As the weather warms up, my food cools down. This seems to happen every single year without my even noticing. A couple weeks ago while blending up a green smoothie, I realized that the seasons must be shifting because my body is suddenly asking for different foods.
Besides frosty drinks and fresh fruit, I have been getting back into Bircher muesli, or as it is also known, overnight oats. This is a perfect summertime breakfast – light, raw, and refreshing, yet filling at the same time. If you like a warm bowl of oatmeal porridge in the colder months, I think Bircher muesli will be right up your alley for this time of year. And if you’re a particularly busy person, you’ll also fall in love with the incredibly simple prep that leaves you all that extra time in the morning for eating instead of fussing about in the kitchen (or an extra hit of the snooze button).
Bircher muesli was invented in Switzerland by a physician named Maximilian Bircher-Benner. Bircher-Benner had this ‘crazy idea’ of feeding convalescing patients raw vegetables and fruits, nuts and whole grains as a means to heal them – a practice contrary to many of the beliefs held at the end of the 19th century. Inspired by observing the simple, healthy life of Swiss shepherds, he also believed that people are most balanced living in harmony with nature. What a nut job.
Okay, enough sarcasm. I genuinely love this breakfast because it is so easy, so satisfying and so very, very good for you. Quite simply, Bircher muesli involves soaking oats in a liquid (milk, water, yogurt), placing them in the fridge overnight, and eating them in the morning. If you like eating raw foods for breakfast, but do not always feel “full” after, this is the perfect meal to try because it satiates with high-quality carbohydrates and plenty of whole grain fiber. You can dress overnight oats up however you like with nuts, seeds, coconut, fresh fruit, superfoods, jam, honey, maple syrup, yogurt etc. For this recipe I made a raw strawberry sauce that is similar to a jam, but without any processed sugar. I usually add this to the oats in the morning, but if I know that I have to get up and go first thing, I will layer it all in a jar the night before and take with me on the run. So convenient and delicious! If you are kind of person that doesn’t like to eat as soon as you wake up, this is a perfect solution too. Take the container of soaked oats to work and wait until you’re really hungry to enjoy – this is the healthiest thing to do anyway, as we should never eat before our body gives us true hunger signals.
Get on the soaking grains train!
If you’ve been a reader of My New Roots for a while, you’ll be familiar with my enthusiasm for soaking nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains before eating them (you can read more about that here and here). Bircher muesli of course takes advantage of this process, which aids greatly in digestion and the absorption of vitamins and minerals. Here is an excerpt from Nourishing Traditions about soaking grains, written by one of my favorite authors and experts on traditional foods, Sally Fallon:
All grains contain phytic acid (an organic acid in which phosphorous is bound) in the outer layer or bran. Untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron especially zinc in the intestinal track and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in unfermented whole grains may led to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss. The modern misguided practice of consuming large amounts of unprocessed bran often improves colon transit time at first but may lead to irritable bowel syndrome and, in the long term, many other adverse effects. Soaking allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to break down and neutralize phytic acid. As little as seven hours of soaking in acidulated water will neutralize a large portion of phytic acid in grains. The simple practice of soaking cracked or rolled cereal grains overnight will vastly improve their nutritional benefits.
There are many variations on Bircher muesli, or overnight oats, but I will give you my simple version. Feel free to play with the recipe to achieve a final product that works for you. I really like adding chia seeds to the oats before soaking because they absorb so much of the liquid and create a lovely, pudding-like consistency. Chia also boosts the nutritional value of the breakfast bowl with Omega-3 essential fats, protein, antioxidants, extra fiber, as well as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, molybdenum, niacin, and zinc.
This is one of the most versatile and satisfying raw breakfasts I know of – definitely one to try for anyone who needs a lot of energy to get them through the morning all the way to lunchtime.
2/3 cup oats or any other whole, rolled grain
1 cup milk of your choice (I like Brazil nut, almond, or hemp) or water
a dash of freshly squeezed lemon juice (½ tsp.)
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
1. Fold all ingredients together in a jar or bowl, place in the fridge overnight.
2. In the morning, remove muesli from the fridge and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes if desired. Layer in more milk, yogurt, and the Spiced Strawberry Sauce with more fresh fruit. Enjoy.
I was most definitely moved to create a seasonal sauce for the Bircher muesli because although it is delicious on its own, it has a relatively neutral flavour that acts as a base for so much more! And seeing as the Danish strawberries are now available, I couldn’t help but use them. This sauce is insanely delicious. The sweetness of the berries explodes onto a background of warming spices, vanilla, and citrus. It is bright and bold, clean and complex – a truly addictive condiment. I made an entire batch and ended up “accidentally” eating all of it in one sitting because I could not put it down. Ahem. While sitting alone in my kitchen, silently plowing through this gorgeous creation, I came up with all sorts of other uses for it besides just eating it out of the jar. I know that Spiced Strawberry Sauce would get along famously with pancakes, yogurt, ice cream, and it would make an incredible filling for my Almond Butter and Jam Sandwich Cookies. Get creative or remain lazy – any way you eat it will be delicious.
Spiced Strawberry Sauce
Makes 6-8 servings
1kg/2 pounds organic strawberries
zest of ½ organic orange
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
2 cardamom pods
1 star anise
1 black peppercorn (optional)
1 teeny pinch sea salt
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. raw honey or agave
1. Wash and cut the strawberries in half, or into quarters depending on their size. Place in a large jar or container. Add all other ingredients and using a muddler or a large spoon, smash the berries extracting their juices, but leaving some of the whole. Be sure to crush the whole spices too (you may want to use a mortar and pestle before placing them in the jar).
2. Cover with an airtight lid and place in the fridge to marinate (at least an hour). Keeps for a week. Serve with Bircher muesli, or on pancakes, yogurt, ice cream etc.
Seeing as there are so many versions of Bircher muesli out there, I would love to hear your suggestions on toppings and add-ins! What do you like to put in/on your overnight oats? Leave your suggestions in the comments section. Thanks!
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Last weekend’s classes in Amsterdam were a huge success. If you would like to check out the photos from out two fantastic days of raw food fun and feasting, check out my Facebook page, here.
And there are lots more classes in the works. Stay tuned for the upcoming summer schedule…I could be coming to your city!