Raising Healthier Eaters
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Buying Eggs: Carton Confusion
by Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers
Egg cartons used to be so simple - an off-white carton printed with the egg size and possibly a farm name. Today, walking past the egg section in the dairy case is quite a different picture - new fangled plastic containers with brightly-colored imagery packed with claims and commentary fill most of the shelves. While the updated packaging is nice to look at, all of the jargon and phrases on this packaging is downright confusing. What does it all mean?
In the past few years, the egg industry has come under consumer scrutiny. Most eggs come from hens that are raised in crowded, caged habitats which many people consider inhumane. In addition, more and more consumers are learning that the quality of feed a hen eats has a direct relationship to the nutritional value of the egg it lays. These two concerns have led egg producers to add many labels and phrases on their cartons of eggs. These labels refer to two primary subjects:
• The humane treatment of the hens
• The type of feed that hens are fed
An Organic label on eggs is the only statement that refers to both subjects:
Treatment: Access to outside, walk around inside barns
Feed: organic, all-vegetarian diet free of antibiotics and pesticides
Certification/Audit: USDA Certified Organic Program
Labels related to treatment of the hens:
Certified Humane: Walk around inside barns with certification by Humane Farm Animal Care Certification
Cage-free: Walk around inside barns. No outside certification or audit system.
Free-Range or Free-Roaming: Walk around inside barns and access to outside. No outside certification or audit system.
Labels related to the type of feed that hens are fed:
Omega-3 Enriched: High Omega-3 ingredients, such as flaxseed, in the hen feed.
Vegetarian-Fed: Feed that is free of animal products which reflects a more natural diet for a hen.
One final note - Don't be fooled. The claim "natural" simply means not artificial. It implies nothing about the hen treatment or feed - or the quality of the egg inside the carton.
Now you know the facts, we hope you will enjoy your eggs in a different way.
Eggs for the Family
At the market: Always buy eggs from a refrigerated case. Eggs age more in one day at room temperature than in one week in the refrigerator.
Brown or white - which is best? There is no difference. The color of an egg does not indicate health benefits, flavor or naturalness. It simply tells us what kind of hen it came from. Hens with white feathers lay white eggs; hens with red feathers lay brown eggs.
Storage: Store eggs in their carton on a shelf in the refrigerator.
Freeze leftover egg whites: If you make a recipe that calls for egg yolks, don't throw the whites out. You can freeze them.
Preparation: Eggs should be cooked - boiled, fried, baked, poached, scrambled, etc. Eating raw egg is not recommended. They can contain salmonella, which can cause illness. When handling raw eggs, it is wise to:
- Be careful not to splash egg onto other foods, worktops or dishes.
- Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly after touching eggs or working with them.
- Clean surfaces, dishes and utensils thoroughly, using warm soapy water, after working with eggs.
Here are some quick ideas to add eggs into your family meals:
Basic hard boiled eggs: If you can boil water, you can make hard boiled eggs. There is a trick to making the hard boiled eggs so the shells don't stick to the eggs. Here's how:
Start with cold water in a pan and add the eggs, make sure that there is enough water to cover the eggs. Place pan over high heat until the water starts to boil. Once water has boiled cover the pan and turn off heat. Let the eggs rest for 15 minutes. Then drain off hot water and fill pan with ice water (chilling the eggs in cold water will also prevent the greenish "ring" from forming on the surface of the yolk). Allow eggs to cool (about 20 minutes). Using a marker or a pencil mark each egg with the date and place them in the refrigerator or simply peel and eat!
Snack-time stuffed eggs: 8 hard boiled eggs, peeled. Slice lengthwise, remove yolks and place them in a small mixing bowl. Mash yolks with 1/4 cup mayonnaise and 2 Tbsp. milk. Mix in one of the following flavor combinations:
2 Tbsp. garlic herb cheese and 1 tsp. fresh basil
1 Tbsp. chopped green chile and 3 Tbsp. Colby jack shredded cheese
2 Tbsp. crumbled bacon and 1 tsp. chopped green onion
2 tbsp crumbled feta cheese, 1 Tbsp chopped black olives and 1/4 tsp. fresh rosemary
2 tbsp grated apple and 1 tsp chopped onion
Using a teaspoon, fill each white half with filling. Place on a plate and serve.
Breakfast burritos: Start your day with a little Tex-Mex punch! A breakfast burrito is made with a flour tortilla, a scrambled egg and a little cha-cha-cha - sprinkle 1 Tbsp of each black beans, shredded jack cheese and salsa over the scrambled eggs. Fold in two sides of the tortilla and roll it up. Ole!
A Simple Niçoise Salad: This delicious and simple tuna salad is great for a girlfriend lunch or a light family dinner. On a large platter, spread salad leaves, and top with boiled, sliced red potatoes, lightly steamed green beans, thin-sliced red onion, black olives, chopped hard boiled eggs and canned tuna (pack in water). Dress with Red Wine Vinaigrette.
Eggs are not just for breakfast: Serving eggs for dinner is terrifically healthy, affordable, and will likely win applause from the kids! Here are some simple dinner combos with eggs as the main attraction:
- Scrambled eggs, baked beans and steamed cauliflower
- Scrambled eggs with refried beans, sliced avocado and salsa
- Scrambled eggs with baked potatoes, crumbled bacon and steamed green beans
Homemade fried rice: This recipe will brighten up your meal. Fried rice goes great with a stir- fry, but it also perfect with grilled meats too.
- 2 cups cooked brown rice
- 3 eggs
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 3 Tbsp. sesame oil
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
- 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
Directions: Make 2 cups of Brown Rice according to package directions, set aside. In a large skillet or wok, melt butter over medium heat. Break eggs into the butter and stir fry until dry and slightly browned. Add onion, peas and oil. Stir fry until moisture is gone, about 3-4 minutes. Add rice, soy sauce and sesame seeds, stir fry until heated through, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, sprinkle with cilantro and serve.
Makes 8 1/2 cup servings.
About the author:
Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, available at many fine specialty stores, BabiesRUs.com, Target.com and national chains including Whole Foods Markets. Visit Cheryl online at www.FreshBaby.com for more delicious tips.
Read more of Fresh Baby's columns on StorkNet
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