March has finally arrived!
Yesterday I saw my first flowers in bloom — beautiful bright yellow aconites! The sap is finally flowing from the maple trees. Mike and I got our first taste of the delicious maple syrup last weekend. Almost half a million people in Ohio will get their coronavirus shots this week, and 95 percent of Ohio kids are back in school! It is truly a time to be hopeful!
March is also National Nutrition Month, which focuses on making informed food choices and developing healthy habits. Preparing good meals doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, so this month I’m going to share recipes that are nutritious, easy to prepare and budget friendly.
I know the pandemic has created immense challenges for many Ohioans. I hope programs like the pandemic EBT program have provided a small bit of relief. Through this program, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has provided more than $1.1 billion in food assistance to families whose children depend on meals at school.
So many have been learning remotely but now that we have vaccinated our teachers and school workers, kids can finally go back to school. I think it is really an important time to send them back to school with a good breakfast.
Breakfast is such an important meal. For kids, a good healthy breakfast helps them to feel their best and do their best. It helps them concentrate. It helps them learn.
There are so many great breakfasts that we can fix for our children, or that they can fix for themselves. We want to think of breakfast as part of the overall day. In the course of the day we want them to follow the food groups — some protein, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and dairy. We also want it to be something they like so that they will enjoy eating it, something fun. And we don’t want something that will make them crash with so much sugar!
I think eggs are one of the best things we can serve our children for breakfast because the protein in the egg will really stay with them. There are so many ways to make eggs. There is nothing quicker than scrambled eggs, or over-easy eggs. Sometimes for fun I make my grandkids what we call “egg cup eggs.” They are soft boiled eggs that you serve standing up in an egg cup, with the top part of the shell cut off. Kids then eat it from the shell with a small spoon. Other times we like to make egg-in-a-hole. A round (or heart shaped) piece is cut out of a piece of bread. Then the bread is placed in the skillet with a little butter and the egg is dropped into the hole. When the bread begins to brown, the bread/egg is flipped over. It is just an interesting way to serve eggs to kids! There are also lots of recipes for egg muffins — eggs that are scrambled and mixed with chopped vegetables, maybe ham or bacon, and cheese. Then they are baked in muffin tins. These can be made ahead, refrigerated and reheated.
Breakfast is a great time of day to eat some of those whole grains like oatmeal. Sometimes I cook Irish oatmeal which takes a little longer, and then heat up the leftovers later in the week. I’ve had some fun making overnight oats as well. You can make them in little mason jars and add fruits and nuts and chia seeds. They will keep for several days in the refrigerator and the kids can create their own.
Smoothies are a favorite of kids of all ages. My favorites are frozen banana and blueberries or other mixed berries, with milk or water or juice. It’s a lot of fruit and it really tastes like you’re eating ice cream. I peel my ripe (not overripe) bananas and put them in a plastic baggie in the freezer. You can slice them first if you want. Then I put my frozen banana and other fruit and milk in my blender (or NutriBullet) and let it blend. This is also a good snack when kids come home from school.
This week I worked on making some special muffins that are easy to prepare, and good to eat. These contain whole grains as well as apples, applesauce and raisins, and nuts if you like. They are something the kids can help you make, and they freeze very well. They passed the taste test with my kids, grandkids, and my biggest kid of all — my husband!
Double Apple Oatmeal Muffins
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup applesauce
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins, craisins, nuts or chocolate chips
1 unpeeled apple, sliced, then cut in 1/4 to 1/2 inch dice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line muffin tin with liners (or spray with cooking spray).
In medium bowl, combine oats, applesauce, milk, egg, vanilla, oil, brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir together.
In larger bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, diced apple and raisins or craisins.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the applesauce mixture. Stir just until combined. Don’t overmix.
Spoon batter into muffin cups. If you like, you can sprinkle muffins with chopped nuts, chocolate chips, or cinnamon sugar. Bake 15 to 20 minutes. (Toothpick inserted in center should come out clean.) Don’t overbake.
These keep well for several days and also freeze well.
1 piece bread
2 pats butter
Use cookie cutter or glass to cut out hole in center of bread. Heat skillet. Put pats of butter in skillet. Place bread on top of butter and break egg in center hold of bread. When egg begins to set, turn over and cook other side. Cook the cut out piece of bread as well.
Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.