Photo: Kevin Pang

My kids are in middle school now, and I have been dragging them out the door in the morning in time for me to get to work since they were in pre-K. With so much time under our belts, it is shocking to me how much I still absolutely suck at this particular process.

It should be a simple system: We walk to school, so we have to be out the door at 8, before the bell rings at 8:15. Anything after 8:05, we’re skirting extremely close to tardy territory. Getting up at 7 should be mandatory, even though there are many days when it is not. Daylight Saving Time can fuck us up for months.

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Also always in the mix: breakfast. Getting dressed, in clothes that hopefully don’t have so many holes that we all look like members of Fagin’s gang. Backpacks and lunches packed. Shoes on. Teeth brushed. Water bottles. A lot of the morning just consists of me just yelling out various nouns: “Alarm! Shoes! Teeth! Backpack! Time!” About every other day there are tears. Many times, they are mine.

My own getting-ready time? Forget it. I fail to adhere to the airplane-safety credo of tending to yourself first, then the kids. I try to wrangle everyone else before I even look in the mirror, which is it why it may be 7:50 before I dive in the shower for what is less a shampooing and more of a hosing-off. My hair may be wet. My clothes may look suspiciously familiar from the day or so before. If you’re super-lucky by the time I roll into work, I may be wearing makeup, hastily applied on the train.

My colleague, Takeout editor Kevin Pang, likely alarmed at my bedraggled appearance most mornings—as I attempt to make a daily morning meeting that is only possible if the gods are smiling on the train (many times, they are not)—wanted to know about the post-dawn mania going on at my home.

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As a food-minded person, he asked about our breakfast. My daughter usually sticks to breakfast cereal and pieces of fruit with a side of parental begging. My son at least favors smoothies or elaborate yogurt parfaits. But some days, everyone is so pokey that there barely isn’t even time for those meager morning meals, or people turn up their noses at whatever we have in the larder, so that everyone is hangry on top of everything else. I feel tremendously guilty sending the kids off to eat the school breakfast. It’s not easy to feel like a total failure before 8:30 a.m., but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve been able to pull that off.

Kevin asked me if I’d ever heard of “the night before” breakfast. He explained meals that could be made the evening before, giving us more time in the mornings, which would start our day on a more solid footing. He added: “I swear by these egg cups—they’re protein-rich and low in carbs, and that combination is what you need to start your day in high gear.”

Kevin sent me a recipe that his wife has adapted slightly: beaten eggs with some vegetables, poured into muffin tins to make these cute egg little cups. Despite my kids’ disdain for spinach, when we got home that night, I dutifully went ahead and easily prepared a batch, ready to pop them in the microwave in the morning.

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Photo: Gwen Ihnat

And when that morning came around, I tried, I really did. I heated up the egg cups and plated them with sliced strawberries and some juice. I tried to drag people out of bed by enticing them with delicious breakfast, but they didn’t seem to be having it. It was 7:15 before I was actually able to propel people to the breakfast table. Curse you, Daylight Savings!

At the breakfast table, my unsuccessful streak continued. My daughter turned up her nose at my eggs and insisted on her usual cereal. I may have snuck a few strawberries in there. My son at least tried them but (sorry, Kevin!) was not a fan. “The consistency is weird. They don’t even seem like eggs.” Le sigh.

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At least preparing a detailed, not-from-a-box breakfast helped get me moving earlier as well. Checking backpacks. Lining up shoes. But stuff always happens. There was a progress report I had to sign. My daughter suddenly decided to make microwave popcorn for snack to add to her lunch. My son needed his special T-shirt for floor hockey, as I desperately tried to fit one more load of dishes in. I swear I don’t know how the glam moms do it. Maybe I should get up at 5.

So we got out the door at 8:08, but people were in good spirits, and even seemed primed to beat the tardy bell despite the odds. I hugged them goodbye and wished them a great day, and took all of the egg cups in to my much more appreciative coworkers. One said, “this is the best thing I’ve eaten all day and I’ve already eaten a lot today,” warming my heart considerably.

I couldn’t help but notice, though, that I saw no tears this morning. Maybe it was the attention I lavished on the kids with the breakfast that made them feel a little more attended to, and then calmer. So I like this “night before” breakfast idea. I could probably pull out a more manageable version of my french toast casserole. Maybe some slightly healthy muffins. Anybody out there have any ideas? I’m beginning to think that the most-important-meal-of-the-day part of breakfast may be less physical than mental. Tomorrow I may even shoot for putting on mascara before I leave the house—I think it’s important to keep reaching for the stars.

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Night-Before-Breakfast Egg Cups

  • 8 large eggs
  • One link of Italian mild sausage—uncased, cooked, and crumbled
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup thinly sliced fresh spinach
  • 3/4 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup diced onions or chives
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salt and peppar to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a muffin pan with cooking spray. Add cupcake liners if desired.

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In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and salt and pepper. Stir in the sausage, spinach, tomatoes, onions, and cheese.

Divide the mixture evenly between the 12 muffin pan cups and bake the muffins for 18-20 minutes, or until the egg is fully cooked. Remove the muffins from the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then use a knife to loosen the muffins from the cups.

After it has cooled some more, place inside Tupperware container or Ziploc bag and in fridge. The next morning, microwave for 20-30 seconds to reheat. Top with either salsa, hot sauce, ketchup, even mayo.

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