Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Breakfast Blueprint

Friends and strangers alike have been asking me to write about what I eat for breakfast. While this may sound like a banal topic, I assure you it's not, for I am an unusual person who consumes an equally unusual breakfast. After doing a little detective work, I found that the most common breakfast in the U.S. is cold cereal (with the silver medal going to bacon and eggs). We can see why it's number one: cereal is fast, easy, somewhat tasty, frequently advertised as being healthy, and may come with marshmallows and skittles inside. These are all praiseworthy qualities, but they leave something missing in the most important meal of the day, and I'm not talking about a giant ass glass of milk, a thimbleful of OJ, toasted white bread and a muffin.
My main beef with cereal, other than the devious ways in which cereal companies market to children and women trying to lose weight, is that it's a processed food. On top of that, breakfast cereals are rife with GMOs, seeing as 90% of their main ingredients (soy, corn, canola & sugar beets) are grown as such, *cough cough* KASHI. Cold cereal doesn't grow on trees, unlike hot dogs. Speaking of hot dog trees, no one enjoys the top two breakfasts in America more than our beloved Pee-Wee Herman, though he kicked it up a few notches by eating them mixed together on one plate with an oversized fork.
Don't give in to threats from Mr. T. Try to eat whole foods for breakfast. This brings us to the golden rule of a successful healthy breakfast:

Make what you can ahead of time.
This way you won't have to do it in the morning when you're completely freaking out. The cornerstone of my breakfast is whole grains followed by legumes. I pick out a couple of each for the week, selecting varieties that I feel go well together like chickpeas and oat groats or adzuki beans and brown rice. If you're new to whole grains, start with one you're familiar with and try a new one every week. Next, I measure out enough to last me at least four days, soak them (separately) overnight, drain & rinse them the following morning, and finally cook 'em. The amount you make depends on your personal portion size, or whether you're training for sumo or are a recovering sumo wrestler. I eat about a half cup each, but I'm in the latter category, so...
Whole grain and legume, check! Now comes the fun part: vegetable rainbow! Try to pick veggies of varying colors keeping in mind you're going to cook some and leave others raw. For example, in the picture at the top I chose to cook Brussels sprouts, carrots, and mushrooms while leaving kale and scallions raw. Pick what pleases your palate, or as cereal big gun, Toucan Sam, once said "Follow your nose!" (despite what this commercial suggests, it's a terrible idea to wander into haunted houses looking for your breakfast).

Lauren's Breakfast Blueprint
adapted from myself
Whole Grain + Legume + Cooked Vegetables + Raw Vegetables

Optional: Nuts/Seeds + Sprouts + Fresh/Dried Fruit + Vinegar + Something Pickled
To begin, gently heat up your grain & legume with a few tablespoons of water, unless you're in the mood for a soft cooked grain or porridge, in which case increase the amount of water to the desired level of soupiness (1/4-1/2 cup). Whichever route you choose, leave it over low heat to simmer while you prepare the rest of the meal.
Wash then chop your cookin' vegetables to the size of your liking, and together with a little water, throw them in a small pot with a lid.
I use a 2 1/2 quart Le Creuset dutch oven, which is my most used piece of kitchen equipment. Le Creuset makes quality shit which is matched by its eye-popping price tags, so here's a hot tip for you: buy from their factory second stores during sale season (usually twice a year around July and Christmas). I went this route and it made Robie the Robot Bank very happy. Back to the veggies. Simmer them for 5-15 minutes, depending on the vegetables you're using. Here's a handy veg cooking time chart if you'd like to play it safe. If you're using ingredients that have drastically different cooking times, such as peas and sweet potatoes, just throw in whatever takes longer to cook first, wait awhile, and add the shorter cooking time stuff last.
Feel free to add seasonings during this step.  Herbs and a dab of dijon mustard are my first choice, or if I'm cooking leafy greens, a teaspoon of smoked paprika is the bomb.
While the pot is simmering, prepare your raw vegetables. There's no wrong way to do this; just chop up what you like to the size you prefer and mix. Slaws are a great option, as are green salads, especially this kale salad  which I eat for breakfast almost everyday and never tire of it. Jazz it up with the extra ingredients like raw nuts/seeds, sprouts, fresh/dried fruit and vinegar. Vinegar?! This is a habit I adopted from Mike Cole, who would eat vinegar by the spoonful at 7 am if he had his druthers. Choose a mild, less acidic vinegar to splash on your dish. Umeboshi, made from fermenting Japanese plums with shiso leaves, is the god of all breakfast vinegars in our house. Not only does it impart a delicious sweet and sour flavor, but it's believed to offer a plethora of medicinal qualities. If you're feeling extra saucy, throw a spoonful of something pickled on your plate, like kimchi, pickled peppers, radish, etc). And there you have it. My complete breakfast.
So the next time someone asks you if you eat pieces of shit for breakfast, you can heartily reply, "No!" and mean it.


  1. very fancy breakfasts -wow! (and healthy)... ive been soaking rice and millet for like 2 days and then rinsing and cooking with burdock root maybe a carrot plus a spot of ginger an a tad of light miso -yummy!

    1. Your body must be thanking you for waking it up with a meal that is simple, delicious and nourishing. I just learned about the strengthening power of burdock, and now I'm addicted to it!