Adopting Healthy Breakfast Habits
May 31, 2018
If you have read many of my blogs or Facebook posts the last three years, you know that I am obsessed with eggs. I am convinced that my big, nutritious, savory breakfasts are the secret to my losing 20 pounds in less than four months and then keeping the weight off ever since.
This is coming from a person who could never face an egg before noon and whose breakfast for 75 years was hot or cold cereal—and on trips, continental breakfast with orange juice and coffee. Surely if I could make this lifestyle change, anyone can. However, after three years, my eight or 10 standby recipes have gotten monotonous, so I am experimenting in the kitchen again.
The biggest hurdle to high-protein, low-carb breakfasts, in addition to the time involved in cooking, is that we are conditioned to eat sweet breakfasts, not savory. We’re used to that sugar high—that quick burst of energy. But then we are ravenous by lunch, and we eat too much. A bowl of fresh fruit, flavored yogurt and granola for breakfast is not the best solution.
High-protein breakfasts jump-start our metabolism and fuel us longer. I eat far more salads and far fewer Whataburgers since I started cooking breakfast. My ideal breakfast includes an egg, 1 to 2 ounces uncured breakfast meat, ½ cup or more of cooked vegetables and a small amount of low-fat cheese. If there’s a carb, it will be beans or (rarely) whole-grain bread. Frequently, pico de gallo or picante sauce is involved. They’re vegetables!
As I have grown accustomed to a savory meal, I have begun to wander beyond the standard breakfast foods, often influenced by creative hotel and restaurant breakfasts and brunch dishes. In fact, almost every breakfast I cook works equally well for brunch or Sunday night supper.
At the Café Boulud at the Brazilian Court Hotel in Palm Beach, we marveled at the Eggs Forestiere—an individual baked casserole of creamed mushrooms, egg and gruyere cheese served with toast points. Once I stirred the dish, I wasn’t even aware that I was eating an egg. It became part of the sauce. It was so delicious that you could serve it as an appetizer in the evening. See photo, above.
It was also very rich, so I needed to improvise. While mushrooms aren’t technically a vegetable—they’re a fungus—they are low calorie and full of minerals and fiber. I buy a carton of whole mushrooms every week—brown Baby Bellas when available—and this is a great way to cook a batch for future use when they get tired. They can be the sauce for a steak or the filling for an omelet.
Skinny Eggs Forestiere
Warning: This recipe isn’t for dieting, it’s for maintenance.
Discard stems, then thinly slice 2 cups of small mushrooms. Melt 1 teaspoon butter in a small skillet with a lid and sauté mushrooms briefly over low heat. Add up to ¼ cup lean, uncured sausage crumbles (cooked or uncooked) if desired. You can also add a handful of torn spinach for additional nutrition; you won’t taste it in the finished dish. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon flour over the mixture as you continue to stir; then add just enough skim milk to barely cover the mixture. Cover and simmer over low heat until sauce begins to darken and thicken. (This may be prepared in advance and stored in the refrigerator or in individual casseroles in the freezer.)
Spread ½ to 1 cup hot mushroom mix in an individual casserole, break one egg on top, top with 2 tablespoons goat cheese crumbles, cover with wax paper and microwave for about 1 minute. Stir egg into mix and serve immediately. Or optionally…
A quick trick, especially for non-egg lovers:
How many of you have thickened a soup or sauce by very slowly stirring in a beaten egg? Last time I cooked up a batch of mushrooms, I decided to try it. I turned off the heat and very gradually stirred in a beaten egg until I saw threads of white from the cooked yolk. I skipped the microwave step and I couldn’t taste the egg, but the nutrition was the same. I plan to try the same method in other microwaved egg casserole recipes.
10-Minute Old-Fashioned Breakfast
As I have grown more aware of cured and processed meats, I have begun to cook small thin pork chops more often. I freeze them in separate plastic bags; they thaw quickly and cook in 4-5 minutes.
Heat nonstick griddle to 350 degrees. Pat pork chop in flour seasoned with pepper. Slice mushrooms. Spray griddle with Pam before cooking pork chop and mushrooms on the griddle. In about 2½ minutes, turn pork chop, break egg on griddle, add spinach and stir into mushrooms. Cook for about 2 minutes or until egg is done, pork chop lightly browned and spinach wilted. If desired, add goat cheese crumbles to vegetable mix before serving; top with egg. Optional: Use Pickapeppa as a spicy condiment on the pork chop. This is an amazing Jamaican steak sauce: 5 calories, 50 mg sodium, 1 gram sugar.
Eggs and Avocado
This was a big surprise to me. The Hotel Indigo, my Waco home-away-from-home, serves innovative Tex-Mex breakfasts, and I finally got up my nerve and ordered a half-avocado filled with scrambled eggs and topped with picante sauce. Delicious! Avocado toast, using Ezekiel or another multigrain bread, and scrambled eggs are equally good. A strip of crumbled crisp bacon in the eggs would probably be a nice addition.
Goat Cheese—Another Hotel Discovery
Somewhere recently I had an egg white frittata with goat cheese—almost an egg pizza—and I was amazed at how good it was. Feta cheese is a goat cheese, and I was using low-fat feta cheese crumbles with egg recipes that included spinach. I discovered that goat cheese—chevre—has a more pronounced tanginess that really complements eggs; and when heated, it softens more than feta without spreading flat like grated hard cheeses. I am using it most of the time now, including in salads.
Staples in my refrigerator and pantry:
Uncured bacon, sausage or Canadian bacon; eggs; small carton of egg whites; spinach; mushrooms; tomatoes; pico de gallo; picante sauce; pint of skim milk; 2% milk grated cheese or goat cheese crumbles; and canned diced tomatoes and black beans. Less often I buy broccoli, red peppers and thin boneless pork chops. About half the time I have a loaf of whole wheat bread in the pantry.
More Egg Recipes:
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RECLAIMING JOY: A PRIMER FOR WIDOWS, Ella’s memoir of her journey from grief after her husband died, will be released September 15. You may preorder now from the Baylor University Press or Amazon. These days Ella blogs about her lifestyle as a widow and the joy she finds cooking, gardening, writing, traveling and entertaining family and friends.