Although my wonderful parents undoubtedly hoped fun family outings and visions of sugarplums would dominate my childhood memories, I’d wager at least 40% of my youthful remembrances are about none other than cereal.
Yes, you heard me right. That crunchy, processed, sweet breakfast staple of the 80s and 90s was a huge part of my childhood, and it’s present in an alarming number of memories from my formative years:
- I remember Mom traveling out of town and Dad conspiratorially scooping a giant ball of mint chocolate chip atop my Frosted Flakes.
- I remember whipping up a batch of peanut butter-Cheerio bars between Full House and Family Matters for our TGIF snack.
- I remember realizing my then 14-year-old sister was a bona fide adult when she stopped eating Crunch Berries and started requesting the very grown up Raisin Nut Bran as her breakfast of choice.
I mean, my brother and I literally played a cereal-themed computer game called Chex Quest for years that we got in a cereal box in 1996. Let’s all process that for a second.
In my family, weekends were for waffles, but every Monday through Friday, the cereal boxes made their way to the breakfast table en masse. We’d read the backs of them, we’d jostle for the toys inside, and then we’d head off to school, only to do it all over again the next morning. And so it continued for years and years, but then something crazy happened: cereal stopped being my breakfast of choice.
I don’t know what ultimately did it — maybe it was my newfound understanding of protein and fiber, maybe it was the fact I’d moved to the city of bagels, maybe it was that cheesy eggs seemed a better cure for the hangovers of my early 20s — but somewhere along the way, I stopped eating cereal.
And it turns out, I’m not alone. With the rise of low-carb diets, eating on the go and America’s fascination with Greek yogurt, good old milk & cereal has had a tough go in recent years. I realize my instagram isn’t scientific, but I definitely see more pictures of chia seed pudding and eggs Benedict than I do bowls of Raisin Bran, and I bet you a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch that you do, too.
That said, I think cereal can still have a place in an adult diet, even for an adult like me trying to limit the intake of processed foods. In fact, one of the best recipes in my repertoire sports breakfast cereal as one of its main ingredients. The recipe, inspired by the other great Anne blogger on the internet, is always a crowd pleaser, and if you’re looking to get some Kelloggs back into your diet, here’s a delicious way:
Cornflake-Crusted Chicken Fingers
1 package chicken breast or, if you’re super lazy/brilliant, already sliced chicken tenders
1 T hot sauce or dijon mustard
2 cups cornflakes, crushed
a mix of your favorite spices to taste (I usually do garlic salt, paprika and black pepper – 1/4-1/2 teaspoon)
- Preheat oven to 375.
- In a shallow bowl, add your spices to your crushed cornflakes.
- In a different bowl, crack your egg(s), and stir in with a fork either the mustard or hot sauce to give it some flavor.
- Once your chicken is tender sized, dip each one individually in the egg and then into the corn flakes, coating completely.
- Place the coated chicken on a sprayed cookie sheet, then bake about 12-14 minutes or until cooked through.
- Enjoy, in this case, with roasted carrots and parsnips.
This recipe can be tweaked in so many ways: when I was on Whole 30, I used flax seed and unsweetened coconut instead of cornflakes; when I was at the new house without any spices, I crushed up a bag of Old Bay potato chips and mixed them into the cornflake mixture for flavor; when I’ve found myself eggless, I’ve used yogurt instead as the pre-cereal base. Either way, it’s an easy, delicious meal, and one I hope will find its way into some of your kitchens as well.
What are you cooking with cereal these days? If your answer is rice crispy treats, please come find me immediately. I want one.
One thought on “Cereal Girl”
An anonymous observer writes: In fact, scrambled eggs, French toast, pancakes, and oatmeal – sometimes nourishing cream-of-wheat – were our breakfast staple until the children were teens and collectively announced they no longer wanted big, home-cooked meals in the morning. Anyone with a different recollection would do well to remember her beloved beagle, Wags, greedily inhaling all the left-over scrambled eggs and bacon bits right out of the frying plan – and getting more-and-more portly until, on a day that broke his little heart, his childhood friends switched exclusively to dry cereal, and he had to wait until Sunday mornings for left-over waffles covered with maple syrup and melted mint chocolate chip ice cream.