Within seconds of waking up, the night’s cobwebs have dissipated from my mind. Woooshhh… Swept away with a deft eyelash sweep. My head has not yet lifted itself from the pillow, my mind is already seizing the day. I often wish I could lazily lift a heavy eyelid just to let it happily slide back over my eye and cocoon right back into the warmth of my bed, capturing, reveling into and extending the moment of cathartic limbo between dreamland and reality. Noooo, none of that for me: my brain lights up as suddenly as if flickering a light switch. An incandescent 100 watt light bulb instantly flooding the thinking box: BOOM! Already intense and revved up to go! My wake-up ritual is exactly the same every single day (if one can dare call an 8 second flat moment a ritual at all): I grab my glasses and literally jump out of bed. Even before I have actually placed my tippy toes on the floor, I have already started a conversation with myself and I know without a doubt that I will exhaust myself just «thinking»… I greet each day with gumption: plans and projects rapidly form as if today, unlike yesterday, will somehow magically extend itself, adding several extra hours which I absolutely need to accomplish everything I want to do. Yes, today I will learn to paint, study Italian, work on my scrapbooks, write several posts for my blog, cook two or three recipes (maybe even 4), reorganize my kitchen junk drawer and go for a long walk. I will visit my mom, call my friends, enjoy a latte with a good book. Oh and yes, I will read those two articles I have saved in my reader. I will catalogue all my recipes, prepare a meal plan, and categorize my photos complete with ratings and Photoshop adjustments. I will! I will! Oh I will do so much today!!! I have yet to place my second foot on the floor…
And so the day starts: ablutions, breakfast, commute, work, commute… By mid-afternoon, I have not even looked at the «I want to do» list of activities and my energy starts to dwindle. I wish I could start with morning all over again to tackle, in parallel to life’s obligatory tasks, the fun projects that are waiting for me to submerse myself into. I need my very own Groundhog Day movie scenario, the one featuring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell… The idea of repeating a day, or even just a portion of the day, without actually ticking it off a calendar or triggering the biological clock sounds really, really good. Imagine having completed all the «must do» tasks of the day and being given the same number of hours to play? It would mean that by dinner time, I would have invested twelve hours in the work day routine and an equal twelve hours in ME! Whoa, the possibilities!!! How perfect! Time each day nearly doubled, what a concept! Although not exactly following the Groundhog Day Movie storyline where February 2nd starts over again every morning for Bill Murray, but rather inspired by the concept of freezing time! Time: I want you, I need more of you!!! Don’t we all?
I have accomplished so much so far today in the «must do» life. And I have imagined several appetizing dishes throughout the day that would be perfect for tonight’s dinner. Ohhh, the endless possibilities: what can I whip up today with pantry basics and a few fridge staples when I get home? I have been giddy with anticipation all day long. As I log off from the work day and walk home, still full of energy, I mentally compose my next “fabulous” blog post complete with the photos I hope to shoot later as I cook. I see it all coming together in my head. I am walking with a slight spring in my feet: this is going to be an exciting moment in my kitchen! Tonight, I am guaranteed to earn the cook of the year award! Again! Ohhhh, I cannot wait to get home… The thirty-five minute walk has invigorated me: there is so much I can do with remaining five and a half hours left before I sandwich my tired bones between mattress and duvet. Ohhhh, I just can’t wait to get home and tackle the endless projects I have been planning on doing since my eyes popped opened this morning. I finally step into the house, cheeks all rosy and hair all messed up by the welcomed spring breeze. My kitchen is calling me, clean and inviting, begging me to start creating… And suddenly, just as quickly as the morning thoughts entered my mind, full of promise, exhaustion sets in. Within a few minutes, I have actually forgotten what it is I had planned on cooking or writing in my blog… The thought of spending the next hour or so messing up that sparkling little kitchen wipes out any residual spunk I may have had up until this very moment. Where has my youthful stamina gone? I am completely wiped out… I try to summon myself back into my playground but the usual visceral pull is eluding me. Gone is the love affair I normally have with peeling, chopping, mincing, sautéing, stirring… One thought dominates my entire grey matter, blinking like an overly bright neon sign in a dark alley: «oh man, do I really have to»? Time and energy have completely vanished… My real life Groundhog Day movie moment happens like clockwork every single work week day, always at the very same time. I admit that I do not always love to cook…
So short of winning the lottery, I am stuck with the same 24 hour day as everyone else who juggles work, family, domestic chores and blah, blah, blah… And since I am and have always been a strong advocate of home cooked meals eaten as a family at the dinner table, energy or no energy, I almost always manage to whip up something from scratch. Doesn’t mean I enjoy the chore of everyday cooking. Although the Princes are adults now, with active social lives, the King comes home every night with the appetite of an ogre. We still make a point of sitting at the dinner table together and we seldom order/eat out on weekdays. And we also very seldom rely on grocery store convenience foods. Cooking from scratch has never been a trend, it has been a way of life. Maybe my natural penchant for the kitchen activities has everything to do with this! And while the world may think unfair that the King should show up only when the meal is ready to be served piping hot on his plate, let me reassure you that the Queen hardly ever participates in kitchen clean-up activities: an ancient kingdom law that has endured the test of time and even the Princes teenage era! How do I deal with the daily grind of dinner preparation? Well, truth be told, my only reliable antidote to weeknight bitching and complaining is the weekend prep. A few hours on Sunday goes a long way for the rest of the week.
Breakfast muffelettes, these little “grab and go” 1 egg wonders can be prepared in advance and be individually packaged for easy lunch bag building. They are satisfying on their own and also work great in a sandwich or accompanied by a salad. They taste delicious hot or cold. They will last a few days in the fridge. I am not inventing a new concept here that’s for sure: recipes can be found nearly everywhere. As tasty as many recipes are, the overall texture of the finish product has been the chief complaint in my circle of friends. Their omelettes were either too spongy, too soggy or tasteless… I have been able to address those issues: in order to reduce sogginess, the high moisture vegetables must be cooked before making the omelettes. To reduce sponginess, try to use whole milk instead of low fat milk. The caloric input will barely be noticeable per serving but the end result will be highly satisfying. If you are bold and brazen, use light cream: you are guaranteed a soft and velvety texture! Cooking vegetables ahead will also increase the flavour profile. Parmesan or any other strong tasting cheese will up the umami a few levels! Don’t forget to use salt and pepper. And be carefree in your combinations: throw in some fresh herbs, your favourite spices, minced chili, olive slices, left over pasta or cooked legumes…
What you need:
Tools: muffin tins to make 12 individual Muffelettes (I used jumbo tins which yield 6 portions per tray), individual muffin paper liners, 1 large frying pan, 1 large bowl and a whisk. And the usual tools: chopping board, knives, wooden spoon, measuring cups and spoons
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
6 mushrooms, sliced
1 zucchini, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
½ small chili pepper, minced (optional)
1 Tsp smoked paprika
⅛ Tsp chili pepper flakes (optional)
1 dozen eggs
1 cup milk, preferably whole milk
1 cup grated parmesan cheese (seems like a lot but it gets fluffy when grated with a Microplane™ type grater)
1 Tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper
A few handfuls of baby spinach, mâche or your favorite greens
36 grape tomatoes, halved
- Preheat oven to 350°F on bake more (it is preferable not to use the convection setting)
- In a large frying pan, heat oil on med-high heat
- Add onions, sauté until translucent and a light caramel color starts to show
- Add mushrooms and cook until they also start to brown. Depending on your stovetop, you may want to reduce the heat to medium to avoid scorching of the vegetables
- Add the zucchinis, cook a bit then add the yellow peppers. The idea here is to add the vegetables one at a time to avoid too much moisture being created in the pan all at once. Too many moisture rich ingredients in one shot will bring the lot to a boil instead of caramelizing the veggies. It doesn’t take much time between each addition: you just have to make sure all the natural liquids have been rendered
- Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper as well as the minced fresh chili and chili pepper flakes
- Cook until all the water has evaporated
- Set aside and let cool slightly
Building the muffelettes:
- In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs
- Add the milk, the cheese and salt and pepper
- Whisk again until all ingredients are well blended. This should yield 4 cups
- Line the muffin tin with paper liners (I have tried without and cleaning the tins was a huge ordeal). Lightly oil each liner.
- Divide the vegetables equally at the bottom of each tin, add 3 halved grape tomatoes and a small sprig of greens per portion on top of the vegetables.
- Pour about ⅓ cup of the egg mixture over the vegetables. Gently swirl the egg mixture using the tip of a butter knife to remove any air pockets and ensure the egg mix reaches the bottom of each portion. You want to make sure the vegetables are entirely covered with egg.
- Pop in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes
The muffelettes are ready when they have puff up nicely and no longer jiggle in the center.
Enjoy right away «au natural» or nestle them between layers of fresh bread or toast. Be wild and add what you fancy to elevate your sandwich: bacon, ham, fresh lettuce, tomato slices…
These keep well for several days in the fridge and are perfect to grab when you need breakfast on the run. I have not tried freezing them yet: they never last long enough!