Discerning Diner...with Elan Head
Our ‘Discerning Diner’ heads back to school with, no surprise, tasty lunches

For those of us in the Valley who moved here from somewhere else—in other words, just about everyone—“back to school” connotes certain things. Crisp fall days. Comfy new sweaters. Trees turning yellow, red and brown.

It goes without saying that these are not features of back-to-school in the Kyrene Corridor, any more than snow days are staples of the winter curriculum.

Yet certain aspects of the school experience transcend geographical boundaries, and among them is the certainty that, as soon as the novelty of a new grade wears off, getting your kids out of bed in the morning will be as tough as pulling rebar from concrete.

Oh, yes. Those weekday mornings of snooze buttons, slammed doors and misplaced homework are back—and in this hostile environment, squeezing in breakfast can be tough, to say the least.

But I think it’s worth the effort. Not only will a great breakfast give your kids (and you!) mid-morning energy and all-day appetite control, like any good meal, it can do wonders to improve the general mood.

Here are my suggestions for good breakfasts in a hurry, developed for a husband who has to be out the door at 5:30, but equally suitable for kids who wake up at 7. Or 7:09. Or 7:18 ... .

First, something sweet. I’ll confess that for the past three years, I’ve eaten the same breakfast four or five times a week: yogurt and trail mix.

Naturally, not just any yogurt and trail mix. I’m exclusively hooked on coffee-flavored, whole-milk Brown Cow yogurt and “Organic Chocolate Paradise,” a trail mix available at Whole Foods.

The latter boasts good, healthy stuff like bananas, raisins, pineapple and nuts. But the real kicker is the chocolate chips—there are just enough to add excitement to the mix, without compromising its general nutrition.

Sweet stuff goes down easier for me in the morning, and I’ll wager that most kids feel the same.

The beauty of my combo of choice is that its sweetness is nicely balanced with protein and fat, carrying the recipient further into the day than milk and sugary cereal.

When you want something sweet and nutritious, yet not so calorie-dense, try my amazing spoonable smoothie (which can also pass for dessert).

Dump the contents of a bag of frozen fruit—raspberries, strawberries, blueberries or peaches—into a food processor or blender. Or chunk up two bananas that you’ve peeled, wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen the night before.

Add about a half-cup of skim milk and a tablespoon of sugar or honey. Process until the contents resemble soft-serve ice cream, then taste.

If the mixture is too thick and icy, add more milk; if it’s not sweet enough, add a tad more sugar. Process to blend, then spoon into bowls and serve like ice cream—delicious.

But now to the savory side. Even though my morning palate tends toward the sweet side, I do occasionally wander into savory territory, and my husband resides there almost exclusively.

Sometimes (more often than I’d like) I wake up at 5 and make him eggs.

But we’ve learned that breakfast options expand enormously when you rethink what breakfast can be.

For example, one of my favorite breakfasts has always been leftover pizza. The next time you make pizza at home or order in, plan to have enough for the next morning (unless you like anchovies on it. Anchovies within less than eight hours of sunrise are gross).

The same applies to many other leftovers: pasta, casseroles, risottos, soups.

Portion these into plastic food containers the night before. Then, members of the household can zap theirs in the microwave in whatever order they stumble into the kitchen.

The best part? They’ll be ready to take in the car to eat in a rush on the way to school. Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but it will always play second fiddle to finding that homework.