For me, the changes to my eating habits that I have made in recent years is to keep snacky, ready-made foods out of my house. When things like chips, crackers, Candy, etc are readily available, one’s tendency is to idly snack on them. This adds empty calories to one’s diet.
When you only keep whole foods in your home, it requires effort to whip up a meal, as well it should. Food shouldn’t be fast and easy. We all get plenty of calories and I intend to make every one count. I eat with intention these days. If it’s going in my body, it had better be good for me. And if I’m hungry, I will just have to take the time to make myself something delicious and good for me. Once I established this pattern and got used to it, I found that I no longer even thought about looking for an empty snack food. For the record, I do keep dried fruits and nuts and that sort of thing around for a quick nibble now and again. And a piece of artisan sourdough with butter from grass-fed cows is something that everyone should have on a regular basis :)
The biggest irony of working in a restaurant is that there is rarely time or opportunity to eat! We are always on the go and working very long hours with barely enough time to sleep and do laundry at home.
So, it is an ever-present temptation to just grab a pastry and a coffee or, worse yet, just a giant coffee on an empty stomach on the way in to work. The problem with this is that it is not only lacking in nutrition but also in fuel. We are on our feet for 8, 10, 12 or more hours a day and we need a good, balanced meal to start the day or we crash and burn. Three hours into a day with only coffee and donuts and even walking up the stairs starts to feel challenging.
In order to combat this in my own life, I find the need to plan ahead. I have three go-to breakfasts that work beautifully to get me through the first part of the day.
1. Breakfast burritos with eggs from my chickens, black beans, rice, and seasonal veggies from my garden or the farmers’ market… The addition of sausage or leftover braised or grilled meats is always welcome.
To make this happen, on my day off, I slow-cook a big pot of delicious local black beans with aromatics from my garden and make a batch of Mexican-style rice with onions, tomatoes, dried chili, and chicken stock. These two staples last in my fridge happily for a week and they take only a minute or two to heat up and form the base for a nutrition-packed burrito. I scramble my hens’ eggs with leftover meats and veggies, toss them in a tortilla with the rice & beans, and some fresh herbs and greens, perhaps some cheese. I wrap it up and can eat it on the go.
Aromatic Black Beans
1 lb organic Pacific Northwest black beans
1 stalk celery
1 carrot, peeled
1 handful thyme
1/3 bunch parsley, stems included
1 bay leaf
5 cloves garlic, bay
3 Tbs sea salt
I recommend quick-soaking beans rather than cold soaking overnight, as quick-soaking makes some of the starches more digestible.
To quick soak, rinse beans and place in a large pot. Cover with cold water to about 3 inches above the top of the beans. Bring the pot to a boil, cover, and immediately remove from the heat. Let sit for one hour, drain, rinse, and return to the pot.
Cover the beans with fresh cold water to 3-4 inches above the level of the beans (this will require more water than the previous time, as the beans will have expanded during the quick soak). Add to the pot the onion, carrot, celery, thyme, parsley, bay, garlic, and salt. All the veggies can and should be left whole, as they will be easier to remove later. I add the salt at the beginning of cooking as I find it adds better flavor to the beans. Many people believe that adding salt too early will make the beans tough, but I have never found this to be the case. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce to the barest simmer – just barely bubbling very gently. Cook, uncovered until beans are done. This will vary greatly with the size and variety of beans, the size of your pot, your elevation, the weather, etc. Just taste test along the way until they are fully cooked through but not mushy. This should take, very roughly, 1-2 hours. Once done, remove from the heat. I generally remove all the aromatics, and then store the beans in their own cooking liquid in the fridge in a sealed container. They will last 1-2 weeks that way. The liquid is delicious.
Fragrant Mexican-style rice
2 cups long-grain rice, washed
3 tbs olive or vegetable oil
1/2 onion, cut in a small dice
1 tsp ancho chile powder or ” mild Mexican chile powder”
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 fresh tomato from the garden or farmers’ market, diced, or 1 small can diced organic tomatoes
3 cups chicken or veggie stock or plain water
In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat, add diced onion and sautee until soft and translucent. Add chile powder, salt, and white pepper and sautee a minute longer. Add rice to the pot and sautee for 3-4 mins to toast the rice just slightly. Add chopped tomato and stir entire mixture for 3-4 minutes longer. Add stock, turn up heat, and bring quickly to a boil. As soon as it boils, cover the pot and reduce heat to the lowest possible setting on your stove. Allow to steam for about 30 minutes. Check rice for doneness and add a bit more liquid if necessary, recover and keep steaming until done. Uncover, and fluff rice. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
**My strategy is to set the rice and beans to cooking when I have a bit of time at home. I can get lots of other things done while they are on the stove. I make quite large batches and when they are done, I store them, well-sealed, in the fridge, and they reheat easily and quickly to add to my breakfast burrito and other great, quick meals.**
fresh Mexican chorizo sausage, bacon, or leftover meat, fish, and/or veggies of almost any sort
eggs from pasture-raised chickens, scrambled
aromatic black beans
fragrant Meixcan-style rice
sharp cheddar, pepper or Monterrey Jack, cotija, Oaxaca or other flavorful cheese, shredded or crumbled
salsa of any sort (the choices are endless. I make fresh pico de gallo in the summer)
green onions, chopped
In a large sautee pan, cook or reheat sausage, meat, fish, and/or veggies. When cooked or heated through, add scrambled eggs (quantity depends on how hungry you are!) and cook gently until just set. Heat your flour tortilla in a frying pan or the microwave for just a few seconds. Fill your burrito with your scramble, rice, beans, and any other toppings of your liking. My favorites are listed above. The possibilities to vary your burrito fillings are endless… from vegetarian to hearty and meaty. This is a great way to get a complete, healthy and balanced meal, quickly, all wrapped up in a tortilla and ready to go. It will provide great fuel for your day.