Friday, March 5, 2010
Friday's Frugal Food: Eggs - Versatile, Delicious and Cheap
I love eggs...in almost any form except raw, and for some odd reason, egg salad. For me, eggs are just about the perfect food. They are on my Top 10 List of Frugal Foods.
Before I go any further, I want to make it perfectly clear that, though they are incredibly inexpensive, I do my best to avoid eggs from chickens raised using confinement farming techniques. I look for, at the very least, eggs from free-range chickens. But that just means they aren't kept in cages their entire lives - most rarely, if ever, see the light of day. Better are eggs from pastured chickens, which means they have a chance to run around a bit and scratch in the dirt for bugs. The best eggs, I've found, come from flocks of "happy chickens" raised on small farms or even by amateur poultry enthusiasts.
I buy eggs from my friend Lorraine who keeps about 15 chickens in her backyard. The chickens live in a hen house with an outdoor enclosure where they are protected from predators like hawks and foxes. But when Lorraine is home, they often run free in the yard. Each hen lays about one egg a day, and Lorraine sells the eggs to friends for $1.50 a dozen. While the eggs are not technically organic, the chickens that produce them eat healthy food, and aren't fed antibiotics or other chemicals that are typically given to birds raised on factory farms. Lorraine's chickens get kitchen scraps and leftovers too - they especially like spaghetti, I'm told.
Because there are a variety of chicken types (Rhode Island reds, Aracunas, Bantams and others) the size and color of the eggs range from jumbo and brown to petite and white, with some medium size blue-green eggs among them. But one thing every egg has in common is outstandig freshness and flavor.
Eggs are jam-packed with nutrition, offering about 6 grams of protein a piece, along with 13 essential nutrients incuding vitamin A, B, D, E and K. A cup of chopped eggs (I'm guessing that's about 2 large cooked eggs) has 34% of the protein the DV (daily values in nutrition) an adult requires, along with a DV of 25% for Vitamin B12, 41% for Riboflavin, 60% for Selenium and 23% for Phosphorus. Eggs, especially pastured eggs, have about 106 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids per cup and about 211 calories.
At about 13 cents a piece, the eggs I buy offer an incredibly inexpensive source of all these nutrients.
Eggs can be boiled, baked, poached, fried, scrambled, deviled, curried (one of my mother's signature dishes), and turned into quiches, frittatas, omlettes and stratas. Besides being an essential ingredient in many baked goods, eggs are used as a binder in meatloaf and meatballs, like the one's my friend Nadine makes, Roman-style rice balls and in many kinds of croquettes. The allrecipe.com website has 600 recipes for egg main dishes. There are thousands more that use eggs just as one of many ingredientes.
Do you have a favorite egg recipe? Have you had the opportunity to compare eggs from "happy" chickens to factory-farmed eggs? Please share.