Saturday (20th December) had been a day I was both dreading and looking forward to for quite some time. On the one hand, it was my first day of freedom – I finished work for the holidays on Friday and have a whole three weeks off that I need to figure out how to fill. On the other hand, I had a dentist appointment scheduled for 9.30am for two fillings and a thorough clean.
I’ve never had to get fillings before. In fact, every time I’ve visited the dentist in the past I’ve been told that my teeth were great, and it had been a source of great joy to me (not least because I could laud it over the rest of my family that I was the only member fillings-free). However, I’d always had some unsightly marks on two of my molars left over from when I was 14 and had braces. The one time I asked the dentist if they could be cleaned in any way she told me that I was out of luck. I was disappointed, but I got over it. Queue several years later, and I’m told that those unsightly marks aren’t just annoying discolouration, but actual damage to the tooth. Whilst I’d been lucky in that it hadn’t got too bad up until that point (so hadn’t caused me any pain), the location meant that if I didn’t get them filled, I could be looking at a much bigger procedure to ‘fix’ them at a later date.
I was fine about it all until about a week prior to the appointment, at which point I started to panic. A lot. I’m not a huge fan of needles anyway, but my biggest concern was that they wouldn’t work. Whilst I’ve had local anaesthetics in my gums before which have been fine, an operation I had on my big toes as a child was done with the anaesthetic not having worked properly – they kept topping it up but in the end I told them to just go on with it, because getting the injections was absolute agony. Seriously, for several years later, if anyone mentioned a needle my toes would automatically curl up as if they were trying to protect themselves. The night after that particular procedure, I was so traumatized that I couldn’t sleep, and even at age 11 had to crawl into my parents’ bed to try and get some comfort.
So yeah. Not a big needle or local anaesthetic fan.
This was added to the other fact that on one occasion when I was 14 and had an appointment to get my braces tightened, the orthodontist was chatting to his assistant and not paying attention to what he was doing, and chipped a bit of one of my front teeth. I think it’s noticeable. He didn’t even realise he’d done it. Forgive me if I wasn’t looking forward to someone having a drill in my mouth.
By Friday night I was panicking pretty badly, so I decided to do whatever I could to calm myself down and get ready for the morning. Hence…
‘Meditative’ Egg Muffins!
You will need:
4 sweet mini peppers (red/yellow/orange)
2 or 3 shallots
3 rashes of smoked back bacon
100g grated cheese (mix of cheddar and mozzarella)
sea/rock salt (I use pink Himalayan)
pinch of mixed herbs
12-14 cupcake cases
Pre-heat the oven to 180C (~350F)
I’ve had a thing recently about reading other people’s morning routines, and fantasizing about one of my own. At the moment, when I’m going to work, I get up about 25 minutes before I have to leave the house. I spend five minutes actually getting out of bed, fifteen minutes getting ready to leave, then five minutes grabbing all of my things and leaving the house. There’s no opportunity to have a cup of tea, or breakfast, or meditate, or do yoga, or anything that I might dream about doing first thing in the morning. The simple reason is that I would need to get up earlier – if I even got up fifteen minutes earlier (around 6am) I would be able to add a cup of tea to my day. But it’s hard starting a new routine when you haven’t already tangibly felt the benefits.
I decided that the best thing for me to do over the next three weeks was to have some sort of morning routine. I absolutely can’t get into the habit of going to bed ridiculously late and getting up in the mornings closer to lunchtime than to breakfast. It happens most holidays, but I was able to keep up a schedule the summer before last, so I know that it’s possible! Since on Saturday I would have to leave the house shortly after 9am, if I wanted a leisurely, relaxing morning beforehand I would a) have to get up earlier than I usually would at the weekend, and b) learn a new skill – prepping the night before!
Cooking has always been a calming or meditative activity to me. There has been more than one occasion in the last few years where I’ve put aside whatever stressful activity I was (and should be) focussing on and cooked something elaborate instead. The best example of this is the time I put aside writing and researching for a presentation I was to give the next day, and spent several hours that evening making a caramel pumpkin cheesecake from scratch (as in, I had an actual pumpkin).
Having decided on egg muffins for breakfast the next day, I pulled together everything I could do in advance.
First, finely chop your shallots. I used 2 or 3 – I can’t remember exactly how much. A lot of this recipe depends on eyeballing – you will know how big your cupcake cases are, and how much you can realistically fit into them. But you want to make sure you have enough that when dividing into 12 or 14, each muffin gets a decent amount of non-egg filling.
Then finely chop the mini peppers. To give you an idea of the size of these, here’s before and after they’ve been blitzed. No, I couldn’t resist using the food processor. It’s just wonderful. You can clearly chop them with a knife if need be.
Yes, I’m aware that there’s three peppers there when the recipe calls for four. I added a fourth after taking these photos.
Mix the shallots and peppers together, place in an air-tight container and stick in the fridge overnight.
Vegetables done, you’ll want to add a splash of olive oil (I always use extra virgin) to a small frying pan. Trim any excess fat from the bacon, then slice into small pieces. Add these to the pan and fry until cooked and starting to go crispy. Turn out onto a paper towel and pat off any excess oil and fat. Once cooled, put in a container and again, stick in the fridge.
I used ‘fancy’ bacon this time (read as: not the cheapest in the shop). I’d been told that it would be completely different than usual and whoever told me that wasn’t wrong! This was so much more like ham, it was thicker and it didn’t have that white scum come out (which I believe is added/injected protein? I can’t remember – I listened to a radio 4 programme on bacon once. The white scum is indicative of cheap bacon), nor was it full of injected water. It was a very different experience and I look forward to trying this sort of bacon in a proper sandwich.
Preparation nearly all done – the last thing to do to ensure as little fuss as possible in the morning is to lay the cupcake cases out in a muffin tin (or baking tray) and cover with a clean tea-towel.
So in the morning you’ve very little left to do. Switch the oven on so that it can pre-heat, then whisk together eight eggs.
Add in the bacon, shallots and peppers, plus 100g of shredded cheese (of your choice – I used a mix of cheddar and mozzarella but I’m 99% certain that your favourite hard cheese would work just as well). Mix it until thoroughly combined.
Add a pinch of dried mixed herbs, black pepper to taste and a pinch of salt (keep in mind the bacon and the cheese will also add a saltiness), mix again and then divide evenly into the cupcake cases.
I had some mixture left after filling my twelve cases, so I poured the remaining mixture (about two cases worth) into a larger ramekin and made one giant muffin.
Put into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes – just enough time for me to do the next video in the yoga course that I started doing a few days ago. Taking the time to stretch and breathe helped me wonders in preparing for the dentists appointment, and the smell of the muffins wafting up the stairs when they were nearly done was enough to make me think that I need to try doing this every day. In just half an hour I would have prepared a hot breakfast, done some yoga and sat down to eat said hot breakfast. That’s definitely do-able on a more regular basis, but clearly the key here was to do the prep the night before. A lesson I will endeavour to remember for the future!
After twenty minutes the muffins will have risen, the cheese melted in and the tops will have started to turn a gorgeous golden-brown colour.
All that was left was to stick the kettle on so that I could have a hot cup of tea with breakfast! I find that for me personally, three of these muffins make a good sized breakfast. And I had just enough time to enjoy these with the most recent episode of Have I Got New For You before I had to leave the house, feeling content, relaxed, and much more able to face the dentists appointment – which went extremely well!