Impatiently blaring, my father Bob’s 5:30 a.m. alarm jolts him out of bed. He showers and dresses by 6, but he can’t leave yet – his stomach growls.
He tiptoes in long and exaggerated strides down the hall, considerate of those who are asleep but still efficient, for the clock is ticking. Finally reaching the kitchen, as if on autopilot he pulls out the milk, bread and espresso. Without a pause, he whirs around the kitchen, steaming and toasting and smearing. Breakfast is served.
Frothy cappuccino and peanut-butter toast in hand, Dad is out the door and on his way – and it’s only 6:15.
Sound familiar? It does to me: I witness my dad’s time-management skills every morning as I calmly sip my tea. As he leaves in a flurry, I’m left to wonder whether he’s bored of the same quick meal day after day.
“I try to mix it up,” he said. “I’ll have a different piece of fruit every day, or a bowl of cereal one day and a bagel the next. I like to eat light.”
Still, I thought, he’s selling himself short. There are plenty of ways to pack ample nutrition into a morning meal with time to spare. So, inspired by my dad and others like him, I have compiled a few healthful and delicious breakfasts to spice up our morning routines without making them even busier. We all know that most convenience foods lack nutrients and quality, but what I’ve found is that my favorite healthful staples can often be very convenient themselves with a touch of culinary magic. I’m no stranger to breakfast, but the last thing I want to do in the morning is juggle pots and pans.
All it takes is a little planning ahead – which is by far my most valuable tip: Plan ahead. For an hour of time spent on Sunday, you can eat breakfast for a week. It really is that simple, and the following foolproof tips will show you how.
• Love omelets but don’t have time to deal with bowls, skillets and plates? Try baking them in individual ramekins and reheating when ready to eat. Whisk two to three eggs per serving with herbs, spinach and chopped vegetables, pour into the dish and broil until firm. Refrigerate.
• If you crave whole grains in the morning, make a batch of steel-cut oats, quinoa, brown rice or millet. The morning of, reheat a portion with coconut milk and ground cardamom, and top with coconut flakes.
• In tall glasses, prepare parfaits with raw nuts, cinnamon, fruit, plain yogurt and ground flaxseed. Granola can be substituted, but use sparingly and scan the labels for unnecessary added sugar. Pure maple syrup or raw honey makes them a special sweet treat.
• My favorite breakfast these days is a fruit smoothie with almond milk, cinnamon and a tablespoon of almond butter. I also toss a few handfuls of spinach in the blender for extra nutrition and a vibrantly colored beverage. The night before, place all ingredients in the blender except almond milk. In the morning, add the liquid, blend and be on your way, with a sassy to-go cup in hand.
This Month’s Morsel: Investing in your health can pay off in big ways. Spending just one hour each week on large batches of breakfast means you can remain on time and still get that important dose of morning nutrition. The following recipe for baked oatmeal makes a delicious, hearty and healthful start to the day.
Baked Oatmeal with Dried Figs, Cranberries and Pistachios
•Coconut oil for greasing baking dish
•1 cup thick rolled oats (not instant)
•1/2 cup shelled pistachios, chopped
•4 dried Calimyrna figs, diced
•2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
•1/2 teaspoon baking powder
•3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
•1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
•1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
•1/8 teaspoon ground clove
•1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
•3/4 cup coconut milk, plus enough water to make 1 1/3 cups liquid
•3 tablespoons raw honey
•1 large egg white
•1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
•Seeds scraped from 1-inch section of vanilla bean
•3/4 cup frozen cranberries (not thawed)
Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease inside of 8- or 9-inch round baking dish with coconut oil and set aside. (Make sure dish is not shallow.) Line bottom of large-rimmed baking sheet with foil.
In medium bowl, mix oats, pistachios, dried figs, flaxseed, baking powder, spices and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk coconut milk/water mixture, egg white, melted coconut oil, vanilla bean and honey. Set aside.
In prepared baking dish, scatter cranberries evenly in bottom. Pile oat mixture to cover berries evenly. Carefully pour milk mixture over oats; it will not completely cover oats – this is OK.
Place on rimmed baking sheet lined with foil and bake for 45 minutes, until oatmeal is puffed and set, with golden-brown top.
Remove from oven, allow to cool for few minutes, then enjoy. Or, allow to cool completely and refrigerate, covered. Reheat individual portions.
Makes 4-5 hearty servings.
Sarah Manning is a Los Altos resident who blogs weekly about her gastronomic adventures. To read her food blog, visit www.thechocolatefigSF.com.