There was one mom in our neighborhood every other mom hated. Her approach to breakfast put her on their hit list. Even as we kids were going back to school, it was always the same.
Her kids had pancakes baked into big smily faces. She'd slather peanut butter on banana chunks, roll them in toasted coconut and nuts, then wouldn't even yell about sticky fingers. And she'd carefully float cranberry juice on top of the morning OJ, creating an early ancestor to the Tequila Sunrise.
The other moms figured she must have downed the tequila before entering the kitchen each morning.
If so devoted a parent was an oddity during the 1960s, he or she is downright rare today.
Problems raise their hungry heads, though. An active, growing kid can easily burn twice the calories of sedentary adults. While no one disputes the importance of a good jump-start to the day, just look at all the junk out that's touted as "healthful" and directly aimed at the kiddie-nosh market.
Potshots at kids' breakfast cereals are legend. But other habits are far worse. Who hasn't known a family where Coke replaces OJ in the morning tumblers, or the kid who scrambles off to school munching a cupcake?
Just because there's no time for fussy sit-down breakfasts doesn't mean your kids can't start their day with something substantial. I've hunted up several portable eats that pack nutrition into small parcels.
Our "portable power" breakfasts can be reduced to two categories: munchables and sippers. Both can be tasty and good for you. Ideally, you will serve one of each, or at least make sure your kids have a glass of milk or fruit juice to go with them.
Take that old favorite, the granola bar. Some commercial brands are loaded with sweeteners and saturated fat. It's more candy than anything. We've located a version that's big on whole-grain oats, nuts, sesame seeds and whole-wheat flour. After a little judicious sweetening and some healthful vegetable oil, they bake up into a big panful of crunchy goodness. Cut it into bars for cereal-to-go.
Or try Breakfast Bars, developed by Evelyn Tribole, a dietitian and author of "Eating on the Run" (Leisure Press, $13.95). Her adaptation of a back-of-the-cereal box dish includes fresh fruit, non-fat yogurt, dried milk, Grape-Nuts cereal and a little sweetener. Mix it up, freeze, and you've got an easy breakfast that's really fun to eat.
Nectarine Oat Cakes are low fat and only lightly sweet, made with flour and oats. If you're one of those families where you're lucky to get everyone to eat a piece of coffeecake with milk, this is one of the better options around -- and awfully nice munching at that.
Ugly Dumplings are a nice bite. They could easily supplement a more complete breakfast, or -- better still -- something to send along for snack time.
The bottom line, then, is: These are handy, in-a-pinch meals tha are wisely followed by healthy midmorning snacks and hearty lunches.
Makes approximately 10 bars.
2 to 3 cups rolled oats
1 cup sunflower or sesame seeds
1 cup raw cashews or walnuts
1/2 cup bran
1/3 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
non-stick vegetable spray
Heat oven to 300 degrees.
Put oats, seeds, nuts and bran in a shallow baking dish. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes. Meanwhile in a saucepan, heat honey, flour and oil. When mixture is hot, remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Remove oat mixture from oven. Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees. Combine oat mixture and honey mixture. Spray a shallow baking pan or jelly-roll pan with non-stick vegetable spray. Press mixture into prepared pan to a 1-inch thickness, patting sides of mixture to make them straight and firm. Bake 10 minutes. Let cool in pan.
Cut into bars.
Note: For a sweeter taste, use only 2 cups of oats and add 1/4 cup of minced dried apricots or 1/3 cup currants.
From "Kid Power," by Irene Sabotin and Norene Terry, Thoroughbred Press, 1984.)
Makes four servings.
1 can (6 ounces) frozen orange juice concentrate
2 cups cold water or low-fat milk (see note)
3 tablespoons powdered non-fat dry milk
L optional: 1 tablespoon orange blossom honey (or other honey)
3/4 teaspoon almond, lemon or vanilla extract
6 to 8 ice cubes, crushed
Place juice concentrate in bowl of a blender. Add water and milk powder; cover and process until mixture is smooth and foamy. Add honey, extract and ice; cover and continue to blend until mixture is smooth -- about 45 seconds. Serve immediately for creamiest texture.
Note: You may wish to include protein powder in this mixture. Be sure to check ingredients lists; many brands are high in sugar and/or other sweeteners.
fTC non-stick vegetable cooking spray
2 1/2 cups Grape-Nuts, divided use
3 tablespoons honey
2 (8-ounce) containers non-fat fruit yogurt
1 cup fruit
2/3 cup non-fat dry milk
Spray an 8-inch square pan with non-stick vegetable cooking spray.