What do morning meals at your house look like?
Do you have time to read your favorite magazine while leisurely sipping your coffee? Do you make a from-scratch breakfast with multiple ingredients that requires cooking/baking time? Better yet, does someone regularly do that for you?
Or maybe breakfast happens on the run. Grabbing toast from the toaster or a piece of fruit while juggling keys and papers and travel mugs. Extolling the kids to eat faster while slipping shirts over their heads and trying to pack balanced lunches, one eye on the clock at all times. Hopefully, if that's you, you're at least finding time to eat something.
But maybe it's something in between. Maybe it's the one part of the morning you do make time for. You rush through your shower in order to have time to sit down while you eat your eggs and bacon. Or your evening routine includes an extra 10 minutes in the kitchen, after the dinner dishes are washed, making pancake or waffle batter so that your family will have a hot, yet hassle-free, breakfast the next morning.
I'd have to say that, on any given day, mornings at my house could be any one of those scenarios (although the 'leisure' part rarely shows itself). My preference is for things to play out like the first example. But as anyone with small children and an irregular schedule knows, that's a hard one to pull off. But still, I do love breakfast, and it's the one meal of the day that Josh shares with us, so I like for it to not feel rushed, as if it's just another obstacle blocking us from the 'real' start of our day.
But I know that will soon change. Kalen will be going to school in the Fall. In my mind, this is simultaneously the most normal, timely, and obvious next step in his life and an almost baffling, "really? this thing that other, older kids do is really happening to our family? now?" series of thoughts. Weird. Weirder still is the fact that, when I think about how our lives will change, I think mostly about our mornings. My mornings, really. That I will have a new, daily responsibility to get a five-year-old up, dressed, fed, cleaned, packed, and delivered to school in a timely manner, every day. With a three-year-old tagging along. It stresses me out just thinking about it.
How do you all do it?
My guess is cereal.
We aren't really a cereal family, right now. With all the other options out there, all the flavors and textures and new favorites to discover, a cold bowl of processed flakes doesn't seem like a meal to me, much less one intended to kick-start your day. Store-bought cereal is rare enough in this house that it feels like a special treat to the boys when it does appear.
However, we recently spent the night at my sister's house. The next morning we were all working to get out the door, my sister and niece headed to work/daycare, the boys and I on our way home to see Josh before he left for the restaurant. The kids all had cereal for breakfast. And I got it.
Cereal is so useful.
Choose one packed with whole grains, drop some fresh fruit on it, douse the whole thing in organic milk, and you're set. Quick and easy both for the preparer and recipient, with a lot less dishes to wash than our normal breakfasts. Cereal means those get-up-and-go mornings can run just a bit more smoothly. In fact, the more I think about, under the right circumstances, there's the possibility that cereal just might lead to more harmonious mornings. I can get on that bandwagon.
All of this cereal talk is leading us to a topic I'm sure you weren't expecting: May is National Celiac Awareness Month. For some, this is a big deal. For others . . . well, when you have celiac and are constantly involved in conversations about gluten-free issues, every month feels like an Awareness Month. Both of these approaches are good. We need individuals and organizations and companies working to raise awareness of celiac disease in this country, for diagnostic and research purposes, and devoting a month to that mission is a wonderful way to do it. But we also need to make sure those with celiac feel like they can live normally, and healthily, every day, all year. And it's the frequent conversations we have with friends and acquaintances about our lifestyle, the delicious gluten-free food we make for our loved ones, the subtle and not-so-subtle ways we communicate to food companies our eagerness for gluten-free standards, the growing list of gluten-free blogs posting amazing recipes and stories on a daily basis - it's in all these ways and more that we keep celiac awareness going (and growing!) past May. Because none of us has celiac for just one month.
But where does the cereal come in, you ask? Well, Mambo Sprouts recently sent me two complimentary boxes of Nature's Path gluten-free cereal to review as part of the awareness-raising efforts going on this month. And at first, I didn't really know what to do with it. Oh, the kids were excited to eat it, of course (it's sweet!), but I was at a loss as to how I could legitimately, authentically incorporate it into this space, this blog. I'm not really a product-reviewer kind of blogger, although I do get my share of requests. It's just that I generally work with ingredients rather than processed foods, so it's hard to know how to review a product I wouldn't normally buy.
But here's the thing: the cereal is good. Not just good-tasting (I was particularly drawn to the maple version), but it's packed with ingredients I feel good about feeding to my family. Quinoa puffs. Flax seeds. Buckwheat flour. Amaranth. Brown rice flour. Maple syrup. All organic. Definitely not the usual suspects in a box of processed cereal! I felt that the cereal deserved my attention.
So I did what I always do when playing with new foods: I turned it into an ingredient. Inspired by those wonderful whole grains listed on the box, I ground up some cereal and added it to a muffin recipe containing some of those same grains. The entire family was surprised at how "cereal-y" those muffins tasted, especially considering there was such a small proportion of actual cereal in them! Pillowy soft bundles of maple sweetness, with a nutty richness from the mix of flours and just the suggestion of a slight buttermilk tang, these muffins say Breakfast! more loudly than any dry cereal I've ever encountered.
But as I was thinking about Celiac Awareness Month, and the increasing number of people getting diagnosed all the time, I realized how important dry cereal probably is to many of them. When you're suddenly told to cut a major food out of your life, in all its hidden forms, turning first to comfortable, familiar foods that won't hurt you is a natural response. Dry cereal fits the bill for a large segment of the population. So how wonderful that, because of companies like Nature's Path, there are widely available gluten-free cereals that are packed with a rich variety of whole grains and natural sweeteners. Cereals that will help nourish a healing body. And if your mornings are of the rushing-to-get-out-the-door variety, I expect you value a healthy, delicious gluten-free cereal that much more.
Also, in the interest of full and complete disclosure, I must admit that some of my enthusiasm for the cereal is certainly influenced by this line: "folks . . . are skulking around in the snowy woods punching holes in millions of unsuspecting Sugar Maples." Any company that puts that on their cereal boxes is automatically in my favor.
For now, I think at our house we'll keep eating our special occasion cereal in muffin form. But come September, don't be surprised to find me raining it into bowls for the family, wondering in the early morning hours where the time and my little boy went.
yields 2 dozen
400 gr Tara's all-purpose gluten-free flour mix
185 gr light brown sugar
50 gr light buckwheat flour
50 gr Nature's Path Crunchy Maple Sunrise cereal (or other favorite cold cereal), ground to a coarse powder
35 gr millet flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp xanthan gum (optional)
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
16 fl oz/2 fl cups lowfat buttermilk
6 fl oz (3/4 fl cup) plus 2 Tbsp canola oil
2 large eggs
30 gr real maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line two muffin pans with paper liners, or grease lightly.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all the dry ingredients. Whisk to thoroughly blend.
In a separate bowl (or large liquid measuring cup), combine the wet ingredients. Whisk to lightly blend.
Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until thoroughly combined. (At this point, the batter may be refrigerated for up to three days. It can be baked directly from the refrigerator, without needing to come up to room temperature first.)
Portion the batter among the prepared muffin pans. Bake in the center of the oven for 30-35 minutes, or until muffins are lightly golden brown and a tester inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack. Muffins keep, wrapped airtight and at room temperature, for up to three days, or frozen for up to three months.