“The Healthy Gourmet”

April 21, 2011

Eggs – Incredible and edible!  That really is a great advertising slogan, as eggs are incredibly good to eat and they are an incredible nutrition source.  Whole eggs and egg yolks store enough protein that the USDA categorizes eggs as Meats in the Food Pyramid. Egg protein has just the right mix of essential amino acids needed by humans to build tissues. It is second only to mother’s milk for human nutrition and in addition, eggs have thirteen essential vitamins and minerals.  On average, a large egg has about 70 calories and 5 grams of fat, making it a lower calorie source of protein.

While we may never know the answer to the “which came first?” question, we do know that chickens, and their eggs, have been around a long time.  Europeans had domesticated chickens as far back as 600 B.C., and chickens came to North America on Columbus’ second voyage here in 1493.  Likewise, eggs have been colored, blessed, exchanged and eaten as rites of Spring long before Christian times.  So there is great history for all the eggs your kids want you to dye and hide!

I always think of eggs as plain old white and yellow, but there is a lot more to the color of eggs.  In most of the US, white eggs are preferred but in New England they favor brown eggs.  The color of the chicken determines the color of the egg – White Leghorn Hens lay white eggs and Rhode Island Red Hens lay brown eggs.  According to the American Egg Board, there are no significant differences between eggs of different colors.   Another interesting fact about eggs and color is that the color of the yolk can be determined by the hen’s diet – the more yellow and orange plant pigments in the hen’s feed the more vibrant the color of the yolk.  And the color of the egg white is an indicator of its freshness:  cloudy egg whites indicate the egg is very fresh, clear egg whites indicate the egg is aging, and if you see pink or iridescent colors in the egg white throw the egg out as it is most likely spoiled.

A few facts about eggs:  most hens lay between 250 and 270 eggs each year and about 75 billion eggs a year are produced in the US.  Eggs take only 24 – 26 hours to form inside a hen.  Turkeys also lay eggs but they require more nesting space so it is less economical to produce turkey eggs.
Turkeys also have stronger mothering instincts so collecting the eggs is more difficult (I sure don’t want a mad momma turkey chasing after me!).

And last but not least, May is “National Egg Month” so be sure to try these and other egg recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner – eggs are a great alternate source of protein and when combined with vegetables and fruits they are a nutritious and delicious meal.  So don’t save eggs just for breakfast – enjoy them at other  meals too!

Breakfast Loaf (or Lunch or Dinner Loaf!)

Serves 6

  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • 1 (1 pound) round French bread loaf
  • 6 ounces thinly sliced deli ham, divided
  • 3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
  • 3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
  1. In a small bowl, combine eggs, salt and pepper. Melt butter in a skillet; add eggs. Cook and stir until set; set aside. Cut the top fourth off loaf of bread. Carefully hollow out top and bottom, leaving a 1/2-in. shell. (Discard removed bread or save for another use.) Set top aside.
  2. In bottom of bread, place a fourth of the ham. Layer with half of the Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese, red pepper, scrambled eggs and tomato slices. Top with the remaining cheese and ham. Gently press the layers together. Replace bread top and wrap tightly in foil. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until heated through. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

Italian Sausage Spinach and Egg Pie

Serves 8

  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 (10 ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (make sure the spinach is really dry)
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ¾ c pecorino romano cheese, or asiago, or cheddar
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (10 inch) pastry for a double crust pie
  • 1 tablespoon water
  1. In a skillet, cook sausage over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Separate one egg and set the yolk aside. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg white and remaining eggs. Add spinach, mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, salt, garlic powder, pepper and sausage; mix well.
  2. Line a 10-in. pie plate with bottom pastry. Add filling. Roll out remaining pastry to fit top of pie; place over filling. Trim, seal and flute edges. Cut slits in pastry. If desired, cut out holly leaf and berry shapes from pastry scraps; place on top crust. Beat water and remaining egg yolk; brush over top.
  3. Bake at 375 degrees F for 50-60 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

NOTE:  this recipe makes a lot of filling so if you have more than needed for a 10” pie, put any remaining filling in greased 1 cup ramekins and bake the ramekins for about 20 – 25 minutes or until browned on top and set.

NOTE 2:  this recipe is great as leftovers!  It may be microwaved but is better reheated in the oven covered with foil.

Poached Huevos Rancheros

Serves 4

 

  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, or any other light vinegar
  • about 4 cups water
  • 3 + 1 tablespoons chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4 cups black beans or 2- 15 oz cans, drained
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1-1/2 tablespoon red chili powder
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 4 chicken eggs, preferably organic
  • prepared salsa
  • 2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
  • 1 large avocado, cubed
  1. Mince onion and chop garlic.
  2. Bring water and vinegar to a light boil in a shallow pan. Make sure there is enough water to cover eggs.
  3. In a separate stainless steel skillet, heat 1 TBS broth. Heat broth over medium until it starts to boil, and sautee the onion for about 3 minutes stirring frequently, until translucent. Add garlic, beans, red chili powder, cumin, and rest of broth while egg water is coming to a boil. Warm beans for about 10 minutes on medium low heat, stirring occasionally. Add cilantro, salt, and pepper and remove from heat.
  4. To poach eggs, crack into water and cook about 5 minutes, just until the white is set and the yolk have filmed over. Remove with a slotted spoon, and place eggs over beans. Serve with salsa, shredded romaine lettuce, and avocado.

TIPS FOR POACHING EGGS:  Make sure you do not add any salt to the poaching water for the eggs. The salt has a tendency to dissolve the egg whites. By making sure there is enough water in the poaching pan to cover eggs, you avoid the eggs sticking to the bottom of the pan — you want the eggs to float while they cook. Having enough water also avoids breaking the eggs when you remove them with the slotted spoon. You may want to lay the spoon with the egg on a towel briefly after removing egg from water. This allows the towel to absorb some of the poaching water, and it won’t end up in your beans.

 

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