Achieving Breakfast Zen

Cooking up “Yin and Yang eggs” was a happy accident one morning at my house. Amused by it, I took a picture. I found it very symbolic of breakfast because, as the modern story goes, many people are too rushed to sit and enjoy a breakfast, yet, it would probably be in their best interest to do so.

We are pulled in many directions when the alarm clock awakens us and achieving balance amongst daily demands is a challenge. Ahh, the pull of yin and yang! To me, there is nothing quite like heading out to conquer my day with a delicious breakfast in my tummy. I feel satiated and empowered. It feels good to eat breakfast. I realize not everyone feels this way but, for all you breakfast lovers out there, this month’s column is my ode to breakfast.

Oh breakfast, how I adore you so,

To sit and eat before I go.

You calm me down before the day rev’s me up,

I love a full plate with a coffee cup.

You are the pinnacle of my day,

I love you so much let me count the ways…

1) Eggs – fried, poached, scrambled or in an omelet. You can’t go wrong with this protein rich food that is only about 70 calories. I love an omelet and all the versatility it brings. Add bacon, sausage or ham, or skip the meat and add sautéed spinach, red peppers, mushrooms, scallions, or broccoli and cheese! Add sriracha if you are feeling spicy. Don’t have time? Remember quiche? If you make quiche ahead of time in a pie plate, that’s enough for a quick microwaved slice every morning of the week. Make it crustless if you want fewer calories or are gluten free.

2) Breakfast sandwiches – use breakfast meats like Canadian bacon, sausage and bacon to construct an awesome breakfast sandwich. Bacon, eggs, and cheese is the classic but tailor it to fit your lifestyle – for less calories make it open face, omit the meat and put the egg on a bed of sautéed spinach and red peppers. Gluten free? Use gluten free bread or wrap your sandwich in lettuce. Spread some avocado or hummus on your toast instead of butter. Breakfast burrito? Think of it as just a creative egg scramble (sausage, cheese, peppers and onion anyone?) wrap it in a flour or corn tortilla.

3) Oatmeal – fiber rich, flavored or gluten free – there are so many choices. If you start with plain oatmeal you can jazz it up a different way every day. Add dried fruits (raisins, blueberries, cherries, mango, papaya) and nuts (almonds and walnuts work well), or honey or a pinch of brown sugar. It takes about 30 seconds to combine your ingredients and another two minutes to microwave. “I don’t have time” is not an excuse for this one.

4) Yogurt and granola – takes even less time than oatmeal – faster than fast food and designer friendly, make a batch of homemade granola ahead of time with all the ingredients you love. Put it in a sealed jar next to the refrigerator. Bowl, spoon, scoop of yogurt, handful of granola – it took me 44 seconds to do this (yes, I timed myself).

5) Love pancakes and waffles? If you make the batter the night before, it cuts the time in half and a batch of batter can stretch for a few breakfasts… maple syrup is delicious, but have you ever tried honey, molasses, preserves, or fresh fruit on your stack?

6) Not that hungry? There is always room and time for toast and it doesn’t have to be boring. Jazz it up with avocado, melt a slice of cheese on it in your toaster oven and throw a fresh tomato slice on it. Don’t forget there’s always local honey, cinnamon and sugar, and jam: strawberry, blackberry, blueberry, marmalade, peach, cherry, fig – it’s all divine.

7) Fresh Fruit – grab a banana, which happens to be an almost perfect food. They are inexpensive and contain potassium, fiber, and vitamin C. Other great fruits? Oranges, cantaloupe, watermelon, mango, strawberries and grapefruits. Any kind of fruit is better than no fruit. By the way, avocado is considered a fruit.

8) Home Fries – I can’t tell you how many times I have made home fries for dinner just so I could microwave the leftovers for breakfast. Make them jazzy by adding peppers, onions, mushroom and garlic.

9) Vegan options? Oatmeal, coconut yogurt and granola, and home fries all work. Vegan muffins and pancakes are for real.

10) Leftovers – Yep. Sometimes leftover dinner makes the best breakfast.

Zen has deep meaning, and I acknowledge that. Oversimplified, zen is feeling peaceful and relaxed. So how does one achieve breakfast zen? I don’t know how it works for everyone else but, if I can sit for a few minutes and eat a satisfying breakfast at home while watching birds in my backyard from the window and sipping tea, I have achieved breakfast zen. This doesn’t come easy. As you can see from the list above, sometimes good breakfasts need a jump start the night before. If you make it part of your dinner preparation, the task becomes blended in with the meal you are preparing. Sundays are great for making muffins, quiche and granola. Come Monday morning you’ll be glad you put in that little extra effort the day before. I believe we all want to start our day feeling satiated, relaxed and ready to take on the world. Because. after all, we just might have to.

Vegetarian Crustless Quiche

3 eggs

1  1/2 cups whole milk

1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

dash of nutmeg

3/4 cup cooked broccoli

1/2 cup sautéed green onions and red peppers

1  1/2 cups shredded cheddar

Preheat oven to 325. Saute the onion and red pepper in a small amount of olive oil and set aside. Cook the broccoli until tender and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together first five ingredients. Add onions, peppers, broccoli and cheese. Pour into a 9” glass pie plate. Bake at 325 for about 40 minutes or until done. Cool. Refrigerate.

Best Vegan Waffles Ever (Makes about 8 waffles)

3 cups flour (all purpose gluten free flour if desired)

2 Tbs baking powder

1-2 Tbs sugar (optional)

1/2 tsp. salt

3 cups rice milk

1/3 cup orange juice

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp. vanilla extract

cooking spray or cooking oil

Preheat waffle maker. In a medium bowl, mix together all the ingredients until smooth. Spray preheated waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray or lightly brush with oil. Pour batter onto waffle iron and cook until golden brown. This will keep a few days in the refrigerator for multiple breakfasts. If batter gets a little thick just add some rice milk to get the consistency you want.

Easy Granola

4 cups oats

1/3 cup flour

3/4 cup flaked coconut

1/2 tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

1/4 cup coconut oil

3/4 cup honey or agave nectar

1 cup mixed dried fruits of your choice (I used equal portions of diced apricot, raisins and cranberries)

Preheat oven to 375. Combine all ingredients well except for the dried fruits. Place the oat mixture on a cookie sheet and spread it out so it is about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Press the mixture lightly into the pan with a spatula. Bake for 10 minutes. Pull out of the oven and stir in the dried fruits and again spread the it out on the pan so it is about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Press the mixture lightly into the pan with a spatula. You can drizzle with extra honey at this time if you like your granola a little sweeter. Bake for 10 minutes. Pull out of the oven and let cool. Lift off the pan with the spatula gently as to leave some “chunks.” Put in airtight container and eat within a few days.

Please note: coconut can be considered a tree nut. Agave nectar can be substituted for honey if you are vegan. Gluten free flour and oats can be substituted for regular flour and oats if needed.

Cathy Schmidt writes from Trappe where she and her husband Chef Brian Schmidt own Garden and Garnish Catering. A food explorer, Cathy loves to garden and cook from scratch.

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