Of all the meals that are easy to put on autopilot, it would be breakfast.
After all, there is a whole aisle of the supermarket loaded with boxes of cereal, just waiting for you to pour them into a bowl, add some milk and get on with your day.
Shouldn’t breakfast deserve better than that, though? As the first meal we usually eat, a good breakfast can set the tone for the rest of your day. It still doesn’t have to take much time. We dug around through international flavors, simple but good ingredients and a few very easy techniques to come up with seven things that will launch your day with a little style.
A couple, like 5-minute skillet granola and a homemade version of toaster pastries, can be made in advance. Yogurt-based lassi and avena, an oatmeal version of the Mexican drink horchata, are so fast, they’re practically instant. Others, like eggs baked in ham cups and a breakfast pizza using the Indian flat bread naan, would be perfect when you’re facing a busy weekend day. Even avocado toast can be tweaked for big flavor.
You’ve heard it before: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It deserves to dress up a little, even on a busy day.
5-minute skillet granola
Makes: about 1 1/4 cups
Cinnamon sugar butter
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 tablespoons cinnamon sugar butter
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup quick oats (not instant or old-fashioned rolled oats)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Cinnamon sugar butter: Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until blended. Set aside what you need for the granola, then shape the remainder into a log, wrap in parchment paper, roll and refrigerate or freeze. You’ll have extra cinnamon sugar butter to keep in the refrigerator for another use.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Melt 3 tablespoons cinnamon sugar butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the honey and swirl to coat the pan. Pour in the oats, stirring constantly. Cook 3 to 4 minutes, until they just start to change from beige to golden brown. Add the walnuts and cook about 1 minute longer.
Spread on the lined pan. It will crisp a little as it cools. Refrigerate in an airtight container about a week, or freeze up to 3 months.
— From “The Clever Cookbook: Get-Ahead Strategies and Timesaving Tips for Stress-Free Home Cooking,” by Emilie Raffa (Page Street, 2016)
Lemon chili avocado toast
Avocado toast is the darling good-fat breakfast of the moment. But adding a couple more ingredients jazzes it up considerably.
Makes: 4 servings
2 ripe avocados
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon each sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 slices whole grain bread
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits and peel. Place the flesh in a small bowl. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Mash well with a fork and set aside.
Toast the bread. Spread each slice with avocado mixture. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and serve.
— From “The Quick Six Fix,” by Stuart O’Keefe (William Morrow, 2016)
Mango peach lassi
If you’re a fan of breakfast smoothies but you’re getting bored, a lassi made with yogurt is a good way to mix things up.
Makes: 1 serving
1 cup frozen mango chunks
1 cup frozen peach slices
1 cup plain unsweetened yogurt
1 1/2 cups nonfat milk
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
Place all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Serve cold.
Avena oatmeal smoothies
If you’ve ever had horchata, the cinnamon-flavored Mexican drink, this is very similar, but oatmeal makes it more filling.
Makes: 2 servings
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
6 cups milk (we tested it with cashew milk), divided
2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
About 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place the oatmeal in a bowl and add enough milk to completely cover it, about 3-4 cups. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Place the soaked oatmeal in a blender and add the remaining milk, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. Blend until smooth. Serve cold.
— Adapted from “America’s Best Breakfasts: Favorite Local Recipes From Coast to Coast,” by Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman (Clarkson Potter, 2016)
Baked ham cups
Makes: 4 servings
Nonstick cooking spray
4 thin slices ham
2 English muffins
Salt and pepper to taste
Hot sauce (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray 4 cups of a muffin pan with nonstick spray.
Press a slice of ham into each muffin cup, overlapping the edges of the slices. Crack an egg into each lined cup.
Place muffin tin in the oven and bake 11 to 12 minutes, until the egg whites are set and the yolk is just filmed over.
Toast the English muffin halves while the eggs are cooking.
Run a knife around each muffin cup to loosen the egg, then use a serving spoon to lift it out. Place each egg cup on an English muffin half. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a few drops of hot sauce if you like. Serve warm.
PBJ pop tarts
Using prepared pie dough to make toaster pastries (aka Pop Tarts) is easy. Adding a little peanut butter gives them oomph, and we use fruit preserves because they are thicker than jam or jelly. Skipping the icing makes them easy to reheat in a toaster oven.
Makes: 4 servings
1 (2-crust) package pie dough
4 tablespoons peanut butter
6 tablespoons fruit preserves
Unroll one pie crust on a work surface. Cut in half lengthwise, then cut each half in half crosswise. Stack two quarters and trim off the curved side. Repeat with the other crust. You should have 5 1/2-by-4-inch rectangles.
Place 1 tablespoon peanut butter on one piece and spread out a little, leaving a full 1 inch border around each side. Top with about 1 1/2 tablespoon preserves. Top with a second piece of dough, matching up the edges. Use a fork to crimp around the sides and prick the center several times. Place on a baking sheet. Continue with the remaining pieces of dough to make 4 pastries.
Bake at 375 degrees F. for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges. Cool. Reheat or serve cold.
Naan pumpkin breakfast pizzas
If you can’t find naan, the Indian flat bread, use another version of flat bread. Adapted from abcdsofcooking.com and the Huffington Post.
Makes: 2 servings
2 whole-wheat naans or small flat breads
2 teaspoons vegetable or olive oil
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 teaspoons dried sage
2 cups canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
2 cups shredded cheese (mozzarella, gruyere, white cheddar or a mix)
Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place a naan in the dry skillet and warm through, then turn to crisp the other side. Place on a baking sheet.
In the hot skillet, warm the oil and add the onion. Cook about 5 minutes, until softened. Stir the onions and sage into the pumpkin puree. Spread half of the puree on each naan, then top with the cheese. Use the back of a spoon to make an indentation in the center of each topped naan, then crack an egg into each one.
Place in the oven and bake about 4 minutes. Turn the baking sheet and continue baking 4 to 5 minutes, until the egg white is set and the yolk is as done as you like. Serve warm.