Category Archives: Breakfast

What to Cook for the Hate-to Cook: Part One

I would have posted this blog last night, but this hate-to interior designer was painting!  Phew!  If people really hate to cook as much as I hate decorating, then you have all of my empathy today because cooking has to be done just about every single day!  Thankfully for me, painting does not!

Anyway, I’m back to my blog this morning with part one of my “What to Cook for the Hate-to Cook” series.  Today’s quick, easy, delicious, nutritious meal?  Frittatas!!

I absolutely love frittatas!  Just in case your forehead is all wrinkled up in a “What the heck is a frittata?” kind of way, let me explain.  A frittata is a bit like a crustless quiche.  You cook eggs and other ingredients it in a large frying pan on top of the stove and then finish it under the broiler or in the oven.  Then you slide it out onto a plate, cut it into pie-shaped pieces, and enjoy!

Here are a few reasons why the hate-to cook should love frittatas:

1.  They are a healthy choice!
I’m a huge fan of eggs and egg whites.  They are a go-to protein source for me since they are a complete protein.  And please don’t worry about all those cholesterol threats they try to scare you with.  Eating cholesterol does not give you high/bad cholesterol.  Processed, sugary foods will do that.  And those fats found in the egg yolk (you know, the ones that actually make the egg taste so creamy and delicious), those fats are good for you!  Again, not all saturated fat is bad for you either.  Eggs are relatively low in calories–about 75-80 per egg.  If I’m really looking for just a big source of protein and really low calories, I’ll make some egg whites.  Half a cup has about 60 calories and 12 grams of protein.

2.  You probably already have the ingredients on hand.
This is a huge victory for you, Ms. Hate-to Cook!  No shopping required!  If you’ve got some eggs in your fridge and maybe a few vegetables, meats, or leftovers, you can probably eek out a frittata with those ingredients!

3.  You don’t even have to measure the ingredients!
Come on.  Let’s be serious here.  I’m a love-to cook, and even I hate to measure things out in measuring cups.  Who has time?  I’d so much rather eyeball it.  I feel closer to Julia Child and other famous cooks and chefs when I do.  Granted, there are times when measuring is a necessity (i.e. I wouldn’t suggest eyeballing the flour for your chocolate chip cookies!), but when it comes to baking a frittata, it’s just not worth the time.

So let’s get started…
So how do you go about making a frittata?  Glad you asked!  I’m including my favorite frittata recipe below.  It’s from my Southern Living Cookbook (and is surprisingly not laden with fat and sour cream!).  It’s a great frittata to start with if you need a recipe for your first time.  However, if you’re feeling adventurous and want to whip up a frittata right now on the fly, I’ll help you with that too.

First, go through your fridge and decide what you might like to put in your frittata.  Pick out some veggies if you have them: bell peppers, onions, asparagus, and broccoli are all nice options, but anything will do.  If you have some meat, you might want to grab that, too.  I like using turkey sausage or bacon (the Hubs loves anything that includes bacon), but even deli meat could work.  Grab any miscellaneous, clean-out-the-fridge ingredients you have: even cold, leftover pasta could work, a can of beans from your pantry, or frozen/diced potatoes from your freezer.  Finally, grab some sort of dairy product.  Ideally plain greek yogurt or sour cream, but if you don’t have that, a bit of milk or cream could work, too.

Grab a large skillet (preferably a non-stick skillet) and set it on the stove to start heating up.  I use a 12-inch non-stick skillet for my frittatas, but occasionally I’ll use my 8-inch fry pan (not non-stick) too.  It depends on how big of a frittata you want and/or how many people you’re feeding.

Now, prep any ingredients that need a bit of prepping.  Chop the veggies, dice the meat into bite-size pieces (this will help them cook faster in the pan, too, if you’re starting with raw meat).

Once your pan is good and hot, throw in a little olive oil to heat up for a minute or so.  Once it slides easily over the bottom of the pan to coat it, throw in your raw meat (if using) and then your veggies.  Let the meat cook through (or nearly through) and the veggies soften a bit.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven or broiler.  My 12-inch skillet is not broiler proof, so I use my oven.  Plus, I’m not too skillful with my broiler anyway (i.e. I tend to set off the smoke alarm…).  I typically heat my oven to 350 degrees.

Grab your eggs and crack them into a big bowl.  I use 8-10 eggs generally because I like to make a big frittata.  Make it to the size of your pan, and enjoy any leftovers for breakfast or lunch for a few days.  Beat the eggs with a whisk.  Here’s where you can throw in your dairy products.  Adding a bit of greek yogurt or sour cream will help the eggs get nice and fluffy.  If you’re using milk or cream, I’d make sure to whip really well and get some air into the eggs.  Throw in some salt and pepper, taco seasoning, cumin, or whatever herb or spice you want into the eggs.  Heck, if you’ve got some fresh herbs on hand, throw those in.  (I would, but a bird flew onto my balcony and devoured my basil plant.  Does anyone have a pellet gun for sale?)

Once your meat/veggies are cooked, spread them out onto the bottom of the pan, turn down the heat to medium-low, and dump the egg mixture on top.  Let the eggs cook just like that for five minutes or so on the stove.  You want them to start to cook a bit so all you have to do is finish it in the oven.  Then, once it has cooked a bit, throw it under the broiler or in the oven to cook.  The one in my recipe below takes about 30 minutes to cook in the oven.  Yours might take less time if it is smaller or you are using the broiler.  Just keep an eye on it the first time to see how long it takes.  Once it’s puffy and the eggs are set, you’re good to go.  Top your frittata with a bit of cheese right at the end of cooking for an added punch.  Skip it if you’re watching your calories.

Now pull out your beautiful creation and slide it out onto a plate, cut it into pie-shaped pieces and save with a green salad!  You can also top it with salsa, more greek yogurt, green chili sauce, etc.  It’s okay, Ms. Hate-to Cook.  You can hate cooking while enjoying a tiny bit of creativity at the end here.  😉

Let me know how your frittata creation goes!  Best of luck, Ms. Hate-to Cook.  I know you can do it!

Avocado-and-Black Bean Frittata
(from The All-New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook)

1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 large avocados, chopped
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
10 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
Toppings: avocado slices, plum tomato slices, sour cream
Chunky salsa (optional)

Saute onion in hot oil in a 12-inch oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat 3 to 4 minutes or until tender.  Remove from heat; sprinkle top evenly with chopped avocados and beans.

Whisk together eggs and next 4 ingredients; pour over avocado mixture in skillet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes; sprinkle top evenly with cheese, and bake 5 more minutes.  Remove from oven, and let stand 5 minutes before serving.  Serve with desired toppings and, if desired, with salsa.  Yield: 6 servings.


Fish Out of Water and Banana Breakfast Cookies

I mentioned in a previous post that I do have a few New Year’s Resolutions for 2012.  One of those is to read the entire Bible chronologically. I’ve missed a few days so far, but I quickly catch up in the next few days and am still right on track!  Another New Year’s resolution is to do a set of pull-ups.  Unless you count getting a jumping head start, I’ve never really been able to do one.  I really like any strength training that involves my body weight (TRX is a good example), so doing a pull-up just seems like a “must do” to me.

My third and final New Year’s resolution is to complete a triathlon.  I’ve chosen an Olympic distance Tri late in July as my capstone race.  It’s a 1500 Meter swim (just shy of a mile), 40K bike ride (just shy of 25 miles), wrapped up with a 10K run (6.2 miles).  I decided to do an Olympic distance because the sprint triathlon just seemed a little short to me.  I’m guessing somewhere in the middle of this race, I’ll ask myself why I didn’t just stick with a sprint, but the difficulty level of an Olympic distance race is certainly keeping me motivated to train right now!  My favorite bike ride with my Hubs is right around the 40K mark, and with nearly 14 years of competitive running under my belt, a 10K is no problem.  Here’s the thing.  I’ve never, ever swum.

Oh sure, I went to the pool almost every summer day as a kid.  I took the mandatory week of swim lessons each summer (Maybe that’s why I’m not a swimmer!  The pool is COLD at 7 in the morning at the beginning of June!!).  I can tread water forever probably because I tend to float.  But, ask me to do a single stroke, and I’m like a fish out of water…or maybe more like a cat IN water?  You get the idea…

I’ve had several overuse injuries in my years as a runner.  (Not anymore though.  That’s another story for another day.)  So, what’s a girl to do when she’s got the accountability of a team depending on her to train even when she can’t put any real weight on a stress fractured foot or some really bad shin splints?  She gets in the pool.  But don’t get the idea that I’m swimming here.  I’m talking about pool running.  Yep.  Strap on the Aqua Jogger and run away.  See?  I’m not a swimmer!  Even in the water I’m still running!

So now I’ve got to figure out how in the world I’m going to be able to manage swimming nearly a mile.  I’ve started taking some swim lessons at a nearby pool.  Let me tell you.  I’m not sure I’ve ever felt less athletic.  For a person who could go run ten miles at any given moment, I am gasping for air at the end of one lap!  Then it hits me. I’ve got to swim the equivalent of 30 LAPS in this race.  Suddenly I think, “Is my goal unattainable?  Can I really do this?”  I haven’t even started thinking about the greater challenge of open water swimming with other people all around me, kicking me in the face and swimming up my back.  Oh dear…

Then I realize that this is exactly how a lot of my clients feel starting out at the gym.  Some have athletic backgrounds and want to get back in shape.  Others just know they need to take care of their bodies, so they force themselves to come learn how to use the gym.

I realize a few things as I am doing a short swim this morning.  First, I realize how incredibly self-aware I am.  I feel like the whole world is watching me–critiquing my form, noticing how I’m gasping for air after every lap (or half lap), etc.  I know a lot of my clients can feel this way, and I’m constantly reminding them that nobody’s really watching, and if they are, they should probably be more focused on their own form and workout!  I have to share a lane with a rather accomplished swimmer this morning.  Instantly, I feel like he is irritated by my presence and that I’m everywhere but out of his way.  Oh well, I’ve got to swim, too, so I just get to it and ignore him.

I also realize how very hard it is to learn something new.  Don’t get me wrong.  I absolutely love to learn anything!  I’m always reading several books and practicing something.  When it comes to athletics though, it is really hard to learn something entirely new.  My muscles haven’t ever really worked in this way.  I feel sort of awkward.  I notice how tense I am.  My face is tight.  Even five laps feel like a huge deal.

However, I think back to last year at this time.  My husband had just bought me a beautiful road bike.  Once again, I had ridden a bike as a kid, but never really for exercise or as a sport unless, once again, I was injured.  So, feeling myself hovering above what seemed like the teeniest tiniest wheel was a bit disconcerting.  Throw in a heavy stream of traffic, and I’m feeling tense and nervous.  I adapted though.  Before I knew it, I couldn’t wait for our weekend bike rides.  I was feeling stronger and stronger.  I stopped gripping my handle bars for all they were worth.  Now there are days when I pick biking over running for my cardio exercise.  In the winter I take spinning classes and dream about when I’ll be able to get back out on my bike.  (I guess I’m still a bit of a fair weather biker.  I’ll work on that…)

That was just one year ago.  I know swimming will get there, too, and then I’ll be thankful that I put so much work into it, even if I felt a little uncomfortable and uncoordinated in the process.  So hopefully this comes as encouragement to you.  There are even days when personal trainers feel very uncomfortable even in athletic pursuits!  Hang in there, and don’t quit!  The results you’ll find will make it all worth it!

Okay, and now onto today’s recipe.  As I was writing this post, I was eating this:

As I mentioned, I went for a short swim around 5:30 this morning.  When I got back, I had a bowl of oats, an apple, and some black coffee.  Then I trained a client before heading out for a bike ride.  Needless to say, by the time I got back, I was ready for my mid-morning snack!  I blended up a protein shake with 6 ounces of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, some frozen mango, peaches, and pineapple, and one scoop of vanilla protein powder (I use Designer Whey since it has pronounceable ingredients and only about 100 calories per scoop with 18 grams of protein.)  This will be a great recovery drink and keep me full until lunch.  Then I grabbed a banana breakfast cookie out of the fridge to munch on. I made these on Saturday night when I felt like baking something.  I adapted this recipe from Tina Haupert’s book “Carrots ‘n’ Cake.”  Tina has a blog by the same name, and I like her realistic, moderate take on nutrition.  She also has some really great tips on cravings, overeating, etc.

Anyway, Tina’s recipe is entitled “Banana Oatmeal Chip Cookies,” and I think these cookies are meant to be a healthy dessert option.  However, I love breakfast cookies, so I simply substituted raisins for the chocolate chips, and I was ready to go.  I also subbed in some pecans for the walnuts, almond milk for the soy milk, and honey rather than agave nectar, since that’s what I had on hand.  These cookies would be really easy to make gluten-free as well.  Just sub out the whole wheat flour for almond flour or something like that.

Hope you enjoy this great grab-n-go breakfast!

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed meal
1/4 cup agave nectar (or honey)
1/4 cup soy milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 ripe banana
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a large baking sheet.  Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well until dough is blended evenly.

Using a tablespoon, portion the dough onto the baking sheet, spacing cookies about 1 to 2 inches apart.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove cookies from baking sheet and allow to cool on wire rack.  Enjoy!

Protein Pancakes & Protein Treats!

Today I wanted to share with you a few of my recent internet recipe finds.  

First off, breakfast!  I LOVE breakfast!  Have I mentioned that before?  Deja vu anyone?  Well, I’ve got a particular soft spot for pancakes.  Maybe it’s because they tend to be pure carbs and simple sugar…who can resist?  I also have very fond memories of Sunday mornings as a kid when my dad would come wake me up singing this “It’s time to be pine” silly wake up song and then go make us all pancakes.  It still makes me smile.

At any rate, I love pancakes, but I’ve come to grips with the fact that they’re not the best nutritional choice for my morning.  No wonder I used to get so sleepy in church and then be famished by the time I got home…  Anyway, I have good news for my fellow pancake lovers!  I’ve found a few recipes for healthy, protein pancakes!  They are filling, delicious, and a perfect substitute for their fluffy, powdered sugar friends.  They will keep you fueled and energized all morning!

Here’s the one that I tried last night.  (Yes, I even love pancakes for dinner…especially when my Hubs is not home).  I would try making these without the water next time, and I might just stir it all up instead of blending it all together.  The batter was a little to thin.  Also, I don’t love the taste of Stevia, so I substituted that with maybe a tablespoon of raw honey.  All in all, they were very good.  Here’s the link:

This second recipe I tried this past Saturday morning.  Fantastic!  Loved this one.  I’m thinking of exchanging the banana for some plain, canned pumpkin simply because I love pumpkin pancakes.  This recipe was a bit more pancake-like than the first recipe.  Here’s the link:

Finally, I love a little treat in the mid-afternoon.  Unfortunately, this is when I tend to reach for something less than healthy.  I found this recipe which has been a perfect little snack when I’m craving something sweet.  The chocolate chips make me feel like I’m really indulging, when really there are just a few in there!  Here’s the link to my mid-afternoon protein balls:

One note about cooking with protein powder: not all protein powders are created equal when it comes to baking with them.  I tried to make pudding with my husband’s protein powder once and ended up throwing it all away.  Some of them are just loaded with artificial sweeteners, and that’s all you taste when you bite into anything made with them.  I’ve found my protein powder that I use for my shakes also bakes very well.  I use Designer Whey.  The back of the can has ingredients I can pronounce, and while it’s not loaded with flavor, you really don’t want something too flavorful if you’re going to be baking with the product and combining it with other ingredients.  I like to keep vanilla and chocolate varieties on hand for my various recipes.

Keep it clean, and enjoy!

Breakfast Cookies!

I think most of the recipes I’ve posted thus far have been dinner menu ideas, but today I want to talk about breakfast!  Some people, myself included, absolutely love breakfast and would never dream about starting the day without it.  Seriously, forced to skip a meal, I might just pick dinner, but take away my breakfast, and I might get a bit grumpy.  I come from a family of breakfast eaters.  We are up and at ’em early in the morning, and we always have our breakfast!  I can still remember waking up around 4 a.m. to the sound of my dad’s cereal spoon clanking the bowl.  He was eating breakfast before going hunting!

However, I’m willing to admit it.  I’m probably in the minority when it comes to my love of breakfast. In fact, I’m married to a guy who doesn’t always eat breakfast, and when he does, it’s only because he should (or because I made it for him!).  This is unfathomable to me, but I’m learning to come to grips with it.  🙂

Some people simply aren’t hungry first thing in the morning.  (I’m with you if I ate late at night, but I like going to bed on an empty stomach.)  Other people say that breakfast makes them feel sick.  Others are so extremely rushed to get out the door and get to work or school, that breakfast takes a backseat to being on time (okay, I can understand that one).

The thing is, the numbers don’t lie.  Breakfast eaters do tend to have less weight issues than non-breakfast eaters.  A number of things could contribute to this, but a big one would probably be that we get busy with the day.  Then, when we finally sit down to eat something (maybe by now it’s lunch time or even worse, dinner!), we’re absolutely famished.  We eat the whole fridge and then some.

Other theories have arisen that eating within one hour of waking helps to boost your metabolism.  We are, essentially, breaking the fast that we experienced sleeping.  I really, really like this theory.  It makes me and my love of breakfast feel very justified.  I feel an “I told you so” cropping up, too.  Unfortunately, there doesn’t really appear to be a whole lot of actual scientific evidence to back this up.  Darn it.

However, I stick to my guns.  Breakfast is a good idea.  If anything, even if you’re not hungry, you may find you have better focus, clarity, and energy in the morning hours.  Even my husband can attest to that.

So, what do we do if know we “should” eat breakfast?  I’ve got a few suggestions.  First of all, if eating breakfast makes you sick, find something, anything that agrees with you.  Most people can handle a protein shake pretty well.  Just make it small.  Maybe an apple or some unsweetened applesauce would sit fairly well.  I’ve even found people who have come to me claiming to get sick if they eat breakfast, and then they end up loving oatmeal.  Find something that works for you.  Maybe it’s a glass of water and then an hour or two later, something small.  Work yourself into it, but find something that works!

I’ve got a great grab-and-go breakfast for those of you who simply don’t have time to prepare anything before rushing out the door.  They are called “Breakfast Cookies,” and they taste great!  I love packing them for my husband who may not take the time to grab something before leaving for work, but loves to find something in his lunchbox ready for him when he arrives at the office.  And while he’d probably jump for joy to find a blueberry lemon scone (I’ll admit…they’re my specialty, but they’re not necessarily good for you…), I pack a breakfast cookie instead.  The Hubs is typically wary of anything in baked good form that I’ve informed him is good for him.  He’d rather not eat it than eat a “healthy” muffin!  However, even these cookies passed the Hubby test of approval!  Granted, they’re not the absolute healthiest thing you’ll ever put into your mouth (they still have a bit of all-purpose flour and some sugar), but all in all, they’re okay.  I’d love to throw some flax seeds into them also to boost the fiber content and heart-healthy fats, but it’s baby steps for the Hubs, and right now he eats these no problem.

These are a snap to whip up on the weekend and keep for the week ahead.  They are also very forgiving.  For example, I love oats and find bran cereal flakes generally filled with unhealthy, unpronounceable ingredients, so I used 1 cup of rolled oats in lieu of the bran cereal.  I also didn’t have enough nuts, so I threw in some dried cranberries to round out my 1/3 cup.  If you live in altitude like me, you may want to add an extra tablespoon of whole-wheat flour to the recipe so that they don’t flatten out as they bake.  Take the time to find the whole-wheat pastry flour.  It uses a more tender grain and bakes much better than regular whole-wheat.  Also, I think I had to bake mine around 15 minutes rather than the suggested 12.  Just keep an eye on them, and take them out when they’re slightly golden.

This recipe comes from a one-time magazine entitled Quick & Fresh.  It comes from the makers of Fine Cooking magazine, and features recipes by one of my favorite Food Network stars, Ellie Krieger.  I think I bought it back in 2009.  Sorry to say it’s not still available.

Breakfast Cookies

3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour or whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup (1 small jar) strained carrot baby food
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup bran cereal flakes
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup walnut pieces, lightly toasted in a dry skillet for 2 minutes until fragrant, and chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whisk together the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium-sized bowl.  Combine oil, butter, and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on high speed, scraping down sides if necessary, until sugar has dissolved and mixture is light in color, about 1 minute.  Add the egg, carrot puree and vanilla and beat an additional 30 seconds.  Add the flour mixture and beat for an additional 30 seconds.  Add the oatmeal, bran flakes, raisins, and walnuts and mix over low speed just until incorporated.  The dough will be slightly sticky and less cohesive than traditional cookie dough.

Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Shape 3 to 4 tablespoons of batter into a ball and place on cookie sheet.  Repeat with remaining batter, leaving about 3 inches between cookies.  Wet your hands and use your palm to flatten cookies until they’re about 1/4-inch thick.  Bake for 12 minutes, until cookies are fragrant but still soft.  Let the cookies cool slightly and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Serves 12

Serving Size: 1 Cookie