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Steel Cut Oats with Apples, Pecans and Toasted Coconut // The Year in Food

There’s a hike that I try to get to once a week. Nestled in the dramatic, golden Marin headlands, it starts above the Pacific coast just south of Stinson Beach, and makes its way determinedly up the mountain into Mt. Tamalpais State Park. Most of the time, it is the same tangle of trails that I fall into, instinctively. For a while I felt like I ought to explore new trails, step outside my familiar routine, understand the nuances of the park a little more deeply. Then I started to really appreciate going to the same place weekly. There are so many little details that are different, especially if I miss a week or two: the angle of the sun through the dark canopy of trees that I pass under as I make my way into the woods; which flowers are blooming, or not; the colors and textures of the forest floor; the hues of the grassy hills; which animals I might see or hear. (At dusk, I hear owls, other times, frogs, and often, seasonal cycles of birdsong; I’ve seen a young deer leaping out of the canopy; and once, a small, surprised bobcat.) And something else happens: because I don’t have to worry about where I’m going, I just get to be there. The mind relaxes differently when it’s not thinking about the how. Some weeks I go up there with so much angst from my life that I am not very much there at all. Others, I’m so deeply immersed in the shady cocoon of woods that I am caught off guard as dusk falls. Always, I leave feeling so much more like the me that I want to be.

Steel Cut Oats with Apples, Pecans and Toasted Coconut // The Year in Food

Lately I’ve been fiercely grabbing on to these rituals, those familiar, everyday acts that fill the pockets of our days. Walking through my neighborhood in the evenings, often along the same few roads, or making that same, satisfying preparation of my favorite vegetables, week after week. I think some of it is because so much of my life – especially my work life – is about the new and the unfamiliar, so much of it is me in at the deep end, that I need the anchoring that comes with familiar habits.


Oatmeal falls very much into this camp for me: it’s comfortingly familiar and it is very much a ritual of the morning. It’s one of perhaps three breakfasts in rotation most mornings of the year. To all the naysayers out there, give this a try. It’s got the texture and the sweet/salty balance that is sometimes lacking in this most everyday of breakfasts, and the nuttiness and toothsome qualities of steel-cut oats really redeems it. I like to mix it up a little, depending on what fruit’s in season, and vacillating between the ease of quick-cooking oats and the deeper satisfaction of steel-cut. I love what Megan has done with the initial toasting of the oats in butter; it’s kinda genius and the simplest little step for the depth of flavor that it adds. Make a big batch at the beginning of the week and keep it in the fridge. And add nuts, fruit, cinnamon and cardamom generously, and maple syrup and even some toasted coconut flakes. These details make it feel both like you’re taking care of yourself and treating yourself. It’s a perfect ritual.

Steel Cut Oats with Apples, Pecans and Toasted Coconut // The Year in Food

Yield: 4 servings
adapted from Whole Grain Mornings, by Megan Gordon

I’ve been so excited for this gem of a book to be released. Now that it’s here, I’m smitten. Breakfast is such a rich subject, and Megan’s aced it. Steel-cut oats, I learned long ago, benefit from a little salt to bolster the sweet – don’t be shy here. Do whatever you like with them to finish, but give this method a whirl to start. The toasting of the oats is an awesome first step.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup steel cut oats
3 cups water
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (use whichever kind of milk you prefer, of course)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

For each bowl:

1/2 firm apple, diced
Coconut Flakes
Maple Syrup

In a medium, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat, warm the butter until it is frothy. Add the oats and toast, stirring often, until they’re golden and fragrant, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the water and almond milk, along with a generous pinch of sea salt and as much cinnamon and cardamom as suits your fancy, and bring to a boil, partially covered. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer, stirring often enough to prevent burning, until the liquid is absorbed, about 25 to 30 minutes more.

To serve, top with the diced apple, a generous sprinkle of coconut flakes, and a small handful of pecan pieces. Finish with maple syrup – this is truly among the greatest of vehicles for this fine sweetener. Or start with the method above and finish with your favorite fruits and nuts. Regardless, enjoy.

  • Sophie - So simple and gorgeous! In love!ReplyCancel

  • Maryea {happy healthy mama} - I like the comfort of a familiar breakfast, too. My ritual is oatmeal, as well, but I rarely take the time to make the steel cut version. I need to, because I love steel cut oats. Thanks for the boost. I will try your recipe–I’m particularly interested in the toasting the oats in butter. I can taste the difference before even trying it.ReplyCancel

  • Brian @ A Thought For Food - Winter allows me to focus a bit more on such rituals. I’m less likely to rush out of the house and I usually take these days to sip (not chug) my coffee and work on a little breakfast. That bowl looks wonderful… healthy and yet totally satisfying.ReplyCancel

  • Lindsey (dolly and oatmeal) - This was the first thing I read this morning; it was such a lovely welcome to envision your hikes through one of the most beautiful forests I’ve ever been to. And as someone who eats oatmeal every morning for breakfast, I will most definitely be trying to spruce it up a bit with these flavors!ReplyCancel

  • Elaine@JoinMeForDinner - Your post reminded me that simple is always best, whether it’s a way to get daily exercise or what to have for breakfast. Reading your words first thing in the morning was a great way to begin my day. I think I’ll substitute walnuts for the pecans, just to make it a true cholesterol-lowering meal. Thanks so much for sharing it.ReplyCancel

  • Irina @ wandercrush - I’ll have to agree vehemently about the comfort of oatmeal. Strangely enough, I never had it growing up in a Chinese household, but nowadays it’s a staple for even my early lunches. I’m a fan of the solidly savoury route, but a sweet and nutty bowl is a treat once in a while :) Beautiful post, as usual, and an inspiring reminder to get out and explore a hiking trail like I used to.ReplyCancel

  • Grace - Just lovely! I need to get myself to Marin more often. It’s such an incredible oasis only 30 minutes away. Oats for me too are a comfort meal. Nearly always my breakfast but makes a great meal any time I just need somehing warm with a swirl of maple syrup. I’ll have to add this version into rotation, looks great!ReplyCancel

  • shanna mallon - OK. That is IT. I have to try this method.ReplyCancel

  • erin @ yummy supper - Kimberley,
    I find solace in the exact same places as you… walking in nature and cooking my favorite simple ritualized meals. Both are so grounding when life feels tumultuous and new.
    I hear you lady, this year is going to be a crazy adventure. But I am SO excited for your book and I’m guessing I’ll find solace in your recipes.

  • SG - This seems like a good ritual for me to get in to. Mornings might seem a bit more bearable with this gorgeous deliciousness.ReplyCancel

  • Alex - I know exactly what hike you are talking about, and love every inch of those trails. All the transitions from windswept hills to the dense, rainforest paths. It is so close to home, but such a world away. Funny how your favorite places and routines match others.ReplyCancel

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar - Yes to the familiar indeed!! This looks fabulous!ReplyCancel

  • Lisa Cohen - Those trails sound wonderful and I know just what you mean about rituals feeling oh so comforting. It gives the mind breathing space… Time to release and unwind. And it’s pretty awesome when you can truly get to know a place… Including all of the wonderful evolutions throughout the seasons and various times of day. Finding wonder in the ordinary is most extraordinary. :DReplyCancel

  • Kasey - New is wonderful, but we all need our routines. I think Megan’s oatmeal is a lovely mix of comfort and a little sparkle of something extra. Beautiful, lady!ReplyCancel

  • Hannah - Kimberley we are loving Megan’s oats around here, too. So good. And your hike is one of mine: Kyle and I lived in Marin for six years, were married at the Mountain Home Inn, and have spent hours days years on and around Tam’s slopes … I love this whole piece, and you are so right that going to the places that are familiar allows us to be there in a whole different way. Yes to that, and to oatmeal too.ReplyCancel

  • ileana - I love Megan’s trick to toast the oats in butter! Next I want to try this move with April Bloomfield’s porridge made using half rolled oats and half steel cut oats.ReplyCancel

  • Chicken Biryani - Thank you for the excellent and healthy recipe. I tried and relished the great taste of it.ReplyCancel

  • Chicken Biryani - Thanks for an excellent healthy recipe. I prepared and loved the taste.ReplyCancel

  • Megan Gordon - Thank you for the gorgeous tribute to these humble oats! Love the combination of apples and coconut … perfect for this time of year! xoxReplyCancel

  • la domestique - Love this post and your words about the familiar. Since my husband and I uprooted and moved to Ireland I’ve been bombarded by the new. This post is a nice reminder to take comfort in the familiar. I look forward to working this recipe into my regular rotation of oatmeal.ReplyCancel

  • Sheelah - Love that hike too! (Assuming you’re talking Matt Davis/Steep Ravine/Dipsea). And this looks delicious :)ReplyCancel

  • Peter Gillespie - Inspiring prose.
    I love oatmeal. Always have.
    Your piece about walking the woods, mixing the familiar with unfamiliar transformed good food and good memories into a favorite food and childhood memories.
    Who knows, you might even give up your day job to write this kind of stuff… only you would still have to worry about who would pay for it.
    Thanks for sharing.
    (found you through the Saveur Magazine Best Food Blogs contest)ReplyCancel

  • Peter Gillespie - Please delete my previous posting and replace with this edited version:

    Inspiring prose.
    I love oatmeal. Always have.
    Your piece about walking in the woods, mixing the familiar with the unfamiliar transformed good food and good memories into a favorite food and childhood memories.
    Who knows, you might even give up your day job to write this kind of stuff… only you would still have to worry about who would pay for it.
    Thanks for sharing.
    (found you through the Saveur Magazine Best Food Blogs contest)ReplyCancel

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