Go Ahead, Indulge: Baked Millet-Squash Porridge

[How to indulge on a Sunday morning.]

Recently, a friend emailed me a link to this interview with Bel Kaufman (author of the legendary novel Up the Down Staircase). What struck me most about Kaufman (apart from the fact that she’s still vibrant and joking  at 100), was her comment about growing up in Russia during the revolution.  At the time, she said, “Dead bodies were frozen in peculiar positions on the street. . . . But a child has no basis for comparison. Doesn’t every child step over dead bodies? I didn’t know any different.”

In the home where I grew up, my father’s near-ascetic approach to life (after surviving both the Depression and World War II) colored everything we did; we kids just accepted it as part of life. Our family feasted daily on odd cuts of meat (sweetbreads, anyone?), the hard ends of cheese blocks and other atypical fare (my mother became adept at baking with dozens of cracked eggs at one time) because those were the foods that his butcher-shop customers rejected, and of course “food can’t just go to waste.” My sisters and I learned quickly to amass factual evidence and then present a detailed, point-by-point argument to support every request we had because Dad would not permit any new purchases if we couldn’t first convince him that they were absolutely necessary (new boots: yes; bicycle: no; pencil case, yes; Spirograph set: unequivocally no).**

Sunday was established as “family time,” since it was the only day my father didn’t work.  Ironically, on those days (after we all had brunch), he chose to drive back to his butcher shop where he’d spent the previous six days, toting all three of us kids, so that our mother could conduct her weekly grocery shopping (in addition to meat, dairy and eggs, his store also carried a few European canned or packaged goods, which made up the bulk of our meals during the week.  We grew up snacking on Kosher dill pickles, munching on dense, dark rye bread, spooning out cherries in light syrup straight from the jar or eating chunks of polenta for breakfast).  

On the way home from the store, we’d invariably drive through the Town of Mount Royal (one of the nouveau riche areas of town) to admire the houses and then stop at the Mount Royal Cemetery, the three of us wedged into the station wagon’s back seat (the cargo area was, by then, replete with groceries), for our gratis entertainment. My father would inch along so that we could leisurely admire the myriad floral arrangements, stopping occasionally so we could exit the car and examine various headstones (“Hey, look, Mom, this guy’s last name is ‘Outhouse’!!”–“Ricki, this one is called ‘Vowels! Eh, Eeee! Aye, Oh, You. . . ha ha ha!“) or inhale the chaotic perfume from the variegated mounds of blossoms piled here and there.  When I was seven or eight, I once plucked a tulip from the mass of petals and leaves, thinking I’d preserve it in a vase once we got home.  One of the groundskeepers suddenly appeared, arms flailing, to warn me, “No touch! Belong to family! Big family!” and I immediately understood that we had been impinging on a private plot, and dropped the stem back down as if it had bitten me. 

What? Doesn’t every child wander through the cemetery for fun on Sunday afternoons?

[Porridge, fully loaded: here topped with spiced almond butter and goji berries.]

Despite my best efforts, it seems I’ve either inherited or adopted some of my father’s parsimonious ways.  When shopping, I can rarely bring myself to spend money on what I consider frivolous expenses (why pay for prepared foods when you can usually make your own? Why pay for patterns on your paper napkins when white ones are perfectly serviceable? Why pay for brand name plastic wrap when generic is just as good?). 

As a result, even small indulgences feel really big to me, and what I consider “indulgent” doesn’t necessarily require spending money.  To me,”indulgent” is buying canned beans (for the occasional bean butter) rather than soaking my own; or jarred organic applesauce for baking rather than cooking up a homemade batch. It means purchasing a copy of a novel rather than borrowing it from the library. It means lounging in PJs on a Sunday morning to read the paper with the HH–while sipping on Matcha Tea (huge indulgence!) instead of getting to work at the computer. 

And it means taking time to bake my porridge rather than simmering it on the stovetop.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve enjoyed several forms of grain-free porridge, after spying this recipe on Brittany’s site and then this one  on Gretchen’s.  Both dishes rely on squash or pumpkin as their base.  I loved the idea, but wanted to include grains (especially when I landed on Day Two of the Fab Detox, focusing on whole, gluten-free grains). My version here used acorn squash, but any kind will do; and more often than not, I enlist my beloved kabocha for the task. Of course, my baked porridge is no longer grain-free, but its luxurious, coconut milk richness and nubby texture works perfectly in tandem with the fragrant spices, and the natural sweetness of the squash makes it a perfect sugar-free treat. Eating a bowlful of this will make you feel very spoiled indeed. 

So go ahead, indulge.  (What? Doesn’t everyone eat squash-based porridge for breakfast?). 

(“Mum, we’d be happy to eat a bowlful of this porridge for breakfast–or any time! And I don’t know about you, but romping through a cemetery sounds pretty normal to us.”)

** Whenever we have an argument (shocking, I know–but it does happen), the HH inevitably tells me I should have been a lawyer given how I can debate an issue to the bitter end.  Thanks, Dad.

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I’m sharing this recipe at Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays and Traditional Tuesdays.

Last Year at this Time: Cinnamon Spiced Coconut Bark (gluten free;ACD  all stages)

Two Years Ago: Gingery Beet Salad (gluten free;ACD  all stages)

Three Years Ago: Sauteed Greens with Onions and Apples (gluten free; ACD Stage 2 and beyond)

Four Years Ago: Dog Day: Freeloaders We Love

© Ricki Heller

[Disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links. If you buy using these links, at no cost to you, I will earn a small commission from the sale.]



  1. looks great! we have been enjoying quinoa a lot lately, love millet too!

    • I’d say those are my two favorite GF grains, too! I find quinoa’s flavor a bit too strong for porridge, but love it with savory dishes. 🙂

  2. Ricki, you have just convinced me to seek out millet; I have only used the flour so far and I love it. This looks like oatmeal (a food I cannot tolerate well, but miss terribly) and that makes this lady very happy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it prepared in in a way that looks this appetizing… hooray!

    • Allyson, I think you’ll enjoy it this way! Honestly, you hardly taste the millet at all with all the other flavors going on in this dish. ;-). And I love how soft it gets when baked!

  3. Oh Ricki, you write so very evocatively. We all have these unique aspects of our childhoods that, at the time, seemed so normal, don’t we? I never would have imagined that other kids didn’t have mothers who read to them every night in bed, but oh! I cherish that now 🙂

    Beautiful breakfast. Almost makes me look forward to cooler weather 😉

    • Thanks so much, Hannah! And how lucky for you that you had a mom who read to you. In our house, it was my older sister who read to me! Glad you like the brekkie (though I’d prefer the warmer weather). 🙂

  4. I have been totally bored with my usual breakfast choices so I just may have to give this a try! Sounds delish! I loved reading your story about your Dad. Those stories are among my faves. I see it all in a novel some day. Can Lit at its best! The graveyard part might be the bit that makes it Canadian. Lol

  5. The Spirograph! Memories! 🙂

    I’m really loving porridge and I’m madly in love with millet (I’ve been mixing it with oats). I like what you’ve done here and will most certainly try it! Hearty, warm and delicious, everything I want for a winter breakfast!

  6. Why yes, I do eat squash porridge for breakfast many days of the week! Always with oats, but now I’m wondering if I should switch to millet 🙂

  7. this looks delightful! we love millet but cook it on the stove…going to have try this!

  8. I have never prepared millet like this. You have me totally intrigued now, Ricki! I will have to make this because I really LOVE the nutty flavor of millet!

  9. ricki, this looks delicious! i’ve never tried baking porridge before. totally bookmarked. what did you spice your almond butter with?

    • It was very similar to the porridge–except I also added cardamom and allspice. And I ground up some goji berries and put them in, too! 🙂

  10. Ricki – This looks so yummy. And I’m sorry you never got a Spirograph! I loved mine – my sister and I would spirograph every piece of paper we could get our hands on. 🙂 Of course, we used the backsides of paper that my parents printed on for some reason or another. It wasn’t that fancy schmancy laser printer paper either – oh, no – it was dot matrix printer paper. I too find many things indulgent because of the way we grew up. My mom used to wash ziploc bags and reuse them. I’d never had Hamburger Helper or Spaghetti-os or anything like that as a kid (unless I visited a friend) because it was cheaper to make it from scratch. (Now, I realize I wasn’t missing anything!)

    • Thanks, Alta! I actually DID get a Spirograph–I think my sister got it for me for my birthday or something. I loved it, too! And I had the exact same experience re: Hamburger Helper–I used to LOVE to go to my best friend’s for dinner because THEY got it all the time and we NEVER got it in our house (and of course my friend preferred to eat at our place because she craved homemade food!!).

  11. Kabocha must not grow in Texas or even nearby and there are so many rave reviews about them. I am ready to step up to this recipe with quinoa and butternut – millet is another something I haven’t found locally. Thanks for the mention of my beloved pumpkin porridge! It looks like morning sunshine even on a dreary chill morning. Glad to know your porridge can be frozen – that means it can be reheated (not a morning person, reheated is good);-)

    • Kabocha is very close to buttercup, which we get in abundance here (and once in a while, a true kabocha!). I think quinoa would be good but not as creamy (and stronger flavor), but still yummy! And yes, easily reheated. 🙂

  12. Baked porridge seems for those who get up far earlier than us – it is porridge almost every morning here at the moment – I usually make it but don’t eat it but I like the quickest route possible – maybe in winter I need to try it on a lazing morning.

    And I loved your story. E and I are both quite frugal and ironically we owe a lot less than some of my “wealthier” siblings. We didn’t have to eat the rejects from a butchers as kids but my mum cut corners where possible especially making a lot from scratch. But the part of the story I identified with most was spending leisure time in a cemetery – my friends and I wold do it as kids and as a student I lived so close to the cemetery that I rode through almost daily and loved it. I have even sought out cemeteries in my travels. Is that odd! My favourite bit was finding a grave with the name of a school friend when young because her family had lived in the town so long and I guess she had a family name.

    • Johanna, that is so cool about finding your friend’s name (and also spending time in cemeteries!). You can also bake the porridge the day before and reheat–I do that all the time (or just eat it cold as dessert). 😉

  13. Thanks for sharing your story. Great recipes. I tend to stick to fruits for breakfast most days but your porridge looks yummy I think I will have it on Sundays.

  14. I just love hot cereals, and I adore millet!! It is one of my favorite grains for SO many reasons, so nutritious. I think you might like a couple of similar recipes on my blog, they are stand-bys in my house!! I love your mix of ingredients, I think I will have incorporate them into one of my hot cereal recipes!! MMMMM good! Maybe I should share these on Wellness Weekend?!

  15. I never think to have millet for breakfast instead of oats, but it’s a great idea. 🙂

  16. I made this for breakfast this morning with some butternut squash [my fave], and it’s awesome! The only thing is that I would say this is more like 2 servings instead of 4, but I like big breakfasts so maybe that’s just me 🙂 Thanks for the recipe!

    • Glad to hear it, Andrea! Because of all the other ingredients, I found I had quite a lot on my hands. Still, the servings are just a guide–if you like more, go ahead (indulge!). 😀

  17. Is millet low oxalate?

    • Hi Raven,
      I have no idea–it’s not something I worry too much about, to be honest. But according to this site (and I have no idea if she is a credible source or not), millet is high oxalate. I encourage you to speak with your own healthcare provider if you are concerned about oxalates, and decide for yourself which foods you think you should consume.

  18. This sounds dreamy and so perfect for a fall morning!

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