Update: The easy-print version of this recipe can be found here!
“I feel thrifty, oh so thrifty.
I feel thrifty and nifty and bright.
And I pity any Mom who isn’t me tonight.”
Alright, so Stephen Sondheim I’m not, but this is what I was singing to myself this morning while simultaneously whipping up pancakes and patting myself on the back. I should explain.
I have been on a mission lately to drastically reduce our cold cereal consumption in the house. The quantity of cereal the boys (and in that category I also lump my husband) can tear through is budget busting. The trouble is not entirely with breakfast. When we have cereal- even if it’s just bare bones Cheerios, crisped rice or shredded wheat- they not only eat two or three bowls for breakfast, they also stick their grubby mitts in the boxes whenever they think about food.
I will now interrupt myself with an important “living with 6 males” informational interlude: What do men think about every thirty seconds? Well, before they’re old enough to start thinking about that they think about food every thirty seconds. It’s a natural progression. Back to food, though…
The boys can polish off one and a half boxes of cereal at breakfast and kill the remaining half of the box with the occasional handful by the end of the day. You see why this is untenable? I’ve made my own granola for a very long time, but granola every single morning? We need some variety. That’s why we were buying the cold cereal anyway- to break up the granola monotony. I decided to throw the heavy weight of all my obsessive compulsive tendencies behind solving the problem of what to eat for breakfast.
Here were my goals for the challenge.
- Find foods that are filling. I don’t want to have to do second breakfasts and elevensies for my hobbits.
- The foods need to be easy enough to make before I’ve gotten two cups of tea in me. I’m good at following complex recipes, but only when sufficiently caffeinated.
- The recipes need to be economical. I’m feeding seven people three meals a day with snacks.
- There can’t be too many foods on the pickiest eater’s “no-no yucky” list. Diced onions? No-no yucky! Pureed or microscopically minced onions? Yes! I don’t work that hard in the morning. So, revisiting that statement. No “no-no yucky ” food items at all. We’ll work on food aversions at lunch and dinner.
- The recipes should be made with readily available items. I am fifteen minutes from the middle of nowhere. It takes me thirty five minutes to get to a decent grocery store and an hour and a half to get to a great one.
I attempted to pass off oatmeal to a mostly hostile audience. I make very tasty oatmeal, but it did not fly here. I tried steel cut oats with dried fruit, cinnamon, a wee bit of garam masala, demerara sugar and cream. Three out of seven ate it. That’s no change from the myriad of other times I’ve tried oatmeal for the kids. I’m not sure why I thought would be different this time. Nothing doing. This only got 6 thumbs up out of 14.
I made a double batch of Pioneer Woman’s French Breakfast Puffs (thanks to Evil Chef Mom for reminding me of those, here.) Yes, you read me right. I said I made a double batch. If you’ve made these you’re probably already laughing at me. I’m traumatized by all those recipes written by people feeding 2 or 3 at most per meal. I am a knee-jerk recipe doubler. If you’ve never worked through a recipe for seven hungry and impatient people only to find that it yields 3 fruit-fly sized servings you won’t understand my pain, but that’s my cross to bear.
So the yield was- and I want to make sure you understand that I am not exaggerating because this staggering count becomes important in the next paragraph- 24 standard sized muffins and 48 mini muffins. That’s 72 muffins! Mmm. The muffins were tasty, but they took a while to make first thing in the morning. I’m not the “wake up an hour before everyone else and cook” sort. I want to sleep as long as the rest of the crew. That means that we’re all waiting around for 35-40 minutes while these are being measured, mixed, portioned, baked, dunked in butter and rolled in cinnamon sugar? Maybe that would work occasionally, but not on a regular basis.
Besides being a little too time consuming for normal mornings, they were all eaten by 2 p.m. My husband and I had 2 standard muffins each. The boys ate the rest of them. The (sometimes-hidden) health-foodie in me balks very much at the idea of my kids ingesting that quantity of shortening, butter and sugar every morning. This got 14 thumbs up out of 14 for taste, but it’s getting shelved anyway due to cost (1/2 a lb of butter every day?), time and nutrition concerns.
…And lest you should grow concerned at the quantity of calories my kids consume, have a gander at this:
Oh sweet crappy pappy! I intended to put a slow cooker of jook together last night before going to bed. Jook gets a consistent 12 thumbs up out of 14 and is well loved by everyone except Leif who remains convinced that there are “sneaky vegetables in it.” I forgot. We were out of cereal, out of granola, out of bread for toast with jam, and didn’t have enough eggs to make scrambled eggs for breakfast. The kids would be “starving” and begging shamelessly for food any minute. The proverbial light-bulb illuminated over me and divine inspiration planted the word “PANCAKE” in my head. Most of the time I save pancakes for dinner, not being much of a breakfast eater myself, so this was a revelation (if a stupid one.) My pancake recipe comes together in a flash and makes a huge amount of batter. I mixed it up and starting pan frying. Liam and Aidan had six pancakes each, Ty and Leif had four and Rowan ate three. I ate one. My husband, The Evil Genius, was at work. I had a ton of batter left. In fact, I had enough for another breakfast meal, at least. I did not feel like standing at the stove to finish off all the batter. Somewhere in the back of my head I remembered that you could save pancake batter in an airtight container in the fridge. It was that or neglect my tea. The batter went into the chill chest. This recipe is a 14 thumbs up out of 14 for taste, ease, and economy. And it kept them full until elevensies.
Pancakes, redux. The batter survived admirably and made pancakes equally delicious to the previous days efforts. There was indeed enough batter left to feed the whole crew and have a couple leftover for elevensies. It was so nice to wake up and have breakfast mostly done. I think that’s why I’ve fallen into the cold cereal trap time and again. This will be a good one to keep handy. My recipe for the pancakes is below. Stay tuned to future posts for other great early morning foods that don’t take un-caffeinated mental acuity to prepare.
Best Buttermilk Pancakes
Unused batter stores well tightly covered in the fridge for up to three days. It also makes really admirable waffles.
1/4 lb (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
4 cups buttermilk (or 1/4 cup cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice added to 3 3/4 cups with milk, stirred and nuked for 45 seconds)
4 cups all-purpose flour
2-4 Tablespoons sugar, to taste
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients in your blender and process until smooth. Or you can do as I usually do adding all ingredients to a large pitcher and combining them with my stick blender. It’s the cheater’s way! The batter needs to be smooth. No one likes pockets of dry flour in a pancake! The consistency of the batter when I make it is about that of ketchup because we like thinner pancakes. If you like a fluffier, loftier pancake, you can add a couple tablespoons of flour to the batter, but make sure it’s still pourable!
Heat your griddle or frying pan until water sizzles on it and carefully butter or oil the surface. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto the hot pan for each pancake, leaving room for it to expand. You can flip the cake when the bubbles that show up on the top pop and don’t fill back in. The second side will cook much faster than the first side, so DO NOT WALK AWAY!
Serve hot! To really ease the morning time crunch, you can also cool these off on a wire rack, stack them separated by waxed paper, and seal in a bag in the freezer for up to a month. To reheat, remove desired number of flapjacks from the freezer to a plate and microwave for about 30 seconds-1 minute, depending on strength of microwave.
Update: I’ve said it before: I love the events. This post and recipe are being submitted to the Bread Baking Day event being hosted this month by Aparna at My Diverse Kitchen. This month’s theme is “Small Breads“. How fun!