Easy Breakfast Ideas

I make breakfast almost every day. Yet, it seems to be the meal I most often panic before as if it if my first time cracking an egg. Probably because it’s not a meal I really plan for. I make sure there are eggs and some kind of base for them in the house (bread, tortillas, potatoes, polenta), plus leftover vegetables from dinner.

On a weekday I spend 10-15 minutes making breakfast for two, usually more than that on the weekends. Weekdays are never fancy, and often just repeats of the same items in slightly different iterations (toast + veg + egg + hot sauce). More than anything this is a reminder to myself of just how many options I have, for the next time I’m staring at an open carton of eggs at 8:15am. Meat doesn’t usually make it into the meal, but I do always save the fat from cooking bacon to use for sauteing veg or frying eggs.

Reliable Weekday Rotations

Last Week I Cooked - Vegetal MattersToast with butter, honey, and flaky salt. This is one of the most delightfully simple combinations, but it is relatively new to me. I’ve found the key is to go heavy on the butter and honey so they really soak into the bread. This is also the time to bring out your fanciest salt.

It is barely worth mentioning, but a lot of toast with a vegetable topped with a fried egg happens around here. Avocado or tomatoes heated in the pan are definite favorites. Green scrambled eggs with mustard toast are a little fancier. Egg in a hole is somehow so much better than toast with a fried egg, and also so much more fun.

Toast with whipped feta, kale, and scrambled eggs. This was inspired by the best bakery in central MA, which just does toast with whipped feta, olive oil, and parsley. I took it a step further and added sauteed kale and scrambled eggs for an explosion of my favorite things.

Last Week I Cooked - Vegetal MattersHuevos rancheros. Flipping these takes a bit of skill, but the crispy tortilla and runny egg make an excellent base for other accouterments (I don’t usually use cheese). Chopped avocado, sauteed vegetables (whatever is around), beans, cilantro, leftover green sauce, and hot sauce work in any combination (or ideally all together).

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersBreakfast burritos. My version of these look miniature compared to a normal burrito. I use 10″ flour tortillas, and warm them in a large pan while I scramble the eggs (1 per person). At minimum I put in beans and eggs, often a sauteed vegetable, sometimes cheese, salsa, and always hot sauce. I leave the pan I heated the tortillas in on the heat while I fill them, and then once rolled return them to the pan, seam side down, to crisp. This step is absolutely key in achieving perfect tortilla texture.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersPolenta with veg and an egg. I don’t usually make the polenta on a weekday morning, but I make extra when I make some for dinner or for a weekend breakfast. This past weekend I whisked in some cream cheese at the end, but I’ve used just about every cheese that’s been in the fridge (or even none at all). Greens and an egg are my favorite toppings (do I even have to mention the hot sauce?), but this spicy polenta breakfast bowl is an excellent version as well.

When I have to be at work extra early to run camp programming, I buy a tub of Greek yogurt, some fruit, make a batch of granola, and then just have to assemble them all in a bowl with an extra drizzle of honey or maple syrup each morning. The earlier I eat breakfast the earlier I get hungry again, so I make a batch of whole wheat chocolate coffee banana muffins for a mid morning snack.

Weekend Breakfast Extravaganza

Hash browns with kale and eggs. This is usually a weekend meal since the potatoes take a bit longer. Sometimes I make them more like a giant latke, sometime I cube them and cook them in a pan, other times I roast them. The potato-egg-kale combo never fails me.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersShakshuka. I think of this more as tomato sauce with whatever beans or veg you have around, plus eggs and bread. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook has an excellent Mexican inspired version with black beans in the sauce and topped with crispy tortilla bits.

The best buttermilk pancakes. I’ve been making these for years. The batter is simple as pie (cake?) to put together, but the cooking does take a good 15 minutes. Sometimes I try to squeeze these in on a weekday, but that is when I’m feeling my most ambitious. These whole wheat raspberry yogurt pancakes are a more healthful version, which are also making me desperately crave raspberry season.

Multigrain waffles. These have worked flawlessly for me every time…except for that one occasion I forgot to add the baking powder (they were very flat, and it took me far too long to figure out why). I’ve only made them once as pictured (with yogurt and pomegranate), because this born and bred New Englander much prefers maple syrup.

The most decadent item in my repertoire (which also requires prep the day before)…buns. Most recently cashew morning buns and this standby chai version.

In case you need even more morning inspiration, I have an entire Pinterest board of breakfast ideas. What am I missing?

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Zucchini Carbonara

Zucchini Carbonara - Vegetal MattersJamie at Home has been on my cookbook shelf for close to five years now. It moved to Seattle and back, and has survived multiple collection cullings. I can’t say I like the cover much, but it does have a nice feel to it both in texture and heft. As it should be with any book, the real joy is inside. The photography is incredible, with so many garden and produce beauty shots in addition to the recipe photos. The book is arranged by season, and within each season section are chapters on specific fruit, veg, or meats available during that time (so the spring section is asparagus, eggs, lamb, and rhubarb). At the end of each chapter there are tips for growing the produce or acquiring the meat sustainably. I like that there are whole chapters focusing on humble ingredients like lettuce or onions. So many of the recipes I’ve made from this have become yearly staples, like the sweet cherry tomato and sausage bake and steak, Guinness, and cheese pie, both recipes that create almost unbelievable flavor out of very simple ingredients.

Zucchini Carbonara - Vegetal Matters

The zucchini chapter has three recipes in it, and I’m sure the others are very nice but I have’t gotten around to making them since I just repeat the zucchini carbonara. Yes, bacon, egg, and cheese with pasta is a bit indulgent, but there is also a lot of squash piled in there as well. Oliver’s directions are usually a bit vague (a handful of this, pinch of that), but every time I make it I think this recipe needs a little more guidance. Maybe my personal zucchini scale is off, but if I used the 6 medium he calls for I would have ended up using almost 5 pounds worth. And while 12 slices of pancetta would probably be appropriate, 12 slices of regular American (streaky) bacon was going to be about a full pound for me, which was just too indulgent. What follows is still a lush recipe (it is cabonara after all, and if it’s not rich you’re not doing it right), with just the right balance of herbs and veg in a creamy sauce. I hope there are still zucchini and summer squash around you, they are on their way out in MA but I’ve still seen some around this past week.

Zucchini and Summer Squash Carbonara

Adapted from Jamie Oliver

  • 2 pounds mixed summer squash like zucchini, yellow summer squash, and pattypan
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • ½ pound of bacon
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper

Fill a large pot with water and set to boil. Whisk the cream with the 2 eggs and shredded parmesan, season with salt and pepper, and set aside. Remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs.

Slice the bacon into ¼ pieces and put in a very large pan over medium heat. While the bacon starts to render chop the squash into quarters lengthwise and then into ¼ slices. When the bacon is almost to your crispness liking, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon (it will keep cooking a bit more). Drain all but a tablespoon of fat from the pan, reserving the rest in a bowl separate from the bacon. Turn the heat up to medium-high, and add enough sliced zucchini to cover the bottom of the pan, but don’t crowd them. Season with salt and pepper and allow the squash to cook for about 7 minutes total, allowing them to start browning. When that batch is done remove the squash from the pan into a bowl, return the pan to the heat, add another tablespoon of bacon fat, squash to fill the pan, salt, and pepper, and cook until they start to brown. Repeat until all the squash is cooked.

When the pasta water boils, salt it liberally and then add the pasta. I start checking for doneness around 7 minutes by tasting for al dente. Reserve a ladle-full of the pasta cooking water and then drain.

When the last batch of squash is finished, turn off the heat and add the rest of the cooked squash back to the pan along with the bacon and thyme leaves.  Add the pasta to the pan as well and stir everything to combine. Add about a ¼ cup of the cooking liquid and your egg-cream-cheese mixture to the pan. Toss everything to coat in the sauce. It is really important to do this off the heat once the squash has cooked for a minute, so you don’t end up with scrambled egg sauce (though it’s really not the end of the world if you do, just not the prettiest sauce). If you like the sauce a little looser, add more of the reserved pasta water. Taste and add more salt and pepper if you like.

 

Last week I cooked…

Last Week I Cooked - Vegetal MattersI refuse to answer the question “How was your summer?” I’m still eating my way through it!!! More than ever I’m experiencing serious recipe FOMO. There are so many things I should be cooking with so much summer produce. Eggplant parm (standard and pizza) and cherry tomato sausage bakes and zucchini carbonara and plum cakes and peach cobblers. A chorizo and tomato salad which is the marriage of two of my absolute favorite ingredients that I pinned years ago and still haven’t cooked. I haven’t made ice cream yet this summer (But this peach derby ice cream has to be in my future. It just has to be.). But I need to take this one meal at a time. I had tomatoes in every meal that I cooked this week, so that counts for something.

Epic roast chicken salad (from Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain, pictured above with dry English cider). This is a perfect summer Sunday meal. It has a longer cooking time, but it is mostly hands off. The balance of ingredients is inspired. Crispy, chewy bread, fatty bacon and chicken skin, sweet cherry tomatoes, crunchy green beans, meaty chicken and the acid and bite of vinegar and mustard. This is the dream salad I didn’t know I should dream about. And though the bread bits weren’t quite as good the next day, I still thoroughly enjoyed the leftovers. I added in extra cherry tomatoes and green beans, and still could have done with more.

Chickpea and cherry tomato curry (the recipe is in the booklet at the bottom, which has a bunch of other gems). The first time I made this curry was a revelation. Coconut and tomatoes?! But they add the perfect sweet and bright pop to a rich curry. I add in more tomatoes than called for, and always want even more than that. Just remember to start rice to serve it with before you make the curry…otherwise it leads to a late dinner.

Last Week I Cooked - Vegetal Matters

Sabih (from Jerusalem). Though this recipe has a lot of parts, it is really just an open faced sandwich with salad and sauce and everything came together quickly. I found the eggplant to be a bit oily after frying…maybe because I didn’t have it hot enough? Or have enough oil in the pan? The eggs were a weird texture to me among all the vegetables, but they did make it into a heartier meal.

Last Week I Cooked - Vegetal Matters

Shrimp in green sauce. I was the sous chef to my mom on this one, but I did provide the recipe and then thoroughly enjoy the product. Super easy, and vibrant in color and taste. Served with tomato salad and corn on the cob, finished with blueberry cobbler. Thanks Mom!!!!!

Last Week I Cooked - Vegetal Matters

Breakfasts this week were and ode to tomatoes and eggs. An omelet with sautéed cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and goat cheese and skillet potatoes. (When making omelets for two, I prefer to use a big pan to make one giant omelette and then split it in half for eating.) Fried eggs with fried tomatoes on buttered toast. Scrambled eggs with goat cheese on toast with sautéed tomatoes (pictured above). Egg and salsa burritos. My one rule is the tomatoes should be cooked before paired with eggs, because I don’t like cold things stealing the heat from my eggs, and they are often too watery uncooked.

Not something I cooked, but hilarious: So you want to write a food blog (via Shutterbean). “Remember, you never want to confuse your readers. I find it helpful to always provide a photo of each individual ingredient, in case your fans forget what food looks like, as well as a candid photo of a baby (it doesn’t have to be yours) in a bathtub full of chia seeds. Isn’t he adorable?”

Green Scrambled Eggs with Mustard Toast

Green Eggs with Mustard Toast - Vegetal MattersThis breakfast was born out of another Sunday morning toast session at BirchTree. It is the kind of place you want to linger, so I brought a cookbook to flip through. In Bowl + Spoon, Sara has a recipe for barely creamed greens with eggs and mustard breadcrumbs, as well as a popeye protein bowl that involved scrambled egg whites, zucchini, spinach, black beans, and avocado.

Both of these recipes were combined and then adapted to fit my whims and kitchen contents. We left BirchTree with a loaf of bread for toast, and in one of my farmer’s market raids the week before I bought zucchini, kale, and eggs. This takes less than 10 minutes of effort to pull together, but is as healthful, hearty, and seasonal as a breakfast can get. And so good it bears repeating…4 days in a row. The mustard here is just meant to be a slight background brightness, not an overwhelming flavor (like a tiny smear in the best grilled cheese).

Green Scrambled Eggs with Mustard Toast

Small breakfast for 2 or hearty for 1

  • 1 cup of zucchini that has been quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • ½ cup of chopped kale or other hearty green
  • 2 teaspoons of oil or butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon of milk (or a splash if you are more like me in the morning)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons shredded cheddar, or another cheese, or no cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (whole grain is extra fun)
  • 2 pieces bread

Put the bread in the toaster to your liking. Heat a small sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the sliced zucchini, and cook without disturbing for 3 minutes. Stir, and cook another 2 minutes. It should take on slight color, but not really brown.

While the zucchini is cooking crack both eggs in a bowl, add milk, season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

Add the kale to the zucchini and stir. After a minute it should be just wilted and shiny. Lower the heat to medium low. Add the beaten eggs to the pan and stir. Stir every minute for 2-3 more, until the eggs are scrambled to your liking (I go until they are just cooked through but still very soft. Turn off the heat, add the cheese, and stir to combine.

Spread the mustard on the toast (you can do butter first if it’s a special morning), and serve with the egg scramble.

Last week I cooked…

Last week I cooked - Vegetal MattersTakeout-style sesame noodles with cucumber. I saw this posted on Tuesday, didn’t have a firm plan for dinner that night, and had all the ingredients for this in the pantry, plus cucumbers in the garden and it was the greatest. I’ve had trouble cooking rice noodles, but I watched these like a hawk and then drizzled them with sesame oil as instructed, and they didn’t turn out gummy or all stick together (hallelujah!). I always love a nutty, creamy, slightly sour sauce like this (which tastes strong on its own but mellows nicely with the noodles). After running around all day I knew I would need a more substantial meal, so I roasted some tofu a la Thug Kitchen (page 77 of the cookbook….that’s how often I use this method). Because of the tofu addition I served the noodles still warm and they were everything I hoped for.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal Matters

Braised cabbage with fried potatoes, feta, and dill (from Vegetable Literacy). Very fancy feeling. The creamy fried potatoes were nicely balanced with wilted buttery cabbage, salty feta and herbal dill (which I don’t cook with enough).  This would have made an excellent course at an Irish mid-summer farm dinner. Unfortunately I made just this for dinner, and Madison’s serves 4 definitely meant as a side not a meal.

Corn bread salad. I have to admit this did not turn out, but it was entirely my fault as I let the cornbread go south (I thought toasting it up again would save it…I was wrong). Even if I had done everything according to recipe, it probably would not be my favorite dish. I already don’t like croutons in salad, and then getting them all soggy just makes everything that much worse. But I tried it, and I think most people without soggy crouton aversions would like this, so have at it.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal Matters

Zucchini ricotta fritters. I’ve been on the hunt for the best zucchini fritters for a while now…and these still aren’t quite them. The ricotta made them super moist, but to the point of being hard to cook through. They stayed together really nicely, browned quickly, and then sat in the oven for a bit and still were super soft in the middle. Most zest and more salt next time, higher heat, and longer in the oven.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal Matters

Potatoes with kale and a fried egg. This remains one of my absolute favorite breakfasts. This time I cooked the potatoes cubed in the cast iron, and added some diced onion halfway through cooking. The potatoes aren’t quite as decadent that way, but they do cook faster.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal Matters

Toast with ricotta, honey, and peaches. My favorite breakfast, lunch, and coffee spot in Worcester is also a bakery, and most of their breakfast menu is just their incredible breads toasted with various spreads (like country bread with homemade raspberry jam, and olive and herb bread with whipped feta and olive oil). After eating there Sunday I wanted nothing but toast for breakfast all week, and did different renditions of ricotta with jam or honey and fruit.

 

Hash Browns with Kale and Eggs

Hash Browns with Kale and Eggs - Vegetal MattersWithout at all meaning to, I created a signature breakfast. It started out with a latke phase a few months back, but then I realized that not trying to get everything to stick together and just calling them hash browns was far easier (plus, more crispy bits that way). What resulted has become a weekend regular around these parts: crispy, earthy potatoes, barely cooked kale, and a rich egg on top (best cut with hot sauce, if you ask me). The ingredient list is simple, but the potatoes take a bit of time to cook. The kale and eggs come together quickly after they are done. You could try doing things in more than one pan to speed up the process, but I usually make this as a lazy weekend breakfast when time is more plentiful and I can listen to a podcast while putzing around the kitchen (usually Gastropod or Startalk). Use any greens in place of kale, but I think more bitter greens go best with the potatoes.

Hash Browns with Kale and Eggs

Serves 2

  • 1 lb Yukon gold potatoes (or whatever is around)
  • .5 lb onion (about ½ a large one), any color
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (divided), plus extra as needed
  • 2.5 ounces kale (about 3 cups), washed and roughly chopped (any kind is fine)
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Grate the potato and onion on the largest holed side of a box grater or in a food processor. Put both in a towel and wring out as much liquid as you can. Leave them in the towel for a couple minutes, and then wring again. Mix together so the onion is evenly distributed in the potatoes.

Melt the butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a big pan (cast iron if you have it) over medium heat. Add the potatoes and onions in a ½” layer (in my 10” cast iron I usually do them in 2 batches, and add a bit more butter and oil to the pan the second time around). Season with salt and pepper. Cook them uncovered for 10-15 minutes, while stirring every 4-5 minutes. The hash browns should be mottled golden to light brown. If they are blackening quickly and still seeming raw in the middle, the pan is too dry (add some more butter, oil, or both).  When all the potatoes and onions are cooked, remove from the pan and cover to keep warm.

Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, and let it heat for a minute. Add the chopped kale and stir to coat in the oil. Sprinkle with salt and place a lid over the pan, and let the kale cook for 1-2 minutes (stay by the pan!). The kale should look shiny, moist, and very bright green all over. If the kale starts to yellow in spots and is not uniformly bright green, it’s starting to overcook (still very edible, just not the best).

Serve topped with an egg cooked to your preference. I do them over easy, cooking for 3-4 minutes on medium high heat until the whites are mostly set, turning off the heat, flipping, and removing from the pan after another minute. Hot sauce on top encouraged.

Trends: Bánh Mì Everything (and a Breakfast Sandwich)

Banh Mi BreakfastBánh mì is Vietnamese for bread, and the word has also come to define THE Vietnamese sandwich, which is a French influenced masterpiece of pâté, some kind of sliced pork product, mayonnaise, and pickled vegetables inside a baguette. Then someone figured out that the bánh mì formula of bread + protein + pickled things can be translated into many, many delicious dishes. I’ve come across burgers, tacos, alternate sandwiches, pizza, and breakfast sandwich recipes with a bánh mì spin, but the one that I crave with the most regularity is the breakfast sandwich. The bright flavor combination of spicy, fatty, and vinegary is addicting and easy enough to make a part of a regular breakfast rotation. Don’t be turned off by the ingredient list, they come together lickety-split (and disappear even faster).

Other bánh mì ideas:

The First Mess –  Kimberley’s banh mi with portobellos + pickled vegetables (vegan)

Food 52 – Banh Burgers

Heather Christo – Banh Mi Tacos with Spicy Sriracha Honey Sauce

Dula Notes – Pork Banh Mi Pizza

Banh Mi 2

Bánh Mì Breakfast Sandwiches 

Makes two, easily scaled. This does make enough pickles and mayo for 4-6 sandwiches, because I usually make the pickles and then have these sandwiches for breakfast a few days in a row since I have more English muffins and bacon as well (unless you have a source to only buy these items in twos). If you only want two servings worth of pickles and mayo, then adjust accordingly. For a vegetarian version some mushrooms would be a nice substitute for the bacon.

(adapted from Food 52)

  • 1 carrot, scrubbed and thinly sliced into coins
  • 1/2 a cucumber, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha (or other hot sauce)
  • 2 wheat English muffins
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 1/8 of a cup cilantro leaves (a few sprigs)

Combine the rice vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a jar. Microwave on high for 1 minute, or until the sugar and salt dissolve. Add the carrot and cucumber, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (can be done the night before).  Mix the mayonnaise and  hot sauce and stir until combined. Cook both slices of bacon on medium heat until crisp and remove from pan. Toast the English muffins.  Drain all but a thin layer of the bacon fat (save it for other sauteing activities!) and cook eggs to your preferred doneness (I like over easy). Build sandwiches with a big smear of hot mayo, sliced scallions, cilantro, a slice of bacon, pickles, and an egg. NOM.

Further Reading (updated 12/1/2014): Egg and Turkey Banh Mi