Baked Scotch Eggs

Happy New Years Greetings my foodie friends! I hope the new year is treating you all well, and if you have made new year’s resolutions that you have had good luck in keeping them so far. Mostly, I don’t make resolutions in the traditional sense. However, I have made a one word resolution this year so I am excited to see how that unfolds. In the food realm, I’m aiming to learn to make black bean burgers and to practice using my slow cooker more. I don’t really feel like those are resolutions but “to do” list items. What about you? What are you hoping to do this year?

I’m excited to bring you my recipe for Baked Scotch Eggs to kick off the New Year! I’ve been sitting on this recipe for a while now, and I have no good reason for not sharing sooner. Please forgive me. This is a simple recipe, requiring few ingredients, that makes a fancy-feeling dinner, or an elegant breakfast. You can make this to impress just about anyone who digs on eggs and sausage. I have a little trick for you if you want to up the ante, it will knock the socks off anyone eating with you, and only you will know it was easy-peasy. That’s the best kind of trick, isn’t it?!

Scotch Egg and Salad

Baked Scotch Eggs

Ingredients
1 lb breakfast sausage*
5 eggs
1 tablespoon flour
1/3 cup Panko** breadcrumbs
Non-stick spray

Steps
1. Cook your eggs with your preferred hard-boil method. I put eggs in a pan with cold water, then bring to a boil, and take off the heat for 7 minutes. Carefully transfer from the hot water into an ice bath, and let sit for 10 minutes before peeling.
Ice Bath
2. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (204.4 degrees Celsius). Line a jelly-roll pan with foil and put a cooling rack on it. Spray with non-stick spray.
3. Divide your sausage into 5 equal portions. If you have a scale, you are looking for 5 1/8 ounces (145.3 grams) per portion.
4. Take a peeled egg, roll it in the flour, and then shake off the excess. You want just a thin coating to help the sausage stick to the egg.
5. Very carefully, take the sausage portion and shape it around the egg. When you close it up, be sure to smooth the seam of the sausage over. (It may feel a bit like a middle school clay project!) Repeat for each egg.
6. Roll your sausage balls in the Panko to coat.*** Place on the cooling rack.
7. Put in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes. You want to make sure the sausage is no longer pink.

Sausage Portions

* Tip – If you wish to impress folks, you can make your own breakfast sausage. I promise you, it is not hard at all. Here’s how you do it.
– 1 lb ground pork
– 1 tablespoon Penzey’s breakfast sausage seasoning, or other breakfast sausage seasoning blend
– Mix it up with your hands and then use! See how easy that was!! It takes an extra couple of minutes, but you can tell everyone that you made your own sausage, and they’ll be totally wowed. Do it!

egg formation
** Here is a post that explains Panko breadcrumbs in detail in case this is your first time to be exposed to them. It’s worth the switch from regular breadcrumbs to Panko; I promise.

***My personal recommendation is to only put the Panko breadcrumbs on the eggs you plan on eating that meal. These make lovely leftovers, but the Panko doesn’t reheat well so if you know you’ll save two of them for lunch the following day, then skip the breadcrumbs on those two.

Panko Bath

Depending on your sausage approach, if you were using my dad’s good friend, Jimmy Dean, there are lots of flavor varieties that could spice up your eggs. If you are making your own, I think you can trust your own palate to know when and how to add more heat or flavors as you prefer. Trust your judgment. It is your kitchen, after all.

The aroma as these bake is heavenly. It makes me think of a weekend morning, even on a Thursday night. The layer of sausage around the eggs keeps them from overcooking which means the eggs come out soft and tender, wrapped inside a blanket of spicy sausage goodness. My preferred meal is to pair the Scotch Eggs with a salad or some steamed broccoli and carrot sticks to make sure that I get in my veggies. For leftovers, you could slice up the egg between some hearty bread for a breakfast sandwich that I am sure would be divine.

Whole Scotch Egg

As there are only a few ingredients in this recipe, I do encourage you to use the best ones you can find. My preference is to use eggs from one of my favorite vendors at the nearby farmer’s market, ground pork from Richardson Farms (also from the farmer’s market), and the breakfast sausage spice blend from Penzey’s. I like feeling connected to the people who grow/produce the items I buy, and I believe that the quality of my food is higher. Plus, knowing the sources of my food makes the meal more special for the boyfriend and me because we can go back and share with the vendors what we made with the items we bought. That’s always fun to do.

One final note: sometimes shaping the sausage is tricky. You think you’ve gotten it all smoothed out. You believe the seam is meshed together well, and then your scotch egg comes out of the oven looking like this.

Cracked Egg
Well, my friends, don’t despair. I assure you, it’s still edible, and your egg is still fine. It’s just a great reason to try again next week. After all, practice makes perfect, yes? I just want you to know you aren’t alone when this happens. Dig in, and happy eating!

Nutritional Information: 1 Scotch Egg
Calories: 350
Fat: 24 grams
Carbs: 2.6 grams
Protein: 30 grams
Calcium: 4.5%

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Foodie Pen Pal Fun – May

The joy of my life with joining Foodie Pen Pals is that so far, with every pen pal package, there has been at least one item that has been a game changer for me. Whether I knew I would love my treat at first sight like last month or whether it was a whole new, never-before-seen item that I PRAY is sold in Texas stores like this month, I think this is what the pen pal program is all about. I would have never known Justin’s peanut butter cups existed without Laura sending them to me in April. Nor would I have known the deliciousness of breakfast biscuits without Debra changing my world this month. Sit tight, and I’ll tell you all about it!

This month I was paired with two runners. I sent my package to Sara over at Run Around Sara. I was a little nervous because she said she is kind of a picky eater, but she also said she likes spicy, sweet, and salty, so pop over and see how I fared. 🙂 I aimed to send her a bit of Texas, touch on some foods she told me she liked, and maybe introduce her to a few new items that I know I love, even as a result of the pen pal program – hello, Biscoff! I received my package from Debra in New Mexico who blogs at Miles to Run. She is serious business about running, y’all. Go see what she is about. She sent me a fantastic package! Check out all these great items and this sweet card which now lives on my refrigerator door.


I was happy to see all the Skinny Cow and Fiber One treats. Recently, I’d had a conversation with my mom and grandmother about Skinny Cow being a good brand for healthier treats, but I’d never actually tried anything other than the ice cream. Well, now I have! The caramel clusters didn’t ring my bell too loudly, and there were only 5 in the package. However, that peanut butter heavenly crisp bar? HELLO! It smelled and tasted just like a Nutty Bar! De-freaking-licious! I was so happy to eat that sucker! I will be getting some more of those, for darn sure. The Fiber One brownie was a nice chocolate treat for the afternoon at work, but closer to the caramel clusters than the peanut butter crispy bar.

           

           

I’m rationing the chocolate truffles she sent me. There are four in the box from Cocopotamus, which is apparently a well known chocolate shop in New Mexico. At the time of writing, I’ve eaten the salt and pepper truffle which sounds STRANGE, I know. But it was actually quite good. Again, it is something I would have never ordered on my own, but because someone sent it to me, I’ll try it, and I’m glad I did. I have the following flavors waiting for me: red chile/cinnamon, dark chocolate fudge, and peppermint dark chocolate. Because there is no writing on the package, it’s just roulette when picking. What a food adventure!


Speaking of adventures in food, can you all identify all these different beans? How fun to get a homemade bean mix?? Debra is going to email me her favorite recipe for making them. I’m really looking forward to that.

Okay, y’all. Here is the game changer. Get ready. Belvita Breakfast Biscuits.
Yep. I’ll wait if you want to go out and find some right now. They are that good. I wasn’t sure what to think of them at all, and Debra had never had them, either; she got us both a box. I hope she loves them as much as I do. Heavens to Betsy. I took them to work the first day I had them and ended up sharing with some co-workers, much to their delight. When you open the little foil package, the most delightful oatmeal blueberry aroma wafts out, and you think, “How does it smell that amazing?” It smells freshly made! There are four thin, crispy wafers of blueberry and oatmeal tastiness just waiting for you. It’s a bit chewy where the blueberries are. You can see actual oats. There are hints of cinnamon. It’s a good thing you can’t see me drooling on my keyboard right now. My co-workers loved them just as much as I did. We were all amazed at how good they smelled and how homey they tasted. Thank you, Debra, for making our morning! I will have to ration these also, but they are a welcome addition to my breakfast rotation. Now to find out if and where they sell them in my area!
                       

If you are not already participating in Foodie Pen Pals, you should be. It’s seriously sweeping the nation and practically sweeping the globe. I don’t make this up. Visit Lindsay’s blog to find out the details. You should sign up by June 4th to get your match on June 5th. There is a spending limit of $15, and you put your package in the mail by the 15th of the month with the treats and a handwritten note/recipe. Then you wait on your own fantastic package to come in the mail. When it does, you rejoice, photo-document, and eat. 🙂 Then we all post about them at the end of the month. It’s a delightful way to make new friends across the country and learn about so many new places, foods, and people. Find us on Twitter with the hashtag #foodiepenpals. Come, join us, won’t you?

The Lean Green Bean

Crepes: A Delicious Blank Canvas

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope the holidays were enjoyable, peaceful, and full of tasty treats for you all. My family had some of the best smoked salmon that I think any of us have ever had. I made crazy delicious slow cooker ribs and jalapeño-bacon deviled eggs which will appear on the blog before too long. We ate so very well all holiday long. It’s interesting to me to note that we all seem to eat such delicious foods during the holidays, and then in the new year, it seems that as part of the “eat healthfully” resolution most people inevitably make, somehow delicious food gets thrown to the wayside. Friends, this does not have to be the case. One of my delicious, “treat” foods that I love to eat and make for entertaining or a special breakfast is crepes. It sounds so fancy when you tell someone you’ve made crepes! The crepes are tasty, your friends feel special, you feel like a big-chef-deal.  Everyone wins! For a long time I was intimidated by crepes, but that was silly of me. I am here to tell you that you do not have to be intimidated by them, either. The recipe I use has 5 ingredients, and the cooking part is really simple, too. I was asked tonight at a party if I make complicated food. Sister, please. Read on, then you tell me.


Crepes (Ingredients taken from this Alton Brown recipe; method adapted)

Ingredients
1/2 cup water
2 eggs
1 cup flour
3/4 cup 1% milk
3 tablespoons melted butter
potentially a smidge more melted butter for coating the pan

Steps
1. Melt your butter and let it sit to cool just a little bit while you measure and combine the other ingredients.
2. In a blender (Yep! Blender!), add in all the other ingredients and then the butter. I put them in the blender in the order shown in the list. I think it keeps the flour from getting gunky on the blades and helps the eggs to mix faster.

3. Blend until smooth. My blender doesn’t have a setting for anything similar to batter so I use the “sauce” setting. Usually I go for about 20 – 30 seconds, stop, scrape down the sides, and go another 10 – 15 seconds. It will look very similar to pancake batter, only thinner.

4. Now you leave it alone. It will need to sit for a while to rest and let the air dissipate. I leave mine on the counter for 45 – 55 minutes. If this makes you uncomfortable, put it in the fridge for 45 minutes, then pull it out for 10 minutes to come to room temperature before you start cooking.
5. Using a small skillet, preheat it on medium low. Now, depending on your non-stick pan’s true non-stick factor, you may or may not need butter. One of my skillets needs butter. The other does not. We’ll talk more about this below. But to be on the safe side, use a pastry brush or paper towel, and spread some butter around the pan.
6. Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop out some batter. Lift the pan off the stove, tilt, and rotate like you were rolling a marble around the inside edge all while pouring the batter into the center of the pan. It will spread and pour over itself making a thin layer. Usually I rotate the pan 3 times, although sometimes twice if it was a scant 1/4 cup.
7. Put the pan back on the burner and set a timer for 2:30 (2 minutes and 30 seconds). You’ll notice the edges get crispy and the crepe start to turn opaque and thicken. When the timer goes off, you should be able to carefully, but easily, slide a spatula under and flip. It is likely to be firm enough that this will go easily and quickly.
                   
8. Set the timer for 1:30. When it goes off, have a plate ready and simply tilt your pan, with the spatula to help slide your crepe out. It will just slide right out. Sometimes I just hold my spatula under the pan and flip it over and let the crepe fall on my spatula.
9. Measure, tilt, rotate, time, flip, time, slide – repeat.
10. Fill or top with any number of things that sound delicious to you.

So there you have it: the fundamentals of crepe making. Now I’m going to be very frank with you. You should be prepared so that you don’t panic or think you did something wrong. With 2 exceptions, every time I’ve made crepes, my first one turns out terribly. It doesn’t set right, it doesn’t flip right, it comes apart, it is a terrible, awful mess.  But it still tastes good, y’all. 🙂 I tell myself that the first one is a sacrifice to the crepe gods and it helps season the pan, because the rest turn out beautifully. I’ve wondered if the difference is my non-stick pans. I’ve wondered if the difference is using the fridge to let them rest versus letting them rest on the counter. To date, I’m not certain I’ve done enough culinary research to be certain. This last time, with no butter in one pan, the first one turned out just fine. The other pan thoughtfully provided me the opportunity to photo-document how it can look on your first terrible awful mess of a crepe. But then I put a little butter in the pan, just for the very next crepe and no more, and it was just fine. So when you make these and the first one is a disaster, nod to yourself that this is to be expected, eat it while the others are cooking and proceed on calmly.

The Sacrifice

When you are using the butter for greasing the pan, it is better if it is melted because you can just use your method of choice to wipe the pan with butter quickly rather than slicing a piece of butter, waiting for it to melt (even if it does happen quickly in a hot pan), and then rotating the pan around to make sure it gets everywhere. Just use a brush or paper towel to be thorough the first time. My experience is that I really only have to do this for the first crepe or two. Somehow, after that, the pan has enough butter on it or mysteriously is otherwise ready to correctly cook and release my crepes. This means you don’t need a lot of extra butter. Sometimes I’ll use whatever is left in my receptacle from melting the butter earlier. Even if I use butter, sometimes the first crepe still is rebellious and chooses to be a disaster. Remember, this is no reflection on you.

You may also need to make some minor adjustments as you work your way through the batter. As I cook my crepes, if I feel like they are getting too dark, or too crispy, I may either adjust the heat down to 3 or 3.5 on the dial or reduce my cooking time to 1:45 or 2:00 for the first side and 1:15 or 1:25 on the second side. It’s a little like cooking pancakes in that regard, in my opinion. As the skillet continues to heat, you may need to account for that in your cooking time, but then if it cools too much because you’ve turned it down a notch, don’t be afraid to cook a little longer or turn it back up. As you have less batter toward the bottom of the blender, it is easier to pour into the measuring cup rather than scoop. But eventually you’ll have more and more scant 1/4 cups. These will take the shorter cooking times also.

This crepe batter is a very basic, plain batter which makes it perfect for EVERYTHING! There are some recipes out there that have you add vanilla and sugar if you are making sweet crepes or herbs if you are making savory, and you can certainly do that. It’s your kitchen after all. However, I never quite know exactly which direction I’m going to go in when I make mine. Frequently I end up with both sweet and savory, so I stick with the plain batter. One of my favorite ways to eat these is filled with peanut butter and honey for breakfast. A more traditional route is with Nutella and bananas. Recently at a progressive dinner party, I had the Nutella with sliced bananas and blackberries option as well as herbed goat cheese with caramelized onions. Both were a smashing success. My improvement for the future would be to have smaller pieces of the caramelized onion so they are easier to eat. However, the flavors were simply divine. You can keep these in the fridge for about a week, or freeze them if you think you might somehow have them around longer than that. Such a thing doesn’t happen in my kitchen. If I am reheating them, I microwave them for about 10 seconds or so, and they are good to go. You can roll them or fold them as they are quite pliable.

While I haven’t done it yet, I’ve contemplated a “crepe casserole” with layers of shredded chicken, some sort of soft, melty white cheese, some caramelized onions and/or roasted garlic. It seriously makes my mouth water. You could also do layers with fruit and Nutella or a caramel sauce. When creating your filling, it is important to keep the pieces thin and small. This makes it easier to eat as well as keeping the crepe from tearing, and thus keeps it looking nice. It also allows you get all the different fillings in every bite, and that is very important, people. This is serious crepe business.

                   

I hope you are brave enough to try making crepes at home. It’s so very easy. I use both my little skillets to make it go faster and typically use the cooking time to take care of various kitchen chores I’ve been avoiding like loading/unloading the dishwasher. You can’t venture too far from the stove anyway, so why not make good use of your time while in the kitchen? It’s also very easy to double in which case, if you have two skillets, definitely put both of them to work. I doubled it for our progressive dinner and got 23 crepes including the rebellious one. Please share with me how it goes for you and how you topped/filled them. I’d love to hear your stories! Happy eating!

Nutritional Information per crepe– recipe yield of 12 crepes (will change if you make more or less)
Calories: 82
Carbs: 8.7 grams
Fat: 4 grams
Protein: 2.7 grams
Calcium: 2.4%