Breakfast seems to be the meal that is most rut-conducive. For years I ate the same boring toast and cheese every morning, and Big Handsome is quite content to have a bowl or two of cereal and call it a complete meal every day. But the possibilities are many!
One fabulous possibility is lentil breakfast! I’m clearly not the only one interested in protein-rich, vegan breakfast bowls because my previous post about lentils for breakfast is my most popular post to date. Since that post, I’ve played around with the recipe, trying out various flavour combinations. In this version, I’ve combined lentils with gluten-free millet, and subtly sweet, nutrient-dense butternut squash for a nourishing, stick-to-your-ribs kind of start to the day.
I realize this is a funny sort of recipe to be posting in the spring, but I live in Qatar and we’re into our summer now. That means the temps are in the 40s (Centigrade) and the air conditioners are working full force. So it feels more like fall than spring to me. Plus, I happened to find a butternut squash from India in the grocery store last week! We’ve been eating local pumpkin all winter long (remember: our winter is like North American summer), and while it is tasty, to me there’s nothing like a butternut squash!
After months of egg and vegetable breakfasts, I have become accustomed to significant morning meals, full of protein and fiber. This “oatmeal,” while vegan, is likewise packed with protein and loaded with fiber. Lentils (well, pulses in general) are known for their high protein content, but did you know that 1 cup of millet contains just over 6g of protein, which is 12% of the daily value (source)? And I often top my porridge with nuts or seeds, adding an extra punch of protein.
Oh, a little note about grains, legumes and nuts: they really should be soaked before you eat them. All these foods contain phytic acid which, when eaten in large quantities, may be a factor in developing nutrient deficiencies. (I found Kimi’s article helpful). I’m still learning about the benefits and drawbacks of grains, legumes and nuts/seeds, experimenting with their effects on our bodies, and deciding what role they will have in our family’s diet. Until these decisions are made, I do my best to make the food as easy to digest as possible. So right now that means if I’m going to make a pot of lentil porridge, I let the grains and legumes soak overnight first.
I like to top my “oatmeal” with homemade counter-top yogurt. Thanks to a friend who has become the city’s premier distributor of yogurt starter, I now make Caspian Sea yogurt in my very own kitchen in about 1.5 minutes. It’s so incredibly easy to make: simply take 1 Tbsp. of yogurt, add 1 cup of milk, stir and cover with a coffee filter, towel or jar lid. Then leave it on the counter for 12-24 hours and refrigerate until ready to eat. Take 1 Tbsp. from that batch and mix with another cup of milk for more yogurt. Caspian Sea yogurt is mild in flavour and kind of sticky in texture. It’s not only different from the stuff you buy in the store in texture, but also in composition. What I mean is that it’s alive, and it contains no added sugars. Having avoided dairy products for over a year, I decided if I’m going to introduce milk, I should begin with dairy products that contain active bacteria strains. Yogurt seemed a really easy way to start.
If you’re looking for a warm, filling, healthful vegan breakfast, give this one a shot. Or save the recipe for fall, when it really should be enjoyed.
Millet Lentil Butternut “Oatmeal”
1/2 cup millet
1/2 cup red or yellow lentils
3 cups water (for soaking)
1 Tbsp. lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (for soaking)
1 apple, grated or chopped
1 cup butternut squash, peeled and cubed
handful of raisins
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
pinch of sea salt
water to fill pot (2-3 cups?)
Instructions: combine millet, lentils, water and lemon juice or ACV in large bowl and let soak on counter 8 hours, or overnight. Drain and rinse. Combine all ingredients in a pot and fill with water until the water rises above the “oatmeal” by about 2 cm. Bring to a boil, stirring and then reduce heat. Simmer until lentils are fully cooked, (15- 30 min, depending on the lentil), stirring occasionally, and adding water if necessary. Serve immediately or refrigerate and warm when ready to eat. Top with yogurt, fresh fruit (I particularly like pear), nuts (ooh…walnuts go perfectly!) and honey (if you like it a little sweeter). Enjoy!