Eat as a hot dinner on a cold day or as a light breakfast anytime: Cream of Wheat is endlessly versatile. This cereal is a brand name, but any type of farina cereal can be topped with sweet and savory fixings. Just add a pinch of salt while cooking savory cereal and leave it out if you plan to make a sweet dish.

These are the toppings to choose from if you want to improve the flavor of your Cream of Wheat without losing its creamy, smooth texture. Brown sugar and cinnamon is a classic topping combination for this dish. In addition to those, add a pinch each of nutmeg and ground cloves, plus a spoonful of canned pumpkin. Your breakfast will taste like pumpkin pie. If you have a major sweet tooth, stir some white sugar, an artificial sweetener or maple syrup into your bowl.

Tips

Adjust the amount and type of liquid you use to cook the cereal to suit the toppings you choose. If you want to make a light breakfast that’s packed with berries, cook the dish with water and use enough to give the cereal a thin consistency; if you want to make a rich, decadent meal, cook the cereal with milk and a splash of cream.

Combining your Cream of Wheat with both fruit and nuts turns it into a sweet and filling meal, though you don’t have to add both. Berries, mangoes, bananas, tangerines, plums: any fruit that’s not too watery or acidic works in this dish — so skip the watermelon and citrus. Apples are especially delicious in Cream of Wheat. Stir in chunks of fresh or baked apples, or keep the dish creamy by adding smooth applesauce. Dried fruits like raisins work too.

Add pecans, walnuts, almonds or all three. Toast and chop these nuts to bring out their flavor. You can also stir in a big spoonful of peanut or almond butter.

Like grits, Cream of Wheat turns into the ultimate comfort food when it’s made with cheese. Pick cheese that has strong flavor and melts smoothly. Try a combination of sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses or use grated Parmesan. Any soft cheese, such as brie or blue cheese, will also melt perfectly into this dish.

Tips

Parmesan cheese doesn’t melt well unless it’s grated. Other cheeses that don’t melt smoothly include Mexican cheeses, fresh goat cheese and feta; however, you may still want to add these for their flavor.

Any meat that pairs well with cheese can be added to a bowl of cheesy Cream of Wheat — add diced ham, crumbled bacon, cooked shrimp or chopped sausage to the dish. You can also use a plate of plain Cream of Wheat as a base for leftovers; serve a slab of meatloaf or a piece of grilled chicken on it.

Make a vegetarian meal by topping a bowl of cheesy Cream of Wheat with scrambled eggs and chopped tomato, or use Mexican-inspired flavors. Add black beans, corn, salsa and a pinch of chili powder to a bowl.

Make Cream of Wheat into a full-fledged dessert by stirring chocolate chips into a still-warm batch of sweetened cereal, or by stirring in chunks of brownies or cookies. You can even cook the cereal with an egg yolk and some vanilla to create a thick, sweet pudding.

On the savory side, make this dish a nutritious side by stirring in cooked peas or spinach. Saute garlic in butter and cook the cereal and milk with the garlic.

Tips

Leftover Cream of Wheat will keep in the refrigerator for a few days. It turns very firm, almost gelatinous, in the fridge. Reheat it in the microwave, or fry leftover squares of the cereal in a pan.