Friday, February 20, 2009

Quick and Healthy Gluten-Free Breakfasts

When I was younger my parents made a well-rounded breakfast nearly every morning. Back then this consisted of scrambled eggs, toast, and fruit or pancakes, sausages, and fresh fruit. French Toast with maple syrup was a regular favorite too. Maybe even waffles made in a Mickey Mouse waffle iron. Remember those?

Of course some mornings we were all running late and had cold breakfast cereal with milk but I don't remember those mornings so much.

These days, times have changed but the well-rounded breakfast still rings true. What can you feed your family that is wholesome and if you are avoiding gluten, then gluten-free too? And what about those of you who also avoid dairy, soy, and eggs? The list of options seems to now have grown smaller, or so it may seem.

Yesterday morning I awoke and was not at all in the mood for making breakfast. We have the time, the kids are on winter break this week so no need to rush off to school, though I just wasn't up for it.

I had a pot of cooked quinoa still on the stove from the previous day. (Note: do not do this if you live in a warm climate because your quinoa will spoil quickly!) I decided to add a few tablespoons of water to the pot and put it over medium-low heat, covered, to warm up. Plain quinoa can be rather boring so I decided to spice it up by sauteing a few sliced apples with cinnamon and honey to top our bowlfuls of steaming hot quinoa. I added a few tablespoons of ground raw almonds which add a bit of "staying power" for me. The result was a delicious and nutritious gluten-free breakfast!

Quick Quinoa Breakfast with Warm Cinnamon Apples

Try making a double batch of the apples (use a larger pan) and save some in the fridge for the next few breakfasts. You can also add fresh or frozen cranberries to the apples or dried fruit such as raisins or currants. Try using other fruit in place of the apples such as fresh or frozen peaches or plums. We make large pots of quinoa but you can make a small pot like I do in this recipe.

How to Make a Pot of Quinoa:

1 cup quinoa
1 3/4 cups water
pinch sea salt

Rinse and drain the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer to remove the bitter saponin coating. Place rinsed quinoa in a small pot and add water and salt. Cover and bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove pot from heat and let stand for about 10 minutes before serving.

Cinnamon Apple Topping:.

1 to 2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
3 apples (I used Granny Smith), peeled, cored, and sliced thin
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
1/4 cup water or apple juice
2 to 3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch sea salt

Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add coconut oil. Once the oil is melted add your apples and saute far a few minutes, stirring frequently. Then add the honey, water, spices and salt. Stir and let simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until apples are cooked as desired.

Top each bowl of quinoa with apples and chopped or ground nuts.

Other Ideas for a Healthy Gluten-Free Breakfast:

  • A bowl of cooked quinoa and cooked lentils topped with a sprinkling of Herbamare. Sliced apples on the side. (our kids love this - it is a favorite)

  • Finely diced potatoes sauteed with chopped onions and cumin then rolled in a rice tortilla with black beans and salsa.

  • Leftover cooked rice and cooked garbanzo beans topped with a little Herbamare, green smoothie on the side.

  • Sweet Rice Cereal (recipe in our cookbook) topped with pure Grade B maple syrup and chopped nuts.
  • Buckwheat Pancakes (recipe in our cookbook) topped with fresh fruit and pure Grade B maple syrup.
  • Teff Breakfast Muffin with a tall glass of Green Smoothie.

These are just a few ideas that don't involve gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, or soy, some of the top foods that can elicit a host of health-related issues.

What are your ideas for a healthy (and usually quick) breakfast?

About the Author

Alissa Segersten holds a Bachelor's of Science in Nutrition from Bastyr University. She is the founder of Whole Life Nutrition, the mother of five children, a whole foods cooking instructor, professional recipe developer, and cookbook author. She is passionate about helping others find a diet that will truly nourish them, and offers elimination diet recipes, healthy gluten-free recipes, paleo and vegan recipes, as well as tips for feeding your family a nourishing, whole foods diet. Alissa is the author of two very popular gluten-free, whole foods cookbooks and guidebooks: The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook and Nourishing Meals. She is also the co-author of The Elimination Diet book. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram!


  1. That sounds yummy! Now, if I could only make my boys eat something like this! *sigh*

  2. Pavlina - Just keep offering it and eventually they may bite. It takes a child on average 10 to 15 times of tasting something new before they really go for it. Unless it is a flavor/texture they have had during the first 3 yrs of life but particularly during the first 2 yrs. Lily went through a phase where she decided she didn't like beans, I think she was three, but we kept offering them and then one day she started eating them again and again like she never had any issues with them. Now she will have a big bowlful of beans for breakfast. Don't give up.

  3. Oh, we love breakfast! Your book introduced us to many new lovely things to add into our repertoire. My daughter *loves* green smoothies and the oatmeal blueberry pancakes. She brings me the Ergo every morning and says, "cake, mama, cake" (for pancakes) or "mmm, moo-thie." Even though it's a bit more time intensive, it's a daily ritual for me to count the apple and pear slices as she puts them in the Vitamix. Then we shake and dance as all the green goodness gets blended up. My gardener friends call your smoothie the "drink of life." I make it for anyone who ventures near our house and for us daily.

    Another thing I top the quinoa or millet porridge with is: chopped almonds sautéed in olive oil with about 1/2 c. chopped carrots (for about 3 minutes or so), seasoned with 2 pinches Herbamare and curry powder. Then I top it with 1/2 c. chopped apples and some raisins.

    To do the banana teff pancakes, are you substituting teff flour for the ground oats and using that basic recipe?

    One recipe I like for breakfast is Eggs in a Nest from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver:

    A few others we like:
    Morning Rice and Raisins:
    1/3 c. raisins
    1/2 tsp. cinnamon
    1 c. water
    2 c. leftover rice
    2 T. sunflower seeds (toasted, if you like)

    Bring raisins, cinnamon and water to a boil. Lay rice on top, cover and simmer for 5 minutes, then stir. (To make it creamier, mix rice with 1/2 c. extra water in blender then simmer with raisins for 15 minutes). Top with seeds.

    Millet or Rice Porridge
    2 c. leftover millet or rice
    2/3 c. water
    1/4 c. diakon radish or turnip
    1/2 c. leafy greens
    miso or sesame salt to taste

    Dice radish or turnip, slice greens. Boil water, add roots and simmer 5 minutes. Add millet or rice and cook 5 minutes more. Flavor with miso to taste, or garnish with sesame salt.

    The last two are from "The Self-Healing Cookbook by Kristina Turner. I always try to clean out the fridge of left-over grains and veggies on mornings that we're in a hurry and need something healthy.

    It's good to hear that you have fond memories of breakfast as a child. I always hope that our little one will take a love of food with her where ever she goes from the time we spend together in the kitchen making good things to eat. :-)

  4. Oh tasty!! I've made my own version of quinoa and cinnamon apples for breaky but I like how you sauté the apples separately rather than cooking them in with the quinoa. It sounds delicious!
    What nice memories to have about family breakfasts, it's good to hear some children had decent nutrition when they were growing up! All I remember eating is tons and tons of frosted flakes. Yuck! Thanks Ali for the yummy recipe :-)

  5. We have been enjoying your nori rolls for the past few breakfasts. In fact, we had them this morning before a day of x-country skiing. My wife and I have found them grounding and energizing first thing in the morning. Since we are vegan, I used tempeh that I marinated the other day in a ginger marinade, then fried it in coconut oil. We like the combo of the sticky rice and tempeh.

    I also start the day with a cup of green tea. Sometimes two. My wife drinks black tea with agave and soy milk.

    I like the other ideas here too. Thanks for the apple topping recipe. That would be good on top of any grain.

  6. I got one of those emails the other day with tips for a better life and one was:

    Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card.

    :-) Breakfast is such an important meal and should be our biggest. Protein, protein, protein is my mantra. Even if I have some carbs, I have to eat protein to feel best. This quinoa meal sounds great. I still usually rely on small bits of leftovers to make me happiest for breakfast. It works well because in getting ready to head off to work I don't have a lot of time for planning/preparing breakfast.

    As far as getting kids to eat new things and learn to like foods, small bites are often the best. Just like they'll eat little bites of fruit and veggies, they'll eat little bites of quinoa, etc. and eventually learn to like them. Little bites are so much less intimidating and fun to all of us. Hey, that's why tapas are so popular!


  7. Jennifer - Wow such great ideas! How old is your daughter? Sounds like she is talking a lot! My boys are 14 months now and have a grunting language. They do say a few words, though not much. My girls talked much more at this age.

    I don't have either of the books you mentioned, though I have heard of them. Thanks for sharing some recipes. I like your almond-curry topping, sounds yummy!

    I will eventually post the teff pancake recipe. It is not like the oatmeal pancake recipe. Just need to make them and have the lighting right to take a photo. Hopefully soon!

    Coconutgal - Yes my mom did cook and bake a lot, I don't remember much junk food until we were older, but by then my tastes had already formed and I wasn't really into the junk foods. Your version of cooking the apples and quinoa together sounds good too.

    David - Nori rolls for breakfast sounds great! Would you mind sharing what you did for the ginger marinade? I love cross country skiing but have not done it much since I moved to the NW.

    Shirley - Yes breakfast is so important. I think leftovers are great, they are easy and usually very nutritious. And your right, small bites are best for kids. I like to use the "try-it bite" method with my girls if we have something new. I tell them they can spit it out if they don't like it. That way at least they have tasted a little bit of the flavor and eventually I try again and someday they may decide to go for it.

    -Ali :)

  8. This looks good and easy. I am going to try this over the weekend. Thanks!


  9. Dahlia is 16 months and has about 70 words--enough to cover the basic day to day needs. I have heard that language skills develop sooner in girls, though it always depends on the particular child. Having only one child, I was a fretted a bit through the dinosaur grunting phase :-).

    We had quinoa and apples for breakfast and it was yummy. I am still slightly puréeing grains for D. I can't seem to find information about when kids can have whole grains whole. My own current thought is to blend them until she has molars to chew them up. It's our working theory for now. Are you still blending the grains for the boys?

  10. Jennifer -

    I didn't realize it was you leaving these comments until you mentioned the name of your daughter here. I remember now the emails you sent me a few months ago. It’s nice to hear from you. Lily, our first daughter talked in sentences at this age with clear enunciation -- first child and female, both pluses for early talkers. It is really a lot different having boys. Just tonight though, I was noticing that Ben was trying to say "Lily" with a lot of tongue movements.

    Yes we still grind all of the grains for the boys. They each have 2 molars in now, but I am sure we will continue to grind "harder to chew" food for many months. I think we did it until about 2 yrs with the girls. It just depends on your child's chewing ability. Lily was really slow in this department. But Grace was chewing raw carrots by 10 months. Children are all so different. You will know when she is ready to move on to chewing her grains and when to introduce more foods.

    -Ali :)

  11. I am thrilled that my daughter recently decided she loves oatmeal in the morning -- we use certified gluten-free oats of course. You just can't beat oatmeal with brown sugar!

  12. Yes I can share my "secret" marinade. It is so easy, just stir together some wheat-free tamari, rice vinegar, powdered ginger, some minced fresh garlic, a squeeze of lime, and a dash or two of agave nectar. Slice the tempeh thin and marinade for an hour or more. Then fry in coconut oil.

  13. you are amazing!.. i am thrilled you have your blogs!! i,very much, love your cookbook and i make your green smoothies very regularly. people at work no longer ask me what i am drinking as they all now know! your cookbook is relatively unknown in the east.. but i am spreading the word!!!

  14. Great addition to Friday Foodie Fix. Love the topping!

  15. Oh yum! This totally looks like candy for breakfast, I will definitely have to try this!

  16. Hi Ali,
    I love these recipe ideas for making things ahead of time for breakfast - I might even start to feel organized :-)

    I just cooked up a batch of quinoa and the cinnamon apple topping and it is so delicious! I might have to keep it under lock and key so that I don't eat it all before morning :-) I can't wait to eat this tomorrow morning for breakfast.

  17. I tried this today for breakfast, but used pears instead of apples. Delicious!
    I also made the oatmeal cutout cookies on Valentine's Day and they were a huge hit, especially being gluten & dairy free. Thank you!
    I got your cookbook from my library a while back and read through it, but had to return it before I was able to try any of the recipes. Thanks for having so much stuff online, since I've been able to try out stuff that way I've been convinced the cookbook needs a permanent place in my home.
    Thanks for all you do, keep it up!

    Next up...the spicy avacado sauce.

  18. How do you grind your almonds without it turning into almond butter?

  19. I am having such a tough time with phase 1 breakfasts. Is this okay to eat during days 3-9? I can't find if honey is allowable.


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Thanks and Happy Cooking! ~Ali :)