Feeding Our Families: the art of breakfast

I am not a morning person.  This may well be the understatement of the year.  I used to think it was because I was lazy or unmotivated.  In recent years I’ve discovered that it’s not a heinous personality flaw, that there is in fact a valid, well documented, physical cause for my issues.  While I will spare you the details, the gist of it is that my body has a great deal of trouble transitioning from a waking state to a sleeping one and vice versa.  Given the current circumstances, for the time being, that means that I am the last person out of bed in my house every single morning, which is in no way my ideal.  The children actually prefer it this way since they get some time to play, read or do as they please before we start in with school work and chores.

When it comes to parenting, there are certain areas where I’m rather old-fashioned and grandmotherly.  I’m a big believer in family dinners, early bedtimes, woolen hats, children being children in general and starting off the day with a hearty breakfast.  Accomplishing that last one can be quite tricky, considering the above.  I’ve devoted a lot of time to developing a system that works for us.  We have a set rotation of seven breakfasts that we eat every week.  This completely saves the step of having to think about what to make on any given day and that is a great relief.  The selection does shift a bit with the seasons.  As the weather warms we’ll be switching out some of the hot warming meals for lighter, fresher fair.

The kids all know they can help themselves to a piece of fruit upon waking and that breakfast will be served shortly after.  And there are always leftovers about if they need something more to tide them over.  I have three main strategies that help us all to start the day off right.

The first is the crockpot.  Why the crockpot?  When I first wake up I need some very specific things….I need to pee (I do have an entire person on my bladder), to be able to move slowly, not to be spoken to and especially not to be asked questions, not to be touched, to be surrounded by complete quiet and calm and to have prepared food appear in front of me as if by magic.  With the crockpot, two of those things at least are a possibility.  If you are an oatmeal eater, try it in the crockpot overnight; it turns out amazingly rich, thick and creamy.

My second strategy is help.  I get more help with breakfast then any other meal.  More on that below.

And third I try to keep anything that’s not taken care of by one and two as quick and easy as possible.

Sunday

Buckwheat pancakes, banana pancakes and bacon:

Sometimes we have orange juice as well.  Several years ago Iain and Elijah got inspired to make us breakfast and somehow the habit stuck.  Sunday mornings are their day.  The littles help out where they can and set the table.  Recently Galen was eager to learn how to flip pancakes and now he mans a pan as well.

We usually use whole grain buckwheat, the pancakes pictured above look a bit different then our norm because they were made using light buckwheat leftover from holiday baking.

Buckwheat Pancakes

3 C of buckwheat flour

3 C milk of your choice (we usually use the kind of coconut milk that comes in a carton)

6 eggs

1 T cream of tartar mixed with 1 T baking soda or 2 T baking powder

1 T lemon juice

2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

In a medium bowl, mix the lemon juice and vanilla into the milk and set aside.  In a large bowl mix together all of the dry ingredients.  Beat the eggs and add them to the liquids.  Thoroughly mix the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring as little as possible.  Let the batter sit for 5 minutes.  It should bubble a bit.  Fry pancakes in the cooking fat of your choice.   

I find I do much better with little to no grains or pseudo-grains, so in recent years they’ve added banana pancakes to the mix as well.  Everyone can pick and choose as they please.

Banana Pancakes

1 egg

1 banana

1 tsp. cinnamon

splash of vanilla (optional)

Obviously this is just the proportions and you can make as many batches as you please.  Blend all of the ingredients in a blender until smooth.  Cook as you would regular pancakes.  These are trickier to flip and keep together.  Smaller “silver dollar” style pancakes work best.

Monday

Breakfast sausages, yams and fermented sauerkraut:

This may sounds strange, but it’s a fabulous flavor combination.

Have you ever made yams in the crockpot before?  It’s super simple.  Just rinse the yams and put them in the crockpot still damp.  Turn it on low over night and serve perfectly cooked yams in the morning.  A very filling and hearty breakfast and all I have to do is put the sausages in to cook while I set everything out on the table.

Sometimes we treat ourselves to molasses tea with this meal.  To make molasses tea, mix a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses into a mug full of hot water.  Blackstrap molasses is rich in iron, calcium and potassium.

Tuesday

German Pancake recipe here:

Elijah has declared himself the greatest German pancake maker in the world.  Which means that he always insists on making them himself.  And who am I to argue?  Generally he gets to work when he hears me start stirring.  The others help with gathering supplies and such.  Waking up to food being made?  Quite possibly the most awesome thing in the world.  Many a time I will literally sigh with relief when I wake and realize what day it is, then I come down and kiss him on the top of the head all over until he gets sick of me.

Wednesday

Hot “Cereal” from the book Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry: Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Dairy-Free Recipes.  You can check out the book for details.  It’s basically a concoction of nuts, seeds, dried coconut and cinnamon.  It’s kind of a little bit like Cream of Wheat, but not really.  That’s just the closest thing I can think of.  I freely substitute the various nuts and seeds based on what I have and more budget friendly options.  I add in vanilla and chopped fresh apples or pears, raisins or any other dried fruit I have about.  With it I set out ghee, so people can add a pat to their bowl if they like.  And honey or syrup to be drizzled on top if desired.

Thursday

Pork and Apple Bake:

Since posting about this I’ve started adding all sorts of things to it.  Pretty much whatever happened to be ripe in the garden at the time; peas, green beans, garlic scapes, green onions, chopped up radishes, parsley, spinach, kale.  We are especially fond of mixing in kale. yum.

Friday

Scalloped yams and breaded fish:

More yam-y fodder for the crockpot!  Peel and slice 5 yams, top with a couple of pats of ghee/butter/coconut oil, 1 can of coconut milk, a sprinkle of powdered kelp and lots of sage…much, much more sage then you think it will need.  Again, cook on low over night.  Sometimes in the morning I’ll turn it up to high and take the lid off to let the sauce thicken a bit, but it’s generally not needed.  Add salt and pepper to taste before serving.

I don’t always make the fish.  I can’t say that it’s the healthiest thing to grace my table, but this dish is absolutely adored by three of my four children.  It starts with some form of mild tasting fish; catfish, tilapia, flounder, anything along those lines.  Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  Prepare a cookie sheet with a thin coat of oil.  Chop the fish into small pieces.  Dredge each piece in arrowroot powder seasoned with salt and pepper.  Lay them out in a single layer on your oiled cookie sheet and bake until brown and crispy, flipping at least once.  Some sort of green as a side dish rounds out this breakfast nicely, but I honestly don’t often get to that.

Saturday

Cashew yogurt:

Shown above topped with some honey sweetened peach jam that we put up over the summer.  I’ve made several kinds of nut milk yogurts over the years.  This one is by far the quickest and the easiest.  It also happens to be incredibly delicious.

Cashew Yogurt

cashews

water

probiotics

flavoring (optional)

This one works best in a high powered blender, a Vitamix or the like.  For a regular blender you might want to try soaking the cashews first.  Pour your cashews into the blender.  Break a probiotic capsule over top.  I use one that has around 7 billion bacteria for 9 oz. of cashews.  Add water until everything is just covered.  Blend until it’s all extremely smooth.  Add more water until desired consistency.  It will thicken overnight so make it a little runnier then you ultimately want.  I pour mine into a half gallon mason jar, drape a flour sack towel over the top and screw a lid ring on it.  This way it can breath, but nothing can really get in.  Set it out some place warm overnight.  This would be by the wood stove in our house.  I sometimes experiment with adding in sunflower seeds of shredded coconut.  But straight cashew is our favorite.

Two more breakfast ideas:

Stuffed squash:

Another great crockpot option.  The kids love this one, truth be told I think it’s only so-so.  Cut your squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  For the stuffing combine any combination of chopped apples, pears, nuts, seeds and/or dried fruit.  You can add a splash of lemon or orange juice, spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc) and/or sweetener.  Fill the squash.  Balance and stack them upright so that the stuffing doesn’t fall out. Cook on low overnight.

Simpler option: fill the cups with a pat of some buttery substance, a drizzle of syrup and a sprinkle of nutmeg. This is a lovely way to pad out a meal.

Sausage patties and steamed or braised greens:

Though not in rotation at the moment, this has been a regular favorite in the past.  The patties are seasoned ground meat.  You can use beef, but I prefer pork or poultry.  For beef or pork you can just put it directly in the pan.  With turkey or chicken you’ll need to use a bit of oil to keep it from sticking.  They can be cooked under a broiler or fried on the stove top.

A couple of flavor combinations:

chopped onions, sage and a pinch of clove

curry and cinnamon, a bit of cardamom is nice too

maple syrup, cinnamon, clove

Italian seasoning, garlic, red pepper flakes and fennel

Always include a good bit of sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Mix well, form into small patties and cook.  Sauteed onions are wonderful with this.

And one other totally random food related thing: add leeks to your roasted Brussel sprouts. You won’t regret it.

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20 thoughts on “Feeding Our Families: the art of breakfast

  1. a little crafty nest

    Oh Melody, all these breakfasts look amazing! And it seems we eat very similarly with lots of fermented foods, especially with meat. I also have a meal plan for all three meals (lunch is much more spontaneous, though) and it truly helps me keep focused. Thank you for all the inspiration and recipes…I will be sure to come back and write them down!
    xo Jules
    P.S. We opt for yams over potatoes all the time…yams are a favourite here!

  2. Becca

    Wow! I would love to try all that amazing looking food! what delicious wholesome meals. Is food relatively cheap over there? I just couldn’t afford to feed my family this at breakfast. These kind of foods would make up our dinner. I’m curious to see what delicious feasts you eat for lunch and dinner. Thank you for all the recipes, I shall definately be trying some out.

  3. Melody Post author

    No, food is quite expensive here. There is no question that it is our biggest expense, by far, more then our mortgage, etc. For us it’s an exchange of wellness vs. doctor’s bills and frankly misery. Most people can be more moderate in their eating. I honestly envy them! In our family we have so many food allergies, intolerance, and other medical issues that are strongly effected by food that we don’t have much of a choice other then to make it a priority. We can’t do filling and inexpensive things like grains and beans almost at all without suffering. And things like dairy and gluten we just can’t do at all no matter what. It can be a serious struggle. Frankly, I’ve been known to cry over shopping lists and the resulting receipts! But what are you going to do? Eating this way keeps my children healthy and well. We grow as much as we can, make everything from scratch, seek out the best prices and do the best we can.

  4. sarah

    Wow, I am impressed. Breakfast in my family for at least three generations has been cereal for small children then two pieces of toast and tea/coffee for everyone over the age of twelve. On Sunday I make pikelets as a treat. What you have shown here, we’d have for dinner. It looks so wonderful, nutritious, and warming. Your family is blessed :-)

  5. MamaAshGrove

    Dear Melody, these breakfasts look so incredible. I always want to put more effort into the morning meal than I do for the evening, it just makes sense. But somehow I can’t quite get there.
    I understand and agree with food being a priority for health! While we do not have the health-food issues in our family as you do in yours, I believe in feeding our family, esp. growing children- healthy, nourishing whole foods as it is literally building their bodies, and will have so much to do with their health for life!
    I am always in awe of the art of your cooking. And I seem to be an old-fashioned mama in the same ways that you are.
    hugs

  6. Melody Post author

    Take away the option of grains for breakfast and add in one child who will under no circumstances eat eggs on their own, and you’ll find you get mighty creative mighty quick! lol

  7. Taisa

    Melody this is a treasure trove of breakfast ideas! We also eat very little grains and have dietary issues that make food a priority- and it sounds like we have similar food bills to show for it! Do you make the pork and apple bake in the crockpot too? And do you do your breakfast cooking at night before bed or as part of your cooking through the day? I have not figured out how to get the breakfast crockpotting happening yet, but I’ve been wanting to figure it out. And I love how your children are not just helping stir the pot, but really helping and making things- I hope to get there eventually! We’ll definitely be trying a bunch of these recipes. And that image of gratefully kissing Elijah’s head in the morning makes me smile. Hope you got to have a nice, slow, quiet start this morning! xoxo

  8. Taisa

    And do you prep the fish/sausage patties/ etc the night before? Sorry to load you with questions, I’m just trying to wrap my head around how to make healthy breakfasts happen efficiently, and you obviously have thought this all through! xoxo

  9. Robyn

    These all look really good and not too difficult for a kitchen novice like myself.

    In my house, we spend more time and care preparing food for our animals than we do for ourselves and it certainly shows. We’re always tired and unwell and the dogs and cats are sleek and happy, full of extra energy. One would think we’d take the hint…

    We work odd hours and live in a 24 hour city, so we’re often eating dinner at 3 am and breakfast at 1 pm. Produce here is of fairly low quality (even at the nicer grocery stores) due to the higher quality ingredients being sent to the resorts to feed the tourists. Growing food is also a struggle, as we have 100+ degree temperatures for at least 4 months out of the year and very little rain.

    These posts here and at the other blogs that I follow are an inspiration. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Melody Post author

    I don’t mind questions at all! The pork and apple bake can be prepped and put together the night before and then just put in to cook for the 20 minutes. Sometimes I do this, sometimes I don’t. I always regret it when I don’t. I’ve never tried it in the crockpot, but I imagine it would work. The fish and the sausage patties actually come together pretty quickly. I do those the morning of and they are purposely scheduled on days when I’m more likely to have a bit more energy in the morning. I usually do the crockpot stuff after I put the younger two to bed (right after dinner), but before I settle in with my knitting or whatever for the night. If I wait until right before bed, it’s much harder to convince myself to do it! If I find I have a little extra time on my hands (ha!) or already have the cutting board out and don’t absolutely have to run to the next thing, I might try to sneak it in early. That’s always a satisfying feeling! It’s nice knowing what meals are coming next so that if you have the chance you can try to get a head start.

    My kids are significantly older (well some of them! ;) I’m sure you will get there too. I’m quite proud of how proficient they are not just in the kitchen but with many life skills. I think it will serve them well.

  11. Rose

    Yams in the crockpot!! Brilliant! I try and roast up extras as my son loves them sauteed with coconut oil and arugula but having them fresh out of the crockpot in the morning sounds wonderful. In fact many of the recipes you’ve posted are ones I’ll be trying out. Thank you for taking the time to post them and the photographs.

  12. Sarah

    I agree with another of your commenters – sweet potato in the crockpot sounds brilliant. Must also try out the german pancake recipe.

    For not a morning person I am totally impressed at the breakfasts you produce. The poor troops here eat pretty much the same thing day in day out – Granola in summer, porridge in winter. The only breaks being pancakes one day on the weekend, and toast when we accidentally run out of yoghurt or milk:)

  13. Tanya

    These are all fantastic ideas Melody!!! While my family has more freedom when it comes to food choices, I am very much in line with your “diet”- little to no grains (and definitely no gluten!), no dairy, no legumes (hello bloat), etc. Your recipes are always inspiring to me. Cooking is not something that I tend to enjoy most likely due to the fact that food always caused discomfort to me, but I am stretching myself to change that! I am also inspired to get my boys in the kitchen more!!! They have some of the basics down, but how nice it would be for them to cook an entire meal!

  14. Laura

    Thank you so much for sharing! My family is grain free as well (currently on GAPS) and we are in a major breakfast rut. My kids eat eggs almost every morning. Would love to try some of these! Would you mind sharing the recipe/ directions for the pork and apple bake? Thanks!

  15. Melody Post author

    It’s linked to in the post, just click on the words “pork and apple bake”. If I remember correctly honey is GAPS safe, yes? So you could switch out the syrup if you would like or just leave it out entirely. Enjoy!

  16. Laura

    Thanks so much Melody! I had tried the link before bugging you with questions, but it just brought me back to this post with no recipe. And yes, honey is GAPS legal, so if it has a sweetener, I can just use that! Thanks!

  17. Laura

    Thank you so much!! I can’t wait to try this and some of your other ideas – they all look so wonderful!

  18. Mrs. Mallard

    I have visited your website for a while without commenting, but I must say I just love your breakfast foods! They seem so delicious and filling. I am excited to try yams for breakfast, and the cashew yogurt, and the stuffed squash. Thank you for these terrific ideas!

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