Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Which came first? Cliches revisited

If yesterday was the day we explored the myriad ways of cooking chicken, then today's natural follow-up is to note that May is National Egg Month.

To May's celebration of all things of the egg variety, let's add a wee bit of egg trivia. No need to handle with care. These are fun facts to know and share:
  • Americans make 7.8 billion egg-buying trips to the store each year and eggs can be found in 93 percent of all American households. In Anniston, Ala., a skinny, 8-year-old boy can regularly eat -- and expect -- three eggs for breakfast, much to the detriment of his family's food budget.

  • One egg has 13 essential vitamins and minerals, healthy unsaturated fats and antioxidants, all for only 70 calories.

  • A hen requires about 24 to 26 hours to produce an egg. After the egg is laid, the hen starts all over again about 30 minutes later. Younger hens tend to lay smaller eggs - the size of the egg increases as the hen grows older and is not related to the grade of the egg.

  • Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants found in egg yolks that can help to prevent macular degeneration, a leading cause of age-related blindness. The egg yolk gets its color from these yellow-orange pigments, and the shade of the yolk depends on how much lutein and zeaxanthin - often supplied by marigold petals - are in the hen’s feed.

  • The shelf-life of eggs is longer than many other fresh foods (assuming you're lucky enough not to have a child who eats three a day). Fresh, uncooked eggs in the shell can be refrigerated in their cartons for at least three to five weeks after they are purchased.

  • Not sure if an egg is raw or hard-cooked? Give it a spin! A cooked egg will spin easily while a raw egg will wobble.

A simple way to enjoy eggs is to make an omelette -- eggs beaten and then cooked in a pan and mixed with whatever you like, or with nothing at all. They're easier than most people think. Don't believe it? Take a look.

Basic Omelette

2 eggs
2 tablespoons water (or cream)
1/8 teaspoon salt, optional
Dash pepper, optional
1 teaspoon butter

In a small bowl, beat together the eggs and water with the salt and pepper, if desired, until blended.
In a 7- to 10-inch pan or skillet over medium-high heat, heat the butter until it’s just hot enough to sizzle a drop of water.
Pour in the egg mixture. (The mixture should set immediately at the edges).
With an inverted pancake turner (odd term, but that's the one the Egg Board put on here), carefully push the cooked portions at the edges of the pan toward the center so the uncooked portions can reach the hot pan surface, tilting the pan and moving the cooked portions as necessary.
When the top is thickened and no visible liquid egg remains, fill the omelette, if desired.
With a pancake turner fold the omelette in half or roll it.
Invert onto a plate with a quick flip of the wrist or slide from the pan onto a serving plate.

A little fancier, but tasty is this casserole based on rice. This savory dish is much like a quiche studded with chilies and flavored with taco sauce and onion. The dish goes together in a snap. While it's in the oven, toss a salad.
South of the Border Casserole
6 eggs
1 cup skim or low-fat milk
1/2 cup taco sauce
1 tablespoon instant minced onion
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chilies, undrained
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded reduced-fat Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
Parsley, optional
In large bowl, beat together eggs, milk, taco sauce, onion and salt until well blended. Reserving a few pieces of chilies for garnish, stir in remaining chilies, rice and cheese. Pour into greased 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking dish.
Bake in preheated 350° F oven until knife inserted near center comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes.
Garnish with reserved chilies and parsley, if desired.

(Maybe the food officials will see the previous post on Ham Hock Appreciation Day. We don't want a month; a day will suffice.)