In those rushing-crushing first days of the new school year, it might be tempting to cover the kitchen counter with boxes of the healthiest cereal you think your kids will tolerate and let them have at it, carton of cold milk ever at the ready. Yet while we appreciate this daily reality, we also think you’d be missing some of the protein and, yes, some of the pleasures that come with homemade breakfast.
That’s right. We used the words “homemade breakfast” in a sentence that also includes “school morning.”
Generally speaking, the advantages are clear, both for what these foods contain and what they don’t. If food is fuel, which we realize sending our kids off the learn as much as possible, then the odds are we can pack their breakfast choices with protein far more successfully than something from a package. We also can control by exclusion – keeping an eye on the amount and type of fats, for instance, or simply avoiding the preservatives that modern supply lines see as necessary.
Finally, there is satisfaction. We hope moms and dads never give up the joys of preparing meals for their offspring – sometimes even with their offspring – and our products offer quicker and easier ways to do precisely that. The host of delicious flavors delivered by our sauces, salsas, jams and jellies make any one dish taste better than it would otherwise – and also bring variety to a handful of easily mastered cooking techniques. In other words, by changing the flavors, you can make a few things you do well into a parade of different-tasting things that will keep the kids grabbing before they go.
If you are new to the world of homemade breakfast, and indeed if your own parents seldom if ever made one for you, there is a significant body of knowledge shared by many sources online to help you. Here, though, are some of our open-minded suggestions gleaned from a whole lot of clicking around.
FLAVOR MATTERS: The system crumbles if breakfast ever strikes your kids as taking medicine. The goal has to be making foods that are not merely delicious in general by delicious for your specific kids. Thus pure preference comes into play. The starting-point question is: Do they prefer sweet (cakes, muffins, pancakes with syrup, for instance) or savory (eggs with bacon, omelets, meat-and-cheese breakfast tacos, even pizza). You kids might enjoy both, of course, in which case your opportunities for day-to-day variety increase exponentially.
BREAKFAST FUTURES: Sooner or later, even the most ambitious breakfast cook runs into the time crunch, especially on those days that the chosen t-shirt or ponytail holder refuses to be found, sparking a meltdown worthy of a Hollywood movie. On such mornings, things you’ve made in advance – egg mixtures baked in muffin tins, or indeed muffins themselves – come in very handy. Some parents make bunches of such things the night before and simply refrigerate if needed, while others go in for prep bigtime over the weekend and freeze breakfast for the busy week ahead.
BLANK CANVAS: Another important road to variety is to think of appropriate foods – toast, oatmeal and many other easy-to-like things – as a blank artist’s canvas. Oatmeal, for instance, can be made to taste quite different day to day by your choice of fruit and/or nuts, the blend of sugar and spices like cinnamon, and the occasional intrusion of “wild cards” like peanut butter. The same is true of savory items involving eggs. Besides being high in protein, eggs taste great with onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, artichoke hearts – you get the idea. Toast, while delicious with traditional if predictable butter and fruit jelly, can be sweet or savory, as you and your “customer base” prefer.
SMOOTH OPERATOR: In recent years, the healthier-food movement has led the charge toward smoothies as a delivery system for excellent nutrition paired with convenience, and you hardly have to become a fulltime “juicer” to enjoy the pleasure and practicality. Fruit smoothies are hard not to like, from strawberry to mango to watermelon to banana. Whatever fresh fruit you have in the kitchen, running it through a blender with milk and/or yogurt, is almost guaranteed to please your kids as they race out the door. And a tip from the trenches: if your offspring turn up their noses at vegetable smoothies (“Mom! Kale, like, really?), adding that same banana to the mix helps a lot.
COOKING TOGETHER: While we have encouraged this here before, the ultimate parent-child “buy-in” on breakfast involves making it together. This is always done age-appropriately, especially when it comes to dangers like sharp knives and open flames, but we suggest you embrace the idea as early as you feel is safe and practical. The foods might remain as above, particularly as baked goods need to be produced the day or night before. But if you ever feel that fixing Back-to-School Breakfast is a terrible burden with little or no reward, try it alongside your kids. The cost-benefit ratio will flip entirely the first time your child smiles with pride of ownership about a muffin, a bowl of oatmeal or a breakfast taco.
PEACH & CREAM CHEESE TURNOVERS
Here’s a breakfast you can easily make and bake the night before that early school morning. And it’s something you’ll enjoy right along with the kids, or once they are already on their way out the door.
2 packs (2 sheets each) frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package directions
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons additional peach preserves
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Unroll pieces of thawed puff pastry and cut each into 4 squares. In a mixing bowl, thoroughly combine the softened cream cheese with the peach preserves and sugar, pressing with a fork to produce a rippled effect of orange against the white. In a separate bowl, mix all the Glaze ingredients, using a mixer or stirring vigorous with a fork.
Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the peach cream cheese filling toward a corner of each puff pastry square, but leaving room to the fold the rest over the top to form a triangle. Crimp the two meeting edges with a fork to seal. Brush each turnover with the beaten egg. Bake in the middle rack of the preheated oven until golden brown, 17-20 minutes. Using the low rack will probably produce burning. Remove the turnovers from the oven and let cool about 10 minutes, then drizzle with the Glaze. Makes 16 turnovers
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