The Egg Project – Vital Farms Pastured Eggs


VitalFarms_Cooked

Vital Farms Pastured Eggs

I’ve heard a lot about these. If you spend any time at all looking at the egg section of Whole Foods Market, some helpful person will walk up and suggest the Vital Farms eggs. If you ask “Why” you’ll get some sort of answer along the lines of “Well, they’re the best!” And yes, the response will be a happy, perky response, from someone who clearly just took a shot of espresso. I’ve been looking to buy these, in fact, since I started The Egg Project for that very reason. I mean, if they’re that good, then I need to share with you all exactly how good they are!

Unfortunately for me and you, it seems like the Whole Foods Market helpful people are quite good at convincing their customers that Vital Farms eggs are, indeed, the best. Because every time I try to buy them, the shelves have been bereft of these eggs… They must be good if they’re always sold out! At least, that’s a reasonable expectation. There are some other considerations at play here, of course. It could be that Vital Farms is unwilling to permit eggs older than a few days, or something. So since Whole Foods likely only restocks their shelves once per week, they’ll manage their shelves so that the Vital Farms eggs all sell out within the Vital Farms policy. I can think of another few reasons as well, but the most fun one, of course, is that they’re just that good!

Bright Orange Yolks, Thick Viscous Whites

VitalFarms_Eggs

The Vital Farms yolk was a little more yellow than I would like to see. I am constantly looking for the bright orange that we’ve seen out of some of our eggs. Clearly nutrition plays a major role in the coloration of the yolk. Vital Farms talks a good game on their website, although they do not actually tell us what they feed their chickens. Chickens, like all birds, are healthiest when they have an abundant source of bugs available to them. The pictures, and the mental image, that Vital Farms paints on their site makes their pastures sound something like “pristine”.
This is all great, and everything, but I’m wondering how the pastures are attracting bugs for the chickens to eat… But we’ll get back to this a bit when we talk about the egg whites. I’m just wondering if, possibly, the bug content of a chicken’s diet will also affect the color of the yolk. It makes sense – if your body expects live protein, and isn’t getting live protein (or not much), it will be less effective and efficient at converting it’s other nutrients in the way that it would otherwise.

VitalFarms_Cracked

The Whites:
The egg whites on this egg were a little bit thinner than I was expecting. I’ve read that the thickness of the egg white is partially determined by the freshness of the egg, so it’s possible that these eggs were less than optimally fresh; but if that’s the case, the freshness was lost in transit, and on the Whole Foods Market shelves – I cooked this egg the day after I bought the carton. So freshness could be a factor. A factor that I am a little bit more interested in, though, is whether or not the Vital Farms chickens are getting enough bugs in their diets… Here’s what I have to say to that:
In the wild, things are constantly creating bio-waste, which attracts bugs, and chickens (and most birds) are constantly on the hunt for the bug-magnets out there for their food. The idyllic mental image that Vital Farms paints, of long, comfortable rolling fields of unmolested wild grass sounds pretty, and sounds like a great place to go throw a stick for a dog. I would love to look at those out the back window of my house! But there needs to be something to attract bugs for the chickens to eat. No bugs, less-than-optimal bird diet. And that will leave us with thin egg whites.
But that’s just my two cents. Let’s see what they taste like. Maybe their not-bright yolk will be the most delicious yolk I’ve ever had! Maybe the whites are filled with delicious protein that will trigger my salivary glands to overproduce, telling me that I want more, more, more!

VitalFarms_Cut

The flavor:

So far I’ve given middling marks, at best, for the color of the yolk and the thickness of the whites. Let’s find out whether or not the flavor holds up… Annnnndd: It does!
The egg yolk was bursting with flavor. I’m really not sure whether or not I could taste individual dietary input for the hens in the yolk; or if that’s even possible. But it tasted to me like the hen was eating flowers. Probably clover flowers. It was verging on sweet, and filled with the sort of flavor that you get from a clover flower (yes, I have eaten clover flowers). It was wonderful! I will most definitely enjoy each and every one of the remaining eggs in the package.
Continuing to eat the egg: the whites had some flavor as well. Egg whites don’t really have a whole lot of flavor, at least to me, so I don’t normally look for anything in particular when I eat them. But this egg white did have a bit of flavor, and I enjoyed it. Also, while the egg white didn’t seem particularly thick when I cracked the egg, it definitely thickened admirably when it was cooked. I was surprised, to say the least.

VitalFarms_Open

What stood out:

This was one of the tastiest egg yolks I’ve eaten.
I’m enamored with the “minimum 108 square feed per hen” guarantee.
This is something that really means a lot to me – these are hens that are given all the space that they need to be able to behave like an animal. In conjunction with the flavor of the egg, this is definitely something I strongly appreciate.
These eggs seem to be well-loved by other customers. It could be that the other customers haven’t tried the other eggs that I’ve reviewed here on The Egg Project, but these seem to me to be the best selling egg on the Whole Foods Market shelves, including their more conventional products. Considering the price, that’s a very powerful statement!

Further reading:

The critique over with, here is what I use as a base for evaluation of my eggs.

  1. Pastured, Cage-Free hens
  2. No hormones or antibiotics
  3. Certified Organic
  4. Certified Humane
  5. Sustainable farm raised
  6. Soy-Free Feed

These eggs get a shining check-mark for each of the first 5 of my criteria. Checking out their site thoroughly, I can’t find anywhere which promises soy-free feed. As I stated above in the critique of the eggs, the eggs were delicious, which indicates that they eat plenty of green leafy vegetables – but I can’t be sure what else they are fed, if anything.

What’s For Lunch? Smoked Salmon Bento Box


SalmonBentoBox

UPC’s Smoked Salmon Bento Box

Ok, I’ll admit it… I’m an addict! I’m an unmitigated food addict. It’s always been my “drug of choice,” so to speak, and that hasn’t changed one iota over the years. And I love it!!

“I’m UPC, and I’m an addict.”

“Welcome UPC.”

All jokes (mostly) aside, these Bento-Box lunches have been leaving me seriously looking forward to my lunch every day! It’s not like I don’t normally enjoy my food. Of course I do, it’s made by my favorite chef! No, this is another situation entirely. I thoroughly enjoy the idea of being in a position to easily, painlessly carry a full meal, and a full-looking meal, all the way to work with me to eat at my leisure. It’s truly a delight.

Smoked Salmon Bento-Box; What you’ll need:

  • Smoked Salmon:
  • 12 oz Smoked Salmon
  • 2 oz “Glaze” (Apple Cider Vinegar (or any flavor), Olive Oil, Black Peppercorns, Whole Mustard Seeds; mixed together and soaked for a day)
  • Salad Eggs
  • Salad:
  • Favorite Mixed Greens
  • 1 cup Celery, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Green Onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Fresh Basil, chopped
  • 1 large Avocado, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Serves: 2
Cook and prep time: 30 minutes

1. Prepare the Salad Eggs. I used ham, basil, and carrots for this Salad Eggs dish.

2. In a pan, sear the smoked salmon on high heat for about 1 minute per side.

3. After turning off the heat, paint the salmon with the glaze, leaving the salmon in the pan so that the glaze can thicken in the heat. Let the salmon sit in the glaze for 2-3 minutes per side.

4. Slice the salmon and put it in the Bento Box.

5. Mix the salad ingredients and add them to the Bento Box.

6. Add the Salad Eggs to the Bento Box. And bring it to work to enjoy!

Questions:

  • What kinds of lunch foods get you excited?
  • Do you ever eat seafood for lunch?
  • Do you prefer smoked salmon, or another preparation method?
  • Do you prefer a different salmon preparation for a different meal? Have you ever thought about it?

The Egg Project – Natures Yoke Pastured Eggs


NaturesYokePasturedRaised-Plated

Natures Yoke Pastured Eggs

I’ve really been enjoying The Egg Project. Honestly, I have to admit this, but I have probably been enjoying this as much as I enjoy The Bacon Project. *GASP* How could I?! Yes, I know, that’s terribly un-carnivore of me… Sort of. If being “un-carnivore” was a bad thing, then I guess I’m being bad. So, back to eggs. The process of improving my egg consumption, and working with you guys to help you improve your egg choices has been a blast! I’ve had a lot of comments from you on my The Egg Project posts, and it’s been really great to see the responses that you’ve been posting in! Apparently, people eat eggs or something…

I found Natures Yoke online, believe it or not, through Fresh Direct. I order some of my groceries there occasionally. Especially when I either have a free shipping coupon, or if I’m having a really busy week and just don’t have time to get to Trader Joe’s for my usual Tuesday night shopping trip. When I saw that Fresh Direct has both Natures Yoke and Handsome Brook Farms as available choices, I was ecstatic! Handsome Brook Farms comes in at 5.99/carton, and Natures Yoke comes in at 4.99/carton, which also makes it more affordable. I have already tried and reviewed Handsome Brook Farms, so it was definitely worth the $1.00 in savings to try and report to you all on another Pastured option. Natures Yoke it is!

Bright Orange Yolks, Thick Viscous Whites

NaturesYokePasturedRaised-Cracked

At first, as I opened the carton, I was heartened to notice that the color variance in the egg shells was quite broad. I consider this a good thing – I really don’t want, or need, uniform egg coloration, and since I think that the colors of the eggs (and yolks) are driven by the food that the hen was eating, the more colors I see, the wider the variety of foods the hen was exposed to. At least, that’s my assumption. I don’t know if there’s any definitive proof of that statement, nor do I know if anyone other than me really cares or not. Regardless: I consider color variation to be a good thing.

I cracked the egg in and watched carefully as I spilled it’s contents out. The whites were acceptably viscous. I still remember the way CAFO eggs look when they’re cracked, and I use that as a basis for comparison. In CAFO eggs, it was not uncommon for me to see effectively no cohesion in the egg whites at all – it was just a yolk floating in egg-white-liquid. Unlike that, these pastured eggs don’t really pour out of the egg shell, they “plop” out, for lack of a better explanation. I was satisfied with the viscosity of the egg white, but it wasn’t extraordinary. If this chicken was given access to live protein sources, my guess is that they were few and far between. So, I’m thinking that the chickens (at least the ones that produced the eggs that I bought) are pastured in the same place, all year. Further, because they’re in the same place, my guess is that there are no “attractors” in the hen-yard to bring in fresh bugs. There’s no manure, there’s no leaves or grass dying. My guess is that because the chickens pick the few bugs that inadvertently end up in their yard quickly, there’s just not a lot of live protein available.
Obviously, that’s just a guess. But I can be fairly comfortable about making some guesses and generalizations here. Chickens are rarely pastured in a cow pasture these days. They’re rarely anywhere near the pigs. And because they’re sequestered, they no longer serve the purpose that is most important for a chicken on a farm: pest control. They can’t eat the bugs that are bothering the cows and pigs otherwise unmolested. It’s a double loss!

Like the egg whites, the yolks were also unimpressive. They were less orange, and more yellow than I would like in a premium pastured egg. Again, looking at my guess on their pasture conditions from above, my guess is that because they’re in the same pasture all year, they’ve mostly picked the live green vegetables bare from the ground. So it wouldn’t surprise me, if I were visiting this farm, to see a large permanent pen with fencing set up all the way around a large rectangular packed-earth area. Is this better than the commercial “free range” hens? Definitely. These hens are likely getting nearly unlimited sunlight, wind, clean air, and are likely less over-crowded than the commercial CAFO factories. They’re probably fairly healthy animals, with fairly healthy conditions.
But they’re not producing extraordinary products. And my guess is that is because the farmer of these eggs doesn’t know what a Chicken is for on a farm. What is that? A chicken’s purpose on a farm is to eat the bugs that the other farm animals attract. They’re the best pest-control available! Pigs and cows bring in bugs by the droves. And what better to keep those bugs under control than a voraciously hungry mother hen?!? Unfortunately, they can’t do that when they’re living in a permanent pen. And they don’t eat well without something to bring the bugs to them.

NaturesYokePasturedRaised-Yolk

Flavor

These were decently tasty eggs. Like the whites and yolks, these were acceptable, obviously in the “Top Quality” tier of eggs. But, to lean on a sports analogy, I think they’re the ones that made it in to the finals on a wild-card. These are good eggs. They are worth the money I paid for them, and I will likely buy them again. These are not great eggs.

NaturesYokePasturedRaised-Cover

What stood out:

Not a lot. The color of the eggs shells was probably the most exceptional thing about these eggs. I was really enjoying the varying shades from deep red, through pink, to brown. These eggs had a lot of color, and that suggests to me that the chicken producing these eggs was fed a lot of different kinds of plants.
The website contained quite an interesting description of the chickens and their feed. It states that their food consists mainly of grass and bugs, but that they’re given supplemental “all natural” grain-based feed. While it doesn’t specifically say that there’s no soy in the feed, it sounds to me like they’re actually giving the chickens the grain, not a feed pellet made from grain. Of course, there’s no way to know for sure, but this is certainly better than the processed garbage that CAFO hens are fed.
Despite the claims of the website, I was under-impressed with the egg white and the yolk. The website claims that they eat bugs and grass. My experience of the eggs suggests that, while it’s likely that there is some grass and bugs in their diet, they are getting the majority of their calories from the supplemental feed. I offered some thoughts on how that could be, and what the picture of their living conditions might look like (I’m thinking: large dirt-packed pen, permanently located, with hay strewn about). But those are just thoughts and guesses. Again, the yolk had some orange in it, so there’s very likely some live grass in their diet; but the yolk was more yellow than orange, so my guess is that there isn’t a lot of live grass. And the egg whites were viscous – the white did “plop” out of the shell rather than pour out. So my guess is that there’s ample protein, and probably some live protein. But it wasn’t the thick viscosity that I experienced in the Pete and Gerry’s eggs. And for nearly half the price, that’s fine!
The price was quite enticing! While the quality of the egg was somewhat less, in my opinion, than the quality of the other eggs I have reviewed here, the price was far more than “somewhat less”! At $4.99/carton, these are definitely worth considering for everyday use!

NaturesYokePasturedRaised-Open

Further reading:

The critique over with, here is what I use as a base for evaluation of my eggs.

  1. Pastured, Cage-Free hens
  2. No hormones or antibiotics
  3. Certified Organic
  4. Certified Humane
  5. Sustainable farm raised
  6. Soy-Free Feed

These eggs get a check-mark for 3 of my criteria (probably the most important 3). What they’re lacking: I couldn’t find anything on their site, or the package, that shows that they are either certified organic or certified humane. Is that a problem? No! If they’re eating only grass and bugs, I couldn’t care less if they’ve wasted the money on a certification. All that does is raise the cost of my end-product, and I really would rather save money than eat something with a meaningless certification! Also, in checking out their site thoroughly, I can’t find anywhere which promises soy-free feed.
As I stated above in the critique of the eggs, the eggs were good quality and good tasting. These are not the “cream of the crop” eggs, but they’re definitely worth their price!

UPC’s Pocket Guide To: Sprucing up your Leftovers


ChickenCroquetteLeftovers

Sprucing Up Your Leftovers – Today’s meal: Chicken Croquette

As you may or may not recall, I made some Paleo Crispy Chicken Croquettes last week. They came out delicious, and my wife immediately started to get excited about what other ways we could start to re-incorporate chicken in our diets. Truth be told: we eat very little white meat. Most of what we eat, as what you see me post recipes about, is red meat. It is not uncommon in the UPC household to eat a healthy serving (6-10 ounces) each meal. In fact, the only time we ever really indulge in chicken or turkey is either as a salad meat, or in a sausage. There are some really delicious chicken sausage flavors sold at Trader Joe’s, and I definitely see myself continuing to patronize their chicken-sausage shelf!

So using the Paleo Crispy Chicken Croquettes I made last week, I made several meals for myself and my wife throughout the week and weekend. These Paleo Crispy Chicken Croquettes were absolutely delicious (and perhaps better!) when they were reheated for subsequent meals. We ate them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; not consecutively, of course.
In the above picture you’ll see that I roasted up some carrots in coconut oil for several minutes, and then served the carrots over some mixed salad greens with the re-heated Paleo Crispy Chicken Croquettes. The meal was quick, delicious, and easy; and best of all, it was completely home-made!

So back to today’s topic: Sprucing up leftovers.

Here are some simple steps you can take to turn some leftovers in to an appetizing and delicious meal:

1. For meat leftovers: Add greens, the add colorful veggies.

  • More often than not, the leftovers in my refrigerator consist of the uneaten meat from my last meal. In fact, I frequently make quite a bit more than my wife and I will consume, specifically for the leftovers.
  • Step 1: Add some greens. These could be in the form of salad greens or cooked veggies, but the first thing you add to a meat leftover meal is something green.
  • Step 2: Add some colorful vegetables. A great way to satisfy both of these requirements would be to mix up a quick tomato, avocado, and arugula salad, and serve it alongside your leftover beef or other meat. In today’s picture, you see the green salad base with roasted carrots.

2. For cooked vegetables: Add a protein source.

  • When I have vegetables left over from a meal, 90% of the time it’s a cooked vegetable. Again, like when I cook up extra meat when I’m cooking, I often prepare extra vegetables as well.
  • Step 1: Add a protein source. For me, I often save my leftover cooked vegetables for my Salad Eggs the next morning. There is little I enjoy more than a delicious Salad Eggs meal to start off my day. And what easier way to do it than with vegetables already prepared from the night before?
  • Step 2: Add some more vegetables. When I am not making Salad Eggs with my leftover vegetables, I am adding them to a salad, or serving them alongside a meat dish. In either case, this usually means that I’ll need salad greens to complete my plate.

3. For raw vegetables: Cook them, then add more greens and a protein source.

  • It is very, very rare that I ever prepare more raw vegetables than I’m going to eat. In those rare occasions, I’m most likely to cook whatever vegetables are left over from my previous meal.
  • Option 1: Make a soup, Salad Eggs, or an omelet. A great way to use raw vegetable leftovers is in a soup. Cooking the vegetables in water will rehydrate them, hiding any wilting that may have happened in between your food prep for the previous meal and the current meal. I love making a soup or salad eggs with leftover vegetables.
  • Option 2: Make a salad. This can work very well with a Hot & Cold Salad, where you cook up some of the ingredients of the meal (along with a protein source), and serve the salad all mixed together, combining the cooked flavors with the raw flavors.

I highly recommend making enough food to have some leftovers each night for dinner. It can make meal-prep for Breakfast and Lunch so much easier than the daunting task of preparing and making 2 meals for yourself (and your family) all while getting ready for work and catching up on the tweets and facebook updates from the night before. Leftovers can save an impressive amount of time when faced with all of those priorities in an already-tight morning scheduled.

Questions:

  • Do you make extra food intentionally for leftovers?
  • How do you deal with your leftovers when you have them?
  • Do you make a whole extra meal of leftovers, or do you selectively make leftovers from specific portions of your meal?

The Egg Project – Pete and Gerry’s Heirloom Harans Eggs


PeteAndGerrysHaransHeirloomEggs-FryPoachedEgg

Pete and Gerry’s Harans Heirloom Eggs

I was so impressed with the egg quality and flavor, as well as the color of the yolk in my previous post on Pete and Gerry’s Ameruacana Eggs (no, that’s not a typo), that I picked up the other version of Heirloom Eggs that Pete and Gerry’s sells. These are also listed on the Pete and Gerry’s Heirloom Eggs website. Though somewhat less spectacular, these eggs turned out to be every bit as good in a few varied ways. It is possible that some of what I noticed as differences can be attributed to the maturity of the seasonal diet that the hens were eating. I’ll discuss this more as I make these observations. Ultimately, though, I found these eggs to be equally excellent to the Ameruacana variety, though, as I mentioned above, their color makes them less exciting. If that’s the only meaningful difference, these should be enjoyed just as often as the Ameruacana eggs.

Bright Orange Yolks, Thick Viscous Whites

PeteAndGerrysHaransHeirloomEggs-Cracked

The color of the yolk was exactly the type of bright orange color that I am looking for, as you can see in the picture. The thing that surprised me about this egg was the size of the yolk compared to the volume of the egg. I know that the size of the yolk is somewhat determined by how soon the egg is collected and refrigerated, so that could be a single egg anomaly. But if you take a look at my next picture, you’ll see that both eggs had quite large yolks. I am curious if there is a nutritional consideration in the size of the yolk or if, possibly, this entire batch was simply collected later in the day than might otherwise be normal.
The egg whites on this egg were extraordinary. As you can see from the picture, they were extremely viscous, and held together very very well. The way I cook the eggs would cause a less viscous egg white to come apart, or at least spread more, but these retain almost the same shape cooked as they did before being cooked. I am looking forward to trying some scrambled eggs with this egg, since I want to see how well it holds together while I’m stirring it.

PeteAndGerrysHaransHeirloomEggs-FryPoachedEgg-Inside

While the color was similar between the Ameruacana and the Harans egg, the flavor was vastly different. In fact, the flavor of the Harans egg was unlike any other egg I’ve ever tasted. The flavor was nuanced, and approached something I might call “sweet”. I don’t think I’ve ever had occasion to describe an egg like this, and I’m not sure what it is that made these taste that way. I cooked them the same way as my other The Egg Project eggs, so there shouldn’t be a drastic difference… Regardless, the flavor was exquisite, and I am really looking forward to more!

PeteAndGerrysHaransHeirloomEggs-Container

What stood out:

These were quite good eggs, and I really enjoyed eating them! In addition to being excellent on their own merits, these eggs had the following surprising qualities that made them even more interesting:
They had a slight sweet flavor to them. I’m not sure what can cause this. Eating grass while it’s still very young and growing could give them a bit of extra sugar in their diet; perhaps that might be passed on to the egg. I suppose it is also possible that some of the other green vegetation that these chickens were pecking through to find bugs and grubs were also sweet, like clovers. This is an interesting flavor, and something I will be looking in to further.
The egg-white was extraordinarily viscous. This is a true statement even after considering other “Pastured” organic eggs, including the other heirloom variety offered by Pete and Gerry’s. Being perfectly honest, I didn’t expect anything like this when I cracked these eggs open. It was as surprising to me as the pictures must be for you!

Further reading:

The critique over with, here is what I use as a base for evaluation of my eggs.

  1. Pastured, Cage-Free hens
  2. No hormones or antibiotics
  3. Certified Organic
  4. Certified Humane
  5. Sustainable farm raised
  6. Soy-Free Feed

These eggs get a shining check-mark for each of the first 5 of my criteria. Checking out their site thoroughly, I can’t find anywhere which promises soy-free feed. As I stated above in the critique of the eggs, the eggs were delicious, and the yolks were a bright orange (also surprisingly sweet), which indicates that they eat plenty of grass (and maybe some clover?). Further, the whites were thick and viscous, so the chickens clearly had some live protein in their diet.

What’s For Lunch? UPC’s Bento-Boxes


Lunch-FullMeal

UPC’s Salad Bento Boxes

I’ve shared pictures of my lunch salads before, but today’s post is somewhat special. My wife and I making a concerted effort to remove unnecessary plastic from our lives. There are a couple of reasons for that, but the biggest one is an attempt to reduce our impact on the world. I’m a firm believer in the “Golden Rule” and my wife recently pointed out to me that I really should be working hard to use as much re-usable materials as possible, since that’s ultimately the best application of the “Golden Rule” in regards to my impact on the environment. She’s right, of course, and I didn’t need any convincing. The plastic containers that I had been using previously would often last me months before being replaced. But they’re still plastic. So we made the shift to glass for out refrigerator items, and we just picked up several of the Smart Planet “Meal Kits” that are made entirely from silicone.

These are awesome for a couple of reasons, in my book: they’re durable, they’re light, they’ll last until we don’t like the colors anymore, and they collapse once you’re done with them to take up less space. And, of course, most importantly, they’re not ugly. Which makes it easier for me to share my lunch recipes with you!

I may make this “Bento Box Lunch” a whole separate category, if you all end up think it’s a hit. Be sure to read the “Questions” at the end to help me figure out whether this should be a regular thing, or if I should just keep in in the 3-meal rotation that I have going now.

Today’s UPC Salad Bento Box; What you’ll need:

  • 1 Serving of UPC’s Salad Eggs
  • 1 Serving of Rosemary Carrots and Mushrooms (instructions below)
  • 1 Double-Serving Tossed Salad (any great lunch-salad will do; instructions for pictured salad below)
    UPC’s Salad Eggs:
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 Organic Yellow Zucchini, chopped (obviously green zucchinis will work too!)
  • 2 Organic Carrots, chopped
  • 1 bunch Organic Basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Coconut Oil
    Rosemary Carrots and Mushrooms:
  • 2 medium Organic Carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup Crimini Mushrooms, quartered (chopped large)
  • 4 sprigs Organic Rosemary, Rosemary pulled off the sprig and chopped
  • Optional: Add copped Celery for additional flavor and green.
  • 2 tablespoons Coconut Oil (for extra credit: use bacon grease!)
    Tossed Salad
  • 1 large Organic Avocado, chopped
  • 1 medium Organic Cucumber
  • 2 cups UPC’s Pulled Pork (alternately, sliced ham or bacon)
  • 1 bunch Organic Basil, chopped
  • 3 cups Organic Arugula, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Serves: 2 (Breakfast and Lunch, depending on your meal sizes)
Cook and Prep time: About 1 hour

1. Start the UPC’s Salad Eggs. I’m going to skip the instructions for this, since they’re well documented in the linked post.

2. In a small pot, add the carrots first, then the mushrooms, rosemary, and coconut oil. Cover, and cook on high for 1 minute. After 1 minute, turn down to medium-low, and leave covered, stirring every 3-4 minutes while you prepare the rest of the Bento-Box.

3. Tend the UPC’s Salad Eggs, continuing to follow the directions in the post.

4. Turn off the carrots and mushrooms after about 12 minutes of cook time.

5. Add the chopped arugula (or your favorite salad greens) and basil to a mixing bowl. On top, add the avocado, cucumber and pulled pork. Then spread the olive oil evenly over the salad and mix carefully (I mix with my bare hands; yes I wash them first).

Serve each meal portion in to a separate section of your Bento Box, and enjoy!

Questions:

  • What are your thoughts on a full-meal post from time to time?
  • Do you like the idea of the lunch Bento-Box format?
  • Would you like to see more hot-meal components, or cold-meal components?
  • What do you bring for your own breakfast and lunch?

What’s For Breakfast? Salad Eggs


SaladEggs1

UPC’s Salad Eggs

The weather here in the NYC area was idyllic over the weekend. It was stunningly beautiful all day Saturday and all day Sunday! I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better weekend! Not only was the weather excellent, but it couldn’t have possibly been a better test for my first ever New York Road Runners race as UPC. I know, I have done a few posts on working out, and you all know that I love running as a part of my exercise regimen, but most of you didn’t realize that I like to test myself on occasion, to see what is “the best that I can do” at that point in time. You’re all also well aware that I’m training for a 1-mile race in one month; but this is a little bit early for that post, right? Well, as much as I love racing, I haven’t participated in a race in nearly a year now. I’ll write another post today (that’s right, you get two posts today!!) to discuss the race, share some pictures, and give you all a training update on how I’m doing, and what my results from this weekend indicate to me with regards to my training and preparedness for the 1-mile race, which is my ultimate goal. So, since I’m not going to tell you about the race itself, let me spend a few words talking about testing in general.

I am a big fan of testing. Of course, I am not referring to the testing that you go through as a  normal part of training. I don’t mean “can I get an 11th rep?” when I talk about testing. What I’m talking about is the kind of testing that happens best under the umbrella of competition, though it’s possible to host your own version of a testing cycle. This kind of testing is when you save up your energy for a few days, or longer, so that you can push yourself to the absolute maximum of your capacity. You sleep, eat, rest, and train differently leading up to testing day, making sure that your capacity on that day is the absolute best that it can be. What you’re looking for is where the bar is for you, under optimal conditions, at this point in your physical fitness. Again, competition is not the only way to test yourself. But they’re set up specifically for that purpose; there’s usually a monetary cost to participate. While this is ostensibly to cover time and materials to make the testing possible, from my perspective what this is really for is to ensure that the athletes take the competition seriously. There is often a prize associated with success; though some of the time a prize is awarded to all participants (in most cases, I am ok with this). And competition in general always draws crowds. People like to see peak performance; it’s exciting.
All of these factors lead an athlete to build up that day to be different from any other day. As I mentioned above, because of the testing aspect of the day, athletes change their patterns leading up to the day. They reduce their training, otherwise called “tapering”. They eat differently. Some athletes eat more of one food group, and less of another. Sometimes there is more eating. Sometimes there is less eating. Often runners do something called “Carb loading” in the hopes that they’ll increase their total glycogen stores in their muscles and liver. Many wrestlers and boxers reduce their total food and water intake in order to make their weight class goals. They sleep differently. Often athletes operate on a reduced sleep schedule in order to get their training in around their other required daily activities (school/classwork, work, etc). Where the “taper” before the test day, they will emphasize getting enough sleep so their body is fully rested.
All of these things add up to an optimized athlete. And while I don’t necessarily agree with all of these activities, or with the fact that they are needed to begin with, these are a part of the testing cycle for regularly competitive athletes. I do love the testing cycle. I’ve been a competitive athlete for as long as I can remember, and I honestly don’t want to discontinue the testing cycle in my life. As one activity becomes less prevalent in my life, I replace that activity with another; and usually I seek out a way to test myself in that activity. Testing, when done right, is as important to me as the training. And in it’s own way, the testing is every bit as valuable.

But, there are many athletes who don’t do their testing the right way, as defined by me. Sometimes they carry the stress of the testing on their shoulders. Some of the time they like testing too much, and do it too often. Frequently I see athletes who don’t give their testing the kind of respect that it deserves, and they set themselves up for injury.
So here’s my stand on testing / competition: Do your testing infrequently enough, and with enough focus, that you get the best results you possibly can, you enjoy it, and you don’t set yourself up unnecessarily for injury. I know that’s a tall order; testing can be addictive! But it’s important to keep your competition days in perspective. These are intended to be tests of your ability. Make them infrequent enough that you can approach them with optimal performance in mind. And be sure to schedule a reasonable recovery so that any amount of injury that your body sustained during the testing it can heal from properly before you resume your full training regime.

SaladEggs2

UPC’s Salad Eggs; what you’ll need:

  • 4 Top-Quality Eggs (See here for egg recommendations)
  • 2 Organic Carrots, sliced
  • 1 Organic Yellow Squash, sliced (Zucchini works too)
  • 1 bunch Fresh Organic Basil, chopped
  • (Optional) 6 Crimini Mushrooms, quartered
  • Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Coconut Oil

Serves: 2
Cook and Prep time: 15 minutes

1. Add the vegetables and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil to a pan and cook on medium heat, covered.
Note: Be sure to allot appropriate time for whatever side dish you’re preparing with the salad eggs. If you’re using bacon, as I did in the picture, it can be prepared in a second pan in the same amount of cook time as listed above by cooking it on medium-high heat, covered.

2. Stir the vegetables once every minute for 5 minutes.

3. After 5 minutes of cook time, shake the pan to make sure the vegetables are evenly spread out on the base of the pan and sprinkle your salt and pepper over the vegetables.

4. Turn the heat up to high. Wait for a moment and then crack the four eggs directly over the vegetables.
Note: Some people prefer to pre-mix the eggs and pour them in to the pan fully mixed. I prefer to mix them in the pan – this is a stylistic choice, and doesn’t appear to make much difference either way for scrambled eggs; though there can be a big difference for omelets or frittatas.

5. Stir the eggs and vegetables vigorously as the pan continues to heat up, making sure the egg yolks and egg whites are mixed thoroughly.

6. Just before the eggs reach your desired consistency, turn the heat off and let the eggs finish cooking using just the heat of the pan.
Now serve and enjoy!

Questions:

  • Do you enjoy testing / competition?
  • When is the last time you really tested yourself?
  • What kinds of competitions are the most fun for you?
  • What is your preparation ritual for your testing / competition?
  • Do you make changes in your normal daily rituals when testing / competitions are coming?