Eggs are one of nature’s most nutritious foods. They are a very nutrient-dense food because they provide a significant amount of vitamins and minerals (14 in total), yet only contain 70 calories. Eggs make a valuable contribution to a healthy, balanced diet. They provide protein, vitamin A, riboflavin and other vitamins and minerals. The yolk contains all the fat, saturated fat and cholesterol in an egg. Eggs are an excellent source of high-quality protein and are far less expensive than most other animal-protein foods.

Yet, though they’re incredibly easy to make and the ingredients are usually at hand, many of us hardly ever think of preparing eggs for lunch or dinner. Perhaps that’s because eggs have gotten such a bad rap. They do contain dietary cholesterol. However, scientific research has made it clear that saturated fat — mostly from full-fat dairy products and red meat — is really the villain behind rising blood cholesterol levels. Although eggs contain a significant amount of cholesterol, they need not be excluded from the diet. Including protein-rich eggs in your meals and snacks helps sustain your energy level and curb hunger, cravings and unhealthy snacking. Protein is the most filling nutrient. It helps control the rate at which food energy (calories) is absorbed by your body.

Try to find eggs that are not mass produced from caged chickens. Healthier cage-free chickens produce yellower, more flavorful eggs, and your recipes will taste better for using them. Eggs are sold in standard sizes: small, medium, extra-large and jumbo. Most recipes call for large eggs but, if a recipe doesn’t specify, assume it means large. In recipes that don’t call for a lot of eggs, substituting one size for another is usually not a problem. However, as the number of eggs increase, the difference in the amount will become pronounced.

Eggs sold in supermarkets in the US are packed in cartons with the USDA shield on them indicating that they came from a USDA-inspected plant. Though not required, most egg cartons contain a “sell by date” beyond which they should not be sold. This date cannot be 30 days beyond the packing date. The USDA does require that egg cartons display the ‘pack date’, which is the day that the eggs were washed, graded and placed into the carton. You can find this date embedded in code on the side of the carton. The first 3 numbers, usually preceded by the letter ‘P’ indicates the plant number where the eggs were packed. The last 3 numbers is a 3-digit code that represents the consecutive day of the year, starting with January 1 as 001 and ending with December 31 as 365.

Egg products you see at the store may include whole eggs, egg whites and egg yolks in frozen or refrigerated liquid, and dried forms available in a number of different product formulations like cake and cookie mixes, as well as specialty egg products. Specialty egg products can include pre-peeled hard-cooked eggs, egg salad, pre-cooked omelets, egg patties, quiches, scrambled eggs, fried eggs and others. When purchasing egg products, look for containers that are tightly sealed and packages that are unopened. Although egg products have been processed, it is important to follow all cooking instructions on the packaging to ensure maximum safety. Buy refrigerated eggs and store them in your refrigerator as soon as you get home from the market.

After shell eggs reach home, it is very important to refrigerate them at a temperature of 45 °F or below. Keep the eggs in their carton and place them in the coldest part of the refrigerator, not in the door. Storing eggs in the refrigerator door could lead to temperature fluctuations that can lead to bacteria growth. Eggs may be refrigerated 3 to 5 weeks from the day they are placed in the refrigerator. The sell-by date will usually expire during that length of time, but the eggs are perfectly safe to use. Liquid egg products should be kept refrigerated at all times and consumed within two to six days from the date of purchase. Once liquid egg products are opened, they should be used immediately.

However, even under refrigeration, eggs slowly lose carbon dioxide, which causes the egg to lose moisture and enlarges the size of the air space between the egg and the shell. The combination of these changes makes an old egg a lot easier to peel than one that is fresh. So the best guarantee of easy peeling hard boiled eggs is to use older eggs.

It may be tempting to stop at a fast food drive in for lunch, but why do that when you can make a quick and delicious meal with eggs? If you’ve got eggs, you’ve got options.

Italian Egg Sandwich

For 1

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 slices Italian bread or 1 English muffin
  • 2 slices tomato
  • 1 slice fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon basil pesto
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Lettuce, optional

Directions

Heat oil in a small saute pan with a lid. Crack egg into a small bowl and pour into the pan. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Cook for 2 minutes, turn egg over and place a slice of mozzarella cheese on top. Place lid on the pan to melt the cheese and remove the pan from the heat.

Toast bread or muffin, if desired. Spread pesto on the bread.

Place egg on top of bread or muffin bottom and top with sliced tomato, lettuce and bread.

Potato Hash with Fried Eggs

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, divided plus extra for garnish
  • 2 Vidalia or sweet onions, chopped
  • 8 large eggs

Directions

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sweet potatoes and toss until coated in the butter, then add water and sage leaves. Bring water to a simmer and cook potatoes, uncovered, until the water has almost evaporated and the potatoes are fork tender, about 10 minutes. If there is any excess water in the pan, remove it with a large spoon and reserve.

Continue cooking potatoes, scraping pan frequently with a spoon, until crusty brown, about 10 more minutes. Add a tablespoon of the leftover cooking liquid or fresh water, if the potatoes stick or begin to scorch.

Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook, adding water as necessary when the pan gets dry, until deep golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer onions to the pan with the potatoes.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter to the empty skillet and cook the eggs, 4 at a time, to your preference.

Place potato and onion mixture in the center of 4 plates and top each plate with 2 fried eggs. Garnish plates with sage leaves.

Baked Asparagus & Cheese Frittata

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons fine dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 pound thin asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese of choice

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°F. Coat a 10-inch pie pan or ceramic quiche dish with cooking spray. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs, tapping out the excess.

Snap tough ends off asparagus. Slice off the top 2 inches of the tips and reserve. Cut the stalks into 1/2-inch-long slices.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add water and the asparagus stalks to the skillet. Cook, stirring, until the asparagus is tender and the liquid has evaporated, about 7 minutes (the mixture should be very dry). Season with salt and pepper. Arrange the vegetables in an even layer in the prepared baking pan.

Whisk eggs in a large bowl. Add ricotta, parsley, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper; whisk to blend. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables, gently shaking the pan to distribute. Scatter the reserved asparagus tips over the top and sprinkle with cheese

Bake the frittata until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Winter Vegetables with Egg

You should figure about 8 ounces of roasted vegetables per serving.

For the vegetables:

  • Small carrots scrubbed and trimmed
  • Small parsnips, peeled and trimmed
  • Brussel sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

For the mustard sauce:

  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

One fried or poached egg per serving

Directions:

In a large heavy skillet over medium high heat oil, brown the vegetables and cook them until tender and caramelized. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove to a bowl.

Add shallots to the skillet and saute until softened. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Stir in olive oil and mustard; stir. Return vegetables to the skillet and mix thoroughly.

Top each serving of vegetables with a fried or poached egg.

Italian Eggs Over Polenta

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 (16-ounce) tube of polenta, cut into 12 slices (picture below)
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cups homemade or store bought tomato-basil pasta sauce
  • 1 (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Asiago cheese

Directions

Preheat broiler.

Arrange polenta slices on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Brush tops of polenta with olive oil. Broil 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated and beginning to brown.

Bring sauce to a simmer in a large nonstick skillet with a cover over medium-high heat. Stir in spinach; cover and cook for 1 minute or until spinach wilts. Stir to combine.

Make 4 indentations in the top of the spinach mixture using the back of a wooden spoon. Break 1 egg into each indentation. Cover the pan, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until eggs are cooked to your liking. Sprinkle with cheese.

Place 3 polenta slices on each of 4 plates; top each serving with 1 egg and one-fourth of spinach mixture.

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