Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Using Your Eggs :: The Best Way to Hard Cook Farm Fresh Eggs

The past couple years have been spent experimenting with ways to hard cook farm fresh eggs. Because, honestly, who wants to cook dozens of eggs for egg salad or devilled eggs and have the frustrations with peeling and leave all that egg white on the shell?

As a kid, i remember we'd boil eggs, give them a couple cracks on the counter, and the shell would peel off in one whole piece most of the time.  This was most likely because we were purchasing our eggs from the grocery store, where it can take up to 30 days just to get those eggs from the nest to a carton and in the store.  Not to mention, these eggs typically have a longer shelf life than the eggs from your local farmer because they are pasteurized.  

When an egg is fresh from the nest, it is a very low acid environment, which causes the egg white to adhere to the inner membrane of the shell.  As the egg ages, the acidity increases due to gas exchange through the egg shell, which reduces the powerful hold the egg white has on the inner membrane, making a hard cooked egg easier to peel.  Recommendations are to wait till the egg is 10 days old and use them for hard boiling.

Using this information, i tried boiling eggs that were two weeks old to just a few days away from their freshness date.  No luck.  I still left tons of egg white behind and ended up making way more egg salad, when what we really craved were devilled eggs.   Plus, what is worse than trying to fish an orb as hot as molten lava out of boiling pots of water?  Well, okay, being burned alive in a volcano is much worse than that, but really, cooking should be fun.  Unlike hanging around volcanoes oozing actual molten lava.

Research led me to the idea of oven baking hard cooked eggs, proclaiming that it was the answer to everyone's desires to have their farm fresh eggs and hard cook them too.  I found the results to be split for us.  Sometimes it seemed to work, but more often i experienced the same problem plus two new ones: ugly brown spots on the eggs whites and overcooked egg yolks.

Enter the next theory....steam!

I recently stumbled upon steaming eggs.  And i am happy to report it works like a dream!  I use my rice steamer and get the perfectly cooked eggs that peel like perfection.

Here's the basic idea, adaptable to your type of steamer (pot, bamboo, or appliance):

  1. Add enough water so your steamer won't run dry.  In my steamer i fill it to MAX levels.  In a pot, you may only need an inch or so of water.
  2. Place eggs inside your steamer, careful not to add too many.  In a steamer basket, 6 eggs at a time is the recommended amount for best results.
  3. Set the timer for 15 - 20 minutes and walk away.  This part is really dependent on the number of eggs in your basket.  The fewer eggs, and the smaller the basket i suppose, the less time it will take.  Play with it.  You can always under cook your eggs, and then put them back in for a little more time. :)
  4. Once the timer goes off, plunge steamed eggs into a bowl of ice water to cool.  They will still be extremely hot, but you can pick them up with a hot pad or towel.
  5. Wait at least 15 minutes before trying to puck an egg from the frozen depths and peel it.  I promise, you won't be disappointed.
Once they are refrigerated, hard cooked eggs will remain fresh for 5 - 7 days.  However, if you make devilled eggs out of them, i can guarantee they won't actually last that long. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Making changes in our lives and culture

A few years ago, my daytime employer provided something called the Pacific Institute Training for many of its employees.  It was done by a fellow from Seattle, but one of the big selling points to get people to sign up was that every year Pete Carroll would have this training brought to his football players at USC.

One of the philosophies I most remember about it was that your brain gets trained as to what is normal and expected in your life.  When things are out of the normal, your brain starts telling you that something is off kilter and you need to get things back to normal.  If makes you uncomfortable with it.  So, if you want to make changes in your life, you need to start thinking of the changes as a new normal.  You need to have a routine where you set goals and do self-talk as if these goals have already happened.  Your brain will start to believe this is your normal and, if this isn't happening, it will let you know that something needs to change to get to your normal.  You won't feel comfortable any more in your current normal.  You get a push to figure out what you need to do to make the changes you need to.

You then start doing things to get to the normal that you've convinced yourself you should have.  Several people I work with took this to heart and did the work and got the education they needed to get themselves promotions.  I have seen it in our lives where we saw our food wasn't what it used to be and wasn't what it should be.  We started raising chickens and growing veggies in our suburban yard, and we gradually  came to the belief that we belonged somewhere else.  We spent three years looking for where we felt we belonged - where our normal should be.  We're still haven't gotten to the point where we're settled in, and are always talking about adding cows or sheep or pigs, particularly when we're having a tough time finding the quality of food we're looking for without driving all over.

There were other parts of the training, and it must have made an impression on me, because I still remember them clearly years later.  Some of the things I've seen from the Seahawks seems like they come from that type of philosophy, and they have done extremely well in taking people who are convinced they should be successful, even in the face of people telling them they shouldn't be, and doing the work needed to make themselves that way, no matter what everyone else thinks or says about them.

I still hold on to this when I am discouraged, especially when I get out of the grocery store and read the ingredients on some of the "food" items there.  How can we change the momentum of the food industry in the face of the massive corporations that run it with the main interests in profits and convenience, rather than quality?  I feel the tide turning slowly.  One woman I work with just WENT OFF about genetically modified food this last week because of food issues she started dealing with over the last year.  She is convinced they are the cause of it.  Maybe the corporations are turning the tide themselves by producing and selling things that are harmful to more and more people.  We need to continue that change.