Flash in the Pan: Quick and Easy Grain-Free Squash-Based Porridge

[Sometimes, you just want a dish that’s quick and easy–no fuss.  I’ve decided to offer a mini-post every once in a while, for a dish that comes together incredibly quickly or else is so simple to make that no recipe is required. Here’s today’s “Flash in the Pan.” (For other FitP recipes, see “Categories” at right).]

I swear, if my father had been born a Canadian (rather than a poor farmer’s son in Depression-era Europe), he would have been a lawyer instead of a butcher.* You see, in our house growing up, every request from me or one of my sisters for pretty much anything from a new notebook to a new bicycle, required us to present my dad with an argument so compelling and airtight that we could have put Atticus Finch to shame.

When it was time to submit my opening statements, I’d approach the bench my dad with great trepidation as I attempted to memorize the logic that would win him over. I’d stammer through the reasons why I needed that bicycle (or Easy Bake oven, or new bell-bottoms, or troll doll), beads of sweat forming on my brow like morning dew on spring leaves:

“Well, Gemini I’s mom got her a new sweater and it’s–”

“You have enough sweaters. You already don’t wear half of them.”

“But this one is made from special yarn that’s extra soft–”

“So it’s probably thin, then, and it will wear out too quickly.”

“But I don’t have anything that’s blue, I want to wear it with my blue pants–”

What? So now green doesn’t go with blue any more? Wear your green one.”

–and so on.

My dad would sit at the kitchen table, his intractable expression evaporating my confidence with each grimace as he tacitly challenged me to prove him wrong. (The only other stare I’ve experienced with that same intensity of purpose is when Elsie’s border collie genes assert themselves each day at dinnertime and her gaze bores into my back, willing me to get up and feed her.)

After the ordeal of The Presentation, inevitably my dad would wave me away like a mosquito at a picnic, and pronounce his answer. It was almost always the same:

“No.”**

The implied message was very clear: if something was too easy, it wasn’t worth very much. (I guess someone really should have told that to my friend LM, who managed to parlay “easy” into three very lucrative marriages–and divorces–within 10 years.).

Well, the same principles apply to food,  I reckon. Do y’all know the story of how cake mixes came to be so popular in the late 1950s? Trying to save all those newly-liberated women time in the kitchen, an industrious male entrepreneur created a powdered mix that was all-inclusive: it contained all the necessary ingredients, including dehydrated milk and whole egg powder, for a complete cake. All the overworked housewife had to do was add water, pour, and bake.  So easy! So convenient! Such a timesaver!

And–a total flop.

Turns out that even though the mix removed 95% of the work and hassle, housewives didn’t embrace the new cakes. You see, despite going out and working alongside their male counterparts (for 55% of the male’s paycheck, mind you), and despite being in charge of the kiddoes and pets, and despite bearing responsibility for the housework and the laundry–well, these devoted women’s libbers couldn’t relinquish supremacy in the kitchen. They felt too guilty, as if they hadn’t “really” baked anything when the only ingredient they had to add was water!

So Betty and Duncan did what any smart businessperson would do–they made the mixes less convenient and harder to prepare: after a new formula was introduced that required women to add their own fresh eggs to the powder, the boxed mixes flew off the shelves. It was no longer “too easy.”

With my own crazy-making schedule these days (okay, fine, I was that way before the new schedule), I think I’d leap over the moon if I found a mix that could re-create one of my own (whole-foods) cakes by just adding water.  For now, though, I’ll have to make do with a slew of “flash in the pan” recipes that are quick and easy, albeit not extravagant.

This porridge provides a creamy, warming and filling base (courtesy squash), with the textural nubbiness of coconut, hemp seeds and nut butter, ideal for these chilly autumn mornings. The classic flavor melding of squash and cinnamon tickles the tastebuds, too.

But hey, feel free to make this more complicated if you wish. You could add a cooked grain, I suppose, or  grind some of your own flour, or grow your own hemp seeds if it makes you feel better.  But really, in this case, “easy” is perfect just as it is.

*Yes, I know, my father was a butcher. I talk about this irony more on my About page.

** Don’t feel too sorry for me.  It’s true that my dad’s most frequent response to requests was “no,” but invariably, our mother would later sneak us downtown and buy us something fun and frivolous instead, like blue suede shoes (how I loved those), or a buffet lunch at House of Chan, or a winter coat with white faux fur collar and cuffs.  It would be brought home and blend into the daily routine as if it had always been there. If he noticed, Dad never said a word.

I’m linking this recipe to Whole Food Fridays.

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Last Year at this TimeSpiced Pumpkin Cream Cheese Spread (gluten free; ACD Stage 2 and beyond)

Two Years Ago: Quick Cranberry-Apple Compote (gluten free; ACD Stage 2 and beyond)

Three Years Ago: Roasted Plum and Baby Spinach Salad with Tempeh Bacon (gluten free; ACD Stage 3 and beyond )

Four Years Ago: Savory Veggies with Coconut and Rice  (gluten free; ACD all stages if stevia is used instead of Sucanat)

© Ricki Heller

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Comments

  1. Yep, I could eat it. :) Loving my porridge for breakfast these days, and loving that I can make a big batch and store it for several days and just add the mix-ins on eating day. I haven’t tried a squash-based one yet, though. Yum.

  2. Your stories are too funny, Ricki. I bet this would be great after an overnight soak! I love make-ahead breakfasts… all ready to go in the morning. :)

  3. You are such a talented writer… I was totally not expecting to take a trip back to the 60s when I started with this porridge post. You completely sucked me into your memory. Loved it.

  4. I remember when the mixes got even more “complicated” and popular. My mother was adding pudding mix and oil to her cakes to make them taste “homemade.”

  5. Aaaaah! Soon I’ll be able to experience this kabocha and sugar pumpkin magic for myself! And hopefully make this very dish with my prize.

  6. Hilarious post, as usual! Love it all. Will definitely have to try some squash for breakfast this season. Picked up an acorn squash last week and wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it. Now I know!

  7. this looks great! (I love all your pumpkins/squash behind the bowl in the top photo). And I love the story of Atticus Finch the Eastern European butcher – hilarious. don’t say you didn’t get the easy bake oven – if only you had been able to see into the future you could have told your dad you needed it to launch your foodie career!

    • Sorry to say, no, I never got that Easy Bake. I do remember trying out the oven at one of my friends’ places, though, and we were sorely disappointed in the cake mixes that came along with it (to which you only had to add water!). ;) Something tells me that even if I’d told my dad about the foodie career, the answer would still have been, “no”!!

  8. Too funny on Elsie’s border collie stares and your friend with the lucrative divorces! I didn’t know the history of cakes mixes. Sometimes making something “harder” or “more costly” definitely does make it more appealing though. This recipe looks delish!

    Shirley

  9. The weather hasn’t really turned cool enough here to be thinking of porridge but you had me at squash/pumpkin. Oh, and easy ;-) Elsie and Chaser really live the good life as official first taste-testers!

  10. Comfort food.

  11. I’d love a mix so I could just add water and make this porridge – fortunately, this recipe is very straight forward and easy!

  12. I’ve been doing something similar to this, with almond milk, pumpkin or squash, chia seeds, coconut, stevia and seasonings. Love!

  13. This is brilliant Ricki! I definitely need to try this with the next squash I buy…which will probably now be kabocha!

    • NOTHING compares to kabocha! I just love the flavor and texture, so much more than any other squash. If you haven’t yet tried it, you must!

  14. This looks great Ricki!! I love Kabocha squash but for some reason it’s so hard to find here in Richmond. :/

  15. Sort of really excited to try this :) may have to whip it up tonight for tomorrow morning :)

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