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Five Favorite Back to School Breakfasts

August 23, 2010 | Frank Bonanno

Breakfast isn’t my favorite meal–not to eat, not to cook. An adult comes to realize, though, that every meal isn’t centered around a single set of needs. Suddenly, I’m in my forties, enjoying brunch on the weekends, cooking whole meals sometimes before I’m really even awake.

I eat pancakes. Waffles even.

Over summer, everything relaxed in our house–lots of fruit and half meals–but school started last Thursday and Luca and Marco need to go into the world with food that will feed their minds and bodies and allow them to focus all the way up to a 10:30 lunch.
In the spirit of the beginning of the school year, I thought I’d put together my five favorite family breakfasts, to cook and to eat (for others who occasionally struggle with inspiration before the sun rises).

ONE-EYED BANDITS–Basic (see bottom of recipe for decadent version)
4 slices your favorite bread for toast
4 eggs
2 tablespoons butter
Use a biscuit cutter, or the bottom of a small-circumference glass, to cut one hole in the center of each slice of bread. (If you want to make this one fun for children, use a cookie cutter instead–a heart or a dinosaur or a snowflake on a winter morning.)
Heat the pan over a medium flame; add your butter and melt it.
Place two pieces of toast in the pan of melted butter; crack an egg into the center of each hole. Salt and pepper the egg. Fit the cut-out circles toward the sides of the pan.
Once a solid film of white has formed on the pan-side of your cooking egg, flip the toast and egg together. Flip your bread circles as well. Drizzle all of the bread with honey as the egg finishes cooking.
About two minutes to completion.
***This is the easy kind. If you want to up this recipe to a more luxurious level, for a Sunday brunch, say, then:
Use brioche or Texas toast, and dip it in a French toast batter (3 eggs, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 cup sugar). Start the toast about 2 minutes before you drop the egg in the center. Serve with syrup and butter.

BAKED OATMEAL (This is my favorite go-to breakfast on winter mornings. Easy. Fruit, fiber, and protein–gives kids lots of healthy energy that carries them easily to lunch time)
3 cups oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup melted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cups raisins
Mix all, bake in bread pan 40 minutes.
Set aside: yogurt, favorite fruits or berries.
Serve hot out of oven, cut into thick portions. Pour vanilla yogurt (Greek honey-vanilla is my favorite) over the top as though you’re frosting a very decadent cinnamon roll. Top with fruit.

BANANA ENGLISH MUFFINS (just an easy Bonanno family favorite)
1 banana
2 English muffins
2 tablespoons butter
Heat toaster oven to 350.
Separate English muffins into halves, and thinly shave butter over the tops (so that the surfaces are covered)
Thinly slice bananas and cover the shaved butter with them.
Drizzle abundantly with butter (and lightly dust with cinnamon if so inclined)
Toast on “dark” setting.
Serve with scrambled eggs and juice (for kids), or just a cup of really dark coffee (for you), or just before bed with warm milk (for everybody)

Mix all wet ingredients first:
1/2 cup barely melted butter
1 egg
2 3/4 cups buttermilk (OR 1 1/4 cups milk plus 1 1/2 cups unsweetened yogurt; OR 2 2/3 cup milk plus 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar [any vinegar will do, I just like the flavor of apple cider here])

Then, sift the dry ingredients over the wet:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon sugar
Stir until everything is just barely mixed together. Don’t worry about lumps. The more aggressively you mix the wet and dry ingredients, the more tiny strands of gluten will form, making for tough chewy cakes. I usually count ten times around the bowl with the spoon, then set it down, even if there are lumps.

Couple of tips about cooking pancakes:
1. I prefer an iron skillet, so that I can flip them with a good sturdy metal spatula.
2. Set the flame on medium, and heat the pan first. Put just enough butter to make your cooking surface shiny, about a teaspoon if you’re using an iron skillet. Any more butter and you won’t get that nice fluffiness.
2. Use a ladle, whether big or small, so the pancakes are evenly sized and cook at the same rate.
3. The trick to knowing when to flip a pancake is to look for little bubbles to form. So: ladle the batter in, then step away (I’ll get the coffee going about now). In about 3 minutes the pancake surfaces will start to break with little bubbles. Once you see more than three or four bubbles, flip the cake. If you’re putting chips (white chocolate are my favorite) or berries in, do it now, just before the flip (that way, they just barely warm through instead of disappearing entirely).
4. Finally, when we make this recipe for our family of two small boys and two adults, there’s always extra. If you have leftover batter–go ahead and cook the whole batch. Pancakes freeze. Then, in a week or two, when you’re ready for pancakes again, but not quite in the mood to cook from scratch–just pull out the baggie full of frozen pancakes, and pop them in the toaster oven (or oven) for about 7 minutes at 350.

3 cups cored, peeled, sliced apples (a little less than 1/4 inch thick)
2 cups orange juice
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
Place apples and orange juice in skillet over medium flame.
Bring juice to a nice bubble, then add the butter.
Once butter melts, add brown sugar.
Stir occasionally, allowing liquid to reduce by more than half.
Once apples are cooked through (we call these “sticky” because at this point, most of the liquid is gone. The sugar and apple starch have thickened what’s left into something you have to kind of scrape off the bottom of the pan), serve in a bowl with a touch of milk, next to a poached egg and a slice of whole grain toast.