Breakfast for Beginners

by Blair Thornburgh

I am constantly amazed at how many people don’t eat after waking up. This is very wrong! Breakfast is great — it’s the most important meal of the day, your body needs fuel, etc.

In addition:
1. It gives you a reason to get out of bed.
2. Otherwise you get spacey and tired at 10:30.
3. Coffee on an empty stomach sucks.
4. Becoming ravenous enough to eat an entire Subway footlong in four minutes flat does not make for a quality lunch break.
5. Because I said so! (I would say I sound like my mother, but she is, in fact, a new convert to breakfasting. And we’re all very proud.)

The eating part is not hard to do, it’s the preparing that trips a lot of us up. But it should not. Breakfast is the easiest meal to make yourself! Unless you live a truly liberated lifestyle of weeknight-bed-hopping, you probably wake up in the same place every day, and that place probably has a kitchen and at least one clean bowl. That’s all you need. Lunch and dinner may be left to the whims of fate, but breakfast belongs in the home.

It’s also the easiest meal to DIY on the cheap. Just say no to $5 boxes of Kashi GoLean Crunch! (Does this stuff wreak havoc with anyone else’s digestive system? No? K.) You can literally make breakfast in your sleep, for the proverbial pennies-a-serving. And, bonus, you save money absent the social stigma of brown-bagging it or “just ordering an appetizer” for dinner.

I keep the day-of time commitment as minimal as possible and mostly passive. Set your alarm ten minutes earlier than usual to get things started, and then you can go floss or practice flashcards while your food heats up. And they’re all nominally healthier than a Cinnabon or a bowl of Froot Loops, so you can save those delicacies for dinner dates. Let’s go!

The most important part of the most important meal. Make in the morning or make it overnight — all you need is a large mason jar or French press and a willingness to drink it cold.

• Mix a ratio of roughly 1/2 cup ground coffee to 8 cups water in your container
• Stir it and let it steep overnight
•In the morning, strain it through a coffee filter or press the press and presto (pressto?)! Iced coffee that tastes good even if you made it with three-month-old pre-ground French Roast from Trader Joe’s!

I can’t believe that some people don’t like this food. (Do they hate Quakers or something? Because I know some actual Quakers and they are really nice and don’t even wear weird hats.) Anyway, if you buy this up from the bulk bins at your local Whole Foods/co-op/commune, you can get it on the cheap and presumably free-range, organic, and sustainable or whatever.

• Buy steel-cut oats (they look like little pellets, not flat flakes)
• Combine 1 cup oats with 3 cups water in a sauce pan
• Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat, cover, and let sit overnight
• In the morning: oatmeal!
• Mix in some milk, nuke it for about 2 minutes, and voilà.

The best part about steel-cut oats is they work as leftovers that go in the fridge, to be reheated at your leisure (or panicked last minute). And you don’t even have to look at the Quaker Man! (He has a name, actually, and it’s Larry?)

Do not scramble, fry, or poach. Buy a dozen eggs and hard-boil them Sunday night, then eat them all week. Protein!

How to hard boil eggs, to review:
• Put eggs pot
• Add cold water to cover by an inch
•Bring to boil, cover pot and let sit for 11 minutes

If you are too lazy to do this yourself, buy one of those bags of pre-cooked ones. More expensive, but still cheaper than Eating Out.

Alternatively, make a frittata:
• Cook up some vegetables in olive oil in an ovenproof skillet
• Add a couple beaten eggs and some cheese
• Bake at 375 until set

These slices are perfect to eat while sprinting in vain after the bus, and will keep long enough for you to forget about them in the back of the fridge.

Not the cheapest or the healthiest, but as suburban parents always say, if they’re going to eat bagels, I’d rather they do it in my home where I can keep an eye on them. Buy a bag, freeze them, consume one by one with spread of choice (or sliced eggs for bonus points). This method also works with English muffins, despite them being a vastly inferior bread product.

Yogurt is actually a pretty decent breakfast item, but you have to do it right. Buy it in large tubs to knock down the per-serving cost and stay the hell away from those sucralose-flavored Light-n-Fits. I like Greek yogurt because it’s trendy and proteinier and John-Stamos-approved, but it’s also more expensive unless you get the shitty store brand. I am okay with this.

Secret, bonus, totally-foolproof breakfast preparation method
Have a roommate who stays up later than you do, inexplicably decides to make cinnamon rolls in the middle of the night, and leaves them on the kitchen counter with a note that proclaims in giant, frantic letters, “PLEASE HELP ME EAT THESE!!”

I did this today, and it worked like a charm. I NEVER SAID I WAS A ROLE MODEL.

Blair Thornburgh lives in Chicago, where she makes a podcast, a mean egg sandwich (advanced method), and just above minimum wage. Photo: flickr/sarah and iain

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