March 3rd, 2014

Taking control of breakfast: Cardamom Apple-Pecan Oatmeal Muffins

Cardamom Apple Pecan Oatmeal Muffins | One Hungry Mama

I’d had it. The arguing over cereal had gotten completely out of control in my house. (Does this happen in your house, too?!) Breakfast, especially during the week, is hard enough as it is. The last thing I need is fighting over what gets served. And though it’s easy to resort to pop-up waffles and cereal everyday (they certainly take care of the fighting), the last thing my kids need every morning is a heaping mound of sugary, processed carbs. Finding breakfast balance has been a serious challenge and I finally took it head-on, with some help from these Cardamom Apple-Pecan Oatmeal Muffins.

This week I’ll be talking about the breakfast conundrum: providing our kids with healthy, wholesome breakfasts that actually fit into the morning rush and give them the nutritional boost they need to make it through their day.

I probably shouldn’t buy cereal. It’s definitely among the most processed foods in my cabinets but, as I’ve admitted here before, I have a personal weakness for the stuff. Plus, it’s just plain hard not to keep some on hand for when you’re in a mega-rush. Not only is it quick and easy, but my young kids can make it themselves, which means sleeping until 7 some mornings (woo hoo party time!) or charging them with feeding themselves while I get ready.

Cereal is simply a reality for most of us, including me, and though I wish I could eliminate it completely by always making fresh breakfasts, I can’t. Or won’t. Either way, cereal is a part of our lives.

That said, cereal needed to be put in its rightful place. Or, rather, I needed to put cereal in its place for my kids, who’d taken to begging for it every single morning. BEGGING. And arguing with us about it, too. Even refusing other, healthy breakfasts in a belligerent attempt to get cereal. It’s as though cereal is crack which, by the way, it kinda is (says the most addicted one).

The Cereal Problem
Without me even realizing it, cereal had been promoted from our back up solution to the kids’ fall-back breakfast. Something had to be done.

The Cereal Solution
At the suggestion of my go-to mommy friend, a super smart lady and genius early childhood educator, I made a breakfast chart. The kids got to choose three cereal days a week. I reminded them that they must eat fruit in the morning, a longstanding rule that they’d somehow been working around, and explained that ignoring the fruit rule would get cereal demoted to two days a week. The remaining 4 breakfasts were mine to plan and serve and theirs to eat. I’d be happy to listen to feedback (no quinoa flakes in the overnight oatmeal) and take suggestions (more muffins), but I wasn’t going to argue over breakfast anymore.

More arguing would mean total cereal elimination. (Gulp.)

Suddenly, breakfasts started looking up. (Phew.)

I cannot lie: some crazy busy weeks it’s hard to come up with 5 non-cereal breakfasts. Knowing that I set a decree, though, is motivation to get creative and just do it. And just do it I have been, with mostly good results and no more morning arguments.

This week, I’ll share my breakfast meal plan suggestions and also give tips on choosing the best cereals available (they are so not all created equally). In the meantime, whip up a batch of these very freezable Cardamom Apple-Pecan Oatmeal Muffins, our current favorite breakfast muffin (usually paired with a hard boiled egg or yogurt and fruit) and take stock of breakfast in your house.

Are you happy with what your kids are eating in the morning? If so, please share your suggestions and breakfast ideas! If not, what would you like to change?

The first step to mastering the breakfast conundrum is knowing where you want your family to be so that you can make a plan to get them there. And as always, if you want help making that plan, One Hungry Mama readers just have to email me at realfamilyfood@onehungrymama.com to claim—demand, even!—a free 30 minute call so that we can work on your plan together.

Cardamom Apple-Pecan Oatmeal Muffins
Gluten-Free Adaptable
(Can be shared with kids 10+ mos)*
Makes 12 standard muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or your favorite gluten-free flour mix; I’ve tested these using Cup4Cup with success)
1/4 cup rolled oats (you can use gluten-free oats)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter melted, plus more (unmelted) for greasing the pan
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup grated apple, skin on (from about 2 large apples, washed & cored0
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans, divided

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a standard muffin tin or line with paper muffin liners; set aside. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, oats, baking powder, cardamom, baking soda, and salt.

2. Pour melted butter to a separate, large bowl. Add sugar and whisk until well combined. Mix in milk, grated apple, eggs, and vanilla.

3. Gently stir dry ingredients into the wet until a batter forms. Fold in 1/2 cup chopped pecans until well incorporated, being careful not to over mix the batter.

4. Fill muffin cups about 3/4 with batter and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup chopped pecans, dividing the nuts evenly among the muffins. Bake until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 to 27 minutes. Remove from oven and allow muffins to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to finish cooling. Serve warm or at room temperature. These muffins will keep for 2 days stored on the counter in an airtight container. You can also freeze them for up to three months (they will defrost on the counter overnight, in the oven, or microwaved in 10-second intervals).

*Note: I recommend these tasty muffins for any finger-food eating child 10+ months even though they contain tree nuts. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there is no known health benefit to holding off on high allergen foods beyond 6-months-old. If you are concerned about introducing tree nuts to your little one, read more on how to introduce high allergen foods to baby. Discuss concerns with your pediatrician and, of course, if your child has known tree nut allergies, skip these all together!

5 Responses

  1. melloe says:

    My oldest has been a breakfast smoothie addict since age 1 and it is a quick, easy and pretty healthy breakfast. Her favorite is 1/2 c low fat vanilla yogurt, 1/4 c milk, 4 frozen strawberries and half a banana. I use a hand blender right in the serving cup and its quick and easy for all.

  2. melloe says:

    oh and it goes great with a muffin !

  3. Rosie says:

    Living in California and working East Coast hours means that I am never home during the week-day breakfast rush; everything falls to my husband. He usually goes the easy route of cold cereal and I can’t blame him since I’m not there and have no idea what its like to try to sheepheard our kindergartener out the door in the mornings. So a couple of days a week, when I am prepping overnight oats for myself the following day, I make the same thing for the two of them. I also try and make a quick bread and/or muffins over the weeekend. I use a combo of AP and whole grain flour in addition to whatever fruits and nuts I have on hand. These items freeze well and are a good way to mix things up. I’m not always successful in prepping ahead on the weekend but I try.

  4. sarah says:

    I love this post. I grew up on a mix of cereal (um, hello peanut butter capt’n crunch), oatmeal and eggs for breakfast, and I turned out alright, but still I’ve been pretty anti-cereal for my little one at home…until we went on vacation. You know how those pint-size boxes of cereals week havoc on a mother’s will. :) anyway, my hubby asked me if we could do cereal just once a week as a treat/timesaver. I’ve been holding out, worried about the slippery slope it would create, but I never thought of the chart! Perfect: I’m in. I think we can do it without caving completely. (and, ps. thanks for the permission to do it. my husband and daughter, and okay, me too, thank you.).

  5. One Hungry Mama says:

    Thanks, Sarah. I love your point about giving permission. It’s so true, not just about food, but about parenting in general, that we can get caught up in our own ideals to the point that we’re not just restrictive with our kids, but also make things hard on ourselves. I guess it comes back to the old adage about moderation. Glad this was helpful!