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Mansfield Magazine

The Breakfast Club

Aug 11, 2012 03:16PM ● Published by Brian O

It's a Wrap!

The Breakfast Club

It’s been widely stated that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s the energy we need to take on the world, whether it’s school or work, rest or play. Yet, it is also fairly common knowledge that a large percentage of people do not eat breakfast. And more often than not, the reason for this is simply a lack of time before rushing out the door for the day-to-day routine. Couple that with a hectic back-to-school schedule and now you have countless families skipping the “most important meal of the day” just to stay on time and jump head first—without the needed energy boost—into the daily grind.

So what’s the solution? With everyone rising, grooming, and leaving for work or school at different times,it simply isn’t fair or feasible to assume a one-for-all wake up call to join an assembled community breakfast. If you can make that work, that’s wonderful—keep it going! However, for the rest of us, a much different approach is probably needed.

Prep Ahead

Simply put, “prep ahead” is the easiest, convenient, time-saving, nutritious, almost-certain-to-eat-everyday method of breakfast preparation to consider. A little time and effort spent the night before will yield lots of time saved and happy tummies the next morning. Apply this practice to a weekly schedule by preparing in bulk, and the time in the prep kitchen can be cut drastically, as well.

Having a breakfast ready for the morning rush is important, but there are several considerations before the preparations begin. The food itself, of course, is a major component of the breakfast dilemma. It needs to be desired, yet convenient and nutritious. And while the “what to eat (and why)” is important, the “when, where, and how”plays an equal part in determining the rules of the breakfast club.

At Home or Away

For the early risers, taking time to sit at home and enjoy a leisurely breakfast with the morning news, tv cartoons, or social networking is easily attained with advance-prepared breakfast foods in any incarnation. With the luxury of a plated meal and utensils, the form of food is practically irrelevant. However, with the exception of a weekend brunch, most of us need to consider food on-the-run.

The key to a breakfast-out-the-dooris in the preparation and a careful selection of ingredients. For those able to arrive at work or school to a sit-down meal, packaging and delivery is probably your major concern. The most likely scenario, however, is the breakfast that occurs between home and the final destination. While this is the least desirable method of breakfast enjoyment, it is probably the only opportunity for many to consider the early morning meal. If that’s the way of your world, then make the most of it with good nutrition in mind.

Breakfast To Go

To accommodate all breakfast locale scenarios, let’s look at options for food-on-the-go, since these preparations are ultimately “backward compatible” and easily apply to leisurely enjoyed morning meals, as well. Keeping in mind bulk preparations, anything that can be made in the form of one-dish meals or casseroles is highly recommended. These are generally easy to split into serving sizes that will last throughout the week.

A breakfast for the road is undoubtedly a “hands-on” meal (and generally one hand at that!). The best solution:  the breakfast sandwich. This can assume many forms, and as most fast-food establishments have proven, breakfast sandwiches are highly desirable early morning meals. Sure it’s quick in the take-out lane, but it can be just as quick—and likely much more healthful—to slap together these breakfast delights at home; especially when you have the ingredients ready and waiting in your refrigerator and pantry.

It’s A Wrap

When you don’t have time for a plate, use bread instead! All the favorites—bacon, sausage, eggs, cooked veggies—are great in abun. And the “wraps” are endless—croissants, biscuits, English muffins,crumpets, flat bread, tortillas, you name it—whatever you prefer that hold the ingredients well. Slight variations include open-faced versions:  Try a breakfast pizza using crescent roll dough. Top crostini (small slices of toasted bread, whole-grain preferred, ofcourse) with hard-cooked egg or scrambled eggs and ham.

Using large tortillas or flat breads, a true breakfast wrap is a wonderful self-contained meal-on-the-go. One of my favorite wraps is a grilled breakfast burrito: scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese mixed with a fresh salsa (tomatoes, orange or yellow bell pepper, green onions, jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice), wrapped in flour tortillas, and lightly grilled (on a skillet) until golden brown. Prep these the night before, heat briefly in the morning, wrap in foil to go, and you’re out the door.

The best way to prepare for any of these breakfast sandwiches is to cook all ingredients in advance, refrigerate, and easily assemble when ready to hit the road. Heat the filling ingredients and toast the bread, if desired, for a hot meal to go. Depending on the ingredients and the“wrap”, some sandwiches can be assembled in advance, refrigerated (or frozen), and heated in the microwave for the morning rush.

A Breakfast in the Hand

Many times, “grab and go” is the only way to a morning meal. This is where the basket of fresh fruit or homemade biscuits and muffins come into play. A weekly baking adventure can load the pantry and freezer with many healthful and delectable breakfast-in-hand options. Biscuits, croissants, and homemade breads are always nice to have on hand and ready to go. Muffin recipes offer a wide range of flavors, and often with options for good nutritional value. Carrot &Cranberry Muffins (see recipe) is one of my favorite muffin recipes I’ve been preparing for many years and is always good to grab-and-go. 

Another one-handed breakfast treat can also be prepared in advance and offers many options depending on your taste: the smoothie. Usually consisting of a dairy product (milk, yogurt, ice cream) and fresh fruit (strawberries, peaches, bananas, mango), plus other healthful ingredients (honey, orange juice, flax seed, wheat germ, tofu, spices, selectveggies), these components should be gathered ahead and ready to drop in a blender for a few whirls in the morning. All you need is a commuter cup (or disposable cup with lid for the kids) and you’re on your way.

The Deconstructed Bowl of Cereal

The plethora of cereal boxes at the grocery—they get their own aisle!—demonstrates the popularity of these breakfast choices—especially targeted at children. More times than not, these cereal choices are loaded with sweeteners. The best alternative is a homemade variety. That may seem intimidating at first, but once you’ve turned on the oven to the magically scented aroma of warm homemade granola (or even a homemade-spiced blend of Chex-type cereals or corn flakes), you’ll likely hesitate to purchase anything pre-sweetened from the cereal aisle again.

Layer or top your favorite yogurt with 1/4- to1/2-cup of granola (baked rolled oats, nuts, and honey) or muesli (uncooked rolled oats, nuts, and dried fruit), add some fresh fruit (preferably berries),and you’ve got a yogurt parfait—a great bowl of cereal to go! Bircher muesli is a homemade Swiss fresh muesli that consists of rolled oats, lemon juice, cream, grated apples, and ground almonds. My favorite is inspired by an Australian version: a wonderful blend of 1 cup uncooked quick-cooking oats, 1/2 cup orange juice, 4 ounces plain yogurt, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 chopped apple, 1 sliced banana, 1/2 cup sliced strawberries, 2 tablespoons toasted sliced almonds, and 2 tablespoons maple syrup. It is essentially a great variation on the yogurt parfait.

If cereal is your favorite breakfast option, it’s a choice that’s often difficult to maneuver without a bowl, spoon, and cup of milk. Difficult yes, impossible no. In a rush, be creative and pack a“deconstructed bowl of cereal”: a zip-top bag of granola-type cereal to munch by hand, and a cup of milk to wash it down! In a pinch, a breakfast bar consisting of granola, crisped rice, nuts, and dried fruit, with a cup of milk (or café au lait?) to go, is still better than nothing at all.

Hot Off The Griddle

Nothing speaks “weekend breakfast” more than pancakes, waffles, or French toast, however, these breakfast treats translate well to weekday mornings since they all are so easy to prepare in bulk,refrigerate or freeze, and re-heat quickly. All are easily adapted to eating-out-of-hand through creative shapes (or cutting into “sticks”), with syrup on the side for dipping. For younger kids (when they have time to sit and enjoy breakfast), have them decorate their breakfast griddle cakes with creatively pre-sliced fruit and berries for delightful pancake faces to start their day with an early morning smile.

One-Dish Wonders

These may seem to be the most adventurous of the breakfasts-to-go, but again, with prep limited to once a week or less, a one-dish meal or casserole has many advantages when it comes to quick mornings.Cook a large batch of oatmeal (spiced to your liking with cinnamon or other sweet spices and/or dried fruit) to refrigerate and divide into individual servings each day. Cook a frittata (a large Italian egg, pasta, and vegetable or meat omelet) or bake a quiche (a French egg, cheese, meat and vegetable“pie”) and slice into servings to enjoy for many days. A quick re-heat in the microwave provides a hot breakfast in minutes each morning.

A favorite breakfast casserole is equally convenient for re-heating throughout the week. A mixture of 6 eggs, 1 pound crumbled cooked sausage, 2 cups French bread cubes, 3 chopped Granny Smith apples, 1 1/2cups shredded cheddar cheese, 2 cups milk, 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, and salt to taste, is baked in a 9- by 13-inch casserole at 350° F until center is set, about 45 minutes. Slice into serving size pieces for easy transport in plastic containers or between slices of toasted bread for once again—yes, you guessed it—a breakfast sandwich!

Rise and Shine to a Delicious Day

The convenience of breakfast foods is certainly not lacking. From yogurt cups to breakfast shakes, power bars to sugar-laden cereal, pop-up toaster pastries to deep-fried doughnut delicacies, these breakfast selections are better than nothing at all, however, there are many more homemade options that ultimately are much more nutritious—and with advance planning and preparation, just as convenient.

Mix it, cook it, bake it, wrap it—cold or hot,chilled or warmed—on a plate or in your hand—on the bus or in the car—in your home or school afar—(okay, this is starting to sound like a Dr. Seuss story!)—breakfast is not difficult to manage, nutritious and delicious to eat, and a highly important part of everyone’s daily diet. School days challenge our time to include breakfast for ourselves and for our children, but it’s a challenge that needs to be consistently met every day throughout the year. If you’re not a member, join the breakfast club now. Rise and shine with breakfast and you’ll soon be off to a delicious day!

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Carrot& Cranberry Muffins

Makes12 muffins (or 24 mini-muffins)

1/2cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/3 cup orange juice
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 375° F. Combine sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a small bowl; reserve. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl, mixing well. Add carrots to flour mixture, stirring well. Add vegetable oil, eggs, orange juice, and reserved sugar/spice mixture,stirring until moistened. Fold in pecans and cranberries. Lightly spray a12-muffin tin (or 24-mini-muffin tin) with vegetable oil spray. Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes (15 minutes for mini-muffins), until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove muffins from pan and cool slightly before serving. Muffins keep well in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze for up to 6 months. Allow to come to room temperature or re-heat briefly in the microwave when ready to serve.

Article written by Carol Ritchie, host of "Cookin' with Carol". She has taught cooking classes in the Dallas-Ft Worth area for over 20 years. 

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