Hot cereal is often topped with sugar, and a bit of cream. Others prefer salt, pepper and gravy over hot cereal like grits. These toppings are terrific, but there are many more that can jazz up a bowl of hot cereal and be especially appealing to young children.
If one is serving hot cereal to young children, one can give the cereal more interest by layering the cereal, instead of just topping it. Children who are not big fans of hot cereal will frequently only eat the top part. So one simple way to get the child to eat more cereal is to do layers of fruit or any type of topping, so the child has to eat down to the next layer.
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Alternatives to sugar on hot cereal are numerous. One can add other sugary products like honey, molasses, golden syrup, or maple syrup. Instead of cream one might put a few pea-sized drops of butter that melt appealingly on the cereal. Some cereals can be cooked in apple-juice, which provides a fructose, rather than sucrose- based sweetness.
If one wants to avoid refined sugars, consider the various fruits in season. Hot cereal can be topped with bananas any time of the year, giving all the sweetness desired. One can also use berries of any type, though check for ripeness. Sliced ripe pears also are a fantastic sugar replacement. As well, plums, nectarines and peaches can certainly add a new flavor. Sliced apples provide texture and crunch, and may be appealing for those who find their mush too mushy.
Fresh fruit makes a great topping for hot cereal, but also consider the virtues of dried fruit. Raisins are a natural sweet topping. Dried cranberries can as well be excellent. Chopped dates provide lots of sweetness, as do dried pineapple chunks. Dried fruit adds texture and interest to hot cereal. Natural food store selections can provide one with lots of inspiration and choices.
Often people complain of feeling hungry a few hours after a meal of mostly grains and fruits. One way to bulk up one’s hot cereal is to add protein with lots of different nuts. Almonds are a natural choice, and are especially good when toasted and thinly sliced. Walnuts, hazelnuts and pecans can compliment hot wheat or mixed grain cereal particularly well. Another way to add a little protein is to sprinkle toasted wheat germ or brewer’s yeast on the top of hot cereal.
Spices added to hot cereal can also provide a new twist. Cinnamon is a frequent choice, but consider instead nutmeg, cumin, or ginger. Some people enjoy adding a mixed spice like pumpkin pie spice to give hot cereal more zing.
Cereal, particularly corn meal used for grits, mush or polenta, can be much more than a breakfast food. Consider pairing hot corn meal with a layer of baked beans, a garlicky marinara, or use polenta or grits as the bottom layer of a main course of Mexican or Italian dishes.
One can also mix in fruit or spices into cereal as it is cooking. One favorite is mixing chopped apples, raisins and cinnamon to one-minute oatmeal. This is not labor intensive, and is almost as quick as microwaved instant cereal. It virtually guarantees sweetness and texture in every bite.
Hot cereal with different toppings each day offers the palate a way to stay interested, while getting great servings of dietary fiber. Each new topping creates a new dish, and a new adventure in flavor.