[Instant Pot] Pumpkin Spice Steel-Cut Oats

Seattle is getting colder, and predictably, my breakfasts are getting warmer. The days of raw fruit & chilled muesli have come and gone, and now my oats are getting the hot & hearty porridge treatment.

A breakfast like this can help you stay strong through the stresses of the seasonal shift. With the growing season coming to a close and colorful summer crops disappearing from the local food system, pumpkins and other winter squash persevere as a shelf-stable source of vibrantly orange vitamin power. And as the weather chills, spices become magical; we love them, and they love us back with their stimulating, grounding and warming qualities. (Don’t forget: spices are powerful plants that humans have selected, valued, and carried along with us through the history of eating. They interface with our physiology in ways that science is only beginning to understand).

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Steel-Cut Bircher Muesli

I’ve been charmed by overnight oats before, but until recently I had never tried what you might call the “original recipe” – bircher muesli. This dish was popularized in the late 1800s by Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner, who served it daily to the high-profile guests of his Alpine wellness retreat. The doctor’s intention behind this humble and wholesome “little mush” was to find a palatable way to get more raw fruit into his patients’ diets. Homeboy was driven by some puzzling proto-raw-foodism beliefs, but I’ll cut him some slack… You can’t blame the guy for living in what was essentially the dawn of nutrition science (people often forget that nutrition is such a young field; for perspective, realize that humans had no concept of vitamins until 1912). I have to give him credit for being ahead of his time in many ways, especially in making connections between health and harmony with nature. And, of course, for inventing my latest summertime breakfast obsession.

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Steel-Cut Muesli, California-Style

While I’m proud of my Floridian heritage (haha), there’s no doubt that my heart belongs on the west coast. I’m completely in LOVE with the food culture in my new California home. The most gorgeous produce is both cheap and plentiful. The bulk bins overfloweth with every healthy ingredient. It’s really locavorism at its finest.

Since we’ve already been talking about planning ahead for our meals, let’s convert all those good vibrations into a make-ahead breakfast fit for a California king!

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Steel-Cut Oat Pancakes

So, I have a thing for steel-cut oats. These are the coarsely chopped oat groats that cook up with a nutty flavor and chewy/creamy texture. While I’m a long-time oat devotee (all varieties have the same fiber and protein-packed benefits), I had always stuck with the “old fashioned” rolled oats. I was stuck on the idea that they were the only way I could be guaranteed a bowl of hot oats in three minutes flat, and was convinced that the esteemed steel-cuts were only attainable for those willing to postpone breakfast in favor of 30 minutes of tending the stove. What I know now, is that steel-cut oats are perfect for reheating – seriously, good as new! We can cook up a mega-batch, refrigerate, and supply our healthy breakfast habits for a whole week.

Of course, no man can breakfast on porridge alone… sometimes the occasion* calls for pancakes. Back when I used to buy rolled oats on the regular, I hardly ever made a batch of pancakes without throwing a couple handfuls of oats into the batter. But now that my pantry is stocked with steel-cut (which I feared could break my teeth if given the same treatment), the oat pancake fix called for some creativity.

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