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Lavishly illustrated ...
Lavishly illustrated throughout with Mollie's luminous paintings, Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Café is divided into 12 chapters of breakfast fare, including yogurt and cheese, griddled foods, muffins and biscuits, eggs and tofu, whole grain cereals, homemade breakfast bars and coffee cakes, puddings and custards--and much more. In addition to showing you exactly how to make the perfect omelet or the crispiest waffles, Mollie offers irresistible recipes that range from the familiar Winter Fritata with Red Onions, Red Potatoes, and Goat Cheese, to the favorite Gingerbread Pancakes, to the surprising Basmati Almond Muffins, and on to irresistible Crispy Southwest Polenta Hash. And Mollie's energy-packed Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Protein Bars are certain to become a ray of sunshine in any kitchen.
Breakfast is everyone's favorite meal — yet ironically, relatively few of us seem to make the time to actually prepare or enjoy it. Instead, we rely on something from a box or from the pastry case where we stop for coffee — or, worse, we eat nothing at all. What is it that we love about this often-illusory meal? What does it symbolize? And how can we bring the whole notion of breakfast back down to earth and make it real, so that a good morning meal becomes an integral part of our every day and not just a special event reserved for weekends? | Addressing the first two questions, I have a hunch that, for many of us, breakfast symbolizes the encouraging notion of a fresh start, even if only on a very modest scale. Literally and repeatedly, breakfast is the first meal of the rest of our lives, associated with positivity and optimism — a small, bright keynote that revives us from sleepiness and fuels us for action. The forecast for an entire day can somehow be encoded within a piece of toast or a bowl of fresh fruit, promising a sense of renewal as we shift out of our dream state and crank ourselves up to face the business of daily life. | The answer to the third question is more complicated. Our morning schedules are often hectic, and many of us are as pressed for appetite and inspiration as we are for time. Throughout this book, I show you many ways you can approach breakfast — strategically, spiritually, and sensually — so that you can not only make space for this cheerful, important meal but embrace it and look forward to enjoying it each morning. If the ideas presented in these pages help you to rise and shine — and not just rise — and if your dailybreakfast becomes a wellspring of peace and pleasure — and not just another a source of stress — I will feel I've done my job.
Make Room in Your Life for Breakfast I know that on rushed weekday mornings it's hard to have to choose between a few extra minutes in bed (or on the tread-mill or in the shower) and a quality meal. That's why it is very important to have strategies in place and to plan ahead. Otherwise, many of us will look at these recipes and feel hopeless or even think they're a joke. 'I'm really going to cook and eat that at 7 a.m. on a weekday?" Actually, if you adopt some of these strategies, you can eat "that" (whatever it is) on a weekday morning, but you will possibly have cooked it ahead and reheated it — or you may eat it at 10 a.m. at your desk or during your break.
If you would like to rework your routines so that a good, balanced breakfast becomes part of your every day, here are some pointers that might be helpful. Remember, if we are mindful about breakfast during other times of the day, we can allow ourselves to be blissfully mindless about it in the early morning, which is the state many of us are in at that hour anyway We might as well enjoy it!
—First, make a commitment — a decision to elevate breakfast to a top priority. Then allow yourself the luxury of time spent pondering and planning. This planning time can be really enjoyable, but for some reason we fight it. It might help to think of it this way: Planning is like dreaming, except that it's real.—Read through the book, and list the recipes you'd like to prepare, as well as the ingredients required. That way, when you shop, you can get everything you need in an efficient way.
Families with children tend to experience weekday mornings as the first and worst of the daily rush hours. Even without breakfast, getting everyone up, washed, combed, dressed, packed up, and out the door can be difficult enough. (I know what I'm talking about. Until recently, my own morning schedule factored in a good eight or nine extra minutes just to help my daughter find her shoes, which always seemed, mysteriously, to vanish during the night.) Clearly, we need to get some version of breakfast into our kids on weekday mornings before we send them on their way. If our children barely have time to sit down amid all the hubbub, how on earth do we feed them wisely and efficiently, without resorting to sugary toaster pastries — or worse?
We can embrace a middle ground between junk food on the one hand and a home-cooked three-course sit-down meal on the other. It is possible to feed our children quickly and well, even if they end up eating whatever it is we give them on the bus. In this imperfect world, that's better than letting them run on empty.
Here are some suggestions that you can both follow and also use as a springboard for your own (or your kids') ideas. Note that most of these items can be prepared — fully or partially — in the evening, to take pressure off the morning crunch.
—Fresh fruit — whole, or cut into thick slices
—Yogurt sweetened with a little pure maple syrup.
—Smoothies (see pages 10 through 12)
—Breakfast sandwiches (peanut butter and honey on toast, scrambled eggs in a pita)
—Protein bars and other healthy cookie-type foods (see chapter 12)
—A toasted, buttered homemade muffin (see chapter 4)
—A Nibble Bag (great commute item): Combine nuts, pretzels, dried fruit, and a few chocolate chips (for energy, of course) in a zip-style plastic bag. Hand this to your child with a banana and a thermos or carton of milk for the road.
—Cereal from a box with fortified milk (see page 17) and a subtle sprinkling of wheat germ
Breakfast Around the World We are familiar with the traditional English breakfast of eggs, toast and marmalade, bacon or sausage, tomato, and so on — as that concept was readily imported to the New World (as well as to all the areas colonized by Great Britain) and is now seen as the norm. We are also familiar with the "continental breakfast," consisting of just a hot beverage with some form of bread and butter. Less familiar are the foods people eat for breakfast in other parts of the world, many of which seem odd until you realize that they are often derived from last night's dinner. Some examples:
Eastern Europe Fruit juice; cold cuts; onion-laced cheese spreads; hot peppers; sausages; pastries
Malaysia Meat curry with coconut rice
Philippines Fried rice with eggs and seasonings; dried fish
Vietnam Rice with fish and vegetables; sweet potatoes; pickled vegetables: salted eggs; pho (noodle soup)
Middle East Yogurt; cheeses; olives, bread dipped in olive oil and spices; bean dishes; hummus; falafel; eggs
North Africa Skillet mixes of vegetables, eggs, and meats; various specialty breads
Israel Vegetable salads; olives; pickled and smoked fish; cheeses; yogurt; bread; eggs
Italy Pizza bianca (plain, unadorned pizza), sometimes topped with cheese (midmorning street food)
Spain Potato omelets ('tortillas") and lots of coffee
Ethiopia Injera (spongy bread made from a grain called teff) and stew
Caribbean Tropical fruit; eggs with hot sauces; fried plantains; vegetables; fish soup; pastries
Japan Miso soup; rice; fish; pickles
Singapore Noodles in broth, rice porridge with eggs and vegetables; rotis (flatbreads) with soup
China Rice porridge with pepper sauce and organ meat; warm soy milk; sesame cakes; dim sum
Holland, Germany, and Northern Europe Bread; cheese; meat; eggs; chocolate
Scandinavia Fish and sandwiches
Venezuela Arepas (griddle breads made from flour ground from a very starchy cooked corn)
Mexico Huevos rancheros; chilaquiles (leftover tortillas baked in a casserole with other leftovers)
Breakfast for Metabolic Health
Eat breakfast as a king, lunch as a citizen, and dinner as the beggar on the comer
They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day And once upon a time, not that long ago, the role of breakfast in people's lives was very clear. Most people worked long and hard in the fields — or labored at physically demanding jobs — and they walked or rode horses as their primary means of transportation. A large breakfast made sense for this deeply active way of life, and good nutrition was generally thought of quantitatively, with the aim being to get enough calories to accomplish the day's work. But as industrialization set in and a new professional class arose, metabolic needs shifted. People who worked in factories or at desks simply could not burn off the calories they might once have ingested from a larger, more traditional farm breakfast. As daily life became mechanized and thus supposedly more "convenience oriented" — and as we evolved into a basically sedentary population — we somehow became hurried, and thus less willing to make time for full, good meals. At some point, on a cultural level, we seem to have decided that there would always be something more urgent to attend to than the careful and loving preparation and consumption of food.
As the world has modernized, and as opportunities for obtaining fast food have sprung up everywhere, the very definition of breakfast has become more elusive and unclear. Rushing out the door on weekdays, many of us tend to shortchange or sidestep this meal, a pattern that leads to feelings of deprivation and outright hunger later in the day — sometimes as soon as late morning. The result? We compensate by snacking indiscriminately, escalating over the hours in a pattern that, for many, culminates in bouts of overeating in the evening — and of just plain eating poorly in general.
When we eat inadequately at the start of the day, we fail to take into account that our bodies need real fuel. The car analogy is a good eye-opener. We never question the wisdom of filling our car with gas at the start of a journey, and we'd find it downright absurd to begin a long trip with the gauge near empty. Furthermore, when "feeding" our car, we never question the wisdom of choosing a fuel of the proper composition and richness to do the job efficiently. Somehow, though — perhaps because we don't like to think of our bodies as machines — we tend not to treat ourselves with the same consideration as we treat our vehicles. How modem human beings became so counterintuitive about feeding themselves is a subject for a book in itself. My main point here is that a good breakfast, whatever that means to each of us, is the fueling stop that launches the journey of our day, helping to bring our systems into balance. If we think of it this way, perhaps our start-of-the-day eating will improve — and, ideally, the quality of our lives will follow suit.
What Causes an Energy Crash?
We wake up with what is known as a "fasting blood sugar level." When we ingest food this level rises, at a rate that depends on what food we eat and in what combination. The ingestion of simple carbohydrates all by themselves on an empty stomach can cause blood sugar levels to spike quite suddenly. Our pancreas then responds by producing a large rush of insulin to "go after" that blood glucose and bring it down to a more normal level. When this happens, we tend to experience a precipitous drop in energy and concentration and an attack of hunger. We might even feel shaky or lighthearted. So we reach for another quick fix in the form of additional simple carbohydrates (commonly an empty-calorie snack), and the process repeats itself. This pattern has an adverse effect on our health in many ways — not just in the short term, as an energy roller-coaster, but in the long term as well, with implications for our general health.
What is the Solution?
The trick is to eat in such a way that our blood sugar level escalates at a moderate rate and doesn't shoot through the roof in a short period of time. This means eating well in reasonable amounts and at appropriate intervals. It also requires that we be aware of the form and quantity of carbohydrates we ingest, and that we skew our choices toward certain foods — and food combinations — that will be absorbed gently and slowly. The most rapidly absorbed foods are the simple, highly refined carbohydrates (including most ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, bagels, breads, and so on) that contain very little fiber. However, when such foods are accompanied by other, more slowly absorbed elements — such as high-quality fat, fiber or a good hit of protein — the loading of sugar into our system is slowed down. Look at it this way: The absorption rate of simple carbohydrates is affected by the company they keep.
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