Power-packed breakfast with grape nuts, sports nuts

March 14, 1993|By Marlene Sorosky | Marlene Sorosky,Contributing Writer

When I opened the padded envelope and pulled out a visor inviting me for a jog around the park and breakfast at my fit friend Phyllis' house in celebration of her 50th birthday, I was skeptical. Although I walk several times a week, speed is not my strong point. But my worries were needless. While the marathon runners --ed past like gusts of wind, the social strutters kept a chatting pace. When we arrived at Phyllis', she gave us T-shirts with "Fit and Fifty" imprinted on them. (But they could also say something like "Thirtysomething," "Sporty at Forty," "Sexy at Sixty," etc.)

Since this memorable party took place nearly 10 years ago, the buffet was laden with omelets, cottage cheese, assorted breads and coffeecakes -- the health food of the '80s. With an updated, lower-fat menu, this theme is ideal for today's on-the-run, exercise-conscious society. It's extremely casual, incorporates the workout into the party -- cycling, tennis, racquetball or whatever --and the food is so simple to prepare that even insecure cooks can get it on the table without breaking a sweat.

The morning of the party, even the host will have time to join the workout, because everything on the menu can be made ahead. Begin with a "yogurt bar" -- an area set up with yogurt-granola parfaits assembled in either individual goblets or a large glass bowl, a selection of plain and fruit-flavored yogurts and a variety of fresh fruits that have been cut up a day ahead and layered with paper towels.

Then offer a selection of cereals -- homemade granola supplemented with store-bought varieties -- with low-fat or non-fat milk. Multi-crunch maple granola is far more crackly, crunchy and intensely flavored than any prepackaged version. Although it has no added fat, you can reduce the calories by omitting the nuts and coconut. Instead, you might wish to stir 1 cup of packaged mixed dried fruits into the baked cereal.

For a leaner twist on muffins, bake them in miniature muffin tins (1 1/2 inches in diameter) instead of the usual 3-inch size. A recipe for 12 large muffins will make 24 smaller ones and will bake about five minutes faster. To vary the Bing cherry muffins, make the batter and divide it in half. Stir a heaping 1/3 cup chopped cherries in one part and chopped seedless grapes, frozen chopped blueberries (not defrosted), raisins, dried cherries or cranberries rehydrated in boiling water and drained, into the other half. To make the muffins non-fat, substitute applesauce for the oil.

The change makes for a less crumbly muffin with a more compact texture.

You may also wish to serve some minibagels, as well as a new muffin-coffeecake hybrid, cornmeal breakfast bars. Pastry chef Jim Dodge came up with the great idea of turning popular corn bread into sweet, compact breakfast bars chock-full of dried fruits.

And of course you'll need some spreads to slather on these baked goodies. To keep calories to a minimum but take taste to the max, fresh and dried pear preserves are a snap to make in the microwave. Replace cream cheese with non-fat cheese-like yogurt spreads, made by simply draining the liquid from plain or fruit-flavored yogurts.

Cream cheese contains about 60 times the amount of fat per cup as non-fat yogurt cheese -- that's one good reason to make it. Another is the wonderful choice of flavors you can choose from.

Cornmeal breakfast bars with apricots and dates

Prep time: 20 minutes

Bake time: 20 minutes

Makes 28 bars.

1 cup dried apricots

1 3/4 cups low or non-fat milk

3/4 cup yellow cornmeal

1/2 cup dates, quartered

4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter or margarine

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs or 3 egg whites

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup wheat germ (honey crunch preferred)

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt or to taste

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Meanwhile, place apricots and milk in a 4-cup microwave-safe measuring cup. Microwave covered on high (100 percent) for three to four minutes, or until very hot. Stir in the cornmeal until smooth. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

In a food processor with the metal blade, pulse apricot mixture and dates until coarsely chopped; remove to small bowl. In same processor bowl, process butter, sugar and vanilla until creamy, about 1 minute. Add eggs and process until blended. Add the flour, wheat germ, baking powder and salt and pulse until incorporated; do not overmix. Add the dried fruit mixture and pulse three to four times until incorporated.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until the top begins to brown and the edges begin to pull away. Cool completely in the pan. Cut into 2 3/4 -by-1 1/4 -inch bars.

Yogurt cheese spread

Prep time: 5 minutes

Drain time: 4 hours at room temperature; overnight in refrigerator

Makes about 1 cup.

3 cups low- or non-fat plain, fruit-flavored or lemon yogurt

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