick rounds out the flavor for a warming porridge that’s great on cold mornings. Because, you know, first day of spring in the Northeast and all that. If this is spring, somebody goofed (she said, looking out the window at the snow flurries)!
As with all big, tasty bowls of breakfast grains, you can top this with whatever strikes your fancy. Here I stirred in chia seeds for a little extra thickness and some healthy fats, then sprinkled the whole thing with ground cinnamon. Wheat germ makes another nice topping, as would walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or a tablespoon or so of crunchy nugget cereal.
Jazz it up, personalize it, and let me know what you think! I’d love to hear what combinations you come up with.
- ¼ cup millet
- ½ cup water
- 2-3 dried, unsulfered apricots, chopped
- 1 small pear or apple, chopped
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ½ cup rolled oats
- 1 cup water, plus more as needed
- 1 tsp. chia seeds
- ground cinnamon, for serving (optional)
- wheat germ, for serving (optional)
- The night before you want to eat your porridge, combine the millet and ½ cup water in a small saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir and let cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- In the morning, dump the millet into a bowl and combine the apricots, pear or apple, cinnamon stick, oats and 1 cup water in the same saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.
- Add the millet, plus more water as needed. Return to a simmer and cook, covered, for 5 more minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and stir to test consistency, adding more water if it’s too thick.
- Transfer to a bowl and stir in the chia seeds. Top with ground cinnamon and wheat germ, if desired. Enjoy!
Millet. (n.d.). In World’s Healthiest Foods. Retrieved March 19, 2015, from http://whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=53
Murray, M., Pizzorno, J., Pizzorno, L. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: Simon and Schuster