“Oh, what a beautiful morning. Oh, what a beautiful day”
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Every morning for the past four months, this is the view I see of downtown Des Moines. It's one of a handful of moments that I truly look forward to every day.
Not long ago, the city built a look-out with a place to pull over if someone would like to take a longer look. On my way home from exercise class, I stop more times than I care to admit and sit for a few moments in the silence of my car. Knowing I have a full day of work, cooking, cleaning, photographing, serving, emailing, writing, walking, kitty/puppy petting, and trying to be a good human ahead of me.
Even on the coldest of days, I'll often open the windows and listen to the sounds of the morning. And I wait for the sun to begin to appear on the horizon. And watch the lights of cars as people begin their mornings. And I wonder if they're happy or sad, what the worries of their day might be, what they had for breakfast.
It's funny how you see the same sights day after day and never pay attention to them. But I'm so grateful that I looked up one morning at 7 am. So grateful to witness the twinkling lights of the city and the beauty right in front of me.
I've listened to Tim Ferriss' podcast for years, and of all the questions he asks on the regular, people's morning routines are some of my favorite. Daily routines are the structure for everything we do, every habit we establish, every ritual we keep. The older I get, the more I believe in routines wholeheartedly; that a good one is as close as we can get to a good life.
My mornings have shifted with every season, but currently, this is the most unexpected (loveliest?) by far. When talking with a friend last week, I admit to the hour in which our house comes to life – 4:45 am. She looks at me dead in the eyes, “That isn't morning. That's night.”
And so, whether you call it a nightly routine or a morning routine, it is mine and it's here, and it's one I've embraced:
Most nights, my head hits the pillow at 8:30 or 9:00 pm. (This from a girl who worked nights for years and years. Who couldn't imagine going to bed before 2 am) My husband wakes me up around 5 am, and we pad out to the kitchen for a little something to eat, and a few words while we watch the morning news. (The weather lady lives in our building, and it's fun to see her on t.v.)
For the record, I'm a hopeless believer in the snooze button. I’m also a night person at heart, and likely forever will be. But I must admit, these early mornings are growing on me. No matter the margin of the day, there’s just something merciful about the hours in which you are unneeded, the hours in which the rest of the world sleeps.
It's dark. It's quiet. It's bliss.
And so, my time begins here and ends once the busyness of my workday begins. My only rule is that I must get in an hour of some sort of exercise. Mostly it's my kickboxing class, but if the weather is snowy, I'll go to the Y for a walk or some swimming. Space is also reserved for a bit of tidying up, and games of chase-the-feather with the kitties.
There are mornings I hop out of bed, and there are mornings I find it challenging — still, a bit of togetherness, some eggs, the exercise, the sunrise.
It’s the best ritual I’ve got.
— — —
I will pause here to say that this ritual began with the smallest of steps.
You see, my day job is the hardest, busiest, and coolest I've had to date. The only problem? It was becoming harder and harder to break away on a regular schedule in the later afternoon. So one day I thought, “Let's try an early morning class. Just for a few days.” The only goal for this non-morning person during the first week? Simply showing up. The second? Simply showing up .. on time.
Before long, it became a habit
I've often wondered if one can train themselves to be a morning person, and I suppose the answer is – maybe?
As someone who's lived it both ways, I think it's this. There's a morning offered inside of every new day, and it’s not necessarily the hour of the tradition. If left to my own devices, I have a brain that switches into overdrive no sooner than 10 pm. The next couple of hours are like a jolt of caffeine to the system. And well? I'd call that sunrise if ever there was one.
For those of us up at 5 am, our sunrise is this: a moment of quiet, coffee runs, making space for something that's important. Mostly, high praise for a new day and higher hopes for an afternoon nap(!)
What’s your morning routine? I’d love to hear!
Much of my enthusiasm for eggs stems from the fact that a) they're easy on the tummy and b) if I eat an egg (or two), I'm satisfied for quite some time. Omelets, fried eggs, casseroles, and scrambles are always great, but I wanted to try something new. Baked eggs in edible cups? Bingo
I knew I wanted individual portions (maybe a mini variation of a tart is a better way to say it?), and standard muffin tins work well as molds. I thought about tucking a tortilla, some pita bread, or lunch meat. Maybe even a couple of very thin, long, crisscrossed slices of potatoes into alternating muffin slots? Add a bit of filling, crack an egg on top of each cup, and bake.
Another great thing about eggs is there are so many flavor combinations that would be delicious. I searched the refrigerator for a couple of handfuls of tiny cherry tomatoes, some left-over pesto, and balls of mozzarella.
My first idea was to have breakfast for dinner; make the filling, crack an egg, bake, and serve on a pretty plate with a simply dressed salad on the side. The cool thing I realized later was I could do a bit of prep the night before and have six of these in the oven the next morning in under ten minutes for brunch or even breakfast before work (bake while blow-drying).
So this the baked egg recipe that started it all and a couple of other variations I'd like to try in the future. I'd love to know your ideas as well.
A Spanish tortilla, of sorts – thin slices of potato + eggs + onions + cheese + olives (or capers?) + sauteed veggies + romesco sauce
Tortilla cups with beans + eggs + avocado + salsa
Something Greek – pita cups + sauteed veggies and herbs (onion, pepper, mushrooms, thyme, oregano) + feta
Or what about a riff on your favorite diner omelet? – A Denver version with ham cups + veggies (onions, peppers) + cheddar cheese + salsa (or ketchup) on top
Egg-Mozzarella Ham Cups
- cooking spray
- 6 thin deli ham slices, patted dry
- ½ cup finely diced mozzarella cheese or tiny mozzarella cheese balls (4 oz.)
- ½ cup halved cherry tomatoes or diced tomatoes (~ 3-4 oz)
- 2 Tbsp store-bought pesto
- 2 Tbsp bread crumbs (gluten-free if you’re avoiding gluten)
- ½ tsp kosher salt, divided
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 6 eggs (large or XL)
- 6 cups mixed salad greens
- 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- Preheat oven to 400°. Coat 6 cups of a standard nonstick muffin tin with cooking spray.
- Tuck 1 ham slice into each muffin tin cup, trying to make as much of a cup shape as possible, with the edges sticking out the top.
- Stir together mozzarella, tomatoes, pesto, and breadcrumbs in a bowl. Season with ¼ teaspoon each of the salt and pepper.
- Divide mixture among the ham cups. Carefully crack an egg into each cup. Bake in until the tomato juices are lightly bubbling and egg whites are set (~ 15 minutes)
- Toss together salad greens, oil, vinegar, and remaining ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper in a large bowl to make a simple salad.
- Let ham cups cool slightly (~1 - 2 minutes). Unmold them by slipping a knife under the cups and gently transferring them to a plate.
- Serve alongside dressed greens.