Get the most from your gruel

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, and I apologize.  Mostly we have just been eating out of the freezer or making some of our winter standbys, which we posted last winter.  I’ve been very thankful for the canned peaches and pears that I put away in the summer (and vow to can twice as many peaches next year.)  I’ve been making a lot of yogurt smoothies from my frozen berries and frozen veggies have mostly gone into quiches, which serve as a good dinner and leftover lunch.

My lack of formal cooking might also have something to do with the dark winter nights but is probably more owed to the fact that I now have a slight addiction to waffles.  Really, I’ll eat them for any meal. I’ve been freezing them in stacks in a freezer bag and reheating them in the toaster oven – it works quite well.

When I’m not eating waffles, I find that oatmeal is a great winter breakfast. I like steel cut (or Irish) oats the best, because they really give you something to chew. However, they take so long to cook that I never seem to have time in the morning.  Nourishing Traditions, a book that I got from the library, solved my problem.

Soaking oats over night is not only convenient but can give you a nutritional advantage. When oats, or any grain soak over night with a little bit of dairy, you can feel confident that you’re getting the most out of your grain.

All grains contain phytic acid in the outer layer or bran. Untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc.. ..and block their absorption.. .. Soaking allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to break down and neutralize phytic acid.


During the process of soaking and fermenting, gluten and other difficult-to-digest proteins are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption.

People throughout history and cultures have traditionally soaked and fermented their grains, and scientists are now finding that the action of fermenting allows for increased absorption of vitamins (especially B).

So, if it’s healthier and easier, why not soak your oats over night? Here’s how:

1 cup cracked oats
1 cup warm water
2 tbls. dairy with helpful cultures (yogurt, buttermilk, or whey)

1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup water, additional

  1. The night before-
    Mix oats with 1 cup warm water and dairy. Mix, cover, and leave on the counter for at least 7 hours (and up to 24).
  2. In the morning-
    Bring 1 cup of water to boil. (A teapot works well.) Stir this and your salt into the soaked oats mixture.
  3. Bring to a simmer on medium. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 5-10 minutes, until your oats are the consistency you like.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in any of those good things that you like: nuts, dried fruit, honey, maple syrup.

Notes: The book goes on to comment about granola and other breakfast grains. Apparently exposure to dry heat, as in the making of granola, strips valuable nutrients from the grain. That’s unfortunate. She says, “For a new generation of hardy children, we must return to the breakfast cereals of our ancestors – soaked gruels and porridges.” Granola is out. Eat your gruel, kids.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Lauren says:

    So, is cracked oats the same as steel-cut oats? I hope so, because I put some steel-cut oats on to soak last night without checking to see.

    I’ll let you know if it works!

  2. Lauren says:

    (Is? Are? I am treating “oats” as a mass noun.)

  3. adrienne says:

    We love steel cut oats at our house! To avoid the whole trying-to-get-it-ready in the morning thing I cook it up in HUGE batches and then freeze in individual containers. It keeps its consistency well. We super charge it during the boiling phase with banana (for sweetness), cinnamon and beaten eggs for extra protein. Stick to your ribs goodness!

  4. Cathy says:

    Hello! Thanks for the shout out on steel cut oats. Our family has them for breakfast about once a week, with even less time invested. I use a small crock pot and cook the oats over night. By 5:00 AM breakfast is ready!

  5. Anne says:

    Those are all great tips. :) Thanks. It’s good to know people still eat their porridge. Yes, Lauren, cracked oats and steel cut oats are the same thing. Sometimes they’re even called Irish oats.

  6. Anne says:

    Love your site. Saw it on IslandMoms.
    My husband and I eat steel-cut oats every morning. I soak them overnight
    then cook them in the rice cooker. I have a Zojirushi and it has a porridge cycle. I make one pot for the week and every morning just warm a bowl for each of us. We LOVE our oats!

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