Horse Chow

Part of our “going tiny” journey included reading “The Good Life” by Helen (1904-1995) and Scott Nearing (1883-1983) who were the great-grandparents of the simple living movement. They wrote extensively on debt free living and self-reliance. In those days they were considered radicals, and I suppose by modern, consumerist standards – that’s still a fitting word to describe them.

Helen Nearing wrote “Simple Food For the Good Life” in 1980 and it’s a very unusual cookbook. The recipes are in narrative form. For example: “We buy a 50-pound bag of popcorn kernels wholesale, and can use up to two bags a year, as we serve popcorn on any occasion from breakfast to lunch to evening gatherings.” She mentions that she prefers it to cornflakes. Interesting. We also eat a lot of popcorn, but I’ve never popped corn for breakfast, I might have to try that.

I made hot oatmeal for breakfast a few times last winter, on mornings when it was crazy cold. You’ve never seen a grown man get more dramatic than when a steaming bowl of hot “porridge” appeared before my husband for breakfast. Apparently, this is the horror inflicted on the youth of Britain that makes them dream of expanding the Commonwealth – presumably to get better food. Or so I’m told. And by the way, if eating wallpaper paste is frowned upon – why does cooked oatmeal even exist?!

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In an effort to stem the flow of gelatinous oats, my Austrian husband began extolling the virtues of Muesli. Nevermind. Another cold snap hit and I cooked up another satisfying hot oatmeal breakfast with plenty of butter and raisins. Yum! He’s not one to disappoint, so he told the stories of his youth in the Tyrolian Alps of Austria… where he was subjected to wearing itchy, hand-knit woolen garments… but he was never tortured like this… and here’s where he held up a spoon of cool oatmeal and allowed it to fall back to the bowl with a rather satisfying “splat!”. He offered a clump of it to the dog, and she sniffed at it… but turned away. Et tu, Bitch?

IMG_8560Imagine my surprise when the next time we visited our favorite bulk food store, he stocked up on rolled oatmeal, raisins, and walnuts. Oh boy, what is he up to?! No worries, I was busy picking out avocados and almonds for breakfast. Yum. I also made sure we had enough oil, butter, and honey and wondered how long it had been since I’d made granola. Do I still have the recipe? Have I downsized all the cookie sheets? “What’s Granola?” he asked. How do you explain Granola?

IMG_8565While Xaver and I were in our oatmeal negotiations… I came across Helen Nearing’s recipe for “Horse Chow”. I read aloud to him from her book: “In the early 1930’s, before health foods and granola became household words, I made up a dish we called ‘Horse Chow’. At that time raw oats were not being eaten by humans.” This is where a rather amusing noise emanated from my Austrian. I looked at him. “What?!” he blurted, trying to look innocent.

Shall I continue?” I asked.

This is the simplest granola of all and perhaps one of the earliest. It was dreamed up in the Austrian Tyrol, where we holed up one winter in a village far from supplies with a very slim larder of hit-or-miss articles, but with great appetites.” “Ha!” he said – in triumph! The debate over oatmeal ended there while we giggled about being holed up for an Austrian winter and somehow “arousing” great appetites. LOL!

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Helen Nearing’s recipe for Horse Chow:

4 cups rolled oats (old-fashioned, not the quick cook kind)

½ cup raisins

Juice of 1 lemon

Dash of sea salt

Olive oil or vegetable oil to moisten

Mix all together. We eat it in wooden bowls with wooden spoons.”

IMG_8568That’s how “Horse Chow” became the breakfast of choice around here. Even on mornings when it’s cold outside!

My Austrian’s version:

2 lbs raw rolled oats

¼ lb walnuts

½ lb raisins

1/3 lb sliced almonds

and toasted coconut

Served with homemade yogurt or milk to moisten.

My version:

Two scoops of his mix

2 T raw pumpkin seeds

2 T raw almonds

1 T ground flax seeds

Served with almond milk to moisten and topped with fresh fruit.

 

Horse Chow, our version

We eat it in china bowls with silver spoons.

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Yum.

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Tiny House Hot Oatmeal for Cold Winter Mornings

One morning we woke up to discover that Ella’s water had frozen in her water dish.  No wonder she loves cuddling up with us on a cold winter night.  It really did get cold outside the covers a time or two, but we are snuggled up in our cozy warm burrito of wool comforter and goose down with the dog cuddled up close.  After a night when the temps really get low, and the tiny house is feeling particularly chilly – a hot breakfast is just the thing!  So here’s my recipe for hot oatmeal that is super easy to make, and very tiny house friendly:

Combine:
1 cup water
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon raw honey
raisins
pinch sea salt

I bring this to a boil until the raisins have plumped and the coconut oil is melted then I add
1/2 cup oatmeal – and I’m using quick oats.

Cook gently, stirring often until it is the consistency you like.  This won’t take long at all if you purchase quick oats, and yes of course you can use butter instead of coconut oil, yum!

This recipe makes more than enough for one person for breakfast, and my dog gets what I don’t want.  But like I said, dogs shouldn’t have raisins, so I make sure I’ve picked them all out before I offer it to her.  If my Austrian is home, I double the recipe and add less raisins.

For those with food allergies, oatmeal is commonly considered gluten free… however, I understand that it has a similar compound in there to gluten, so I no longer consider it a gluten free food.

Jamie Oliver has all kinds of gourmet ideas for dressing up oatmeal such as apple and blackberries, bananas and almonds… and all of that sounds amazing. However, at my house we’re slightly more likely to garnish the oatmeal with the ever-charming gummy bears which is always good for a laugh.  =)

What is your favorite breakfast food on a cold winter morning?  Let me know in the comments.