Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Eating Omily: Convenient Food for Consciencious People. Or: There's Eggs on My Blog! First in a Series.

One of the best parts of eating local and seasonal foods bought from the people who grew or produced them is that cooking and eating in your own kitchen (and dining room, if you happen to be so lucky) becomes a daily source of pleasure and pride, instead of an additional source of stress and frustration. That said, we all have days when the last thing we want to think about is turning on the stove, or doing some dicing work. Me too, I promise!

Another time that a homemade meal can seem like more trouble than it's worth, if you work a typical work day, is lunch. It's not so hard to get up five minutes earlier than usual to make oatmeal, or throw together a breakfast burrito to munch on the train, but having to make TWO meals when you're only half awake?? Please. I hear this all the time from my husband. (See? We're human!!)

So the easy way out is, of course, a restaurant of some kind or caliber. Eating out is awesome; you get to pick whatever you want, and they bring it and put it in front of you. Then, they take the plate away again. Maybe you get soup or salad, or something deep-fried before your main dish even comes! Maybe they talk you into the molten chocolate cake for dessert!! Of course, if this is the lunch-situation, you're more likely eating a more simple meal, but the ease and convenience remains the same.

Ok, so this is one of those times where I'm going to have to rain on your parade: eating out isn't so good for the locavore. There are restaurants that source their ingredients ethically and sustainably, but they're concentrated in urban areas, where they can gather enough customers willing to pay a little extra as necessary, and you'd be really lucky to be near one that caters to the half-hour lunch crowd! It's a lot easier to ignore the social implications of your meal when you only see it for the edible stage of its existence, but the fact is, unless specifically noted, your burger is from a factory-farmed cow, your omelet is from chickens kept in battery cages, and you don't even want to contemplate the atrocities the bacon on that BLT went through! Of course, going veg at restaurants is an option, but you're still contributing your hard-earned money to the economy of suffering, and, do you suppose that veggie plate came from around here? Ha. If you haven't been around long enough to know what's wrong with apples from New Zealand, mangos from Chili, or broccoli from California, go back and read this post.

Finding a restaurant that doesn't make you a hypocrite with every bite takes some research, and a willingness to ask specific questions of the staff. It may require traveling to a neighborhood less conveniently located than you would like. These things make it a poor solution to the tired, the stressed, the rushed, and the nine-to-five, eater. But...fear not! Over the next week or two's 'Eating Omily' posts, I'll be offering Convenience Foods for Locavores! Fast Food for People with Hearts Who Also Want to Keep Those Hearts Healthy! Ok, the first title may work a little better...

Without further ado, today I'll be focusing on those pesky work-day lunches, in honor of Food Network Health Eats' Brown Bag Challenge. Follow the link to join yourself: the challenge is to pack your lunch every workday in September!

Your protein partner in lunch-time crime doesn't have to be peanutbutter, although I love me some ants-on-a-log, or a peanutbutter and sliced grape or sliced apple sandwich! Allow me to introduce you to the nutritious, the delicious, the round, the environmentally sound, the EGG!
It never was just for breakfast you guys, wake up! Of course, I'm talking about eggs from a farm where the hens are pastured every day, weather permitting. Those eggs have significant levels of omega-3's, those oh-so-good for you fats, and significantly lower levels of saturated fats, than those of their tortured sisters. Most doctors will say that an egg a day is a healthy source of protein that won't interfere with healthy cholesterol levels, but of course, defer to your doctor if you're unsure.

One awesome lunch you can prepare at the same time as your breakfast, one that I eat for lunch pretty frequently, is a simple scramble. Start with a small non-stick pan, add some chopped veggies (Chop them the night before!), and let them sweat out and get delicious. Add more salt that you'd want for just the veggies, since you won't be salting the egg separately. When they're all ready, crack an egg in and stir, stir, stir! When the egg looks almost as cooked as you want it, turn off the heat, and add a sprinkle of cheese, continuing to stir in the hot pan. Of course, you'll have to keep this chilled until lunchtime if spoilage is a concern, but it tastes just as good at room temp, and if you've got a microwave, you can reheat it! I like to wrap my scrambles in the amazing hand-made corn tortillas I get from my farmer's market. Wholewheat bread would be a tasty substrate as well, or, you can stir in some pre-cooked rice along with the cheese, to keep packing lunch even simpler! You can make this the night before entirely, unless you're the type to then leave it sitting sadly in your fridge!
I already took a bite, 'cause it smelled so good!

As delicious at this idea is, I would be sadly remiss if I failed to mention an Egg-inspired lunch even simpler: Hard-boiled eggs! If you think you don't like hard-boiled eggs because they smell and taste like those sulphur-based stinkbombs you were once traumatically trapped in the bandroom with because your band leader was a sadistic lady who painted on her eyebrows...oh, sorry, that last bit's just me, you've never had a properly cooked hard-boiled egg. Any time you see darkening, typically green, around the outside of the yolk, you know that egg was over-cooked.

This. Is the definitive way to cook a hard-boiled egg perfect and delicious every time:

Put the egg, or eggs, in a pan. Cover them with cold water. Put a lid on the pan. Turn the heat on high. As soon as the water begins to boil, turn the heat off. Wait at least several minutes. The eggs are perfectly cooked, complete with 360-degrees of glowing yellowness. Peeling them is not so easy, but peeling a cold egg is significantly easier than peeling a hot one, and also, if you can get your fingers underneath the membrane between the shell and the egg, and peel that off instead of flicking off the hard outer shell bit by bit, you'll have much more successful, and remove far less divets from the egg itself.

You can make a week's worth of eggs at once, and just keep them in your fridge, ready to go! They're delicious as is with a little salt, but with a little more time you can make egg salads, or sandwiches with sliced hard-boiled eggs as the protein.

As mentioned in another post, left-ovo (sorry!) fritatta also makes a great lunch!

Cheesy puns are a sure sign I should quit while I'm ahead...go boil some eggs, and in a couple days I'll be back with more awesome lunch-options, as well as quick, painless family-dinner ideas!

~em

P.S. We had a delicious wild rice salad tonight, and from just a cup of wild rice, and a handful of chopped veggies, raisins, and nuts, we had dinner for two with enough leftover for lunch tomorrow! Did I mention how economical packing your lunch is?

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