Eggsactly! by Dotti Hydue

WELCOME TO THE LEVY COUNTY KITCHEN. The 2015 spring season officially began the evening of March 20th. You didn’t have to tell those of us residing in Florida. Temperatures in the 80s were a sure sign, along with the high pollen counts and the bright blooms on azaleas, camellias, and other flowering plants.

Other signs of spring include symbols associated with Easter. Baby animals, especially chicks and bunnies, abound along with colorful eggs. Eggs are an ancient symbol of new life and are linked to pagan spring celebrations. Decorating eggs for spring and Easter festivals is a tradition that dates back to the 13th century.

Childhood Easter decorations brighten up the author’s home.

Childhood Easter decorations brighten up the author’s home.

Most of us will be cooking, or hard-boiling, eggs for Easter. Did you know that eggs should never be “hard-boiled”? The temperature eggs are cooked at affects their texture. For tender eggs, they should be gently simmered in water to cover for about 20 minutes as opposed to subjecting them to the higher temperature of boiling water. When gently simmered, the whites will be firm but tender and the yolks smooth. When cooked in boiling water, the white becomes somewhat tough and the yolk mealy. The green discoloration that sometimes appears between the white and yolk of hard-cooked eggs results from a chemical reaction between sulfur in the white and iron in the yolk. The discoloration is harmless but unattractive. To help prevent this problem, cook the eggs at low temperatures, avoid overcooking them, and cool eggs promptly by plunging them into cold running water as soon as they are done. Store unshelled in the refrigerator. Hard-cooked eggs that are difficult to peel are usually too fresh. Hold the eggs for several days or longer before hard-cooking them to lessen this frustrating situation.

So, now you know how to make the best hard-cooked eggs. But what do you do with them once the kids have gathered them from your house and yard at the Easter egg hunt? A friend used to immediately make egg salad sandwiches for all the hungry egg hunters. You can also make deviled eggs as part of your Easter meal. And a nice, eggy, cold potato salad to pair with any leftover ham comes to mind. You can bury them end-to-end in the middle of your next meatloaf or veggie loaf, or enclose them in seasoned ground beef and deep-fry.

Here is one of my husband’s favorite ways to eat hard-cooked eggs, usually paired with crackers and a cold beer.

Pickled Eggs
Add a couple of slices cooked beets to the jar before filling it with the eggs for a colorful twist.
12 small, hard-cooked eggs
1-quart canning jar with lid
2 cups distilled white vinegar
2 small dried hot red peppers
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 and 1/2 teaspoons mixed pickling spices
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon salt
Shell the eggs and pack into a sterilized 1-quart jar. Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes. Pour over eggs, adding more vinegar if needed to completely cover the eggs. Let cool, cover tightly and refrigerate at least 24 hours and up to 4 weeks.

DeBerry Marketing ServicesCreamed Eggs
This rich dish lends itself well to any number of variations.
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon minced onion
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon parsley
6 shelled, hard-cooked eggs
6 slices toast, patty shells, or cooked rice
Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and simmer until tender, taking care not to burn the onion. Stir in flour until smooth, and then add milk, salt, pepper and parsley. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until smooth and thick. Add the eggs cut in slices, quarters or halves. Cook gently until just heated through. Serve over toast.

Variations:
Creamed Eggs with Tomatoes: Sauté or broil thick slices of ripe tomatoes. Arrange tomatoes on the toast and top with Creamed Eggs.
Creamed Eggs with Vegetables: Add sautéed mushrooms or chopped cooked asparagus to the Creamed Eggs.
Creamed Eggs and Ham: Arrange thin slices of ham on top of the toast. Pour the Creamed Eggs over top.
Creamed Eggs a la King: Add sautéed mushrooms, cooked peas and pimiento strips to the creamed egg mixture.

Egg and Cabbage Salad

Replace the pickles with chopped pickled beets if you like.
6 hard-cooked eggs
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Dash paprika
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 tablespoons chopped sweet pickles (optional)
2 cups shredded cabbage
Shell eggs, cut in half and separate the whites and yolks. Mash yolks and blend with seasonings and mayonnaise. Chop the whites and gently combine all ingredients. Serve well chilled.

A bounty of lemon flowers holds promise of a plentiful harvest.

A bounty of lemon flowers holds promise of a plentiful harvest.

IT IS A BUSY TIME of year for gardeners. Early spring crops should already be in the ground with a second sowing in the works for an extended harvest. Nurseries and feed stores have starter plants for a wide variety of vegetables and herbs in case you want to skip sowing seeds. Water and fertilize your plants on a regular basis for best results and monitor them at different times of the day for destructive insects. It is easier to keep them in check if found before they do significant damage. Be sure and look under plant leaves for aphids and larval stages of various moths and butterflies.

Take a good look at your garden and landscape plants with an eye towards water conservation. Our state is still in the midst of a drought so consider installing a drip system or other targeted watering system for irrigation. Mulch your plants and gardens to help conserve water.

Our citrus trees, well, bushes really, are bursting with flowers this year. I have never seen so many on the Myer lemon before. The fragrance of all the combined citrus flowers perfumes the air and draws pollinators from near and far. I’m looking forward to a good harvest, which means plenty of lime spritzers, lemonade, pies, and other treats.

That’s all for now. Don’t forget to take the entire family to the Levy County Fair on April 9, 10, 11, 12. Check their website for details: www.levycountyfair.com. Get outdoors and enjoy spring along the Nature Coast. Until next time, the kitchen is closed.

For advertising inquiries with Levy Living, please call 352-275-6897.

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