“Breakfast” Anytime: Herb and Cheese Souffle

I like thinking about breakfast.

I do it a lot. I think I’m making up for lost time.

When I used to think about breakfast, I used to think….well, not much. I rarely ate breakfast back in the day.

I don’t know who that girl was. Except that she wasn’t very healthy. And she was missing out big time. Breakfast is now my favorite meal of the day.

Now I savor my mornings. I pad downstairs and pour myself a big glass of water to drink while reading my Bible and journaling. Then I sip a mug of green tea while I ready my school books and contemplate what I want for breakfast. There’s nothing more sad than rushing into eating something I’m not really in the mood for. I generally choose between one of these breakfasts (in no particular order):

  • Oats/oat bran. Cooked stove-top style with almond milk, cinnamon, vanilla and some kind of fruit mixed in (banana, berries, apple, pear)
  • Yogurt parfait. Plain Greek yogurt topped with sliced fruit, topped with cereal and drizzled with maple syrup.
  • Big bowl of Cereal. I am without shame a cereal mixer (maybe that’s why I love granola?) — sometimes it gets crazy 😉 I always need to pair my bowl with a whole piece of fruit because cereal alone never fills me up!
  • Smoothie — my favorite post-workout breakfast. See here, here, and here.
  • Whole grain toast with mashed banana, cinnamon, and maple syrup. Kind of like the lazy version of my Pumpkin Banana French Toast
Things I never crave for breakfast?
  • Pastries. Keep the donuts, danishes, and cinnamon rolls away from me and hand over the fruit.
  • Savory Veggies. Meaning tomatoes, peppers, onions, etc. Ick. That being said, I do it some veggies for breakfast (Hello pumpkin! Green (spinach) smoothies!)
  • Eggs.
I used to think I didn’t like eggs at all because of the way my stomach turned on the Saturday mornings Dad cooked omelets. The savory smells and the gooey yolks were too much to take at eight am on a weekend. A big reason I never ate breakfast was that I didn’t realize there were breakfast foods I liked. I needed to find my modus operandi for breaking the fast.

Lightly sweetened whole grains with fruit? Sold.

Eggs in the morning? No thanks. But any other time — cook them till the yolk is set,  season them with fresh herbs, and I’m more than willing.

Put them in cute little ramekins and bake till light and puffy, and I’m in love forever.

Cheesy Herb Souffle 

Slightly adapted from The Food Network

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • half of a small onion, peeled
  • 1/2 T. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon whole wheat flour flour
  • 2 eggs, separated + 1 egg white
  • 1/4 c. freshly grated Romano (or mozzarella or parmesan) cheese
  • ½ t. fresh oregano
  • ½ t. fresh dill
  • ½ t. fresh sage
  • Pinches of salt and peppers
  1. Put the milk with the bay leaf, onion, in a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Turn off the heat, cover, and set aside to “steep” Heat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Spray 2 mini (150ml) ramekins or 1 2c. casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray and dust with the grated Parmesan.
  2. Melt the butter in a seprate saucepan. Whisk in the flour and let thicken for about two minutes.
  3. Remove onion and bay leaf from the milk and gradually whisk flour-butter mixture into the milk. Continue to heat and stir until thick.
  4. Remove from the heat and beat in egg yolks. Stir through the cheese and herbs. Season well with salt and pepper.
  5. In a small bowl, beat the whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. Stir a spoonful of whites into the yolk mixture, then pour the yolk mixture onto the remaining whites and gently fold together.
  6. Pour into the soufflé dish and bake until risen and set, but not completely firm in the middle, about 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of the soufflé dishes.
  7. Serve immediately before it slumps!

Dad took the older sister out for breakfast this morning. He’s probably eating a fancy omelet and she’s probably cutting into a mountain of Belgian waffles. Topped with whipped cream. And maybe a chocolate drizzle.

I’m not jealous, though. I happy to b here, sipping the last of my green tea, and licking the last bit of yogurt from my spoon. Breakfast just the way I like it best.

Savoring Break: Cranberry Chai Baked Oatmeal

I am a huge fan of this thing called “break”.

Waking up without an alarm clock after eight hours of restful sleep. Thinking “What do I want to do today” instead of “How many items can I knock off of my gazillion lists before the day’s out?”

Having time to spend with friends and family so my sister tells me every single day: “You are so much nicer and happier now”. I had no idea what a monster school made out of me.

I may be over sugar and cookies, but I am not ready to say goodbye to the holiday spirit. No siree. I am going to savor every moment for as long as I can.

Days like yesterday. I puttered around half the morning before bundling up and heading out in the sub-freezing temperatures for a run. I kept my mind off my frostbitten nose by planning a warm, nutritious breakfast. Then I ran harder to get back home and into the kitchen.

My vision of Cranberry Chai Baked Oatmeal was whipped up and baking away quicker than the drive-through at Dunkin Donuts to cash in my brand spanking new gift card. Thank you, Aunt Robin. That large coffee was the perfect accompaniment to the delicious smells of winter spices and orange zest wafting from the oven.

Breakfast was everything I hoped for and much more. I “mmmed” at every bite and felt so good making two healthy decisions that morning. It was the perfect balance for spending the rest of the day with friends, sprawled on the couch and eating chocolate covered strawberries.

My free days are fleeing by and there won’t be many more days to drink in the joys of life, of family and friends. So right now, I’m just going to be thankful. And savor every delicious bite.

Chocolate-covered strawberries and oatmeal alike.

Cranberry Chai Baked Oatmeal~ serves one ~

Ingredients

  • 1/3 c. water
  • 1/3 c. vanilla almond milk
  • 1 Chai tea bag
  • 1/2 c. oats
  • 1/4 t. baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 T. ground flax
  • 1/2 banana, mashed*
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 c. chopped cranberries
  • orange zest
  • stevia to taste

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375 and spray a ramekin with cooking spray.
  • In a small saucepan, heat water and milk with tea bag until it simmers lightly. Remove from heat and allow tea bag to steep for a few minutes. Remove bag, squeezing to release flavor. Stir in remaining ingredients.
  • Pour batter into prepared ramekin and bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Serve with honey, maple syrup, or jam.

* The banana is to bind the batter together. If you’re not a banana fan, you can substitute either one whole egg or 1/4c. unsweetened applesauce.

I’m going to make this tomorrow morning so I can feel okay about my last hurrah, snacking all night and ringing in the New Year. It’s all about balance, folks.

Coffee Cup Adventures

I took coffee on vacation.

All other addictions and temptations (cell phone, internet, wallet) stayed behind.

We relaxed.

We soaked in the autumn beauty of Creation.

We explored the stunning grandeur of northern Pennsylvania mountains.

Today, I’m back home. Suitcase a jumbled mess on my bedroom floor. Drinking coffee out of a plain old mug at the bathroom sink while doing my makeup and running through a mental checklist.

It’s Monday and vacation’s over.

Let’s pretend it’s not. Let’s take just fifteen extra minutes before rushing to shower, suit up and jump on the speed bus.

This breakfast says it’s worth it.

Pumpkin Banana French Toast

~ serves one ~

Ingredients

  • 2/3 c. vanilla almond milk (or other milk)
  • 2 t. molasses
  • 1/3 c. canned pumpkin
  • 1 T. ground flax seed
  • 1/2 medium ripe banana
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 2 slices whole wheat bread

Directions

  • In a shallow dish, whisk together milk, molasses, pumpkin, and flax. Mash banana and whisk into milk mixture. Stir in cinnamon and vanilla.
  • Heat a greased skillet over medium heat.
  • While skillet is heating, dip bread in milk mixture until coated on both sides. Don’t let the bread sit and soak in the liquid, or it will get soggy and fall apart.
  • Fry bread in skillet until bottom is golden brown and “set”. Flip and repeat on other side.
  • Serve with “Pumpkin Cream”: 1T. pumpkin mixed into 2T. plain yogurt with maple syrup and cinnamon. Lick plate clean.

Of course, as long as we’re still extending the vacation weekend, we can top this with whatever we want: whipped cream, ice cream, warm apples, caramel topping, powdered sugar, candied nuts…the ceiling’s the limit.

I made a few extra slices ahead of time to pop into the toaster on a busy weekday morning. To eat in the car and wash down with a travel mug of strong coffee. To bring that vacation sense of adventure to an average kind of day.

I take vacation to my coffee.

Variations of Indecision

Confession: I never follow a recipe exactly.

And when I say never, I mean it. This usually means that the odds of me making the same dish twice – even a really good dish – is very rare.

When I go to cook, this is the typical scenario: I have an idea of what I want to make and then spend half an hour searching and cross-referencing every cookbook and recipe website I know (read: LOTS). An average of three recipes are spread across the counter, all variations of what I want to make. The finished product is a compilation of all of them — with some added ingredients that weren’t in any of them.

I’ve tried to follow just one recipe exactly, but I can’t. I have to make everything more complicated — turning muffins into bars, adding tofu instead of sour cream, throwing in nuts and craisins and chocolate chips because I can’t just choose one.

It’s really just a reflection of my mind. It’s crazy all the disconnected thoughts that go on up there. Indecision is a specialty of mine, which is why my bed is always covered in outfit rejects. I’m the one who always wants to “think about it” when I really mean “forget about it.” I’m the one who has to be nagged numerous times to call someone back or make an appointment. I’m the one whose closet is overflowing with craft projects I never decided to finish and now don’t know what to do with.

One thing I have decided is that I am not going to look at this until the weekend is officially over. Speaking of complicated! Who chose my major, anyway?

Yeah, that’s me in all my spaghetti-brained glory. I may laugh about my indecisiveness, but I know it isn’t always funny. It’s fear that causes me to shrink from the forks in the road that seem to litter the map of my life. There are so many choices to make each day. How will I spend my time? When will I study? How will I make money? When I look into the future, I see that the decisions only become more numerous and serious.

Which is why I find comfort in Isaiah 30:21. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. It’s the wisdom in that Voice that leads me. Some knowledge is beyond me, but God promises to see me through, to guide me, and to work His will in my life. I can trust His wise faithfulness — it has always seen me through my muddled way. Every time.

And meanwhile, there are disguised blessings in every weakness. Indecisiveness can be an outlet for creativity. For discovery. For three granola recipes instead of just one.

Favorite Toasted Buckwheat Granola ~ Three Ways

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 250F. In a saucepan, bring brown sugar and water to boil. Simmer until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and stir in honey, oil, salt, and vanilla (and orange juice for Var.3) Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine oats, buckwheat, wheat germ, flakes, and flax seed meal. Pour wet ingredients into dry and toss to evenly coat. Transfer to two large baking pans sprayed with cooking spray.
  • Bake for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours or until dry and golden brown. Stir about every 20 minutes. If adding nuts, mix in about 30 minutes into baking
  • Stir in your mix-ins and cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

There are so many ways to eat this granola: a big bowl for breakfast, over yogurt or ice cream or a smoothie, or of course, straight out of the jar.

Confession: As soon as this was out of the oven, I poured a handful of each into a bowl, drowned it in almond milk and burned my tongue chomped away. I obviously couldn’t pick a favorite.

An Exam is Like a Marathon

Fuel:

Maple apple oats, peach tea, weight textbook lifting

Nervous jitters:

I’ve trained so hard…but I’m so unprepared. I just want it to be over…I hope a hurricane/tornado/earthquake happens right now so I never have to start.

Fast forward several painful hours, a finish line and stopped clock later…

Refuel:

Peach Chobani, banana bruised from sharing backpack space with four notebooks, a fat stack of flashcards, and a large umbrella

Rice with roasted veggies and steamed spinach = demolished.

Coffee in the library. Shh…it was necessary.

Recovery:

Everything hurts. I don’t want to ever get up. Not ever.

Seeing Orange

The first thing I did on September 1st was open a big can of pumpkin.

It’s all about priorities, people.

I get so excited about autumn — the time of turning leaves, crisper air and bonfires. The time when it is finally acceptable to eat pumpkin for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.

  Pumpkin Banana Quesadilla

~ Whole wheat tortilla, one sliced banana, 1/3 cup pumpkin,
1/4 cup cottage cheese, cinnamon, maple syrup ~

ooey, gooey deliciousness.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Oat Bran

Yes, that’s right.

~ 1/2, cup almond milk, 1/4 cup brewed coffee, 1/3 cup oat bran, half a thinly sliced banana, tablespoon of vanilla protein powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, maple syrup ~

Yes, it was amazing. This is the best way to wake up.

I’ve also made a batch of these, which are basically pumpkin cake in cookie form.

And am making plans for both of these recipes.

It may be an obsession, but it’s a good one. Pumpkin is packed with immune-boosting antioxidants and beta-carotene, Vitamin C, calcium, fiber, and iron. In a delicious kind of way.

This is autumn. Changing leaves, crisp air, bonfire, creamy-orange-cinnamon warmth. I love it.

Breakfast is My Favorite Meal

“‘When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,’ said Piglet at last, ‘what’s the first thing you say to yourself?’

What’s for breakfast?’ said Pooh. ‘What do you say, Piglet?’

‘I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?’ said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. ‘It’s the same thing,’ he said.”

A. A. Milne,  ‘The House at Pooh Corner’

Warm blueberry banana oats in a near-empty Sunflower Seed Butter jar.

Creamy. Dreamy. Heavenly.This is the way breakfast was meant to be.

Starting my day with happy thoughts. Biochemistry, you’ve got nothing on me!

Note to self: Must make a road trip to Trader Joe’s ASAP.

Energy Slurp

The past few days have been c.r.a.z.y. You might say I’ve been running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off, but really? All the chickens keep their heads around here.

With VBS this past week, it’s felt like a week of Sunday mornings. Every morning, the alarm went off while the sun’s just waking, I grumbled and groaned, and stumbled my way downstairs.  And then here was that Wednesday morning when Elizabeth and I squeezed in a nine-mile run before VBS. Yeah, I don’t even like to think about that wake-up call.

I don’t mind getting up at early, but getting up and out of the house at an early hour is a whole other story. Rushed morning take all the pleasure out of the daybreak hours.

My favorite kind of morning is when I tiptoe downstairs just as the sun is rising. I make myself a cup of green tea and nestle into the couch to spend some time reading God’s Word and journaling verses and prayers. Then I patter my way to the kitchen to make breakfast. It’s my favorite meal of the day that I plan as I’m drifting off to sleep and wake up eager to eat. The best mornings usually begin with a satisfying and nutritious breakfast, like blueberry oatmeal, banana pancakes or cereal-yogurt-fruit parfaits.

My Bible reading suffered this past week. For the five minutes I sat down, my fingers were busy braiding my hair and my eyes were darting to the clock. And I’d shut my Bible scarcely remembering what I had just read, feeling like I zoomed up to a gas tank and pulled away still running on empty. “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).

Breakfast also suffered this past week. Some mornings I was lucky to snatch a bowl of cereal or English muffin for the car. I don’t even remember what  I ate on Wednesday morning before our run. All I know is the kitchen was dark, my fingers smelled like peanut butter and I found a mysterious chocolate stain on my shirt around mile three. And I’m not thinking about it.

But if my mornings are going to be early and rushed, if I am going to spend half my day in a class of fifteen energetic, streamer flinging, ball bouncing, water splashing children, I’m going to need spiritual strength, renewed by a daily dose of God’s Word. “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14).I’m also going to need energy. Preferably in the form of caffeine. And if that energy and breakfast could come together in one bowl in five minutes, then I say, why not? I’ll slurp while you drive.

Strawberry Mocha Energizing Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. almond milk (or any milk)
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1 c. frozen strawberries
  • 1 T. instant coffee
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • 2-4 ice cubes (add as needed)
  • 1 t. cinnamon

Instructions: Blend all ingredients in a high-speed blender. Add ice cubes to thicken. I ate this in a bowl topped with puffed kamut and cinnamon and “iced” with a drizzle of maple syrup.

So now it’s Saturday night. The crazy week has come to a close and I feel like my head has been restored. But wait, tomorrow is Sunday morning. I think I’ll plan ahead by setting out my Bible and blender on the kitchen table. Strawberry-pink stains swirls on a brown dress totally goes, right?