It is a truth universally acknowledged that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Having accepted this information as fact I am always stunned by the offerings our food manufacturers seem to find appropriate in their efforts to get us to start the day with their products. With obesity levels heading towards infinity, why would anyone even invent a way to ingest high levels of saturated fat and sodium soon after waking? Take Jimmy Dean. Please. What idiot thought a sausage, egg and cheese sandwich on a croissant was a good idea? With 45% of your daily intake of fat consumed by 9am what are you supposed to do the rest of the day? Chomp on lettuce and carrots? Not likely.
My experience with starting off on a less than nutritious note is that it signals the beginning of a terrible day. When I used to endure monthly breakfast meetings I handled the tray of pastries like a mouse with an eating disorder. First I’d pile on the fruit salad, thinking it would edge out all the other bad options. But then maybe just that mini blueberry scone and how about that tiny, baby cheese danish? It’s so cute! Then I’d finish the fruit and start picking at the two treats with my fingers, nibbling tiny little pieces as if I planned on leaving some left over, which I never did. By the end of the meeting the scone, danish and ½ a blueberry muffin that somehow found its way onto my plastic plate would have disappeared down my gullet and two hours later I was starving.
Now listen, I’m not some breakfast Nazi wielding an oatmeal coated wooden spoon. I’ve had my share of frosted raspberry Pop-Tarts and I’ve never met a slice of Entenmann’s Pecan Danish Ring I didn’t like. You don’t need me to pontificate on the evil chocolate(y) dripping fangs of Count Chocula or the blood glucose spiking 410 calories of a Mocha Coconut Frappucino. But recently two commercials have caused me to press pause on my DVR in disbelief.
I am as grumpy as the next person if I don’t have my morning cup of coffee and I completely appreciate taking pleasure in a big mug of joe. But despite my childhood obsession with General Foods International Coffees (they seemed so sophisticated!) the smell of fake flavorings makes me sick. And that’s why I can’t wrap my head around a new product that seems truly foul, Baileys Coffee Creamers. At first I assumed they were made to enhance after dinner coffees, assuming Baileys=after dinner drink. (The plural “coffees” makes me cringe, by the way.) But the commercial (click yellow link to watch) proved me wrong. A woman wakes up, makes her java and sits outside on her porch watching the sun come up with her hands wrapped around her steaming cup of non-alcoholic Irish coffee. Can you think of anything more disgusting? Who would want that taste to be their first of the day? Not to mention Baileys is a little creepy whether the sun is up or down. And why do people on TV always hold their hot drinks like they’re trying to warm their freezing hands? She’s only wearing a sweater so presumably it’s not that cold where she lives. And who has time in the morning to sit outside pondering the day?
Meanwhile, while this woman and her coffee seem to be enjoying a very leisurely start, another woman is busy trying to get her kids fed and off to school. Who knew it was so hard to find a child pleasing breakfast? Even my finicky nieces scarf down a toaster waffle (organic and whole-grain of course) or a bowl of Kashi Heart to Heart without a fuss. But this poor mom can’t think of any other way to get her children to eat other than to slather a piece of toast with Nutella. (She makes a point of using the word “multi-grain” as the bread is the only nutritionally valid part of her planned meal.) Click here to watch. I was so taken aback by the positioning of Nutella as a breakfast food for children that I just had to consult the jar I had in my cabinet. (Yes, I keep it on hand for when I want to make that decadent and totally delicious pound cake.) Okay, I kind of wish I hadn’t done that. The ingredients are sugar, palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skim milk, lecithin and vanillin (fake vanilla) and the suggested two tablespoon serving delivers 200 calories, 11 grams of fat and 21 grams of sugar. How’s that for a breakfast of champions?
But even more important was my Nutella…wake-up call. For some time now I’ve been a little turned off by the oily sheen that sits on the surface and it kind of freaks me out that it doesn’t need to be refrigerated if in fact it contains milk. Also, why does palm oil come before nuts if it is a hazelnut spread? That can’t be good. (Isn’t it funny that when hazelnuts are buried in a nut-mix they’re called filberts and are usually abandoned to rot at the bottom of the can with the despised, waxy Brazil nuts?) All of this was running through my mind the last time I dipped a Pretzel Crisp into my jar of Nutella (sweet and salty, the best combo) and led me to tackle the make-your-own chocolate-hazelnut paste printed last March in the Times. It is so easy and truly sublime: the semi-sweet chocolate enhances the nuts in a way cocoa just can’t compete. It’s more like true Italian gianduja and the texture is a little thicker than the stickier goo of Nutella. But what you lose in ooziness you gain in flavor—this spread is so rich and intense that I’m tempted to toss my Nutella into the trash. Or maybe I’ll just make one last pound cake. And nibble on a tiny slice for breakfast.
Not for Breakfast Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread
Adapted From The New York Times, March 15, 2011
Printer Friendly Version
1 cup skinless hazelnuts, toasted and cooled
4 ounces chopped semi-sweet chocolate (don't use chips, break up a large bar)
4 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon nut or vegetable oil
3 Tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Either in a microwave or double boiler, melt chocolate and butter together.
Transfer to measuring cup with a spout for future easy pouring.
Stir in vanilla, condensed milk and salt.
In bowl of food processor, pulse nuts until smooth, 3-5 minutes. (Really do it for that long unless you want a chunky spread).
Using chute of processor, add vegetable oil and then chocolate/butter mixture.
Transfer to a jar or plastic container and refrigerate.
Yield: 1 1/4 cups