Manic mornings are no excuse for sloppily put-together breakfasts, according to housewife Nancy Tay.
Instead of simply slapping jam or peanut butter on bread, the 44-year-old makes bite-sized breakfast items such as quiches, muffins and pancakes and packs them in plastic bags so that her two sons, age 16 and 14, can eat them on the way to school.
She wakes up at 5.45am daily to prepare breakfast for her sons, who leave for school by 6.35am.
Ms Tay, who is married to a 46-year-old software consultant, says: "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day; they need something that can last them till lunchtime, or else it will be difficult to concentrate during lessons."
To fuel their school day, she packs proteins into her cafe-worthy creations, which change daily.
Her repertoire includes baked fusilli and bacon tarts, curry potato quiches, sweet potato pancakes, baked potato patties and home- baked sourdough bread slathered with cream cheese mixed with ingredients such as cranberries, walnuts, red bean and honey.
Once, she woke up at 5am to make sushi rolls filled with edamame, sunflower seeds and omelette.
She says with a laugh: "It takes more effort to prepare breakfast. Sometimes I dread thinking of what's for breakfast the night before."
The doting mum shares one of her recent breakfast additions, cheesy quinoa bites, here.
She makes the whole grain-based patties the night before and bakes them in the morning.
She started eating quinoa last year after battling acid reflux, a condition in which acid produced by the stomach moves upwards into the oesophagus.
According to Ms Tay, her acid reflux condition was caused by over-eating foods that are rich in wheat.
The self-taught baker reveals that she ate too many chiffon cakes and muffins from her "unsuccessful baking sessions".
She says: "I did not want to waste food, but that made me put on 3kg. I also had breathing difficulties and felt bloated."
Seeking a diet switch, Ms Tay stayed away from coffee and looked for wheat-free alternatives, such as quinoa, which is rich in protein and dietary fibre.
Besides eating them in place of rice and as a salad topping, Ms Tay also makes tuna quinoa melts, a quinoa-based pancake stuffed with tuna.
Being used to having bread for breakfast, she searched cooking websites and cookbooks for recipes that use wheat-free ingredients.
It was through reading Veggie Burgers Every Which Way, a vegetarian cookbook by Lukas Volger, that she found a quinoa burger patty recipe.
She tweaked the recipe by downsizing the patties into bite- sized cutlets, and added edamame, beetroot and Japanese seaweed into the mix. Not only do these ingredients up the nutritional content, they also add colour to the patties, making them more visually appetising. She also added cheese and lemon rind, which mask the nutty flavour of the quinoa.
Ms Tay says: "Something good came out of my acid reflux condition - it forced me to explore different ingredients when making breakfast for the family."
MAKE IT YOURSELF: CHEESY QUINOA BITES
For cooking quinoa:
- 100g quinoa, washed
- 240ml water
- 1/2 Tbs lemon juice, freshly squeezed
For making the quinoa bites:
- 180ml water
- 1/2 tsp hijiki (Japanese seaweed)
- 80g edamame
- 25g beetroot, cut in 1cm-thick slices then diced
- 1/2 egg, beaten
- 1/2 Tbs lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- Lemon rind from a halved lemon
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp thyme
- 2 Tbs shallots, finely chopped
- 40g grated parmesan cheese
- 20g cheddar cheese
- Vegetable oil to taste
- Soak quinoa in 240ml of water and 1/2 Tbs lemon juice, and let it set overnight.
- Over a strainer, rinse the quinoa with tap water. Drain and set aside.
- Soak hijiki in 60ml of water for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- On high heat in a pot, add quinoa and hijiki to 180ml water and bring the contents to a boil. When bubbles appear, reduce heat to low and let contents simmer for 15 minutes or until water has been absorbed. Turn off the flame and let contents sit for 10 minutes. Use a fork to fluff up the quinoa.
- Transfer quinoa into a large bowl and allow it to cool for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 180 deg C.
- In a pot, steam edamame on medium heat for four minutes. Transfer it into a strainer. Run cold water over it repeatedly before de-shelling the peas.
- In a pot, place steamed, diced beetroot on medium heat for 15 minutes. Cool the cooked beetroot for 15 minutes.
- In a mixing bowl, add quinoa, egg, lemon juice, lemon rind, black pepper, salt, thyme, minced shallots and grated cheese. Mix well.
- Add edamame and beetroot into the mixing bowl. Gently fold contents well with a spatula.
- Line the baking tray with parchment paper. Use an ice-cream scoop to spoon out about 50g of the quinoa mixture. Using gloves oiled with a pinch of vegetable oil, mould the scoop of quinoa mixture into a ball. Flatten the sides to make it compact and shape it into a 5cm-wide patty.
- Bake the quinoa patties for 20 minutes. After 10 minutes, take out the baking tray to turn the patties over and bake for another 10 minutes.
- Let the quinoa patties cool on the baking tray for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Makes eight to 10 patties