Morning comes awfully early when one has a commute. And I don’t know anyone who wants to sit down to a hearty breakfast the minute they open their sleepy little eyes. It seems we all hit the floor running and don’t stop until we literally run out of gas. My son, James, has never been a lover of the too-soon breakfast and we’ve tangled with this since he was in kindergarten. At the tender age of five I struggled to offer him something healthful AND tasty. While he was in school I drove way out on Powerline Road to a roadside stand and bought just picked produce. Money was tight and I could little afford to waste a thin dime but I was determined that James would have the best I could give him. I bought a little of this and little of that. Zucchini, tomatoes, green beans and strawberries were staples. Dawn broke and I would schlep to the kitchen trying to put together a breakfast that would interest James while, at the same time, hold him in good stead. What a struggle! “Mama, I can’t!”, was typically his response when he brought his plates to the kitchen. We still laugh about this but one day I exploded. Yes. I popped. I’ve been told, after the fact, that I’m a little scary when I get mad. I ranted and raved and carried on, “What? What is it I can fix for you that you’ll eat? WHAT?”. That sweet, little boy looked up at me and earnestly answered, “Coffee and a pretzel?” Can you even? Lord, I laughed so hard I probably tinkled in my pants. And those strawberries I could ill afford? They were found a long time later when I found the strength to move the sofa in order to clean. Though we all know a good breakfast is crucial for a productive day the struggle continues. I know my boy is NOT going to lose a precious five minutes of sleep in order to throw together a breakfast he can eat on the train or in his office. And that’s where Mama comes in. That boy is going to be moving out, and soon, but until then I can pack a pretty and healthful breakfast….one that will keep him fueled until 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon.
These egg cups are easy, versatile, healthful and filling. Paired with fresh fruit, your family will thank you. Truly. You’re going to start hearing, “Thanks, Mom!” more and more. They can be made with fresh eggs, egg whites or Egg Beaters. I use fresh eggs and always, always organic. The recipe I’m posting calls for sausage and vegetables but any and all may be substituted for any other filling. Cubed ham, chorizo, spinach, kale, chopped tomatoes, scallions, cheddar, parmesan and mozzarella are just a few ideas. Leftover crab or shrimp are also tasty morsels. So go crazy. Your family will love them!
Spray a non-stick spray all over the top of a 12-cup muffin tin and set aside.
Pre-heat oven to 350°.
In a large, non-stick skillet brown the sausage, breaking up any large clumps with the back of a spoon. You don’t want any large pieces as they’re too big for the muffin cups. If you’re using pork sausage drain it well.
To the turkey add the scallions, zucchini, basil and spinach. Mix well and continue to cook until the vegetables have wilted. Remove from heat to cool.
While the sausage mixture cools pour the eggs evenly into the sprayed muffin cups. I find using a 1/4 measuring cup makes this quick and simple.
Taste the sausage/vegetable mixture for salt and pepper and adjust seasonings. I find the sausage adds plenty of salt so I add only pepper.
Divide the sausage mixture evenly between the muffin cups, gently pressing the filling down.
Place one tomato in the center of each egg cup.
If using cheese, sprinkle over each egg cup.
Bake egg cups for 20-25 minutes or until puffy and golden on the edges.
Allow to cool completely before refrigerating. I store each one in individual plastic bags. To re-heat I place as many egg cups as needed on a plate and zap in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. If you’re heating just one for the road, 15 seconds on a plate is perfect then drop it back in the bag it lived in when in the refrigerator and you’re good to go.
I knew I wouldn’t go back to sleep when my body rebelled and I awoke at 4:00 Sunday morning. I lay in bed wondering what the day would bring…would I go to church or work out? Would it be a sunny day or a rainy day? I watched the silent paddles of the ceiling fan slowly rotate in giant sweeps, appreciating the cool, early morning darkness. When early morning sleep eludes me, I typically reach for my cell phone and peruse my favorite news outlets, NYT, BBC and CNN. This Sunday was no different until I glanced at all the screaming banners across the face of the phone. Now we know all the horrific details of the Orlando shootings. And my heart aches for all the friends and families of those whose lives were so brutally ended. As I write this I can’t get past the thought that those kids, and they were kids, weren’t hurting anyone. And now their loved ones are suffering indescribably and they weren’t hurting anyone either. Life for them, those left behind, will never, EVER be the same. When I want to give comfort or take away someones pain and helplessly can’t, I turn to food. Many an almost-strangers door I’ve knocked on with a pan of hot, buttermilk biscuit, a gentle and calming pound cake or a warm, reassuring casserole in hand. Whether my offering is for a close friend or neighbor or someone I’ve never met, food is always my contribution…my way of wrapping my arms around someone I may or may not know. So this is what I wish I could take to all those in pain. I’m not foolish enough to think it would ease their agony but it is all I have to give. That and my sincere and earnest prayers.
This recipe is incredibly forgiving. If you’re a little low on ingredients it rolls with it. Really the only part that can’t be played with is the broth/rice ratio. Feel free to add more or less of the vegetables or any combination you prefer. The final baking in the oven ensures the rice will be beautifully cooked. There’s enough for your family and another family. It always seems to be what a loved one with a cold wants. If you plan to take it to another household don’t bake it just include the baking instructions. That way it can be frozen and pulled out to bake when needed. It really should be served soon after baking.
Mardi Gras is coming to a close, people. Ash Wednesday is day after tomorrow and this is the time when suddenly I begin to crave pork and beef and chicken and all manner of dishes that will be given up by me once I get that black cross of ashes traced onto my forehead. Every year I say “Oh, I don’t care about meat. I don’t even like it! I never eat it anyway.” That’s right about the time when visions of $12.00 bacon cheeseburgers, spicy, homemade jambalaya and hot, crispy chicken wings begin to pop up in my head. I pulled out my giant pot, the one big enough to bathe a baby, and set about to make the best pot of jambalaya I’ve ever had. I’ve been making this for the longest time and I think I’ve worked out the kinks. That said, no shortcuts may be taken ie: frozen bags of the Trinity which always leave you waiting for the promised burst of flavor. This iconic dish begs, no, DESERVES, to be prepared properly…leisurely, and it will reward you by delivering that slow and sultry combination of Louisiana flavors that cause you to roll your eyes back in your head. Well-made jambalaya, good jambalaya, is like finger-poppin’ music in your mouth. Layer upon layer of ingredients make themselves known, some subtly others not so discreetly. It is a one-pot marvel of unpretentious components that ultimately yield a sophisticated dinner of comfort food while at the same time an over-the-top indulgence. And it is the best possible way to celebrate Fat Tuesday. So put on some boom-boom radio or zydeco, haul out your big pot and get to it. Laissez le bon temps rouler!
Jambalaya is a great dish for a crowd. It’s best prepared in a large, heavy bottomed pot with a lid that fits well. Having all your ingredients cut, chopped and ready to go will also ensure a fantastic meal. If you’re not able to locate converted Louisiana white rice just substitute it for a good quality, converted, white, long grain rice. What cannot be substituted is the Andouille sausage. I get mine from the butcher’s and if they’re out I use Aidell’s brand which is stocked at Publix. I find using sausage other than Andouille in this dish ends up tasting like hot dogs. Not a flavor I want after I’ve been standing in the kitchen for a few hours. So put off making jambalaya until you can find the real thing. I use a mammoth, wooden spoon to stir this dish. You’ll want to use the largest spoon you can get your hands on as the ingredients become heavy and bulky as you get further into the cooking.