We all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But busy morning routines often trump our best intentions. In the rush out the door to school and work, it's all too easy to slide into a daily rut of sugary breakfast cereals with milk. In the interest of saving time, effort and nagging we cave in and buy our kids the expensive, heavily marketed and mostly unhealthy cereals they think they want.
Back-to-school time is the perfect opportunity to change our breakfast habits for the better and steer our kids toward healthier choices. As my wonderfully wise grandmother used to say, "Start out the way you intend to continue." With a little advanced planning we can create a whole new breakfast routine and even involve our children in some of the preparations. I have found if they help prepare the meal, they are more likely to enjoy eating it. Here are three fun and easy recipes for healthy school-day breakfasts your kids will love.
Whole wheat pancakes and waffles
Even the pickiest eaters will never know that these breakfast favorites are whole wheat. You partially prepare the batter the night before which saves time in the morning. For an even quicker weekday breakfast, make two batches on the weekend and refrigerate the extras. Pop leftover pancakes in the toaster or simply place waffles back into your waffle maker for a few minutes to refresh and reheat. Voila! Your own healthy homemade fast food that kids can even prepare for themselves.
The morning or night before:
Mix 1 1/2 cups yogurt with 3/4 cup water. Add 2 cups whole wheat flour and mix well with a fork. This is a fabulous, foolproof opportunity for even a young child to help prepare the next morning's breakfast as you are doing the dinner dishes.
Cover and let rest in fridge overnight or 12 to 24 hours.
The next morning, sprinkle 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt over the top.
Add about ¼ to ½ cup water, depending on how thick or thin you like your batter. This allows the salt and soda to dissolve.
2 Tablespoons oil
Optional: 1/4 cup sugar or maple syrup if you like sweet pancakes.
(For waffles, add 1 tablespoon additional oil).
Mix well with an electric mixer. Let sit for 5-15 minutes. Pour 1/4 cup onto buttered griddle or waffle iron and cook as usual. Makes about 24 pancakes.
Whole wheat muffins
Everybody loves muffins. This basic recipe can be altered with countless variations to accommodate your family's favorites. Again, the batter is partially prepared the night before to save time. You can also make this recipe on the weekend, freeze the leftovers and have a quick and easy homemade breakfast item for your kids to prepare themselves. Simply reheat frozen muffins for 10 minutes in your oven or toaster oven in the same pan you used to bake them.
Basic Muffin Recipe:
3 cups flour (use 100 percent whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour or use 50/50 white and whole wheat for a lighter but slightly less healthy muffin)
1 cup yogurt
1 cup water
Mix together, cover and refrigerate overnight or 12 to 24 hours. Again, this is a great chance to involve your children. Ask them to whisk the flour mixture with a fork for you.
The next morning, add:
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar or maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 Tablespoons oil or melted butter
Mix well with an electric mixer. Fill greased or papered muffin cups and bake at 375 for 15 to 20 minutes. Paper cups make for quick cleanup and easy freezing of leftovers.
For variations fold any of these items in to the final batter:
1 cup blueberries fresh or frozen
1/2 cup raisins and 1/2 t. cinnamon
1 cup dried cranberries or apricots
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2 mashed ripe bananas and 1/2 cup chopped nuts
Homemade Granola with yogurt or hot oatmeal
For a variation on the standard American theme of cereal with milk, try making your own granola on the weekend. Store it in a canister on the counter for quick, self-serve breakfasts. Enjoy this granola with milk or for something different and healthier, try it on top of plain yogurt or as a topping for hot oatmeal. If you have a crock pot, you can easily prepare hot oatmeal the night before by adding all the ingredients and cooking on low heat while you sleep.
8 cups Rolled Oats
1 cup grape nut or rice crispy cereal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups chopped nuts
1 cup sesame seeds or sunflower seeds (optional)
Mix together in a large roasting pan or jellyroll pan. Another perfect opportunity to involve kids with stirring, letting them help create their own healthy breakfasts and learn how to cook. Toast in 350 degree oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt and combine in a saucepan on the stovetop over medium-low heat:
1/2 cup butter (one stick)
2 cups peanut or almond butter (optional, easily omitted for nut allergy families)
1 cup honey
1 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
When melted and combined, pull roasting tray out of the oven. Pour the melted mixture over the oat mixture and thoroughly combine. Continue to roast in the 350 degree oven for 20 more minutes, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Mix in 1 cup raisins or other dried fruit like blueberries, cranberries or apricots. For a tropical theme, add dried pineapple and coconut. If you like flax, add flax seeds at this point; remember to preserve their delicate oil by not roasting them.
With a little extra effort and advanced planning on the weekends, your back-to-school breakfast routine will include healthy meals.