Breakfast of Champions

Power foods that pack a punch.

For his eighth birthday, my son Gus was allowed to choose two boxes of sugary cereal to share with his slumber party guests. His dad took him to the grocery store, but instead of dishing out Apple Jacks on the big morning, he chose to save his contraband to savor in the following days. “Other kids get to eat that stuff all the time,” he muttered, as he nibbled ungratefully at a piece of homemade blueberry coffeecake.

Is he right? Or are you thinking of ditching expensive breakfast cereal? I’ve been looking for ways to return proteins to the day’s most important meal. But fear not. I’m not urging rushed parents to turn out a full-scale farmer’s breakfast, complete with bacon, eggs and a side of hash browns. Our kids don’t get enough physical activity, alas, to justify that level of daily caloric intake. Instead, I’m offering a few flexible ideas based on foods you probably have in the house already.

5 Quick, High-Impact Breakfast Options

Oatmeal. You don’t need presweetened instant. Instead, dump a cup of old-fashioned rolled oats in a pot with two cups of water and a pinch of salt. Stir, bring to a boil, then cover and let it sit for a few minutes. (You can do this in the microwave, too.) Top with milk and jam or a bit of brown sugar and fruit. Breakfast for two or three in less than 10.

Fried Egg Taco. Put a small frying pan on the stove at medium heat. Place a corn tortilla between damp kitchen or paper towels and microwave for 30 seconds. Meanwhile, drizzle a bit of olive oil in the pan, crack an egg into a small bowl or a cup, and slide it into the pan. Season with salt and pepper. While it cooks, slice a half an avocado and tuck into the tortilla. Fold the fried egg onto itself and cook till the runny white sets. Slide it into the tortilla; serve with chipotle hot sauce.

Toast with Peanut Butter. You can do this; try using whole-grain bread, sliced bananas, a drizzle of honey, or a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar to take this from drab to delish.

Smoothies. To be smoothie-ready, keep buttermilk or lowfat yogurt on hand. Buy more bananas than you need, then peel and freeze overripe ones. In the morning, chop one or two frozen bananas and puree in the blender with the zest and juice of a lemon. Squirt in honey or agave nectar to taste, add frozen blueberries, and sneak in some wheat germ. Whiz it with a cup of plain yogurt or buttermilk. This smoothie is packed with protein, fiber, antioxidants, potassium, vitamin C, probiotics, Omega-3 fatty acids, anti-kryptonite mojo, you name it.

Egg My Muffin. This one requires the most advance work, so it’s not for everyone. But some kids will dig this, either because it’s tasty or because it resembles a certain famous breakfast sandwich. This version, however, is much healthier, because you’ll be using vegetarian sausage, high in fiber and protein, low in fat.

Cut ½” thick slices from a roll of vegetarian patty sausage (I’ve use Gimme Lean) and then, using the lid from a margarine tub, flatten to the circumference of an English muffin. (Dampen the lid slightly to prevent sticking.) Fry  in a bit of vegetable oil, then set aside. Next, cook the eggs.
Once again, you want them to be the right size and shape so they can fit on the muffin. A perfectly round fried egg makes a tidy little sandwich. This is totally optional, but if you can get your hands on a muffin ring, it’ll allow you to shape each egg into a perfect little patty.
Oil it lightly first so the eggs won’t stick, and preheat it on the pan. Fry the eggs in it one at a time, gently prying each one free of the ring with the tip of a paring knife when the whites are mostly set. They can cook a little more till the yolks are semi-firm.
Meanwhile, slide another egg into the ring and continue. Salt and pepper liberally while the eggs are cooking. You can also scramble the eggs before cooking them if your kids prefer them that way.
Now you have precooked sausages and eggs. Store them in the fridge for up to 3 days. In the morning, toast whole-wheat or whole-grain English muffins or bagels. Briefly warm eggs and sausage patties in the microwave (overcooking makes them rubbery). Customize sandwiches; your kid might enjoy a slice of cheese, too.
There. Now you’re ready for fall, and you didn’t even need to do any expensive back-to-school shopping.

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