Not many people think of vegetables as a breakfast food. Breakfast menus are dominated by fruit, pastries, and other sweets. Savory foods such as eggs and bacon take a back seat, and vegetables rarely make an appearance. But there are many healthy and delicious ways to enjoy vegetables at breakfast, many of which require almost no effort!
Omelets and Frittatas
A nutritious breakfast staple, omelets—and their equally delicious cousin, the frittata—are a natural vessel for breakfast vegetables. This simple instruction video shows how to make a simple omelet with cheese and vegetables. If you chop the vegetables in advance, it should take no more than 15 minutes to make a fresh, delicious omelet. This spinach omelet uses egg substitute for a lower cholesterol option. You can use egg substitute or egg whites in any omelet recipe to lower the fat and cholesterol, and cheese can be omitted in most recipes for a dairy-free omelet. Use 2 egg whites for each egg, or follow the directions on the package when using egg substitute.
If you don’t have 15 minutes to spare for omelet-making in the morning, try a frittata instead. Frittatas can be made the night before and reheated in the oven or microwave, or, even better, you can make a large frittata on the weekend and freeze it in individual portions to enjoy throughout the week. This indulgent homemade frittata calls for ham and asparagus, but the ham could be omitted or replaced with turkey or vegetarian sausage, and the asparagus could be replaced with other roasted or steamed vegetables. Broccoli or Brussels sprouts would both be good complements to the savory ham and Parmesan cheese. Or, try this lighter spring vegetable frittata for a garden-fresh treat you can enjoy every morning.
A delicious and versatile part of any meal or snack, a green smoothie is also an excellent way to eat vegetables without tasting them. They are good for getting kids to eat their vegetables, and just as good for adults! All you need to make excellent smoothies is a decent blender (and mid-range is fine—no need to spring for the Vitamix). At its simplest, a smoothie is at least 8 oz of liquid (water, milk, juice, almond or soy milk, and herb tea all work well), one or two cups of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables (especially soft fruits like bananas or berries, and leafy greens), and ice (if none of the fruits or vegetables are frozen), blended for 1-5 minutes. Pulse a few times first, to break up large chunks, then blend on low speed, pausing occasionally, until you can’t see any large chunks and the mixture looks smooth. The whole process will take about ten minutes—including cleaning the blender afterward. You can also make your smoothie the night before: just store it in the fridge until you’re ready to go. The best smoothies have plenty of liquid, and at least one creamy ingredient, such as banana, mango, yogurt, or soft tofu.
When choosing vegetables for a smoothie, you have plenty of options. Any green leafy vegetable can go into a smoothie, from lettuce and spinach to kale, kohlrabi, and beet greens – just stick it in the blender with your other ingredients. Soft vegetables like tomatoes also work – try an all-vegetable gazpacho for a savory treat, excellent with eggs and toast, or as a light lunch. Harder vegetables like broccoli and carrots can be treated the same way, but may need to be steamed first. Experiment a little and see how your blender does with different vegetables – some may take longer than others. However, the easiest way to get vegetables into a smoothie, especially when cooking for kids, is to puree them in advance, and freeze them in an ice cube tray so you can add small quantities without the bother of waiting for them to blend in with the rest of the smoothie. This works with greens, and works especially well with carrots, whose sweet, mild flavor is easily masked by even the blandest fruit.
For your first smoothie, try blending the following: 4 oz water, 6 oz orange juice, generous dollop of vanilla yogurt, one small ripe banana, 6-10 strawberries (fresh or frozen), and 2-4 tablespoons each (if you’ve made ice cubes, each one will be around a tablespoon) of carrot and spinach puree. Add an ice cube or two if none of the other ingredients are frozen. That will make about 1 liter of green smoothie, which is enough for four small servings with breakfast, or one delicious breakfast all by itself (the fiber makes it surprisingly filling, and if you stir in a scoop of protein powder, you may find you’re not hungry until lunch). You can add a handful of blueberries as well—they’ll improve the color as well as giving it a more complex flavor. If you’re still hungry, and need help coming up with new ideas, this guide should get your creative juices flowing.
Long consigned to the ranks of side dishes, and maligned for its frequently high fat content, hash browns and other stir-fried potato dishes can actually be not only a nutritious and delicious way to enjoy vegetables at breakfast, but an easy way to make your first meal of the day balanced and filling. Not only does it make a good backdrop to many savory vegetables and meats, the potato is a vegetable in its own right. If you leave the skin on when you cook it, it is high in fiber and nutrients. It’s also a gluten-free source of complex carbohydrates.
Unlike its deep-fried cousin, the french fry, hash can be made at home in a pan, and with as much—or as little—oil as you want. To reduce the amount of oil absorbed in cooking, bake or boil the potatoes in advance, and chop them coarsely. For basic vegetable hash, chop boiled red potatoes (with the skin on), garlic, onions, and green and red bell peppers. Saute the garlic and onions in olive oil or butter, then add the peppers, and add the potatoes last. Finish with sea salt and black pepper. For variety, use yams and steamed carrots and/or parsnips instead of the red potatoes and bell peppers. For a high-protein variant, try this version, which features eggs and sausage. You can also make hash by tossing your ingredients like a salad, and browning them in a pan in the oven. This gives your hash a nice crisp, browned texture with much less oil than would be required for skillet cooking.