Monday, March 26, 2012

3 Basic Egg Dinners

Today I am going to start a series of posts with some very basic recipes to get you started cooking Paleo.

If you've been doing this for a while, I'm hoping this will remind you again of some of the basics that you might have forgotten or overlooked.

These are the kinds of recipes that people come back to again and again and for very good reason. They are easy, use few ingredients, and appeal to most everyone in the family.  Which is probably why even today many people make an effort to keep chickens when they can.

When planning menus that are quick, easy and economical as well as Paleo friendly, you should consider including eggs on a regular basis.

Whatever version of Paleo you subscribe to, everyone agrees on eggs, and our grandmothers always knew eggs were both good for the budget and good for you.

That is by the way why so-called "peasant food" is usually the best for you. Throughout the ages the rich have eaten what they wanted to eat whereas the poor have had to eat whatever was available.

 But fate often has a way of evening things out, and lucky for them, what was available was often the best choice.

The common man has eaten a varied diet at different times in our history and in different parts of the world, but one staple seen more often then not in his humble abode were a couple of chickens scratching in the back yard.

Not so lucky for us, many of these recipes were also unfortunately full of wheat flour. You can't blame the poor peasant. It was definitely better than starving. But we always have the option to tweek so we can keep the good and take out the bad.

Even though they are incredibly simple and basic, don't discount egg recipes. Use them as a base for one dinner a week and watch your budget stretch. Won't harm your health any either.

Here is a recipe I cut out of a magazine years ago (along with that cute drawing above). I have made it too many times and in too many variations to count, and it has always been enjoyed by everyone who has eaten it.

Quiche Lorraine

 Ingredients :

 - 2 cups grated Swiss cheese (I like Jarlsburg)
- 9 strips of bacon cook crisp and crumbled
- 1/2 cup of thickly sliced green onion (or any other kind of onion chopped)
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 4 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- dash of cayenne pepper

 Directions :

 - Preheat oven to 400'F
- Combine the first 3 ingredients in a small bowl and toss lightly. Sprinkle about 3/4 of this mixture over the bottom of your non stick pie plate. (or butter a glass one. Will work just as well if well buttered.) - Heat the cream until just warm. (You can microwave for 1 minute or heat in a small pan.)
- Beat the eggs with mustard, nutmeg and cayenne in a separate bowl. Add the warm milk and beat again until well combined.
- Pour into pie plate and sprinkle the remaining bacon mixture over the top.
- Bake the quiche for 15 minutes then lower the oven temperature to 325'F and bake for a further 30 minutes. A knife inserted into the centre should come out clean. Don't overbake. Let cool for a few minutes, but serve while still warm.

 (will freeze )  Freeze whole or cut into individual servings. Place in freezer containers or flash freeze first then store in a ziplock bag and put back into the freezer until needed.

You can also use a nut crust if you want a heartier version.  When I do this I like to pre-bake the crust for 10 minutes to make sure the bottom gets cooked, cool, and then put in the filling and cook the quiche.

To Serve : Thaw and then heat in a 350'F oven for best results, but I've heated individual slices in a microwave and they were fine.

Believe it or not, quiche actually freezes very well. Maybe it's because of all the other ingredients mixed in with the eggs. I really don't know. But for whatever reason, quiche can be a very budget-friendly basic to have in your freezer.

Here is a variation for you to try:

Asparagus and Bacon Quiche

This is a version of the basic quiche recipe.  You use exactly the same ingredients, except instead of the mushrooms you will use asparagus.  A bunch of asparagus the way it's usually sold in the store is about the right amount for this recipe. (about a dozen medium thickness)

The asparagus does not need to be cooked ahead for this recipe.  Just wash it and cut off the tough end bits.  Divide your asparagus in half, and chop one half into small pieces.  The other half cut small enough so that it is approximately half the diameter of your quiche or pie plate.

Add the chopped asparagus to the vegetable mixture, then add the egg mixture.  Top with the whole asparagus arranged in a wheel as shown in the photo.  This way there will be one or two whole asparagus in each serving you cut.

You can also leave in the mushrooms and make this with chicken instead of the bacon for another tasty version.

When you get sick of Quiche or just don't feel like making it an omelette is always a tried and true alternative and makes an excellent dinner. As with the quiche the variations are endless.

Start with this basic and then use it as a base for any leftovers you need to stretch. This does not freeze (at least I haven't tried it. Maybe I'm wrong.) but it's so easy to make do you really need it to?

Cheese Omelette 

 This is one serving but feel free to multiply the ingredients by however many servings you need. The only limit here is the size of your frying pan.)

Ingredients :

- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 a cup of cheese (grated, shredded, or small chunks)
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream (optional but it does make it richer tasting in my opinion)
- salt and pepper to taste

Directions :

- Melt butter in your frying pan. Turn the heat down to medium low.
- Whip eggs with cream and season with salt and pepper. Pour into the pan.
- Sprinkle with cheese (at this point add anything else you want to add)
- Allow to cook slowly until almost set.
- Flip one half onto the other half enclosing your filling and leave to cook completely until no liquid remains.

I think the secret to a good omlette is low heat and patience. This was brought home to me at a hotel brunch one day. The chef on omlette duty started my omlette cooking and then seemed to leasurely wander around checking supplies while I waited for what seemed forever, but when my omlette finally arrived it was the best I ever tasted with none of that burn eggs taste that usually puts me off. So patience here really pays off.

Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon

I have to admit this is my favourite egg dinner of all. A plate of this with a side salad is luxurious and yet pretty frugal at the same time.

makes 1 serving

Ingredients :
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream or sour cream
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
- 1 or 2 ounces of chopped smoked salmon (depending on your budget)
- chopped chives or red onion (optional)
- more sour cream (optional)


- Melt butter in a frying pan
- Meanwhile beat eggs and cream. Add dill.
- Pour mixture into frying pan, sprinkle on chopped salmon, then stir with a spoon until eggs are cooked.
- Serve sprinkled with chives and topped with sour cream.

 Doesn't get much easier than that!

There are lots of great ways to use eggs to stretch your menus and I will post more in the future as well as some of my variations of the basics just shown, but meanwhile add these three recipes to your weekly menu plans and you will reap many rewards. Remember - eggs are healthy, eggs are flexible, and eggs are affordable. So what are you waiting for?

 “Life isn't about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.”   - George Bernard Shaw

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