Eating Breakfast at Your Desk Doesn’t Have to Be Sad
Every morning, my colleague Alex settles into her desk, pulls open her laptop, and brings out her little container of breakfast.
I’m pretty resolutely not a breakfast eater (I’ve joined the hoard of annoyingly enthusiastic intermittent fasters) but, still, throughout the fall I kept wondering what Alex was pairing with her 10 a.m. coffee-and-data date. Golden-yolked soft boiled eggs? Spiced oatmeal with a melty swirl of jam? A single slice of sourdough toast topped with smashed avocado and shredded nori?
It’s January now, and I’m still into intermittent fasting, but here’s the thing: I break the fast at 11 with a desk breakfast most days. Alex’s meal prep got me wishing for breakfast for the first time in years. I love luxuriating in a slow bite while tackling something easy-ish at work, like catching up on emails, instead of gulping something down first thing on my way out the door. I’ve gotten so into it that sometimes, if I’m crunched for time, I even bring a very extra desk breakfast instead of a virtuously packed lunch.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t brown bag it for lunch, too. Bringing your lunch is great. It’s most likely better for the environment, for your health, and for your wallet than grabbing something to go. Usually, and especially during COOK90, I’m right there with you: cooking, packing, getting way too excited about lunch storage systems and desk top cutlery. But sometimes it feels like only the lunch bunch gets credit for being virtuous and green.
This year, if you buy breakfast or skip it altogether on your way out the door, I urge you to give it some of that packed-lunch energy.
It doesn’t matter if your coworkers have zero interest in your morning grain bowl but ooh and aah over the deconstructed niçoise you brought in last week for lunch. Do it for you, sip some good coffee, and ease your way into the workday. Here are some options to get you started.
We’ll start our list of breakfast ideas with oatmeal: our contributing oatmeal expert Lukas Volger has already sold us on this humble breakfast, so I wasn’t surprised to find a envy-inducing new rendition in his upcoming cookbook, Start Simple. It’s a great move, piling your oats with roasted squash and a drizzle of both maple syrup and tahini, all finished with a crunch of Maldon salt. The resulting creamy, nutty, and salty-sweet bowl will win over any oatmeal skeptics.
Steel-Cut Oats with Squash and TahiniLukas Volger
While Volger admits he’s partial to sweet vegetables like squash and sweet potatoes, he does say that “fruit (berries, pear, apple, stone fruit) would all be just as good here, but I’d pack them separately and then add to the oats once they’ve been reheated.”
With most oatmeal dishes, Volger recommends dividing the cooked oats into heat-safe containers, then stirring in a bit of water or milk before reheating and topping with any crunchy additions like coconut flakes, nuts and seeds, or granola.
If you want to make a big batch in an even more hands-off way than regular oats on the stove require, check out this Instant Pot recipe—and don’t skip browning in butter (or ghee, or coconut oil). It adds a toasty depth to your oats.
…And All The Other Grains Too
Oatmeal isn’t the only breakfast grain, though. I grew up eating a coconut rice pudding called Kiribath that I sometimes recreate in a hurry by subbing some of the water in the rice pot for canned full-fat coconut milk. Black rice, or forbidden rice, works especially well here, and toppings can lean either sweet (mango, berries, pomegranate) or savory (an egg, kimchi, sambal).
If you’re not going to reheat it at work, you’ll want to make any rice pudding sort of dish a little soupier than usual, so it’s still luscious and silken by the time you get to your desk.
Kiribath (Coconut Milk Rice)Prakash K. Sivanathan and Niranjala M. Ellawala
Our Digital Director David Tamarkin tells me he “eats breakfast at work most days, and it’s always 9-minute eggs with sourdough.” I usually go for a jammier six minute egg, which on a good day I peel and package up with with roasted vegetables before leaving, and on a rushed day I just stash in the pocket of my coat on the way out the door. Flaky salt, chili crunch, and a handful of flax crackers from my desk stash all work to round out the meal.
If boiled eggs aren’t your thing, make this sheet pan egg recipe and add a few slices to your bag on Monday along with some toast. You could get fancy with avocado, a jar of pickled jalapeños, torn herbs, or a bag of of grated cheese, too. Then you can assemble your breakfast at work throughout the week, mixing it up a little each day.
The Yogurt (or Non-Yogurt) Bowl
Alex, it turns out, usually brings tangy Greek yogurt laced with date syrup to work. You could, of course, include fruit or a swoosh of jam, but why not go savory instead? I prefer coconut yogurt, which is so rich I like to brighten it up with something acidic like a squeeze of lime juice and a shower of mint. This seedy sprinkle from our COOK90 plan, which is both a little hot (thanks Aleppo pepper) and a little sweet (hi, honey) works well, too.
As with oatmeal, it’s best to add your crunchies at your desk. This bento box makes it easily portable: put all your toppings in the slender top container, fruit or roasted vegetables in the middle sleeve, and your yogurt (or oatmeal) in the largest one.
If you’ve read this far and you feel like none of these breakfast ideas are quite enough to combat the sadness of eating not one, but two meals at your desk every day, have you seen a breakfast popsicle? Oh wait—those aren’t going to stay solid on the commute. Guess you’ll have to work from home today.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious