Saturday, March 10, 2012

Vegetables for breakfast

I have a hard time understanding the "5 a-day" campaign and people who struggle to get enough vegetables.  I have to consciously limit the amount of fruit I eat to control calories and blood sugar, left to my own devices I would just nibble fruit all day.  I love vegetables!  But a lot of people have told me getting enough vegetables is hard for them.  Or, they like vegetables but they get bored with steamed green beans.  Once I was at a "healthy living" seminar and a personal trainer suggested eating a family size bag of frozen green beans every night to get all your servings of vegetables.  Can you imagine?  No wonder people struggle.  I like green beans a lot.  I even kind of like frozen green beans.  But a bag, every night?

So here is one trick.  Eat vegetables for breakfast.  Not a lot, for heavens sake, not a bag's worth.  A tomato, a handful of mushrooms, a half of a bell pepper, and an orange and an apple shared between several people add up to a good breakfast and a serving of fruits and vegetables for each.

A pan of creamed spinach makes a great bed for poaching eggs.  No need for a white sauce, just put a lot of spinach in a skillet, add some cream, and cook till the cream reduces and the spinach wilts.  Make little wells in the spinach and crack in eggs.  If the wells look dry add a little bit of butter or some more cream to them first.  Salt and pepper everything, grate on some cheese, and put the lid on the skillet.  Turn the heat down and check often.  I have made this for a crowd using big baking dishes and the oven too, it works great.

My German host mother makes breakfast salads.  When I was visiting one summer she would go out to the garden and pick a zucchini, a few herbs, some marigold petals, and chives.  She grated the zucchini, mixed in a bit of apple or tomato, some olive oil and seasoning, and fed some to my host father, then mixed the herbs in with the rest for her and I.  (My host father has to avoid vit. K.)  Inspired by this I have branched out into grated carrot salads, cooked beet salads, even cole slaw.  I am not a fan of lettuce at breakfast, but composed vegetable salads are great.

Any thing you would put in an omelet tastes good with breakfast.  Sauteed broccoli with diced ham.  Sauteed mushrooms with grated cheese.  Fresh sliced tomatoes.  Sauteed chard with bacon.

Finally, that breakfast classic: hash.  The secret to hash is to use a cast iron skillet, don't be afraid of a little butter, dice the vegetables fairly small and evenly, and cook it at a lower heat for longer.  This morning I used a chunk of peeled raw butternut squash, a small rutabaga, and some broccoli.  Maybe two cups of vegetables total.  I heated a medium cast iron skillet on medium low (I have a "professional" high BTU stove, so perhaps medium high on a regular stove) and added a tablespoon of butter.  I put in the root vegetables and let them sit without stirring them for a few minutes, tossed them around and let them sit again, and finally added the broccoli and let them sit a bit longer.  I pushed them to the side and added a little more butter and fried two eggs on the side.

I shared with my husband, so that's two good servings of vegetables to start off our day.  This works with any combination of starchy vegetables and non-starchy vegetables that would taste good to you.  Add the non-starchy vegetables near the end. The vegetables aren't crispy, this is not fried potatoes.  If you want crispy oven roast vegetables at 450.  But that's more of a Sunday thing.  Hash you can do on a weekday.  I often add diced ham, but if you want to add bacon fry diced bacon separately and sprinkle it on top.  That way the bacon stays crispy and the vegetables taste like butter.

When I worked at a fancy Italian restaurant the Sunday brunch buffet was loaded with amazing vegetable dishes, marinated salads, sauteed sweet Italian sausage with broccoli and bell pepper, pickled vegetables, olives, baked eggplant.  If a fancy restaurant can serve vegetables for breakfast, why not you?


  1. Excellent stuff, Rachel. Do you think you could add pictures of the dishes you are cooking, perhaps with work-in-progress shots of the steps?

  2. This is a great idea for a blog, Rachael....

    I have never had any problem with vegetables, either. I don't usually have them for breakfast on weekdays (that's usually oatmeal with dried cherries, fresh blueberries, yogurt and walnuts), but I will often grate and/or finely chop an assortment of vegetables, and cook a few eggs in them with cheese grated on top, and a little salsa.

  3. This is Theresa, in Kansas, by the way.....

  4. These suggestions sound great. Not too intimidating. I love veggies but needed some new ideas besides stir-fry.