Breakfast Basics: Comfort foods, ethnic dishes "hot" items this year

Child nutrition directors are adding ethnic dishes, comfort foods and self-serve items to breakfast menus this year.

FoodService Director - K-12 Spotlight - breakfast - Burlington Schools, Ponca City SchoolsAt the Burlington (Vt.) School District, Doug Davis added a self-serve burrito bar at his high school last year. “It’s relatively popular,” Davis says. “We have a lot of different cultures and ethnicities here, so we are always trying for a vegetarian protein for breakfast. Egg sandwiches are really labor intensive, and the processed ones you can purchase are pretty expensive. Commodity eggs are truly a good value and cost effective. [The commodity eggs] go together really easy. You can put them in a hotel pan and cook them up. They are a really good vehicle for other products. You can put roasted leftover roots in it. We also put broccoli and cheddar cheese in them. You can just keep adding to the [eggs], so it really works well for us.”

Flour and corn tortillas are available, as well as toppings like hot sauce, salsa, cheese and sour cream. Davis says about 25% of the students who eat breakfast select the burrito bar. Davis also says the eggs, without a tortilla, are a favorite among students who follow a gluten-free diet.At one elementary school, Davis has piloted a crustless quiche. “It’s like a whipped egg and we put broccoli, potato and onion in it,” he says. “It’s cut up into squares and plated. The scrambled egg [from the burrito bar] is basically the same ingredients, it’s just whipped up a little bit different. The kids like it and it holds up pretty well on the line. It’s very versatile. You can always find stuff to put in it.”

Jeff Denton, director of child nutrition at the Ponca City (Okla.) School District, also offers breakfast burritos, which are made from scrambled eggs, onion and Mexican seasoning. The mixture is put in a 10-inch flour tortilla and topped with cheddar cheese. Salsa and tater tots are available with the burritos, and Denton says some students opt to put the tater tots inside of the burrito.

Sandra Cole, school nutrition program supervisor at Buchanan County Public Schools in Grundy, Va., also says housemade breakfast wraps and burritos have been well accepted among her students. The wraps are made with eggs, cheese, bacon and tomatoes, which are served in a flour tortilla with taco sauce.

Comfort foods also are a popular breakfast addition. Cole menus housemade cinnamon rolls served with rice or baked apples. She says it is a “rare, but loved treat.”

Ponca City’s Denton, says, “Traditional breakfast items still seem to be the most popular with this group of students.” He says items like eggs, bacon and sausage are favorites. The most popular breakfast item is housemade biscuits and sausage gravy. He says grits are also making a comeback.

In Arlington (Va.) Public Schools, Amy Maclosky, director of food and nutrition services, has added two healthy breakfast items. The first is a yogurt parfait made with vanilla yogurt, granola and fresh fruit. The parfait was added this fall. For the winter menus, oatmeal with a dried fruit and nut topping will be added.

Maclosky says the parfaits were taste tested with students last year, as well as offered on the department’s Earth Day menus. After the success of the two trial runs last year, Maclosky decided to add the parfaits full time.

“As far at the oatmeal is concerned, it seems to be growing in popularity at the fast food restaurants and at Starbucks,” she says. “I am hoping that the kids will enjoy an old favorite as a new healthy option.”

Oatmeal also was added to the breakfast menus in Ponca City. Until last year the students were offered instant oatmeal. “We replaced the instant with homemade oatmeal in bulk with toppings such as raisins, nuts, brown sugar and other items for [students] to build their own oatmeal creation,” Denton says. “Oatmeal is inexpensive, so adding the toppings didn’t hurt our budget.”

Denton also added other self-serve breakfast items, such as pancake and waffle bars with toppings such as strawberries, peaches and nuts. “The students seem to enjoy building their own creations,” he adds.