If the word “breakfast” conjures up big plates of bacon and eggs, stacks of pancakes, or omelets — all of which might feel too heavy or too time-consuming to make regularly — it’s time to move beyond those ideas.
Rather than turning to a box of cereal or the same old menu of morning favorites, give yourself permission to go wild and get creative.
Reframing breakfast as simply the first meal of the day — rather than a meal that needs to include traditional “breakfast foods” — gives us all room to eat essentially anything we want, as long as the meal checks off a few nutritional boxes.
Personally, when I’m feeling like I’m in a breakfast rut, I think of other foods I’m craving. Pasta, tacos and burritos, French-inspired fruit-and-cheese tartines, and even popsicles have all graced my breakfast bowl or plate depending on the season and my whims.
Also, in my world, an egg is not only a breakfast food. I’m happy eating an egg-and-cheese sandwich at any time of day. Just ask my husband, who’s been witness to many a quick convenience-store sandwich on road trips.
If you aren’t inspired by your usual morning routine, challenge yourself with these recommendations for quick or make-ahead meals, as well as a few other indulgences to start your day with something delicious.
If the texture of scrambled muffin-tin eggs doesn’t appeal to you (same, honestly), there’s an alternative that’s just as versatile. You can bake whole cracked eggs in the greased wells of a muffin tin and refrigerate or freeze them for meals all week.
Is it a coincidence that there are 12 wells of a muffin tin and a dozen eggs in a carton? Maybe it’s fate telling us all to bake up a big batch. Or do a few at a time if that makes sense for your schedule. If you want to add chopped vegetables for more flavor, add them to each well before cracking in the egg.
While overnight oats skew more traditionally toward breakfast, there are so many ways to zhuzh them up that they’re worth making a part of your routine. Because of the versatility and hands-off aspect of the preparation, these are some of my favorite breakfast options for road trip vacations and camping adventures — but they work for busy at-home mornings, too.
The basic premise of overnight oats requires you to hydrate the flakes for at least 8 hours, or while you sleep. But oats aren’t the only grain option that can handle an overnight soak. Stir in some precooked quinoa or millet to add a more toothsome-but-tender texture.
Vary the flavor profile with these additions:
• dairy-free milk options, such as rice, cashew or macadamia
• dried fruit or frozen berries
• toasted coconut flakes
• chopped nuts or flax seeds
• sweeteners like honey or maple syrup
And if you really like smoothies, make them ahead, as well. You don’t have to get your blender dirty every morning to reap the benefits of a drinkable, portable breakfast. Make your favorite flavor of smoothie — I love using frozen Maine blueberries with spinach or avocado. Then pour it into ice pop molds for frozen pops that can be grabbed in seconds.
If you don’t have the fridge or freezer stocked with pre-made meals, you can keep components on hand for easy-to-assemble breakfasts. My favorite strategy here is to brainstorm what I’d like to eat in a sandwich and use those filling ideas for breakfast dishes.
Tartines, AKA open-faced sandwiches — or as I like to call them, “things on toast” — comprise a catchall category of breakfast options that can skew savory or sweet. Start with sprouted or whole grain breads, bagels or English muffins to bring in crucial fiber. Then toast and top with ingredients like the following:
• smashed avocado and sesame seeds
• nut butter and fruit slices (bonus: make your own sweet and savory maple nut butter)
• cream cheese and berries
• marinated baked tofu and kimchi
• brie, Camembert or goat cheese and jam (try fig or raspberry)
This strategy also works for the no-carb set — simply swap out the bread for a bowl of plain or vanilla Greek (or similarly thick) yogurt. My standard summer breakfast is plain European yogurt mixed with cubed watermelon or peaches and a drizzle each of honey and balsamic vinegar. If you love watermelon feta salad, give it a try.
If you like savory foods, there’s so much more to do with eggs than simply fry, scramble and fold them into omelets. When I have a few minutes and am feeling famished, my go-to move is to grab eggs and tortillas for breakfast tacos or burritos.
The technique of making both is simple, but ripe with possibility when it comes to fillings. I “taquear,” or dress, my breakfast tacos with leftovers and take my cues from Jackie Alpers, author of “Taste of Tucson,” to fill my burritos with a blend of scrambled eggs, beans, cheese and spicy fresh salsa.
Cold pasta leftovers will always be an acceptable breakfast to me, but when I want some fresh and hot noodles first thing in the morning, I make a one-pot breakfast pasta inspired by carbonara. Stirring spaghetti together with creamy eggs, spinach and peas creates a hearty, satisfying bowl of carbs, protein and vegetables.
If you have a sweet tooth, pancakes and waffles are probably your standing order for weekend brunch. And yes, they do take more time to prepare than you probably want to spare on a weekday, which is why they’re more of a special-occasion meal.
But when you’ve got the fever for a stack of fluffy carbs, you can still play around with flavor. Amp up the fiber and protein with grains like buckwheat or cornmeal. Then top your creation with quick-roasted fruit and yogurt whipped cream.
Pro tip: If you’re still making more pancakes and waffles than you can eat in a single meal, freeze the leftovers in a single layer on a sheet pan. When they’re frozen solid, transfer to a freezer bag or other sealable container. Pop into the toaster when you’re ready to eat them again — voila! Homemade Eggos!