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There are few breakfasts more delightful than a warm muffin.  Muffins are not only tasty, but a fabulous way to incorporate whole grains and fruits into your morning, as whole wheat pastry flour and cut up fruit melt right in during baking.  Not only are muffins portable for a meal on the fly, but it’s quite easy to make a double batch and freeze half for a quick breakfast during the week.

Whole grain banana chocolate chip muffins

This recipe is actually for banana bread, but on mornings when we’re hungry and we want breakfast sooner, I make it into muffins instead.  I’ve fiddled with this recipe over the years, increasing the whole grains and using applesauce instead of oil.  Often I’ll put blueberries or strawberries into it, but on this morning we had a handful of chocolate chips sitting in the pantry, so I tossed those in.  Mmm.

Mix ½ c. of applesauce and ¾ c. of sugar together.  Add 2 eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth.  Blend in 3 mashed bananas and 1 tsp. vanilla.  In a second bowl, mix 1 c. of white flour, 1 c. whole wheat pastry flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, ½ tsp. baking powder, ½ tsp. salt, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and ½ tsp. nutmeg.  Add dry to wet, stirring only to moisten.  Pour into greased muffin tins, and bake in preheated oven at 350 for 18-20 min, or into a greased loaf pan for 45-50 min, until toothpick comes out clean.  Let stand 10 min, cool on wire rack.

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It’s getting warm, but on a cool morning you can still serve oatmeal for breakfast.  More affordable, healthier, and versatile than most cold cereals, oatmeal is a great breakfast option.  Not only is it a whole grain, but a bowl of oatmeal is a fantastic opportunity to get in well-rounded nutrition in a subtle way.

To start, use old-fashioned oats (rather than instant), and low-fat or fat-free milk as your base, instead of water.  You can check calcium off the list, without chanting, “please drink your milk,” as I have to in our house.  Next, fruit.  Slightly over-ripe fruit, such as apples, bananas, pears, peaches, or berries is perfect; as is diced frozen fruit.  Next, season and sweeten away.  Cinnamon (we call it “fairy dust” here) has lots of health benefits, and rather than plain sugar, opt for a small amount of more nutritious options, such as honey, blue agave, or fruit juice. 

Fruit salad oatmeal

This breakfast came together quickly the other morning.  I had some fruit salad (peaches, strawberries, and mango) leftover from the previous evening, so I mixed it into the pot of oatmeal simmering away, along with fat-free milk and a little organic blue agave (a great sweetener with a lower glycemic index than many other options).  My kids loved it, and it kept us full for the morning.  Score!

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Quiche is a dish I’ve been making for years.  One reason I love it, similar to why I love so many recipes, is that you can really change it up with quiche.  I have a tried and true version (spinach and cheddar) but whenever I have different veggies or cheeses to use up, this is an easy way to do it.  I have a few friends who always buy their quiche because they think it’s difficult to make, but it’s actually one of the quickest dishes to assemble.

A Classic Quiche

Starting with the crust: In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of flour (whole wheat gives it a nice taste and crunch), 3 tbsp of cold water, and 3 tbsp of oil.  Blend until a ball forms, adding more water if necessary, and then press into 9 in. greased pie plate.

To make the quiche filling: Combine 1 ¾ cups of milk; 4 eggs (beaten first); 10 oz cooked, diced vegetables (spinach or broccoli work well), 1 cup shredded cheese; 1 diced onion; 1 tsp paprika; 1/2 tsp salt; 1/4 tsp pepper; 1 garlic clove or 1/2 tsp minced garlic.

Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes or until set in the middle.  Try varying the vegetables, cheeses, and even add meat, if desired. 

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It’s not uncommon to come across a new recipe and decide it looks enticing, until taking a second look.  Despite the knowledge that whole grains are healthier than refined grains, eating more produce lowers your risk of many health problems, and less sugar is better than more, many cookbooks and magazines are filled with recipes based upon white flour, sugar, and butter.  Instead, I often slightly modify or enhance a recipe, so that we can still enjoy it, but know it’s good for us.  You don’t have to be incredibly creative and reinvent the wheel, but rather, you can round it out.

A recent day of recipe enhancing

This lovely muffin is a banana blueberry bran muffin, based on a recipe by the Barefoot Contessa.  The recipe appeared healthy until I looked closer and saw it was high in fat and refined grains.  In order to improve it, I substituted whole wheat pastry flour for half of the white flour, used frozen blueberries instead of raisins, skim milk instead of buttermilk, and omitted the nuts.  The calories were almost halved, and it now was filled with whole grains and natural fruits.  Serve it with some orange slices and some skim milk, and you’ve got a nice start to the day!

Roasted chickpeas are a healthy treat that I learned about from the Sneaky Chef.  These are so easy to make: canned chickpeas are rinsed, seasoned, and roasted on a greased baking sheet at 350 for an hour.  They make a crunchy snack, and my kids love them.  They’re great in the place of goldfish crackers, and I often toss a handful in my daughter’s lunchbox.  I sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on the chickpeas before roasting, but use a little less than recommended in the book. They can also be seasoned with onion powder, garlic, or other spices if you’re looking for a savory snack.

And finally, our dinner for that evening– a peanut butter chicken dish from Make it Fast, Cook it Slow, my favorite crock pot cookbook.  This one would be easy to make in the oven or even skillet.  It’s a great recipe, but doesn’t call for many vegetables, so that’s where I step in.  First, I add 1/2 cup of pureed butternut squash to the sauce along with 1/2 cup of chicken broth– this makes it saucy enough to serve over noodles.  Next, once I serve it, I add steamed matchstick carrots and red peppers, along with sides of broccoli and fruit salad.  My kids loved it, and it was the type of recipe that was simple to double, and then freeze half for another meal.

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