We have returned from a few days at Harbin Hot Springs, one of my family’s favorite spots for renewal and joy. We love soaking and swimming, taking in the natural forest (now young, green, and lush again in its recovery from the disastrous fire that destroyed the place a few years ago), and meeting delightful people. Every time I visit Harbin I come home with new insights, many of them gained from conversations with forward-thinking folks in the sacred waters. This time, I enjoyed seeing my son and other kids make friends and enjoy the pools, and appreciated a lot of examples of enlightened, mindful parenting around me.

One of the biggest changes at Harbin has been the elimination of Fern Kitchen, an enormous communal space where visitors could cook delectable plant-based meals and share them with the folks around them. The café and restaurant, in their former incarnation, are also gone, as is the little organic grocery store. Instead, Dancing Bear Café, operating from a few trailers near the blooming garden, offers wonderful plates, but is woefully short-staffed and wait times are, well, more conducive to the practice of contemplation when one is not the parent of a young child. This situation inspired us to try something a bit different: we opted for an enormous, vegetable- and protein-rich breakfast every morning, followed by eating just raw fruit and vegetables for the rest of the day. We were amazed by how well this felt – the afternoon slump was completely gone, we were full of energy and joy, and the breakfast did not feel heavy or cumbersome in the least.

I decided to continue the experiment at home, so this is my second day of eating a big savory breakfast, accompanied by a lovely oat matcha latte and a green juice. Today, inspired by a story my friend Serena told me about a breakfast she once made at a campsite, I opted for savory oats. Generally, I prefer savory to sweet foods, and this oatmeal is everything! It feels like a fiber-rich risotto with loads of vegetables. I ate it alongside our vegan chili from yesterday.

Please don’t let the longer cooking time of steel cut oats deter you – their texture is so much superior to that of rolled or flat oats! The secret is to boil them with water the night before, turn off the heat, and then wake up to a basically ready meal except for the toppings. The other advantage to this method is that, if your family members prefer sweet oats, you have everyone’s needs covered. Here’s what you need for 3-4 helpings for people with diverse preferences:

  • 1/2 cup steel cut oats
  • 2 cups water
  • a splash of water or plant milk (I like Oatly)
  • 3 cups spinach or kale
  • 1 stalk leek
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • Herby/garlicky seasoning (I’m fond of Stonehouse’s aglio olio, but you do you)
  • A little bit of the vegan cheese of your choice (I have Forager’s cashew parmesan and it is phenomenal)
  • a hefty spoonful of nutritional yeast
  • A sprinkling of hemp seeds
  • any fruit or nuts that your family members like on their sweet oatmeal

The night before you choose to have this breakfast, put the oats and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and just leave until morning (you don’t have to refrigerate.)

The next morning, wake up to a pot full of cooked steel cut oats! Add a splash of water or plant milk and reheat. In a separate pan, sauté the spinach, leek, and mushrooms in a little bit of water. Add the seasoning, nutritional yeast, vegan cheese, and hemp seeds, and then add about 1/2-2/3 cup of the cooked oats. Mix and see the cheese melt beautifully into your oat risotto. The remainder of the oats can be served with fruit or nuts according to other people’s preferences, though I pretty much guarantee that they’ll want to try yours.

My excitement about this plan comes also from reading Will Bulsiewicz’s Fiber Fueled and listening to his interesting interview on the Rich Roll Podcast. We are now determined to play the two microbiome-enriching games he suggests: eating 30 different plants every week and at least one type of fermented food every day. The above breakfast provides at least five different plants (more if you improvise on the toppings!), loads of protein, and a fermented food (the cheese.) Now I’m ready to tackle my day!

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1 Comment

  1. I’m going to try your method of cooking steel cut oats. I have used a similar process for quite a while, I put the oats in the pot the night before with 50% more water than the package calls for and let them stand all night, in the morning I boil them dry and they’re ready.


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