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Tackling Breakfast: Healthy, Inexpensive, And Easy Meals To Get Me Started In The Morning
I’m a big fan of eating breakfast. It always seems to get my motor running in the morning and I feel utterly lethargic when I miss out on it. The problem is that the mornings are usually chaotic – my wife and I are both getting ready for work and also taking care of our son and making sure he’s ready for daycare, too. Soon, we’re going to add another child to the mix.
The end result of this is that I had to find ways to have delicious and healthy breakfasts without much effort in the morning. I want stuff that’s good for me, but that I can just yank out and prepare extremely quickly when I need it before I get going. Time is of the essence, but health and flavor are also important, and I also want it to be cheap. Are all of these things possible?
Luckily, I’m a food nut. Here are four recipes for breakfasts that you can largely prepare in advance so that when you’re busy in the morning, they can be easily prepared. Some of them are quite healthy and others are less so, but they’re all convenient and quick.
The default recipe for Swiss Breakfast (that’s what my friend calls it anyway) makes about six servings and is as follows:
4 cups oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup almonds, sliced
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup sunflower seeds w/o shells
4 dates, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Ziploc bags (for storage)
Just mix all of this stuff up together and put it into baggies, with about 3/4 cup of the mix in each. What I generally do is buy a tub of oats, then get proportionate amounts of the rest of the stuff so I can make a ton of baggies. Then I bag up the meals and put the baggies back into the oat container, which allows me to grab out a baggie whenever I want one. This stuff is all dried, so the baggies will store for a very long time and be just fine in the cupboard.
When you pull out a baggie, just pour it in a bowl, put about a cup and a half of skim milk on top, stir it a bit, then microwave it for about three minutes on high (covered, of course). This number might vary depending on your microwave, and you can also vary the milk to taste. I usually slice up some fruit on top, but that’s not required.
We love eating bananas, but often a few of them will get overly ripe on us and the skin begins to turn dark brown. That doesn’t mean it’s time to throw them out – it means it’s time for banana bread! All you need is a loaf pan.
2 cups flour (I vastly prefer white flour for this recipe, but whole wheat works)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (considering the amount of butter that’s actually in each slice, this isn’t much)
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
4 overripe bananas, mashed
Use a very tiny amount of the butter to grease down a 9″ by 5″ bread loaf pan. Heat the oven to 350 F. Mix together the butter and brown sugar (a mixer works well for this, on low), then add eggs and mashed bananas until it’s all gooey and consistent. Add the rest of the ingredients, then stir just a bit more until it’s largely consistent. Pour the mix in the pan, stick it in the oven for about an hour, and you’re good. The ol’ toothpick test works to see if it’s done – slide in a toothpick in the middle and if it comes out clean and smooth, you’re good. Take it out, slice off some slices, and put the rest in a big Ziploc bag in the freezer.
I usually pull out the loaf in the evening from the freezer, then slice pieces in the morning for breakfast. I like it plain – some put butter on it and warm it up. Then just pop it back in the freezer.
A while back, I mentioned a
early, less healthy form of this recipe. Here’s what I’m currently using:
2 pounds of cured smoked sausage, cubed or 2 pounds of soyrizo (the last batch I did was a pound of each)
4 medium onions, diced
2 bell peppers, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
2 pounds of shredded cheese (fat free cheese works just fine for this, or you can skip it)
32 big flour tortillas (10″ ones work well)
1 jar of picante sauce
Saran wrap or Ziploc freezer bags (for packing)
Cut up the meat and vegetables and split it into four separate equal batches. Crack all sixteen eggs, blend them so the yolk is even, then separate this into four equal batches. Saute a batch of meat and veggies for about ten minutes (if you’re using soyrizo, you may want to cook it just a bit first before the veggies), then add a batch of the eggs and stir regularly until the eggs are cooked. Each small batch here makes eight burritos, so spoon some of the egg/veggie/meat mix onto a tortilla shell, put some cheese and a bit of picante sauce on top, then fold it up and wrap it in Saran wrap. Toss the finished burritos in the freezer. I can make 32 burritos in about an hour and a half following this process.
When you pull out a burrito, unwrap it, put it on a saucer, and microwave it for about two minutes from frozen.
One fun Sunday activity is making muffins. The only tools you’ll need are some paper muffin cups, a muffin pan, a bowl, and a spoon. Oh yes, and food:
1 1/2 cups flour (white or whole wheat, whatever you prefer)
1 cup rolled oats
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup light brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup buttermilk (low fat is fine here)
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped cherries (frozen or fresh, about 8 ounces)
Saran wrap (for packing)
Melt the butter. Mix the eggs until consistent and add the vanilla and butter to the eggs and mix. Mix together all of the dry ingredients (besides the cherries) in a bowl. Mix in all of the moist ingredients into the dry ones (besides the cherries) until it’s consistent. Mix in the cherries. Put muffin cups in your pan, then pour in batter until it’s just below the top of the cup. Heat oven to 375 F and bake for about 22 minutes. To make sure they’re done, press the top of the muffin and see if it feels like a muffin (springs back a bit when pushed down, not gooey at all but moist). Then wrap them individually in Saran wrap and toss the ones you won’t eat in the next day or two in the freezer.
If you want to enjoy a muffin or two for breakfast, just pull it out of the freezer the night before and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. You might also want to microwave it just a bit if you like warm muffins.
In short, breakfast can be convenient, tasty, healthy, and inexpensive if you’re willing to put in just a bit of effort in your spare time.