Chef Tom – Breakfast Bowls and Wild Musical Intruments

Breakfast Bowl

As in “Who doesn’t love a…”

Following are recipes for three recent hits at work, a fave repeat I call my Cowboy Breakfast Bowl, his slightly healthier cousin, Quinoa Pesto Breakfast Bowl, and the set of sultry septuplets that live next door, Breakfast Roasted Ham Bowls.


Cowboy Breakfast Bowl

Serves 4


8 slices cooked bacon

1 package frozen hash browns

kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

8 eggs, scrambled

hot sauce

2 avocados, sliced

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes

1 tablespoon rosemary, minced

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

3 sliced green onions

Cook off hash browns until crisp. Add cheddar to potatoes and cover to melt. Roast tomatoes with evoo, garlic, rosemary and S&P until barely collapsed. Soft scramble the eggs with hot sauce and S&P.

Build bowls: Divide cheesy potatoes between four bowls. Top each with scrambled eggs, sliced avocado, cooked bacon, roasted tomatoes, scallions, and a drizzle of hot sauce.


Pesto-Quinoa Breakfast Bowls
Serves 4

For the breakfast bowls:

4 large eggs

4 cups cooked quinoa

2 avocadoes

½ cup homemade pesto

8 pieces cooked bacon

4 medium tomatoes

½ tablespoon garlic, minced

evoo, S&P


4 cups fresh basil leaves

2 cups fresh kale leaves

1/2 cups nutritional yeast

1/2 cups pine nuts

2 large garlic cloves

3/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Salt + pepper to taste

Black sesame seeds

Cook the quinoa according to directions. Toast the pine nuts. Reserve 1/2 cup for garnish, use the rest for pesto. Prepare the tomatoes to roast with garlic, rosemary and S&P. Fry the eggs in manteca (bacon fat) or butter with S&P. Warm the bacon.

Prepare each breakfast bowl:

one cup quinoa

half of an avocado thinly sliced

one tablespoon of pesto.

one roasted tomato

two slices of bacon

toasted pine nuts and sesame seeds as garnish

When eggs have cooled, peel them and slice in half. Add to the bowl and sprinkle with pine nuts and black sesame seeds (or nigella). Enjoy as is, season with a touch more salt and pepper, or mix it all together .

Ham Cups

Baked Eggs in Ham Cups

Serves 6

8 oz. thin-sliced ham (or proscuitto)

1 Tablespoon minced rosemary

1 cup parmesan cheese

4 eggs

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Grease your Muffin/Cupcake Pan (for large muffins).

Fit 1 or 2 slices of ham in to each muffin cup.  I used two because my ham was sliced real thin. Sprinkle some cheese into the bottom of each ham cup as a place to rest the egg. Crack on egg into each cup. Sprinkle more cheese on top, some minced rosemary and S&P.

Bake until egg is set (give the pan a jiggle to see).

On That Note

I recall my first time walking through a genius place called the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), in Scottsdale, AZ. I was there for four hours and barely made it through Africa. There are hundreds of instruments from every country, every culture, from the most primitive (barely a stick with a string, or a gas can made into a banjo) to the most sophisticated (high tech electronics). My headphones activated a recording so that when I walked up to a display I could hear the instruments in front of me being played by locals, in their native country. The displays are mostly arranged by continent and I have been there now four times and have yet to see everything. One exhibition was just on the art of inlay and the few artisan shops that have mastered this most intricate and beautiful art.

One of the most fascinating takeaways from MIM was that people are incredibly creative and will use whatever they have on hand to get music – at the least, rhythm – into their lives.

A couple of weeks ago I ran across a percussion instrument I had never seen or heard of before. Of course, I had to know more, so I did a deep dive into the Googleverse and found dozens of videos where I could see this thing in action. From Segal to Taiwan to Tibet, this little guy found its way into the hands of hundreds people from many lands, and has become a favored part of each culture’s music scene that its earned many names. First name I ran across was Cas Cas (pronounced kosh kosh).

Kashaka shakers originate from West Africa and are also known by many other names – Asalatua, Aslatua, Asalato, Cas Cas, Kes Kes, Kosika, Patica, Thelevi & many more. They are a simple instrument – 2 small gourds made from dried fruit, filled with seeds, beads or pebbles and joined with rope. It’s kind of like you took the business ends of two maracas and joined them by a cord. The Cas Cas shakers are smaller though, because you have to fit both bulbs into one hand.

A Kashaka Primer

The kashaka is a simple percussion instrument consisting of two small gourds filled with beans (essentially, two small maracas connected by a string.) Each ball of a Kashaka is a hollow gourd from the Oncoba spinosa tree.When the gourds dry and fall from the trees, children collect them and fill them with orange pebbles from the iron-rich soil of the Sahel. Along the coast of West Africa small pieces of shells are used instead.

One gourd is held in the hand and the other is quickly swung from side to side around the hand, creating a “clack” sound upon impact. Kashakas create both shaking sounds and percussive clicks by swinging the balls around the hand, making them hit each other.

Learning to catch the Kashaka can be difficult at first but this enables a much larger variety of rhythms to be created. Also, as players’ hands come in different sizes, it is important to play a Kashaka of the right size, as it makes learning how to play and master different rhythms much easier. When a Kashaka is played in each hand by an experienced player, polymeters can be produced by playing two different rhythms with different time signatures.

I love pure percussion (Brazilian drum bands, Drum Lines, the guys that play buckets on the street, etc.), IF, and this is key, the rhythms are held long enough to get me moving. Seeing dozens of demonstrations, some musician would barely get me rocking before they would speed up to show their dexterity. Yawn. But some I found, did hold the rhythm long enough to be very satisfying. They would even show the tricks you can do by swinging the gourds on the cord.

This little instrument is just that – pure rhythm – but is capable of creating highly complex rhythmic patterns and polyrhythms. Take a listen.


A musician named Sallilou performing on Gorée Island in Dakar, Senegal in January 2018. His instrument is the Cas Cas, also known as Kashaka, which is made of two small, bean-filled gourds that are connected by a string.

This kid shows a few more tricks and style.

Spirit Gallery’s Tara
Here is the Cas Cas (asaloto) as part of an ensemble.  Wix Stix Didgeridoo, Chenin on Asalato and Fun on Handpan.

Bonus Track
Keeping in the spirit that people will turn anything into an instrument for the sake of having music in their lives, take a listen to this guy. Justin Johnson has made his guitar out of a shovel.

3-string shovel guitar


Chef Tom is currently Resident Chef for a small tech firm in San Francisco. He also teaches cooking classes, caters small parties and leads overseas culinary tours. His specialty for the last twelve years has been cooking for people with food allergies and sensitivities. His motto is “Food should give you pleasure, not pressure.”

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