Cookbook author Mindy Toomay's blog about eating for health, cooking with spirit, and celebrating life in northern California. Here she dishes up food rants and raves, recipes, and plenty of kitchen wisdom.

By your own efforts, waken yourself, watch yourself, and live joyfully.
-- The Dhammapada

Why not make a daily pleasure out of a daily necessity?
-- Peter Mayle


A mushy message

Every overnight guest who wakes up to a bowl of Mindy's mush asks me why it tastes so good. I guess mush has a generally pretty dismal reputation. That must be because people don't understand that mush is a blank canvas, awaiting your creative brilliance.

Here's what to do. First, make sure you have organic 5-grain cereal or steel-cut oats or rolled oats in the house. Also stock up on dried fruit, nuts, nut butters, soy milk (or rice or almond milk, or cow juice if you prefer--organic, please), and maple syrup. There are other great additions, too, but I'll get to those later.

If you're cooking 5-grain or steel-cut mush, it will need more water and longer cooking. If you never have much time in the morning, you can cook up a big batch of these bigger grains and use it for days, or just use regular rolled oats instead (don't buy "quick-cooking" rolled oats; they don't have enough texture when cooked). Either way, add some cut up dried fruit (raisins, figs, apricots, what have you) while the pot's bubbling. Cook as directed, then start "decorating." Oh, and be sure to add a scant pinch of salt to the cooking water.

Put blobs of the mush into bowls and if you're using nut butter (cashew macadamia nut or almond are my personal faves), stir it into the mush. At this point you could also stir in some ground flax seed (a must in my bowl) and spirulina or other super-green powder (note to self: remember this on St. Patrick's Day).

Now top with some soy milk, but not too much. You want the mush to be protruding from the liquid like a lovely island. Drizzle on just a bit of maple syrup and sprinkle with cinnamon, then top with a little bit of chopped fresh nuts of choice. Pecans, almonds, walnuts -- or some of each. Don't stir anymore -- you want the bowl to look appetizing with all those colors and textures going on. You could add some chopped fresh fruit, too, for further beautifying.

Serve hot, with maple syrup and milk set out on the table so people can add more if desired.

VERY IMPORTANT: Sit down with your family/friends and discuss what's up for everyone. Morning is also a great time to read aloud a paragraph or two of some great spiritual teacher (Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn's books come to mind) or a yummy nature poem (by Mary Oliver, for instance). Sets a positive tone for everyone's day.

That's it. Pretty simple.


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