This column originally ran in 2007, when I worked for the nutrition department at Penn State. If your New Year’s resolutions include “eat a healthy breakfast” then you will find the porridge discussion a good place to begin.
No doubt, it was the “Chippers” that did me in. They were a holiday gift from a nutrition department colleague, a slim, elfin woman who harbored no evil intent. But they put me over the edge. It’s easy to resist eggnog, candy canes, fruitcake and the many other ordinary holiday booby traps, but those Chippers — sturdy, ridged Red River Valley potato chips dipped in chocolate — were so undeniably tasty that I ate the whole box. Not all at once, but gradually, two or three chips at a time, and shared them only once, with my daughter, while she was in my office. They never made it home.
Mea culpa. Now I’m paying. The scale at the doctors’ office reads my heaviest non-pregnant weight of all time. The wake up call. Now is the time to go online to www.mypyramid.gov and start tracking my calories in/calories out. The site provides a day-by-day report of what to choose and what to do to burn more calories.
Here in the nutrition department at Penn State, we pay attention to food issues. Holiday or not, there is often a box of fine, imported, sometimes cordial-filled chocolates on the table near the mailboxes, though candy seems to disappear faster than a box of Clementines.
But the new year brings new resolve, and I am signing on to change my ways. I had noticed, since the feasting began on Thanksgiving, that a small weight gain takes a toll. My knees were hurting on our weekly climb up the mountain, especially on the steep and rocky downhill part. My shoulders were aching. I just didn’t feel well.
I’ve been a breakfast person for a while, since learning from nutritionist Kris Clarke at a women’s conference that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Most every day since then I’ll choke down a bowl of cereal — not because I like it, but because those breakfast cereals are fortified with the vitamins we need for optimum health, and I see a real difference in the way my fingernails grow and in how I feel.
But those dry, crackly cereals don’t maintain for very long. My New Year’s resolve includes a special breakfast, warm and nourishing, so old that it is new again — porridge. Porridge is simple dish of any grain cooked in milk or water, often served at breakfast. Starting your day with a bowl of porridge is like putting a heavy log of red oak in your wood stove instead of a pile of pine kindling: It gives your metabolism a slow burn that will take you through your day.
Here’s a recipe for a multigrain hot cereal from Sybille Kranz, a nutrition professor of German heritage. The grains are all available at natural food stores and in well-stocked supermarkets. Try some porridge — it’s hot.
P.S. — If your New Year’s resolution is to gain weight, the “Chippers” are available at Carol Widman’s Candy Co., 4325 13th Ave. S., Fargo, N.D. 58103.
Make 2 servings
2 tablespoons cream of rye
2 tablespoons bulgur wheat
2 tablespoons steel cut oats
2 tablespoons old fashioned rolled oats
1 tablespoon oat bran
1 tablespoon cream of wheat
3 cups milk
Combine the grains and add to the milk. Slowly warm in double boiler or a heavy saucepan and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon until thick. Depending on how high your heat is, the grains take about 20 or 30 minutes to soften.