When I was a kid my Mom, as most moms do, drove me crazy. As soon as tomato season started every time she would bite into a tomato, and I mean every time, she would swoon. Really. Not just get a bit excited, but the “do you need smelling salts’ kind of swoon. She would take one bite and in a fit of slight rapture she would exclaim “oh….. this is sooooooo good”. “Yes Mom, we know. They are good.” we would say. “No.” she would say, ” but these are SOOOOOOO good”. Sigh. As a teenager it was mortifying.
Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday. Whatever you want to call it, I call it Pancake day and it’s here!
Traditionally, pancake day is the last day before the beginning of Lent. During Lent, it is customary to give up things we love (think drinking pop or alcohol, tv, or eating chocolate) so historically families would try to use up things like meat, butter, and flour, and thus the tradition of Pancake Day began. As a kid for Shrove Tuesday my family usually went to a Pancake dinner at the church, which was always an awesome excuse to see friends in the middle of the week. These days, as someone always looking for an excuse to have friends around the table, Pancake Tuesday dinners seemed like a great tradition to start in my house.
Lately is seems as if every time I write a blog post it is a change of season. The last time I wrote it had just changed from summer to fall . Suddenly fall is here and it is Thanksgiving. But what a fall it has been. I have had some great adventures the last few weeks. I started school, I’ve winterized the garden and I went to the Yukon for my sisters birthday where my sister and Mom took me on my first helicopter ride! Needless to say with all this activity this poor little blog has been sadly neglected. But, with a long weekend upon me and only one exam looming I decided that needed to change.
It is said that friends are the family you choose. If that is the case I have a wonderful family indeed. In my everyday life I have amazing friends, many of whom I have written about and alluded to on my blog. But every couple of years I have the good fortune to usher in the New Year with another group of friends. A crazy, talented, beautiful gang of people affectionately know as my Paddy Family.
As with most things in life, I met that group of people through a funny, serendipitious chain of events. Over 10 years ago I was working at an arts organization and met a man who introduced me to The Paddy Crean workshop. The Paddy Crean is a week long international workshop that celebrates sword fighting, stage combat, historical martial arts, stunt performers, actors and educators and is held at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Since I was living in Calgary at the time I thought “why not?”, and I went. And from that very first moment so many years ago when I stood in a dance studio surrounded by sword fighters and questioned my sanity (and which end of the sword to hold) I began meeting people who would forever change my life.
It is no secret that I’m not a breakfast person. I (sort of) like breakfast food, I just don’t tend to like it at breakfast time. I had a coach once (you know who you are) who tried to get me to eat steak or chicken for breakfast – at five in the morning. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! I have great respect for those of you who can roll out of bed and get the fuel you need. But ugh. I’ve done it. Begrudgingly. Let me wake up, have a cup of tea, putter around for a couple of hours, have a cup of coffee and then, maybe, I’ll feel like eating. When I do eat, please do not let it something gross like cereal. Anyone have a recipe for breakfast noodles?
If you’re a glass half empty kind of person you’re may be kind of miserable right now. After all, the longest day of the year has come and gone and we are already in the slow slide to winter (perish the thought!).
I try to be a glass at least a quarter full person most of the time so after a mini-moan about how we haven’t even really had summer yet this year I tried to get in the spirit and celebrate. Not so surprisingly I did it with a meal.
Breakfast. We’ve all heard it before. It’s the most important meal of the day.
Break. The. Fast.
Fitness and health advice aside, it only makes sense that if you’ve gone several hours without eating (as most people do while they are sleeping) the next meal you eat should be nutritionally sound and psychologically satisfying. That said, I am completely not a breakfast person. Given the choice I would have my cup of green tea upon waking, followed by some coffee, and then food about 5 hours later. For years that is exactly what I did. Ah youth. Then, in my early years of personal training and fitness competing I got a bit smarter. Getting up at 430 in the morning I would swallow down a protein shake to start the day and then a few hours later be ready to eat real food. Yuck.
It should come as no surprise then that I’m not really the breakfast person in my house. I make a killer porridge, a nutritional protein smoothie and great fried egg sandwich but that’s where it ends. Although, I should note at this point that I’m obviously I’m not including bacon in my ineptitude. Of course I can cook bacon. But it’s a separate food group. “Vitamin P”. It doesn’t count. Bacon aside, if you visit, and want a good breakfast, make friends with my husband. He’s the man for the job.
All that said, it’s the holidays, I have no need to be awake at the crack of dawn and I have a house guest. When a friend egg sandwich or shake just won’t cut it, there’s only one other thing in my repertoire. Baked eggs. They look far fancier than they are and they are easily adaptable for almost any cheese, vegetable or protein you might have in your refrigerator. And, if you’re one of those brave enough souls to invite people over for brunch they are a wonderful protein addition to your menu.
(makes 2 small and 1 medium ramekin, or 4 small)
- 2 whole eggs
- 4 eggs whites
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 4 tbsps extra old cheddar, grated
- 1/4 cup spinach, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp cream (completely optional, but adds a wonderful richness)
Other great options: carmelized onions, pancetta, mushrooms, havarti/blue/goats cheese, arugula, oven roasted tomato, thyme, basil, oregano, curry powder…. the list is endless!
- Lightly oil or butter small to medium size ramekins. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a small bowl lightly beat all eggs. Whisk in dijon mustard.
- Add a touch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Evenly divide half of the cheese and spinach between the ramekins. (place on bottom).
- Whisk remaining cheese and spinach (or other vegetables) into eggs.
- Pour egg mixture into ramekins.
- Place ramekins in a baking dish with about 1-2cm of water.
- Place in oven and bake until cooked. Depending on oven this will be 15-30 minutes. My gas oven at 350 takes about 20 minutes.
The best part is, these really don’t just have to be for breakfast.
This past weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving. I’m still a little freaked by how early it was this year, but I think I’m kind of glad. With the days getting shorter, the garden slowly going to sleep for the season and the Vancouver rains beginning I was starting to get a little cranky. Cranky isn’t a good thing. For me, cranky turns into eating too many wasted carbs, bad sleeps, a lack of any sort of activity and a proclivity to trashy “chick novels”. Not exactly the healthiest, most productive way to go about things.
Thanksgiving this year came at the perfect time. It was about so much more than overeating and slipping into a turkey coma. It was about life, about laughing,
about a wedding between two beautiful people….
… a surprise fun breakfast made for me
…. harvesting sprouts from the garden
… creating a new variation on pumpkin soup (recipe coming soon!)
…. a quiet nights dinner with some homemade pasta.
All a reminder of how lucky I am. Thank you.
I’m from Vancouver. It is a fairly well established theory that people from the West Coast like their coffee. The term coffee snob is frequently, and often justifiably, used. I’ll be honest though I thought I had escaped the snobbery. Don’t get me wrong. I like a good coffee, and I will certainly forgo a cup rather than partake of the swill from certain big coffee chains (West Coast ones included). But then I took a trip back to my hometown…. and I forgot to bring my own coffee. I brought my travel mug, but no beans.
Ok, maybe a teeny bit snobby.
It started in the airport. Do I grit my teeth and get a coffee from one of the overpriced, bitter chains? No, I would rather sleep on the plane anyway. Do I accept one in styrofoam from the nice attendants walking down the aisle? No, a “real” drink seemed like a better option (besides, it will help me sleep!). Okay. All good so far. Then I woke up the next morning…. ugh. Brown water masquerading as coffee. Okay, tea it is.
After sending a few emails to friends and a plea to the tweetusphere I got a bit of help. A quick hop in the car and I found a place that sold some beautiful italian espresso perfect for the stovetop espresso maker hidden at the back of a kitchen cupboard. Pre ground and not even organic (sigh) – surely that cancels out the snobbery?
Mini-coffee crisis averted I sat down (with a cup of coffee) to write Fridays blog. Yes, if you’re reading this you’ll know that Friday has come and gone. I’m getting to that. Not only did I forget to bring my own coffee but my laptop was on the other side of the country. I seemed to have forgotten that a key to blog writing is pictures (isn’t that a bit of an oxymoron?). Which not so surprisingly are on my computer. So to my little phone I went to see what I might have some pictures of with which to create a blog. I started scrolling through my fairly purged phone library of photo’s and realized the only thing I had more than one picture of were coffee cups. Hmmm….are you starting to sense a theme to this trip?
It started me thinking about what a big role coffee plays in so many societies. In many ways it brings people together. On this trip alone I’ve made plans to meet at least three people “for coffee”, I’ve attempted to figure out (with the help of at least 2 other people)how you actually make one of those big urns that are ubiquitous at funerals and large family gatherings work, I’ve spiked one with scotch in memory of a dear friend (my mug, not the urn), and I’ve had steaming cups out in the garden with my mom while working in the beautiful fall weather.
I’ve also been thinking of some of the great memories I have that involve coffee – morning espresso in the Italian countryside with friends, at the gym prepping to do a workout with my gym buddies, my dad in the garden with a cup talking to the cat, following countless meals around many friends tables, settling in for morning skype conversations with friends over the globe and even just sitting quietly at home with a mug and a book.
Maybe I am a coffee snob.
But you know what? I think I’m okay with that.