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The breakfast club
(article, Keri Fisher)
Whoever said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day clearly didn't have little kids to get ready for school in the morning. Trying to get the eight kids in our communal household ready and out the door each morning is a Herculean effort — and that’s not counting trying to prepare a balanced breakfast for them all. Some days, even sitting down together for breakfast just isn't an option.
My solution? Healthy breakfasts that can be partly prepared ahead of time and, when necessary, eaten on the go.
My sister and I have had lengthy discussions (read: arguments) about breakfast bars, those store-bought “meal replacements” beloved of kids, parents, commuters, and athletes. I call them fortified candy bars, since they may be high in added nutrients but are also high in sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and assorted unpronounceable ingredients (microcrystalline cellulose, anyone?). She likes them; I hate them.
While I understand that sit-down breakfasts for the combined 12 people in our household aren't always realistic, I simply refuse to feed my children candy bars for breakfast. So I make my own breakfast bars.
[%image reference-image float=right width=400 caption="Make pancake roll-ups with cream cheese and jam."]
They might not have as many added nutrients as the store-bought versions, but with wheat germ, oats, nuts, and blueberries, these bars are a lot more nutritious. There's also honey, brown sugar, and a drizzle of white chocolate, which makes them sweet enough to appeal to kids but not so cloying that the grown-ups can't enjoy them, too.
And they're incredibly easy to make — aside from toasting the dry ingredients in the oven and melting the sugar syrup on the stove, there's no baking or actual cooking involved. Which means these bars come together in no time, even late at night after the kids go to bed, when you only have 15 minutes before “The Daily Show” starts. Just toss the dry ingredients with the syrup, press into a baking dish, and refrigerate until set.
Granola bars aren't the only portable breakfasts, however. And they're still too evocative of candy bars to my mind to be a staple in our house, though once in a while is fine. My kids love pancakes and scrambled eggs, both of which can be a bit time-consuming to make, not to mention messy to take on the road. So instead of serving them the traditional way, I use a bit of foresight and then roll them into portable wraps.
Making pancakes while simultaneously trying to dress your kids and yourself, pack lunches and backpacks, and keep your kids from killing each other isn't easy. Instead, I prepare a big batch of pancakes at a more opportune time, like after the kids are in bed or on the weekend, and freeze them individually. Then, in the morning, I can throw a couple of pancakes in the oven or microwave and have them ready in minutes.
If there's time, the kids can sit down and eat the pancakes with syrup. But more likely than not, there isn't any time, so I spread the pancakes with strawberry cream cheese and roll them up. The kids love to eat them this way, and it gets us all out the door a little more quickly.
Scrambled eggs are also great done breakfast-burrito style: rolled up in whole-wheat tortillas with soft cheese and smoked turkey. Scrambled eggs cook so fast, I can usually manage a quick batch in the morning. Then I just roll everything up, wrap each one in foil, and hand them to the kids once they're in the car.
An added bonus? The kids can't talk (or fight) while they're eating, so the ride to school is a lot quieter.
The kids in our house love these breakfasts so much they even ask for them on the weekends, when we're not as pressed for time in the morning. And why not? There's no rule that says you have to eat these meals on the go. Some mornings find all 12 of us gathered around the breakfast table, eating our egg wraps or pancake roll-ups.
The best part? No plates to wash.
p(bio). Cookbook author Keri Fisher (One Cake, One Hundred Desserts) has written for Saveur, Gastronomica, and Cook's Illustrated. She lives outside Philadelphia with her sister, her husband, and her three children, and keeps a blog about living in a communal household.