30 August 2013

Cook, freeze, and pack it for later: breakfasts

The end of summer vacation means big life changes for many of us as we adjust back to demanding work schedules. For me, this means returning to a lifestyle of driving hundreds of miles every week between various gigs and often eating meals in my car, between lessons, or during rehearsal breaks.  For you, it might mean that your kids have a complicated soccer schedule or something.  I don't know, it doesn't have to be about me.

When I was younger, I used to just stuff my face with Doritos or stop at drive-thrus when I couldn't stand the sound of my stomach growling any longer.  My metabolism used to be much more productive then.  Now I really value trying to maintain a well-balanced diet and eat things that won't make me feel like I want to die thirty minutes later.  So, the challenge is to cook good, healthy food now (or whenever you have the time) and save it for later when you don't have the luxury of sitting down to a civilized meal.

Breakfasts present a two-fold challenge: I am often sleeping as late as I can and running out the door, wondering if I remembered to put on deodorant; and I am usually too stupid to think first thing in the morning and would prefer not to have to make a decision about what to make (Obviously, since I can't even handle the deodorant responsibility with regularity). Therefore, it is important to have some breakfast materials ready for busy days, because skipping breakfast is a guaranty of a pesky blood sugar crash mid-morning, and we all know what that means: bad choices at the vending machine at 10am.

On a less hectic weekend, I can make and freeze enough breakfast material to last several weeks and allow for some variety through rotation.  This can all be done in a couple of hours.

These are not so healthy, buuuut.....

Croissants: buy some at Safeway.  They're delicious and you can freeze them in big zip-top bags.  Pull them out frozen and toast (see below) and you're good to go.  BUT, they're not very filling.  This can be replaced by a good, hearty multi-grain bread, sliced and frozen. Combine either with a

Hard-boiled Eggs: These are a staple all year for me.  You can boil a dozen and work through them in a few weeks.  All you've got to be able to do is peel them in the morning.

Muffins: I have posted many times about my muffins.  I love them because they freeze so well and don't take long to make.  You can pack them full of healthy stuff (bran, flax seeds, nuts, veggies) and it still tastes like you're eating a little cake for breakfast.  Here's a basic dough recipe which can be adjusted to suit your current ingredients on-hand:

Basic Breakfast Muffin Dough

Makes about 15 muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup rolled oats (not quick-cook)
½ cup white flour
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons flax seeds
2 ½ cups shredded fruits and vegetables (apples, carrots, zucchini, etc. in any ratio)
½ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup milk (any kind)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs

½ cup chopped nuts
½ cup raisins or other dried fruit bits
½ cup shredded coconut
¼ cup dark chocolate chips
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom
Dash nutmeg

Combine all wet ingredients (eggs, vanilla, milk, yogurt, shredded fruit and veggies) in a large bowl.  Add all dry ingredients and stir thoroughly to combine.  Pour into muffin cups and bake at 350°F for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack and place in a large, freezer-weight zip-top bag.  Freeze up to 4 months.

For some other flavor ideas, check out these older posts:

Chocolate-rhubarb Muffins
Cranberry Sauce Muffins
More Breakfast Treats (Island Muffins and Lemon-Tahini Muffins)

Recipe review: Smitten Kitchen's Pumpkin Muffins

Breakfast Burritos: These can be made with a variety of ingredients to suit your desires, rolled up and wrapped individually in foil, and then frozen.  They are a great, hearty treat in the morning and will definitely allow you to skip the mid-morning munchies.

Makes 10 

10 large tortillas
1 teaspoon olive oil
8 eggs
1/2 cup milk (any kind)
salt and pepper to taste
pinch paprika
shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup vegetables (broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, whatever)
leftover rice or cooked potato (optional, but I love potato, even mashed)
1/2 cup salsa

Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and paprika. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet and swirl around to coat the pan. Stir fry the vegetables until soft, then pour in the egg mixture.  Stir constantly to create scrambled eggs.  When eggs are done, pour in the salsa and cook off the excess liquid, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and stir in cheese and potato or rice if using.

Heat tortillas in the microwave until soft and pliable.  Fill each tortilla with an equal amount of filling, rolling each into burritos and wrapping each individually in aluminum foil.  Place in the freezer and eat within 4 months to avoid freezer taste.

If you remember to thaw out your breakfast in the refrigerator the night before, bully for you; if not, the toaster (dark cycle for bread, medium cycle for croissants) or microwave (2-3 minutes for breakfast burritos) will do just fine.