4 Make-Ahead Ways to Hack Breakfast and Avoid the Morning Rut

Get Melissa's tips for do-ahead breakfasts that the whole family will enjoy.
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School is back in session, and we are all looking for ways to streamline our routines, especially in the morning. But “routine” can sometimes also mean “rut.” Take breakfast, for instance. Yes, it is easy to rely on the tried-and-true cereal route, and, hey, there’s nothing wrong with some high-quality, low-sugar cereals to jump-start a busy day. (My secret confession: Cereal is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods.) But what if you want to mix it up a bit at breakfast but don’t want to take on a major cooking task first thing in the a.m.?

Here are four make-ahead breakfast ideas that all take fewer than three minutes of morning prep time:

1. Mini Muffins

I make up batches of high-fiber, high-protein mini muffins and keep them in freezer bags for breakfasts and snacks anytime. Why mini and not regular muffins? Tiny minis thaw out in minutes. But the real reason (mom to mom): Texture is less important in a mini muffin than in a regular-sized muffin. You can load those babies up with healthy goodies, like flax, bran or ground nuts — things that could turn a regular muffin into a doorstop — and your kids won’t even blink an eye.  Try my Magic Fruit-and-Veggie Muffins recipe (pictured above, featured in Food Network Magazine).

2. Chia Pudding with Toppings Bar

I’ll spare everyone the Chia Pet jokes here and get straight to it: Chia seed pudding is awesome. It’s full of Omega-3s, fiber, healthy fat and protein, and my kids love it. And it couldn’t be easier to make. For two servings, place 1/4 cup of chia seed with 1 1/3 cups liquid (water, dairy or other milk) in a container with a (tight) lid; add in some flavorings, such as vanilla and cinnamon, and shake it up to mix. Place it in the fridge overnight, giving the container a little shake a couple of times if you happen to think of it. Serve the chia pudding with whatever toppings you have in the house: berries, sliced banana, chopped almonds or walnuts, plain Greek yogurt. Chia pudding can be made in any flavor, but here are some of our family faves:

1 teaspoon matcha green tea + 1/4 teaspoon vanilla + tiny dash turmeric

1 teaspoon orange zest + dash cinnamon

Coconut milk (for the liquid) + a dash each of cardamom and cinnamon + 1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon dried cranberries + 1 tablespoon mini chocolate chips

1 tablespoon pumpkin puree + 1 tablespoon maple syrup + 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

3. Dips and Dunks

Sometimes I make a small buffet of finger food that is fun to dip and eat. For the dippers, I’ll slice up apples and pears (toss with a little lemon juice if making the night before), toast up some mini whole-grain bagels (or cut up a regular-sized bagel into pieces), cut mozzarella cheese into small cubes and (our favorite!) toast those annoying leftover bread loaf heel slices (that nobody seemed ever to want to eat until I called it a “dipper”).

For the dunks:

1/2 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt + 1 tablespoon maple syrup + 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup almond butter + 1 tablespoon coconut oil (melted) + 1 tablespoon cocoa

1/2 cup peanut butter + 1 tablespoon honey
4 ounces low-fat cream cheese + 1 tablespoon raspberry jam
4. Spanish Tortilla

The Spanish are on to something here with an egg dish that can be eaten at any temperature and is finger food! A Spanish tortilla typically has sliced potatoes, onions and chorizo. The sliced potatoes offer a nice structure for making the tortilla easy to pick up with your hands, but you can include whatever ingredients your family tends to like in omelets. Make the tortilla the night before and refrigerate. In the morning, place it on a large cutting board and slice it up for the kids to grab a piece before school. Try my Spanish Tortilla recipe.

What are some of your favorite quick school-day breakfasts? Tell me in the comments below.

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