Friday, March 15, 2013

Guide to Planning a Weekly Hot Breakfast Menu

In Fall 2011, I had been a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom for 15 years. I am used to my kids being with me 24 hours a day, seven days a week. From the time I was able to quit my job in 1993 and stay home with my firstborn, I have wanted to serve good, homemade meals and cook from scratch as much as possible - including breakfasts. This doesn't mean that I never bought cold cereals for breakfast again, but that my days of plopping boxes of cereal on the table every morning were over.

Now my kids are all attending public school, and I'm still a stay-at-home mom. I feel that one part of my job as a stay-at-home mom is serving good, wholesome, hot meals. I have the time, I have the resources, and well, I just love to cook. :) I also think it is important to send them off to school with their tummies filled until lunch time, so they can do their best in all their classes. A well-planned, hot breakfast accomplishes that a lot better than a bowl of Cheerios. The problem with making a hot breakfast every morning is that:

  • My high schoolers need to be sitting down at the table to eat no later than 6:20 AM
  • I am not creative in the mornings
  • I am slow in the mornings

In fact, I'm practically a zombie.  As a nightowl by nature, this early bird "brightowl" routine is not easy for me. So the easiest thing to do is to make a weekly menu. First of all, I have a "skeleton" menu I go by, which helps me plan each week:

  • Mondays: Hot cereal
  • Tuesdays: Egg
  • Wednesdays: Pancakes, French toast, or biscuits
  • Thursdays: Egg
  • Fridays: Breakfast bread or cake

With every breakfast, I include some fruit (and/or fruit juice), and some protein (either in a dairy item, egg, or breakfast meat). So, using the skeleton menu above, here is my menu for the next two weeks:

  • Monday: Maple-cinnamon oatmeal, apple slices, milk.
  • Tuesday:  Egg & bacon tacos, homemade salsa, orange juice.
  • Wednesday: Pancakes, sliced strawberries, milk.
  • Thursday: Egg-in-a-basket, cantaloupe, milk.
  • Friday: Cinnamon-Toast Cake, apple slices, milk.

Egg & bacon taco with salsa

  • Monday: Cream of Wheat, blueberries, milk.
  • Tuesday: Egg & cheese bagel sandwiches, orange juice.
  • Wednesday: Biscuits & sausage gravy, orange slices, orange juice.
  • Thursday: Scrambled eggs, toast with jam, bananas, orange juice.
  • Friday: Banana-nut bread, Greek yogurt with strawberries, orange juice. 

Homemade banana-nut bread
I simply keep my weekly menus in an email to myself so I don't waste paper. The day before, I write the breakfast menu for the next morning on my white board. This is for the family (they like to know what they'll be eating), as well as myself (because I will not remember at 6:00 AM). Then I do what I need to do to get things ready the day or night before: cut fruit, grate cheese, make biscuit dough, take sausage or bacon out of the freezer, etc. If I'm serving something like banana bread or muffins during the week, I will make it during the day, wrap it, and hide it in the fridge (so no one will eat it before breakfast!). Then I will simply reheat it for breakfast. So easy.

None of these breakfasts take longer than 20 minutes to make. Popping bread in the oven to toast while cooking a few eggs: 10 minutes. Rolling out pre-made dough and baking biscuits: 10-12 minutes. Making a pot of oatmeal on the stovetop: 5-6 minutes. That's just as quick as microwaving individual bowls of pre-packaged oatmeal - but much healthier and tastier! Did you know you can throw made-from-scratch pancakes together in 5 minutes? The key is memorizing a recipe. I memorized the ingredients many years ago, and once I could recall all the ingredients without having to refer to my cookbook, then I could recall the amount needed.

At the risk of sounding like a complete dork, here is the ingredients list I rattle off in my head for pancakes (recited like a rap song!): flour, sugar, powder, soda, salt, egg, milk, fat. Say that 10 times, and you'll remember it forever!  It sure beats lugging out a cookbook. If you're not inclined to memorize pancake ingredients rap-song style, you can just jot them down on a 3x5-inch index card and tape it to the inside of a cupboard door.

I plug in my griddle to start heating up, and then I take all the ingredients out and set them on the counter. Then as I mix the batter, I recall the amounts of each ingredient needed for a small batch of pancakes:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk 
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter (or oil)

Pancakes with homemade blueberry syrup

Seriously, it takes no less than 5 minutes to mix the ingredients, and 6-7 more to cook the pancakes. I can make up to 9 large pancakes on my griddle at once, and this batter makes 6-7 pancakes. If I have sliced the fruit beforehand, I can have breakfast on the table in 15 minutes. (And if I'm really organized, I'll have the table set the night before, saving me even more time in the morning!)

So there you have it - a very easy and simple way to quickly get a hot breakfast on the table for your family every day.

Coming next week: Some of my favorite breakfast recipes!

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