“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” How true and important those words are for me! I need breakfast and truly cannot start the day without it. I recently read that breakfast is when we eat, not what we eat, and I couldn’t agree more. I don’t limit myself to traditional breakfast foods. As you will see later in the article, some of the best “breakfasts” aren’t breakfast at all!
by Niquette McLean
Breakfast And Weight Control
Unfortunately my parents didn’t emphasize the importance of the morning meal; I could eat or not eat depending on how I felt (and if you have kids of your own, you can guess how I ate). I came around to my current way of thinking when I had a few extra pounds to lose. The diet I was following stressed the idea of having some type of protein as part of the morning meal – this was the key to controlling food intake during the rest of the day. That proved very true for me, and even though that diet is long forgotten I have maintained the habit.
Breakfast And Maintaining Good Health
Research from Harvard Medical School backs up what I learned. The study found that skipping breakfast increases the chances of obesity, diabetes, or having a heart attack. In fact, people who ate breakfast were one-third less likely to be obese and half as likely to develop diabetes, high cholesterol, or other diseases associated with heart attacks.
The study also found that only twenty-two percent of African-Americans ate breakfast (compared to forty-seven percent of Caucasians). If you read FamilyDigest.com regularly, you know that African-Americans are much more prone to diabetes and heart disease than the rest of the population. Simply eating breakfast every morning could start you on the right path to better health.
Breakfast And Learning
If that doesn’t convince you to have breakfast yourself, think of your children. Another study found that children who regularly eat breakfast think faster and more clearly and solve problems more easily than their peers who skip this important meal. Other studies have broadened this finding to solidify a relationship between eating breakfast and learning ability, attention span, and general well being.
Okay, now you’re thinking, maybe I would give this breakfast thing a try, if only I had time in the morning. Make time — but don’t think of the full-on Sunday spread as your goal. Read on, I have included things to stock the pantry with so you will always have something for your kids (and yourself). You will also find below quick recipes where most of the work can actually be done ahead so meals just need to be warmed up or finished in the morning.
Things to keep in stock:
Eggs — Awhile back eggs got a really bad rap because eating too many was associated with high cholesterol. More recently, however, the major medical associations have revised their thinking. First of all, eggs raise both “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and “good” cholesterol (HDL), and doctors now believe it is the ratio of these numbers that is important, not just the absolute number. Also, eggs are a good, inexpensive source of protein. If your doctor has told you that you already have high cholesterol, be cautious and check in before you start eating eggs, but for most of us, eating two to three eggs per week is just fine.
Whole Grain Cereals (not the sugary stuff) — I particularly like Quaker Oat squares and the new Special K with Berries. Cheerios are also good. Add fresh fruit or dried berries to make it even more delicious and improve the health benefits.
Milk (either regular, lactose free, or soy milk) — When really rushed I fill a spill-proof coffee mug with milk and drink it in the car. Not ideal, but far better than having nothing. In a pinch I also fill a sandwich bag with cereal, munch on it in the car, and wash it down with milk. This is not what the manufacturer had envisioned, but it is a great way to get my breakfast fix when on the run.
Energy bars — Make sure you choose the ones that are relatively high in protein and fiber.
Good quality jams, jellies, and peanut butter — These can be combined with whole grain bread for a quick breakfast sandwich.
You don’t need to restrict your first meal to breakfast foods. People joke about eating cold pizza in the morning, but it is better to warm up leftovers from the night before than go without food. If we have a particularly delicious dinner the night before, I will often heat up a small portion of leftovers for breakfast.
One thing you will notice is that I emphasize proteins. Processed carbs (bagels, white breads, etc.) won’t fill you up and might actually fuel cravings later in the day. If you have bakery items, try to stick to those that are high in fiber. (I hope I don’t need to say that a doughnut by itself does not count as breakfast!)
The following recipes can be made on the weekend and warmed up for a quick “grab and go” meal.
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 Tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 large eggs
1 cup milk or buttermilk
⅓ cup vegetable oil
½ cup grated cheese (cheddar, Swiss, blue cheese, or another favorite)
1 cup chopped ham or bacon or sausage
Preheat the oven to 375°. Coat a muffin pan with cooking spray. Stir together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. In another bowl, beat the eggs, milk, and oil. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined. Add the cheese and meat.
Spoon the batter into the muffin pan. Bake about twenty minutes. The muffins are done when they are lightly browned and feel springy to the touch. Let them stand a few minutes in the pan.
Store muffins in an airtight container in the refrigerator and re-warm them in the microwave in the morning. Combine the muffin with a glass of milk or calcium-fortified orange juice for a quick meal.
Bell Pepper and Cheddar Frittata
Feel free to substitute your favorite vegetables and cheese.
1 potato, peeled, cut into quarter-inch cubes
2½ Tablespoons olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons oregano
8 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
Hot sauce to taste
Cook potato in saucepan of boiling, salted water until tender, about eight minutes. Drain. Heat oil in a large ovenproof pan over medium heat. Add pepper and onion; sauté until tender, about six minutes. Add potato, garlic, and oregano; sauté one minute.
Whisk eggs, salt, and pepper (and hot sauce if you desire) in medium bowl. Pour over vegetables in skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover skillet, and cook until eggs are set around edges, about eight minutes. Sprinkle with cheese.
Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Place skillet in broiler four to five inches from heat source and cook until cheese is melted and just browned, about two minutes. Let frittata stand one minute. This can be eaten right away or sealed in an airtight container and warmed for breakfast.
Makes 4 servings.
This serves 4, but halve or quarter if you like.
1 pound cooked ham, cut into small chunks
1 Tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces cheese
Salt and pepper
4 flour tortillas
Red or Green Salsa, store bought, (optional)
Warm the ham in a frying pan with oil in pan until cooked to your liking. Beat the eggs in a large bowl; add salt and pepper. Pour the beaten eggs over the cooked ham and mix well together. Sprinkle the cheese on top. Scramble the eggs until they are slightly dry but not browned. Heat the flour tortillas and spoon ham and eggs into each of four tortillas and wrap. Cover with red or green salsa.
12 ounces mild bulk sausage
12 ounces hot bulk sausage
10 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
16 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 cups cubed American cheese
Preheat the oven to 350°. Cook sausage. Drain grease and set aside to cool slightly. In a large, deep baking dish, add sausage, eggs, sour cream, onion, peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, and cheese and stir to mix. Bake for thirty minutes or until golden color. Eat immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container and reheat individual servings in the morning.
Corn and Bacon Pudding
4 cups corn kernels
3 cups milk
4 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons flour
4 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
6 slices thick bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a two-quart baking dish. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat, whisk in the flour to make a roux by cooking two to three minutes. Whisk the milk into the flour mixture. Simmer until it is slightly thickened (about five minutes). Take the pan off the heat and slowly whisk in the eggs. Put only a small amount in at a time or the eggs will cook too quickly and look like scrambled eggs.
Stir in the corn, salt, pepper, and bacon. Pour the mixture into the baking dish. Sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake until golden and bubbly and firm to the touch, about forty-five minutes. Let it cool before placing in the refrigerator. In the morning either reheat the entire casserole for the family or microwave individual servings.
Egg and Muffin Sandwiches
These muffins are like homemade “fast” food (in every sense of the word). Make these and keep them in the freezer — toss them into the microwave in the mornings. Feel free to substitute Canadian bacon or other meats and cheeses in this recipe.
12 English muffins, split with a fork
Butter or cooking spray for the pan
12 frozen sausage patties, thoroughly cooked and drained
12 slices Cheddar cheese
2 Tablespoons butter
I like the eggs fried with the egg yolks hard (they freeze better that way). Cook them in a frying pan — make in several batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan. Use either cooking spray or butter to cook the eggs. Make sandwiches with the English muffins, cooked sausage patties, cheese, and cooked eggs. Cool sandwiches in the refrigerator. When they are cool, wrap each in a paper towel and freeze. Package them into heavy-duty Ziploc freezer bags.
To heat, slightly unwrap the paper towel and microwave on high for one to two minutes until the cheese is melted and the sandwich is hot.
These can be made ahead and frozen — wrap them individually so that you can bake them in the morning.
1 cup half and half or light cream
3 Tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup breadcrumbs
Eight 1-inch-thick slices Ciabata bread (or French bread)
Mix eggs, half and half, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon in a shallow bowl. Dip the bread in this egg mixture, leaving the bread in the bowl for a few minutes so it absorbs more egg mixture. Dip in the breadcrumbs to coat. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze until firm.
When ready to bake, first preheat the oven to 425°. Place frozen French toast pieces on a greased cookie sheet for fifteen to twenty minutes or until golden brown and crunchy. Turn the toast once during baking.
For quick meals in the morning try the following two recipes.
Plain scrambled eggs aren’t as good as an omelet, but I never quite mastered the art of the perfect restaurant presentation — my omelets always came out looking somewhat, well, scrambled. So I dropped the pretense and decided that I was making a “scramble” rather than an omelet! This recipe is for a single serving, but you can double and triple to your heart’s content (pun intended).
½ ounce cheese (don’t bother to shred it just cut into small pieces, it will melt. Feel free to add more cheese if you like)
1 ounce either spinach or broccoli (choose your favorite vegetable — mushrooms, peppers, peas, etc.)
Salt and pepper
Heat an omelet pan over a medium flame for about one minute. Take off the heat and add the cooking spray. Return to the burner and add the vegetables and sauté until they are slightly tender (the spinach will wilt). In the meantime, stir the eggs in a small bowl and add salt and pepper to taste.
Add the eggs to the pan. Sprinkle the cheese on top. Let the eggs set in the pan for about thirty seconds. Start to scramble them with a spatula, making sure that the veggies and the cheese are nicely distributed throughout the eggs. You will know the eggs are done when they are firm — try not to let them brown. Remove from the pan and eat immediately.
“Toad in the Hole”
A perennial kid favorite — this is basically a fried egg in a piece of bread. The presentation makes it interesting and fun for kids to eat.
For each serving, you’ll need:
A slice of bread and an egg.
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut a round hole in the bread slightly larger than the size of the fried egg yolk. Coat a small skillet with cooking spray. Place the bread in the pan. Crack the egg in the middle of the bread where the hole is. Fry the egg and bread until desired doneness (shorter for a runny yolk; longer if you prefer the yolks hard). Serve immediately.
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