Breakfast at night, anyone?

It wasn't until her husband suggested waffles one evening that she thought outside the realm of meatloaf for dinner.

When I was growing up, dinner was always serious business – at least as far as the content of the meal was concerned. My mom typically prepared conventional supper fare such as baked chicken and pot roast with all the appropriate veggie trimmings.

For years after I became an adult, I continued to think of the evening meal in meat-and-potatoes terms. It wasn't until my husband proposed fixing waffles one night that I ventured into the realm of breakfast for dinner.

Considering that I've had a long-standing love affair with waffles, his suggestion could not have fallen on more receptive ears. Within minutes, I had measured the requisite flour, butter, and milk and cracked open a couple of eggs – ingredients I always have on hand.

As I mixed the batter, we began reminiscing about how our grandmothers cooked these crisp honeycombed quick breads for us (mine for lunch, his for dinner), and in no time flat, we not only had a satisfying meal on the table but a new family tradition in the making.

From waffles, I branched out to nighttime experiments with other favorite morning foods. First, I tried German pancakes, which earned my unending devotion because of their fast and easy preparation.

Ballooning to a lovely golden brown color when baked in the oven, these egg-rich delights sink like a souffle at room temperature, creating a warm, almost creamy pancake. Sprinkled with confectioners' sugar and drizzled with freshly squeezed lemon juice, they make a compelling reason to trade in your meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

Next came wafer-thin Swedish pancakes. No sooner had my Scandinavian neighbor introduced me to this dish from her native Stockholm than they became staples on the supper roster as well. Similar to a crepe, they're a snap to make and taste especially good served as she likes them – with whipped cream and sliced strawberries. The hardest part of cooking these pancakes is refraining from eating too many before they reach the table. Should any happen to be left over, you can look forward to polishing them off the following morning.

Once suppertime waffles and pancakes became part of our life, I never thought of this fare as unusual until some friends brought their daughter and grandchildren over late one afternoon. We needed to whip up something quickly for the seven of us to eat, so I suggested waffles and bacon. The adults didn't blink an eye. The children, however, looked at me with puzzled expressions.

"Waffles?" the 10-year-old asked doubtfully. "For dinner?"

"Sure, why not?" I replied, realizing immediately that she, too, must be growing up in a conventional supper household. When she understood that I wasn't joking and that her mom approved of the menu, her face broke into the sunniest grin imaginable. She and her younger brother started giggling with delight at their unexpected good fortune. In fact, they were so enthused about the idea, they volunteered to help stir the batter and pour it into the sizzling-hot waffle iron.

Although I don't know when these friends will visit us again, I do know one thing for sure. Come evening, they'll definitely want breakfast for dinner.

German Pancakes

3 tablespoons regular butter or margarine

3 large eggs

3/4 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

Confectioners' sugar, maple syrup, or fruit topping, for serving

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Melt the butter or margarine in a 10-inch nonstick ovenproof skillet over low heat. Then remove the pan from the burner.

In a blender, mix the remaining ingredients until the batter is smooth. Pour into the prepared skillet and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Bake until the pancake is puffed and lightly browned, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve immediately, garnishing with maple syrup, confectioners' sugar, or your favorite fruit topping.

This yields 2 to 4 servings, depending on how hungry you are.

Dutch Baby Apple Pancake

1/4 cup regular butter or margarine

2 large, sweet apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick wedges

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

4 large eggs

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)

Confectioners' sugar for dusting and maple syrup (if desired)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Melt butter in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat and then place 2 tablespoons of it in a blender. Add apple wedges to skillet and cook, turning once, until they begin to soften, 3 to 5 minutes.

While apples cook, add milk, flour, eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg (if using) to butter in blender and blend until smooth.

Pour this batter over the apples in the skillet and place in the oven. Bake until pancake is puffed and golden, about 15 minutes. Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve immediately, with maple syrup, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

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