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Voices

There will be no waffling

Escaping the heat when the chef for the children’s breakfast menu is . . . you

By Doug Most
Globe Staff / December 1, 2009

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Snippets from a typical weekday morning with the 4-year-old girl in our harried household, where one parent is often out the door before 8, leaving the other to fend for two hungry children:

“Julia, what do you want for breakfast? Oatmeal?

“Waffles. And sausage.’’

“What about cereal?

“Waffles.’’

“Eggs?’’

“Waffles.’’

Now to be fair, she is an adventurous eater. Still, I sometimes wonder what would happen if we offered her chocolate chip cookies and chocolate milk. Would she snap back “waffles’’ simply out of habit, or catch herself? (Not about to test that one.)

This scenario, while perhaps slightly exaggerated, is what caused a mild panic in our household recently when Kellogg’s announced that a flood in its Atlanta factory would cause a shortage of Eggo waffles on supermarket shelves through mid-2010. When I told my wife, she reacted as if someone had finally managed to explain nuclear physics to her. “Ahhhh,’’ she said. “That’s why I couldn’t find them the other day! I was looking all over.’’

Yes, there are other waffle brands. Yes, French toast is a fine substitute. But this seemed the perfect opportunity to expand Julia’s breakfast horizon, and so I asked some chefs and restaurateurs around town for fast, cheap, and easy breakfast ideas for children (and adults for that matter).

Their answers ranged from creative surprises to predictable favorites that are worth remembering before your morning caffeine has kick-started your brain.

Ana Sortun, chef and owner of Oleana and Sofra Bakery and Cafe, e-mails that she makes breakfast for her 4-year-old daughter every morning.

“She loves dried mango slices torn up. I usually give her some fruit first so that she eats it all and while she’s eating dried fruit or fresh fruit (grapes, precut pineapple you can buy so easily), I take Greek yogurt and stir in a generous amount of honey or jam.’’

Smoothies are another winner, Sortun says, because her daughter likes dumping the fruit in the blender and adding honey or juice.

Babak Bina, the owner of Bina Osteria, Lala Rokh, and Bin 26 Enoteca, and father to 7- and 4-year-olds, mixes seasonal fruit into the 365 brand pound cake mix to make mini muffins that are easy and easy to freeze.

Scott Robertson, executive chef at Grafton Street Pub & Grille-mailed that “presentation goes a long way’’ in the morning routine with a picky eater like his 5-year-old son, who gives funny nicknames to his favorite breakfasts.

“Ants on a log,’’ he suggested. For this, Robertson fills a hearty piece of celery with a generous serving of peanut butter and places a line of raisins or craisins on top.

Or try another big hit, banana buttons, where Robertson slices bananas into “buttons’’ and gives his son a few tablespoons of honey, peanut butter, or almond butter for dipping.

Rachel Klein, who has a 2-year-old son and whose Aura Restaurant has instituted a child-friendly Friday-night meal, says her goal is a breakfast that both of them will eat and that takes less than three minutes prep time.

Instant oatmeal is one, with assorted toppings such as dried cranberries, raisins, brown sugar, nuts. Or fried grits (make the grits the night before, she says, let them sit in a brownie pan in the fridge, then cut up and fry in butter). Served with maple syrup, they are a can’t-miss meal. Similarly, a fast quiche can be made the night before with a store-bought pie crust, and eggs, cream, and whatever cheeses or veggies are lying around thrown into a bowl.

Chef Peter Davis at Henrietta’s Table resorts to an old favorite: egg in a hole. “With a cookie cutter, cut a hole in a slice of bread, place the bread in a heated skillet with melted butter, crack an egg into the hole in the bread, and cook until the bread is toasted on the bottom. Then flip and toast the second side.’’

Maybe the most creative, and simplest suggestion, came from a place where breakfast (crispy raised waffles with mounds of fruit; breakfast burritos stuffed with eggs, black beans, cheese, and salsa) has developed a cult-like following: Centre Street Cafe in Jamaica Plain.

Felicia Sanchez, the owner, said just try this: Take a banana, cut it in half lengthwise, slather it with peanut butter, and then roll it in granola to give it a good crunchy crust. What kid could resist that?

And, Sanchez said, “It would take about two seconds to make.’’

What parent could resist that?

Leggo my what?