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What’s for breakfast?

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Four delicious weekend ideas, from low-fat to decadent
Photo by Jim FlintThis breakfast casserole, with its many layers of delicious, cheesy goodness, is Christmas morning worthy, but why wait?
Photo by Jim FlintGo low and slow to achieve the perfect, fluffy scrambled eggs, here topped with shredded cheddar, chopped fresh tomato, and sauteed onion and green pepper.
Photo by Jim FlintThe secret to achieving thick, creamy smoothies is blending with chunks of frozen ripe banana.

Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but during the week who has time for more than a quick bowl of cereal or a grab-and-go toast or coffee?

The weekend, however, is a different matter. But even if we have the time, coming up with a new delicious breakfast idea can be a tall order.

No worries. We’ve got your tastebuds covered with some easy recipes that range from healthy to indulgent, from simple to decadent.

The low-fat berry smoothie tastes like a rich, creamy milkshake. You’ll never make rubbery scrambled eggs again if you follow the no-fail tips. Our make-ahead breakfast casserole is Christmas-morning worthy, but why wait? And the tender fluffy pancakes are made from scratch, but they couldn’t be easier.

Very Berry Smoothie

A smoothie is a good first course for an elaborate breakfast, or a satisfying treat on its own.

A frozen banana is the secret ingredient of a “rich” low-fat smoothie. You get the thick creaminess of a milkshake with a fraction of the calories. Serves two.

1 banana, frozen in chunks

1 cup fresh or frozen berries or pitted cherries

1 to 1-1/2 cups milk (0-1-2%)

1 to 2 tablespoon honey or sweetener

1 pinch of cinnamon

Place half-inch segments of one ripe banana on a plate in the freezer the night before. Use 1 cup of milk with fresh berries, 1-1/2 cups with frozen berries. Mix or match berries.

Blend the frozen chunks of banana, berries, milk, cinnamon and honey or sweetener (to taste) until smooth. Pour into two tall, chilled glasses. Garnish with fresh berries or mint leaf.

Freeze leftover smoothie in an ice cube tray and use next time you make smoothies.

The Perfect Scramble

The enemy of tender, fluffy scrambled eggs is a pan that’s too hot. Too much heat will yield tough, rubbery eggs. Nobody likes tough, rubbery eggs.

Go low and slow for a perfect scramble every time. Veggies cook at a rate different from eggs, so sauté them separately when you include them. Serves two.

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 green pepper, cut into thin strips

1 medium tomato, chopped

Pinch of kosher salt

1 teaspoon oil

6 eggs

3 tablespoons milk or cream

Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup shredded cheddar

Chopped fresh chives or parsley for garnish

On medium high heat, sauté onion and green pepper in a small pan until you get a little char, and set aside on a cold burner.

Chop the tomato, set aside and sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt.

With a whisk, whip eggs, scant half teaspoon salt, and milk (or cream) for about a minute to aerate the mixture.

Melt the butter in a nonstick pan on medium heat. When the butter has melted, swirl to coat pan and turn heat down to medium low.

Pour in whisked egg mixture, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan with a heat-resistant rubber or silicon spatula, gently breaking up the curds as they form, and pausing in between scrapes. Just before the eggs are finished, start reheating the onion and green pepper on medium high.

The eggs are finished when no liquid remains, but they’re still glossy. Turn scrambled eggs onto a serving platter and sprinkle with shredded cheddar. Spoon reheated onion and green pepper on top of eggs, add the fresh chopped tomatoes, and garnish with chives or parsley. Add a few grinds of fresh black pepper and serve.

Make Ahead Breakfast Casserole

This loaded strata is one insanely delicious breakfast casserole. Prepare it the night before for two reasons: 1) It allows the bread to soak up the milk and egg custard, and 2) all you have to do the next morning is pop it into the oven.

8 eggs

1 pound bulk sausage

1 medium onion, chopped

8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

2-1/2 cups milk

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 rounded teaspoon dry mustard

3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

16 ounces day-old Italian bread (or croissants), in 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese

Chopped fresh parsley and chives, for garnish

In a large skillet, brown and crumble sausage with chopped onion. Drain and set aside. Cook bacon, blot on paper towel, cut into small pieces, and add to sausage.

Tear or slice bread or croissants into 1/2-inch pieces. Combine shredded cheeses and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs, milk, salt, dry mustard, parsley, paprika and black pepper until combined.

Spread pieces of bread on the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or 3-quart oven safe dish. Top with layers in this order: half crumbled sausage and bacon mix, half cup of the cheeses, the rest of the sausage mix, and another half cup of the cheeses.

Pour the egg mixture over the top, poking any unsoaked bread down into the custard with a wooden spoon. Spread the remaining half cup of shredded cheeses on top.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, remove from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature while the oven preheats to 350 degrees. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes on a middle rack of oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and chives.

NOTE: If you use more or different veggies in the casserole, such as green pepper or mushrooms, sauté them first to release excess moisture.

Decadent Pancakes

This may become your new favorite pancake recipe for when you crave a really decadent, fluffy stack. They’re so tender and perfect for soaking up syrup or the juice from macerated berries.

This recipe’s extra butter in the batter gives a soft and moist interior crumb. The extra egg yolk provides additional structure to hold the bubbles and allow the pancakes to rise.

2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder (aluminum-free if you prefer)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large egg, plus an extra yolk

2 cups buttermilk

4 tablespoons unsalted melted butter

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place sheet pan in a 200-degree oven to keep pancakes warm, unless you’re serving them as they are cooked.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla. (If you don’t have buttermilk, add 2 tablespoons white vinegar or lemon juice to a measuring cup, fill with whole milk to the 2-cup mark, stir and let sit for 10 minutes.)

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir gently with a whisk until batter is just combined. A few small lumps are OK.

NOTE: Allow the batter to rest, uncovered, for 30 minutes. It will be thick, but do not thin the batter with more milk. Resting allows the gluten to relax and the starch grains to swell for a tender, fluffier pancake.

Heat a griddle to 350 degrees. When hot, rub the end of a stick of butter on the griddle until covered with a thin layer of melted butter. Cut heat to 300-325 degrees.

Pour 1/4-cup batter for each pancake, using a small measuring cup. Spread the batter if needed with bottom of the cup or a spoon.

Cook until edges start to firm, bubbles begin to pop on top, and bottoms are golden brown. Turn and cook until second side is golden brown.

If cooking in more than one batch, butter the griddle for each.

Serve with macerated berries and a dollop of whipped cream, or butter and syrup.

Reach Ashland writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.