The “Buffet breakfast” a la France

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Breakfast is the most important meal of the day (we tell our kids all the time) and it’s my (Amanda) favorite meal. As we all heard in the wedding speech, my favorite cereal is Honey Bunches of Oats and I’ve had a total of 3 boxes shipped over to Europe since we moved! (Thanks MOM!!!!) We wrote about a pretty powerful experience with a European buffet breakfast during our trip to the Kruiserenhotel in Maastricht. As we researched hotels in France for our big trip, we noticed that many bnb’s charged extra for the breakfast—and a pretty penny, some costing €24 per head! We expected luxury: sweet breads, cheeses, freshly-made confitures, jams with milk from local farms (aren’t there hundreds in France?) and of course, plenty of baguette to go around. What we experienced was a bit hit or miss. (fyi: we didn’t indulge in the €24 breakfast at the castle)

The standard French buffet breakfast includes:

  • baguette (at best, it’s freshly cut upon request and brought by the basket-full to your table)
  • fruit salad (canned pineapple, melon cubes, orange slices and squishy grapes watered down by the preservative juices)
  • yoghurt (single serving plastic containers)
  • croissants (at best, they were fresh! but unfortunately many were not)
  • whole milk
  • orange juice
  • cold cereal (corn flakes or granola)
  • coffee and tea (from canteens or at best in individual tea bags)
Included in a more ‘elegant’ spread:
  • hot cereals
  • cooked eggs
  • fresh fruit (bananas, apples, cut strawberries)
  • fresh squeezed juice
  • goat cheese
  • fruit quiche-like pastry (Graeme liked these)
  • pies (apple or fruit–again, Amanda didn’t really go for this)
  • honey, fruit jams and jellies
  • butter (you always have to ask for it)
My parents are also experts at the ‘make your lunch at breakfast’ game. They always come prepared with zip-lock baggies, large napkins and purses to carry off the plunder. Graeme was always a bit uncomfortable with this idea until he realized that we were paying a fortune for the breakfast and often skipping meals due to our, um, jam-packed activity schedule. So, I’m proud to say that Graeme has been converted!
When you start the day off with a good, nutritious breakfast, you can last for hours until needing to eat again. At school Graeme and I mix bran into our muesli or dry oats cereal to up our fiber intake. Our selection of fruit is limited during the week and any ‘hot’ components have to wait until the weekend. On weekends we spend 30-45min in the kitchen supervising the kids creating a hot and cold brunch spread. Here’s a photo from last week.

Sometimes we make smoothies, and occasionally we have extra special fruit (melon or canteloup). Whenever I can, I make my own special treats. One of our students was suffering from iron-deficient anemia, so I collected some spinach from our local shop. Jenny had shared a fabulous new food blog she discovered and they had featured some spinach muffins that I wanted to try.

spinach muffins

french toast

french toast on the deck

This morning I whipped up the last half of egg (the other half went into yesterday’s bran muffins) into a French Toast dish. For many of us, our kitchen time is eaten up by emails, skype calls, walks in the forest, evening activities. I often get anxious about trying new recipes with complicated or numerous ingredients even if the prep and cook time is minimal. I’ve learned that if I stock ingredients in advance and force myself to just pull out a recipe card spontaneously, I’ll be less anxious about preparing new or different dishes. So this week I made spinach muffins, bran muffins, french toast and chai tea (from scratch).

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