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Stirring up memories


Don't run on empty
September 12, 2007

I'd lie in bed in the far room of my grandparents' farmhouse and know I should be waking up, but it was so warm under the stacked-up covers and so cold in the nippy unheated room. Five more minutes. Then suddenly, I was on my feet, ready to go.

What did it?

Was it that big old rooster who just got louder and louder, or was my Aunt Alda using her school-teacher voice to talk about "sleepy-heads and lazy-bones"?


It was the smell. The bacon from grandfather's very own hogs. The grandmother-made sausage. The eggs I had gathered yesterday afternoon now sizzling in the pan.

Up and at 'em!

I think about those long-ago breakfasts in these cool September mornings as we take our early morning walks. (Isn't it great to walk out the kitchen door into cool—well, fairly cool—air?) About half a mile from our house, I start remembering the farm. Suddenly the air fills with the best September morning smell in the world!


I may be walking a pine-lined street in Bainbridge, Ga., but all my senses are remember chilly Texas mornings. Wish I knew who was in there cooking.

Some days I think I'll just go home and get out the skillet. I haven't yet. We're not much of a breakfast family. But we should be, and probably so should you!

This is the time to think about it, because September is Better Breakfast Month! So stop in your busy daily routine and think about breakfast—especially if there are youngsters in the house.

I don't need to tell you, but I will—briefly—some good reasons not to miss the morning meal! Just a few, starting with the children.

Children who have a healthy breakfast behave better and make better grades.

Breakfast gives a kick start to the metabolism—we have more energy (and maybe eat less during the rest of the day).

Breakfast-eaters find it easier to control their weight and often have lower cholesterol levels.

I know, you're in a hurry. Maybe you'll just drop by the nearby drive-through window. But wait! Before you do, try out these "fast food" recipes. You can make them in the time it takes to wait in line and they're better—taste better and are better for you to boot.

In-The-Car Sandwich
2 slices multi-grain or raisin bread, toasted (or whatever bread you have in the house)
1 tablespoon low-fat cream cheese spread or peanut butter
2 frozen pre-cooked sausages (If you are feeling really healthy, try a meat substitute—you really can't tell.)

Microwave the sausage according to the package instructions. While they are coming to a sizzle, spread the toast with the cream cheese or peanut butter. Take out the sausages and cut them in half length ways and put on top of the spread. Top with the other piece of toast.

Come on, now how long did that take?

This one takes maybe a couple of minutes longer, but you get an egg.

Morning Muffin
1 split English muffin
1 large egg
2 strips pre-cooked or leftover bacon (in a pinch, last night's steak or chicken will do just fine, so will bologna)
1 slice American or Swiss cheese.

Put one muffin half on microwavable plate. Carefully break the egg onto the muffin. Microwave on high 40 seconds. Cut the bacon strips in half. Put the bacon and cheese slice on top of the egg, salt and pepper to taste. Top with the second muffin half and microwave on high for 30 seconds or until egg white is set; the yolk should still be a little runny. At our house we add a dash of Tabasco.

And finally, for the pancake lover. This is really easy.

(Pancake Breakfast Sandwich)
2 frozen pancakes
thin sliced deli meat—ham, turkey or whatever is in the fridge
1 slice of cheese

Microwave the pancakes on high for 30 seconds then top one with the meat. Microwave until the meat is warm—10 or 20 seconds. Put the cheese and second pancake on top of the meat. Wrap it up and eat. You might drizzle on a little syrup before adding the topping, or pour some into a saucer as a dip if you take the five minutes to sit down at the table. (Come on, it's Wednesday, read the paper!)

Not every morning has to be a hurry-up situation. When we have lazy-day weekends my favorite breakfast is still the bacon and eggs and toast classic. But it's also fun to experiment. If company (or a grandchild) is in the offing, it's good to have some fix-ahead dishes so the cook can enjoy the company and get out of the kitchen. Although, that's always where my guests end up!

I've suggested this dish before, but maybe there's no such thing as too much of a good breakfast. Fix this, stick it in the refrigerator, and then plug it in right before you go to bed.

All Night Breakfast Casserole
1 32-ounce bag of frozen hash-brown potatoes
1 pound of kielbasa sausage (or other precooked sausage) cut into thin rounds
½ cup diced onions (optional)
¾ pound shredded Swiss cheese
1 dozen eggs
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste

Layer the frozen potatoes, sausage, onions and cheese in a slow cooker in three layers. Finish with the cheese. Combine the eggs, milk, salt and pepper and beat until fluffy. Pour over the layered mixture. Cook on low for at least 8 and up to 12 hours.

This fills up a big slow cooker. I have halved the recipe for my smaller one and it works fine. You can substitute cooked bacon for the sausage and cheddar for the Swiss cheese. You don't need much else with this except orange juice and maybe toast or biscuits.

Or how about a sweet treat in the early morning hours? I came across this one in a brand new (not even published) cookbook I was reviewing, Kitchen Table Stories (more about this in a couple of months). One young mom told her hungry kids that they couldn't knock off last night's cheesecake for breakfast. Then she had second thoughts—it's full of cheese and eggs and fruit. She gave them the go-ahead. Then giving it more thought, she developed a good and healthy version of a breakfast cheesecake. What's extra good is that it can be made the day before. It's good either at room temperature or cool. Thanks, Mary Jo Doig! I've adapted it for this month's cool mornings by substituting pumpkin for fresh or canned fruit. Have fun! Experiment.

September Morn Breakfast Cheesecake
(Adapted from Kitchen Table Stories)
1 pint low-fat cottage cheese (not no-fat)
2 eggs
½ cup sugar or measure-for-measure sugar substitute
1½ teaspoon vanilla or rum extract
1½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spices (or cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to taste)
1 15-ounce can pureed pumpkin

Put all ingredients except the pumpkin into a blender or food processor. I used my Emersion processor; it worked just fine. Swirl until thick and smooth—no lumps left; add the pumpkin and stir until smooth. Lightly spray a small casserole (or use individual bowls) with cooking spray and pour in the cheesecake. Sprinkle the top with graham cracker crumbs or a crunchy cereal. I used Grape-nuts. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until it is set and golden. Let cool.

This is good any time. Don't see why it can't go for real dinner dessert, maybe with a little more sugar. Something that's good and good for you!

Hey, even if you don't have time to slap meat onto a pancake, at least grab a breakfast bar or protein bar as you dash out the door. Don't run on empty during Better Breakfast Month!

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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network