Pork, Thwarted

So I had this great plan for a field trip last Saturday. Ithaca has a winter indoor farmers market, and this new deli/butcher which raises its own pigs that I’ve been mildly obsessed with, The Piggery, was scheduled to have a stall there. I planned to pick Melinda up at 11:30, and we would go to the farmers market, buy some pork products and hopefully all the produce I needed for the week, then maybe grab some lunch at The Piggery’s deli, on Rt 13 to experience even more piggy goodness. I left my house at 10:45, to run to the post office and get gas before picking up my friend. By the time I got to her place, the snow was incessant and the roads were deteriorating. We made it as far as Owego before throwing in the towel and postponing pork Heaven for another day.

Stupid snow

Since we’re only a couple weeks into the new year, and my belly is still big while my wallet is still small, maybe this derailed journey was for the best. Because while I was looking forward to gorgeous root vegetables, kale, mushrooms and fruit at the farmers market, the main impetus for the trip was pork. Bacon, pork loin, rib tips and sausages, all made from locally raised and well-loved pigs. Oh my. I was going to get some chorizo to add to some black beans this week, and bacon to roast up with brussel sprouts.

But I guess, maybe, this thwarted joy ride to flavortown wasn’t meant to be, and I’m ok with that. Why, you ask? Well, I have been making a concerted effort to eat a bit healthier during the week, when I’m at home. I work from home, and so it’s easy for me to pretty rigidly control what I eat for breakfast and lunch (as well as dinner, I suppose) most days. Last year, I read a great book by How to Cook Everything Author Mark Bittman called Food Matters. In the book, Bittman advances the idea of a sane eating plan that’s healthier for you and the environment and basically equates to being a vegetarian until sundown. Yes, he advocates whole grains and organic produce, but essentially, the plan cuts out meat, eggs and dairy until dinner with the basic idea that more plant foods are better for you and less commercial meat production is better for the planet.

Non-pork consolation lunch at Wegmans on Saturday

The tenets are sound. And while I could never be accused of being any of the following things: tree-hugger, crunchy granola or vegetarian, I do appreciate our impact on our environment and that even small steps can help. I especially appreciate a plan that’s so loose and yet promises weight loss. Over the last two years, getting out of Corporate America and working from home, I’ve managed to lose around 15-20 lbs with five days-a-week cardio and watching those breakfasts and lunches. I would love a plan that lets me eat out at night and have whatever I want, and just make an effort to keep the porkfest to a minimum around the house!

I don’t have any results to share yet. Like I said, we’re barely into the new year, and while I am enthusiastic about this sane eating endeavor, I’m not perfect. But I thought I would share a recipe with the Big Hungries out there who might be at least a little interested in sane eating. One of the basic ideas Bittman encourages is cooking up big batches of whole grains, beans, roasted veggies etc and then eating from them throughout the week so that on-the-go meal prep is a breeze. For lunch, I’ve been topping delicious Lundberg brand Jubilee brown rice blend with made-from-scratch black beans (cooked in vegetable stock with onions and garlic, cumin and coriander) and a pile of roasted veggies on the side (I like parsnips, carrots, kale, butternut squash, red bell pepper and mushrooms). But the breakfast grains gig is what I want to share with you today. I’ve recently discovered the joy that is savory hot cereal. I make a big batch of hot cereal at the beginning of the week, and then each morning I can choose to reheat it up in the microwave sweet or savory style. It’s versatile and delicious. Made sweet, you know the drill: a splash of milk, some honey or brown sugar, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a little fruit. But savory, well, the possibilities are endless. On weekends, I top with a tiny sprinkling of sharp cheddar cheese, some white pepper and a sunny-side-up egg. On weekdays, a sprinkle of grated parmesan and some black pepper, a few roasted veggies mixed in, or even a drizzle of really good soy sauce make regular old hot cereal into a gourmet treat.

Hot Cereal for the Week

Pinch of salt 1 cup oats: old fashioned rolled, steel cut or stone ground
¾ C hot cereal (I like Bob’s Red Mill’s 7 Grain Hot Cereal or High Fiber Organic Hot Cereal)
½ T butter
3 ½ C Water
1 C fruit juice (apple cider or OJ are best) or more water

Combine your liquids with the salt and grains in a medium saucepan and turn heat to high. I’ve been experimenting with some flavored salts I have, and I really love Saltistry’s apricot salt in this, but regular, kosher or sea salt will do. If you know you’re going to want savory cereal all week, you can replace the fruit juice with some vegetable or chicken stock, but the fruit juice won’t make it sweet either, it will just perk up the flavor a bit.

When the water boils, turn the heat down to low and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquids are just absorbed. This could be 5 minutes for rolled oats all the way on up to 45 minutes for some steel cut varieties, so just test it to see. You can add more water as needed if the mixture is sticking.

When the grains are soft and everything’s thickened up, stir in the pat of butter, put the cover on and turn the heat off. Let it sit for about 10 minutes, and then divide it up into servings for the week, or just refrigerate and you can portion it off as you go each day.

I hope you try this recipe out, Big Hungries. It differs a little from Bittman’s recipe, which doesn’t make mention of the fun salt or liquid options. I’m liking it, and you can monkey with the oat to hot cereal ratio if you have texture issues with your food. I guarantee this breakfast will fill you up and you can find a flavoring variation that suites your taste. If you try one that I haven’t named here, please share it in the comments, below. I love to hear what you’re up to in the kitchen or on the road! My personality is big; my hunger is bigger!

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