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Start the day with a great breakfast

Dinner Diva column by Leanne Ely

As families across America are getting ready to send kids back to school, it’s time for me once again to bang the nutritional drum on the importance of beginning the day with breakfast.

To make the most of our days and to really start off right, it’s vital to remember that breakfast is the most critical meal of the day. This is when you break your fast from not eating all night. Your blood sugar is low — you need fuel. To start the day fuel-less is akin to taking a car on a long journey hoping the reserve tank will get you there and back — I promise you, it’s not gonna happen.

Most likely you will end up eating something greasy from a drive-thru because your blood sugar has crashed or waiting ’til lunch and then eating out of control because you’re starving. Let’s not even talk about our foul moods due to our blood sugar being in the can. This is not how we’re meant to operate, and we deserve better.

The wonderful thing about breakfast is that it’s a cheap and easy meal. I’m not talking about the artificially colored, overly sugared breakfast cereals. That stuff is so overpriced, you’ll need to take a second mortgage out on your house just to keep up with the expense! Not only that, but the only thing those cereals are good for is getting your kids hyper — there is NO nutritional redemption in that expensive stuff. Let me say this again: YOU are the parent, and YOU can control what goes in your child’s cereal bowl every day.

I have a great recipe here for Crockpot Oatmeal. I know time in the morning is tough, but if you take three minutes the night before, you will wake up to the delicious aroma of breakfast all ready to go — especially when it starts getting cold outside again!


Crockpot Oatmeal

Serves 6

**disclaimer on this recipe. It may not work for YOUR crockpot! A 2:1 ratio on water and oats may be better, OR it could burn. I know this sounds flaky but you need to consider all the variables: brands of crockpots, ages, models, sizes and the temperatures even, that they operate on. Be FLEXIBLE with this recipe and experiment with it to get it just right for your family.

– 1 cup old fashioned oats (NOT the quick cooking kind)

– 4 cups water

– Throw this in a crockpot and let it cook overnight on low. That’s it!!

For fun, add some chopped apple, raisins and cinnamon. YUM! The smell of this first thing in the morning is glorious!

Pancakes and waffles are more “weekend” food. Who has time to make them during the week? YOU do if you can get these mixes together. Even better, you can make extra pancakes or waffles on the weekend, freeze them in big freezer zipper topped bags and use them instead of those expensive and less nutritious toaster waffles in the freezer section in the store.


Here’s a terrific mix:

– 8 cups flour (if you’d like an all whole wheat mix, use whole wheat pastry flour from health food stores)

– 2 cups whole wheat flour

– 1 1/2 cups buckwheat flour (at some markets, but for sure at health food stores)

– 1/2 cup cornmeal (stone ground)

– 1 1/2 cups oatmeal (blend in your blender till powdered)

– 2 cups buttermilk powder (this is in the baking section of your market)

– 5 tablespoons baking powder

– 2 tablespoons baking soda

– 1 cup sugar (or sucanat — natural sugar at the health food store)

– 2 tablespoons salt

This will make four quarts. Mix all together in a very large bowl and divvy up into gallon sized freezer storage bags. I would mark the date with a Sharpie pen and keep it in the freezer although you can keep in your pantry.


To make pancakes or waffles:

– 1 cup pancake mix

– 1 egg

– 1/2 to 2/3 cup water (start with the lesser amount first and add if you need to)

– 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a medium bowl, stir mix with water, egg and vegetable oil. Heat your griddle and make your pancakes as usual! To make waffles, double the batter and follow the directions for your waffle iron.


Basic Muffin Mix

Makes 11 cups

– 8 cups flour (again, if you prefer whole wheat, use whole wheat pastry flour)

– 3 cups sugar (can use sucanat if you prefer, see note on pancake mix)

– 3 tablespoons baking powder

– 2 teaspoons salt

– 2 teaspoons cinnamon

– 2 teaspoons nutmeg

Combine everything in a large bowl and divide into freezer zipper topped bags. Mark date with a Sharpie pen and store in the freezer or cool dry place.

To make muffins:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a bowl, mix together 3 cups baking mix, 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, 2 eggs, 3/4 cup milk and 3/4 cup berries, raisins, chocolate chips or whatever else you’d like.

Bake in a prepared muffin pan — that means lightly greased (I prefer the cupcake papers—easy clean up!), filling cups 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes or until nicely browned. Cool for five minutes in the pan then turn out on to a rack to cool. Makes about 12 muffins, depending on the size of your muffin tin.


For more help putting dinner on your table, check out Leanne’s website,, or her Saving Dinner book series (Ballantine) and her New York Times bestselling book Body Clutter (Fireside). Copyright 2008 Leanne Ely. Used by permission in this publication.

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