Fast Healthy Breakfasts to Start the School or Work Day

It is so lovely to wake up without an alarm, eat when hungry and at the pace desired.  Ahhhh.  It happened a lot for my son this summer (who had his first summer job and so not everyday), some for Mr. Bigg Sis, and even a little for me.

Despite the beauty of the changing leaves and crisp air and fresh apples, it is a sad fact of Autumn that the opportunities for this type of morning generally are less frequent.  However, as a former teacher, as a mother, and as a human who wakes up hungry, I can attest to the fact that a healthy breakfast sustains better performance in, and appreciation of work and school.  But who has time to make a healthy breakfast?  I thought you might enjoy a list of the fast but healthy breakfast ideas we have shared over the last several years….. and there were quite a few!  This list does not include our many pancake recipes as they do take more time.  I do recommend however that if you make pancakes or french toast on the weekend, make a lot and freeze the leftovers on a tray or plate.  When frozen, remove from plate and place in a plastic bag in the freezer for a supply of fast breakfast during the week!

However, these all are fast, or can be put together the night before and, of course are made from wholesome, healthy ingredients that will keep you and your family members running on full steam until lunch!  Enjoy and please share any fast breakfast tips that you use :-)

Breakfast Ice Cream or Creamy Smoothies For All

Quick Sweet Potato Brekkie & Open Summer Sammie Brekkie  IMG_0097

 

 

 

 

Barley for Breakfast – 3 varieties

Quinoa & Oats breakfast / Quinoa & Buckwheat Groats breakfast

Crockpot Oatmeal

Veggies & Oats

Sweet Potato, Apple, Oat Nuclear Incident  1108130629-001

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Potato & Rice

Pumpkin Apple Oats in the Crockpot

IMG_9142

 Chocolate Crockpot Oats

 

 

 

 

Buckwheat Breakfast Bowl

Head out the door with something hearty in your belly that does not lead to a sugar crash, headache, fatigue or hunger pangs in a few short hours.  And enjoy all of the benefits of the end of summer and the beginning of a cool, crisp autumn!

Squash Browns (sounds like Hash Browns)

I saw this term somewhere recently and thought, “Hmmmm.”  Now there’s a good idea.  Substituting squash for potato and cutting down on the grease sounds great.  But how to do that and still have some crispiness?  And how to do that without standing over a hot stove in the middle of the summer?  And can I actually make this for breakfast?

I think I have a good answer for 2 of those dilemma and even though I’m not a fan of gastronomic or musical meatloaf, ‘2 out of 3 ain’t bad’.  In fact it’s actually good if it get’s more veggies on the table with less effort.

As far as not standing over a hot stove goes, there is nothing like roasting.  It still gets hot near that oven, but I am not standing there!  I chop, drizzle or coat with oil and spices, put it in the oven and move on to some other task, even if it is sitting down with some PMS tea….. all by myself….. wonder why no one is sitting with me?

As far as the crispiness goes…. my son recently found a bag of packaged croutons in the pantry.  Ooooh – like crack to someone who doesn’t get white bread.  I mean, really they are almost like Dorito’s – crispy with flavor powder sprinkled on top.  He keeps asking to have salads, so there is a definite silver lining to that cloud, but the idea of croutons jumped out as a crispy addition to squash browns and they can be made the same way as roasted vegetables, using your bread and spices of choice:  Chop, drizzle or coat with oil and spice, pop in the oven and walk away…. although not for as long!!

As for the making it for breakfast, well it depends on how much time you have, but as this recipe happens at high heat, it doesn’t really take that long.

So, I give you my version of Squash Browns

1 sweet onion (I used a rather large onion because I love onion – your choice!)
2 medium tender yellow squash
2 slices of Ezekiel bread or other whole grain, hearty bread
garlic salt and/or garlic pepper and/or seasonings you’d like to try
1 – 2 Tbsp high heat oil like avocado

Pre-heat oven to 450
Chop onions, yellow squash and bread into squares
20150630_173027 Now, I tossed them all together and ended up removing the bread during roasting because bread browns much more quickly than squash and onions, so…..
Toss your onions and squash with 2/3 of the oil and spices
Place on tray and place in the oven for about 15 – 20 minutes.  Roasting time depends on how big you cut your chunks and your taste in tenderness and browning.

While the squash and onions are roasting, toss the bread cubes with oil and spices, then go drink your tea :-)
When your squash and onions are getting close to tender and brown, add the bread cubes and stir it all together.
Continue roasting to taste, but it’s really good if you stir once and let the bread cubes get crispy on several sides.

20150630_180104

 

It will take another 5 – 10 minutes to brown the bread.

Eat it up, nice and hot, maybe things aren’t as bad as you thought
– Garrison Keillor’s rhubarb pie song from A Prairie Home Companion radio show.

It’s not rhubarb pie, but I thought these were awesome.  One of the squash I used was a little tough on the outside and this does not translate so well into the roasting process (unless you peel it and I am an anti-peeler), so I highly recommend using tender young summer squash for this.  I did my experimenting with this recipe in the evening, so we did not have it as part of a healthy breakfast, but!  It certainly could be….. in fact today is Friday, so there are 2 mornings where I’ll have a little more time, maybe we’ll try them out on Sweetie Dad and Super-Step-Mom.  It’s a great way to start,                                or end,the day.20150630_180427Veggies, veggies, veggies, veggies, veggies, veggies, veggies.  Eat well and be well friends!

Sugar in Cereals – New Information from EWG

Well friends, Environmental Working Group, the same folks who bring us the annual sunscreen report, have done an analysis of boxed cereals, and as we’ve suggested in the past, the news is not good. The worst of the bunch are 12 cereals that are more than 50 % sugar. Let me say that again, cereals that are more than 50% sugar.

Take a moment and picture a bowl of say, Rice Krispies or Cheerios. Now picture that bowl with a line down the middle, cereal to the left and sugar to the right, in equal measure. That is what a bowl full of Froot Loops with Marshmallows or Honey Smacks is. All of these cereals that EWG places in the “Hall of Shame” are marketed with animated characters, bright colors, and some even make nutrition claims about high fiber and other benefits that are drowned in half a bowl of sugar.

If you or your tribe members eat boxed cereal, give this writeup a look, see where your favorites are. If you need to make some changes, EWG has made some general suggestions on how to cut back on the morning sugar rush. In our house when the sugar numbers on cereals started creeping up (meaning above 5g per serving), we began insisting that the kids mix that cereal with one that is MUCH lower (like 1g). We also limit the quantity and will offer them other food if they are still hungry. I found that the kids would continue eating cereal long after they were satisfied. When they asked for more and I offered an alternative, they’d say “No, I’m full.” The sugar keeps them coming back, long after their appetites are satisfied. Part of the magic of that sweet demon I suppose, but one over which we have some control.

Not sure why all the fuss over sugary cereals? Take a look at this on what sugar does to your brain. Or read about the insulin response produced by eating the sugar regularly included in processed foods that researchers believe may be the leading cause of obesity here.

Thank you EWG for looking at this serious issue and helping to shed some light on the giant and ridiculous cereal aisle.

For more information about teaching children about healthful morning choices, see Lessons From the Cereal Aisle. For more information about reducing the sugar in your diet, see Big Sis’ post about Reducing Sugar One Teaspoon at a Time.

Breakfast Ice Cream OR Creamy Smoothies For All

IMG_0214If you’ve been playing a long for a while, you know that here at the pantry we simply LOVE smoothies, especially those that allow us to hide some super nutritious deep greens from our children…. Yeah, it’s probably dirty pool, but you only have to really hide them a couple of times before they no longer care what’s in there and will eat it up regardless.

We’ve had many, many a smoothie over the last few years, but I have to IMG_0205confess that my recent favorites include a decadent ingredient: avocado. In our recent smoothies, I’ve been adding the flesh from 1/2 and avocado, and it gives the smoothie (or breakfast ice cream if you use a little less liquid and don’t blend QUITE so vigorously) a distinctly ice cream-y quality.  Who wouldn’t want ice cream for breakfast?

Our recent formula goes a bit like this…

IMG_0212Breakfast Ice Cream

  • 3-4 frozen bananas
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 3 cups deep greens (or more if you can get away with it)
  • frozen berries to top of blender container
  • 1 soup spoon honey (opt – we use if the berries are tart, i.e. raspberries)
  • non-dairy milk (we used coconut) until blend ability (usually 1.5 cups for us) or some other liquid of your choosing

IMG_0219We have a power blender, which makes all of this very easy.  If you have a standard blender, I would recommend starting with the liquid and the non-frozen ingredients, and then add the frozen ingredients slowly.  This makes a lot of breakfast ice cream, which is awesome, because if you have leftovers you can freeze and pack in a lunch or serve with a grapefruit spoon to someone with a sore throat.  Breakfast ice cream.  THAT’s living.

IMG_0206 IMG_0209 IMG_0213

Morning Veggies

I am frequently reminded (in documentaries about other places that my son loves) that much of the rest of the world actually eats a breakfast that looks a lot like the other meals of the day – some kind of grain and some veggies, maybe a little protein, maybe not. And yet these sweet loving taste buds lead so many of  us to constantly seek out a breakfast that does a great job in satisfying a sweet tooth, but doesn’t necessarily do much else.  Despite all my sugar busting, I confess that my own flavor preferences in the morning tend toward the sweet side of the spectrum.

While on the morning in question, I wasn’t necessarily interested in simply having leftovers for breakfast (although this is an entirely reasonable proposition), it occurred to me that I had no good reason for not including vegetables in my morning repast. Vegetables CAN be in a dish that’s not primarily savory. I took my lead from my sister (yet again ;-) ) and just turned up the volume.

The result? Very slightly sweet, super satisfying, nutritionally superb and a definite keeper.

Veggies ‘N’ Oats IMG_0330

  • bowl of oatmeal & leftover sweet potatoes (cooked to your preference; I like my oats decidedly underdone)
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped and cooked with the oats
  • handful of fresh spinach or other mild green, chopped
  • palmful of raisins
  • sprinkle of grated coconut
  • handful of walnuts
  • splash of coconut milk (or your preference)

I thought the celery and greens would interfere, but truth is they were absolutely delightful.  And I don’t care who you are, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with sweet potatoes for breakfast.  Okay, so I haven’t shaken the sweet tooth just yet, but things are definitely looking up. Throw some greens in there – you just might be surprised. Delish!

Healthful Breakfast In A Flash

The traditional wisdom tells us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  I honestly don’t know if I buy that – I think lunch and dinner are pretty important too. ;-) However, I can tell you that I wake up hungry.  I want food and I usually have about 15 minutes to prepare and eat whatever it is I’m having (this is after I deal with feeding the kids and completing the whole lunch prep deal). I’m not kidding; I’ve timed it.  Sure, I could wait until after I drop them at the bus stop and make it a leisurely affair, but at that point I will have been up for over an hour.  Homey don’t play an hour before breakfast. I could also get up earlier.  Guess what? Homey don’t play that either, so 15 minutes it is. Continue reading

Chocolate Almond Butter

Almond butter is a wonderful indulgence.  A nice change from peanut butter, not an allergen for as many folks, some would argue it’s better for you, and it does not have the problems of some molds and toxins that may well be what sets off some people’s peanut allergies.  Alas, it is an economic indulgence.  It costs at least twice what peanut butter does in the store and much retail almond butter is produced in factories that also process peanuts and so still is inedible to those allergic to peanuts.

Enter this wonderful blog-o-spere linking so many creative (and cheap) people to me!  I found lots of people are making their own almond butter who claim that it is easy in a food processor.  They were right!  And inspired by my Little Sis who can never leave a recipe well enough alone… I decided I should put my own stamp on homemade almond butter to share with you.  But what to do to almond butter?  Clearly, chocolate should be involved.

This is not a great innovation mind you.  Chocolate and nuts have been meeting in back alleys and broom closets for centuries.

Lots of my co-workers rave about Nutella ( a hazelnut and chocolate spread) and I have eaten it before – but it packs a whopping 21g. of sugar per 2 Tbsp serving.  Sugar is the first ingredient and palm oil is the second, relegating the hazelNUT part of the nutella to 3rd place on the ingredient list.

This recipe of mine also foreshadows our next Baby Step which will address the notion of baby stepping away from the more dangerous food choices in your life (or your kids lives).  Lots of kids eat sugar-y crap for breakfast…. Pop-tarts, sugar-y cereals, doughnuts, etc.  One way to move away from those choices is to offer an alternative that still provides a nod to the devil in one ear whispering
“I want sugar with Ka-POW,
Give me sugar, give it to me NOW!”  (scene shifts to hyper child jumping around and evil laughter in the background.) Continue reading

‘Hot & Hearty’ – Better than Porridge

Did you hear that joke about oatmeal?

It was a lot of mush…

Actually I like oatmeal, but I get tired of oatmeal, and variety is the spice… and I’ve got this big honking bag of quinoa in the pantry that I bought from CostCo, so… I had to try some different hot cereals.  Another plus is that both oatmeal and quinoa are on our list of healthy pantry items that can come through for you in a pinch.  (See post “Peeping in our pantries’)

I did, but I just need to state that I think we need a better name than ‘hot cereal’ or ‘porridge’..  Hot & Hearty is not that great either, is it?  Seriously, neither ‘hot cereal,’ ‘Hot & Hearty’, nor ‘porridge’  (please, Sir, could I have some more?) gets folks leaping out of a warm bed into that cold kitchen.  So in Little Sis’ honor, I will call my creation ‘Warm Bowl of Yum’.  This is not an instant recipe, but make a big pot, because with a little extra milk (whether dairy, soy or nut) to moisten, it works for a couple of days!

This, as is so often the case with people who cook from scratch for children, was developed over time with changes here and there to finally find the Warm Bowl of Yum that both my boys (one a smadge older chronologically, but not at heart), and I, enjoy.  I especially enjoy it because I’ve snuck some protein and lots of trace minerals in by using nuts that my son won’t eat when they are whole.  (Grind ahead of time if your children object to nuts!)

Warm Bowl of Yum

5 cups liquid : I use 2.5 water and 2.5 almond milk
1 cup oats
1 cup quinoa
1 cup ground walnuts (you can certainly try other nuts, but walnuts really seem to thicken this and they are not very noticeable either ;-)1 tsp salt (optional)
1-2 tsp allspice / or 1 Tbsp cinnamon (optional)

toppings like raisins, honey, more nuts, maple syrup, etc.

Bring your liquid and salt, if using, to a boil.  Be careful!  Almond milk is the wallflower of boilers.  It waits and waits and then suddenly gets inspired, leaps into the fray, jumps out of the pan and into the saucer under your burner there to create a rather ghastly smell and even ghastlier mess.  Do not step away from the stove until you’re at a safe simmer!

‘pot full of milk’ waiting to be transformed into ‘pot full of yum’

Once it boils, toss in your quinoa, turn down to a simmer and cover.  Let simmer about 10 minutes and then boil again Baby!

Toss in the oatmeal, turn down to low and cover. Let simmer about 5 minutes.

While it is simmering, grind your walnuts.  I am blessed with a Vita-Mix which is a noisy but effective way to grind nuts.

Noise, Noise, Noise! Why do you have to be makin’ all that noise?

Stir in the ground nuts and cook covered for a few minutes or until the oats are tender and the quinoa is tender.

A few large walnut lumps – but he doesn’t seem to notice!

Schplop into bowls with your favorite schplopper and enjoy!

I am feeling very grateful for raisins right now.

If I have leftover rice in the frig that is not ear-marked for something to be cooked, I have been known to toss that in as well at the final stages.

I’m sure some of you have your own ‘warm bowls of yum.’     Do tell – spice up my life ;-)

 

 

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Baby Steps Down the Road to Better Health

  • You want your children to be healthy.
  • You want to be healthy and feel good.
  • You want members of your family to maintain a healthy weight.
  • You are VERY busy, including juggling various schedules.
  • You have not yet won the lottery.
  • You don’t think you and/or your family can make the necessary changes in your lifestyle to achieve “Hollywood Health.”  You know the kind of health I mean… the kind on the talk shows which requires lots of time and lots of money.

My sister and I (we write this blog together as Little Sis and BiggSis), have both walked a long way down the road to eating well and feeling / looking better.  We have dragged our spouses and children along for the ride, and while it isn’t always easy, it IS possible to eat well, without spending hours in the kitchen and without greatly increasing your grocery bill.  We are talking about Hometown Health here!  Jill Q. Public Health… Happy, Human Health.  (Okay, I’m done now, I get on a roll sometimes.)

If you’ve been on a diet before and tried to change everything you eat at once, then you know that it is easy to fall off the wagon and revert to your old ways.  However, this is not a diet.  This is not a test of your character.  This is an opportunity to change your life.  Eating food : real food is an attempt to better nourish yourself and your family in a culture that encourages mal-nourishment.  Every time you and your children turn around there are advertisements for, and the presence of, cheap junk food.  It’s everywhere… school, church, work, meetings, sporting events and practices, many stores that don’t sell any other food… and did I mention that it is cheap, convenient and appeals to our taste for sugar and fat?

Processed food contains ingredients that make us want more.  It’s not just you who can’t put down the bag of Doritos.  No, you are not alone in this.  Sugar, which is more addictive than cocaine (PLOS, 2007), is also everywhere. The food industry is pumping sugar through their powerful machine that keeps us eating their products, regardless of the effects.  However, the results of better nourishment, and of eating real food, not only include weight loss, but a stronger response to sugar and fat.  In other words, after eating real food for a while, processed food became less appealing and I now notice how badly I feel after eating it.

For the Sis sisters, eating real food began with a desire to feed our children well in a world filled with horrible food choices.  Eating real food was reinforced by what we saw and felt in our children, our spouses and ourselves, as we all became healthier and thinner.  The plan is simple and is touted by lots of celebrities, chefs, and books in various forms, but we feel that it is made too expensive and too difficult via an emphasis on ‘super foods,’ exotic foods, and expensive foods.  It is possible to eat well on a budget.  It is possible to feel better, look better, and even preserve the environment just by changing what foods you buy and consume.

Yes, but it’s still difficult to change how and what you eat, right?  Trying to replace everything at one time is usually a losing plan.  That’s why we are going to begin a series on this blog to present you or someone you love, with Baby Steps.  Some of the baby steps mirror small steps we took in our own journeys and others are steps that make sense under the bright light of hindsight.

You can head down the road to better health one baby step at a time.  Baby steps are wonderful because they don’t demand a huge change from you, are easier to live up to, and they still take you down the road.  The processed diet lies at the beginning of the road, and every baby step forward takes you further from obesity, lethargy, and diseases like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, auto-immune disorders, high cholesterol and cancer.  Of course, everyone knows someone who has one of these diseases despite a healthy lifestyle.  That stinks.  However, you watch the people you know who eat real food.  They feel better and look better, and research is indeed on their side, in terms of their lower probability for chronic diseases.  Feeling better, being thin and having a decreased chance for chronic disease is on my side, my family’s side, and it can be on your side too.  Just take it one Baby Step at a time.

We will be publishing the Baby Steps along with our usual postings of recipes that are made with real food here on our blog, so follow us down the road!  And in the meantime… here are some links to easy, healthy breakfasts from previous posts.  Everyday is a new day and any successes in eating well are just that.  Successes in eating well.

Crock pot oatmeal takes the hurry up out of the morning.

If you have some leftover rice (always make extra rice!!) you can have a very yummy sweet potato for breakfast!

Oats that you soak in milk overnight and don’t even have to cook. – plus some cool pics of a bear in Little Sis’ backyard :-)

Another soaking cereal that is ready when you wake up – no oats this time.

Eat food.  Real food.

Gluten free pump-king pancakes

Pump-king pancakes indeed.   INDEED!  Let me tell you that the king of the Cucurbit family which also includes cucumbers, melons and squashs, is a grand thing that makes incredible baked goods, soups and now, GF pancakes.  One of these days I will grow pumpkins and go through the process of extracting that incredibly healthful and tasty flesh, but for now 1 large can of pumpkin had me set to make gluten free pumpkin pancakes and the healthy pumpkin bites I mentioned in my post on getting more veggies in the morning meal.  Plus, I couldn’t leave you, our dear readers thinking that only Little Sis’ family is fixated on pancakes.  I love seeing all the wonderful things she does with pancakes including topping them with a yummy berry sauce… but with a gluten free husband, we can’t try all of her pancake ideas.  The following recipe seemed like a match made in crack of dawn heaven.

So one Saturday morning, along with the help of my 11 year old photographer, we attempted to see if one really could make a decent pancake that is mostly egg and pumpkin.

Grain Free “Orange Vegetable” Pancakes
From : Katie Kimball
http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/recipes/orange-vegetable-pancakes/

Ingredients
1 c. cooked, pureed squash* (I used canned pumpkin)
4-5 eggs**
2 Tbs. coconut flour OR 1/4 c. whole wheat flour OR almond flour OR 1/3 c. sourdough starter OR brown rice flour (I used brown rice flour)
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. cloves
¼ tsp. ginger
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1-2 Tbs. maple syrup (optional) – I opted yes
1 tsp. vanilla (optional) – again, I opted yes
Instructions
Separate eggs. In one bowl, whip egg whites a few minutes until frothy/foamy.

I dumped the yolks right in the mixing bowl and placed the whites in a separate bowl.

This is supposed to make the pancakes more fluffy but is not required. I will probably skip it next time to see how big a difference it makes.

In a separate bowl, combine yolks with squash, flour, sweetener, vanilla and spices. Fold in egg whites.


I used safflower oil with a little depth to it -not the usual barely there for pancakes.  This is not a low fat breakfast!!

They smell divine – and look pretty good too!

The author offers this : The lazy way: Instead of separating the eggs, just mix everything together willy nilly in one bowl. The pancakes might not have as much height or fluff, but they’re still perfectly fine, especially for a weekday morning! I often use my stick blender to whiz it all together, especially if I have un-pureed squash or sweet potato.

They were (obviously) a little different in texture from the normal p’cake.  We all thought they were fabulous.  I made 1.5 times the recipe because that’s how much pumpkin I had and we only managed to save a few for freezing.

Oh what a veggie-ful, and delicious morning!

http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/recipes/orange-vegetable-pancakes/