Mollie Katzen's self-named book `Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Café' is a very welcome addition to the very small number of books available on breakfast. As I have just reviewed a classic, `The Breakfast Book' from the widely recognized author, Marion Cunningham, it seemed only appropriate that I tackle this new breakfast book by an equally honored writer who is best known for her books on vegetarian cooking co-authored with the Moosewood Collective.
Before I loose you in my usually long discourse, let me say that this book can do more good for your eating and health than just about any three other books put together. This opinion is based both on the quality of the book and the special position of it's subject.
Most people give less attention to breakfast than to either lunch or dinner. This means that breakfast is the one meal where the room for improvement is the greatest. It certainly has a higher potential for improvement than lunch, as most people eat lunch outside of the home. Even if they carry lunch from home, the range of foods, which can be made portable without special equipment, is smaller than what can be prepared and eaten in ones own kitchen.
This book is directed not only at a very wide range of good breakfast food, it is also directed at giving you the information you need to eat a nutritious breakfast with few or no `empty calories.
The book starts with a brief essay on how the body deals with carbohydrates, especially upon eating the first meal of the day, or, `breaking fast'. The long and the short of this story is that you are much better eating whole grains with protein and good fats rather than sugars and quickly digested starches. The remainder of the book is dedicated to making this option appealing.
The recipe chapters are:
Beverages: The straight skinny on coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and smoothies.
Fruit, including fruit salads, dried and roasted fruits, and crisp or cobbler.
Grains, Cereals, and Porridges, including an excellent tabular presentation of grain cooking characteristics.
Muffins, Biscuits, Breads, and Buns, including all the classics plus great stuff with bran and whole grains.
Eggs, Tofu, Scrambles, Quiches & Souffles, or Protein Central. Lots of basic methods.
Potatoes, Beans, Tempeh & Hashes. Lots of Potato recipes and unusual hashes.
(Other) Vegetables for Breakfast, especially tomatoes, mushrooms, and spinach
Griddle Foods: Pancakes, Waffles, Blintzes, Crepes & French Toast
Yogurt and Cheese: Lactose central with (mostly) ricotta and other soft cheeses.
Puddings and Custards: Sweeten up your egg protein and vegetable goodness.
Condiments, Sauces, Toppings & Spreads with syrups, sauces, salsas Jams, Aioli, Ketchup, etc
Breakfast Bars, Coffee Cakes & Sweet Somethings: Home for lots of nuts, berries, and seeds
Menus, or how to really do a healthy pig out on Sunday morning
The book is laid out with lots of sidebars on tips and techniques which make it very easy to read and to find what you are looking for. Each chapter title page gives a complete table of recipes in the chapter. Almost (but not quite) as good as a complete list of recipes in the front of the book. Be sure to check the index when you are looking for a specific recipe. French toast, for example, appears in Griddle Foods and not Eggs or Breads and Potato Pancakes appears in griddle foods and not under potatoes.
The author wins me over completely when she quotes the line on omelets by Elizabeth David that says that the perfect omelet recipe is the way you make it. Another good quote describes an omelet as nothing more than eggs, butter, and body English. Of course, she goes on to give detailed instructions on how to make a good omelet and says it is not easy. Moral of the story, read and emulate her directions, but don't get too hung up on the result not looking like something done on the Food Network. Just keep practicing until you are happy with the result.
Not nearly enough has been written about the economics of home cooking versus prepared foods. Ms. Katzen's recipe for granola is probably an excellent place to start. A quick look at the health food aisles of my local megamart shows designer brand containers with less than a pound of food for prices that would make a beef fillet blush. Granola is a product that is almost completely foolproof to make from ingredients that individually are very, very cheap. And, I checked out those same health food aisles in the megamart and I found every single ingredient in bulk.
To repeat, Ms. Katzen's book is probably one of the very best places to start in improving what you eat. It is a very nice bonus that the list price of the book is significantly lower than the average cookbook and the artwork done by the author is truly delightful.
Very highly recommended. Easy for people with little cooking knowledge.