Living in Maine, we all attract visitors in the summer. Our friends and family “from away” blow in with the hot weather and help us see our state with fresh eyes. Of course, they all must be fed.

With the July Fourth weekend bearing down, we’re also in the thick of picnics, backyard dinners, cookouts and many other shared meals. Each is a low-pressure opportunity to show off how tasty vegetarian eating can be. I’m always happy to bring something to share.

When guests are staying overnight (especially if it’s a big crowd), there are many other meals to consider, too, and the most important is breakfast.

Bagels and cut fruit, granola and almond milk, scrambled eggs and whole wheat toast – these are all easy-to-prepare vegetarian breakfasts for a crowd. If you skip the sausage and bacon, breakfast is actually a pretty easy meal for the vegetarian cook.

My personal morning favorite is the humble oat groat, whose unfortunate name masks its delicious flavor and nutrient density. These gems are linked to lower cholesterol levels, steady blood sugar readings and a settled stomach. I eat them most mornings. Oats grow on a plant similar to wheat. When the plant is dried and the inedible hulls removed, the oat groat is what remains. This whole oat can be further processed into steel cut oats, old-fashioned oatmeal and instant oatmeal. You can find whole oat groats in the bulk aisle.

I’ve also discovered that a make-your-own whole oats breakfast buffet wins over even the pickiest of eaters.

Of course, the magic is in the toppings. And with fresh berries in season, it’s easy to have a red, white and blue breakfast spread on the Fourth of July.

My recipe can be both vegan and refined-sugar free, assuming you serve nut milks made without sugar and leave out the chocolate chips. But consider your guests.

I’ve found those chocolate chips come in quite handy. They’re a bridge of sorts for folks who don’t eat a lot of health food, allowing them to dig in and enjoy a steaming bowl of whole oats for the first time. Once they add in fresh berries and maybe some nuts, it’s a high-fiber cocktail spiked with antioxidants, omega-3s and, yes, sometimes chocolate.

Avery Yale Kamila’s whole oats breakfast Buffet

If you’re not vegan, of course you can use ordinary milk and regular chocolate chips. When I say enough for a crowd, I’m not kidding. This recipe makes enough for 15 to 20.

5 cups whole oat groats

15 cups water

TOPPINGS:

4 cups fresh blueberries

4 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

4 to 6 bananas, sliced

3 cups walnuts, coarsely ground

2 cups hazelnuts, chopped

2 cups shredded, unsweetened coconut flakes

2 cups raisins

2 cups dried cranberries sweetened with fruit juice

2 cups ground flax seeds

2 cups vegan dark chocolate chips (optional)

Plant-based milks, such as almond, oat, hemp or coconut

Maine maple syrup

Cinnamon

Nutmeg

Rinse the oat groats in a fine-mesh colander. Then place the oats and water in a stockpot. Set the pot over medium high heat and bring the water to a boil. Lower the heat so the water drops to a simmer, and place the lid slightly ajar over the top. Cook until all the water is absorbed, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, set the toppings out along a table, buffet-style. Put a serving spoon with each topping. Place the steaming pot of whole oats on a trivet by the bowls and spoons and let guests help themselves.

Avery Yale Kamila is a freelance food writer who lives in Portland. She can be contacted at:

avery.kamila@gmail.com

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila