So, another year at UVic! My head is already repeating the “calm down” mantra as I try and remember the limit definition, derivatives, lipid-bilayers, the Kreb’s cycle, and functional groups. Settling in has been a matter of getting my brain back in gear- its dormancy is increasingly clear as I scramble uselessly around microscope slides and stare at the periodic table for much longer than appropriate, hoping that it will eventually just tells me all its secrets. The boxes are barely unpacked and everything is still in a perpetual state of clean (in a desperate effort to set a standard for the rest of the year). The cuisine is unpredictable- picture-worthy chicken, lentils, bread “dipped in anything runnier than bread”, hard-boiled eggs, and hot cereal have been recent regulars. The kitchen itself is a bit of a story as well. The oven has built in lazer beams that sear certain parts of food to a char and leave other bits uncooked. It has a burnt-bottom guarantee for all cookies, and the temperature gauge is more of a guideline than anything. Other than that, we are up to our neck in lent and donated appliances (including a kitchen-aid, slow cooker, and waffle maker!). It is pretty fun to set up our own little kitchen though, and it is already very functional.
Among this changing lifestyle that is “September”, I am applying the theory that when things get rough, just take yourself to a better place, and there are few things that come to mind that are better than a warm breakfast on the deck early in the morning, bundled up while the last few months of early light shines on. With a strong cup of earl grey and a blanket on your shoulders, it is the most peaceful time of the day. I love the mornings. There, I’ve said it- it is one of my favourite parts about getting back to school in September. They are the part of they day that are simply for me to enjoy. I’m not the sort to wake up in the morning and hustle straight down to work; instead, I need some time. I like to press the snooze button, not for five minutes of sleep, but for five minutes of trying to remember what is going to happen that day. I wiggle my fingers and toes to remember what movement feels like, and open my eyes one at a time. The shower I save for later, so now it is either exercise or eat. Seeing how much I love food and all that goes with that, I have to burn all those calories at some point. My bike to work and back throughout the summer contributed about an hour of exercise, so everything else was icing on the cake (mmm, icing). Nowadays, I am only a ten-minute walk up a very steep hill away from school (carrying a heavy backpack), so I’m in need of working up an exercise regime that is a little more intensive than a walk, but I haven’t quite decided on all the details of it. Whatever ambitious (or half hearted) exercise jaunt I choose, I am always done in plenty of time to make breakfast.
I am not one of those people who described themselves as “not much of a breakfast person”. I could eat spaghetti and meatballs at six in the morning and be happy as a clam (maybe even a deviled clam). When my older brother and I attended high school at the same time, we would sometimes fill the morning air with wild and wonderful smells, as mozzarella and basil Panini’s sizzled or cinnamon French toast caramelized or poached eggs bubbled away. While I don’t have as much leisure time now, I still find that little bit of peace that is an easy, filling, and flavourful breakfast. It sounds rather elderly of me, but I do recommend making your lunch and thinking about a few quick breakfast options before you tuck into sleep. It will save you time in the morning, and money if you end up just buying a lunch once (or more!) a week because you ran out of time. Remember: turn the kettle on when you first wake up, get the paper on your way to the kitchen, and grab a piece of fruit or veg on your way out of the kitchen. Little things like that can take a time period that most people find stressful, and turn it into one of the most thoughtful parts of your day. Here are three fallback breakfast options that I have on a weekly basis. Try them out, and see if they can be yours to. Some more intensive “weekend” breakfasts are coming up soon, but for now, enjoy the easy bit of having these quick favourites! What a wholesome way to start the year.
Eggs of the Summer
Remember the song “Boys of the Summer”? That once came onto the radio when I was making this dish for the 1000th time last summer. There is such nice flavour here, it was a welcome pick me up early before I would work at the bakery, or late after working a Laundromat shift. Make it quick, while fresh basil can still be taken advantage of!
2 English muffins (whole wheat, sour dough, or plain, its up to you and your bread box)
1 large free-range egg**
2 slices cheese (this can be varied- I tried everything from an extra aged cheddar to havarti to brie. Try whatever is in the cheese drawer, and change it up the next time)
Handful of fresh basil
Hot pepper jelly (I love “Traffic Jam” from Hornby Island, but there are lots of other delicious ones out there)
1) Put your English muffin on to toast and heat up a pan with a bit of oil for your egg. Crack the egg in, and allow to cook away until the white is almost set. In a lid that fits well onto you pan, add a splash of water (just a tablespoon or so) and toss it over the egg. This will steam the egg so you don’t have to fuss with flipping or doing anything else. Check the egg often so that you don’t overcook the yolk, and pull it off when it has reached the “doneness” you like best.
2) Spread one side of your English muffin with hot pepper jelly, and finely shave some cheese on the side that you are going to put the egg on (this way the heat from the egg will start to melt it). Crack a little salt and pepper on, if you wish. Place your egg on, and heap with basil.
3) Eat as is- it’s perfect.
** Why free-range eggs? Free-range eggs have as much as 2 X the Vitamins A and E, way more minerals, and a richer taste. Good for you and the chicken!
Smashed Beans on Toast
Real cowboys and cowgirls eat their beans for breakfast. Seriously, beans are a wonderful food to start off with- not greasy or overly heavy, they fill you up quickly and leave you feeling satisfied right up to lunch. It’s not a pretty food or an attractive presentation, but it tastes lovely and does the job.
1 can pinto beans, rinsed well
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1-3 tsp balsamic vinegar (depends on how much zip you want in the morning- if you feel like you can handle it, go for all 3, it has fantastic flavour)
dash of hot sauce or red pepper flakes
2 slices toast, lightly buttered
1) Add your rinsed beans to a small saucepan on medium heat, and pour in your syrup, vinegar, and Tabasco. Put the lid on to bubble away, reducing the heat a bit. Meanwhile, toast some bread and set up the table. Once it’s bubbled away for about ten minutes, pull out a bean and check to see if everything is hot all the way through.
2) Now for the smashing- take the back of a wooden spoon (or other cooking implement) and mash up the beans until they are good and gooey. Don’t worry about a smooth texture, just get it so the liquid in the pot is all incorporated into the beans and it is a spreadable consistence if you are putting it right on your toast. Carefully taste (it’ll be hot!) and adjust the seasoning- sometimes its nice to have relatively plain beans, but other times you might want it sweeter, spicier, or tangier.
3) For a little fancier serving, scoop the beans into a nice bowl and garnish with cilantro, sour cream, and toasted pumpkin seeds. For quicker morning, just spread it right onto the buttered toast. Easy, delicious, healthy.
This is a “Dad” sort of dish, because my dad eats an egg white omelet almost every morning for breakfast. While I surrender to the delicious (and healthy!) yolk more often then not, this is the way I enjoy my egg whites outside of meringues and angel food cakes. It’s a light dish that has everything you need- complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats. This recipe is makes enough to serve two people, so surprise a roommate/sibling/significant other.
4 slices whole wheat bread, toasted
½ red, orange, and green bell pepper, all chopped
¼ jalapeño, chopped
¼ white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 slices of cooked bacon, torn (optional)
1 c egg whites OR 2-3 large eggs, beaten
1) Heat a little oil in a pan, and as soon as its hot, toss in the onions and garlic. Sauté until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Toss in the pepper and jalapeños (add the optional bacon here). Saute 2-3 more minutes. Pour your egg over everything (if the eggs don’t quite cover everything, add a few more-it’s hard to say that the same number of eggs that work in my pan will work in your pan).
2) Put a lid over the dish, allowing the steam to cook the eggs, letting them be. Meanwhile, put your bread on to toast. Check to see if they eggs have set, approximately 5-10 minutes depending on the diameter of your pan therefore the thickness of the frittata. When the egg is set, pull of the heat. Cut frittata into wedges.
3) Spread avocado onto bread, and serve with fritatta wedges on top. Make sure you keep your salt and pepper shakers close at hand, and enjoy!