Sunday, August 21, 2011

On Fresh Beginnings

And just like that summer has whizzed by.  No, it's not fall yet, not even close, really.  But it's coming. I see it in the back-to-school sale papers tumbling out of the newspaper, in my once verdant garden that has been darkened and crisped by the sun. I hear fall coming when the lumbering yellow bus climbs the hill outside my door and in the silence of twilight.  No more thrum of cicadas to vibrate the air.

This summer has been a joy.  It's been full of spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment, fun. There have been lazy days, full of swimming, vacation, and sun.  And there have been busy days full of garden soil, produce and canning. There have been evenings on the front porch, mason jars of sweet tea at hand, laughter and fireflies hanging in the air. Yet finally, summer is fading, wearing thin at the edges.  These months of leisure have dulled us, lulling us into complacency.  I feel a tug toward routine, schedule and challenge. A bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils is starting to look appealing and is that a whiff of new crayons in the air?

As I prepare for new school year, I have been working on structure for our days.  A time to get up, a time to play, a time for chores, a time for projects.  Working on a menu plan again - simple, healthy ways to feed this crowd. Specifically, I've been thinking about how to streamline breakfast on school mornings.  This is always tricky.  Easily it's  turned into Mom as a short order cook, or drug into a huge production  with kids making their own thing until the kitchen is trashed and the day is half gone.

For this school year, I have given each day a main idea for breakfast and then variations so we don't have the same thing every week.  I have done this for years with dinner and it's high time to get mornings organized as well.  It helps so much to think "Today is oatmeal day, so something with oatmeal", instead of "WHAT IN THE WORLD SHALL I FEED THESE PEOPLE??".

Monday - Oatmeal day. 
  • Cook up a big pot of whole grain oatmeal seasoned w/ lots of cinnamon and a little flax seed thrown in for extra fiber & Omega-3's.  Serve w/ a variety of toppings.  Dark chocolate chips, walnuts, dried cranberries, blueberries, maple syrup, brown sugar or whatever you have on hand.
  • Baked Oatmeal.  Easy to prep the night before and pop into the oven first thing.
  • Homemade Granola Bars.  These are thick and hearty,  Make a batch and they easily keep for a week or two.  Serve with a glass of milk and some fruit.
Tuesday - French toast/ Pancakes
  • Mix up pancake batter or french toast egg mixture before you go to bed.  Stash it in the fridge and it's easy to grab the next morning.  Vary your pancakes by stirring in chopped bananas and/or nuts, or peaches,  or chopped apples or a dash of cinnamon.
  • I have a big electric skillet that makes it easy to cook up a huge batch of french toast or pancakes at one time.  I also keep on hand a whole grain pancake mix. Either one of these is easy to throw together while the kids are getting dressed and making their beds.  Sometimes I put one of them is in charge of the flipping.
  •  Baked French toast.  This is basically French toast made the night before.  Dip the bread in a milk/egg mixture, layer in a 9 x 13, chill overnight and bake in the morning.
Wednesday - Eggs
  • Scramble eggs w/ leftover bacon (if there ever is such a thing), chopped ham or some veggies.  Melt cheese over all.  Wrap in tortillas.  Optional:  Add salsa.  Easy and fun
  • Breakfast pizza - spread crescent rolls on a pizza pan (Shhhh- processed food).  Layer on meat of choice, cheese, veggies and beaten eggs.  Bake for 20-30 minutes.
  • Omelets - but only if I'm feeling inspired
  • Egg Scramble - cube a couple of potatoes.  Cook in a tablespoon of olive oil or butter for 8-10 minutes or until browned.  Add ham, onions, peppers, mushrooms or whatever you like.  Cook for several minutes.  Scramble in some eggs.  Melt on some cheese. 
  • Breakfast casserole/quiche  - Lots of variations on this one.  Easy to make the night before.
  • Pile scrambled eggs, meat and cheese into a tortilla and grill into a quesadilla.
Thursday - Muffins and Fruit 
  • There is a whole list of muffins our family enjoys.  Banana/chocolate chip, blueberry, apple/bran, cranberry/walnut just to name a few.  I usually swap in some whole wheat flour, ground flax seed or wheat bran to "healthify" things up.
  • Quick breads like banana bread, pumpkin bread, applesauce bread are another option.  Making one of these is a great afternoon project for an older kid and then breakfast is all ready to go in the morning.  We love these breads lightly toasted and spread with cream cheese.
  • If we are having muffins for breakfast, the night before I measure out and mix dry ingredients in one bowl, wet ingredients in another.  In the morning, all I have to do is pour them together and bake.  

Friday - Toast/Misc

  • Cheese toast
  • Toasted bagels and cream cheese
  • Smoothies & leftover muffins
  • Canadian bacon, egg and cheese on toasted English muffin halves
  • Yogurt layered with fruit and granola
  • Pb & J toast
  • Pb & honey toast
Saturday - Cereal/Fend for yourself
  •  Mom and Dad sleep in and kids make their own breakfast!!! At least in the theory that's how it goes.
Sunday - Fruit, Toast
  •  Once in a while I purchase pastries or break out a special treat like (gasp) donuts for Sunday morning.
 So - why not more cold cereal mornings on this list you ask?  For one, my kids are not big fans of cereal.  (they have no idea what they are missing out on in my opinion), for two, when they do eat it, they are hungry again an hour later and three - when everyone eats cereal for breakfast we go through a whole box in one morning.  I got tired of buying cereal!

Breakfast is a big deal at this house.  I'm pretty sure I've harped on the subject before, but watching the difference in attention and ability to concentrate  with a good breakfast vs a nutritional nothing breakfast has made me a believer.

So what are your tips and tricks?  Do you have a morning routine?  Are you trying to make things easier at the start of the school year?  What works for you?


    1. I am so stealing this ;) thanks for the great ideas, D ;)

    2. Love your blog! I just did a post about muffins today, as well.


    3. Hi Carrie, thanks for stopping by my blog :)

      Mom2Hallie - hope you guys are having a great week of back-to-school!

    4. I miss your blogs, Wren! They're ofen so inspiring! I love the idea to designate certain food themes for certain days. Your ideas are so great! Thanks again for a great post! :)

      Crystal G