This time of year finds many families planning their annual Easter egg hunt, which prompts me to remind people about safe handling of eggs. Keep the following food handling tips in mind as you prepare for the hunt at your house.
Keep fresh eggs refrigerated in the original carton until it's time to cook them. Eggs are a high protein food and are prone to rapid growth of the disease-causing bacteria, salmonella. The shell of an egg is actually very porous and will permit bacteria to penetrate. Most commercial egg producers lightly coat their eggs with a thin spray coating of mineral oil to close the shell pores against contamination. Hard-boiling the egg removes this protective barrier.
Place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan. Add enough water to cover the eggs by one inch. Cover the pan and bring the water to a boil. Remove the pan from heat and let sit, covered, 15 minutes for large eggs, 13 minutes for medium eggs and 10 minutes for small eggs. Run cold water over the eggs until they are completely cool. Boiled eggs should then be refrigerated and eaten within a week. The green ring that sometimes occurs around the yolk of a hard-boiled egg is a result of sulfur and iron compounds reacting at the surface of the yolk. It can occur when eggs are overcooked or when there is a high amount of iron in the cooking water. The green ring may not look appetizing, but the eggs are still completely safe to eat.
Color the eggs in water (that is warmer than the egg) mixed with food coloring or food-grade egg dyes. Refrigerate colored eggs in the carton immediately after coloring them. For a new challenge and a good science project, consider these ideas for natural food dyes:
Pink/Red: cranberries (or cranberry juice), fresh beets, raspberries, pickled beet or red cabbage juice, red onion skins, radishes
Orange: yellow-onion skins, paprika.
Gold: 3 Tbsp turmeric, light green spinach leaves.
Pale Yellow: orange or lemon peels, carrots, golden delicious apple peels, celery seed.
Lavender or Blue: blueberries, blackberries, purple or red grape juice.
Green: dye gold or yellow and then in blue; dry between colors.
Beige/Brown: coffee, tea, walnuts, dill seeds.
Brownish Orange: chili powder, ground cumin.
Older eggs peel easier, so purchase your eggs for dyeing at least one week ahead. Research indicates that 2 to 4 tablespoons of salt per gallon of cooking water makes eggs easier to peel. This works best on un-oiled eggs. Since most commercial eggs have been oiled, you may not notice a difference.
For safety sake, don't hide the same eggs you plan to eat. Plan to hide plastic eggs and decorate hard-boiled eggs for eating only! Hard cooked eggs often get cracked during the excitement, and cracks are an excellent opportunity for bacteria to get to the edible portion of the egg. Don't eat cracked eggs or eggs that have been out of the refrigerator longer than two hours.
It is also good to remember that eating eggs in moderation would be a good practice, particularly for someone watching their blood cholesterol levels. While eggs are good quality protein, they also contribute a significant amount of cholesterol to the diet. The cholesterol is contained in the yolk of the egg, while the protein is found in the egg white, so you might consider this as you are snacking on those hard cooked eggs. You might even try this 'yolkless' deviled egg recipe for a change this year.
12 hard boiled eggs (discard yolks)
1 cup non-fat cottage cheese
1 tablespoon minced green onion
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
Paprika and ground pepper to taste
Parsley for decoration
Shell eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks and discard or save for future use. Place the egg white halves on a plate and set aside. Blend the cheese, mustard, onion and spices in a blender or food processor. Spoon the mixture into the egg white halves and sprinkle with paprika and pepper. Decorate with parsley sprigs if desired. Refrigerate until serving.
Nutrition Facts - Serving Size: 2 angel eggs, Calories: 34, Protein: 6g, Total Carbohydrate: 1g, Dietary Fiber: 0g, Sodium: 118 mg, Total Fat 0g, Saturated Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 1mg.
K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county extension offices, experiment fields, area extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan. For more information, visit the Leavenworth County Extension Office at 500 Eisenhower Road call 250-2300.