The festive season of planning and partying is well behind us, the weather is bitter and it’s hard not to feel a bit out of sorts. But with a less crowded schedule and fewer temptations, it’s a good time to pay attention to life’s essentials.

Take breakfast. We know we cannot live on coffee alone. To avoid the “hangries” (feeling angry, agitated and hungry), it’s a good idea to eat something warm and delicious well before lunch.

So why not add breakfast to the list of New Year’s resolutions? It needn’t be fussy or complicated: Consider simmering a simple mix of whole grains for a delicious and satisfying start to the day. Rolled oats are the most familiar whole grain on our breakfast tables, but there are equally versatile and nutritious options that are well worth checking out.

Local grains such as rolled rye, rolled barley and rolled wheat make a great-tasting breakfast bowl. Their flavors are all slightly different, but their cooking times are about the same. In northern Europe, rolled rye is favored over oatmeal because its flavor is more pronounced — slightly earthy and malty, a little sour.

Rolled barley, a staple in Scotland, cooks up nutty and chewy, with a distinctly hearty texture. Rolled wheat is the most robust and with an aroma and flavor quite like warm toast. Try simmering only one grain or mix them all together in a pot.

The correct term for this medley is porridge, but I hesitate to use such an antiquarian word. Let’s just call this a breakfast pilaf — fantastic topped with diced apples, dried fruit, a splash of milk and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup. Try stirring in a tablespoon of almond or peanut butter. On weekends, you can gussy it up by baking an oatmeal crème brûlée — individual cups dusted with maple or brown sugar to caramelize under the broiler. It’s the perfect, if decadent, pairing to crisped bacon. It’s the weekend, so why not?

You can find all of these rolled cereals in the bulk bins of food co-ops and they’re also available online.

I’m not saying this breakfast pilaf will change the weather or make the workday any shorter. But you’ll give yourself a warming and satisfying start to the day.


Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at