Recipe(s) Week Six

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Whole Grain Breakfast

Whole Grain Breakfast

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.

Koinonia Granola
[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.

13 Responses to “Recipe(s) Week Six”

  1. Marcia Says:

    I love granola. I have a pretty good recipe that I’ve come to from combining several different ones. I also like to decrease the oil and sugar. Of course, the recipe is pretty flexible, and I add whatever I happen to have on hand.

  2. Bellen Says:

    To make granola healthier I omit the butter and increase the oil, using canola, to 3/4 cup; I reduce the sweeteners to 1 cup white, 4 Tbsp molasses and use apple juice to make the granola the correct ‘wetness’. I also leave out the coconut because I don’t like it and the grape nuts. I add more oats, nuts and pumpkin seeds to make up for those. After it is cooked I add any dried fruit desired – usually left in jars next to the granola – like raisins, apricots and dates. Fresh fruit, yogurt, milk added as desired. Often eaten by the handful, 1/4 – 1/2 cup stirred into pancake batter, topped with applesauce – it’s delicious any way it’s served.

  3. Lorrie Says:

    When I was a little girl one of my favorite breakfasts was rice cooked in milk and water with cinnamon and sugar on top. I should try it now with brown rice though I sometimes just heat up leftover white rice with milk and add cinnamon and sugar. It’s great comfort food!

    Once again you have inspired me. I am going to make granola this week!

  4. Abby Says:

    I made an African stew with sweet potatoes once that was great – it had peanut butter in the broth, of all things.
    I will see what spices it had.

    Your blog is more pertinent than you know. Since I lost my second job a few months ago, money has been tight, and on Friday I found myself with just $8.00 for groceries this coming week, and a cup of rice in the pantry. Thanks to your blog I did NOT bounce a check to buy my grub, but put my thinking cap on to figure out how to make it to payday. I bought a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes for .93 cents, drumsticks on sale for $1.14, a bag of potaotes for $1.45, some olives for $1.38, carton of medium eggs for $1.19 and two sticks of butter for $1.59. I made a chicken, tomatoe stew that will last me until Thursday, and I’m eating eggs and potatoes for other meals. It ain’t pretty, but its better than overdrawing my checking account and incurring a $34.00 fee. Thanks for the inspiration. It’s amazing what you can live on if you thonk outside the box.

  5. lessisenough Says:

    So glad you were able to make it work! I think it’s probably harder when you *have* to do it, but still empowering I think. Knowing you can get by on not very much is actually quite liberating.

    And based on my project, I put Jiffy biscuit mix (if it’s available in your area) at the top of the list for getting through — $0.50 for about 1,000 calories of biscuits, just mix with water. You can make up one batch at a time, half the box for one meal and half for another, and it’s good for breakfast with the eggs, or with the stew. Or if you have flour and baking powder, you can do biscuits from scratch and, as generations of southerners can attest, that does wonders for almost any meal.

    It makes me think back to one of the first times I thought of what a person could do if they just had a few dollars and needed to get through a few days. A friend of mine had just moved to a new town and something happened where she found herself with only $3 or $4 to get through the weekend. (I don’t think she lost her wallet, but I think she had temporarily lost access to it for the weekend — like it was locked in her office and she didn’t have keys yet, or she left it in someone’s car or something like that. I can’t remember the details, just that it was kind of a weird situation.)

    I don’t actually remember how she ended up getting through, just that it made me think about what she should do, and I sent her a message that outlined basically what I did for the first few days of my project (hit the bulk bins and get one or two servings of a few things) and she sent a message back that said basically, “ha ha, you’re so funny.” I hadn’t been kidding, I was totally serious but I just let that one go.

    And that’s acutally what made me think about doing the $1/day project spending a dollar at a time. I really wanted to see if that approach would work. So it’s nice that it did, and that I could tell people about it and they could actually find it useful instead of saying ha ha you’re so funny.

  6. Abby Says:

    It’s ironic, my brother, who works in construction, is currently receiving food stamps, due to a lull in work. He lives in the country, raises livestock and vegetables, and feeding his family is actually not a problem. He told me they get more food stamps than they can spend, so they are stockpiling foodstuffs like bags of rice, to prepare for Armageddon (yeah, I love him dearly, but he is one of those. )

    It does focus the mind, to realize you have no money to buy food for the coming week. And then the relief of realizing you can live on way less than you normally spend, if you think outside the consumerist-mentality. And, then, the realization that your “normal” way of feeding yourself is ridiculously wasteful and inefficient, and not even satisfying enough to be called extravagent. I’m trying hard not to fantasize about what I will eat when I have money again. Thanks for the hint about Jiffy mix. My mom used to have that on hand, another example of how I am realizing her methods may have been smarter than I thought. (I thought she just didn’t know how to cook! : )

  7. Susanne Says:

    Interesting comments. I started reading this blog a while ago after I cleaned out my pantry as part of a decision to simplify my life of so much of the “stuff” that’s been cluttering it for years. I started a shopping list to restock, then caught myself. I used to keep enough food on hand to handle a small-sized apocalypse myself (oh, it’s on sale, I’ll buy 10 cans), but no more — well-stocked, yes, but no more overstocked. This blog helps remind me of my priorities. It also reminds me that I haven’t made granola in literally years, and I love it. So that’s this week’s project.

  8. lessisenough Says:

    I recommended this book a few times and then stopped because it’s one of those things that tends to generate resistance and defensiveness, you have to be at a place where you’re ready for it in order to find it valuable, but I’ll recommend it here because both of these comments made me think of it — the book is Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. There’s actually a new edition with a new co-author but I’m not sure what that person’s name is. Vicki Robin then went on to start the Center for a New American Dream, which you can find online.

    Your Money or Your Life has some hokey self-help elements to it but it also can allow you to completely change how you think about spending and how much money you need. The steps in the book include adding up how much money you’ve made in your life and to list everything you own and how much you owe, and then to track your spending to see where your money goes. Their mantra in the section on thinking about how much you’ve made and how much you’ve spent is “no shame, no blame.” Basically they want you to be aware of what you’ve done in the past so you can make changes in the future, but not to beat yourself up about it. It’s sort of hokey, but it’s important. No shame, no blame.

    I highly recommend that book to anyone who wants to figure out how to live on less. But be aware that the first time you read it, you might think it sounds completely crazy or impossible or just stupid. But it’s worked for a lot of people for a long time because it helps you change how you think, and that’s the most important thing you can do.

  9. Kathleen Says:

    I’ve really been enjoying your site. I’m pretty frugal about food-feeding 5 no eating out-and often I get teased about cooking so much and feeding people. I enjoy knowing that there are others who think that cutting back on what you eat is a good way to watch the budget. Anyway,I just wanted to share my recipe for granola, also from the More-with-less cookbook.

    7 cups of dry goods–I usually use 4 cups of oatmeal and then various seeds and nuts.
    1 cup of wet goods- I use 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup oil, 1/4 water. Mixed then add to dry. cook in 300 degree oven until done. 1/2 hor-1 hour.
    The water will make it crunchy. More water less oil will do this.

  10. Abby Says:

    Your post about the African stew reminded of a recipe I made from the Volumetrics diet book, for Peanut Chicken Stew (it has sweet potatoes) that actually came out really well:

    I have the Your Money or Your Life book, it is excellent, thanks for reminding me.

    Today I was on Huffington Post and I got caught up looking at recipes for making home made ethnic take out food like Pad Thai and Spring rolls, and Pizza. But I started to think, these recipes don’t give you an idea of the day to day meals people in these cultures feed themselves on. I bet they aren’t spending $15.00 on lunch. Our culture is so caught up in whetting our appetites, we don’t concern ourselves with just the simple project of feeding ourselves so we have enough money to pay our bills. I get paid tomorrow and I’m going to try not to over – spend trying to “make up for” having to eat with discipline this week. (My God, it’s not like I’m starving, just cheese deprived!)

  11. lessisenough Says:

    I feel like one of the problems we have is that we feel like we have to do something elaborate every day, every meal even.

    One of the ways I spend less is that I do one big meal once a week or so and the rest of the time eat leftovers or basic stuff. I feel like this is how people used to eat, they didn’t fix things from recipes, they just made a few basic things and that was good enough. My 97-year-old grandmother grew up on a farm without electricity. They would eat a big breakfast, big lunch (dinner) and small dinner (supper) which consisted of leftovers from dinner. If you don’t have electricity, you don’t have a refrigerator, and if you don’t have a refrigerator, you need to eat things up.

    Also many other cultures eat the same thing day to day with occasional “feast” meals. I feel like in America every meal is a feast.

    I notice the difference when people come to visit and I make something different for every meal and I have so much left over. It takes me two weeks to get back to where I usually am, with enough but not too much food.

  12. lessisenough Says:

    Thanks for the tip on using water in granola to make it crunchy, I’ll have to try that.

  13. Abby Says:

    I sooo appreciate your perspective. You really help me sort this food stuff out. Your blog is very unique. Thanks for your work.

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