If you’ve been staying home these last few weeks, one of the biggest changes to the way you eat may be at breakfast. If you have a job outside the home, or kids to get to school, or a daily routine that start with a gym or other leave-the-house activity, you likely rush out the door with little thought for breakfast—or perhaps no food in your belly. Cooked breakfasts, and particularly family breakfasts, might be reserved for weekends or even holidays. If you want to turn staying at home to your advantage, using it to break old habits and improve routines, I can’t think of a better place to start than the first meal of the day.
That doesn’t mean you need to wake up in the morning ready to spend hours slaving in the kitchen while your family eyes you hungrily. If “slaving” is the word that comes to mind over preparing any meal, then something is out of sync. And just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you have any more time to cook breakfast than you would normally. But it does mean you have access to a fuller kitchen than is found in your car or corporate office, and you have at least some ability to stock it with a wider variety foods than will fit in your day bag or desk drawer.
As someone who has worked from home for years, I’ve found plenty of ways to make my first meal of the day healthy, varied, and enjoyable. Here are some of my go-to breakfasts at home.
Let me be clear: Not every breakfast I eat is perfect. I may have deadlines, or a problem that ties me to my computer. I may be rushed or get sidetracked and realize hours have past and all I’ve consumed is coffee. But I never have to leave the house to eat a decent breakfast. On the good days, I can find a few minutes to fix myself a tasty breakfast from the pantry, fridge, and/or freezer. And on the bad days, I can open those doors and find something healthy that will fill my belly and let me move on to what’s next.
Breakfast Staples and Substitutes
I think of particular whole foods as breakfast staples—using them, I can make any number of hot or cold morning meals in minutes.
In my tiny kitchen, a 1-gallon jar of mixed grains (rolled oats, barley and rye flakes, etc.) takes up precious counter space, ready for a quick hot cereal breakfast. I also use the home-mixed blend as the basis for granola, which I make in batches and keep in another gallon jar on a kitchen shelf. I dip into at least one of those jars weekly. Each can be made specifically to suit your diet and tastes.
Substitutions: Any whole grains can be turned into my go-to homemade cereals, and the Basic Granola recipe can be built with whatever’s in your cupboard. If you’re out of your preferred dairy or nondairy milk, cook the hot grains with water or a rehydrated powdered milk and stir in applesauce, fruit puree, or even a bit of jam. Once you’ve made granola, eat it over yogurt, with fresh or frozen and defrosted fruit, or on pumpkin puree.
Other Twice as Tasty breakfasts: Pearl Barley Cereal with Honeyed Nuts, Buckwheat Porridge with Mushrooms and Eggs
My pescatarian diet makes eggs and dairy my go-to proteins in the morning. With a ready source of farm-fresh eggs, I eat basted eggs at least weekly. In summer I plop them onto a mound of freshly harvested greens; out of season, I top them with kitchen-grown sprouts. For a fuller meal, sourdough provides my bass note—so I encourage you to get in on this month’s starter giveaway. Here’s the ultimate: a Bagel Breakfast Sandwich, with homemade sourdough bagel, mustard, and savory marmalade; home-smoked cheese; a farm-fresh egg; and homegrown sprouts. Since I keep everything on hand, it’s ready in the time it takes to cook an egg.
Substitutions: If I’m out of eggs, my next grab is cheese, homemade or store bought, to sandwich between greens or sprouts and sourdough. If I’m out of bread, potatoes or another root vegetable can make a more filling first meal, which comes together in a flash if you already cooked the vegetables for the previous night’s dinner. If I don’t have fresh greens but want that flavor, I might pull out some pesto to smear on bread or toss with root veg.
Other Twice as Tasty breakfasts: Crepes with Wild Berries and Lemon Cheese, Basic Potato Frittata, Potato Bowl with Black Bean Sauté
Fruit and Vegetables
My approach to fruits and vegetables out of season means planning ahead: I grow and store a range of produce in the summer so that I can eat from my stockpile the rest of the year. For breakfast, I defrost whole or pureed frozen fruit to drop into homemade yogurt or mix with whole grains; I also stir frozen fruit into or spread home-canned jams on scones and muffins. I’ll eat Grandma Tiny’s Chunky Applesauce straight from the jar. On the vegetable side, homemade salsas provide the backbone for breakfast burritos and dry-stored vegetables get tossed into scrambles, omelets, and frittatas. With so many choices, at least one fruit or vegetable finds its way into every breakfast I eat.
My local markets may have gaps in some shelves, but the produce section remains fully stocked. Hopefully yours are the same and you can make fresh fruit and veg the basis of your breakfasts this month. Looking ahead, you can prepare to be more self-sufficient by planning to make the most—and save the most—from the next growing season.
Substitutions: If you don’t have homegrown or fresh options, grab frozen fruit and vegetables the next time you’re at the store. You should also check in with your local farmers—they may be expanding their home delivery options and have greenhouses and early-season vegetables they’re eager to bring right to your door.
Other Twice as Tasty breakfasts: Double Apple Muffins, Mushroom-Stuffed Blini
Twice as Tasty
If you’re looking for a breakfast habit that can transition from sheltering in place to your daily commute, start with homemade smoothies. When I need to eat breakfast on the go, I walk out the door with my travel mug of coffee in one hand and my smoothie in the other. By the time my French press is ready for the plunge, my smoothie is pureed. Even though I have favorite ingredients, it never has to taste the same two days in a row.
A couple of tricks make homemade smoothies easy. The first is the right tool. I use an immersion blender rather than a standard blender for its ease and power. If you have a travel cup wide enough that you can slide the immersion blender to the bottom and tall enough that you can whirl the contents without splattering them around your kitchen, then you can blend your ingredients right in the cup.
The second trick is keeping the ingredients on hand. Whenever I make a fruit syrup or shrub, I freeze the leftover solids in an ice cube tray to drop into smoothies. Kale, beet greens, zucchini, and cucumbers can be minced or grated and frozen in cubes for green smoothies. Live-culture yogurt provides my smoothie base, but soaked chia seeds can also thicken the beverage. Milk of any type works but can be replaced by juice, coconut water, or even tap water.
Ready to give it a try? Full details are in the recipe below, but here are the basics:
You need just 3 main ingredients.
1. Choose your thickener, flavors, and liquid, as well as any extra ingredients.
2. Puree and enjoy.
1/2 cup Fresh Yogurt or 1 tablespoon chia seeds soaked in 1/4 cup liquid
3/4 cup fresh or 3 1-ounce frozen cubes fruit and/or nonleafy vegetables
1/4 cup fresh or 1 1-ounce frozen cube leafy greens (optional)
1 tablespoon sweetener or booster (optional)
about 1/2 cup liquid
In a 24-ounce or larger cup or container that can hold your immersion blender, place the yogurt or soaked chia seeds. Add the fruit and/or vegetables and leafy greens, if using, along with any sweetener or booster. Pour in the liquid until the cup is filled to 16 ounces and insert the immersion blender. Alternatively, combine your smoothie ingredients in an upright blender.
Puree on the lowest setting for about 2 minutes, until completely blended; increase the speed of the blender as needed if you can do so without spilling the cup’s contents. Makes 16 ounces.
Tips & Tricks
- Chop fresh ingredients to a size that won’t jam your blender. If it isn’t powerful enough to break down frozen cubes, combine the ingredients and let them soften for 5–15 minutes.
- Fresh and frozen ingredients work equally well in smoothies, but saving produce at its peak and freezing it makes you more self-sufficient. Even if you don’t grow your own smoothie ingredients, you can freeze small batches of fresh produce that might otherwise go to waste. Canned fruits and jams can also be stirred into smoothies.
- For thickening power, soak chia seeds for at least 20 minutes in water or another liquid. You can soak a large batch and store it in the fridge, where it will keep for up to a week.
- My favorite homegrown smoothie fruits, frozen whole or in cubes, are berries, plums, and tart cherries. Citrus, peaches, and mangoes are also delicious.
- For nonleafy vegetables, besides grated cucumber or zucchini, fresh or frozen, I like bell pepper and carrots. My preferred leafy greens include kale, chard, and beet greens, either fresh in season or minced and frozen with a little water in cubes.
- I rarely add sweeteners, but if I do I reach for honey or agave syrup. Get a natural flavor and/or nutrient boost with a nut butter, fresh ginger, oat bran, or ground flax seeds.
- I add liquid at the end so that I can get my preferred consistency. With so many other flavors, don’t hesitate to just use water. But you can certainly add a dairy or nut milk, coconut water, or juice for more flavor and nutrients.
Need sourdough starter? Round 2 of the Annual Sourdough Giveaway runs through April 30, 2020. Get your free sourdough starter here. If you aren’t ready to bake with sourdough but plan to try other recipes, be sure to join the Twice as Tasty Challenge by becoming a newsletter subscriber; click here to subscribe.