It started with one drawer, the deepest of the stack, beneath the tea boxes and cooking utensils. A place to collect specialty ingredients. At first it was filled mostly with baking things, a mishmash of extracts and leavening agents, meringue powder, paper baking cups and decorative nonpariels. When the brimming drawer began to sag under its own heft, I expanded, adding a big, woven basket to the cabinet next door, to catch the excess bags of baking chocolate and nuts.
…And agave and brown rice syrup. Three types of yeast. Then, a motley of superfoods crept in – goji berries, flax seeds, hemp seeds, cacao nibs, chia seeds… – and dozens of unusual flours and grains, impulsive buys that I just couldn’t resist, all stacked and balanced precariously, in Jenga-esque towers of unintentional neglect.
The spillover made its way to the deep shelves of the laundry room pantry, where things get lost in the corners between bulk bags of brown rice, cleaning supplies, and rolls of paper towel. Earlier this week, in an effort to locate some red quinoa at the very back of the heap, because it had to be red, I caused a crashing slide, breaking a couple of glass jars and sending colorful dried beans skittering across the floor.
I’ve talked about my seasonal produce hoarding before, but I might be even worse with non-perishables. There’s no shriveled, fuzzy reminders prompting me to cook, and hey, use me. I’m all about being prepared – for storms, power outages and the like – and while I’m always grateful for our well-stocked pantry, and we are blessed to never go hungry, it’s so time to make a pilgrimage to the Container Store, pare down, seriously organize, and actually live off of some of our abundance.
Mornings lately are daaaark. My man has been traveling/leaving extra early for work, and I have the house to myself in those faint, budding hours of the day. It’s a time for quiet intention. Freshly-brewed tea or coffee, and the untroubled routine of cooking myself a warm breakfast, from scratch, before the day starts buzzing with emails and to-do lists.
Oatmeal is almost always my breakfast of choice, especially in mid-winter, and I’ve been chipping away at some of my pantry goodness (and all those ingredients I’m so excited about!) by adding new toppings to my regular maple cinnamon oatmeal bowl. The oats themselves are cooked simply, with almond milk, cinnamon, a splash of vanilla, and a pinch of salt. As is, the oatmeal isn’t terribly sweet – I press pause on the customary maple syrup and/or brown sugar – because the added toppings pack a serious, nectarous punch.
I swirl in a bit of berry jam or puree, then add small handfuls of berries, and lately, pomegranate seeds, chopped pistachios (almonds are a favorite choice too), and dried mulberry berries (those golden, nubby clusters/from the superfood stash). Sometimes flax seeds or oil too. The whole bowl is drizzled with maple syrup. It feels healthy, productive and decadent, this generously-portioned bowl of warmth, and is such a satisfying way to start the day.
Stay cozy out there!
Vegan Maple Cinnamon Oatmeal
- 1 cup plain unsweetened almond milk (or sub. milk of choice), plus more for serving, if desired
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- 2–3 tsp maple syrup (optional)
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg (optional)
- 1/2 tsp fine-grain sea salt, to taste
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
For the Oatmeal Breakfast Bowls
- 1–2 Tbsp berry jam or pureed berries (I usually use raspberry)
- 1/4 cup berries (fresh or frozen and defrosted)
- 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (arils)
- 2 Tbsp chopped pistachios
- small handful of dried mulberry berries
- drizzle of maple syrup, as desired
- Cook the Oatmeal: In a medium pot, bring the almond milk and water just to a boil. Stir in the oats, turn the heat down to medium, and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the maple syrup (if using), spices, and salt, and simmer for another 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the milk is absorbed, and the oatmeal is thick and creamy. Stir in the vanilla. You can also make the oatmeal up to 3-4 days in advance, and reheat the morning of.
- Assemble the Oatmeal Breakfast Bowls: Divide the cooked oatmeal between two bowls. Stir in a swirl of jam or pureed fruit, to taste. Add extra warmed almond milk, if desired. Top with fresh berries, pomegranate, chopped nuts, seeds etc. Drizzle with maple syrup, to taste. Enjoy!