I am, no doubt, a breakfast eater. According to the rules of healthy living, it seems this practice gains me bonus points on most self-assessment quizzes. It’s a meal that I always enjoy and prefer to eat at home. I am not one of those people who loves going out to breakfast, exploring new diners, searching for the perfect home fries, adding a long list of veggies and cheeses to my omelet or drinking the seemingly endless flow of coffee refills. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy a fresh bakery bagel with a hot cup of tea every once in a while, but when imagining a meal out on the town, breakfast is seldom my choice. I was raised on non-sugared cold cereals, vats of fiber-filled hot cereals, fresh waffles, french toast and poached eggs. For a while, we even ventured into the world of homemade yogurt, adorned with wheat germ and fruit. My mother’s goal was to jumpstart the days of her eight children, six of whom were boys, with healthy, hardy fare. Clearly, I have inherited this gene as I send my own sons off to their adventures with bellies full of good choices. Luckily for me, I usually eat what I serve in the morning and so am able to stick to my own high standards.

This is the time of year when I begin to shift my cooking gears a bit, leaning more towards warm and comforting foods on these brisk mornings. Although we love our oatmeal and cream of wheat, quinoa (keen-wa) is the hot cereal that I especially like for its versatility. The Incas deemed quinoa as sacred, referring to it as the “mother of all grains” while appreciating it as a complete plant protein full of essential amino acids, dietary fiber, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. Its gluten-free qualities make it easy to digest as our bodies mine the nutritional treasures. While in other people’s homes, at cooking classes and in restaurants, I have enjoyed quinoa (both red and white) in a multitude of dinner sides; however, for me, it resides primarily on the breakfast food shelf in my heart. I am endlessly surprised (who knows why after so many trips to the supermarket) that I can never find the quinoa in the cereal aisle and must travel to the grains section of any given store to find it sitting aside the millet and barley.

Although I always enjoy quinoa infused with the flavors of apples, almonds, cinnamon and almond milk, my favorite, slightly decadent recipe includes coconut, dried berries and almonds. I do believe in some of the healthful qualities of coconut and, when eaten in moderation, don’t mind using it as a tasty ingredient in my dishes. In its various forms, it adds both creaminess and crunchiness to this meal. When I know that I won’t enjoy the luxury of the 20 minute cook time in the morning, I make a pot the night before. Usually, I’ll splash a bit of the remaining coconut milk into our bowls before reheating so that a bit of moisture is reintroduced. Another option is to drop a dollop of fat free Greek yogurt atop the cooked quinoa. If you feel like you would like a bit more sweetness, you may add a drop of stevia or honey into the mix just before eating. At our house, we find that a small teacup will provide a great combination of protein and complex carbs, keeping us satisfied and running smoothly for hours.

May you have fun playing with this recipe and venturing into new combinations and pairings.  I imagine you will find new love as well.

1 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1 cup lite coconut milk
Dried berries (Trader Joe’s has a “Dried Berry Medley” that is great in this recipe)
Sliced almonds
Unsweetened, shredded coconut
Place the water, coconut milk & quinoa into a saucepan.
Bring to a boil, sprinkle in small handfuls of almonds, berries & coconut as desired.
Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until liquid has evaporated.

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