As many of you know, we’ve been long-time fans of Marge Granola and have worked with her for more than three years. So we were pretty tickled when its founder, Megan Gordon, wrote an entire cookbook, Whole Grain Morning: New Breakfast Recipe to Span the Seasons, last year devoted to eating a happy and healthy breakfast. To say we were hooked would be an understatement, and we knew we just had to share it with all of you. Megan joined us to talk about the cookbook, whole grain benefits, and her delightful recipe for Nutty Millet Breakfast Cookies. ~Kate
Tell us about Whole-Grain Mornings: New Breakfast Recipes to Span the Seasons and what inspired you to write this cookbook?
I had a good handful of granola and cereal recipes from my granola company, Marge, and my husband and I had been getting really creative with all different warm whole grain breakfast bowls at the time. I’ve also long been attracted to using whole grain flours in baked goods, so I started to think that we were onto something here. In truth, I’d originally written a proposal for a pie cookbook, but the more I started to map out the possibilities with Whole Grain Mornings, the more excited I got.
What has writing a cookbook taught you about yourself and/or your cooking style?
I’m not certain it’s taught me something big and sweeping about myself. I’ve always been a hard worker, and I knew that I’d be able to get the cookbook done … somehow. But I would say that I had to manage my time very strategically so as not to go completely crazy. I’m not one to use spreadsheets usually, but it was necessary to track progress in a more formal way with the cookbook, making sure the recipe testers were all on the same page and everything was on schedule. It pushed me out of my comfort zone in the sense that there would be times when I would test four or five recipes in a day and that’s certainly not the way I generally like to cook if I could map out the perfect day – it’s not leisurely and soul-satisfying; it’s just work at that point.
What motivates you to do what you do in the kitchen?
I love knowing what’s in the food we eat, and preparing meals at home allows me to control the amount of sugar or unnecessary additives in something. I also love feeding people, so I gain a great deal of personal satisfaction in cooking something that I know my husband loves or baking something for a friend. There are definitely times in the kitchen where things don’t work out as planned and that’s obviously frustrating, but working really hard on developing a recipe and seeing it come to life is really exciting – and keeps me coming back for more.
Writing a cookbook, developing recipes, running a website, and owning your own food business — what’s the key to doing it all?
Oh, I wish I had the answer to that! I have a pretty jammed day planner, make lots of lists, and block out my time strategically. I have days set aside that are just recipe testing days and I have days that are just business owner days (although those days manage to seep into everything, it seems). I also am pretty diligent about scheduling in time for myself just like it was a business meeting: in other words, my weekly yoga class goes on my Google calendar just like everything else, and I treat it as equally important. I think that’s one of the key to managing burnout; potential you’ve got to have some time to yourself.
For whole-grain newbies, can you share an easy way to incorporate them into your daily life?
Yes, I think generally doing a little advance prep on a slower weekend day will help home cooks incorporate grains more into their diet: making a big pot of grains in advance so you don’t even have to think about it during the week. Then you’ve easily got a base for whole grain bowls, morning porridge, a topping for soups or salads. In addition, I think if you’re a baker it’s fun to start incorporating some whole grain flour into your favorite recipes. Different flours react differently and that’s a multi-page discussion for another time, but it’s an easy rule of thumb to start slow – perhaps start swapping in ¼ to 1/3 of your recipe’s flour for a whole grain flour. Spelt is a great one to start with as it acts much like all-purpose flour in many recipes.
What’s the first recipe you’d like us to tackle in the cookbook – something that will hook us in?
I’d say start with the Nutty Millet Breakfast Cookies because they’re so simple and so delicious. Next move on to the Zucchini Farro Cakes and then the Salmon and Crème Fraiche Tart with Cornmeal Millet Crust.
What dish makes your food product shine?
I make granola and muesli, so our product line is pretty small as it is. I’d say for us, one major thing that sets us apart from many storebought brands are the ingredients we use (and the ones we don’t use). We don’t use any refined sugar and, instead, using Vermont maple syrup from a wonderful family farm that we’ve come to have a closer relationship with. We use a high-quality olive oil and local nuts and fruits whenever we can.
What do you eat when no one is looking?
Ha. I always joke about this with friends and family because for someone who puts as much of a value on cooking and eating as I do, I’m a repetitive, boring solo eater. In my single days, I ate what I call “Single Gal Quesadillas” almost every night — essentially, pretty deluxe oven baked quesadillas with beans, cheese, and lots of seasonal veggies. When my partner Sam is out of town, I revert back to these in a matter of hours. I also love soft scrambled eggs, smashed avocado on toast, and whole grain bowls. When eating alone, I’m pretty easy to please.
What’s the best homemade food gift you’ve ever received?
Oh, my friend brought us boozy cherries she’d jarred around the holidays last year. Those were wonderful. My friend Keena also makes a mean marmalade and I love receiving that from her and slathering it on toast all weekend.
Share a little tip to inspire a home cook, to help them save time in the kitchen or to motivate them to take their cooking or food gifting to the next level.
I think anytime you can do something in advance, life is easier throughout the week. I’m pretty habitual about making a big pot of whole grains (whether it’s farro or quinoa or wheat berries) on Sunday evening and then lunches (and even quick dinners) are so much easier: toss in a little nub of cheese, leftover veggies, a little pesto and leftover chicken or salmon and you’ve got a great whole grain bowl. Or we fold cooked grains into eggs for a scramble, or toss them into soups or salads. So I’d say mix up a big pot of grains or roast a pan of veggies, make a bit of pesto, prep veggies you bring home right away instead of just tossing them in the crisper — these are all things that will save you time as the week ticks on, and will ultimately make you more inspired to throw together a home-cooked meal even when it seems there’s just no time.
Nutty Millet Breakfast Cookies
You know you’ve done something right when you bake a breakfast cookie that could easily graduate to an afternoon or late-night treat. One that friends and family start requesting for get-togethers and potlucks. A cookie you become known for at your neighborhood coffee shop after dropping a few off for the staff one morning in March. Thomas, one of my favorite baristas and greatest cookie cheerleaders, often subtly legislates for another batch, praising their toasty combination of pecans, walnuts, and raisins. On occasion, I give in. If you haven’t worked with millet before, it’s packed with fiber, low in fat, naturally gluten-free, and bakes beautifully into this crumbly, soft cookie. Double the recipe and freeze a few to pull out whenever your morning is more bustle than bliss—or to bring to your own neighborhood barista. Morning Notes: I like using a little barley flour in this recipe because of its almost sweet flavor and light texture, but feel free to substitute additional white whole wheat flour if you prefer.
You know you’ve done something right when you bake a breakfast cookie that could easily graduate to an afternoon or late-night treat. One that friends and family start requesting for get-togethers and potlucks. A cookie you become known for at your neighborhood coffee shop after dropping a few off for the staff one morning in March. Thomas, one of my favorite baristas and greatest cookie cheerleaders, often subtly legislates for another batch, praising their toasty combination of pecans, walnuts, and raisins. On occasion, I give in. If you haven’t worked with millet before, it’s packed with fiber, low in fat, naturally gluten-free, and bakes beautifully into this crumbly, soft cookie. Double the recipe and freeze a few to pull out whenever your morning is more bustle than bliss—or to bring to your own neighborhood barista.
Morning Notes: I like using a little barley flour in this recipe because of its almost sweet flavor and light texture, but feel free to substitute additional white whole wheat flour if you prefer.
Makes: 12 Cookies
- 1 cup (120 grams) white whole wheat flour
- 1 ⁄4 cup (30 grams) barley flour
- 3 ⁄4 cup (75 grams) rolled oats
- 1 ⁄4 cup (45 grams) millet
- 1 ⁄4 cup (15 grams) wheat bran
- 1 ⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 ⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 ⁄4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 ⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ⁄2 cup (120 milliliters) coconut oil, melted
- 1 ⁄2 cup (120 milliliters) maple syrup
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 ⁄3 cup (45 grams) raisins
- 1 ⁄4 cup (25 grams) walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
- 1 ⁄3 cup / 35 g pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, oats, millet, bran, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt.
- In another bowl, whisk together the melted coconut oil, maple syrup, egg, and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture, folding in with a wooden spoon until incorporated. Stir the raisins, walnuts, and pecans into the dough until evenly dispersed. At this point, I’ll often use my hands and almost massage the dough quickly to make sure all of the wet and dry ingredients are combined. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
- Scoop out between 2 and 3 tablespoons of dough and, working quickly, form a ball with the palms of your hand. (The smaller the cookies, the better they hold their shape.) Place the balls about 11⁄2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Gently flatten the cookies with the palm of your hand to about 3⁄4 inch thick.
- Bake until golden brown around the edges and firmed yet still slightly soft in the center (they’ll continue to firm up as they cool), about 12 minutes. Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. If kept in an airtight container, they will remain fresh for 3 to 4 days.
- Make It Your Own: Use the base recipe as a vehicle to add your favorite nuts and fruits; pistachios and dried apricots would be wonderful, as would dried cherries.