Shakshouka: Eggs cooked in fragrant tomato sauce

 

Long time readers of this blog will know how much I love eggs. They are definitely one of my favorite foods and I have written about them often (this blog has almost 100 recipes featuring eggs!). In fact I have often bordered on waxing poetic about them. My one and only youtube video is all about eggs (from hen to pan) and one of my egg recipes was even featured in a cookbook on brain healthy foods, Think Food . So yeah, I am a big fan.

It is hard to say anything negative about eggs these days, especially now that people are hip to the understanding that eggs don’t increase your cholesterol or make you fat, more and more the egg is being praised again for its health benefits. It really is nature’s most perfect food and each day I marvel at the little miracles deposited in our hens’ nesting boxes. Studies are even speculating that those with egg allergies, really aren’t allergic to the eggs but to the soy  in the eggs from the feed chickens are given.

“Eggs are an amazing whole food. They are rich in choline, a key ingredient in the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is necessary for the healthy communication between brain cells. Studies have shown that choline intake promotes recovery from learning memory disorders in the aging brain, and may even improve psychic function in those with senile dementia or Alzheimer’s. Egg yolks are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, yielding additional brain benefits”.ThinkFood, Recipes for Brain Fitness

Now I have already mentioned many times that you should make sure to find a source of good quality, organic, pasture raised eggs (and soy free if you can find them). But it doesn’t hurt to say it again. When it comes to eggs, meat and dairy, organic, pasture raised is a must. These are foods I will never skimp on. It is the way nature intended and this is the only way to ensure you aren’t getting GMOs, added hormones or antibiotics in your food, all things that make naturally good and healthy food, unhealthy. It really is that simple. What the animals we eat, eat, is what we eat. Hence the famous cliché – You Are What You Eat. Well, you really are.

One of my favorite things about eggs is that they are so easy to raise yourself. It is a way of getting cheap, local, sustainable food right in your backyard (or front yard, in our case)! Many towns allow people to keep at least 3 hens, backyard layers are becoming as popular as gardening these days! And this is good – we could all be a little more sustainable and self-sufficient. And if you can’t raise hens yourself, check out localharvest.org to find a local farm near you that does! A great way to support your local economy and find out from the farmer exactly what went into those eggs.

(Shakshouka served with gluten-free sourdough bread)

Now onto the recipe, I learned how to make Shakshouka from my best friend Liz. Shakshouka is an Israeli dish comprised of peppers, onions, garlic and eggs cooked in tomato sauce, spiced with cumin and it is absolutely delicious. In fact the first time we had it, her Israeli husband made it for us, for dinner. There were sweet and hot peppers in it and the flavors just popped! Combine that with perfectly poached eggs on top, breaking and releasing their delicious yolks and it is pretty much heaven on a dish (or in a bowl). They served it with pita and hummus. It was a satisfying and flavorful meal.

Wikipedia says that Shakshouka was introduced to Israeli cuisine by Tunisian Jews and so it is a popular dish in North Africa as well.

I don’t often have access to fresh peppers unless it is the height of summer. So I usually use roasted jarred peppers and a pinch of cayenne or hot smoked paprika to lend some heat to the dish. I use the best canned tomatoes I can find – usually that means home canned tomatoes. I also like Pomi brand tomatoes and Eden Organics (the cans are BPA free) and of course our farm fresh eggs! Sometimes if I have leftover potatoes, I will add them as well.

Add some spice to your morning eggs and get your day going with some delicious Shakshouka!

INGREDIENTS:

A nice glug of olive oil
1 roasted bell pepper (or fresh) cut into thin slices
½ a small onion
1 clove of garlic minced
2- 8 oz cans of diced tomatoes (or one box of Pomi)
Cumin, cayenne (or hot smoked paprika) salt and pepper to taste.
4 large farm fresh organic eggs

METHOD:
Heat a large skillet and add olive oil. Gently sauté peppers, onions and garlic on medium-low heat until tender. Add tomatoes and spices/seasoning and simmer over medium heat until much of the liquid is evaporated and you have a nice spiced sauce (about 10 minutes). Crack eggs over pan, season, place lid over pan and let cook until egg whites are cooked and yolks are still runny.

ThinkFood Feature: Breakfast of Champions & My First YouTube!

I am excited to announce that today; my recipe which appears in the ThinkFood Cookbook, about brain health is Today’s Featured Recipe !

You may recall many months ago, when I told you about the book, and how you could get free weekly recipes delivered right to your inbox! If you signed up for the weekly recipe, then this post is old news to you, as you should have the recipe in your inbox! I hope you enjoy it.

But don’t stop reading, because I have more news to share with you.

I started developing my “Breakfast of Champions” over a year ago – when I first started getting heavy into weight lifting. I wanted a “real food” alternative to all the protein powder, power bars, etc. that most people into this kind of exercise seem to be into. So I created a super balanced, but very versatile dish, which can be eaten almost daily without feeling like you are eating the same thing. This is a recipe for anyone who needs sustained energy throughout the day. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so you might as well, go for it! Even kids love this recipe. One of my favorite kids in the world often asks her mom to make her “The Champions” for breakfast.

The grain component to this dish is soaked buckwheat. However, I have often made it with sprouted quinoa, or leftover roasted potatoes. I also switch up the greens and cheeses depending on what is in season or on hand. I even made this dish with leftover mole sauce ! Like I said, it is so versatile!

I am so proud of this dish, especially because it was featured in this cookbook, and also because it includes EGGS, which have become a big part of our life since we got laying hens this past summer and they started laying this fall (click here to read about our first egg).

I love that this dish is so balanced nutritionally, but also includes major components of my food philosophy – real food, local food, grow/raise your own, etc.

That is why I decided to prepare this recipe on film, to submit as my entry to MasterChef, Season 2. So I ask all of you to keep your fingers crossed for me that I am invited to be part of the show. My goal for wanting to be on the show is to present real food and traditional food preparation to the masses. Here is my first ever YouTube video! Hope you enjoy it! (running time @ 15 minutes)…

You can order your copy of ThinkFood: Recipes For Brain Fitness via this link !

EGGS and THINKFOOD Cookbook Giveaway!

Congratulations to Christy, who is the winner of the ThinkFood Cookbook! Her comment was chosen using Random.org

Today is a very exciting day for me and The Leftover Queen blog! It is the day that I get to tell you more about my involvement in the ThinkFood Project and Book. Plus, I also get to give away a copy of this fantastic book to one of my loyal readers!

Although I can’t share the recipe with you yet, you’ll have to wait until the winter for that, I can tell you that it is a new and improved, totally revised recipe that I call my “Breakfast of Champions” and the main ingredient is eggs. I have been developing this recipe for about a year now and I am so excited to share it with everyone that picks up a copy of the book.

The inspiration for this recipe is two-fold. First, to find a dish that I would enjoy for breakfast, regularly. Prior to last year, I was never a breakfast person. Second, was to create something that has a balance of nutrients to keep me going through a hard workout (one of my passions and what this recipe was developed for), a day of work on the homestead, or just a busy brain day at work. This is an excellent recipe for anyone who wants a powerful and nutritious start to their day no matter what the day might bring. Some of the components can be made ahead, making it ideal for busy folk as well. Plus it is so delicious and satisfying, that I look forward to eating it about 5 days a week. It is also extremely diverse.

“Eggs are an amazing whole food. They are rich in choline, a key ingredient in the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is necessary for the healthy communication between brain cells. Studies have shown that choline intake promotes recovery from learning memory disorders in the aging brain, and may even improve psychic function in those with senile dementia or Alzheimer’s. Egg yolks are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, yielding additional brain benefits”. – ThinkFood, Recipes for Brain Fitness

I want to take this further and say that farm fresh eggs that are gotten local from truly free-ranging, pastured birds are even more nutritious. Nutrients can be lost the longer a fresh egg sits in storage, and mass produced eggs can have unwanted antibiotics in them. Birds that are free-ranging eat their natural diet which includes a variety of greens as well as bugs and worms. They are healthier, and therefore their eggs are better for you.

So how can you tell a good quality egg from a bad? Good quality eggs have a deep yellow, almost orange yolk that retains it’s shape when it is cracked open. Instead of a thin white, good eggs have a more viscous part surrounding the yolk and thinner area just around the perimeter.

If you purchase high quality eggs you shouldn’t have a problem with salmonella and other bacteria and viruses. Over 95 percent of all U.S. eggs currently coming from caged hens. Caged hens live their entire lives crammed together. They have no room to even lift their wings. They are stacked on top of each other in cages. Many never even see the light of day. These are mal-nourished and diseased birds. This kind of environment is a breeding ground for all sorts of nastiness. These eggs are at high risk for salmonella and other bacteria. You can tell them apart because they will have pale yellow yolks, a thin white and a bland taste. I believe that eggs are the perfect food, but only if you get the best quality eggs. They are more expensive, but if you do the math, they are on average about 40-50 cents per egg. Can you afford 40 or 50 cents for breakfast?  You can’t afford not to, if you take a look at this video. Think all eggs are the same? It takes 3-4 grocery store eggs to match the nutrition of one pastured free range egg! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmRlYLpz1jw

So support your local farmers, or even neighbors who have a few backyard chickens, with extra eggs. To find a local farmer near you, please check out Localharvest.org. Try several different producers and inspect your eggs for color, viscosity and taste. Or better yet, get a few backyard hens for yourself!

(Our girl, Gimpy)

I really can’t wait to share my recipe with you, and all my tips for making it ever more varied. So be sure to sign up for the free recipe of the week program at any time via this link.  You will get an email each week for 50 weeks highlighting each one of the recipes per week. The recipe of the week pages give each blogger’s tips, info about the blogger, and photos along with all of the recipes. There is really no reason why you shouldn’t sign up this minute!

Well, actually you should wait just a minute, because I want to tell you about how you can get your own free copy of ThinkFood.

How to Enter The ThinkFood Book Giveaway:

Anyone is welcome to enter, provided doing so does not violate any local laws of your place of residency. International participants are welcome, but all participants must be over the age of 18.

Please remember that for your entry to count, you must leave a separate comment for every entry you make.

1) DO THIS FIRST (REQUIRED): Tell me your favorite way to cook with eggs, and if you purchase farm fresh eggs.

Optional ways to get more entries:

2) Blog about this giveaway describing why you want to win the book, and link your post to this giveaway. (1 extra entry)

3) Subscribe to The Leftover Queen RSS  feed. (1 extra entry)

4) Enter your email address to Subscribe to Daily Emails. (1 extra entry)

5) Fan The Leftover Queen on Facebook. (1 extra entry)

6) Follow The Leftover Queen on Twitter and tweet @leftoverqueen with a link to the giveaway. (1 extra entry)

If you are already a fan of The Leftover Queen and have done all or some of the above, and wish to enter the contest just write that you already subscribe to the newsletter, facebook page or RSS feed, by email, etc. Make sure to leave a separate comment for every entry.

Why Enter?

1) Because it is free

2) There are tons of awesome recipes and photos for each recipe in the book

3) Who couldn’t use a little more brain health?

The winner will be announced on this post next Tuesday, September 7th. The winner will be drawn at random and contacted on September 7th. The winner has until Thursday Sept. 9th by 10 AM, EST to respond before another winner is chosen.

If you would like to purchase a copy of the book for yourself, or for someone else (they make great gifts), you can use this link. They will also be available on Amazon very soon.

Goose Egg Vanilla Custard

Gooseegginhand

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, in a post about the ThinkFood project I am honored to be a part of, that I am a huge fan of eggs. They are a central part of our family’s diet, something we eat on a daily basis. One egg has 13 essential nutrients in varying amounts – including high-quality protein, choline, folate, iron and zinc. Eggs also play a role in brain function, muscle strength, healthy pregnancy, eye health and more. Eggs are an important part of a healthy diet, and do not have a link to high cholesterol, a common myth that has unfortunately been perpetuated through mis-information.

I love eggs not only for all all their amazing health properties, but because they are so versatile and delicious. I love them for breakfast, in omelets, crepes and pancakes. For lunch, hard-boiled on a salad, or made into egg salad. Sometimes even for dinner as a frittata, or the glue for a nice breaded, pan fried piece of meat or fish. They are perfect for dessert, be it clafoutis, creme brulee, pudding, ice cream, or custard. We probably could integrate eggs into every meal, and not even notice!

Living out in the country, we have access to many varieties of farm fresh eggs. White ones, brown ones, even green ones. You can also often times get eggs from other poultry, besides chicken as well. In our area, we have access to goose eggs, duck eggs, even emu eggs! A while back, at the Farmers Market, I got some goose eggs to try.

Gooseeggomlete

The first two I used to make a huge omelet, and I noticed that the goose eggs made the dish sweeter than chicken eggs. So I knew that with the third egg, I was going to make a creamy rich custard. I love a good, simple vanilla custard.

Vanilla Custard - goose egg

I went pretty basic here, wanting the flavor of the egg to really come through. I used this recipe from Evil Shenanigans as inspiration.  I don’t like my desserts super sweet, and I tend to cut the sweetener in any recipe by half, sometimes more. I figure that if it isn’t sweet enough, we can always add a drizzle of maple on top. But some desserts are so sickly sweet, and you can’t remove the sweetness once it is in. This is also a good way to make desserts if people in your family vary in the strength of their sweet tooth – this way everyone is accommodated!

We enjoyed the custard with a nice dollop of Frangelico-laced fresh whipped cream and a raspberry on top!

INGREDIENTS:

1 goose egg (or substitute 3 large chicken eggs)

¼ cup of pure maple syrup

1 TBS pure vanilla extract

2 cups whole milk

½ tsp ground cinnamon

METHOD:

Preheat the oven to 325F. Boil 4 cups of water. Whisk together the egg(s), maple and vanilla. In a sauce pan, heat up the milk until it simmers and remove from heat. Add the milk to the egg mixture at about ¼ at a time, whisking the entire time. Once half of the milk has been added in ¼ cup increments, pour in the rest of the milk, and whisk well. Add the cinnamon. Then pour the custard into 4 ramekins, or a small baking dish. Place the ramekins, or baking dish into a roasting pan, or larger baking dish. Carefully add the boiling water until it reaches ¾ of the way up the sides of the ramekins or small baking dish. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until custard is set, and jiggles in the middle. Carefully remove from the oven, and allow the custard to cool in the water bath for about 30 minutes. Then you can chill it in the fridge, or serve warm. However you like!

The “ThinkFood” Project!

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I have been sitting on a very big secret for a while now, but I am excited to be able to reveal it to you today!  One of my very favorite recipes, the new and improved version of something that I eat nearly every single day of my life, will be featured in a fantastic new cookbook – ThinkFood. I can’t tell you what the recipe is yet, you’ll have to be surprised. I will tell you though that my brain healthy food is the incredible edible egg.

Eggs_for_Salad_Road_food

I adore eggs. In our household we eat about 12-14 eggs a week, for breakfast (and sometimes dinner), in baking, desserts and ice cream making! We love eggs so much, and believe that they are such a quick, inexpensive, versatile and substantial form of nutrition, that we got our own flock of layers to keep us in eggs for a very long time. I will be posting soon about another egg variety I was able to sample recently! Like I said, eggs are an incredibly good source of healthy fat and protein. Both things every brain loves.

Thinkfood is a cookbook featuring 50 delicious, original, brain-healthy recipes, each created by a different food blogger. You can sign up for the Recipe of the Week program to receive  and preview a tasty new recipe from the cookbook. It will be delivered to your inbox every week—free! With each recipe, you will receive information about the blogger who created the recipe, with exclusive cooking tips, and information about the science behind the brain healthy foods and nutrients in the recipe!

A physical version of the cookbook with all 50 recipes and beautiful, full page photographs, will be available for purchase at the end of July!

PositScience_Logo

ThinkFood is a cookbook sponsored and published by Posit Science and features 50 brain-healthy recipes from bloggers around the globe, including snacks, appetizers, sides and salads, main course and desserts.

The goal of this project is to take an integrated approach to brain health that includes brain training and brain healthy eating. Brain health and health in general are subjects that I am very passionate about. There are very few people today who are not affected by brain diseases and issues, either by having them, themselves or knowing someone that does. My dear Nana  lost her battle with Alzheimer’s disease, over 10 years ago, and I am dedicating my participation in this project to her memory.

memichelleandgrandparents

My cousin Michelle w/ my Pap-pap and me with Nana.

So please sign up for the Recipe of the Week Program and you will start receiving delicious brain healthy dishes. I think we could all feed our brains a little better.  Each blogger and their recipe will be featured over the next 50 weeks. I will be sure to let everyone know as the date for my recipe to be featured approaches!