Carrie's Kitchen: Time to stop ignoring breakfast, lunch recipes

In my family, we’re often thinking fondly about what’s for dinner by 11 a.m. But what’s for breakfast? Or lunch? Not so much.

That’s why Mary Younkin’s cookbook, “The Weekday Lunches & Breakfasts Cookbook,” caught my eye recently while at the library. Younkin had already written a book about weeknight dinners, and is the creator of BarefeetInTheKitchen.com, and she said she wanted to share these easy to make meals that she cooks for her own family for the other less-planned meals of the day.


The cookbook was divided into “quick and easy lunches,” “make-ahead lunches,” “quick and easy breakfasts,” “make-ahead breakfasts,” and then snacks and seasoning mixes. Her ideas were great, and she claimed that most of the recipes could be made in 20 minutes or less, and while I agree that some of them may be that quick, I think that sometimes the cook time was 20 minutes and didn’t account for all the prep time. However, many of these lunch recipes were perfect for dinner as well, in which case these would be pretty quick dinners to make.

I’ve been on a pineapple kick lately, so this sticky pineapple chicken and pepper stir-fry looked appealing to me. The more I cook Asian food, the more I realize that a homemade sauce is so much better — less oily and with fewer preservatives. I recommend cutting your chicken pieces small so they really will cook quickly.


Next, there was this recipe for japchae, which is apparently a Korean stir-fry with glass noodles, which are made from sweet potato starch but you can’t taste the sweet potato. I have had glass noodles before and can vouch that I had no idea that is what they were made from — I thought it was a rice noodle. I haven’t tried this dish yet, but it is so colorful and lightly sauced, I’m really looking forward to it.

And then, just to include something from the breakfast side, I thought this savory French toast bake with ham and asparagus and Swiss cheese looked delicious, I’m planning to make this the star of my next brunch.


Sticky pineapple chicken and pepper stir-fry

For the sauce:


1 (20-ounce) can pineapple chunks, juice only (chunks reserved)

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

3 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 to 3 tablespoons chili paste, to taste

For the stir-fry:

1 tablespoon light flavored olive oil or refined coconut oil

1.5 pounds boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 medium red bell pepper, sliced into ¼-inch strips, about 1 cup

1 medium orange bell pepper, sliced into ¼-inch strips, about 1 cup

2 green onions, thinly sliced

Cooked white rice, for serving (optional)

Whisk together the pineapple juice, garlic, cornstarch, soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar and chili paste, and set the sauce next to the stove.

Heat the olive oil in a large stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and sprinkle with salt. Spread the chicken across the skillet. Let it cook for 2 minutes, until it’s white and lightly browned on one side. Flip the chicken over and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until almost cooked through. Add the red and orange bell peppers, stir, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until slightly softened and partially browned.

Pour the sauce into the skillet and stir to combine. Increase the heat as needed to bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes, until thickened. Add the pineapple chunks, continue stirring, and cook 5 to 6 minutes, until the sauce is sticky and everything is well coated. Sprinkled with green onions and serve over rice, if desired.

Cheater japchae

5 ounces glass noodles*

1 tablespoon sesame oil, divided

¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ small yellow onion, very thinly sliced, about 2/3 cup

2 large carrots, very thinly sliced into 1-inch matchsticks, about ¾ cup

1 small red pepper, very thinly sliced into strips, about 1 cup

4 cremini or baby bella mushrooms, very thinly sliced, about 1 cup

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup loosely packed baby spinach

1 green onion, very thinly sliced

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and then remove from the heat. Add the noodles and let them sit covered in the hot water for 1- minutes. Drain the noodles and use kitchen shears or a knife to roughly chop the noodles into 8 10-inch pieces. Place the noodles in a bowl and drizzle with 1 ½ teaspoons of sesame oil. Toss to coat.

In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, remaining sesame oil, and the sugar. Set aside next to the stove.

Add the olive oil to a very large skillet over high heat. Adjust the heat as necessary. If the oil begins to smoke, turn it down just slightly.

Add the onion and carrots. Cook, stirring constantly, until they’re barely softened, about 1 minute. Add the pepper, mushrooms, and garlic all at once and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the spinach and the soy sauce mixture and toss to combine. Add the noodles and cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes, tossing constantly until the noodles are hot. Remove the skillet from the heat. Sprinkle the dish with green onion before serving.

*Note: glass noodles are typically made from sweet potato starch, but they taste nothing like sweet potatoes. They may also be called cellophane noodles, mung bean threads (made with bean starch), or Chinese vermicelli, and should be available in the Asian section of most grocery stores.

Savory French toast bake

1 loaf French bread

6 eggs

½ cup milk

½ cup heavy cream

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

½ pound thinly sliced deli ham, chopped into 1-inch pieces

1 ½ cups shredded Swiss cheese, divided

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9- by 13-inch baking dish and set aside.

Use a sharp knife to slice the bread into 1-inch thick pieces and then cut those pieces into 1-inch cubes. Place the bread in a large mixing bowl.

In a small bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and add the milk, cream, salt, pepper and garlic. Whisk to combine, and pour the liquid over the bread cubes. Use a large spoon to gently stir and coat all the bread cubes. Add the asparagus, ham, and 1 cup of shredded cheese. Toss once more to evenly distribute the ingredients.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and make sure the ham and asparagus are distributed throughout. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 20 to 22 minutes, uncovered. The bread should be toasted golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve warm. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

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