Eggs can be one of the most challenging foods to enjoy without salt or salty ingredients like bacon, ham, sausage, cheese, hot sauce, even biscuits, bread or toast, which all can be high in sodium. When you are limiting your sodium intake, these usual egg accompaniments are not allowed.
When Table Tasty our salt substitute was originally created, it was not just for popcorn, but also for eggs. The goal was to create a salty taste to sprinkle on eggs, whether fried, poached, boiled, or scrambled, and to really help add a flavor boost to egg recipes, like egg salad, deviled eggs, omelets, frittatas and more.
As I mentioned in a previous newsletter about avocados which had a bad reputation because of their fat content, we now know, they have healthy fats. Eggs have had a similar reputation, too much cholesterol. However, there’s good news for those of us who enjoy eggs. Changes came in January. The published Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s recommendation to lift a longtime limit of dietary cholesterol. New research shows that for the majority of people, the cholesterol we eat does not significantly raise blood cholesterol; it’s the saturated fat that’s the problem. So, foods considered low in saturated fat but high in cholesterol, like eggs and shellfish, have now been released from this restriction.
It’s up to you if you choose to eat eggs or not, but for the rest of us I want to help us learn more about them, including what egg carton labels mean. Recently when I was shopping for eggs I noticed a lot of different terms on the eggs cartons and wasn’t sure I understood what they all actually meant, so I did some research.
Grades: AA, A or B what do they mean?
- AA Grade is the best: Firm and thick whites, high-rounded yolks, clean, unbroken or cracked shells.
- A Grade: Are most often found in stores and are about the same as AA but the whites are not as firm.
- B grade: Is rarely found in stores as these are mostly used in commercial egg products.
Sizes: Jumbo to Peewee (The size matters most when you are baking)
- Jumbo – Greater than 2.50 oz or 71 g
- Extra Large – Greater than 2.25 oz or 64 g
- Large – Greater than 2 oz or 57 g
- Medium – Greater than 1.75 oz or 50 g
- Small – Greater than 1.5 oz or 45 g
- Peewee – Greater than 1.25 oz or 35 g
Note: In Australia they also have King-Size 70g -78 g and Western Australia has Mega or XXXL 72 grams or greater.
Colors: Brown or White which is better?
- Brown eggs are laid by red hens, and white eggs are laid by white hens.
- Nutritionally all chicken eggs are basically the same, no matter the color of the shell, brown, white, blue, green, etc.
- Brown eggs cost more because they are larger. Red hens are larger than white hens and lay larger eggs.
Cage-Free, Free-Range or Pasture Raised – These terms relate more as to how the hens are treated. The problem here is there is no mandatory regulation when using these terms for egg production. To insure these terms mean something, try to find third-party certifications like, “certified humane” or “animal welfare approved”.
- Cage-Free: Chickens are housed in barns where they can walk freely, instead of cages, however, often without access to the outdoors.
- Free-Range: Chickens are uncaged and should have at least some access to the outdoors.
- Pasture-Raised: Hens are outdoors most of the time and kept inside at night for their protection. These are touted as the healthiest eggs which have more vitamin A, Omega 3’s, with less fat and cholesterol.
Certified Organic: These eggs should come with a USDA Organic Seal which means the facilities are checked by accredited inspectors. Hens are raised on organic vegetarian feed (without synthetic pesticides, fungicides or fertilizers), animal by-products or GMO’s and are free-range.
Vegetarian-Fed: Their chicken feed contains no animal by-products. However, this is touchy because it also implies no outdoor foraging for insects.
Omega-3: These hens eat a diet rich with omega-3 ingredients like flaxseed, marine algae or seaweed and canola. Read your labels. Look for higher levels DHA & EPA (as found in fish) over the less potent ALA types of Omega-3’s.
Hormone-Free or Antibiotic-Free: Hormones and/or antibiotics are not used in egg production. This is more of a marketing ploy.
Farm Fresh or All Natural or Natural doesn’t really mean anything, just another marketing term.
Shelf-Life: There is not a expiration date, it’s a sell by date. For best results keep the eggs in their carton (protects from odors), in the refrigerator (not in the door) and use within 3 to 5 weeks. If you smell a bad odor coming from the egg, gently get rid of it.
Yolk Color: What Does It Mean? A dark yellow or orange color means more carotenoids, which means the chicken had a more natural and varied diet which usually means eggs have more micronutrients like vitamin A and Omega 3’s. Also, fat and protein is usually the same as a paler yellow yolk.
Whites: What Does The Color Mean? The freshest eggs have whites that are a bit cloudy, whereas the older less fresh eggs have more clear whites. If they look pinkish or iridescent they are going bad, you can smell that.
Red spots: Blood spots or meat spots in the yolk appear sometimes when a blood vessel is ruptured while the yolk is being formed. Contrary to some beliefs, this is not a fertilized egg and they are safe to eat. You can remove the blood spot with the tip of a knife, if desired.
White strings: What Are They? Chalazae (cha•la•zae (-zē) – means little ropes. They attach the yolk to the lining membrane of the egg shell and hold the yolk in place. The more prominent they are, the fresher the egg. It is not an imperfection and has nothing to do with fertilization.
Which is the healthier part of the egg, the white or the yolk? It depends on what you are looking for and consider healthy. Whites are lower in fat and calories and high in protein but most of the fat, nutrients and vitamins, are in the yolk. The fat helps us to absorb the nutrition which is mostly fat soluable. The sodium in an egg is about 62 mg mostly in the white 54 mg in the white, 8 mg in the yolk.
Nutritionally eggs are little powerhouses. Only about 70 calories per large egg, 6 grams of high quality protein, and is one of the few natural food sources of Vitamin D (which most of us are deficient in), vitamin E, variety of B vitamins, essential minerals including iron and zinc, choline is important for brain health, lutein and zeaxanthin for eye health, Vitamin A, beta carotene, Omega 3’s and much more.
The average American eats about 250 eggs per year which is about half of what we used to eat. Japan eats the most eggs, an average of 328 eggs per person per year. In the U.S, there are about 280 million egg laying hens. Each hen lays 250-300 eggs per year which adds up to about 75 billion eggs, which is only about 10% of the world’s supply.
While growing-up we ate a lot of eggs because they were inexpensive, filling and nutritious. Whether prepared for a special Sunday breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack, they were quick and easy to fix. A frittata was one of those recipes we prepared often for a quick and easy dinner with a salad. This is where we cleaned-out the refrigerator, nothing wasted. Those small amounts of vegetables that weren’t enough to do much with like a half of a bell pepper, half an onion, a small zucchini or leftovers like potatoes, a piece of cheese and one of our favorites was a frittata with leftover pasta.
If you haven’t roasted vegetables yet, you should try it. The flavor changes and development of flavor is amazing. This technique takes away bitterness or sharp tastes and makes any vegetable I have ever roasted to a more mellow, sweet level. Add them to a frittata, add Table Tasty and it’s over the top. If you don’t have the time to roast the vegetables, just saute them. Be sure to let them develop a little brown or caramelize a little as this creates more flavor. More flavor, means the eggs won’t be bland.
Frittatas are an Italian omelet. Not folded over a filling, like a French omelet, they have all their ingredients already mixed-in with the eggs. Frittatas are not hard to do, but they can be a little tricky. The way I was taught to cook these, was on top of the stove, then pulling the cooked egg away from the sides with a spatula and letting the uncooked egg run into the created opening to cook, and when the top was about set, in heavy cast iron skillet, turn it over onto a large plate or a flat lid and slide it back into the pan to finish cooking. I think most of us take a breath and hope or for the best results when flipping these over. Today many recipes are cooked on the stove and finished in the oven or under the broiler, not flipped. This new recipe is less risky.
I saw this recipe on the Food Network with Ina Garten (she’s does use salt) and I worked at adapting it for us. It took a few tries to get the timing right (oops, don’t use a convection oven as it cooks too fast, dries it out which changes the texture), and it is vegetarian, which many might prefer some type of meat, more cheese or chili peppers, spinach, leeks, asparagus, caramelized onions, there are endless possibilities. Make it your own.