A new year deserves some new color, don’t you think? Or at least some fresh linens, none of which are new, but nevertheless they feel pretty and vibrant to me. That’s exactly how I want to feel this year, so I thought I’d start by dressing my table in pink. The tablecloth came out of my mom’s linen closet when I first moved out of the house and into my grad school apartment. The pink napkin is part of a big set of cloth napkins that my sister-in-law and her little family gave me as part of my graduation/housewarming/birthday present when I moved to Texas. I’m always tickled to see how impressed people are by cloth napkins; it’s like by owning and using cloth napkins you’ve achieved a certain superstar domestic status. For my part, I just love the colors of cloth napkins, and the way they make me feel classy, chic, and cozy at the same time. My sister-in-law has fantastic taste in everything, so any gift I receive from her is a real treat. Especially the kitchen-themed gifts, which always make me feel closer to her, even though we live ridiculously far apart.
My New Year’s Day was quiet and restful and a tad bit lazy. I freshened up my bed with clean linens, cooked a big batch of pinto beans, had some good phone conversations, and watched two episodes of Law & Order: SVU. What I did not do was any cleaning: no vacuuming or cleaning of bathrooms. Matt may think I have “a rage for order,” as he puts it, but I am no clean freak. I am far too lazy for that compulsion!
It was a good day, and it started with a very good breakfast. It’s taken me years to get here, but I am firmly on the oatmeal bandwagon now, oatmeal as breakfast porridge on any given day. (As a side note, can I just tell you how much I love the word “porridge?” It’s a rather antiquated word, but I find it so homey and charming.) I’ve told you a little about my favorite ways to eat oatmeal, such as Daphna’s Banana Oatmeal or my Overnight Oatmeal. What I’m finding with oatmeal and a few other things that I make frequently is that the recipes are really more like biological organisms that, over time, are slowly evolving into something a little different, something that fits my personal taste the way a foot fits snugly into a well-worn shoe.
The most important change in my overnight oatmeal methods is that I’ve started using kefir instead of yogurt. It’s a subtle switch, but I’ve fallen hard for the strawberry kefir from Lifeway, with its tangy-sweet flavor and pourable thickness. When mixed into oats that have been soaked overnight in almond milk, the combination is the breakfast stuff of my dreams: a light sweetness, an easy chewableness, and a boatload of nutrients in every bite.
And because it’s now winter, I’ve invited a new friend to join my oatmeal: those adorable little clementine oranges, the ones that come in giant boxes that you can buy for five bucks this time of year. I really like fresh fruit on top of my overnight oatmeal, and while I usually go for bananas, they weren’t an option this time because the bunch on my table was still quite green. The oranges, however, were looking perky and inviting, so I peeled one and arranged it in a circle of wedges on top of my oats. I’m usually not so artsy with my food, but for whatever reason, I’m finding that a pretty bowl of oatmeal is a good way to start the day.
Of course, overnight oatmeal is not complete without a few more toppings. Here, I wasn’t planning on a tropical theme, but I can’t think of a better word to describe a combination of oranges, coconut butter, and dried mango. A spoonful of ground flax seed and a big blob of peanut butter complete the bowl. Armed with a soup spoon, this bowl was gone in minutes, but I liked it so much that I made it again today. This is Overnight Oatmeal, Winter Edition.
Happy 2011, dear readers. 2010 was a great year, but I’m ready for a vibrant 2011. I hope you are too.
Overnight Oatmeal, Winter Edition
Adapted from my original version (also delicious and perfect for summer!)
The combination of sweet, juicy oranges, soft oats, and strawberry kefir is so good. The mango adds a little bit of chewiness, and the flax and peanut butter add savory notes and great texture. For me, the morning bowl of oatmeal is really about the combinations of flavors and textures, and this one here pushes all the right buttons.
The oatmeal base:
1/2 cup rolled oats, preferably a thick-cut variety
1/2 cup almond milk or your favorite everyday milk
1/3 cup Lifeway strawberry kefir
1 tbsp. ground flax seeds
1 clementine orange, peeled and separated into wedges
1 slice sweetened dried mango, chopped (I like the dried mango from Trader Joe’s)
Coconut butter, to taste
1-2 tbsp. crunchy natural peanut butter
1) The night before, mix together the oats and milk in a bowl. Cover and leave at room temperature. This step might freak some of you oat, but I swear, I have never gotten sick from leaving oats at room temperature to soak overnight. And I say that as someone who is prone to tummy troubles! However, if you are more comfortable refrigerating your oats, then by all means do so.
2) The next morning, mix the kefir into the oats. Top with the flax (I sprinkle it around the edges), the orange slices, the chopped mango, the coconut butter, and the peanut butter. Find your favorite soup spoon and dig in, preferably with a mug of coffee on the side.