Monday, June 4, 2012

Starting the Day off Right

Mood: It’s hot outside. Dutch people don’t like excess heat.

Listening to: 9XM music videos. I think Bol Bachchan may be my new favorite song. I can’t get it out of my head anyhow.

Today is an ode to breakfast. You know, the meal your mother told you never, ever to skip. Indians take a totally different  approach to breakfast than Americans do. Americans are all about sweet and fatty for breakfast. Almost all breakfast there has lots o sweet.  A typical breakfast in the US would be a bowl of sweetened cereal, scrambled eggs, toast with jam, pancakes with syup, waffles with syrup, ham, bacon, or any combination of the above. An average South Indian breakfast would consist of Upma (savory cream of wheat with spices and vegetables) and pickle or sambar, idlis (steamed rice cakes) with sambar (thin spiced dal with vegetables), dosa (very thin crepes) served with sambar or chutney (savory thick sauce made from tomatoes, coconut, or mint and cilantro), fruit, coffee, tea, or any combination of those above. Mostly savory stuff. I LOVE South Indian breakfasts, but it took me a long time to get used to not eating uber sweetened stuff.

When my inlaws came to visit me in the US when I was pregnant with my second daughter, I noticed with interest that they ate oatmeal for breakfast every day. My mother in law especially is very health conscious. I used to eat oatmeal when I was a kid and liked it okay, but it was the presweetened flavored packet type. I thought maybe it would be a great idea to get started with that again. After we moved to India, I had to figure out how to make regular oatmeal (there are no pre-sweetened packets here) and to tweak my recipe a bit. Here’s how I make oatmeal if you’re interested in trying it. It’s pretty awesome. I've heard both sides of the argument with oatmeal - it can either keep you full or make you hungry. For me, it keeps me full, which is awesome in ensuring I don't really feel like snacking before lunch.


Pick a flavor (I prefer apple cinnamon) Dump 2 packets in a microwave safe bowl (I use glass because I’m suspicious of plastic – true story). Add a few spoons of cranberries (or any other dry fruit that you like, I’m a fan of sour things). Add a few spoons of chopped nuts (almonds are my favorite, but it really doesn’t matter which ones). Add a spoon of ground flax seed. Add enough milk (I prefer skim) to cover by 1/3, or just read the packet directions. Stir a little and cook for 2 minutes in the microwave. Tada! Stir and enjoy. No sugar required as it comes in the mix.


Dump ½ C quick cooking oats in a microwave safe bowl (see above). Add 1 C milk (I prefer skim) milk. Cook in microwave for 2 minutes. Add some chunks of fresh fruit (or dried fruit if you have access to it, we don’t have dried cranberries in India. Boo India.), pineapple and papaya are my favorite, but not together. Mango is also awesome. I have yet to ever get apple to cook correctly. Add 1 spoon sugar (this is optional, but I’ve never been able to let go the slight sweetened flavor in oatmeal). Add a small portion of chopped nuts (again, any kind) and stir well.  I haven’t found ground flax in India, but if you have it, add that too – it’s good for you.

So now you know what I’ve been eating for breakfast for the past 6 years. I’m a creature of habit. When I find something I like, I usually stick with it. I’ve also been successful in getting my kids to eat it by adding a little bit of chocolate syrup.

What are your favorite breakfast ideas?



  1. Idilis!!! Always Idilis :) Idilis with chutney is my favourite. Dosa and chutney my second. But I do love uppuma too... and also like pongal. Have you tried pongal? it's the Tamilian version of uppuma.

    The only oats I can get are Quaker Instant oats - and if I cook them at all they become slimy. So what I've been doing is adding raw oats, yoghurt and sometimes nuts to chopped apples and oranges. Tastes great!

  2. I have tried Pongal, but I'm not such a big fan. I LOVE me some idlis, but I usually don't have patience to cook them in the morning when I'm hungry either. That's always my food of choice when we go to a breakfast type restaurant. Definitely love me some upma too. If left alone, I have been known to go after coconut or cilantro mint chutney with a spoon. I'm going to have to try the instant oatmeal with fruit idea. Sounds yummy!

  3. I had to google the Indian foods you mentioned, and some of those sound pretty good. Meanwhile, I'm big on oatmeal, much as you prepare it - with fresh fruit. No sugary cereal and fatty bacon for this guy... I have morbid obesity to fight off!

    1. Most of the Indian breakfasts made at home are pretty least in a notably not ham and bacon way. I do love me some occasional bacon, but there's no way I could eat that on a regular basis. I have been known to occasionally sneak a bowl of uber-sugary cereal from my kids too.