Thursday, February 10, 2011

How To Eat Groceries - ABCs of Breakfast

We're breakfast eaters in our home...but I wasn't always.  There were many years I went without breakfast and wondered why I felt so starved, tired, and moody,  almost out of control, by noon each day.  When I began to eat breakfast I soon realized that I was better able to concentrate and had more energy in the mornings.  Later, I realized that the name of this meal says it all: break fast, literally to break the fast between supper (early evening) hour and the end of the night hours.

I've always been an avid reader of vintage and old fashioned books.  At one time I was engrossed in a certain New England author (no idea who now) and what I recall most of her books was the description of breakfast on a New England farm.  Laura Ingalls Wilder has a very good description of such meals in the book Farmer Boy.  Apple Pie, Oatmeal, Baked Beans, Eggs...

I love breakfast so much now it's my favorite time of day to eat out.  Breakfast may be an expensive proposition if care is not used.  When Chance and I first combined our two households, we fed six at breakfast every single day.  It took just about two mornings to prove that the sugary boxes of cereal (1 whole box for all of us to have just one serving and 1/2 a gallon of milk) were going to be a very VERY expensive proposition.  And so, I learned to cook breakfast.  We still follow this habit of cooked breakfasts in our home.

The best breakfast, the one most suited to energy and nourishment is a combination of protein and carbohydrate.  So some protein is required in this first meal of the morning.

The best sources of protein: eggs, meat, yogurt, nut butters, cheese
Carbohydrates: whole grain breads, whole grain cereals, fruit or fruit juice

How these are combined truly is up to you and your time limitations.  And yes, I do have a few ideas about those time issues.  I used to have them as well, especially when my job required a long commute between home and work. 

Convenience breakfasts:
Nut Butter on Toast or Bagel with or without fruit.  I generally stock up on jars of store brand peanut butter even now that it's just Chance and I and with good reason.  It's a versatile source of protein and great for breakfast, snacks or sandwiches.  This is such a quick and easy meal and one most kids will happily eat.  Sliced banana, apples, peaches or pears are good on top of the peanut butter.

Cold cereal is an option, but look for the best value in cold cereals.  Usually corn flakes are very inexpensive and served with a slice of toast spread with a peanut butter,  you do get that balance of carb/protein required.  Other options that are filling and worth purchasing: shredded wheat (whole biscuits not pre-sweetened mini wheats), bran flakes with or without raisins. You could make your own granola from oatmeal and serve as a cold cereal.   Keep a variety of nuts and berries (fresh, frozen or dried) to add in to plain cereals.  I love craisins and diced dried apricots with walnut pieces in my cereals.   Almonds and blueberries are a nice combination as well. But then so is freshly diced apples and pecans.  Can you tell I like to 'dress up' my cereal?  Why pay for expensive, manufacturer combined flavors when you can do it yourself?

Milk of course, is the usual, but you have the option of hot or cold milk, did you realize that?  Hot milk is an option for heartier 'cold' cereals such as bran or shredded wheat.  Yogurt is great too, and my favorite way of eating my cereal. 

Bagels and English muffins are terrific spread with cream cheese or peanut butter.  Or mornings when you have more time, make breakfast sandwiches using these breads. Fill with eggs, cheese, ham, bacon, sausage.

For the sake of convenience, I used to take time on the weekend to make up a big batch of french toast, pancakes, or biscuits.  Then I froze them separated by folded sheets of waxed paper.  Two layers of waxed paper makes the items easier to remove from the frozen stack.  I used bread sacks to stack the french toast or pancakes.  These may be heated in toaster or microwave for a minute or two.  You could also freeze sausage patties, bacon slices.  I wrapped in paper toweling to microwave.  This allows a quick breakfast in mornings.

For biscuits, bake until just done, then cool and put in zippered freezer bags.  I preferred to fill the biscuits  
before freezing with cooked sausage or cubed steak pieces or cheese slices.  Microwave about 1 -1 1/2 minutes to heat frozen biscuits (test times with your microwave).

Breakfast burritos were one of Kay's favorite heat and take breakfasts at one time.  Flour tortilla filled with scrambled egg, cheese, a bit of salsa.  This could be frozen and heated in the microwave.

Avoid the 'instant' hot cereals.  I used to make oatmeal, grits and cream of wheat in the morning.  Most hot cereals will cook in five minutes or less.  The longest part of the process was bringing water up to a boil.  For me this was easy as could be.  I'd start the water heating while I took a quick shower.  By the time I was out of the shower, the water was ready for cereal (and the coffee was made).  Occasionally now I will make these cereals the night before, add a little milk or water and heat in the microwave.  It still takes about 3 or 4 minutes  to reheat the cereal though, so not a huge timesaver.

 By the way, leftover rice was one of my kids favorite hot cereals.  Alan told me the other day he still makes hot rice cereal some mornings for his breakfast.  

Oatmeal, cream of wheat, rice and yes, even grits, may be eaten with milk, sweetener (honey, brown or white sugars), choice of dried fruits, even a stir in of fruit preserves if you'd like.  In the South, we tend to think of grits as a savory cereal rather than a sweet one.  I like to stir in shredded cheese, or butter.

Traditional breakfasts are really not as time consuming as you might imagine.  Developing a morning routine is a tremendous help in preparing a quick morning meal.  I could scramble eggs, broil bacon and make toast in 15 minutes.

As a rule, I saved muffins, pancakes and waffles for weekends.  However, here again you may well find this is not a necessity.  Muffins may be made ahead and warmed in the microwave.  Just this morning I reheated muffins I made yesterday morning.  It took about 10 minutes in a warm oven, but the microwave is possible as well.  Pancake or waffle batter may be mixed the night before and then cooked the next morning.  I used to mix my pancakes in a pitcher.  In the morning, I took the batter out of the fridge, started the griddle heating, showered and everything was ready to go when I walked back into the kitchen.  My waffle iron heats in about three minutes,  making even waffles a 'quick' breakfast food.

I think it's nice to have a special set of recipes for weekend breakfasts...Yet the ingredients required in the 'special' recipes are the same as those I'd use during the week: eggs, flour, sugar, bread, etc. so no special expense is required. 

My family loved breakfast casserole; a sausage, cheese and jalapeno grits souffle (hmmm, wonder where that recipe ended up?), blueberry pancakes with blueberry syrup, cinnamon apple biscuits or coffee cake.  These were considered great treats.  While some recipes might traditionally be expensive at first glance (such as eggs benedict) I found that often I could substitute less expensive ingredients (thin sliced ham substituting for canadian bacon for instance). I even tried my hand at cheese souffle and making my own bulk sausage.
Hash browns are nice as a side dish and while they seem very special might well be prepared from a leftover baked potato.  Corned beef hash comes to mind as well, another leftover that is a very special breakfast with poached eggs on top. 

The weekend breakfast meal might well be served as a brunch meal, reducing the weekend food bill by one meal.  Don't forget that BFS per prairie farm wife Kay (Breakfast for Supper), is an economical alternative to a meat heavy meal for at least one of your weekday suppers. 

There are whole cookbooks  devoted to breakfast recipes. Bobby Flay has recently begun a new food program devoted to brunches.  My favorite cookbook, The Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook has a whole section of menus devoted to breakfasts.  Check out your local library or favorite online recipe sources for recipes that are both economical and special for these weekend meals.


jillans said...

I haven't read through the entire post, but so far it's so informative. Hope you are well.Blessings for your weekend.

Kay said...

Thanks for the mention, Sweetie! And if I may add... Frittata (or Egg Pie) is economical in that what may not be enough potatoes for hash browns (1-1.5 c) for everyone will thicken 9" pie nicely. Add in your eggs (6-8), some cheese and some veggies (peppers, asparagus, broccoli heads, spinach, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, your choice) and some milk. If you are feeling extravagant, add some breakfast meat. Bake at 350° until it's set. Basically a quiche without the crust. This can easily be divided into individual minis made in muffin tins or custard cups for more freezing after baking. (the texture is a bit weepy, but it's better than no breakfast!) Hugs!