Friday January 25, 2013

This is the final week of my January breakfast columns. Looking back, I see I was on some sort of vacation from the reality of what most mornings are like around here. Eggnog breakfast cake? English muffins? Scones? While scrumptious and certainly worthy of a place at the table, they all require preplanning, multiple steps and are either full of carbohydrates, sugar and/or fat! What I need on 85 percent of my mornings is something filling, nutritious, delicious and easy.

Sure, a leftover scone is easy, as is a homemade English muffin, toasted, and with some peanut butter or raspberry jam and thinly sliced cheddar cheese (trust me, it’s a favorite) on top. A slice of the eggnog cake is super-easy, but I am quite sure that my children’s teachers would have been less than thrilled to have my hopped-up kids in their classrooms following that for breakfast. Again, these options are all assuming that you have had the time to make these things previously, have leftovers and, as noted before, they are not always particularly healthy. Yes, a batch of Unk’s English muffins made on the weekend and stashed in the freezer will go a long way, but even I will get tired of them by Wednesday.

Variety is important -- around here, if breakfast is viewed as boring, people try and skip it. And if people skip it, they get cranky. So, for world peace, I do my best to offer a bunch of different options and throw in a surprise every once in a while.


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Not a Saturday-morning-waffles-and-bacon kind of surprise, but something out-of-the-ordinary, homemade and delicious. But it has to be quick and it has to be easy and I can’t be hanging around over the stove, stirring or flipping anything.

Just because it is good to have a reminder for myself, I’ll recap what our usual easy breakfast options are. And yes, carbs seem to be the foundation here, but if balanced with fruit, yogurt or an egg, they offer the quick energy that our bodies need after out nighttime fasting. Using whole grains helps balance everything, so we try to get them in where we can.

Toast, English muffins, or if it is after Wednesday (Bruegger’s bagel bargain day), a bagel are often at the top of our quick-and-easy list. We top them with butter, jam, peanut butter, cheese, honey, Nutella or cream cheese. In order to level off and sustain energy and avoid the dreaded crash, we’ll fry up an egg in a non-stick skillet, add a cup of yogurt with some fruit or simply pour a glass of milk. Regular old dry cereal and milk is another option, or maybe yogurt with True North’s Granola Blues granola and sliced bananas sprinkled on top. It doesn’t have to be a breakfast-y food either, Marielle, who is 13, isn’t very thrilled with breakfast foods and as long as she eats something, be it leftover pasta or some chicken and rice from the night before I really don’t mind. After all, Margot, her 7-year-old sister, likes leftover cold pancakes for lunch.

For a little extra surprise during the week I might make muffins, which always make the house smell, as well as make me feel, good. Mix ‘em up and pop ‘em in the oven, these are easy to change by adding different fruits, a dollop of jam in the center or a sprinkle with nuts. Oatmeal made from old-fashioned rolled oats is about an easy a breakfast to cook as anything. Ready in a about 15 minutes, this is often a go-to as it is loved by all, especially with some brown sugar or maple syrup drizzled over the top. But recently I was reminded about the joys of baked oatmeal -- and this recipe makes enough for leftovers and reheats well, something that isn’t necessarily true for regular oatmeal. A slightly different take on a baked oatmeal recipe that I wrote about in November, 2011, this is an easy to prepare, dairy-free one-dish breakfast that is easy to pull together in 5 minutes -- perfect for popping in the oven just as the dog and I leave for our walk and ready to eat when we get back.

Baked Oatmeal 2
(the easier version)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 2-quart dish with cooking spray.  Slice 1 or 2 bananas in a single layer over the bottom. Sprinkle one-half cup blueberries (the ones we froze last summer work perfectly) over bananas.

In a small bowl, combine 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, one-quarter cup chopped pecans or walnuts, one-half teaspoon baking powder, three-quarter teaspoon cinnamon and a large pinch of salt. Sprinkle over the bananas.

Mix 1 cup water, 3 tablespoons maple syrup, 1 egg and one teaspoon vanilla extract and pour over oats and fruit. Top with another one-half cup berries, 4 or 5 dried apricots cut into quarters and 2 tablespoons nuts. Bake 35-40 minutes until top is browned and oats are set in the center. Let rest about 10 minutes before serving.

These oats make such a lovely breakfast, that it’s hard to believe how quickly it goes together. It doesn’t need anything on top, although my kids would argue that a bit for maple syrup never hurts anything!

There are certainly other traditional breakfast foods that work just fine -- hard-boil some eggs the night before and grab one on the way out the door (but I have to remember to do it). Another one of Marielle’s favorites are smoothies -- yogurt, bananas, strawberries and blueberries from the freezer and voila! Breakfast (even if the blender noise is rather jarring that early in the morning). A reader recently told me about the crustless quiches that she makes in silicone baking cups -- they sound brilliant and must cook up quickly -- I will have to try them.

So, it turns out that carbohydrates are the basis of most of my family’s week-day breakfasts, hopefully without all the sugar and fat. And paired with the right things, I’m happy with that. When it comes right down to it, there are lots of healthy, delicious breakfast options that come together quickly for those harried mornings when you don’t have a plan. I’m sure that you all have pretty solid lists of your go-to breakfasts, and I would love to hear them. Send me an email with how you start your mornings -- I’d love to hear from you. Then I’ll add them to the list I’m about to make and post in the inside one of my kitchen cupboards for those extra-bleary-eyed and hectic mornings when I need all the help I can get.

Julie Potter is a wife, mother of two, avid gardener and passionate cook who believes good food doesn’t have to be complicated. Share your thoughts with her at j2m2glen@comcast.net.