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A little chopping in the evening gets you a savory, hot breakfast upon waking. The barley becomes very creamy, cubes of convenient prepared polenta grow tender and take on flavor during the long cook without losing their shape, and simple marinated mushrooms provide contrasting color and a bit of texture. Scallions and bell pepper add a shot of green and their mildly bitter touch, cutting through the starch to help balance the bowl.

Savory Barley, Polenta, and Mushroom Breakfast Porridge (from the Slow Cooker)

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serves 6-8

8 oz button mushrooms

4 scallions

2 TBSP reduced-sodium tamari

2 no-salt-added vegetable bouillon cubes

5 cups water

1 green bell pepper

1 18-oz tube prepared polenta

1 cup dried pearled barley (not quick-cooking)

1 tsp rubbed sage

1/2 tsp dried marjoram

1/2 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

1/4 tsp celery seed

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

With a damp kitchen towel, wipe mushrooms clean, discard tough stems, and quarter caps. Chop the white and tender green parts of scallions. Toss both with tamari and let sit 1 hour.

Meanwhile, dissolve bouillon in water, cover with clean kitchen towel, and set aside until ready to assemble. Trim and chop pepper into small dice and add to slow cooker. Chop polenta into bite-size cubes (about 3/4-inch) and set aside.

Before bed, add barley, all spices except pepper, prepared broth, and marinated mushrooms (include any unabsorbed tamari) to the slow cooker. Stir to combine. Add polenta, cover, and cook on low 8-9 hours, then remove crock from heating base, if possible. At this point, there will be some standing liquid in the bottom of the crock, but this will thicken as it stands. Remove lid and crack black pepper, to taste, over the top. Stir well. Let stand, uncovered, about 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with chopped scallion tops, if desired.

Leftovers can be reheated on the stove with broth (or possibly nondairy milk) to thin.