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Perfectly Hard-Cooked Fresh Eggs

Anybody who has ever tried to hard-cook a very fresh egg knows that there's always one problem you come up against - they're impossible to peel!  The albumen (that thin "skin" between the shell and the egg white) wants to stick.  This means that when you go to peel the egg, the shell clings to that albumen for dear life which will make it nearly impossible to remove the shell without removing chunks of egg with it, resulting in a hard-cooked egg that looks like somebody used it for target practice.

Most people will tell you to just use older eggs (about 7 to 10 days) and that's a perfectly good solution to the problem.  But what if you don't want to wait more than a week to cook your eggs?  The solution is simple:  you quick-age your eggs!  All you need to do is store your eggs at room temperature for 24-48 hours.  Boom!  You've got aged eggs. 

If the thought of storing your eggs at room-temperature freaks you out, here's some food for thought...  Most commercially-produced eggs are washed before they get packaged.  Eggs have a natural coating when they come straight from the hen that protects the insides from bacteria, but when the eggs are washed this coating is removed and the eggs are more vulnerable.  Farm-fresh eggs still have this natural armor and can stand up to the elements better than a store-bought egg.  What's more is that if you ever feel unsure, you can immediately tell if your egg has gone bad by the way it behaves when you submerge it in water:  If it sinks, it's fresh, if it stands straight, it's less fresh but still good, and if it floats, throw it out. 



Perfectly Hard-Cooked Fresh Eggs
makes 12

1 dozen farm-fresh eggs, kept at room temperature for at least 1 day
water

Place your eggs in a large pot (large enough so that the eggs aren't over-crowded).  Cover the eggs with water and bring to a boil.  Immediately remove from heat and cover.  Allow eggs to cook for 14-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a clean sink or a large bowl with water and add about 5 cups of ice.  When the eggs are finished cooking, immediately place them in the ice water.  Allow eggs to sit in the ice-water for at least 5 minutes before peeling. 

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Waste not... How to get the most out of your produce

I was inspired, today, by a couple of wrinkly, sad-looking red peppers sitting in my fridge.  Being an impulsive pepper-purchaser, I had just brought two new ones home from the store, but I didn't want to see the not-so-fresh ones go to waste!  Statistics show that about 40% of all food grown and produced in the United States is thrown away.  As in, wasted.  Surprising?  Next time you clean out your refrigerator to make room for new groceries, take a good look at how much you end up throwing out and you will be surprised no more.  We are, all of us, guilty of either buying too much at one time or another.

The good news is, when you start paying attention to creating a minimal-waste environment in your home, you might find that you'll save a lot of money!  No matter who you are or how much time you have, there are most certainly ways for you to cut down on your waste, and here are a few I'd like to share:



Lemons

Lately, I've been buying Meyer Lemons like they're going out of style!  Meyers are one of my favorite winter fruits because they are incredibly useful and have the most delightful flavor.  However, if you use lemons in a recipe you might find that often times, you tend not to use the whole fruit.  Sometimes you just need the zest, sometimes just the juice, or sometimes only half a fruit.  Here are some things I like to do with the remnants:

1.  Leftover Juice:

- Store it:  Once you've grated all the zest you need off the lemon, squeeze the juice (straining the seeds, of course) into a tupperware or glass jar and keep it in the fridge.  If you won't be using lemon juice that week (although I can't imagine going a week without using lemon juice...) stick it in the freezer and keep it as long as you like!
- Slice it up:  After zesting the fruit, slice the rest of the lemon into thin rounds and put in a small tupperware.  Throw a slice in while you are brewing tea, or squeeze it in a glass of water.  Delicious!

2.  Leftover Rind or Zest:

- Store it:  I have been trying to drink more mate and tea (as opposed to coffee) lately, and I love throwing a little leftover lemon rind in the cup as it brews, adding a hint of lemony goodness to each sip.

- Dry it out:  if you ever have a recipe that just calls for fresh lemon juice, always zest the lemon first.  Not only does this make it easier to squeeze, but you can air-dry the zest and keep it in a closed container to use the next time you need it.

Peppers

How many of us have bought peppers, only to subject them to a slow, shriveling death in the fridge?  I tend to buy peppers impulsively and with reckless abandon, so this has happened to me before.  Luckily there are a few ways to make your peppers last if they are about to go bad!  Use these tips when you see those wrinkles start to form:

1.  Roast 'em!  There are a number of ways to do this, most of which are entirely acceptable.  The goal is to get the skin a little blackened, allow to cool, then peel away the skin to reveal that marvelous-tasting pepper flesh.  You can blacken them by grilling, roasting, pan-roasting, foil-roasting, or even scorching them over an open flame (if you have a gas stove, that is).  Just make sure you use high heat to acheive the blackened effect, otherwise they will be very difficult to peel and won't have the same lovely flavor.

2.  Freeze:  Once you've roasted the peppers, add a little vegetable stock (or water) and puree in a blender or food processor.  You can use pureed peppers for a million different things, including dressing, soup, hummus, pepper pesto, and tomato sauce.  Once frozen, pepper puree will stay good for quite a while.

3.  Preserve them:  Roasted peppers will basically last forever if you have the equipment necessary to jar and preserve them.  I also found a fantastic article from UC Davis that will give you more information on preserving and storing peppers than you could possibly need to know!  http://postharvest.ucdavis.edu/datastorefiles/234-12.pdf

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