Tamia’s go-to breakfast is a wholesome grain pilaf with fruit and avocado, which keeps the pipes open and sets her up for the day’s physical efforts. And she can dish up that breakfast in no more time than it takes to brew a pot of necessary coffee. All she has to do is pour breakfast out of a jar. And so can you.
by Tamia Nelson | May 10, 2018
Everyone knows that a healthy breakfast forms a solid foundation for the day’s activities, but when time presses and adventure calls, who has time to make a proper meal to start the day? Not I. Especially because my preferred breakfast these days is a wholegrain pilaf mixed with seasonal berries and a slice of avocado. Pilaf takes time to cook. The better part of an hour, in fact. I’m not up to that job at oh-dark-thirty. But last autumn I made a serendipitous discovery.
Here’s how it happened. One evening, I prepared a dinner of rice and farro pilaf to accompany roast chicken. Leftovers went into a storage bin in the refrigerator. The next morning I couldn’t face yet another instant oatmeal, but as I pulled a jug of orange juice from the refrigerator, my eye fell on the container of pilaf. So I scooped a cup of pilaf into my bowl, dropped on a tablespoon or so of black beans (also left over from salad) and a few blueberries, chopped up a slice of avocado left behind after the previous night’s salad, and popped the bowl into the warming oven to take off the chill. When my coffee had brewed, I sat down to a refreshingly different breakfast that filled in all the empty corners and kept me going till lunchtime.
Now I purposefully cook pilaf to have leftovers so I can have several days of easy breakfasts. It’s not hard, even if it does take some time, but most of that time is hands-off, and it’s cooked in the evening with the other dinner dishes. Here’s how I do it:
Make Pilaf. A little bit of chopped onion is sautéd in extra-virgin olive oil in a large pot till slightly soft. Meanwhile, I’ll combine rice and grains—organic if I can get it—in a measuring cup. Half a cup of brown Basmati rice, and the remainder of the cup will be whatever grains I have on hand—farro, barley groats, “forbidden black” rice, brown quinoa, or a blend of these.
When the onion is softened, I toast the rice-grain mix for a short time to enhance flavor. Next, I pour in one cup of organic low-sodium broth (vegetable or chicken) from a shelf-stable box, followed by a cup plus a bit more of water. Once the liquid comes to a boil, I turn down the burner, cover the pot, and steam at a simmer for between 30 and 50 minutes. Time varies depending on the simmer’s vigor and the type of grains used.
Once the pilaf is cooked and tender, I pull it from the burner, season with salt, dot it with some butter substitute, re-cover the pot, and let the pilaf sit until the rest of the meal is cooked. Then I fluff the pilaf with a fork and serve it, leaving the lid off to allow the pot’s contents to cool. Later, after the meal is done, cooled leftover pilaf is ready to store in the refrigerator. Come morning, I can then dish out as much as I want, as described earlier. But then I hit on what I thought was a genius idea:
Bottle the Pilaf. Farwell loves a French brand of orange marmalade. It’s the real deal, not an over-sweetened corn-syruped low-fruit pretender. When he empties a jar, I repurpose that jar and it’s lid for the storage of everything from bulk herbs to fresh berries to leftovers from dinner. The jar holds a bit more than a cup of whatever, just the right size for my entire breakfast pilaf. So I have a lot of marmalade jars, which means that I can form a production line of them to bottle my pilaf. The constituents vary from time to time depending on what’s available, but one constant is about ¾-cup of pilaf, rounded out with fruit and avocado, sometimes black beans or chickpeas. If fresh berries are too expensive or unavailable, I’ll substitute prunes or dried cranberries. And if I don’t avocados, I’ll just leave ’em out. No biggie.
Once the pilaf combo is distributed between empty jars, on go the lids, and into the refrigerator they go, ready for breakfasts for many days to come.
Eat Breakfast! Come morning, I’ll pull out a jar of breakfast pilaf mix, overturn it into a bowl, and pop it into the oven on the warming setting while I make coffe and pour orange juice. If I’m especially hungry, I’ll toast a slice or two of rye or whole wheat bread. For a really big appetite or for a hard day ahead, a hard-boiled egg—also prepared previously and refrigerated—can be sliced over the pilaf.
With my breakfast in a jar waiting in the fridge, I can be sure that my days will start off right. Use your own combination of ingredients to pre-portion your own breakfast bowls, and you can enjoy the same confidence.
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