For a while now, I've been working to incorporate more minimally-processed foods into our family's diet, slowly phasing out pre-made things that are full of preservatives and other chemicals not naturally found in food. I love cooking and baking, as does Little Bear, so the added kitchen time to make up for losing some of those convenience foods hasn't been a big deal so far. One area that's had me stymied, though, has been breakfast.
When we have time, Matt and Little Bear both prefer eggs for breakfast. Most weekday mornings, though, we're trying to hurry out the door and there isn't time to cook and eat a plate of eggs, so they both reach for cold cereal... which is generally heavily processed, full of sugar and preservatives, and ridiculously expensive for something that won't even really fill you up!
I fully expect it to take quite a while to wean the family off of prepackaged cold cereal, and maybe it will even remain an occasional treat, but to begin the transition I've been building up a collection of breakfast alternatives that are just as quick in the morning as cereal but are better for us, more filling, and less expensive.
I make up a batch of whole-milk yogurt every other week or so, depending on how quickly we're going through it. Six cups of milk, plus a quarter cup of yogurt left over from the previous batch for a "starter", fills four pint jars up to the shoulders. Heat, cool, add the starter, and let it sit... I put off trying to make my own for years, sure that it was too much work to be worthwhile, and when I finally gave it a try I felt so silly for waiting so long! I broke down my yogurt-making method here Yogurt is a great way to get protein for breakfast without having to cook meat or eggs, and with plain yogurt, you can flavor it any way you like: add jam, honey, syrup, granola... Recently I've been eating mine with just a handful of frozen berries mixed in.
I've personally learned to enjoy—even prefer—unsweetened oatmeal in the mornings with just a handful of dried fruit and some freshly-grated nutmeg, but right now Little Bear's idea of "oatmeal" still involves a brown paper packet filled with more sugar than oats. I just saw this idea for do-it-yourself instant oatmeal packets though, and I'm planning to give them a try; I think that picking out his own ingredient combinations will help Little Bear to be excited about eating slightly less sugary oatmeal.
A cold alternative to oatmeal, muesli has become one of Matt's favorite workday breakfasts: it's delicious, filling, easy to bring along to the office, and incredibly simple to prepare a bunch of jars in advance. Fill a pint jar just over half full with grains—we use a seven-grain blend, but rolled or steel cut oats would be fine. (Not instant; they'll be mush by morning.) Fill the rest of the jar up to just below the threads with your choice of dried fruit and chopped nuts; fresh fruit is great too, as long as you're putting it together to eat the next morning and not several days in advance. The jars with the dry ingredients can just sit there on the shelf for weeks, if you want. The night before you want the muesli for breakfast, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of honey or maple syrup to the jar and fill to just above the top layer of ingredients with milk, leaving enough room to shake it a little (after the lid is on tightly!) Refrigerate overnight, and shake again before eating in the morning.
If the crunchiness of cold cereal is what you miss most, try making your own granola! You can eat it over fresh or cooked fruit, in yogurt, or just on its own with milk; there have been plenty of times when a mug of granola and milk satisfied my craving for something sweet and crunchy. There are so many different granola recipes out there, and making granola is a simple enough process that altering recipes to fit the ingredients you have or the taste you're looking for isn't a problem. Out of molasses? Use honey, or maple syrup. Like coconut? Add some in place of half a cup of oats. I have a pretty basic recipe that I usually follow... or at least glance sideways at, depending on how creative I'm feeling, but this past week I branched out and tried this recipe for Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Granola. Delicious!
Finding portable breakfast solutions, for the days when we really don't have time for Little Bear to eat before getting in the car, has been my biggest challenge. Muffins and most quickbreads can make such a mess in the back seat. Banana bread with peanut butter usually holds together well, but then there's peanut butter in Little Bear's eyebrows when we get wherever we're going. These breakfast cookies create the smallest disaster of anything I've tried yet, and Little Bear and I both like them. (I didn't exactly follow the recipe; I used milk and butter instead of coconut milk and oil, honey instead of maple syrup, and flax seed instead of chia.) If you have a not-too-messy, car-friendly breakfast idea, I would love to try it!
Healthy, simple, filling, inexpensive; what other quick breakfast options am I forgetting?