Hearty winter breakfasts

Frittata
(Photo provided — Yvona Fast)

Frittata (Photo provided — Yvona Fast)

Chilly mornings are part of winter. So fill up and warm up with hot, hearty breakfasts that stick to your ribs.

Almost a quarter of American adults – 55 million – skip breakfast. The most common reason is lack of time. Kids have to get to school, parents have to go to work, everyone’s in a rush. There is not time for pancakes, eggs & bacon, or a pot of slow-cooked oatmeal.

Yet breakfast is the most important meal of the day, because your body needs fresh fuel after its nightly fast. The food industry’s answer to the morning rush is cold cereals. To make them more attractive to kids, they come in all colors and with lots of sugar. But think about it… can Froot Loops or Frosted Flakes really be considered food?

Contrary to popular opinion, breakfast cereals offer little nutritional value. They’re packed with refined carbs (sugar and white flour) that lead to a fleeting sugar rush, followed by a plunge in energy. They leave you tired, irritable, hungry and craving sweets for more quick energy.

Other traditional American breakfasts – donuts, muffins, bagels, pancakes, waffles – are not much better. They’re all high in refined carbohydrates that don’t offer lasting energy to take you through the day. Instead, they, leave you famished an hour or two after eating because the refined carbohydrates absorb quickly.

Research studies from both the Universities of Colorado and Massachusetts show that eating breakfast regularly is one of the most effective ways to keep your weight in check, to lower bad cholesterol (or maintain an already low level) and to reduce the risk of developing hypertension, increasing insulin levels. and insulin resistance that lead to type-2 diabetes. Researchers believe the main reason for this is that our body needs regular fuel, every 3 to 5 hours.

A good, wholesome breakfast contains healthy fats, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals and should account for 1/4 to 1/3 of your daily calories. In the morning, the empty stomach craves something wholesome, and your body needs fuel to start the day.

Including protein and a little fat in your breakfast will help you feel full and avoid a steep rise in blood sugar followed by an equally fast drop, leading to cravings, fatigue and loss of concentration. Protein and fat are released more slowly, helping regulate blood sugar and appetite, so it’s important to combine protein with good quality, unprocessed carbs. Examples are eggs, cheese, meat, yogurt.

Since half of what you eat should be fruit and veggies, it is also important to include produce in your breakfast. Vibrant-colored vegetables and fruits are full of essential vitamins, minerals and fiber, and will help you feel satiated until lunch. Add veggies to your omelet or frittata; put slices of pepper, cucumber, radish or tomato on top of your cream cheese bagel; add fruit to your bowl of morning oatmeal.

One way to attack the morning rush is to prepare ahead. Breakfast casseroles and breakfast bars can be made the night before. Oatmeal can be prepared ahead, and even baked. Frittata or quiche can also be baked ahead, cut into individual portions, stored in the fridge and reheated as needed.

Spinach and Quinoa Breakfast Bars

Makes 16 bars/squares

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa

1 Tablespoon olive oil or butter

1 large onion

1 clove garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 16-oz bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed

1 cup diced cooked ham

1 cup cottage cheese

2 large eggs

1 cup extra sharp Cheddar cheese

Directions:

Cook quinoa. Combine 1 cup quinoa with 2 1/4 cups water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, until liquid is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl to cool.

While quinoa cooks, heat oil or melt butter in a small skillet. Peel and chop the onion, add, and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Cook five minutes, stir, and cook another three to five minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch-by-9-inch baking dish.

Squeeze out all the liquid from the spinach, and add spinach to the bowl with the quinoa. Stir in cooked onion, cottage cheese, eggs, half of the shredded cheese and ham, if using. Stir to combine.

Spread quinoa mixture in prepared pan, smoothing top. Sprinkle with remaining half cup of cheddar cheese.

Bake 55 to 65 minutes until set and golden brown. Cool completely before slicing into 16 squares.

In addition to breakfast, these make a great snack or hors-de-oeuvre anytime. They will keep in the refrigerator three to four days, and can be served cold or re-warmed in the microwave.

Experiment. Try substituting other grains, like millet, for the quinoa and other greens, like Swiss chard, kale, collards or broccoli for the spinach.

Broccoli Red

Pepper Frittata

Ingredients:

A little butter for the pan (a teaspoon or two)

1/2 large onion or 1 small

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 red bell pepper

1 – 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh broccoli (or 10 oz. frozen chopped)

1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese

2 eggs

1 or 2 Tablespoons milk

Directions:

Melt butter in bottom of a large skillet.

Peel onion, and dice; add to skillet, sprinkle with salt, cover and cook 5 minutes.

Wash the red pepper, remove seeds and dice. Add to skillet, and stir. Cook four to five minutes.

Chop the broccoli and add to skillet, stir, cover, and continue cooking five to 10 more minutes or until vegetables are desired tenderness.

In a bowl, beat the eggs with milk. When vegetables are tender, sprinkle with cheese and pour eggs over. Cover, and cook until eggs set, about four to five minutes.

OR add the cooked vegetables to the bowl with the eggs. Pour into buttered baking dish and sprinkle cheese over. Bake until set. If not eating right away, store in the fridge. Warm in the oven or microwave when you’re ready to eat.

Serve with young boiled potatoes, home fries, or crusty baguette for lunch or supper.

Serves two.

Author of the award-winning cookbook Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market, Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at www.wordsaremyworld.com or on Facebook as Author Yvona Fast.

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