Tasty Breakfasts for Busy People

Breakfast doesn’t have to be boring.  Here are my suggestions for a week’s worth of pleasing breakfasts, complete with recipes and tips for prepping ahead of time.

 

Poached Eggs with Roasted Tomatoes

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This is one of my go-tos whenever I want something warm and not too complicated in the morning.  Typically, the time the tomatoes roast gives you enough of a buffer to take a quick shower.  Sometimes, when I have a little salad pre-prepped from the weekend, such as this white-bean salad (cooked beans tend to last well throughout the week), I add it as a side garnish for extra proteins.

Note on the Bread:
You can create some variations on this dish by swapping the base.

On the picture above, I used some homemade bread (my favourite recipe for this is the no-knead bread, which you leave to rise overnight).

In the image below, I used some English Muffins I defroze and grilled in the oven with the tomatoes.

A healthy alternative is doing without the bread altogether, and using a grilled portobello mushroom as the base instead.


Ingredients

1 pint cherry tomatoes (10 ounces)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
2 large eggs
1 whole-wheat English muffin, split and toasted

Full Recipe here.

 

Egg Noodles in Broth with Sweet Potatoes, Mushrooms and Chard

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Traveling around the planet has introduced me to the concept of soup as breakfast.  In this excellent article produced by the Smithsonian, you can get a few ideas of your own for jazzing it up.  I find the thought of warm soup first thing in the morning very comforting.


Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces sliced baby bella mushrooms
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 2 teaspoons Sriracha, optional
3 tablespoons soy sauce
4 cups vegetable broth
4 ounces soba noodles
2 ounces shredded Swiss Chard leaves, or other hearty greens
Sesame seeds, for topping

Full Recipe here.

 

Mushroom and Microgreen Omelette

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Probably one of the biggest breakfast classics, omelettes take no time to make.  The traditional way of making it is to sizzle some oil in a pan and heat the mushrooms up before tossing them in a bowl and making the omelette in the same pan.  Then you slide the mushrooms in the omelette and fold to serve.  A variation I like is to mix in the veggies with the omelette and fry them both at the same time, leaving the ingredients a little most cripsy.  Personal preference.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
1 1/2 ounces white mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup microgreens
3 large eggs

Full Recipe here.

 

Red Quinoa with Avocado, Almonds and Honey

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An easy way to get a head-start on this breakfast is to cook the quinoa in a bigger batch the first time you make yourself a portion.  Use the leftovers for subsequent times.  Here, I used red quinoa, as I had it handy, but most of the time, this recipe calls for black quinoa.

Ingredients

2 c. water
¼ tsp. salt
1 c. black quinoa
1½ c. almond milk
1 thinly sliced avocado
6 tbsp. sliced toasted almonds
6 tbsp. honey

Full Recipe here.

Frittata with Sprint Vegetables and Salad

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Frittatas are this easy, go-to place where you can put whatever you have in the fridge to good use.  There are countless variations, from cream and cheese, to various veggies and ham, it’s really all about what you have handy, and how light or rich you feel like making it this morning.

Ingredients

9 eggs
2 Tbs. heavy cream
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 cup (3 oz./90 g) thinly sliced green onions, white and light
green portions
1 cup (5 oz./155 g) diced ham
1 cup (5 oz./155 g) shelled fresh or frozen English peas
4 oz. (125 g) soft goat cheese
1 Tbs. chopped fresh basil

Full Recipe here.

 

Museli With Almond Milk & Pumkin Spice Homemade Latté

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If I’m really in a hurry, then I always have some museli handy, with some almond milk.  Unlike regular milk, almond milk can be kept for a long time as a back-up (sealed) in your pantry.  As for the muesli, you can make it yourself with your favourite cereals and grains.  Since this is my back-up, I invest very little time in prepping it – I buy a high-quality mix at the store, splurging a little, but knowing it will be appreciated in times of rush!

For extra goodness, add in some seasonal fruits or berries.

The Cappucino above is a more sophisticated version of the latté I typically make in the mornings.  Here, I heated up some milk and made some froth which I poured over an espresso with milk.  Instead of sweetning it with honey, I sprinkled some nutmeg (although Trader Joe’s Pumkin Spice mix is also excellent!).  The Latté is essentially the same, except for the froth – and with a greater proportion of milk.

 

Egg Salad

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There are many variations to the egg salad.  In this iteration, I mixed some mustard with oil, the same way I make vinaigrette for salads, chopped the eggs and green scallions, then mixed it all for a two-minutes egg salad.  What I love about the article I linked below is they explain the fundamentals of building your own egg salad, without recipe.

A note for those who prep ahead: eggs can be boiled and stored in the fridge ahead of time.  Chopped scallions also resist well in a refrigerated, tight jar.

Full Recipe here.

 

Time-Friendly Brunch: Tomato, Egg, and Prosciutto Puff Pastry Tart

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This particular recipe is amazing when you have friends over for brunch.  Not only does it taste and look glorious, it also is very simple to make in larger batches.  It is a little more work-intensive than recipes below, but a lot of it is idle time, leaving you some space to read the Sunday Newspaper.

Ingredients

1 (17.3 ounce) box frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Coarse salt and pepper
9 large eggs
1/2 cup grated fontina (1 1/2 ounces)
8 thin slices prosciutto

Full Recipe here.

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The Truth about Northen France

This morning, I stumbled on a very entertaining blog article written by a Parisian, who complained about all the stereotypes she keeps hearing about Parisians.  How they were snobs, grumpy, and always in a hurry.

It made me smile, because when I first started working between Montreal and Lille, I ran into a similar reaction from a variety of friends.  ”Lille is such a gloomy, dark city.  Everything is grey and dark red and depressing”.  ”It always rains there, your winters will be long”.  ”You speak of Lille with so much enthusiasm- It’s just… Lille…!”

Truth be told, I have now been able to really explore and see the city for myself, and although some of these things may hold some truth, there is a completely different side of the city I wish more people knew about.   In the last few months, I’ve been trying really hard to share just how amazing, lively, friendly and full of surprises Northen France really turns out to be.

As an official ode to this beautiful city, I want to share with you Lille by the Crépuscule (and by Evening).  A romantic little vision of a city who is bustling with colours and action in the daytime, and quiet and warm by evening.

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Elizabeth’s Moment of Quiet

How Elizabeth manages the flow of people coming in and out of the British Tea Shop is beyond me.  How they manage to create that perfect British Living Room atmosphere also mesmerizes me.

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Seen from outside, you might think it is yet another pastry shop.  Step in the main entrance and your eyes instantly pick up on the original tea menu delicately write on the walls.

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Walk down the stairs- and enter the magic.  The lower floor is, in my opinion, the most charming floor.  Better than the upstairs one.  It is like a cave, but like a cozy cave.  I think it is because of the warm orange-hues coming from the lights.  In the background, some hippy Beatles music or other British Bands.  And around you, a quiet buzz of conversations.

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It feels amazing because although the place is always full, it never feels crammed or overly crowded.  And wether you are there for a quiet time or a social time, the place is just perfect.  My one tip: this place is full of regulars.  Use this to your advantage : while the cue may be a little long at peak hours, I use that time to chat with the others in line and often, they provide great inspiration for some unusual tea and cake combination.  People are always friendly and the ambiance is always great.  Over time, it has become my official HQ when I am in Lille, and need some downtime, want to catch up with some friends or feel up for a creative endeavour.

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Dancing in the Street: A Special Kind of Memory

”  We should pick a spot in the shade because see the buildings on this side of the square, they’re in the shade.  Too much contrast otherwise.”  ”Wait, did that guy just stop his car to watch? ”  ”It’s the camelback move!  Try it!!”  This particular video was so much fun to make that I’m sure you’ll be able to tell.

Now, the Rationnel: How many times do you unpack your suitcase only to find objects of all sorts that really did look adorable in that local market, but that you already know as you place it on the fireplace will only collect the dust?  We had decided that instead of packing our suitcases with random souvenirs of France, we would do something a little different.  We would pay a special hommage through a little routine.  We would discover, and remember the city of Lille to the beat of Nina Simone.  Backgrounds ever-changing, dance ever ongoing.

Let’s get to it!

 

 

Our 15 Seconds of Fame

How we got there can be told in two different ways.  The first one is a little literal.  But if you randomly sift the streets of the Vieux Lille, you will eventually stand where we stood.

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How exactly we became such divas – for this, I need to backtrack a little and explain.

Take two.

It started here.  With this ever-so-appealing dish.  In our defence – we were exhausted.  Famished.  And in the middle of some really weird neighbourhood at some really random hour (if you must ask, three words: Cat Café expedition!  But more on that in some later post).    It took us a little while to snap out of our enthusiasm for having found a restaurant where we could each find something we like — and to realize that a Vietnamese-Chinese-Thai ”Specialty” restaurant is probably not all that specialized after all.  Borderline suspicious, I might add.

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No, we would not find respite in this meal.  We would however laugh our heads off, slightly embarrassed for the owners, too.  ”But they DO realize this isn’t okay food to serve, right?” ” Don’t laugh so loud!!” ” Oh I KNOW what this is!!!!  I had a class in economy about this.  I’ve seen it before!”.  We all leaned in.

”It’s a money laundry business.” She whispers.  We laugh. ” No really.  Think about it.  I learned all about this in class.   If the food is that bad, it’s just to make sure no one comes back and bothers them again.  I mean look, it just makes such perfect sense.  We’re the only clients and this place has three employees and has apparently been in business for a really long time.  There is no other possible explanation for such a phenomenon. ”

We erupted in even further laughter.  Because let’s face it – as unbelievable and far-fetched as this idea might seem… it remained more plausible than that of such a poor restaurant remaining in business.  Surely, there was something more to this establishment than these appealing, delectable dishes!

“We MUST try this Mojito Bar”.  My friend has a fascination with Mojitos – and right she is! – so, quite naturally, she had spotted it on her afternoon meanders.  ”Ok let’s go!” we answered in chorus.

Is it possible to manage to completely miss your stop and exit on a completely different train line?  Five stops away from actual destination?  Oh, yes it is!!   Hmm…  Oops?

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We are however resilient, sophisticated, smart ladies, so we did indeed find our way into the mojito bar.  On the wall, a poster that made us laugh some more:  ”Dancing is forbidden”.  What we think they meant is probably that standing in such a small space, and annoying all the customers by getting in the way, is prohibited.  And so by extension, so is dancing.  But just to test their limits, we wiggled and danced in our chairs, curious to see if we would get scolded.  We confirm.  You can dance.  Just do it far from that poster, out of the way.

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And it is finally on our way back that we met the lovely red carpets which opened this article.  They happened to be on every doorstep of every shop on the street.  And when we passed them, we remarked on them.  ”It’s our 15 minutes of fame… no wait, 15 seconds!”.  Soon, we were parading the street.  Walking normally on the pavement, and the instant we hit the red carpet, taking glamour poses and dancing our way through the few steps that led to the next piece of pavement, where our serious, classy selves would return.

It’s now been a few months, and when I returned on the street tonight, I saw the red carpets had been removed.  They were gone.  But the glamorous memories remain.

A Waffeling Experience.

 

We had done the unthinkable.  “Never have I seen this since I worked here”, the lady had said. Blasphemy.  As we walked out of the Comptoir Liegeois, we were greeted with beaming smiles.  The only ones we had seen the whole little while of our waffle moment.

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Who could have guessed, really.  The Comptoire liégeois looked so warm and fuzzy; the kind of coffee place you see all over lifestyle magazines.  The kind that makes you think of your grandma’s loving vibe, crossed with your sophisticated young cousin’s good taste.  That modern-vintage thing going on around town these days.  We hadn’t seen each other for some time.  As we took our seats, we devoured the menu with our eyes.  We had spotted that place from two streets down, and had decided it would be worth the stop.  Even before unpacking.  Even before settling the apartment.  The charming little setup was simply ir-re-si-sti-ble!

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That is when a really annoyed-looking old woman came to take in our orders.  Oh, she was in a foul mood, this one.  You could tell it wasn’t her day.  First, my friend ordered an open sandwich, after trying about three other items on the menu, which were not available.  I followed suite, but got a very scolding look when I asked her to repeat some details about the long and rather complicated description she had previously ushered for a particular sandwich my friend inquired about a little earlier.

And then it came.  The unthinkable.  The outrageous.  The blasphemy.

– Hm… I think I’d like this white hot chocolate with pralines.
– We don’t serve those.
– This one here?  (pointing to the menu)
– Yes, it’s a hot chocolate to go.
– To go?
– It comes in a paper cup.  And you add hot water to it.  It’s to make at home, while you go out.  It doesn’t come in a pretty cup.  (she explains to my friend)

I stare at the counter.  The restaurant is empty.  Entirely empty.  And rows and rows of mugs sit face down near the espresso machine.

An awkward silence ensues.  The awkward silence perdures a little.

– If you really want, I guess I can make it for you and you can drink it at the table.
– That would be lovely, my friend answers with a smile.

What seems like ages later, the meals come to the table.  The beautiful sandwiches.  The sweet, sweet waffle…

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And then the drinks.  Oh, the drinks.

The first one, perfect.  Just as I had imagined it.   The hot chocolate steaming hot, the whipped cream atop it slowly, slowly melting.

I was delighted.

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Then the second drink came.  In a cup.  In a paper cup.  Served with a very menacing frown.  Oh no, this was no ordinary hot chocolate.  It was the Forbidden To-Go Praline White Hot Chocolate.  We laughed it off and delighted in each other’s company.  Catching up on stories of travels and adventures.  We were happy and excited to share each other’s company!

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Some new patrons had appeared, one to the table on our left, another to the table behind us.  We were lively in a place that had previously looked stale.  Beautiful, but lacking soul.  Lacking life, a human touch…  It was one of those paradoxes of life, that someone so austere could possibly open such an inviting place, only to keep it a hush-hush, posh-posh place.  I guess in the magazines, cozy salons are silent – images don’t speak!

 

 

It took me a few weeks with another group of friends to finally hit the good spot for waffles, crêpes and the like.  And because I’m nice, I’ll share with you 😉

I’m unsure of whether the place actually has a physical address, but I can tell you just how to get there.  You go from the Grande place and make your way to Rhiour.  On your way, you will pass towards a Decathlon mini-store and a Kawaii store.  Just there, at the intersection near the Brioche Dorée and the oddly coloured mural, you will find it.  And you will know it is there probably much ahead of time, as you spot the long lineup of lovers and families craving their goodie.

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And you’ll leave with a smile on your face, both for the deliciously fluffy and airy waffle in your hand, and for the joke the woman at the counter will have delightfully made as she quickly handed you the change.

Now that‘s service!

A Little Corner of Verdon

It had been years (and years, and years) since I kept hearing about it.  I knew this would be my next vacation.  And now here I was, finally sitting in the little car on our way to hiking.

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The very first thing you’d notice is the windy road.  The driver had quite the skills – and I told him so!   The roads were twirling left and right and there were surprisingly a lot of cars sharing that road.  The most fascinating fact, though, turned out to be that the local gas station had imposed a maximum daily amount of fuel they would serve each customer – a measure installed to make sure everyone had access to the limited supply of gas, up there in the woods – and the result is that people would fill in their tanks sometimes days in advance, little by little, in preparation for greater journeys.

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Looking through the window, I could see we were in for a treat.  The water flowing down the river had an even crazier, twirlier shape, and I could not wait to put my hiking shoes on and start!

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But first, the house.  The village was called La Palud, and it looked precisely like what you would expect of a small southerner village of France.

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At the back of the house, the narrow streets and blue-shutter houses.

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In front of the house, inviting greenery stretching for miles in a row.

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For five days, we would take our backpacks and set out on the road to adventure.

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Hiking would sometimes get a little steep, and we would at times fall a little out of breath. But the views from atop were always extremely rewarding.

 

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As we climbed higher, the scenery became more sober.

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Instead of luscious vegetation and clear streams of azure water, we would meet harsh rocks with moss and landscapes dominated of white rocks (and while I am being extremely non-descriptive in my choice of rock-related vocabulary, there in fact was a geologists amongst us, who would probably do a much better job than I at confirming the exact nature – calcite or other – of this white piece of land we strolled on).

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But what goes up must go down, and as you guessed it, we eventually climbed our way back down.  This time, we fell on a little oasis of a place – with a waterfall gushing over caves, drowning the sounds of the chirping birds around it.

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Our expert geologist spotted a branch in a tree which was covered with calcite deposits.

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This portrait of the Verdon region would certainly not be complete without a word about the picturesque villages we stumbled on.  As you have probably realized by now if you’ve either been to Provence or traveled there with me through my entries on the Calanques and Cornillon, France has this very specific thing going on where you can spend hours sifting through a trail in the woods only to walk right into some really old roman ruins or random little village.

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One fun thing to notice on the pictures, incidentally, is the roof tiles.  In provence, the edge of the roof often comes in rows of two, or three.  Let me tell you its story.

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In the 18th century, Italian craftsmen came to France looking for work.  Masonry work.  With them, they brought their expertise: the Genoise.  That is – a series of two (though in Provence, it is often three) rows of tiles on the roof, whose primary function is to stretch the distance between the roof and the house.  This elegant solution enabled the water to drift at a distance from the walls, windows and doors.  Today, if you look at any house in a typical southern-france village, you’ll see this architectural style.  It has become a staple of Provence.

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On our very last day, we visited a charming village called Moustier.  This one was much bigger than the ones we had previously stumbled on and had three basic parts to it: the old town (which is mainly touristic and commercial), the residential area (which we did not have that much time to explore – but which is said to have hidden squares and delights at every twist and turn), and the Church, which was hoisted way up into the rocks.  To reach it, we had to climb many, many stairs.

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From that vantage point, we were able to see the entire village at bird’s eye view.

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And turning our gaze in the other direction, a shining star, up in the sky.  The legend goes something like this : During the Crusades, the knight Blacas had been imprisoned by the Sarasins. He had sworn that if he ever made it back to his home village, he would climb up the rocks – a dangerous feat considering the technology at the time did not encompass all the modern rock-climbing marvels we now have access to – and he would then place a shining star through a connecting piece of string, as a thanks to the Virgin Mary.  Today, you can see it shining high above you, although it is not the original star (as you will have guessed).  The one you see today is 1.25m.  As you look at the picture below, imagine just how far up that knight might have climbed to hang it up.  It sure did not fail to leave us with a sense of amazement.   A great ending to our excursion!

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