Cereals, or grains, are grasses, the seeds of which are used for food; among the most important are wheat, Indian-corn or maize, oats, rice, rye, and barley. From these are prepared various breakfast foods, - oatmeal, wheatena, and others, besides corn-meal and other preparations sometimes served for breakfast.

Cereals Compared With Potatoes

Cereals, like potatoes, contain starch. How may we prove this? If they were like potatoes in other respects, they could be cooked in much the same way. Unlike potatoes, however, they do not contain nearly enough water to soften the starch, and must, therefore, be so cooked that they can absorb more. All except rice contain much woody fibre tougher than that in potatoes, and so need longer cooking.

Breakfast cereals may be either boiled or dry-steamed. Steaming is the slower process, because the food in the upper part of the double boiler never quite reaches 212° F.; but is preferable, since it insures even cooking of the cereal, prevents it from wasting or drying upon the vessel, as it does when a saucepan is used, and makes stirring unnecessary.

How To Use A Double Boiler

Fill the lower part one-third full of boiling water, and keep it boiling. Add more boiling water from time to time, if needed, to keep it one-third full. If allowed to stand over the fire, for even a short time, without water in the lower part, the boiler will become leaky and useless. Keep the two handles of the boiler in line, so that both parts may be readily lifted together.

See that both parts are dry before putting them away.

A home-made double boiler may be contrived by setting one saucepan inside of another.

Steamed Whole Oatmeal

Oatmeal, 1 c. Salt, 1t.

Water, 4 c.

Put the water, with the salt, in the upper part of the double boiler, and set it directly over the heat. When it boils, stir in the oatmeal, put the two parts of the boiler together, and cook overnight, or six hours by a day fire. Reheat in the morning. Or, soak the oatmeal in the water for several hours, add the salt, and steam for three hours.

Boiled Rice

(To be served as a vegetable in place of potatoes)

Rice, 1 c. Salt, 1 t.

Water, 2 qt. (or more).

Put the water in a saucepan to boil. Pick over and wash the rice. When the water boils rapidly, drop in the rice slowly, so as not to stop the boiling. If the grains settle to the bottom, stir once or twice with a fork. Boil rapidly, uncovered, from twenty to thirty minutes, or until the grains can be crushed between thumb and finger; add the salt when nearly done. Then turn into a strainer to drain, rinse with hot water, and dry in the serving-dish in the oven (with the door open) for a few minutes. Each grain should be white, soft, and distinct, the motion of the water keeping them separate, and the washing and rinsing removing loose starch that would tend to stick them together.

To Wash Rice

Put it in a colander or strainer, and set this in a bowl of cold water; rub the rice with the hands; change the water, repeating until it is clear. Or, wash in a strainer under running water.

Breakfast-Foods

The starch in so-called "steam-cooked" cereals is not really cooked. Steaming softens the grains, however, so that the starch cooks more quickly than that in raw cereals. If you have to burn fuel on purpose to cook cereals, steam-cooked ones may be more economical, although their cost per pound is greater and their weight includes the water absorbed in steaming. Package breakfast-foods are cleaner than those sold in bulk.

In good rice, the grains are of good size and unbroken, and keep their shape when cooked. Corn-meal and hominy spoil quickly; purchase them in small quantities. If you are troubled with mice or insects, keep cereals in jars or cans.

Fruit With Cereals

Try serving fruit with cereals: -

1. Serve berries, apple sauce, sliced peaches, or sliced well-ripened bananas in the saucer with the mush. 2. Stir figs or dates, cut in pieces, into mush before serving it. (Especially good with farina.) The mush may be molded with the fruit in it. 3. Serve cold molded cereals with peaches or bananas, sliced. (Plate V, facing p. 67.) 4. Serve baked bananas on separate plates. (For recipe see p. 234.)