Recipe(s) Week Six
Sunday, February 21, 2010
As noted, I made an African vegetable stew in Week Six which was, in the words of my friend Ann, who is generally not the most critical consumer of my food, she’s usually pretty happy to get anything, “not the best thing you’ve ever made.” So I’m not going to post the recipe for that unless someone really wants it. It did have a good mix of vegetables (sweet potatoes, potatoes, cauliflower, collards), and it’s possible someone could do something else with the spices to make it work better, but it was just not that good the way I made it.
So instead, I’m going to put up some recipes for breakfast options.
I’m rarely hungry when I first get up, and I have a really funky schedule these days, so I often eat my first meal of the day at a time that would more typically be considered sort of a late lunch hour. However for the most part, I don’t let the time of day play any role whatsoever in my choice of food, and I usually eat breakfast-type foods for my first meal, even if my first meal happens to be at 3 pm. They’re easy to prepare and easy to eat and require a minimal amount of energy. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day; I’m not giving it up just because I don’t get to it until after noon.
I like processed cereal, but most of it isn’t filling enough for me to eat for breakfast unless I eat a bunch of other things with it, which sort of defeats the purpose of boxed cereal — the whole point of cereal is that it’s easy. Also it used to be really expensive so I stopped buying it. But it has actually gotten much cheaper lately at some stores, most notably Target, where I recently got Rice Chex and Corn Chex for $2.04 a box, and also at Whole Foods where you can get store-brand cereals for less than $3 a box. In general, I won’t pay more than $3.50 for a box of cereal, unless it’s Grape Nuts — which I know a lot of people wouldn’t eat even if you paid them, but I like it with yogurt and fruit, especially in the summer when strawberries and blueberries are in season. A little bit of Grape Nuts goes a long way, so I don’t worry too much about how much it is for a box.
I’ve been working through some leftover Chex cereal for the past few weeks, which I bought in December to make Chex mix for The Scrap Exchange holiday party, though I think I’ve had it as a snack or for dessert as often as I’ve had it for breakfast.
You can put cereal in the freezer and it will keep more or less indefinitely. (In a humid climate like mine, if you keep it in the pantry it can get stale fast.) You can eat it straight out of the freezer; there’s basically no water in it, so it’s hardly any different frozen than it is room temperature. (Popped popcorn is the same way — you can stick it in the freezer to keep and eat it straight from the freezer, you don’t have to let it thaw or anything, and it won’t get chewy like it does if you leave it out.)
I have a few different breakfast staples that I rotate through on a regular basis: bagels (day-olds from Bruegger’s, sliced in half and stored in the freezer) with cream cheese or peanut butter; quick breads (like the current version, which I have unappetizingly dubbed squash bread; also banana bread, pumpkin bread, zucchini bread, etc.); omelets; soft-boiled eggs; scrambled eggs in a tortilla — with beans, cheese, salsa; yogurt with grape nuts and fresh fruit; toast with peanut butter; oatmeal (either rolled oats or steel-cut oats) with fruit and/or nuts and/or sunflower seeds. And always some kind of fruit — bananas or apples or oranges in the fall and winter months, and then whatever’s in season during the summer: strawberries, blackberries, peaches, nectarines, cantaloupe.
Another good option if I have fresh milk (I don’t like the taste of dried milk enough to try to use it this way) is leftover cooked rice, cooked with milk and a little bit of sugar and some dried fruit and a cinnamon stick. Pour in enough milk so the rice is just covered, then cook over low heat until the milk is absorbed. It’s really tasty and a great way to use up leftover rice. I like it especially if I’ve made beans and rice and ended up with a small amount of leftover rice, not enough for a meal but too much to feel okay about throwing away. If I do that a couple nights in a row, I’ll come out with just enough for a good breakfast.
All of those things are cheap and easy and generally healthy.
I try to make sure I always have eggs on hand and some kind of fruit. I usually have tortillas and bagels in the freezer, and oats and peanut butter in the pantry, so I can almost always make something good for breakfast even if it’s been days since I’ve been able to make it to the store.
When I first started working from home I was telecommuting, so I had regular work hours and a much more normal schedule and would eat three meals a day like a normal person. I started making muesli and ate it almost every day for a long time.
If you have access to a natural foods store where you can get bulk oats, wheat bran, oat bran, it’s much cheaper than processed cereals and also better for you and more filling. It’s similar to granola, but you don’t cook it so it doesn’t have all that added sugar and fat.
from Vegetarian Planet
4-1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup oat bran
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit
1/2 cup chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup shelled, unsalted sunflower seeds
Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl.
Serve muesli in bowls with milk, and if you like, fresh berries or sliced fresh fruit.
Stored in an airtight container, muesli keeps for 2 months at room temperature.
Makes 8 cups
I also make granola sometimes, and the recipe I like best calls for adding grape nuts, which I think you’re supposed to make yourself (one of the preceding recipe is for Mother’s Grape Nuts) but I get them at Target; Whole Foods does not carry Grape Nuts and Food Lion does not have cheap cereal.
This recipe is not particularly cheap, but I think it’s cheaper than buying granola, and also you get to control how much fat and sugar is in it. And it tastes much better.
I’m going to give you the official recipe, even though I make it differently.
[from the More-with-Less Cookbook]
Makes 5 quarts
Preheat oven to 350F
Melt in a large roasting pan:
1/2 cup oil
2 sticks butter or margarine
2 T molasses
1 T vanilla
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup honey
1/2 tsp salt
When mixed, let cool slightly and add:
2 lbs rolled oats
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 cup chopped nuts
2 cups grape nuts
1 cup wheat germ
1 lb coconut
1 cup sunflower seeds
Stir thoroughly. Bake in shallow pans for 20 to 25 minutes. Stir every 5 to 7 minutes. After granola has cooled, add 1 cup raisins.
Now here’s what I do differently.
First of all, I cut it in half because that recipe is huge. Even if I’m giving it away, it’s too much.
Second, I cut the amount of oil and sweetener down even further, and I double the amount of nuts. I like it with pecans, even when they’re $10/lb (which is why I said the recipe isn’t particularly cheap). I use more brown sugar and molasses and less honey, because brown sugar is much cheaper than honey. I don’t use coconut because I don’t like the texture. Sometimes I add extra oats.
Basically the proportions in the original recipe make for a super sweet, high fat cereal so I try to adjust by decreasing the oil and sugar, and increasing the oats, nuts, sunflower seeds to end up with something that doesn’t taste quite so much like dessert.
I also cut down the salt — in any recipe I ever make that calls for 1/2 tsp salt I use 1/4 tsp, which is a fairly painless way to reduce sodium intake — and also the vanilla because the end result tastes the same to me whether I use a teaspoon of vanilla or a tablespoon, and vanilla doesn’t grow on trees.
I like to eat this with banana and yogurt. It’s also good over ice cream. And it makes a nice gift.