Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Do You Like Green Eggs And Ham? Part 2

A Whole Egg
In my last post, I talked about the differences between cage-free, free-range, and commercial eggs.  Now, I want to talk about the eggs themselves.  Are they super-foods, or arch villains?

A "Hole" Egg
The biggest problem nutritionists have with eggs is the cholesterol found in the yolks.   Basically, cholesterol is made by your liver, and can be found in various foods, including eggs.  (Read this Wikipedia article for a good explanation of what it is and how it works.) Genetic factors and lifestyle choices likely have more of an impact on your cholesterol level than eating an egg or two per day.  We actually do need cholesterol for many vital functions in our bodies, including making Vitamin D and many important hormones.  Does it make sense that something our bodies synthesize and use for everyday survival is such a bad guy?

So, if you're going to have an egg for breakfast, go ahead and eat that whole egg, not a "hole" egg.  Eggs, especially the yolks, are chock-full of nutrients - proteins, healthy fats, Omega 3's, choline, Vitamins A, D,and E... shall I go on?  Nature has provided such a perfect little package of goodness.  Why throw half of it away?

A box without hinges, key, or lid
Yet golden treasure inside is hid.
 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Do You Like Green Eggs And Ham? Part 1
Green Eggs And Ham
"I am Sam!  Sam-I-Am!"

To be honest, I have never encountered a green ham.  If I did, I wouldn't eat it, because it would probably be moldy and gross.  However, I do eat green eggs at least once a week.  They come from Araucana chickens, a breed from South America.  While they are not quite as green as Sam-I-Am's eggs, they are just as delicious.
Green Eggs, No Ham

What's the difference between a green egg and a white egg?  Besides color and chicken breed, nothing.  They taste the same, have the same nutritional value (which I will cover in my next post), and look exactly the same inside.  I prefer green eggs because they're pretty.

However, not all eggs are created equal.  Egg quality depends on where the egg comes from.  Look on the side of the carton, or, even better, ask your local farmer at the market.  Better still, visit the farm to see the happy chickens pecking around outside.  The best way to know where your eggs come from is to have some chickens in your backyard.  They're low-maintenance, good at controlling the bug population, and produce a great fertilizer for your garden, if you care to collect it.

There are many terms in the egg world.  If it doesn't say cage-free, free-range, or pastured, it's probably a conventional, factory-farmed egg.  These eggs come from chickens packed into tiny cages, up to 10 at a time.  They get no sunlight, no exercise, and their cramped conditions create a putrid environment.  Their beaks are often removed to keep them from pecking each other since they are kept in such close quarters.  If your egg carton says "cage-free," you're a bit better off.  Cage-free chickens live in huge barns, cluck around, stretch their wings a little, but they don't go outside.  Unfortunately, these birds might also be de-beaked, making their eggs a less than ideal choice.  "Free-range" is better, but still may not be perfect.  Although the idea of a free-range chicken may give you fantasies of green, rolling pastures with content chickens enjoying the warmth of the sun, this may not be the case.  A free-range chicken only has to have access to the outside world, but that doesn't mean they take advantage of it.  The only way to know for sure is to know and trust your farmer.

The best choice?  Pastured eggs.  Pastured eggs come from hens who live... in a pasture!  The chickens are outside, in the fresh air, pecking and scratching in the dirt, laying eggs and being, well, chickens.  They are free to run around and do whatever it is that chickens want to do.  Our friends have pastured chickens.  Their two-year-old likes to run around with them, and their 6-year-old has an egg-selling business.  The eggs are delicious.

Remember when I said that eggs all taste the same?  Well, they don't.  A fresh, pastured egg will taste a billion times better than a grocery store egg.  They even look different.  The farm-fresh egg's yolk is orange, the white isn't runny or thin, and the shell is thick.  When you crack the egg open, the yolk should be round and look something like a bright orange bouncy-ball.  (However, it will not bounce.  Don't try it.)
Happy Chickens!
And the best part?  When you get your eggs from the market, they're real.  They aren't necessarily all pristine white and the same size, like a factory product (which conventional eggs are).  The local eggs are all different sizes, some huge, some tiny.  They're flecked with dirt and maybe a feather or two.  (Yeah, it's kind of gross, but unwashed eggs are less vulnerable to germs.  Weird but true.)  They usually come in re-used, grocery-store cartons with the brand-names crossed out, and the farmer's information written on a label.  In my experience, most farmers are eager to have you come out and visit their farm.  It's nice to actually know where my food is coming from.  Do you have any idea where those grocery store eggs came from?  Who cared for those chickens?  Did they ever see sunlight, breathe fresh air, or feel the grass beneath their feet?  Were they healthy birds, able to lay healthy eggs?

 "Say!  I like green eggs and ham!  I do!  I like them, Sam-I-Am!"

Monday, March 14, 2011

24 Carrots

Spring is coming!  Spring is coming!

To be honest, I'm not a spring person.  I prefer summer and fall.  This year, however,  I'm really excited.  Why?  Three words: The.  Farmers'.  Markets!  The farmers' market season is about to start, and I can't wait.

Farmers' Market Carrots
Just look at these carrots.  They're so much more natural than their grocery store cousins, and they taste a lot more... carroty.  (You're thinking, "Well, duh, they're carroty!  They're carrots!" but I swear, these little orange veggies are a billion times better than any commercial variety.)  Amazing taste aside, I love these carrots for their personality.  I mean, you never get a grocery store carrot, or any veggie for that matter, that still has dirt on it!

These carrots are only the beginning.  In three weeks, when the farmers' market season officially starts, we'll be surrounded by fresh produce, colorful stalls, and (hopefully) warm spring air.  I'm so excited for April!

Until then, I'm going to daydream about the fresh produce that, soon, but nowhere near soon enough, will be sitting on our tiled counter, just like those carrots.  Strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, blackberries, asparagus- mmmm....

P.S. If you do not live near Raleigh, North Carolina, check out this website to find markets closer to home.  You can also go here to see what's in season in your home state.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Birthday Blog!

No, it is not my birthday.  It is my sister's!  Today, she is 10.  She requested burgers, so that's what we're having tonight.  Burgers, coleslaw, and some pretty delicious sweet potato circles, which I will share with you below.

This recipe was given to us by our cousin. (Check out her awesome blog here.)  I am so incredibly grateful to her for showing it to us.  Thanks, Amy!

Sweet Potato Circles  (makes enough circles for our family of 6)

  • 4 average-sized sweet potatoes, or 3 really big ones
  • Something to grease a cookie sheet with
  • Salt
Slice the potatoes into about 1/4" thick disks.  Grease your cookie sheet.  Toss the potatoes onto the cookie sheet.  Sprinkle potatoes with a little salt, and bake at 425 degrees until they're lightly browned on top.  Do not overcook these.  They will turn into inedible hockey pucks.  Trust me, it's happened to us.

Nobody in our family is into cake.  My littler sister had cookies and ice cream for her 7th birthday.  I had an apple pie for my last birthday.  And Sadie, she's having brownies.  My mom's cutting back on the gluten, so tonight, we're trying new gluten-free brownies.

Happy Birthday, Sadie!  Enjoy your burger, and welcome to the double digits!