Cheers to Breakfast!

The day can leave me feeling spent! It doesn’t matter if it’s a workday or weekday. At the end of the day, I’m exhausted! That’s why I love the morning! It’s a fresh start, nothing has gone wrong, and everything could go right! Making breakfast can be a fun family affair! We can get so many vitamins and so much energy in the morning with breakfast and it’s nice to start the day off right for our children.

For a great breakfast I think you need a little of everything: fruit, fresh eggs, grains, yogurt, and juice or a smoothie. Julia Child is my patron saint of cooking in the kitchen, and like “Our Lady of Butter”, I like real food! We like whole milk , whole yogurt and real butter in our house. But, my husband and I always manage to balance the healthy with the not so healthy, especially at breakfast. It’s nice to have children develop a natural taste palate, because it’s all about the taste! My daughter loves to be involved in the kitchen, especially at breakfast time. She is learning to cook and loves it!

I am a kitchen gadget girl! Pregnant with my first child, my husband bought me a Breville juicer for my birthday. It’s my favorite toy! Fresh juice in the morning seems like a magical ingredient to the day. Apples and pears are my favorite to mix in my Breville. My daughter calls this “pearple juice”.

The days I don’t make juice, we like smoothies. Smoothies should start with yogurt then you can add whatever you have in the kitchen: bananas, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries…Then you can finish with some different ingredients that can make a powerful smoothie! A handful of spinach and goji berries. What better time than in the morning to get greens in your children’s bellies?

I like spinach because it’s loaded with iron. Since it’s just a handful, you can’t taste it! And if you use blueberries and blackberries, the color comes out purple so it’s pretty! Goji berries which are loaded with antioxidants and have multiple benefits like helping eyesight, boosting the immune system, improving circulation, and promoting longevity. They’re also wonderful in hot tea. A smoothie can be sweetened with maple syrup, peanut butter, honey or Nutella. It’s easy and fast to drink your nutrients and fun to toast to our health in the morning with a breakfast drink!

I think maple syrup is magical! A good source of zinc, it protects the immune system, and supports healing. I feel good giving it to my children and like to add it as a sweetener to everything from oatmeal, tea, sweet potatoes, and even broccoli!

We have breakfast weekday staples in our house, like old fashioned oatmeal and Cream of Wheat (my daughter calls it crème de wheat). We make it with whole milk and add real butter and cream. It’s hearty, healthy, and sticks with us until lunch. For the weekend we like to make Dutch Apple pancakes, sweet potato waffles, or crepes. Toasted nuts and fresh fruit are good on all of the above. On special occasions my specialty is a Tomato Strata, always crowd pleasing and comforting. There’s no gastronomic boredom going on in our house! The kitchen is the most popular place.

Tea has such historic rituals. It’s one of the oldest and most worldly drinks from China to England. To me there’s nothing more wonderful than my ritual of a good cup of hot tea and the newspaper on a Sunday morning. My favorite tea is by far Mariage Frères Éros. When I was pregnant, I would only drink tisanes. Dean and Deluca’s Peppermint Tisane is perfect for this time of year.

Fresh eggs are the ultimate! Once you’ve had fresh eggs, you don’t go back. The color of a fresh egg is a beautiful, vivid orange. It’s such a happy color! It is the color Widow Clicquot designed her Veuve Clicquot champagne labels. Everything about fresh eggs feels right! Lorraine, (the lady I buy them from) has Rhode Island Red hens and one very special hen that lays green eggs! It is so much fun to cook green eggs and ham with my daughter! She calls it, “egg crackin”!

Over the summer I would take my children to Lorraine’s house to pick up eggs. My daughter would be so excited to go to “the egg lady’s” house and see the chicks! It’s nice for our kids to see where food comes from. I think they appreciate it more.

Photo: This Rhode Island hen named Sparrow lays green eggs!

My friend Craig, who is a chef, says this about breakfast, “I have several breakfasts that I love to make for the kiddos. A classic is the egg in a hole; where you cookie cut a hole in the middle of two slices of bread, use a dab of butter in a non stick skillet, and while the bread is toasting, c
rack an egg in each hole. Our eight year old loves the occasional quail egg on her plate. They are so cute and tiny!”

When children in school are about to take a big test; teachers, counselors, principals all encourage parents to make sure their child has a healthy breakfast. I’ll sometimes have children come up to me in the morning and tell me they’re so tired! My first question to them is, “Did you eat breakfast?” Have you heard the Spanish proverb, “The belly rules the mind?” I know it can be a battle at home to get children to eat. Sometimes I’m lucky if my three year old takes a couple of bites. This is another reason I like to drink part of my breakfast. It’s portable and my daughter and son can sip on it in the car. I can’t make them eat, but my hope is with this ritual of breakfast they will grow up wanting it and someday be able to make it themselves.

Starting our day right can boost our energy, increase our attention span, and give us and our children a sense of well being. And, the family fun in preparation and eating around the table together is the cherry on top. Think about the memories you have of the holidays in the morning… It’s all about the food, right? The kitchen always provides the ambience: the fun in preparation, good smells coming from the oven, music and laughter in the background, good conversations with your children, a nice cup of something. It’s the best way to start the day. These are thoughts and ideas, some of which I have learned from others. Take what you like and leave the rest on the table!

Ashley’s Tomato Strata

1 loaf of sourdough bread sliced

8 oz cream cheese, cubed

8 oz fresh mozzerella cheese, torn

4 oz Swiss cheese

Basil pesto (see below)

12 slices prosciutto, sliced thin

5-6 Roma tomatoes, sliced thin

6 fresh eggs

1 cup cream

1 cup milk

Salt and pepper

Arrange bread slices on the bottom of a buttered casserole dish. Top with half of cream cheese, mozzarella, swiss cheese, pesto, prosciutto, and tomatoes. Repeat so you have two layers. Whisk eggs, milk, cream, salt, and pepper and pour over strata. Cover and chill overnight. Before baking sprinkle with herbs de provence and bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour. Let the strata rest for 10 minutes before unmolding.

Ashley’s Pesto

Blend until smooth:

2 cups fresh basil

¼ cup toasted pine nuts

1 garlic clove

Salt and Pepper

½ parmesan cheese

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Pulse basil, pinenuts, garlic, salt, and pepper in blender or cuisinart until finely chopped. With the blender still running, gradually add olive oil. Mix in Parmesan by hand.

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