healthy recipe #1: breakfast compote

Eating those commercial breakfast cereals is as American as, well, dental cavities.  Sorry, it’s a sad analogy.  Being a cost-conscious guy, over the years I have fumed at paying dollars per pound for store-bought products made of grains costing pennies per pound.  But my greater concern had to do with the unhealthiness of those products.  So I created a breakfast we call Breakfast Compote.  Composed of whole grains, nuts, and fruits, it’s not only healthier; it’s cheaper than the store-bought junk.  And it’s pretty quick; our compote can be made in less than 10 minutes (with a little practice).  This recipe is for two hungry people:

1. Prior day: To 1-1/4 cups hot water, add ¼ cup of cracked whole grains in a pan.  Soak over night.  (Our local whole foods store offers a nine-grain mixture, mostly cracked wheat.  After finishing breakfast, I prepare the mixture for the next day and place it on the back of the stove to soak.  For busy people, this saves drying and putting away the pan.)

2. Next morning: Bring the pot to a boil, add ¼ cup of rolled oats, and a similar amount of dried fruits, if desired.  Turn off the heat and let sit for five minutes.  (I buy my rolled oats from the same store.  Cranberries are the dried fruit we mostly add.  When fresh fruits are scarce, dried fruits can substitute.)

3. While the oats and dried fruits are cooking, prepare two bowls by adding to each:

-1 heaping tbsp of freshly ground flaxseed.  (I get the flaxseed from the same store as the grains.  Originally I ground it with a hand grinder, a good source of exercise, but now use a low-cost Cuisinart Spice and Nut Grinder for a finer grind.)

-2 heaping tbsp of crumbled pecans, or any freshly chopped nuts.

-A little honey, brown sugar, or grade B maple syrup, depending on the natural sweetness of the fruits added in step #4.  (Or a few drops of stevia.)

-Season to taste with cinnamon, cardomon, or nutmeg.  A few drops of vanilla works also.

4. Wash and prepare fruits in season, adding to each bowl:
-1/4 cup of berries.  (Blueberries mostly, but using all the berries in their season.)

-1/4 cup chopped apple or peach.  (Apples are available all year, peaches in summer.  We love the peaches, but nectarines are good too.) 
-1/2 orange, freshly juiced.  (I use an old hand juicer, also good exercise.  The orange juice provides a citrus fruit, while reducing or avoiding the need for milk, per your taste.)

5. Combine all ingredients into the bowls and enjoy. I like to add a little cream; it tastes good and can improve absorption of fat-soluble nutrients.  (I would love to find a source of unpasteurized cream from pasture-fed cows.)  If we have good whole-grain bread I also have some as toast with butter.  

We enjoy this breakfast on weekdays then have a special breakfast on Saturday for variety.  If you think of a way to make this healthier, tastier, or cheaper, please leave a comment. Or share your own ideas for a healthy start to the day.

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Reader Comments (39)

Try a tablespoon of grade B Maple Syrup as a sweetner instead of brown sugar. Grade B can be found in bulk at a natural food store and because it is not as highly processed as Grade A it still has nutrients. Of course in order to be a healthy alternative moderation is key.

January 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia Hylton

During blueberry season in Oregon I buy organically grown berries and freeze them in zip loc baggies. Then throughout the winter I can use them in my oatmeal, muffins etc.

January 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia Hylton

We do something similar with rolled wheat, quinoa and steel cut oats. Bring to a boil the night before, turn it off and let sit and it is ready to eat in the morning - just heat in microwave or on the stove. I add, fruit, stevia, a few chopped nuts.

January 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNancy O

Great recipe. What about honey? We add raw honey to our cereal in the morning, but I don't know much about it's nutritional value.

January 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

If you live in Utah, specifically Utah County, Real Foods Market sells unpasteurized milk. I would be surprised if they don't sell cream, too. (But warning, it is pricey!)

January 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTianna

I usually make this type of breakfast with cinnamon instead of sugar and a tiny bit of vanilla. It helps me keep out the sugar while maintaining a sweetness.

January 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMegRuth Photography

I've been relying on Kashi cereal as a quick fix for a couple of years now but I think it's time to switch to steel cut oats. Thanks for the time-saving tips!

January 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCookie and Kate

For Kristin: Adding raw honey to breakfast cereal definitely sounds better than sugar. Raw honey has lots of benefits over table sugar. First there are the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other good things. Second I have noticed that honey doesn't seem as addictive as sugar, you can eat a little and be fine. And it has a lower glycemic index than table sugar, so less insulin spike. Finally, there seem to be medicinal benefits, both antimicrobial and anti inflammatory.

January 11, 2011 | Registered CommenterSkip Hellewell

i love oatmeal in the morning, with dried or fresh fruit and little brown sugar. but i also started adding a splash of skim milk, an egg, and a capful of vanilla after it's cooked, leaving it over low heat and stirring constantly til it turns into a wonderfully thick rich custard. i've even added pureed pumpkin that made it taste like pumpkin pie.

January 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterteresa

Great post! I just found your site and it is beautiful and so in line with my own passions. I look forward to many more posts all year!
Thanks for sharing this breakfast idea. Coincidentally, I just posted a similar one on my own site:
Have a look :)

Good luck with the site, it is wonderful.
In health,
Sarah B.

January 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah B.

I'll be trying this recipe as soon as I can find a good blend of grains to try! We usually eat oats/groats with milk, brown sugar or raw honey, dried cranberries, and toasted almonds or pecans.

January 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterstephanie

Just discovered your sight. I am home sick from work and trying to figure out why I keep getting sick this winter :o/ It is my first year as an RN, which could explain why I keep getting sick, but am searching for ways to stay more healthy.

I make a similar recipe, but instead of water I like to use 1% milk. It makes my oats have the BEST texture. In the winter, when fresh fruits are few, I usually either use dried dates or dried cranberries in my oats. I put them in the pot before cooking so they are nice and plump by the end, and the sweetness is dispersed in my oats. I have also found that molasses makes a great sweetener, with many health benefits, though usually only crave molasses around Thanksgiving. It just seems right at that time of year :o) Half a banana on top with some cinnamon is also a favorite.

Oh, and also, Trader Joe's has rolled oats, and a mix of rolled oats/barley that I just love.

Thank you for starting this site!


January 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLindsey

Another easy compote idea:
Two bags of frozen mixed berries (W.F. sells organic berries)
Heat in a sauce pan over medium heat with a splash of o.j.
Simmer until fruit breaks down and begins to thicken. Takes about 20 minutes, but it is delicious and keeps well in fridge. Super yummy over Irish Oatmeal.

I also find that adding spices to the cereal, like cardomom, cinnamon and nutmeg liven up the grains and give them a rice pudding quality.

January 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

Thanks for the suggestions for a tasty and healthy breakfast. Jennifer's homemade fruit sauce sounds great. Seasonings suggested include a little vanilla (I tried it this morning), and cardamon and nutmeg in addition to cinnamon. Sweetener alternates to brown sugar have included honey, maple syrup and coconut sugar. There are gluten-free grains for those intolerant of gluten. Also, a reminder that soaking grains overnight can make them more digestible for some.

In future posts we'll talk about homemade granola and the Swiss cold breakfast of muesli. Thanks everyone, can you imagine the day when the cold cereal industry will have to get healthy or get out of business? Sweet.

January 12, 2011 | Registered CommenterSkip Hellewell

Funny, I just had something very similar for lunch! Look forward to future posts!

January 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterP O T A G E R

I love adding Agave to my oatmeal in the morning - healthier than table sugar. I am really enjoying your blog - thank you.

January 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMonica

I really like this idea for breakfast. Every morning I think my kids should eat something besides cold cereal before school. I was wondering if you have any ideas for their lunches. I am trying to think of things to send that they will like but isn't just crap. :)

January 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

Katie, I'm afraid we've all been eating some of that "crap"—such a descriptive term, don't you think? Breakfast is a good place to start dietary reform, for many it is their worst meal but it is also the easiest to make healthful. For the busy mom, one reader told how she makes a week's supply of breakfast cereal and keeps it in the refrigerator for quick use. (If you do this, add a little extra water so it won't get hard.)

You're a step ahead of us but yes, we are going to brainstorm on lunch also, soon. For school children, the key is to get their buy-in on better eating. Best to you, Skip

January 14, 2011 | Registered CommenterSkip Hellewell

I was reading Gweneth Paltrow's last email, and there was a tip for a quick breakfast. The woman made stone ground oats and poured the batch into a loaf pan, she made enough serving to fill it. This way everyday she could slice off a piece, reheat it, add some fruit and milk and presto fast filling breakfast!

January 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKohli

I am thrilled to have stumbled onto your site! I eat a half of a cup of oats with 2 tbsp of slivered almonds and a handful of fresh blueberries. I challenge everyone to just TRY it with only fruit. It may take a couple of days, but they will not miss added sugar one bit! Thanks and I look forward to reading more!

January 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

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