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Kitchen Science: Hard Boiled Eggs

20 Feb
Perfection! How did we do it?

Perfection! How did we do it?

We can’t be the only ones who have this problem: we love hard boiled eggs for breakfast or for a healthy snack option, but every time we boil up a dozen we never know if they will be easy to peel and eat or if they’ll be a big battered mess of shells and whites.

Recently I was at a dentist appointment with Elizabeth and the television was on while we waited. We were watching The Rachel Ray Show and the featured guest was a chef who was talking about his trick for making the perfectly peel-able hard boiled eggs. My daughter and I took note, and I texted myself his instructions.

Which method would work? Cover and refrigerate or shake, shake, shake to peel?

Which method would work? Cover and refrigerate or shake, shake, shake to peel?

In a nutshell (eggshell?) he said to cook the eggs in boiling water for 12 minutes, and then to take them out and put them in a container, covered for 30 minutes in the refrigerator before peeling them.

In the meantime, Liz had seen a different video online that showed another completely different method of peeling the eggs that told cooks to put their freshly boiled eggs into a covered container and shake them vigorously, at which time all of the shells would come off easily.

This method of shaking the eggs to peel them seemed too intriguing not to try it out.

This method of shaking the eggs to peel them seemed too intriguing not to try it out.

One Friday afternoon after school I had a request for hard boiled eggs, and I had the time to do it, so we boiled them up. When it came time to cook them, we remembered the episode of Rachel Ray from the dentist office visit, and Liz remembered the video she’d seen online about shaking eggs. We decided to try it both ways.

We boiled up one dozen for the 12 minutes that the chef on Rachel Ray had suggested, and then we split them into two groups of six eggs each. The first six went into the covered container and into the refrigerator. I set the timer for 30 minutes.

Did it work?

Did it work?

We used that 30 minutes to experiment with the shaking of the eggs method. This was fun. Messy at times, but fun. And, as with any science experiment, we had to try this method several times, and we had some unusual outcomes mixed in with our results.

First off, for the shaking I used some small, square covered containers from the dollar store that I had on hand. We cracked two of them in the process and had to throw them out. So, if I were to do this again, I’d use a better quality container for shaking. Luckily it was a multi-pack, so we had lots of them for our scientific trials.

We ended up marking our egg with a Sharpie to see if it was the same one not cracking each time or not. It was.

We ended up marking our egg with a Sharpie to see if it was the same one not cracking each time or not. It was.

Second, we found the oddest thing in our results: one egg would crack perfectly, and one would not crack at all. It seemed to be the same one not cracking at all, and we could not figure out why. It was the strangest thing to open the case and see one egg whose shell was completely shattered and off the egg, and one completely untouched. We decided to mark the egg with a Sharpie marker to see if it was the same egg each time, and it was. We still don’t know why. Ultimately, when we peeled it separately, it peeled fine, so there were not issues with the egg itself. We couldn’t tell if it was something to do with the force of the two eggs together which made one break and one not, but it was fascinating.

We learned the first time that you can definitely shake the eggs too much, yet our first egg still never cracked.

We learned the first time that you can definitely shake the eggs too much, yet our first egg still never cracked, even with all that shaking.

When the timer went off to indicate the 30 minutes had ended, we had gone through our six shaken eggs with only one casualty of the six which was a result of a little bit too much shaking.

We brought in the covered container and uncovered it. Inside, the eggs were still hot. I began to peel them, which would be the ultimate test: would they peel easily or would they be a big mess?

eggs-6

The end result: the eggs peeled perfectly! The shells came right off and the eggs remained unscathed underneath the shell. No messy, pitted egg white disaster. It was amazing to see just how easily the shells came off.

Ultimately, we decided that although both methods worked, it was easier to do the refrigeration method: 12 minutes to boil and 30 minutes in a covered container in the fridge. No rinsing in cold water, no over-boiling.

This was not something we had planned to do, it was a completely spontaneous kitchen science experiment, but it was a fun one and it shows just how much science does go into cooking, and how fun cooking can be. As with any science experiment, you need to do it many times to see if your results are reliable, so we will be trying this out the next few times we make hard boiled eggs, but we do hope we have found a great solution.

Do you have any tried and true tricks for ensuring a great, easy-to-peel hard boiled egg? Leave them for me in the comments!

Perfection! How did we do it?

Perfection!

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Skinnytaste Grilled Steak Lettuce Tacos

1 Feb
Another all thumbs-up meal at our house!

Another all thumbs-up meal at our house!

Recently, we tried out a new dinner meal and I wanted to share it with you today. It was not difficult to make, and everyone liked it, which doesn’t always happen, and I’m about to put it into the rotation again when we do our next two weeks of meals.

The Skinnytaste blog is one of my go-to sites. I love her recipes, I love that they’re healthy and delicious, they have nutrition facts and  Weight Watchers points attached to them for those who need them, and I get lots and lots of menu ideas from her. I have sworn off getting any new cookbooks because of space constraints, but if I were to break my own promise to myself, her cookbook would be the first one I’d buy.

Our family of five does really well when we can pick and choose what we'd like on our plates, all from one meal option.

Our family of five does really well when we can pick and choose what we’d like on our plates, all from one meal option.

This recipe came across someone’s radar, I can’t remember whose, but we put it on the list of recipes to try, and one of the reasons that I liked it is that we do well with meals and recipes where people can choose what they like or don’t like, but there is something for everyone at the table. This was one of those meals. We have one person who doesn’t love the steak, but loaded up her lettuce wrap with all the veggies. We have another person who doesn’t love the veggies but ate the steak, and we threw a bowl of cucumbers into the a la carte options because she likes them, and she ate those on the side. Everyone had something to love on their plate, and some of us just loved it all.

For our purposes, we used sandwich steaks for the meal, which are budget-friendly, but you can see Gina’s recipe here, and use the grilled sirloin steaks she recommends as well. I hope you’ll give this recipe a try, and while you’re on the Skinnytaste site, be sure to check out Gina’s other recipes. I’m sure you’ll find them as wonderful as I always do!

 

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Two weeks of meals for your new year

11 Jan

meals-1

Happy New Year!

We are already ten days into the new year and looking ahead to Martin Luther King Day now. It doesn’t seem possible that we’re already halfway through January.

That being said, after the new year, it was time for us to get back on track with our weekly meal plans. Through the holiday weeks we were off our schedules completely. When school started up again we had a one week meal plan, so this is our first two week plan.

With a new plan comes the usual “all-call” to the kids, asking if anyone has anything they’re craving or wanting over the next couple of weeks. We had one kid down for the count with a virus, so she did not weigh in this time around. However, the other two both sent me recipes they wished to try this time. I was happy to see some new recipes on the list, and I am happy to report that of the two we’ve tried already, they were both well received and something we would make again.

We made our list of meals and did our grocery shopping, and I wrote out the recipes for the two new meals and stuck them on my kitchen cabinet. Both were recipes the kids had seen online and one was a video. I will link to them in the list below. There are other ones we are trying out that I will feature in a future post if they are voted into the rotation.

Here is our current list of meals.

meals-2Sunday: Italian Antipasto (a huge salad of sorts containing various meats and cheeses, tuna and hard-boiled eggs)

Monday: Two soups: Normally I don’t make more than one meal, but I made an exception here. We had planned our typical Chicken Escarole Soup with gluten free pasta, but Liz wanted to try out a new soup. I knew some of us would like it and some wouldn’t, but I didn’t want to eliminate it just because not everyone would eat it. I had a sick kid that could use the chicken soup, so I opted to make both. One was a crockpot soup, and I’d totally make it again. You can find the recipe for it here. A photo is shown above as well.

Tuesday: Mongolian Beef (this is a new recipe we have not tried yet).

Wednesday: Spaghetti with Tuna Sauce (see recipe here)

Thursday: Zucchini Shrimp Scampi: This was a great new recipe submitted by Caroline and again, everyone loved it. We got to use a new grating tool for the zucchini that made long spaghetti-like noodles. You can see this recipe here. A photo is shown below as well. We did add tomatoes to ours, and for a family of our size we would use six zucchini next time, instead of four. It was that good, with very little left over.

meals-3

Friday: Hamburgers and hotdogs, Quinoa Salad on the side as a request from Caroline, see the recipe here.

Saturday: Out for dinner

Sunday: Red Wine Crockpot Roast: We tried this recipe a few menu cycles ago, and absolutely loved it. Everyone loved it, which is often rare. We are adding it back in this time around.

Monday: MLK Day: Roasted Chicken Dinner

Tuesday: Paninis

Wednesday: Chicken/Broccoli/Pasta Saute (we usually make Wednesday a pasta night at this time of year because all three kids have a Wednesday night commitment and it allows us to cook early, eat early and eat quickly before we go our separate ways.

Thursday: Breakfast for dinner: Pancakes (another busy night meal we often rely on)

Friday: TBA

Hopefully this two-week schedule of meals will help to inspire your own menu planning. What’s on your menu for the upcoming weeks?

-Jen

 

Fun Friday: Baked Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal from Budget Bytes

23 Nov
This has been a delicious treat all week long!

This has been a delicious treat all week long!

ORIGINALLY POSTED 10-30-15

Going Orange for No Kid Hungry today? We are!

In honor of the big day, I thought I’d share a brand new recipe with you that we tried earlier this week and enjoyed very much.

Over the weekend we celebrated our daughter’s 16th birthday, and at the gathering my cousin Val handed me a couple of recipes she thought we’d enjoy. One of them was today’s recipe from Budget Bytes for their Baked Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal.

Oftentimes when I look at a recipe for consideration, the title tells it all, and this recipe was one of those times. I knew that we loved baked oatmeal, and I knew that we loved pumpkin pie. I knew that we would love this recipe. I had plenty of each of the ingredients on hand, in fact, when I saw that a basic recipe makes an 8×8 dish, I decided to double it for our family, so I did, and I used a 9×13 dish instead.

Photo's a little blurry, but I doubled this recipe so we'd have plenty to last the week.

I doubled this recipe so we’d have plenty to last the week.

I chose to make this recipe for Monday’s after school snack, knowing that Tuesday and Wednesday are my typing days which means I don’t have a ton of time to eat or cook anything. I eat at my desk usually, typing in between bites and when the kids come home from school, they’re on their own for finding food to satisfy their ravenous hunger. This would last me through both days and provide hungry kids with a choice for something to eat if they wanted it for after school or for breakfast one morning.

Everyone loved this recipe, it was tasty, it was filling and it was easy. I saw that it recommended whipped cream or maple syrup as well as milk or nuts. We went the maple syrup and whipped cream route and loved it. My oldest daughter even thought that caramel would be good on top, and I’m sure it would be, but I nixed that idea this time around, just because it would negate any of the healthy aspects of it.

I also used homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice because apparently I’ve been out of that in my cupboard for quite some time. I know this because when I opened up my cupboard, not only was there none there, but there was a note taped to the inside of the door-most likely from last fall- for a recipe from allrecipes.com for Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice. I doubled that recipe and it was exactly enough for what I needed to double this oatmeal recipe.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: WW Classic Meatloaf

2 Nov
We needed a new meatloaf recipe, so I found this one and gave it a try. It was a hit!

We needed a new meatloaf recipe, so I found this one and gave it a try. It was a hit!

Earlier this school year, I had a coupon for Barnes and Noble for $5.00 off my purchase. I have their membership as well, and there was a book I was in need of. I decided to head down there one morning and make my purchase, and I knew that if I played my cards right, I’d be walking out of there with my book for just $6 or so.

What I didn’t take into account was my inability to just walk into the store, go directly to the one item I need, not look at anything else, pay and walk out the door.

I don’t think it’s possible. My kids don’t even think it’s possible. When I say, “I just need to run into -X store- for one thing,” they laugh it off. They know.

And so, on that day I walked out with the book I needed, along with a brand new cookbook that I didn’t know I needed, but apparently, I did. I used to actually own this cookbook years ago, and really loved it, and then at some point when we had a minor kitchen counter flood, it got ruined and I had to get rid of it. When I saw it on the shelf at Barnes and Noble this fall, I started to thumb through it and decided that I needed it again.

The New Complete Cookbook by Weight Watchers used to be one of my favorites, even though I personally have not ever followed the diet itself. I like the idea that the recipes in it are already healthy and I like that there are points assigned to the recipes that give me a general idea of just how healthy they are based on how many points each recipe is. It’s the very same reason why I love the Skinnytaste recipes that I share here so often, and I also love that her recipes show nutritional values and give the WW points too.

If you are following a Weight Watchers diet, this cookbook has an older points system in it but there was a bright red sticker on the cover that directed consumers to a web link where you could download and print out the new points values for every recipe in the book.

Today’s recipe is for a basic comfort food: meatloaf. We had an old meatloaf recipe we used but no one was really loving it anymore, despite the fact that we all really love meatloaf. I was on the hunt for a meatloaf recipe that inspired me, if there is such a thing, and as I thumbed through this new cookbook, I found one. We tried it, loved it, and today I share it with you below. I love that it is chock full of veggies and I can tell you that the leftovers from this meal disappeared very quickly throughout the rest of the week. If you follow Weight Watchers, the new points value is 6, rather than the 7 listed in the book for the old PointsPlus plan.

WW CLASSIC: Our Favorite Meatloaf

Serves 4, Gluten Free

2 teaspoons canola oil
1 cup finely chopped white mushrooms
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 pound lean ground beef (7% fat or less) We used two pounds of ground turkey, and doubled the recipe.
1/2 cup quick cooking (not instant) oats -be sure you use gluten free oats for a gluten free recipe.
2 large egg whites
3 Tablespoons ketchup
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup tomato puree or tomato sauce

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, onion, carrot, and celery, cook, stirring until onion is soften, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool slightly.
  3. Add all remaining ingredients except tomato puree to vegetables in bowl, mix well. Press meatloaf mixture into 4 1/2 x 8 1/2 inch loaf pan. (Because we doubled our recipe, we used a larger baking dish.)
  4. Bake meatloaf 30 minutes. Brush tomato puree on top of loaf. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meatloaf registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit, 30-45 minutes longer. Let stand about 5 minutes, cut into eight slices.

 

 

 

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Tomato Salad with a Twist

25 May
Doesn't it look delicious?

Doesn’t it look delicious?

It’s been a little while since I have posted a new recipe and I’ve been wanting to share this one since last month when we first tried it. The recipe is one that one of my daughters found on the back of a Whole Grain Wheat Reduced Fat Triscuit box. Our family loves these Triscuits and we keep them on hand regularly, so once we saw this recipe, we continued to see it on every box of Triscuits we bought. Each time we’d buy a new box, my daughter would say, “Mom, we have to make this!”

Finally over the school break in April, I made sure we had all the necessary ingredients, and we finally made it. I truly enjoy cooking with fresh veggies and it makes me so excited for summertime, when we have our own garden. Tomatoes are a favorite of almost everyone here, and we especially love the more unusually colored varieties along with the typical reds. This time around I bought a large container that had a mixture of several types of tomatoes in it, and it made for such a beautiful salad.

Since one of the girls eats a gluten free diet, I chose to make hers separately with no Triscuits and no red onions, since she doesn’t like those either. Tomatoes are one of her favorite snacks though, so she was just as excited as everyone else for this new recipe.

Each time we bought a new box of Triscuits, we'd be reminded of this recipe that we just had to try!

Each time we bought a new box of Triscuits, we’d be reminded of this recipe that we just had to try!

This was a simple recipe to follow. It is called a Panzanella Salad, but it’s very much like our usual Caprese salads, just with a bit of a twist, provided by the added Triscuits. There is no cooking involved, just chopping, slicing, dicing and assembling, so the preparation was quick. We just had to keep stopping ourselves from snacking as I was prepping.

While I cut up the tomatoes and the cheese, I had my daughter prep the Triscuits, counting out the amount the recipe asked for, and breaking them into bite-sized pieces. That was definitely a “one for me, one for the bowl” activity as well.

We served this with a dinner of hot dogs and hamburgers, and it was the perfect side dish. It’s going to make a great addition to our sides for this upcoming summer. We loved the added crunch to the salad that the Triscuits provided, and my younger daughter enjoyed her gluten free version just as much as we enjoyed ours.

Here is the recipe according to the Triscuit box:

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup slivered red onions
  • 18 Triscuit Reduced Fat Crackers, coarsely broken
  • 3 Tbsp. reduced-fat balsamic dressing
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper

 

Directions:

Combine  first 3 ingredients in medium bowl.

Mix  dressing and garlic until blended.

Add to cracker mixture; mix lightly. Let stand 30 min.

Tear  basil into small pieces. Add to tomato mixture along with the pepper; mix lightly.

 

Even when made gluten free, this is a delicious side dish!

Even when made gluten free, this is a delicious side dish!

 

 

 

I’m in love.

1 Feb

It’s February, and I’m in love.

My heart pitter-patters and I think about the new object of my affection constantly. What will we do together next? What new things will we try? For years I hoped and prayed I’d find love like this again. It had been so long since my last love affair.

I wasn’t even planning for this, and it has taken me completely by surprise, which I guess is the best kind of love.

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That’s right, I’m in love with my new Stir Fry pan from Pampered Chef. Now I’m not a Pampered Chef consultant, and I don’t pretend to even play one on TV, but I.LOVE.THIS.PAN.

And I’m pretty sure my husband does too.

You see, years and years (and years) ago, my husband and I had received a beautiful piece of cookware from his grandmother. It was a nice, deep Teflon saute pan and it had a glass cover for the top and two handles for the side. I loved that pan. We used it constantly and it was the perfect size for all our meals, even as our family expanded from two, to three, to four, and finally to five hungry mouths to feed. We could saute, cook, simmer. You name it, we cooked it in that pan.

And then, one day, try as we would to deny the obvious, we realized our pan was getting old and scratched and we thought we were seeing evidence of little bits of Teflon coming off.

Clearly, you’re not supposed to use Teflon as an added ingredient in your recipes.

We had to say good bye to our pan.

I missed that pan every.single.day.

Don’t get me wrong, we had other pans. We even had two cast iron pans that we loved, but it wasn’t the same. We had to use both pans at once to make some of our saucier meals because one wasn’t deep enough to hold everything. My stir fry meals toppled over the sides of just one pan, our sauces bubbled over. We didn’t have a true matching cover to go with our pans.

I was sad.

And then suddenly, I wasn’t!

A few weeks ago, my very good-I’ve-known-her-almost-as-long-as-I’ve-known-my-husband-friend Marcia asked me if I would host a new kind of Pampered Chef party. She’s been a consultant for years and years now, and there was a new kind of party she wanted to try: a virtual party on Facebook. Would I try it?

Sure thing! I love Facebook because it’s where I get to see lots of family and friends from all over the country, all over the world! And, it’s where I get a lot of great recipes! I invited hundreds of people. Literally. I can fit a good 10-12 in my living room, but this let me be unlimited. I didn’t have to worry about space or weather or distance. I had all kinds of out of state friends on my list.

The party would last one hour and be completely virtual. No ingredients to buy, no house to clean, no makeup to put on. I could sit in my bed under my electric blanket and play along with the games, talk to my guests and watch the videos of all the great new tools that I would suddenly have to have.

As many parties as I’ve had in the past, it never even occurred to me to check out the January hostess benefits, or even to ask. Suddenly though, as I had my party, the orders started coming in. Notification after notification arrived in my email inbox. As my youngest daughter partied in my bed along with me, part playing along and part watching iCarly on the TV, I decided we’d better check things out on the hostess benefits page of my party website.

Sure enough, January was DOUBLE hostess benefits month!

Who knew?

Well, probably lots of people, but I was happily surprised!! Suddenly, even my daughter was paying attention to them and we looked at the videos and photos popping up throughout the party with new eyes.

Granted, I have lots and lots of Pampered Chef tools. I have been creating a collection of great pieces since before my wedding when I had my first party as a newly engaged young 20-something, and I use them all the time.

When all was said and done, I had earned……

Wait for it…..

$530 to spend outright, plus five half price items and one 60% off item, and I received two booking credits for people who had agreed to also have virtual parties after participating in mine, so I’d get really great discounts if I saved a few things from my list and ordered from their parties too.

I was amazed and I was so ready to shop. Normally I don’t have this much to spend.

Or should I say, I have NEVER had this much to spend.

I had a running wish list as the party had progressed, but it was full of little things. With this much money to spend, I could now afford many of those little things and then some really big, expensive things.

And that’s when it happened.

As I turned the pages of my paper catalog now in hand, I saw my newest love: the Executive Chef Stir-fry Skillet. The words Executive Chef made my heart stop for a mere second and I took in a breath as I looked at the pan. I think I even heard angels sing.

It was definitely love at first sight. It was a pan which was not Teflon, but rather a baked on non-stick aluminum. It had handles on both sides, it was ever so deep. It could even go in an oven of up to 400 degrees. What fun we would have together! I pictured all of our recipes being made right in that pan. Cranberry chicken, Chicken Marsala and any one of our favorite stir fry recipes, all bubbly and steaming and yet not bubbling right over.

After placing my hostess order, I planned out our next two weeks of meals, which conveniently coincided with the arrival of my shopping spree. I planned out all of the above and then some. Cranberry Chicken was up first, per request from one kid. Chicken Marsala was up another time, per request of another kid. Shepherd’s Pie, Taco Bake, Lasagna.

I began to daydream of cooking two pounds of ground beef at once in a pan with two cans of creamed corn mixed in for our Shepherd’s Pie, or being able to saute 15 chicken tenderloins in the pan with two cups of cranberries and two cups of water all at once for our Cranberry Chicken recipe.

Sure enough, when my order arrived and I unpacked it all, reminiscent of a child opening gifts on Christmas morning, my pan was all I’d hoped for and more. That very first night, I rejoiced as I happily made our Cranberry Chicken, and beamed as everyone commented how great it came out. My meat browned evenly, there was plenty of room for everything and it all tasted delicious. I think it tasted even better than usual in my new pan!

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I’d highly recommend any Pampered Chef party and any of their products to any of my friends and family, always. However, I must say, this new virtual party was fantastic! It was such fun “seeing” everyone that I wouldn’t get to see at my own in-house party. It was fun watching the videos and seeing some new must-have products, but most of all, it was fun falling in love-with a stir fry pan- all over again.

Happy February!