My teenage boys don’t need Taco Tuesday or Wacky Wednesday to make meals interesting. They are generally so hungry when they get home from football practice they just want to eat, and right away. But my second-grade daughter loves a good theme. She already has nine possible motifs for her March birthday and dreams about matching family Halloween costumes that would make her brothers cringe; they won’t want to dress as unicorns. But even the most mature or jaded of us can get behind a playful concept once in a while.
Our recent family favorite is Backward Day. We serve dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner. And frankly, this flip thrills everyone. My daughter relishes the theme. My boys get to eat some of their favorite foods. I appreciate that my kids head off to school having consumed a healthy and hearty breakfast, and everyone seems a little more relaxed at the table when I serve breakfast for dinner. There is nothing wrong with making mealtime fun.
There are abundant breakfast-for-dinner ideas. My in-laws overachieve by serving eggs Benedict and champagne every Christmas Eve. If you don’t have time to whip up a hollandaise sauce on a Monday night, no sweat, breakfast foods can be some of the simplest and cheapest to make.
Here are some ideas:
•Hash: use leftover salmon, sausage or beans, and veggies
•Eggs any way: quiche, frittata, casserole, egg sandwiches, egg bake
•Breakfast burrito or quesadillas
•Omelet waffles (mix omelet ingredients and pour into a waffle maker)
•Oatmeal: top with a fried egg or nuts and seeds
•Pizza: top with sausage, egg and cheese
•Waffle tacos: wrap ingredients of choice into a folded waffle (a big hit in our house)
•Fried chicken and waffles
•Smoked salmon and tomato slices on bagel
•Oatmeal, almond flour or sweet potato pancakes
•Pancakes with cheddar and scallions (or another savory combination)
•Ham and cheese crepes
•Steak and eggs
•Grits with a fried egg and cheese (shrimp is a great addition)
Of course, these hearty breakfast meals would work better in the morning than the doughnuts, muffins and cereals Americans usually reach for. But a hearty breakfast doesn’t have to be confined to the traditional American paradigm. The Japanese serve a bowl of miso soup (which is loaded with protein, antioxidants, collagen, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals) in the morning, along with rice and some kind of protein. In Vietnam, pho, a rice noodle soup that can be made with beef, pork or chicken, is a breakfast item. There’s also the Turkish tradition of feta, olives, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, eggs, sausage, bread and honey. Germans include cold meats with their bread and cheese at breakfast, and many countries serve some variation of a poached egg in tomato sauce.
So, consider. Sometimes a bowl of steaming chicken noodle soup is more comforting on a cold morning than yogurt just out of the fridge. Leftover spaghetti and meatballs might better suit the palate and hunger level of a quickly growing teen than a bowl of cereal. Eating such a hearty meal can also help if your child’s lunch hour is on the late side. Most of these dinner-for-breakfast ideas will keep a child full a lot longer than a pancake.
Here are a few to try:
•Grilled cheese and tomato soup
•Chili and a corn muffin
•Quesadilla, burrito, or taco with fillings of choice, including guacamole
•Fried rice with leftover chicken or eggs, and vegetables
•Black beans and rice
•A polenta bowl with vegetables and cheese
•A baked potato with toppings of choice
•Leftover pizza (toss a fried egg on top)
•There is also nothing wrong with a burger for breakfast or a sandwich of any kind, and it doesn’t have to be of the sausage, egg and cheese variety.
Even if you don’t have a theme-happy child under your roof, toppling your regular routines can put some life back into mealtime and get you out of a repetitive rut. Going backward can sometimes move us forward.
First published in The Washington Post on Thursday, October 4, 2018.