Breakfast, the most important meal of the day, can become an easy-going  indulgence for new retirees or empty-nesters. More time is your own these days, so instead of popping up like toast five days a week and rushing off to work, you can relax and enjoy a fairly simple brunch with your spouse, partner or best friend.

Breakfast, the most important meal of the day, can become an easy-going  indulgence for new retirees or empty-nesters. More time is your own these days, so instead of popping up like toast five days a week and rushing off to work, you can relax and enjoy a fairly simple brunch with your spouse, partner or best friend. 


Two of the three dishes we have assembled here can be prepared ahead of time, and the third is cooked to order, just before it’s served, so immediate cooking chores are minimal. The menu includes Green and Gold Omelets, Squash Gratins and Whole-Wheat Apple Muffins.


A bit of heart-healthy nutrition is built into these dishes, but without fanfare. We simply have more whites than yolks, whole-wheat flour, emphasis on vegetables and fruits, meat as a flavoring rather than a full serving, and plenty of spices with moderate salt or salt substitute.


Plan for pampering


It takes only a little forethought to build this meal into your schedule. Two days before your brunch, make Whole Wheat-Apple Muffins. Wrap these carefully and squirrel them away in the fridge. Feel free to simplify this part of the meal by buying muffins or making cinnamon toast points instead.


The night before your brunch, prepare Squash Gratins. These take advantage of late summer or early autumn produce. We used long-necked yellow squash, diced red onion, crumbled bacon and panko, Japanese bread crumbs that are available in many supermarkets. Our recipe makes four single-serving gratins. You’ll wrap and refrigerate them without their bread crumb topping. That’s added just before they’re baked.   


Individual omelets come to the table right from the stove. Green and Gold Omelets combine egg whites with whole eggs, cumin, turmeric, salt (or salt substitute) and pepper. These are whipped into a red-gold foam while chopped green onion, green bell pepper and broccoli florets are sautéed in a little oil in a nonstick skillet. Pour the egg foam over the veggies and let the mixture cook for a moment. Lift and stir gently. Turn the omelet carefully. Egg white omelets are often temperamental and may be a bit free-form. Their mouth-feel and  flavor are better if they’re not overcooked. Garnish each helping with elegant stems of chive. 


Squash gratins




Unsalted butter for ramekins

1 large long-necked

yellow squash (about 8 inches long), peeled and sliced in 1/4-inch widths

1 teaspoon canola oil

1/3 cup diced celery

1 cup diced red onion

1/4 to 1/2  teaspoon salt or salt substitute

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

3 thin strips bacon, fried crispy, then crumbled or chopped

1/3 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Garnish: 4 cherry tomatoes, cleaned and sliced


Butter 4 half-cup ramekins; set aside on a rimmed baking sheet.


Steam the squash slices until just fork-tender. Don’t overcook. 


Preheat oven to 400 degrees (if baking and serving gratins right away). Place nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and sauté chopped celery and onion. Add salt or salt substitute and nutmeg. Stir in crumbled bacon.


Layer squash and other vegetables in the buttered ramekins, patting down so the tiers are tight. Mix panko and Parmesan, and top each gratin with a lid of this mixture. Bake until bread crumb topping is slightly browned and filling is heated through, about 11 minutes, depending on your oven. 


If you’re making these ahead, stop after layering the vegetables into the ramekins. Wrap them in plastic wrap or foil. Refrigerate until about a half-hour before baking. Allow to come to room temperature. Top with bread crumbs and bake as instructed. 


To serve, garnish each gratin with cherry tomato slices. Serve hot.


Makes 4 half-cup servings.