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Eggs-citing recipes!

Posted:  Thursday, May 1, 2014 - 8:30am

An old Russian proverb states “Love and eggs are best when they are fresh.”

Lucky me, as Peter and I come up to our 11th wedding anniversary next month, he is still the best and freshest! So I have that part of the proverb covered, but what about eggs?

How can you tell for sure that you are cooking and eating truly fresh eggs, unless you are lucky enough to be able to go out into the coop and collect them yourself.

Here’s the scoop: Egg cartons are stamped with a “sell by” or “use by” date, but there is often a lot more specific information encoded on those cartons.

If the eggs you purchase in your supermarket were graded by a USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) inspector, a voluntary grading service, the carton will display the USDA gray shield plus a 3-digit code. That code reveals the date the eggs were actually packed at the processing facility. The code is a Julian date, meaning it represents a day of the year, not a day of a month. For example, if your eggs are marked “001”, it means they were packed on January 1. If the code is “365”, they were packed on December 31, the last day of the year.

So for the freshest eggs, look for a packing date that is a high number. If none of this info is available to you, there is also a simple test you can easily do in your kitchen to check an egg for freshness: Drop the egg into a bowl of cool water. If it sinks, it's fresh. If it stays submerged with its wide end facing up, it is an older egg, but still good (perfect for making deviled eggs because older eggs are much easier to peel). If it floats, give it the heave ho.

Here are a useful few tips regarding eggs.

  • Don't wash eggs. Most eggs sold commercially have been washed and sprayed with a protective oil that prevents bacteria from penetrating the porous shell.
  • Store eggs in their protective cardboard (or foam) container rather than in the open egg compartment of your fridge. Again, because egg shells are porous, the carton provides some protection against odors from other foods tainting the eggs.
  • One of the easiest ways to separate the egg yolk from the white is to break it into your clean hand and let the white drip between your fingers. (Gooey, fun and no gadgets necessary.)
  • To successfully cook eggs in the shell, place eggs in a pan of cold water set over high heat. When the water comes to a boil, immediately reduce the heat to simmer and cover. Set timer for 3 minutes for soft cooked (runny yolk) or 12 minutes for firm yolk. Drain eggs and immediately run plenty of cold water over them until cool enough to handle. Peel eggs immediately.
  • To prevent deviled eggs from slipping on a platter, use a bit of the yolk mixture as "glue" under the white part of the egg.
  • According to the Guinness World Records, a team in Portugal cracked 145,000 eggs to make the world’s largest omelet, which weighed in at 14,225 pounds, 6 ounces. Talk about a big breakfast.
  • Unless specified otherwise, use a large egg in all recipes.

Now let’s get cracking with this week's recipes, which are inspired by this versatile, inexpensive protein. Baked, boiled, scrambled, poached, or fried — the incredible edible egg. (Still catchy slogan after all these years!)

Mini bacon and egg tarts

  • 8 slices whole-wheat white sandwich bread, crusts removed
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped green onions
  • 3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Lightly coat both sides of bread with cooking spray and press each slice into the cup of a muffin pan. Bake in a preheated 425 F oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 F. Combine milk and eggs in a medium bowl, whisking to blend. Divide egg mixture evenly among bread cups; sprinkle with green onions, bacon and cheese. Bake 14-16 minutes or until eggs are set. Yield: 4 servings (2 tarts/serving).

Rolled omelet with spinach and cheddar

  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil (for pan)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 packages (10 oz. each) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1-1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Brush a 10 by 15-inch rimmed sheet pan or jelly-roll pan with the vegetable oil. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on the two shorter sides. Brush parchment with oil. Set aside.

Combine milk and flour in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Add eggs, mustard, salt and pepper and whisk until blended. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle spinach over the top in an even layer.

Carefully transfer pan to a preheated 350 F oven and bake 10-12 minutes or until edges of omelet are set. Sprinkle the top with cheddar and continue baking for 3-5 more minutes or until cheese has melted and eggs are firm. Remove from oven. Beginning at one shorter end, lift parch­ment, and roll up omelet tightly, peeling back parchment as you go. Slice and serve. Yield: 4 servings.

Quick microwave coffee cup egg scramble for one

  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. milk
  • Dash each of salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. shredded Cheddar cheese

Coat a 12-oz. microwave-safe coffee mug with cooking spray. Add eggs, milk, salt and pepper; beat with a fork until well blended.

Microwave on high for 45 seconds; stir. Continue cooking 30-45 seconds longer or until eggs are almost set. Remove from microwave and sprinkle with cheese; let stand 1 minute before serving. Yield: 1 serving. (Microwave ovens vary greatly according to their wattage. Cooking times may need to be adjusted.)

Lime cream cheese pound cake

For the cake:

  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 pkg. (8-oz.) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3 cups all purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 2-1/2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. grated lime zest

For the glaze:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

To prepare the cake: Combine butter and cream cheese in a large mixing bowl. Beat with electric mixer on medium high speed until combined. Slowly add sugar, beating until light and fluffy.

Beat in eggs alternately with flour and salt, mixing well after each addition; add vanilla, almond extract, lime juice and lime zest, mixing to combine. Pour batter into a 12-cup Bundt pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake in a preheated 325 F oven 1-1/2 hours or until tester inserted near center of cake comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes; turn out onto a serving plate. While cake is still warm prick the entire top of cake with tines of a fork.

To prepare the glaze: Combine sugar, butter and lime juice in a saucepan set over medium high heat. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute. Drizzle slowly over warm cake. Let cake cool completely before slicing. Yield: 16 servings.

Paula Anderson is a freelance journalist specializing in food, entertaining and nutrition. She writes for several Maine newspapers and is resident blogger for the Kitchen and Cork newsletter. She divides her time between homes in Scarborough and Hobe Sound, Fla., where she lives with her husband Peter. Email her at pander@maine.rr.com.