Tuesday, August 25, 2009

4 Make-Ahead Breakfast Ideas for Busy School Mornings

I have no idea what my 2+ year old did with the little piece of paper I’d written notes for my next post on? As the school year starts, I promised you some make ahead breakfast ideas. But after biking around with the kids all day, finally getting two over tired little boys to bed (hours past bedtime), then sharing a bottle of wine with my mom while we read our respective books by the outdoor fireplace, I find myself re-creating the post. And given the choice of frolicking in the mountain air, or sitting at the computer typing all of this up...well, frolicking won out. But though the post is delayed a couple of days, we've got several months of school mornings ahead, so let’s get a couple of great make-ahead breakfasts into our repertoire early in the school year so that morning time goes smoothly...and deliciously.

If you have not yet tried the “Protein Pancake” recipe posted months ago, I urge you to whip a batch up. They are moist and delicious, and if you add enough vanilla and lemon zest, they don’t even need a topping. (Handy for those who are handing breakfast to the backseat in a mad dash to preschool…) Should you find yourself at a table, you can of course always do syrup, but here are a couple other ideas for toppings:
- fresh berries, or cut up nectarines, peaches, etc.
- apple sauce and a sprinkling of cinnamon
- your favorite flavor of yogurt

I am re-posting the recipe here for those who want all four of these make ahead breakfast ideas in one place:

Canyon School’s “Cosmic Cookery for Kids” Protein Pancakes

1 lb cottage cheese (1 tub)
6-8 eggs
1/2 cup flour
2 t vanilla (or more)
dash of cinnamon
lemon zest (optional)
butter (optional, for fry pan)

Blend everything in the blender until the batter is smooth with a consistency of sour cream. Bake small pancakes on hot griddle, turning once. Serve warm. These pancakes may be made ahead, cooled, and stored in a Tupperware in the fridge for several days. They reheat beautifully.

My kids really like my mom’s oatmeal, which I always avoided making because who has the time to cook it in the mornings (never mind then cooling it down, since my children like their food room temp, not warm thank you very much...)? But now that I know the trick, I will avoid those little microwave packets at all costs! This is so easy to prepare the night before, and so much healthier.

Meme’s Oatmeal

4 cups water
1 cup McCann’s Irish Steel Cut Oats*

1 cup dried cranberries or raisins (optional)

If you are including them, add the cup of dried cranberries (or raisins) to 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add 1 cup of McCann’s Irish Steel Cut Oats. Simmer the oats for 1 minute, give it a stir, then place a tight fitting lid on the pot, turn the heat off and go to bed. In the morning, you will have a pot of oatmeal ready to reheat on the stovetop, which will only take a couple of minutes (add a bit of water if it is too thick). Or you can always heat up individual portions in a microwave, if you prefer that route.
For children who need a little prodding to enjoy this, offer up a “toppings bar” and let them doctor up their own bowl. Some ideas: honey; maple syrup; fresh berries or chopped fruit (blueberries and peaches are favorites over here); cinnamon; raisins; dried cranberries

*start with the real stuff—Traditional Steel Cut Oats—which all major supermarkets should carry. It comes in a 28 oz metal can, pictured above.

At least once a week, I heat up a slice of a frittata for the kids. Either on Saturday or Sunday morning I’ll make a big one, and then I store the extras in the fridge for a quick, healthy breakfast during the week.

Basic Frittata

2 cups of your choice of meats and/or vegetables**
9 eggs
½ cup of milk (preferably whole milk)
½ cup any type of shredded or finely chopped cheese (Parmesan, mozzarella, cheddar, gouda, Dubliner, Feta…)
+ another ½ cup of shredded cheese to go on top

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and your choice of cheese. Set aside.Sauté your choice of vegetables and/or meat in a bit of olive oil in an oven-proof medium-sized skillet, until tender. Spread this veggie/meat mixture evenly on bottom of skillet. Pour egg mixture over it, using a spatula to lift up the “filling” along the sides of the pan to let egg mixture flow underneath.
When the mixture is about half set, sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the frittata and put the skillet in the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until frittata is puffy and golden. Remove from oven and let cool on the counter for several minutes. You may serve it directly out of the skillet, or invert it onto a plate. If doing the latter, be sure to use oven mitts as the handle will still be very hot!! Again, you won’t want to tackle this recipe on the school morning, but it stores well for several days in a Tupperware. I recommend making it on a weekend and enjoying it that morning, then letting the remainder cool completely and slicing it into individual servings, which can easily be heated in the microwave.
Here are a couple of our family's favorite frittatas:
Chicken sausage, bell pepper, tomato and Trader Joe’s Quattro Fromaggio cheese;
Spinach, mushroom and Feta;
Broccoli and cheddar;
Roasted red pepper, artichoke and goat cheese

And last but not least, for those who might like to keep a hearty, comforting casserole on hand, a Strata is another great make-ahead breakfast to serve on busy school mornings. Again, I'd recommend making it over the weekend, then slicing it into individual servings that can easily be warmed in the oven or microwave:

Basic Strata

5-6 cups bread, chopped into 1” cubes
(your choice of sourdough, whole wheat, English muffins, etc…even better if it is slightly dried out/stale as it will soak up the eggs more readily) 4 cups of your choice of vegetables (onions, mushrooms, zucchini, spinach, tomatoes, peppers, etc.) and/or meat (ham, chicken sausage, bacon, etc)12 eggs
3 cups of milk
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 ½ cups grated cheese
(your choice: Parmesan, cheddar, etc.)
Lightly butter, oil or spray the bottom of a baking pan (9x13). Line the bottom of the pan with the chopped bread. Sauté the vegetables and/or meat in a bit of olive oil until tender, then layer on top of the bread. In a separate mixing bowl, beat the eggs, milk, and mustard then pour the egg mixture over the veggies/meat. Top with shredded cheese. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or as long as 2 days at this point. When ready to bake it, preheat oven to 350. Bake the strata, uncovered, until puffed, lightly browned and set in the center, approximately 50 to 65 minutes. Let cool for about 5 minutes before serving, then package up the remainder in a Tupperware to serve throughout the busy week ahead.

(Thank you to Land o Lakes for this strata photo, which I will replace shortly with my own.)


  1. I love the oatmeal trick. Thanks. Claire

  2. These all look excellent, I'm definitely going to add them to my morning line up as Eli is starting kindergarten this year! Also, we always used to put applesauce and cinnamon sugar on top of protein pancakes, yummy!

  3. I know, isn't the oatmeal trick the best? And to think that while I love to cook for my family I was (I can't believe I am admitting this) making my kids those packets of instant goo. No wonder they hated my oatmeal!

  4. Loren, I am pretty sure that's how we ate them too. I am so glad you located that cookbook and that recipe. Did you see Maggie and Stephen's mom got a kick out of seeing a recipe from the good old days too? I might have to have you take the cookbook to Kinko's and get the whole thing copied for me. I am having a Mrs. Toy's Egg Foo Yung craving.

  5. I'll be trying the protein pancake - it sounds great! About how long will they last in the refrigerator, and have you ever frozen a batch or two with success? Thanks!

  6. They are amazing, very moist...unlike a traditional bready pancake. Hopefully you love them as much as we do! In the fridge, I keep them up to a week. I have not frozen them, so I'm not sure how they'd hold up? If I give it a try, I'll let you know. In fact, I have some in the fridge...will toss a couple in a Zip-loc and let you know in next day or two.


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