Starting The Day Off Right

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Refreshing Daily Life

Last winter, I realized that I have been teetering in the dim portal to a brighter new chapter in my life. I decided that even though I am not really clear about where I am headed, I can still be intentional about the overall feeling and flavor of this approaching stage. After some consideration, I chose a simple goal: I want my daily life to be notable for satisfaction and contentment.

With this in mind, I’ve been doing a lot of life review. One thing I’ve noticed is that first thing each morning is probably the most effective time to refresh your life. I am amazed at the number of friends who begin their day by switching on the news or reading the morning newspaper and never really recover the sparkle they wake up with. Here’s what I’ve found to be delicious, all year round: As soon as you awaken, open a window and greet the young day. Listen to the sleepy birds waking up. Breathe in deeply, even if it’s cold. Brisk fresh air is at least as enlivening as coffee and helps your lungs expand joyfully.

Eat Your Breakfast

Here’s another discovery. After years of hasty and sketchy breakfasts, I’m now a dedicated early eater. Turns out Mom was right: For calm, happy moods and steady energy, breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. No matter how challenging your mornings may feel, it’s worth the time to enjoy a wholesome meal. As with so many things, the more often you take the time to make a good breakfast, the faster and more efficient you become.

It matters what you eat, too. Cold pizza doesn’t really give you much of a start (I keep trying, though), and most cereals don’t stick with you very long. A protein-rich breakfast with fresh fruit and whole grains provides long-lasting energy that keeps you going strong until lunch without needing high-calorie snacks and caffeine breaks. Indeed, since I’ve been enjoying breakfast, I have not had any coffee at all and don’t even miss it. Who knew?

Power Breakfasts

Recent brain research confirms that a balanced, protein-rich breakfast will carry you through the morning with steady, reliable energy. To give your body and brain the fuel they need, trade in sweet cereal and jammy toast for eggs and wholesome dairy products like organic cottage cheese and plain yogurt.

Fortify scrambled eggs with cottage cheese or ricotta and lean sausage made with chicken or turkey. Add plenty of vegetables such as onions or leeks, mushrooms and peppers, asparagus and spinach, celery or fennel. In season, add diced tomatoes, fresh string beans, zucchini and fresh herbs.

Yumbo Combos Are More Tempting

Make protein-rich omelets by adding ricotta or cottage cheese to the eggs, then stuffing the omelet with yummy-yumbo combinations. Consider chicken, avocado and red onion; asparagus and lean ham; smoked salmon Albacore tuna and baby peas. In summer, fill omelets with fresh tomatoes, shredded basil, and a few pine nuts.

Whip up a quick breakfast smoothie with organic dairy products and whole, fresh fruit. Use fruit juices and soy products in moderation, substituting non-soy protein powders to give your smoothie an extra boost. For instance, rice protein powder offers 12 grams of protein per tablespoon and is easier for many people to digest than soy.

Get A Buzz Off

If you notice that you can’t get going without a morning buzz, consider weaning yourself off excess caffeine by starting the day with a lively yerba matte tea or green tea (full of antioxidants). ALso, try cat napping when you feel really tired. You certainly don’t need to write off coffee completely, if you love it. Moderate consumption (as in 1-2 cups a day) of coffee is now recognized to have some health benefits, especially if your coffee is organically grown. To share the benefit with the world (including songbirds), why not switch over to organic, shade-grown, fair trade coffee? Such a simple way to make a genuine difference to many, many lives.

Really Easy Egg Entrees

If it isn’t simple, it won’t happen, at least not in my early morning kitchen. Made in minutes, this quick and nutritious breakfast will keep you going strong for hours.

Speedy Morning Scramble

1 teaspoon virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons onion, chopped
vegetables, such as:
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
2 cups red kale, shredded
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
4 large eggs
1/4 cup large-curd cottage cheese

In a frying pan, cook oil, onion, celery, and green pepper over medium high heat until tender-crisp (3-4 minutes). Add kale, sprinkle with salt, cover pan and cook until barely wilted (2-3 minutes). Scramble eggs with cottage cheese and stir into vegetables. Cook, folding over occasionally, over low heat until set to desired consistency. Serves 2.

Easier Eggs Florentine

This healthy version of Eggs Florentine has authentic character but very little fat. Unless your doctor orders it, don’t buy into faddy dietary egg restrictions; packed with complete protein and vitamins D and K, organic eggs are an excellent breakfast food.

Eggs Florentine-ish

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
1 organic lemon, juiced, rind grated
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
4 cups fresh spinach
4 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon flat Italian parsley, chopped

In a large, heavy frying pan over medium high heat, heat oil and butter until butter melts. Add lemon rind and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add spinach, stir to coat, cover pan and cook until slightly wilted (3-4 minutes). Stir to form four pockets in the spinach, crack an egg into each, cover pan and reduce heat to low. Cook until eggs are gently set (3-4 minutes). Drizzle spinach with lemon juice, top each egg with goat cheese and sprinkle all with salt and pepper. Cover pan, turn off heat and let stand for 3 minutes. Serve, garnished with parsley. Serves 2-4.

An Italian Frittata

Fast and fluffy, this golden, fragrant Portobello Frittata makes a terrific breakfast or brunch. If you prefer, use crimini, chanterelles, brown field mushrooms, or any kind you have on hand.

Portobello Frittata

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
6 ounces Portobello mushroom caps, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, stemmed and chopped
5 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons Asiago cheese, grated

In a heavy frying pan, heat oil and butter over medium high heat until bubbly. Add mushrooms, sprinkle with salt, pepper and parsley and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Cover pan and cook for 3 minutes. Remove cover and cook for 5 minutes. In a bowl, whisk eggs with 1 tablespoon cheese and 2 tablespoons water. Pour over mushrooms, reduce heat to low, cover pan and cook until barely set (4-5 minutes). Slide frittata onto a plate, flip back into pan cooked-side-up, sprinkle with remaining cheese, cover pan and cook until set (2-3 minutes). Serves 2-4.

Simple Mushroom Omelet

2 teaspoons butter
2 cups mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
4 eggs, beaten until light
2 tablespoons ricotta
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon thyme or any thyme, minced
1/4 teaspoon fresh dill, minced
1 teaspoon fresh mint, minced

In an omelet or frying pan, heat 1 teaspoon butter over medium high heat.  Add mushrooms, sprinkle with salt, cover pan and cook until reduced by half (3-5 minutes).  Remove cover and cook until pan juices evaporate (2-3 minutes). Transfer to a plate, set aside. In a bowl, whisk eggs, ricotta, and herbs with a fork until blended, set aside. Add remaining butter to pan, heat until foamy over medium high heat, pour in egg mixture and swirl pan to coat. Shake pan lightly, then gently pull back cooked eggs with a spatula to allow runny, uncooked portion to run underneath the cooked part. When center of omelet is lightly set (1 minute), cover half the omelet with cooked mushrooms, reduce heat to low, cover pan and cook for 1 minute. Gently fold omelet in half, slide onto a plate, and serve warm. Serves 2.

Surprise Surprise

In the garden, young greens are ready for almost daily picking. In Spinach Surprise Omelet, the surprise is how deliciously a simple spinach omelet is when enriched with snippets of fresh herbs.

Spinach Surprise Omelet

4 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup ricotta
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons butter
3 cups baby spinach, stemmed
2 tablespoons arugula, shredded
2 tablespoons  fennel greens
1/8 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh dill, stemmed

In a bowl, combine eggs with ricotta and pepper. Blend well with a fork, set aside. In a shallow, wide omelet or frying pan, heat 1 teaspoon butter over medium high heat until foamy. Add spinach, arugula, and fennel greens, sprinkle with salt, cover pan and cook until barely wilted (about 2-3 minutes). Remove greens to a plate. Add remaining butter to pan, heat until foamy, then pour in eggs and swirl pan to coat. Shake pan lightly, then gently pull back cooked eggs with a spatula to allow runny, uncooked portion to run underneath the cooked part. Cover pan, reduce heat to medium low and cook until puffy (1-2 minutes). Spoon in greens, fold omelet in half, cut in half, slide each piece on a plate and garnish with fresh dill. Serves 2.

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5 Responses to Starting The Day Off Right

  1. One of my Master Food Preserver Volunteers sent me the link to your flavored oils because she was concerned about the safety. I have a safety concern as well about your recommendations. USDA last year did some new research and found that flavored oils can only be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days because of the possibility of botulism poisoning.

    Unless you have research based information for your recommendations I would suggest you rethink your method. It would be sad if your readers became very ill from botulism poisoning. The oil creates an anaerobic environment when stored at room temperature is a perfect media for the growth of botulism toxin.

    The website I have provided you give a publication outlining the safe way to make flavored oils according to the research done by the Center for Excellence of Food Preservation for USDA. The publication is under vegetables and is SP 50-701 Herbs and Vegetables in Oil.

    • Ann Lovejoy says:

      Hi Nellie,

      Thank you for your concern and your suggestions. I was able to download the pdf (50-701) from the OSU website and will happily share the latest findings with readers. My recipes are research based in that I have made them and shared them for many years without ever having problems or hearing of them, but when it comes to food, safer is definitely the best policy.


  2. Ann, when I got my little australian cattle dog he would not leave my side, so to get him to go outside I had to go too. Now we both go outside, no matter what the weather, and enjoy that fresh air and see what the garden is doing.


  3. Ron Imperiale says:

    Will baking soda hurt a lawn? I have a brick walkway and patio that needs to be cleaned of algae and light moss. what dilution rate should I use per gallon if it is not harmful to my lawn with run off?

    • Ann Lovejoy says:

      You can sprinkle enough baking soda on your walkway to cover any moss and leave it on until the moss turns brown. For lawns, it’s not so simple, as some types of turf grass won’t be damaged by baking soda but other will. You can try a small patch to see, but if there’s a lot of moss in a lawn, it’s a good indication that it’s not a great place for a lawn. Consider a shade garden instead!

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