On breakfast

img_0730Waffles in the toaster this morning

Breakfast remains much more of a grab-and-go meal than any other in most households, ours included.  Unfortunately, this mostly means grab-and-go crappy food, or (horrors!) no food at all…all for a few more minutes of precious shut-eye.  Well!  For those of you control freaks like me who aim for more whole-foods breakfast goodies for your family, I thought I would share a few things that we do.

Okay, you want quick?  Certainly there’s nothing quicker than opening a box of cereal and dumping milk on it.  The breakfast foods companies have built an industry to convince you that prepackaged “cereals” with unpronounceable ingredients are the best choice for you to eat.  I admit it’s quick, but the best choice?  Homemade granola can win any taste test and yes it’s made with maybe 7 ingredients, all with pronounceable names.  And yes:  you (you!) adjust the sweetening and oil content as what you find best for your tastes.  I make a batch every two weeks or so, and it takes me maybe 45 minutes of not-terribly-mind-taxing time.  My recipe is from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and I have placed it in the comments.

img_0734Crunchy goodness

I still haven’t found a way to improve on Pocket Farm Liz’s homemade yogurt.  What you’ll need:  Milk, yogurt, a pot, a thermometer, two quart canning jars and a small cooler.  I make a quart about every week as needed, and make a new batch with the old as the starter.  We drink a lot of breakfast smoothies with fruit frozen from last summer, and the child gets yogurt with fruit preserves or jam or simply maple syrup mixed in as a school lunch snack.  Recipe, again, in the comments.

Eggs:  very quick, but I understand you don’t all have chickens in your side yards.  And bread:  toast!  There’s satisfaction to be had in a slice of your home-made bread as toast the next day.  But I’ve beaten you up enough recently about making your own bread…

Sundays have become waffle-making days here this winter.  I double my batch so we can have warm waffles on the weekdays (just pop them in the toaster).  They last all week because they’re cooked.

And yes, cooking.  Cooked items can stay “live” and waiting in the fridge for you to eat them.  I sometimes serve us leftover grains like rice with milk and maple syrup in the mornings.  We’re also huge fans of (what’s called in this country) Irish oatmeal:  steel-cut whole oats, not flakes.  I cut down the time it takes to cook it by boiling water the night before and dumping it on the oats, then putting the pot in the fridge for tomorrow’s eating…this shaves about 35 minutes off the cooking time.  (I think the ratio is 4 cups water to 1 cup cut oats.)  I’ve also put the oats in the slow-cooker overnight, too…but often that requires more of my time to find the crock pot.

Anyway, baby steps.  Baby steps turn into big leaps once you add them all up!

26 responses to “On breakfast

  1. Granola recipe:

    * 6 cups flaked or rolled grains
    * 1 cup chopped nuts or seeds
    * 1 cup wheat germ
    * 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
    * 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
    * salt
    * 1 cup raisins or dried fruit
    * 1/2 cup safflower or canola oil
    * 3/4 cup honey or maple syrup

    Preheat the oven to 300*. Toss the dry ingredients but not the fruit together, then add the oil and sweetener and toss again to coat them thoroughly. Spread the mixture onto two sheet pans and bake until golden, turning every 10 minutes so that it browns evenly. When done, after about 30 minutes, add the fruit and let cool. As the granola cools, it will lose its stickiness and become crunchy. Store in a tightly covered jar.

    Yogurt instructions: You will need milk, yogurt, a thermometer, a pot, two quart-sized canning jars and a small cooler. Heat slightly less than one quart of milk in the pot to 180*, then let it cool to 116*. Add about 1/3 of a cup of plain yogurt (whole, organic, live cultured: no carrageenan or sweeteners please) and mix, then pour contents into one of the canning jars and cover. Pour nearly-boiling water into the other jar and place both jars, touching, into the cooler and close the lid. Let rest UNDISTURBED for 8 hours; voila, yogurt. It will thicken further upon chilling. If it is really soupy, add more yogurt next time and use the best milk you can find (not ultrapasteurized, not skim). You can reserve some of this batch to make your next one, ad infinitum.

  2. Hey — got a favorite waffle recipe? Just bought a waffle iron to replace our Kellog’s Eggo habit but have not settled on a recipe yet. Also, do you adjust the cooking time at all on the ones destined for the toaster?

  3. My standard breakfast is oatmeal. Takes 5-8 minutes to prepare and I think it tastes really good.

    Throw a handful of dried cranberries into a half-cup of water and bring to a boil. I take a little less than a quarter cup of oatmeal (I buy organic oatmeal in large bags), pour in a big tablespoon of Red River Valley cereal (a mix of cracked wheat, cracked rye, and flax seed, a Canadian product distributed by J.M. Smucker Co.), and a tablespoon of flax seed and dump it in when the water boils.

    Add cinnamon to taste and a handful of walnut pieces. Stir, turn off the heat and cover with my breakfast bowl for a minutes.

    Add maple syrup and milk and spend a few minutes in heavenly bliss. It’s crunchy and tasty (I hate the gooey, creamy kind of oatmeal).

    And it’s quick!

  4. Thanks for these recipes! I never used to be a breakfast eater, but once I got pregnant with my daughter I made myself start. Now, my daughter wants to eat breakfast as soon as her feet hit the floor, and my son seems to be following in her (small) footsteps as he experiments with more food. These recipes will add to our morning routine of (“do you want eggs or oatmeal?”). Oh, and I was quite surprised to see the name Deborah Madison. That’s my mom’s name (though not the same person)!

    Have a wonderful week!

    and ps. I would move out to a big spacious farm in a heartbeat, but my husband regularly reminds me that he is not a farmer. I guess I’ll have to make do with whatever I can grow in my back yard, plus the eggs I get from our farmer’s market. That’s why I love to read about other people’s farms. I’ll try not to stalk 😉

  5. I still make Pocket Farm Liz’s yogurt too!

    My morning oats (sometimes steel cut, sometimes traditional: always organic) are put in a ‘coffee to-go cup’ with some water – about 1/3 C of oats to 2/3 C of boiling water and a 1/4 t of cinnamon. I let it sit overnight and transfer to microwavable bowl in my office in the morning. With a little local honey and some dried fruit its delicious!

  6. We used to love steel cut oats and then we discovered oat groats. Even better. I put mine in a pot with a little bit of apple cider vinegar and the entire amount of water, bring to a boil, cover and let sit on the stove overnight. Then I bring to a boil again in the morning and eat when they reach the desired consistency. Saves a little cooking time on those whole grains. We love to eat ours with some raisins, nuts and ginger. MMMMMMM.

    Another quick tip – I make a weeks worth of oats and then reheat each morning for eating, makes for a quick breakfast.

  7. This was a great post! Thanks! And I liked all the comments, also.


  8. at least five nights a week, i make thermos oatmeal for my family of five to enjoy the next morning. it’s the easiest, quickest, cheapest whole foods breakfast i’ve ever made:

    -boil water.
    -put one cup of oat groats (that’s whole, hulled oats) into thermos. add a pinch of salt.
    -pour boiling water over oats and fill to top. (it ends up being 3.75 cups of water to 1 cup oat groats.)
    -cap, turn thermos on its side.

    enjoy in the morning.

  9. Nice, El. I love everyone’s comments, too. Especially Serinat’s thermos oats!
    You don’t seem to have a bunch of Froot Loops eaters among your readers.

  10. We have been experimenting with waffle recipes lately. A few months ago I got a waffle iron and we’ve successfully broken the eggo habit. (YEAH) My hubby and I eat a lot of oatmeal with spiced apples (home canned). But I’m still a raisin bran fan- although not the brand name variety- I may need to try to figure out how to make my own bran flakes. Hmmm….

  11. OK, ok! I confess that I ate Cheerios with milk and bananas this morning! But normally, I eat oatmeal on weekdays, eggs & grits on weekends. It’s DD12 that needs more breakfast, and some more lunch options.

    I made granola bars this weekend with Alton Brown’s recipe. They taste very good, but they are too thick and too hard to bite. I need something larger than an 8×8 pan, but smaller than 13×9 – a lasagna pan, I think. I could use a CHEWY granola bar recipe, if anyone has one.

    I have made “loose” granola, like cereal, but the kids didn’t eat it. They are trying the bars, but the chewing is tough going, although the taste is great. Oats, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, a few pistachios, and chopped dried apricots and pineapple. (I like raisins, but no one else does).

    I guess I need two kinds – trail mix-y stuff full of nuts and fruit for me, and plain oats/honey/sunflower for the kids.

    Who knew granola was so complicated!?

  12. We all need a little egging from time to time for a good breakfast. I really really need to start making yogurt!

    We like oats here too. I often add a grated apple to my cooking oatmeal along with some dried fruit – and maybe this year (cross fingers!) honey from our hives.

    Other good breakfast food include (and really they do not take THAT long to make): pancakes, crepes & biscuit. Pancake & crepe batter can me mixed the night before & refrigerated, then heat up your Lodge in the morning and go! Dry ingredients for biscuit can be mixed together, just add the milk in the morning and 10 minutes in a HOT oven will bring you some fragrant flaky little biscuit to go with (homemade) jam and (not yet homemade) butter.

  13. I have been making a modified version of Orangette’s granola for a while now (everybody got some for Christmas), but so far this week’s has been my favorite – instead of pecans or peanuts I put in pistachios and diced dried apricots – I love it!

    It is a bit heavy to eat a whole bowl of it so I mix it 50/50 with the Cascadian Farms organic knock-off of Honey Nut Cheerios. It is a great way to start a morning.

    My other options are usually eggs with toast or a bowl of oatmeal, but I need to try some more interesting mixers for my oatmeal, it’s a little boring even though it’s nice and hot on a cold morning.

    I want to start making yogurt! I am still a little intimidated but it may happen yet…

  14. Breakfast is one of my staples, probably my fav meal of the day – I’m even sure to wake up early to eat it, lol.
    Standard on my rotation: hot oat cereal (I like mine straight plain); homemade bread, waffles, pancakes, or granola (from the “Sunday baking day”); a big bowl of homemade yogurt with my granola, or even – in the summer – just a big bowl of fresh fruit and milk.

    I’d have to say the biggest “tip” or factor for me is the Sunday bake day. Its a way to get everything set for the week so it is, for example, no harder on Wednesday to grab a couple of fresh pancakes I made that weekend and stuck in the freezer than it would be to do the same with a commercial product. Plus, as you said, I get to control the ingredients/proportions/flavors! Thanks for the granola recipe – do you think it could be adapted with multi-grain combo of grains instead of only oats?

  15. Forgot to add – what I’m trying to get in is variety – while I have a rotation, the length of time each choice *stays* in the front burner is too long! Do any of you mix it up regularly, or do the staples remain, well, staples?

  16. Hi Maria. I could’ve saved myself a ton of money if I didn’t have rows of cookbooks and instead had always only had the Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone book…it’s that good a resource. I substitute, where possible, yogurt for almost all milk products in my recipes. Her corn waffles are stupendous. But yes, you’re right: I dial down and get a softer waffle for those destined for the toaster. The fam likes theirs not overly crunchy anyway… Hope that helps!

    Dennis, the mix-in of the tablespoon of cereal sounds like a great idea. It’s too Oliver Twist if all we ate was grain gruel every day and you’re right: having these textures certainly give your mouth something to do when it’s waking up! Thank you for the tip.

    Gardenmama tell your hub that Tom regularly tells ME he’s not a farmer. I ignore his statement even though it’s mostly a true one. I hope these little tidbits do help with getting brekkies on the table for you and your little ones. Just think what fond memories they’ll have of you cooking different things for them every day. Warm breakfast = love in my book!

    Goodness Angie what a great tip! It especially fits the “can’t face breakfast first thing” crowd, of which there are thousands of you out there. Thanks for sharing it as you’ve certainly now given people lots of ideas.

    Mrs Chiot I confess I have never eaten oat groats as a porridge (only sprouted them) and so you’ve given us a great idea, especially since whole groats are a lot more cheap than getting them in steel-cut form! YAY. I like the cider vinegar tip too as I am a bit of a vinegar freak.

    Linda, aren’t these suggestions fabulous? Much better than anything I could come up with myself!

    Serinat, well, THAT sounds like a bit of magic I can get the five year old to make tonight. She LOVES it if she helps make a meal so if she can make the whole thing herself she will be ecstatic. Thank you!

    CC, hwah! I am sure there are tons of Froot Loops eaters here but they’re just keeping mum. No shame in Froot Loops just they shouldn’t be a daily occurrence IMHO.

    Judy I used to be a big raisin bran girl too but I’ve slowly shifted away. The spiced apple trick is something I need to try next year, so thanks! I tend to only make applesauce as our apples are, well, not the prettiest things on the planet. But I am glad to learn you’ve done the toaster waffle trick too: Maria will be glad to learn this as well.

    Matriarchy, HAH! Don’t sweat the cheerios, especially since you appear to be trying really hard otherwise! I have found that the thinner the oat the easier the granola is on the person chewing it. So yes you can even try instant (flaked) oats and it might be a bit softer. But even trying the trick of adding some fluffier cereal (like those cheerios) might help folks. As far as granola bar recipes, the only one I have tried WAS really chewy and nobody ate it but me. It’s from Nigella Lawson, and it can be found here. Maybe spreading things more thinly would help out too: just put it on a cookie sheet and smoosh it down?

    Sylvie I thought for sure you’d already be on the yogurt wagon but climb aboard, girl! Especially if you can find a good source of milk you’ll see how easy this can be. I make a lot of yogurt cheese in the fresh herb season and it’s just fabulous. But you’re right: we all can fall into ruts with our breakfast choices. The girl and I have been making lots of crepes lately (she has even learned to pinch the edge and flip it: I am so proud) and yes, dang it, yogurt and yogurt cheese shows up with our crepes too! YUM. But the refridge-overnight trick with pancake and crepe batter works especially well if you’re doing lots of whole grains and whole grain flours in your pancakes, etc. to soften them, so thank you for the tips!

    Anne, thanks for the tip about adding a bit of cereal to one’s granola. It does help fluff things up doesn’t it? The diced apricot trick sounds great…I tend to only throw them in scones and muffins but that sounds really quite yummy too. But don’t be too intimidated to try to make yogurt. Really, the microbes do all the work and as long as the milk isn’t over 118* (thus killing them) it’s quite an easy thing to make.

    Thank you MC about the Sunday Bake Day suggestion. It’s like waffle day here…but yours sounds more elaborate, and more yummy. But indeed making muffins or scones or pancakes for the week really should shave off some time for people during weekday mornings! And yeah you can put any rolled grain or any flake into the granola as you wish to. As far as staples, at least in this house: oat- or ricemeal or farina are probably weekly rotations, but eggs, toast, granola and waffles seem to be more the everyday go-to goodies. It does help to mix things up!

  17. Pingback: Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener » Making Yogurt

  18. Hi there! Right with ya on the breakfast thing. I’ve started up with making yogurt again, too. I posted a couple of waffles recipes on my blog recently, as well as a method to cook steel-cut oats overnight. Visit http://neighborhood-dish.blogspot.com/search/label/breakfast. Enjoy!

  19. All right Karen! Glad to learn there are other breakfast fans out there, especially folks who’re willing to share recipes and general D.I.Y. information. Thanks for telling us. It does help those fence-sitters who think “well if it’s only El doing this then she can be ignored but if MORE people are doing it, then, well, I should get busy!”

  20. Pingback: Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener » Petits Pots Of Yogurt And Strawberry Compote

  21. Hi, I’m coming in on this discussion a little late, but hoping someone will see it. I googled “can I soften steel cut oats in yogurt” and that’s what brought me to this post. Very interesting so far…think I’ll bookmark it.
    Anyway, I have been thinking lately about trying something a little lighter and more healthy for breakfast, and I remembered a Yoplait breakfast yogurt from my youth. They haven’t made it in many years. I remember it had chewy (probably dried) fruit, and some sort of chewy grain, plus flavorings. I bought some steel-cut oats today, and I’m wondering, if I put some into yogurt, along with dried apples and cinnamon, would an overnight soak be enough to soften the oats to a chewy consistency? Any thoughts? Yes, I know I could just try, but I don’t like the thought of wasting, and if I find some direction online that could save me from it, that’s worth the wait. Plus, now that I’ve read a little about making my own yogurt, I’m probably going to have to try it. I finally made my own butter, more for the fun of it than anything, and I’m interested in trying anything that most people just buy at the store. Well, anyway….I may be writing this to a long forgotten, archived post, but ……any ideas?

    • Hi KatyE! Well, *I* see all posts so it’s okay to write on an old one, and, as you said, it’s not like these posts are long dead if you found it, right? Anyway, I adore steel-cut oats, and have had enough experience and experimenting with them to think that an overnight soak in yogurt might not quite be enough. My overnight soak in water that was near-boiling still yields rather too tough oats and I still need to cook the stuff in the morning. So, well, if you are aiming for slightly chewy, I would simply just cook the stuff until it’s underdone enough to taste, cool it and add it to your yogurt and other goodies. And do try to make the yogurt yourself!! Unlike butter which is all your work, the magical little helpful bacteria are doing all the work for you. It’s all good, hearty stuff. Bon appetit!

  22. Why thank you! I will sure give it a try.

  23. Hi El,
    Just to let you know I’ve finally made some homemade yogurt this week and your recipe was a real success. I like how simple it was. I’ve come across your blog through Sylvie’s blog. And I’m glad I did !

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