M is for Mornings and Muesli

February 15, 2015 § 3 Comments


I am, without a doubt, a morning person. I cannot drink in enough of the light, of the solemn quiet of my sleepy neighborhood, and the promise of the day almost tangible in the fresh early air. And then of course, morning translates pretty fluidly into the best meal of the three – breakfast – which around here means whole grains.

Oats, buckwheat, millet, grits, barley, red winter wheat. No food speaks more strongly to me of nostalgia, of home, and of comfort than grains. You could measure my childhood breakfasts in from-scratch pancakes, biscuits, muffins and just-out-of-the-oven loaves of bread.

Growing up in the mountains out of town meant rising at 5:30 am on weekday mornings to catch the bus that would take me and my siblings down to the valley and school an hour later. Somehow my mother could whip up a batch of almost any baked good in the half-hour it took to get us out of bed and stumbling into the shower, so that another half-hour later we were sitting down to fragrant apple muffins, or a double batch of sturdy whole-wheat pancakes – for breakfast AND lunch (we didn’t mind). Perhaps our favorite were her biscuits, always made with whole milk and butter, and so tender that you’d split the top and bottom apart using careful fingertips, to slip a pat of butter inside (for a little extra fortitude) and shut it quick, so as not to let its steam escape.line up

Although she always offers to make them, these days my mother can’t share a stack of whole-wheat pancakes or her classic biscuits with me, having discovered a wheat-allergy last year. So instead she and I tinker with gluten-free alternatives that have been known to fail spectacularly (i.e. when my beautiful raspberry scone dough morphed into something in the oven which we now affectionately refer to as “Raspberry Rubber”. My family, kind souls that they are, valiantly ate them all).

One of the best breakfasts we’ve eaten together lately is an amazing, naturally gluten-free muesli, a recipe from Noelle of xo breakfast (who adapted it from Saveur). I was introduced to Noelle’s blog by a close friend in 2010, and as you’ve probably already guessed, I fell immediately in love with it – from her delightfully casual but sophisticated tone to the blog’s little heart-shaped-egg emblem. I still make a batch of her muesli at least once a month, and more often in ridiculous weather like we are having now, when the 72˚F average means nothing’s so welcome as a chilled bowl of  muesli. The ingredient list can and should be sung to the tune of “My Favorite Things” (Toast-ed nuts, coc-onut, orange-boost-ed rais-ins, Spoon-fuls of yo-gurt with ap-ple and rolled oats), and singing or no singing, the finished result is an absolute pleasure to eat.


If I am being particularly smart, I remember to soak the grains in water for at least 8 hours before draining them and adding milk and vanilla (you know – digestability and all that). But I often settle for the original recipe’s single soak because, well, one must live a little right? Regardless, this is just the breakfast for the Bay Area summer heat that’s hit 4 months too soon.


Adapted from xo breakfast (who adapted it from Saveur)

Makes at least 4 servings

1/2 c. rolled oats ( I love a good mix of rye, barley, oats, quinoa flakes and buckwheat when I have them and am not making this for a gluten-sensitive audience)
1/2 cup almond milk (or milk of choice really)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract (the original recipe calls for a 1/4 of a vanilla bean, but I don’t usually have those)
a pinch of salt
a small orange
1/4 c. + 2 TB raisins
1/4 c + 2 TB walnuts
1/4 c. + 2 TB sunflower seeds
1/4 c. shredded unsweetened coconut
6-8 prunes or figs or dates
1/4-1/2 c. yogurt, plus more as needed
1 apple
2 TB honey

optional: more things you’d sprinkle into granola or oatmeal: i.e. hemp seeds (my favorite), pistachios, or flax seeds.

The day before, soak the oats in water for a few hours. Then drain oats and combine with the milk in a large sealable container or bowl. Add the vanilla and the salt, and stir. Cover and refrigerate.

In another container, squeeze the orange into the raisins. Cover and refrigerate.

Toast the walnuts at 350ºF for 8-10 minutes. Toast the coconut and sunflower seeds for 2-4 minutes. While they are toasting, pit and chop the prunes. Chop the walnuts if you like. Mix nuts and prunes together in a bowl and cover.

The next morning, add the raisin mixture to the oats. Core and grate the apple into the mix, dollop with a generous scoop of yogurt and sprinkle the nuts, prunes, and coconut on top. Stir everything up and taste. Drizzle with honey if more sweetness is needed.

Save the rest of the muesli components for the next day, and the next, and the next!

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    There were perfect pink lady apples, persimmons, and pineapple guavas at the market this morning. Pairing tip: pineapple guavas are particularly good eaten by the kitchen window, alongside the fantastic #bestfoodwriting2015. Embracing the fact that home-made cake is always going to be a bit more homely than the printed version. I'm still head over heels for this upside-down pear cake with roasted walnut flour, orange zest, cardamom, and pomegranate molasses from @bonappetitmag. #tablerunnerexcellence The wonderful folks at @goodeggs are featuring my top ten lifejacket pantry items over on their site. If the work week ahead is looking stormy, you can find the full collection at the link in my profile. Stunning photo courtesy of @goodeggs! #goodeggseats Saturday highlights: found a lovely copy of Joni Mitchell's Hejira on vinyl and fell deeply in love with a bowl of curry roasted cauliflower and onions adapted from @suzannegoin's #aoccookbook (hint: don't forget the warmly spiced chickpeas or the persimmon-pomegranate salsa). #feedfeed @thefeedfeed The french toast at @the_advocate_berkeley is startlingly good not only because they use #acmebread but because when I close my eyes the caramelized exterior and custardy inside make me think I'm eating canelés. #brunchconvert
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