Porridge: I am old-fashioned enough to embrace this term, generally understood as one or more cereal or grain ingredients cooked to tender submission in liquid on the stove top. But when it’s presented with splashes of hot milk or embellished with dried fruit, raw nuts or seeds, a spoonful of maple syrup or muscovado sugar, hot cereal can be so much more than a bowl of oats, beloved as that is.

A mixture of rolled cereals and milled grain is texturally interesting and produces soft, earthy flavors. The idea of combining fairly disparate elements is not particularly novel, as thrifty cooks tend to use up small amounts in delicious ways. But the sheer variety of cultivated components now available drove me to develop a blueprint for a recipe that allows for creative substitution.

In the accompanying chart (see Page E6), you will find exchanges and additions for customizing with sweetening agents, seasonings and other enhancements for mixing and matching.

And now, a confession: One of my clearest childhood memories is of me as a 4-year-old, running to hide in the bathtub after a bowl of oatmeal was placed before me at the kitchen table. It looked like library paste, and it was light-years later that anything resembling that bowl would charm me.

Bolstered by a pantry full of flakes, meals and grains, however, I’m pleased to be at the ready for a warm bowl of goodness on a cold morning.

Hot cereal feature elements (Matt McClain/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Chart: Hot cereal add-inns


Hot Cereal Merry-Go-Round

Yockelson is the author most recently of “Baking Style: Art, Craft, Recipes” (Wiley, 2011).