No more excuses! Three quick and easy vegetarian breakfast ideas!

I know, you’ve all heard it before. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!”

But you just don’t have time, or energy, or skill, or food, or WHATEVER ELSE you might think you need in the morning to actually eat breakfast. So you go on through your life living on that convenience store coffee and donut (or worse, nothing at all) and somehow survive until lunchtime when you then gorge yourself because well, you feel like you’re starving.

Well, NO MORE, my friends! If you’ve been following me for a while, you may remember my Four Super Simple and Portable Breakfast Ideas from a long ways back. Those are still totally A-game breakfast ideas, but I decided it’s time for some fresh new ones. So, this post is dedicated to three more really easy, really quick, and totally meatless breakfast dishes that are oh-so-much better for you than that glazed Krispy Kreme donut.

Quick Breakfast #1: Fruit, Yogurt, & Granola Parfait

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No joke, it’s just three ingredients! How easy is that?

Just get yourself a nice pretty glass (because that makes eating breakfast more worthwhile) and layer it with your choice of yogurt, fresh fruit, and granola.

I used regular vanilla yogurt and strawberries, but the combinations here are literally endless. Little tip, if you plan on making this fairly frequently, you can buy yogurt in 38oz containers, so you can just spoon out however much you need.

Also, granola is typically found in the cereal aisle of your grocery store. They make several different kinds, but the store brand is always cheapest and totally fine.

Health bonuses: You get protein from the yogurt and fiber from the granola. These will help you to feel fuller, longer!

Total prep time: 3 minutes (or less).

Quick Breakfast #2: Spinach & Veggie Omelet

DSC_1459Yes, this one actually requires the stove, but if you’ve got ten extra minutes, it’s worth it! Just saute 1/4 of a red onion, 1/4 of a green pepper, and about a 1/4 cup of frozen spinach with olive oil for about five minutes. Remove that from the pan, coat it with about a 1/2 tablespoon of butter, and then add two beaten eggs to the pan on a medium-low heat.

Let the eggs cook slowly until they are almost cooked through, then add a handful of shredded cheese and your veggies to one side. Let it cook another minute or so, fold it in half, and then plate it!

If you’re not watching your fat intake, this would be totally amazing with sour cream on top, but otherwise, it’s great with just some salt and pepper!

Health bonuses: eggs are packed with protein and the spinach is full of vitamins!

Total prep time: 10 minutes.

Quick Breakfast #3: Cranberry-Pecan Oatmeal

DSC_1463“Ew, oatmeal??”

I can almost hear the groan of distaste. I know, most people think oatmeal is for little kids or the elderly, and that it’s a mealy, gross, nasty bowl of lukewarm nothingness. I get it. But this oatmeal will change that.

Quick-oatmeal can be made right in the microwave. I use 3/4 cup of quick 1-minute oats and 1/2 cup of milk – microwave that for 60 seconds and then take it out and stir.

Meanwhile, roughly chop about 1/4 cup of pecans. When the oatmeal is done, add the pecans, 1/4 cup of dried cranberries, a few tablespoons of granola (for additional crunch) and a tablespoon of brown sugar. Stir and enjoy!

Health bonuses: you get fiber from the oatmeal and granola and protein from the pecans. Plus, the cranberries give you a nice serving of fruit!

Total prep time: 2 minutes.

So, no more excuses! Including the linked back post, here are seven total breakfast ideas that are good for you, filling, and super quick and easy. I promise, it will make SUCH a difference in your life if you start eating a decent breakfast every day!

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Chocolate Chip Cranberry Cookie Bars

In my neck of the woods, it snowed ten inches yesterday. Naturally, there’s only one thing to do when the flakes are falling down from the sky at such a steady pace… Bake! I created these beauties yesterday afternoon as an idea for a super versatile dessert – whether giving to your kids in a bagged lunch, serving at a party, or just having on hand around the house when your sweet tooth comes knocking!

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This recipe turned out perfectly to make 8 bars, but feel free to double it to make more!

Start by pre-heating your oven to 375 degrees and spraying mini loaf pans with cooking spray. I have a nifty set of 8 that are all connected, kind of like this one.

Like most cookies, these start by prepping dry and wet ingredients separately. In a medium bowl, combine 1 and 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 tsp baking soda, and 1 tsp salt. Then, in a stand mixer bowl, cream together 1 stick of softened butter, 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla.

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MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Remember that “creaming” together butter and sugar should be done at a high speed for at least two minutes! Start at a low speed to get things starting to break down, and then kick it up to medium-high until the mixture is smooth.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then beat in one egg. Reduce the mixer speed to “stir” and slowly combine in the flour mixture. You’ll probably need to use a spatula at the end to fold in the last bit of flour and make the dough into a nice ball.

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Fold in a heavy 1/2 cup each of dark chocolate chips and dried cranberries until they are distributed throughout the dough. Divide the dough evenly between 8 mini loaf pans and then bake at 375 for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.

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Once they come out of the oven, allow to cool in the pan for a minute or two before using a metal spatula to help remove them cleanly from the pan. Place them on a wire rack to cool completely… but feel free to enjoy while they are still warm!

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These are perfectly sweet, so one bar should be plenty enough for one person! You may want to cut them in half for the kiddos.

Oh, and you’ll DEFINITELY want to serve these with some cold milk!

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Hopefully you’ll enjoy them as much as my house did – 24 hours later, they are already gone!!

Full Recipe:

Chocolate Chip Cranberry Cookie Bars

Yield: 8 bars

Ingredients:

1 & 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
Heavy 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
Heavy 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Process:

1) Preheat oven to 375 and spray 8 mini loaf pans with cooking spray.

2) In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.

3) In bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter, white sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla on with paddle attachment medium-high speed until smooth and creamy.

4) Scrape down sides of the bowl and then beat in one egg to butter and sugar.

5) Reduce mixer speed to “stir” and slowly combine in flour mixture a little at a time. Turn off the mixer and remove paddle to allow you to fold in the last bit of flour by hand at the end and create a neat dough ball.

6) Fold in chocolate chips and cranberries until well distributed throughout the dough.

7) Divide batter evenly between 8 mini loaf pans and bake at 375 for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan slightly before using a metal spatula to remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Slow Cooker Balsamic Pork Loin

Slow cooker recipes are always the best, so here’s another for you that may shock you! I grabbed a 2 pound pork loin on sale the other day and I was trying to decide how to make it different and interesting … Obviously the first way I decided was to cook it in the slow-cooker instead of the oven, but the second was to use a balsamic vinegar based cooking liquid.

Let me tell you, it was some kind of amazing! Super tender, so much so that I couldn’t even slice it nicely for photos – it just fell apart! And oh-so-flavorful… and oh-so-easy!

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The cooking liquid is important, of course, but the key to really flavorful meats is the spice rub. I always start pork spice rubs with brown sugar (about 3/4 cup) and then build up from there. For this one I added 2 teaspoons of salt, and then a half teaspoon or so each of black pepper, celery seed, oregano, thyme, cumin, and cayenne.

You might have to cut the pork loin in half before rubbing it (I did), but once its an appropriate size to fit in your slow cooker, rub it on all sides with the spice rub until it’s entirely gone.

Into the bottom of the slow cooker, add half a diced onion and a few sprigs of fresh thyme, then carefully place the pork on top.

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For your cooking liquid, in a small glass bowl or measuring cup, combine 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar, 1 cup cranberry juice, 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard, and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Whisk it together and then carefully pour it around the pork in the slow cooker.

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That’s it! Cover and set the slow cooker to low and leave it alone for 4-5 hours. Once it’s ready, carefully lift it out and attempt to slice it – if it doesn’t really work, just pull it apart!

Full Recipe:

Slow Cooker Balsamic Pork Loin

Yield: About 4 servings

Ingredients:

One 2-pound pork loin
1/2 onion, diced
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup cranberry juice
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced

Spice Rub:
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne.

Process:

1) Combine ingredients for spice rub in a small dish and rub onto all sides of the pork until it’s all been used.

2) Add onion and fresh thyme to slow cooker; carefully lay pork loin on top of the bed of onion.

3) In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, cranberry juice, mustard, and garlic until combined. Pour over the pork loin and then cover. Cook on low for 4-5 hours or until cooked through and tender.

Skillet Chicken with White Wine Cranberry Glaze

I often have occasions where I stare into my pantry/fridge and I see a couple of different things and think, “Hm, I wonder if I could make this work together…”

Perhaps I just watch Chopped too much, but this dish was born out of that type of experience. I knew I had chicken in the fridge and dried cranberries in the pantry, so I got to thinking, “What if…” and thus, this dish was born. And boy, was it delicious.

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Bonus, I’ll also include a recipe at the bottom for that amazing spicy and sweet succotash you see with the chicken. 😉

Preheat the oven to 350. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a skillet and heat over medium-low. While the pan is heating, sprinkle both sides of two chicken breasts with salt, pepper, oregano, cilantro, and thyme, then add them to the pan.

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Let them cook for about 5 minutes, then flip and cook for an additional 5 minutes. While they are cooking, roughly chop about 1/4 cup of pecans and spread them out on a small baking sheet. Then dice 1/4 of an onion and mince 1 clove of garlic.

Once the chicken has browned on both sides, put it in a baking pan coated with non-stick cooking spray and allow to bake while you prep the sauce. (About 15 total minutes in the oven should do it.) You can also put the chopped pecans in the oven now – just remember to take them out after about 5 minutes.

In the same pan that you cooked the chicken (still over medium-low heat), add your diced onion and toss to coat in the remaining olive oil. Allow these to saute for a few minutes, then add the minced garlic and about 1/2 cup of dried cranberries.

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Toss to combine and allow to simmer for another two minutes or so, then add 1/2 cup dry white wine to the pan. Allow this to reduce down (3-5 minutes) and then add 2 tablespoons of mascarpone cheese and 1 tablespoon of butter. Stir this in until it melts, leave on the heat for one more minute, and then remove from the heat.

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Plate your chicken once it’s cooked through and top with the glaze and a handful of chopped pecans. Serve with the spicy-sweet succotash listed below!

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Recipes:

Skillet Chicken with White Wine Cranberry Glaze

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt, pepper, cilantro, oregano, thyme (to taste)
1/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1/4 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp mascarpone cheese
1 tbsp butter

Process:

1) Preheat oven to 350. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat.

2) Sprinkle both sides of chicken with salt, pepper, cilantro, oregano, and thyme, then place in the heated oil. Cook for 5 minutes per side, then place in a baking dish coated with nonstick spray and bake for 15 minutes. Put the pecans on a small baking sheet and also put these in the oven – bake for 5 minutes.

3) In the same pan used for the chicken (still over medium-low heat) add the onions. Toss and saute for about 3 minutes, then add the garlic and cranberries. Saute for another 2 minutes or so, then add wine and allow to reduce for about 3-5 minutes.

4) Add the mascarpone and butter to the pan and stir until they’ve melted. Remove from the heat after an additional minute.

5) Plate chicken and top with glaze. Sprinkle with toasted pecans. Serve immediately.

Spicy-Sweet Succotash

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

1 & 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup frozen corn
3/4 cup frozen lima beans
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp sugar
Salt, pepper, cilantro, cayenne, to taste

Process:

1) Add frozen corn and lima beans with water to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 7 minutes.

2) After the initial 7 minutes, add the cranberries to the water and cook for an additional minute or two.

3) Drain, then put the succotash back in the sauce pan over low heat and stir in butter, sugar, and spices. (The more cayenne you add, the spicier it will be. A safe bet to not be overwhelming is about 1/4 tsp.) Serve immediately.

Dirty Shirley

It is with a heavy heart that we all learned of the passing of the beloved Shirley Temple Black this morning. Even though it is not Friday and I’m in the middle of Valentine’s Week posts, I just couldn’t let the day go by without paying my own homage to her by posting a recipe for my version of the classic “Dirty Shirley” drink.

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Of course, the classic “Shirley Temple” is non-alcoholic, and was always just a simple mix of ginger-ale and grenadine. I’ve kicked it up a little and switched a thing or two, but it’s still the classic cherry-sweet drink everyone loves!

Fill a rocks glass with ice, then add 1.5 ounces of cherry vodka, 1 ounce cranberry juice, and 1/2 ounce grenadine. Stir to combine. Fill the rest of the glass with Sprite (or another clear soda of choice) and serve. If you’re making more than one, you can also combine the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker to make it easier!

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Full Recipe:

Dirty Shirley Cocktail

Yield: 1 cocktail

Ingredients:

1.5 oz cherry vodka
1 oz. cranberry juice
1/2 oz. grenadine
4 oz. (about) of Sprite

Process:

1) Fill a rocks glass with ice and add vodka, cranberry juice, and grenadine. Stir to combine.

2) Fill remainder of glass with Sprite and serve immediately.