I have a bad habit of skipping meals to do other things, like sleep in late.
I usually don’t have much appetite until I’m already in a bad way, then I feel extremely hungry and malaise very suddenly.
This is a problem because I am already very thin. If I don’t eat on a regular schedule I lose focus and feel off. So it stands to reason that I should make meals as efficient, cost effective and convenient as possible.
Begin Operation Breakfast 2.0
I wanted to come up with a way to have breakfast ready and waiting when I got out of bed so I could eat quickly and get on with my morning.
First I tried protein bars. That worked pretty well, but I had a problem where the chalky taste got really tiresome after a while. They also feel very heavy in my stomach. Then when I got braces I couldn’t bite into the protein bars any more. When I got to the point that I was cutting up the protein bars and then sucking on them to soften them, or microwaving them, I decided this was no more convenient than making a regular breakfast and decided to try other things.
Next I tried protein shakes. They were disgusting. No matter what I put into them I couldn’t find a way to mask the flavor of the protein powder enough that it didn’t make me nauseous. I tried several different protein powder sources, all of which were disgusting in their own way.
After protein shakes I tried smoothies. This worked okay in the taste department, but they didn’t contain enough protein or other ingredients that were good for me. They were essentially fruit (which contains a lot of sugar) and other forms of sugar, which left me needing food way before lunch time and made me sugar crash after 2 or 3 hours.
I then tried a combination of fruit and calorie supplements. They didn’t taste too bad, but I tried several different substances, all of which had different adverse health effects. Some of them gave me diarrhea, some made me constipated and some of them had the same problems as previous breakfasts I tried.
And Now Breakfast 2.0
I think I have now finally found a solution that works.
Here are the ingredients:
- A programmable rice cooker
I use a Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 5-1/2-Cup Neuro Fuzzy RiceCooker and Warmer that I bought on Amazon back in January. I chose it because it was the rice cooker with the most positive reviews from people who know the most about rice (Japanese, Korean, Chinese folks who consider rice a staple food). It is truly an amazing rice cooker. If you take a modern high efficiency washing machine and apply all the design axioms that make it human compatible to a rice cooker, you get the Zojirushi NS-ZCC10. It does really cool things like let you set multiple timers to start cooking at any time day or night, cancels the timer if you forget to close the cooker; it even plays a different song when it starts, when it’s done and when it starts from the timer.
- Pre-cooked, frozen chicken strips (Fajita style) (1 serving per Nutritional Information on package)
I got these in the frozen foods section at the grocery. I probably could buy chicken and grill it myself, then freeze it, but I’m more comfortable using the pre-packaged strips because I am more confident that the conditions under which the meat was prepared and cooked will be sanitary than my own kitchen would be. Besides that, they have a nice smokey grilled flavor that I like.
- Store brand garden vegetables mix (Half cup serving per Nutritional Information on package)
These are generic frozen vegetables, because vegetables are vegetables to me. They don’t taste any different to me if they’re organic or GMO, but these happen to be organic (or so it says on the label). They consist of corn, carrots, broccoli and some kind of green beans I forget the name of.
- Regular rice (Half japanese cup)
Plain old generic, medium grain rice in the store brand bag.
- Half a can of cream of mushroom soup
This is purely for flavor. It acts as a base. I might try other soups or different bases as I get bored with cream of mushroom.
Straight out of the tap.
Putting Together the Ingredients
I tested my recipe last night so that I wouldn’t wake up groggy in the morning to a disgusting mess if things went wrong.
I have experimented with different ingredients before, so I know which ingredients can be safely left overnight without spoiling. I intentionally use frozen chicken and vegetables rather than thawing them because they will keep cool in the closed rice cooker overnight without spoiling.
Here’s how to put it all together:
When measuring your rice, always use a Japanese rice measuring cup (unless the instructions with your rice cooker indicate otherwise), not an American one. Rice cookers are labelled with water levels that assume a Japanese cup. If you use an American cup your rice will not cook properly and your cooker may boil over.
First I wash the rice. I don’t just give it a quick rinse, I wash it thoroughly. I wash my rice by putting it into a tall plasticware container with a snap-on lid with some water and shaking it. I put in water, shake, drain off the water through a sane and repeat until the water runs clear. This is important because if the rice isn’t washed thoroughly the bran powder will act as an emollient, which will mess up the chemical balance when other ingredients are added and could cause the cooker to boil over.
I should note here that I’ve been washing and cooking rice the Japanese traditional way for years, so it’s a bit of a ritual for me.
Next I fill the rice cooker pan slightly above halfway to the 1 cup water mark. I have experimented with different amounts of water with my cooker, and I have found that this amount of water works well for regular rice when I am using other wet ingredients. YMMV.
After adding water I add the half cup of rice. I swish the water around so the rice settles down into the water, then I toss in the frozen vegetables. I follow that by dolloping the mushroom soup onto the vegetables, then I place the chicken strips around the perimeter of the other ingredients.
The reason for this order:
- Water and rice goes in the bottom because it needs the most heat to cook.
- Frozen veggies go next because they need a medium amount of heat to steam.
- Soup goes next because it’s already cooked and only needs to be warmed up.
- Chicken goes around the perimeter because it’s already cooked. The perimeter is where the least heat goes, so the chicken will heat up without overcooking.
Finally I put the cooker pan into the rice cooker, close the lid and set the timer for one hour before I wake.
By morning the ingredients are thawed and ready to be cooked and heated up. The rice cooker kicks on an hour before I’m ready for breakfast and I have a warm, delicious meal waiting for me in the rice cooker. The rice cooker will switch from cook to warm automatically when cooking is done and keep the food warm for as long as I want.
If I don’t feel like cleaning up I can close the lid and leave the rice cooker messy then clean it when I get home. Since it has a very good non-stick surface it is easy to clean off dried-on ingredients.
The combination of ingredients represents an ideal set of food groups for breakfast including starch, vegetables, protein and essential vitamins and minerals.
This reduces eating breakfast to the simplest of activities: Dumping it into a bowl and stuffing it in my face.
As a result, I eat breakfast more consistently and I’m more productive during the day.