Build a Better Breakfast

Photo by William MinifiePhoto by William Minifieby Lauren Salkeld, Epicurious.com

Unlike lunch or dinner, many of us tend to eat the same breakfast over and over again. Whether it's cereal, muffins, or an egg sandwich, your morning meal is often a matter of what's quick, convenient, and habitual.

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Being a breakfast lover and someone who wakes up super hungry, I take my first meal a bit more seriously than your average American. I want something satisfying, which means not just filling, but also interesting. Even when I'm rushing to get to work, an enticing breakfast can be the difference between a good morning and a bad one; it can also mean the difference between a grumbling stomach during that 11 a.m. meeting and not having to snack before lunch. Over the years, I've gathered a number of good ideas and only a couple flops (during a gluten-free phase, I tried to make hot cereal with ground flax; that was a mistake). Here are a few of my best busy weekday breakfasts.

Oatmeal: This one is obvious and hardly a new idea, but if you're looking for speed, ease of preparation, and a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs type meal that keeps you going all morning, oatmeal is the answer. Skip the instant oatmeal and spend a few more minutes to make old-fashioned rolled oats. Fresh or dried fruit and nuts are pretty standard toppings, but there are other options, including toasted shredded coconut or peanut butter (the nutty flavor tastes great, but the added protein will help keep you full). On days when you do have a couple extra minutes or when you've thought ahead and prepared the oatmeal in advance, make baked oatmeal. Transfer cooked oatmeal into a small oven-safe dish, sprinkle with brown sugar, and bake until a sweet, crisp crust forms on top.

Peanut Butter and Jelly: This is hands-down my favorite on-the-go breakfast, especially on travel days when I just wrap the sandwich in foil and pop it in my bag for the airport. I like strawberry-rhubarb preserves, natural peanut or almond butter, and a hearty, whole-wheat sourdough or peasant loaf, but use your favorites.

Grilled Cheese: If you love grilled cheese, why not eat it for breakfast? To save time, assemble the sandwich the night before so in the morning all that's left is to cook it in the toaster oven, panini press, or on the stove. And if you have any leftover vegetables, pile them on. Not everything will work, but most veggies taste pretty good with bread and melted cheese.

See also: The Epicurious Guide to Easter

Quinoa: This complete protein makes a surprisingly good breakfast. I like to cook mine in skim milk with a little cinnamon, sugar, and salt, but Gourmet Live's Kemp Minifie makes hers with water. Regardless, we both agree quinoa keeps us full well until the afternoon. You can also make a big batch on Sunday and warm servings in the microwave or on the stovetop throughout the week (add a little extra water or milk to loosen up the grains).

Baked Eggs: Scrambled eggs are quick and easy but they also require standing by the stove to actually scramble. Baked eggs are an effortless alternative. Butter a ramekin then crack an egg or two inside, season with salt and pepper, and bake in a 350°F oven until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny, about 25 minutes. Recipes usually call for a water bath but I've definitely baked eggs without one. Add cheese or cream if you like, and serve the eggs with toast. All the usual egg toppings, such as hot sauce, salsa, and pesto, are excellent additions, but not necessary when you're in a hurry.

Avocado Toast: Epicurious editor Carolina Santos-Neves introduced me to the wonder that is avocado toast. In a small bowl, combine ripe avocado with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and red pepper flakes (the red pepper is optional). Spread on toast for a breakfast that delivers fat, protein, and carbs, the ideal combo for keeping you full for hours. Mix things up with a sweeter bread, such as cranberry-walnut or even cinnamon-raisin, which complements the salty, creamy avocado. Bonus: These open-face sandwiches make excellent last-minute hors d'oeuvres.

For more morning meal ideas, browse all of Epicurious' breakfast recipes.

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