I know breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That's why I always grab a hard-boiled egg, a donut the size of my head, and a large tea (light, no sugar) at the food truck outside my office. Of the four major food groups—sugar, salt, grease and caffeine—I've covered three of them in just one meal.
This is a major step forward, healthwise: The egg is a recent addition.
So when, in response to my queries for things she had 'stopped doing,' a friend told me she pre-made healthy cereal bars instead of cooking hot breakfast for her kids, I asked for the recipe. Then two other friends chimed in with their ideas for healthy, grab-and-go breakfasts. Here are recipes — for cereal bars, for a sturdy and tasty frittata, and for bake-ahead oatmeal — to help you avoid the food truck and get some of those other food groups taken care of.
These do have a bit of honey in them, but you need the combination of honey, brown sugar and butter to make them stick together rather than crumbling like granola.
2 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1 cup sunflower seeds
¾ cup wheat germ
½ cup slivered almonds (optional)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup honey
¼ cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup mini-chocolate chips
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Toast the oats. You can do this either by putting them in a dry nonstick skillet and stirring them over medium heat for five to seven minutes, or by putting them on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes.
3. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Butter the sides of the pan.
2. In a large mixing bowl combine the toasted oats, sunflower seeds, wheat germ and slivered almonds.
3. Melt the butter, honey, brown sugar and vanilla extract together in the microwave, stir, and pour over the oat mixture. Add in the cranberries and stir to combine.
4. Press the mixture into the baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Then sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. They will melt into the bars.
5. Let cool for three hours. Cut, and stash for the week's breakfast.
Next, the world's easiest frittata recipe. Since you can throw pretty much anything into a frittata, this recipe isn't big on specifics. The only absolutely essential ingredient—besides the eggs—is the breadcrumbs. They give the frittata a more solid texture. That way, you can grab a slice in the morning and eat it like a sandwich for breakfast.
a couple of tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano or parmesan cheese
a few halved cherry tomatoes
a handful of baby spinach
half an onion, chopped
1/3 cup seasoned breadcrumbs (about a handful)
1. Turn the oven to 'broil.'
2. Scramble everything together, put it in a greased heatproof pan, and cook it over medium-low heat until it is just about set on top.
3. Stick it under the broiler for a few minutes to grill the top. Let cool a bit, and eat.
Baked Oatmeal To-Go
Nothing beats a bowl of hot steel-cut oatmeal for breakfast. If you don't have time to make it every morning (there's a lot of stirring), you can either make it in a crock pot or bake it in advance. We prefer to bake it once and enjoy it all week. After it's baked, it reheats in the microwave really well. All you have to do is add a little milk, some brown sugar or maple syrup, and fresh fruit or whatever other toppings you like.
This version is pretty basic. There are loads of recipes for baked oatmeal online, which add eggs, cream, sugar, milk, vanilla extract and butter, among other things. But if you just want something simple and easy, try this.
1 cup of steel-cut oats
4 cups of boiling water*
a diced apple, a handful of blueberries, dried cranberries and/or raisins (optional)
* We use McCann's Steel-cut Irish Oatmeal, which calls for one cup of oats to four cups of liquid. If your brand for a different ratio of liquid to oats, then go with whatever they tell you.
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Boil the water, then sprinkle the oats into it.
3. Cook over medium heat, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. You'll need to stir it periodically so it doesn't boil over. The oats should be noticeably thicker, but there should still be liquid in the pot because you're not cooking them all the way through. It will look like glop. Don't worry.
5. Pour your gloppy oats into an ungreased 9 x 13 inch baking pan.
6. Add in whatever extras you like — diced apples, berries, raisins, a teaspoon or two of cinnamon. These are optional, as you can top your oatmeal with whatever you like right before you eat it.
7. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the oatmeal has cooked and is no longer wet. I start testing it at about 15 minutes to see how it's doing. You don't want to completely dry out the oatmeal, but you do want it to move from gloppy to firm.
8. Take it out and let it cool before putting it into a Tupperware and popping it into the refrigerator. At this point, I also put a portion aside in a small container so I can take it to work the next day.
When you're ready to eat, scoop a portion into a microwave-safe bowl and heat it up. Add some milk, some sugar, honey or maple syrup (it's not sweet on its own) and whatever toppings you want. Yum, and done. – KW and CG
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Image courtesy of flickr user Marshall Astor