Buying and Storing Eggs

Are brown eggs healthier than white? Should you get x-large or large? Natural, organic, free-range? How do you choose the best eggs at the grocery store?

Buying, Storing, and Cooking Eggs

What are the best eggs to buy?

Brown eggs come from brown feathered hens, white eggs come from white feathered hens. The taste and nutrition is the same so just go ahead and pick your favorite color.

Most recipes are written for large eggs but you can usually substitute medium or extra-large if large isn’t available, as long as the recipe doesn’t call for whipped egg whites. If you aren’t following a fancy schmancy recipe – such as if you’re just making hard boiled, fried, or scrambled eggs – you can use any size.

Egg grades are labeled AA, A, or B . There is no difference between the grades in terms of nutrition, but grade AA eggs are much prettier than grade B eggs.

In addition to color, grade, and size, there are a number of other words that you might see on an egg carton. Here’s what they mean:

  • Antibiotic-free – all eggs produced in the U.S. should be antibiotic free, even if they’re not labeled that way. Don’t let this be a deciding factor.
  • Cage-free or Free-roaming – these eggs come from hens that were raised in an open indoor area that they could freely roam and that provided shelter and protection from predators.
  • Fertile eggs – if incubated and not refrigerated, these eggs could hatch into chicks. Most eggs sold to consumers are non-fertile and could not hatch.
  • Free-range – these eggs come from hens that have access to the outdoors
  • Gluten free – all eggs are naturally gluten free. Don’t let this be a deciding factor.
  • Hormone – free – all shell eggs produced in the U.S. should be hormone free, even if they’re not labeled that way. Don’t let this be a deciding factor.
  • Natural – what does this mean? Who knows, but all eggs can be labelled natural, so again, don’t let this be a deciding factor.
  • Organic – these eggs come from cage-free, free-roaming hens that are fed certified organic feed and have access to the outdoors.
  • Pasteurized – these eggs are heat-treated to destroy pathogens. These eggs are recommended for recipes that call for raw or runny eggs.
  • Pastured – these eggs come from hens that are free to roam the pasture. This is not a USDA regulated term.
  • Vegetarian – these eggs come from vegetarian hens.

There are many nutrient content claims that may appear on eggs as well:

  • Good source of protein, Good source of vitamin D, Zero trans fats, Zero carbohydrates –  all eggs qualify for these nutrient content claims, even if the manufacturer doesn’t choose to include them on the label. Don’t let this be a deciding factor.
  • Contains __mcg lutein, Omega-3, Vitamin E – these eggs come from hens fed a diet high in lutein /omega-3 / vitamin D and as a result, the eggs contain more of the specified nutrient than most eggs.

Another factor I consider has nothing to do with the eggs themselves. I look at the carton material and choose cartons that are either cardboard or hard plastic instead of Styrofoam. It’s nice to consider the environment’s health and happiness as well as your own sometimes.

Once you’ve decided on what type of eggs to get, make sure you check each egg for breaks and cracks before purchase.

How should I store my eggs?

Store eggs in the refrigerator in their original carton for three to five weeks after you buy them. If the carton has a “best before” date, toss them at this time. Store eggs with the large end of the eggs facing up to help keep the yolk centered.

Fancy pants tip: If you have too many eggs and the expiration date is coming up, you can blend and freeze raw eggs in a ziplock bag.

We’ll talk about cooking eggs another time but until then, please share you favorite egg recipe in the comments!

Buying, Storing, and Cooking Rice

Brown rice, white rice, wild rice, short grain rice, instant rice, jasmine rice, basmati rice, long grain rice… There are so many options so how do you pick one?

Rice

What is the best rice to buy?

There are actually over 8000 varieties of rice. Although there are no hard and fast rules about which type of rice to use in a particular recipe, each type has unique characteristics that make it ideal for different uses.

One thing to consider is grain length:

  • Short grain rice has a high amylopectin (starch) content so it is stickier when cooked, making it great for sushi. It can also work well in creamy dishes such as desserts or risotto.
  • Long grain rice is lighter and cooks to a drier, fluffier texture. The grains tend to remain separate when cooked, making long grain rice great for pilafs.
  • Medium grain rice has characteristics between short grain and long grain.

Another consideration is degree of processing:

  • Brown rice is also called whole grain rice because it contains the bran and germ in addition to the inner layer which is called the endosperm. Because the outer layers are left intact, it has more fiber, takes longer to cook, and has a tougher texture and more nutty flavor than white rice.
  • White rice has the bran and germ removed leaving only the soft endosperm. All of the fiber and most of the B vitamins and iron are also eliminated in the processing of white rice but some of this is replaced through enrichment.
  • Instant rice is rice that has been cooked and then dehydrated so it takes only a few minutes to prepare.

Fancy pants tip: Instead of buying instant rice, cook a big pot of rice on the weekend, refrigerate it immediately, and reheat it when you’re ready to eat/cook with it. 

Here are a few kinds of rice commonly found in North America that you might want to try:

  • Arborio:  A short to medium grain rice often used to make creamy risotto or rice pudding.
  • Basmati: A long grain rice that has a nutty aroma but delicate flavor and light texture. It is great for stir fries, curries, and many rice based side dishes.
  • Brown: A whole grain that can be substituted for white rice in most recipes. I use short grain brown rice to make sushi.
  • Forbidden: Also referred to as forbidden or purple rice because it turns purple when cooked. It has a sweet taste and sticky texture so it would be good for desserts.
  • Jasmine: A long grain rice with a distinctive floral aroma that is available in both brown and white varieties. It is often used with Mediterranean dishes.
  • Red: A whole grain rice with a nutty, chewy texture that works well in rice bowls, pilafs, and rice based sides.
  • Wild: Not an actual rice, but it does go well with rice and has twice the protein and more B vitamins than white rice.

How should I store my rice?

Store white rice tightly covered in your pantry and it will last almost forever.

Because whole grain rice contains natural oils that can go rancid, it can stay fresh in the pantry for only about six months. You can also choose to refrigerate of freeze it for a longer life.

Fancy pants tip: store whole grains, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils in the refrigerator to prevent rancidity and increase their shelf life.

How do I cook rice?

Not much to say here. Different types of rice require different cooking directions so just check the package directions for best results.

However, do NOT rinse your rice before or after cooking. Why? Because all of those awesome B-vitamins are water-soluble, meaning they can be washed away.

What can I make with my rice?

When I asked friends to share their favorite black bean recipes on twitter, here’s what I heard:

Nom nom indeed!

I’ve also just stared a board on Pinterest for rice recipes so I’d love to see any you’ve got to share!

Pinterest Rice Board

Please share you favorite rice recipe in the comments.

Buying, Storing, and Cooking Mushrooms

Hi friends!

Have you ever gone for a hike and seen funky giant red and white polka-dotted mushrooms in the forest?

Don’t eat them!

Some people like to forage for wild mushrooms but personally I like to stick to the grocery store or farmers market kind.

Mushrooms

So here’s a little info on how to buy, store, and prepare mushrooms.

What are the best mushrooms to buy?

There are many fun varieties to choose from, depending on where you shop. But the most commonly available are white button, brown button (aka baby-bella or crimini), and portabella so I’m going to focus on those.

Fresh mushrooms are available in the produce section throughout the year and may be found in bulk or in cello-wrapped trays. They are typically available whole or sliced and some may be triple-rinsed and ready-to-eat.

Look for mushrooms that are firm, plump, and uniform in color with a slightly shiny surface.

Avoid those that are wrinkled or have wet slimy spots but don’t worry about particles of peat moss on some of the mushrooms – it is completely harmless and can be brushed off.

Dried mushrooms are also an option available year-round – ask your store if you need help locating them.

How should I store my mushrooms?

Fresh mushrooms should be stored in the refrigerator in a paper bag. If you buy them packaged, leave them as is but transfer them to a paper bag once opened so they last longer.

They are best if used within a few days of purchase but can be kept for a week or longer.

Finally, do not wash mushrooms until you are ready to use them.

If you aren’t able to use your mushrooms within a week, sauté and freeze them for later use. Do not try to freeze fresh raw mushrooms because they will be gross.

Dried mushrooms should be stored in a tightly sealed container in either the refrigerator or freezer for up to one year.

How do I prepare mushrooms?

When you are ready to use your mushrooms, wipe with a damp cloth or mushroom brush or rinse in cold water and pat dry with a clean towel. Do not soak them because they can easily absorb water and become soggy.

You can use whole mushrooms, slices, or just the cap. If using the whole mushroom, you may want to cut off the very bottom of the stem if it is spongy, dry, or discolored. To remove the stem, wiggle and gently break it off with your hand. Wiggling your bum also helps.

You can choose to eat your mushrooms raw or cook them any number of ways. Try sautéing them, stuffing and baking them, or adding them to sauces or casseroles.

What can I make with my mushrooms?

When I asked friends to share their favorite mushroom recipes, here’s some of what I heard:

Here’s a recipe for mushrooms en papillote from Williams-Sonoma – I don’t think I’ve ever had mushrooms this way but it sounds delicious!

Check out some of her other slow-cooker adventures on her blog, What A Crock (Pot).

Can’t argue with that!

I’m glad we’re all on the same page here!

For more ideas, check out my Mushroom Recipes board on Pinterest.

Mushroom Recipes Pinterest board

I’d love to hear any great mushroom ideas you have too!

Eat Right on a Budget

Boo!

Do you think eat right, your way, every day is just for rich people?

It’s not true. Research says so. Healthy food can be affordable.

But if you want to stretch your food dollars, there are a couple of tricks to keep in mind.

Weighing Food Costs

Tips for grocery shopping on a budget

Plan. Think about what meals you want to cook this week. Make a list of ingredients you need but don’t already have. That’s your grocery list.

Pay attention to flyers, coupons, and in store sales. Stock up on pricier foods (meat and seafood) when they are on sale. If you can find shrimp on a buy-two-bags-get-three-free sale AND have the freezer space, go for it!

Stay in season. These days you can find most things year-round if you look hard enough, but the quality and price tends to be a lot better when things are in season. You might also be able to find cheaper, fresher items at your local farmers market.

Look at prices. Most stores list the price per unit (eg. 0.54¢/g) on their shelf tags. Use these to find the more affordable product – it is often a larger container, but don’t assume this is the case. Don’t forget to compare nutrition information too.

Buy in bulk. For meat it is often cheaper to buy family packs, this might mean buying a 5 pound package of chicken breasts, and splitting it up before freezing when you get home. If you’re lucky, your store will have a bulk section where you can bag your own nuts, seeds, dried fruits, cereal, pasta, rice, and other grains. Buying spices from bulk bins can save you millions of dollars.

Cut costs by cutting your own foods. It’s nice to be able to buy pre-cut fruit and vegetables, but cutting them yourself will save you mucho moola. Things like instant rice, instant oats, and pre-sliced meats and cheeses tend to come with a higher price tag too.

What tricks do you have to eat right on a budget?

Buying, Storing, and Preparing Strawberries

Happy Valentines Day!

As I’m sure you can tell from the title, I’m going to talk a little more about my favorite heart-shaped fruit today.

Although I have a strange cousin that doesn’t like strawberries and have met a few kids that have never tried them, for most people, strawberries aren’t a new thing.

But figuring out the best way to buy and store them can actually be a challenge because they are quite perishable.

Strawberries

What are the best strawberries to buy?

Fresh strawberries are available year round in most grocery stores but the quality can vary. Choose berries that are firm, plump, and free of mold. They should have a shiny, deep red color with green stems. Strawberries don’t continue to ripen after they’ve been picked so avoid buying berries that are dull in color or have yellow or green patches. Choose small to medium-sized berries for more flavor.

Make sure the container is not packed too tightly so the berries don’t become squished and check for stains or moisture on the container which could indicate spoilage.

Frozen strawberries are another great option when they will be cooked, blended, dried, or added to cereal. Avoid bags of frozen berries that have obvious stains or frost on the outside of the bag or that are frozen into one big lump as this may indicate the berries have been thawed and then refrozen.

How should I store my strawberries?

Strawberries should be stored in the refrigerator. Interestingly, they stay fresh longer if stored at higher humidity so keep them in the produce drawer or a sealed container that traps humidity. Even when properly stored, strawberries should be used within 2-3 days or they will start to spoil.

If you are unable to use your strawberries within a few days, try freezing them.

To do this, you must first gently wash them in cold water, pat them dry, and remove the stems. Adding  a little lemon juice to the rinse water with help them keep their color. Arrange them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place them in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer them to a plastic freezer bag or container. Store them in the freezer for up to a year.

How do I prepare strawberries?

Do not wash strawberries until you are ready to use them and do not remove the stems until you have washed and dried them. Following these rules helps to prevent spoilage and prevent the strawberries from absorbing too much water and losing flavor. To remove the stems, simply pinch them with your fingers or use a paring knife to dig them out.

Strawberries are great to eat raw and can be eaten on their own or sliced and added to salads, hot or cold cereal, or eaten on top of yogurt, pancakes, mouse, or any other number of things. They can also be blended and added to smoothies, baked into muffins or crisps, or cooked into jams.

What can I make with my strawberries?

When I asked friends to share their favorite strawberry recipes on twitter, here’s some of what I heard:

Sounds like fresh out of the field or straight from the hand is a favorite. I guess if you’re starting with something as perfect as a strawberry, why risk ruining it?

I didn’t ask Sandi what recipe she used but I’d like to try these Strawberry Oatmeal Muffins from Simply Recipes.

I also started a Pinterest board for all things strawberries.

Pinterest Strawberries

I’d love to hear any great strawberries ideas you have too!
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