How a simple breakfast saved my family from morning meltdowns

Feb 17, 2016 at 9:46 a.m. ET
Image: Shauna James Ahern/SheKnows

It’s 8 in the morning. We need to be in the car to leave for school in 45 minutes. Both kids are still in their pajamas.

Lucy wants us to put on "Uptown Funk" for a dance party. Desmond starts bending his knees and shrugging his shoulders when he hears the name of the song. We still have to get them both in clothes, teeth brushed, faces washed, homework tucked into their backpacks, the toddler’s bag packed for daycare, hair combed, last-minute trips to the bathroom and coffee in our cups before we can go anywhere. And we haven’t eaten breakfast yet.

A few months ago, my stomach would have been in knots at this point. How could we survive the chaos of a 7-year-old and a toddler, both of them hungry, no food on the table yet, and so much left to do? This is why most people plonk down a bowl of sugary cereal in front of the kids. I get it. Cereal is easy and convenient. For us, though, cereal never felt like the right choice. A big bowl of sugary cereal is no way to start a day of learning. Danny is a chef. I’m a food writer. We wanted to cook our kids a good breakfast.

However, for a long time, we went too far the other way. We felt obliged to make a different breakfast, from scratch, every morning. Quinoa fritters. Congee with pork and green scallion sauce. Homemade hash browns with fried eggs. Buckwheat crepes with ham and gruyere. Soaked steel cut oatmeal porridge. Breakfast became a more and more elaborate affair. The kids grew cranky, since they needed to eat now, not whenever the risotto was done simmering. It all grew a little silly. And exasperating.

There’s always a middle way.

Image: Shauna James Ahern/SheKnows

Our daughter developed a fervent love for waffles. Who doesn’t love waffles? They’re light and crunchy, soft in the middle, and tasty on their own. Better yet, we discovered, they make a great vehicle for other foods: fried eggs, peanut butter, ham and cheese. If there was a waffle at the base, Lucy would eat anything we put on top. And since Desmond adores his big sister more than the sun and the moon, he started eating waffles too. Given that Lucy asked for waffles for breakfast three days in a row, I started working on a recipe for soaked buckwheat groats waffle batter, which would sit in the refrigerator overnight and be ready to pour into our waffle maker. After a couple of weeks of tinkering, I was pretty happy with it. But the morning was still chaotic, as Desmond demanded to stand on a chair and help. “I cook! I cook!” Gloppy batter + hot waffle iron + hungry toddler? This wasn’t a good weekday practice.

During one trip to the grocery store, Lucy spotted waffles in the freezer section. “Mom! Waffles! Can we get some?” Exhausted after a day of work and trying to pry the toddler off my leg, I said, “Sure, honey, as long as you can grab them.” I’ve long liked Van's gluten-free waffles. They have a good crunch and pleasing appearance without weird ingredients and fillers and preservatives. And I love that they sweeten the waffles with fruit juice instead of sugar. The next morning, I popped the frozen waffles in the toaster. While they were toasting, I scrambled up some eggs. And we ate scrambled eggs on waffles for breakfast. It took five minutes to make. The kids ate everything.

Now, on the weekdays, we have breakfasts down to a ritual. The kids ask to dance. Danny puts on the music. I plop four Van’s waffles in the toaster. (We use the original flavor, instead of the fruit flavors, for a savory breakfast.) And I heat up leftovers from last night’s dinner. While they are heating, I dance around to whatever the latest song of the day is. (Right now, it’s “Shipoopi” from The Music Man.) We sit down to breakfast together, happy. One morning, it might be waffles and fried eggs with a dollop of pesto. Sometimes, it’s leftover pork and green scallion sauce or pizza waffles with leftover tomato sauce and melted cheese. Another day, it’s waffles with peanut butter and bananas. (That one is always easy.) The kids are getting protein and vegetables and they always eat it, since the foods they need are nestled on top of waffles.

Image: Shauna James Ahern/SheKnows

We make it to the car in time,  no problem at all. They have full bellies. And we’re all relaxed.

It’s a good way to start the day.

Vans Pizza Waffle


  • 1 Vans waffle
  • 3 tablespoons pizza sauce
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


Toast the waffle. Turn on the broiler in the oven while the waffle is toasting. Top the toasted waffle with the pizza sauce. Spread the cheese over it. Put the waffle on a sheet pan under the broiler and cook until the cheese is bubbly and starting to brown.

Vans Fried Egg Waffle


  • 1 Vans waffle
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 egg


Toast the waffle. While the waffle is toasting, set a small skillet over medium heat. Pour in the olive oil and crack the egg on top of it. When the egg white has turned completely white in the pan, flip the egg. Cook for 1 minute more, then salt the egg and turn off the heat. Put the egg on top of the waffle.

This post is a part of a sponsored collaboration between Van's Frozen Waffles and SheKnows