Fresh Start Breakfast

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Although I am not a morning person, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I would be lying if I said that I don’t love mornings. I do love mornings, on weekends and vacations only. Perhaps my feeling that “I’m not a morning person” stems from my experience of most mornings: frantically running late, rushing to work, gulping down coffee and breakfast, sitting in traffic. . . then spending the rest of the morning enclosed by cubicle walls with no window to the outside world. Who could possibly get excited about that?

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On my days off, I love mornings the most. I enjoy the calm quiet and the feeling that I am at the fresh start of something new. Mornings can be full of hope, energy, and plans for the rest of the day. I rarely feel disappointed or rushed on a weekend morning; I simply enjoy the opportunity to take my time. Some prefer their coffee cold, some prefer it hot. Some like their coffee French pressed, cold brewed, or poured over. All I know for sure is that I like my coffee slow. Slowly sipping a cup of coffee at the beginning of my day is a gift that I do not give myself often enough. Under that category, you could also file: stacks of pancakes, syrupy French toast, fresh oranges, fluffy croissants, and bubbly mimosas.

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I have fond memories of vacation and weekend mornings that were completely unrushed. On Labor Day weekend last year, we rented a cabin in the mountains with friends. I remember waking up before everyone else and brewing coffee in the quiet, cool kitchen, then sipping a steaming cup on the wraparound porch, while listening to the morning sounds of the woods. On the day before our wedding, Kyle and I carefully drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the thick morning fog and hiked to Humpback Rocks at sunrise. Fresh starts on cool mornings are priceless.

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I recently had several wonderful mornings in New York City, and something about moving the conventional routine of breakfast to a variety of exciting places made an impression on me. I seized the moment each day and had a delicious breakfast in a new place, with no agenda or deadline. This, of course, negatively impacted the number of activities I could cram into each vacation day, but that was okay with me. The first breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien set the tone for the rest of the mornings on my trip.

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I had a flavorful and filling yogurt bowl from Chobani SoHo.

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On another morning I went to Chavela’s for a spicy brunch with friends.

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On my final morning in the city, I had a fresh, hot everything bagel with a crispy, crunchy outside and a soft, doughy inside.

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The breakfast that made the biggest impression on me was the warm organic quinoa and pear cereal at Le Pain Quotidien. Topped with Bosc pears, dried fruit, nuts and cacao nibs and drenched in warm soy milk, this cereal was exactly what I needed after a chilly run that was cut very short.

The day before, while rushing to get out of the house to make my train to New York, I slipped on our wooden stairs, went flying with my suitcase and bag, and landed flat on my back. As I lay on the floor, loudly cursing and wailing, I thought, “the universe is telling me to slow down.” Nevertheless, I popped some ibuprofen, threw an ice pack in my bag and headed to the train station, grinding my teeth in pain the whole way.

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Fast forward 18 hours, after a lot of icing, massaging, and wishing on stars, I suited up for a run across the Brooklyn Bridge. With subway directions to Brooklyn, a route scribbled on hotel memo paper in my pocket, three layers of clothing, and some gear strapped around my waist, I was determined to make my 8 mile run for Team in Training. After 3 scenic miles over the bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan, through the financial district, Chinatown and SoHo, I found myself warming up in Le Pain Quotidien on Grand Street, suffering from killer back pain, and ordering breakfast for one with a cappuccino on the side. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the beginning of a mandatory three week break from running.

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Over a delightful bowl of quinoa and pear cereal served by an extremely attentive and courteous waiter, I finally received the message that I had been trying to ignore. Slow. Down. While the pressures of my job, way too many commitments, and half marathon training left little time for me to stop and smell the roses, I started thinking about the things I could control and began to work on a plan for less stress and more happiness. Getting slammed with a bad cold and increasing back pain over the next few days helped to reinforce the message. I’m not quite there yet, but I have made some changes for the better.

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The lessons I have learned from weekend breakfast are finding their way into the rest of my life and I do feel like I am inching backwards from an almost certain nervous breakdown and toward a happier place. Less working on the weekend, less guilt about unfinished to do lists, and more quality time with friends and family. Of course there are risks involved. I may fall behind at work, let down my team and lose my job. I might be less prepared for the half marathon and hit the wall on race day. Maybe I will never finish my name change paperwork, hang art on the walls of our house, or plant a vegetable garden this year. But for now, I won’t worry about those things. For now, I’m making breakfast. And sipping my coffee slowly. And thinking about the things that matter.

Here is a simple recipe for a simple fresh start to your day.

Warm Quinoa Cereal with Fruit and Nuts

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  1. Combine 1/3 cup rinsed quinoa + 2/3 cup water + half an apple or pear, diced in medium saucepan. Bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat, keep covered 5 minutes.
  3. Heat 1/2 cup milk of your choice (almond milk is great).
  4. Add to a small bowl: cooked quinoa + dried fruits, nuts, and seeds + drizzle of maple syrup or honey + 1/4 tsp cinnamon + warm milk.

 

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Quinoa with Olives and Parmesan

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Okay, confession time. When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to eat was cheddar broccoli rice. Yes, the kind from the box with the dehydrated spice and “vegetable” packet inside. Another favorite was boxed (flake) mashed potatoes, with either butter, salt and pepper, or melted shredded cheddar cheese. I haven’t tasted either one in years, but every once in awhile I have a craving. Sometimes when I have a headache, a cold, or a particularly stressful day, I crave the boxed, dehydrated comfort food of my childhood.

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The great news is this: I don’t have to turn to the box with the sodium bomb spice packet to get my fix! I made the most delicious side dish the other day with whole ingredients from my own pantry. This version has more protein, less sodium, and more flavor than the original, and as an added bonus, I can pronounce all the ingredients. I suggest that you use this as a base recipe and add your favorite vegetables into the mix. Both broccoli and peas work really well in this. I think chopped greens would be great too. If you would prefer to make it vegan, simply substitute nutritional yeast for the cheese. Your choice!

Quinoa with Olives and Parmesan

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • vegan option: substitute 1/4 cup nutritional yeast for Parmesan

Preparation:

  1. Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.
  2. Add scallions and garlic to hot pan and saute until fragrant.
  3. Add quinoa to pan and stir to mix. Add 2 cups of water to pan and increase heat to medium-high.
  4. Bring to a boil, cover, and lower heat to medium-low. Simmer until water is absorbed, about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Stir in olives and pepper to taste. Add either Parmesan or nutritional yeast and stir to combine.

Whey Protein Smoothie

For my birthday last month, Kyle’s mom gave me individual packets of fun smoothie ingredients like protein and wheatgrass. This weekend, I tried out the vanilla whey protein in one of my smoothies. The type that I had was a vanilla-flavored whey protein isolate powder from Jay Robb.*

I had heard before that the body can only absorb a limited amount of protein at a time and I know that most diets are not insufficient in protein. Also, a body builder I am NOT. However, being a vegetarian, I keep a close eye on how much protein I ingest and realize that I am at risk for protein deficiency. I aim for 60-65 grams of protein per day and I thought that a whole packet may be excessive.

I used a little less than one half of a packet in this smoothie, which made two 12-oz smoothies. It was a little gritty, which I don’t mind too much, but I might try it with 1/3 of a packet next time for a tasty boost of 8g of protein in one batch. The vanilla tasted great and I am looking forward to trying the strawberry packet that she sent along with it. See my recipe below!

Ingredients:

1 cup frozen fruit (blueberries and banana)

1 cup pineapple juice

1/3-1/2 packet vanilla protein powder (15g)

Preparation

Blend all ingredients in a blender. Yields approximately two 12-ounce smoothies. Grab a straw and a large glass and enjoy, or grab two glasses and share with a friend!

*I did some internet research on this and similar dietary supplements before I was comfortable incorporating them into my smoothies. Please remember that it is always best to consult your physician before adding a supplement to your diet.