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No-Cook Cooking: Bring your own flavor to continental breakfast

No-Cook Cooking: Bring your own flavor to continental breakfast

Sometimes, a go-big-or-go-home American breakfast is exactly what you need, with eggs, bacon, hash browns, pancakes and, if you’re lucky, a biscuit smothered with peppery homemade sausage gravy. Adding some beans and sliced tomatoes to a plate of sausage, bacon, eggs and toast for a traditional English breakfast can feed your nostalgia for that sentimental trip you remember — or can’t wait to take once things settle down.

There are other times when a sleek continental breakfast is the ideal start to a great day. The classic combination of croissants, jam, butter and fruit, served with hot coffee in a bold, wake-the-neighbors roast, hits all the right notes with minimal fuss. And for the No-Cook Cooking cook, there’s literally no cooking; it’s so easy that boiling water for the French press almost feels like work.

A continental breakfast can elevate all kinds of early-morning moments. Whether you’re celebrating a particularly entertaining season of a favorite show you’ve been binge-watching all night or eating quickly before heading out for a fall day trip, the deceptively simple satisfaction of pastry, fruit and coffee lends itself well to endless variations — and still never gets old. If you can’t get a child to sit still for breakfast on a holiday morning or before hitting the road for an exciting event, just substitute milk for the coffee and a fruity muffin for the croissant and feel better knowing that there’s at least something wholesome in that impatient tummy.

The secret to a satisfying continental breakfast is to choose your components carefully and put some thought into selecting high-quality ingredients. Bring out the small plates you usually reserve for the holidays and make it feel like an occasion. Choosing a theme can make serving those items a delight, and you’re limited only by your imagination.

Commonwealth continentalThere’s no reason why a buy-local breakfast can’t have flair. Try creating a continental breakfast from Virginia-made products and farm-fresh choices from your favorite local produce market, bakery, dairy or orchard store. Start stocking your pantry with jams, jellies and preserves made from local fruits, and remember that apple butter season is coming right up.

Imagine impressing out-of-town guests with the revelation that the pastries were baked, the jam jarred, the butter wrapped and the coffee roasted within a matter of miles from your home. Buying local is a delicious way to start eating more mindfully, because it can help you link nourishment and sustenance with a sense of community and connection.

It also is a thoughtful way to make gift shopping much easier. If you’re the host during the upcoming holiday season, think how organized you’ll feel at a hectic time of year when you send family members home with an extra jar of the local peach preserves they’d just raved about over breakfast.

Fair-trade fareIf you’re a read-the-cereal-box kind of breakfast eater, you probably wonder where your food comes from. Before you begin your own daily grind, maybe you think about the one faced by the coffee farmers and field workers behind your steaming mug of professionalism.

A continental breakfast is a excellent opportunity to source ethically grown, harvested and prepared products that reflect your values and help you put your money where your mouth is. If the youth group at church is selling fair-trade coffee by the bag, buy some — and then swing by the bake sale at the community center.

Now’s the time to bring out the stoneware plates and cups you watched a local potter make for you and the butter spreaders you saw a blacksmith hammer into shape at a festival. And if you’re putting a gift basket together from fair-trade products, take the extra step to pack everything in a locally hand-woven basket.

Special requestsCustomize your continental breakfast gift package for that special someone with vegan alternatives to butter, gluten-free baked goods or low-carbohydrate options. Reach for sugar-free preserves or fruits that are lower on the glycemic index.

Make it meaningful for the friend who recycles and avoids paper waste by wrapping the glass jars in beautiful fabric napkins or kitchen towels in his or her favorite colors and tucking in a reusable stainless steel travel mug.

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