Giveaway Winner and Happy Super Bowl!

Hope all you Bloom Babes are having a great Super Bowl Sunday!  Adam and I just got back from a great, relaxing and WARM week in Jamaica.  It has been nice to have today to unpack and get our lives back in order after living out of a suitcase.  

I am so excited to announce the winner of Bloom’s Among Friends Giveaway tonight!  As a newbie blogger it is so fun to see everyone’s responses.  I love that I asked for your favorite ways to prepare eggs because it left me incredibly inspired. From fried eggs in burgers to goat cheese in omelettes, ya’ll have made me want to get back on the wagon after a week in frozen drink paradise.  

Thank you for all your entries!  And, a BIG thanks to Among Friends for their amazing product for this giveaway.  Even if you aren’t a winner be sure to check out their store locator to find the products somewhere near you! 

And now without and further adieu….

The winner is BECCA!  

Becca shared her mother’s secret to Deviled Eggs– Horseradish!

… This is something my husband, the lover of all things spicy, would LOVE.

Becca- I will shoot you an email to figure out shipping the products to you!

Again, thank you all!  Enjoy the Super Bowl whether you are in it for The Seahawk’s, The Bronco’s, the commercials, the beer, or the food!

Here are a few fun Super Bowl Food Facts:

– Today is the second biggest day for most food consumption in America.  The first is Thanksgiving.

– Thanks to a career in the food industry, I am aware that ground beef prices have increased in the last couple weeks.  This is because it is the largest day of the year for beef consumption.  (… We are part of this trend… it’s chili for dinner tonight, complete with  frozen, summer sweet corn!)

– Dips are a Super Bowl Star.  Guacamole being a crowd favorite means that 208 million haas avocados will be consumed tonight.

– 1.25 Billion Chicken wings will be consumed this Super Bowl, according to the National Chicken Council, and it is also the 50th Anniversary of the Buffalo Wing.  In my book, that is something worth celebrating!

Enjoy!  Have fun!  And, may the best team >cough, BRONCOS, cough< WIN!!

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Egg Series Day 7: Where to Find Fresh Eggs and A GIVEAWAY!

Woo Hoo!

It’s Day Seven of the Egg Series and it’s a fun one!

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Having backyard hens is surprisingly pretty easy. But, what if you don’t have the space? What if you live in a neighborhood with an HOA that wouldn’t be thrilled with your new feathered friends? I grew up where the neighborhood made rules for maximum the number of dogs and cats a family could have (two of each), so I know this is a reality.

Where can you get fresh, pasture raised eggs?

We learned earlier this week that labeling is tricky in the grocery store and “Pasture Raised” isn’t a regulated term.

One of the best places to find eggs from chickens that spend much of their time moving around and feeding on grass is the farmers market. At the market ask the farmer’s about their hens so you can make the most informed egg choice. Likely, they will be proud of how well their hens are treated and the fabulous eggs they create.

Community Supported Agriculture groups or CSA’s are gaining tons of popularity. CSA’s are programs that connect farmers with consumers. They are often weekly deliveries of various farmer’s produce, meats, and eggs. Some are even customizable!

You can check out localharvest.org and eatwild.com to find CSA or Farmer’s Markets near you so you can get some local eggs and a lot more!

Speaking of getting more… Bloom’s having its first GIVEAWAY!

Among Friends, the natural cookie mix company I wrote about yesterday is sending me more cookie mixes to give away to a lucky Bloom fan!

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Interested in these babies?

All the great flavors!

All the great flavors!

You should be.

To enter you have to do two simple things:

1. Hop onto Facebook and “Like” Among Friends, LLC’s page. They are a lot of fun to follow because they post lots of good information, like where you can find their growing brand, and they also post fun things that make you smile like this:

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… And, I think I speak for the masses when I say I need more things in my newsfeed that make me smile.

And 2. Comment on this post below and tell me your favorite thing to cook with eggs!

I will announce a winner on Sunday, February 2 and you have ‘til midnight on February 1st to enter!

Egg Series Day 6: Health Benefits of Fresh Eggs and Among Friends Cookies

So, yesterday I wrote about the physical and taste differences of fresh eggs versus commercial and if you’re still not convinced that fresh is better, let’s talk about the health differences.

There is a lot of evidence out there that shows that eggs from hens that range in a pasture are much better for you. In fact in 2007 a popular homesteading magazine, Mother Earth News, did a study on flocks of chickens across the nation and found that fresh eggs are much better than conventional eggs.

Fresh eggs have 1/3 less cholesterol, ¼ less saturated fat, two times more omega-3’s, and 2/3 more vitamin A, three times more vitamin E and seven (… SEVEN!) times more beta carotene than confined eggs.

With all the excellent nutrients I have been getting this week with my egg themed meals, I decided that I deserved some chocolate chip cookies. Not to mention, when it’s as cold and snowy as it has been all week, it’s hard not to bake something.

For Christmas my dad put a cookie mix in my stocking from a company that one of his old colleagues is a part of. The company is called Among Friends and they produce baking mixes that are verified Non-GMO, Whole Grain and Gluten Free.

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I had the pleasure of learning a little bit more about the company this afternoon.

The company was started by two girlfriends, Susie and Lizann, out of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Their mission was simple: They wanted a good product to feed their children.

They love baking and creating memories with their children through baking. They wanted to create an experience for their children with the aromas of freshly baked cookies as they hopped off the school bus after a long day at school.

… But, they knew that mom’s are busy and have long days too.

So, they made their mixes easy and clean. Containing no starches, no fillers, no gums, and no white flour and requiring moms (… and other consumer’s alike!) to simply add an egg, some butter, and a splash of vanilla extract.

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Among Friends boasts six mixes that pack all the aroma and flavors, but none of the other junk.

Nothing crazy in there...!

Nothing crazy in there…!

Using one of my backyard eggs, I made the Suzie Q’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. They are whole grain and were a perfect snack. And, even despite the whole grains, my dear manly man gobbled them up.

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I look forward to trying their other flavors like Phil’s Eat ‘Um Up Gluten free Cranberry Chocolate Chip (Umm… sounds like a party in a cookie!) and CJ’s Whole Grain Double Chocolate Chip (This has a hint of espresso… chocolate and coffee? Two of my favorite things!).

Check out their website: http://amongfriendsbakingmixes.com/ to see the other flavors and find the mixes in a store near you!

Egg Series Day 5: Colorful Eggs and Baked Eggs in an Avocado

The first thing I noticed about our backyard eggs after the chickens started laying last October was how different the yolks were in comparison to the commercial eggs I grew up with.

The yolk in our hen’s eggs is an incredibly vibrant golden yellow.

Our egg is on the left.  An egg from the grocery store is on the right.

Our egg is on the left.

Our fresh egg, holding it's shape.

Our fresh egg, holding it’s shape.

A grocery store egg.  The color is faint and the yolk's shape is weak.

A grocery store egg. The color is faint and the yolk’s shape is weak.

They also hold their shape much better than grocery store egg’s yolks.

The color in the yolks is based on the chicken’s diet. Some plants have stronger natural pigments creating the bright orange colors in our pasture raised eggs.

Hens that produce eggs for commercial use do not have access to plants with these color creating pigments, but producers sometimes will add things like marigold petals to their feed to enhance the yolks colors.

Our hens produce brown eggs. The color of the eggs is based on the breed of the chicken. There are actually hundreds of chicken breeds all over the world and they create eggs with a wide, wide range of colors. Blue, green, grey, pink… and more!

There is no change in the taste of the egg based on the color of the shell. However, I have found that there is a taste difference between fresh eggs and commercial eggs. It’s a hard taste to explain, but there is much more flavor, texture and chew to a fresh egg making it incredibly tasty!

In November, I started a new job where I travel to college campuses often, but when I am not traveling I work out of my home.

I love that I have been able to ditch my daily sixty mile commute and don’t have to wear makeup everyday, but I think my favorite thing about working from home is being at home for lunch. It lets me make smart food choices… and save a couple bucks!

This is one of my favorite quick lunches to make at home, but it could be a great breakfast or even a big snack.

Baked Egg in an Avocado

Preheat oven to 425.

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Slice avocado in half, scoop out the pit and a bit of the meat to make room for the egg. This bit of avocado can top the eggs after it’s all cooked.

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Place avocado halves into a baking dish so they are level and secure.

Pour an egg into each avocado.

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Add salt and pepper.

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Cook for twenty five minutes.

I topped on avocado with paprika and the other with srrachia, experimenting with different flavors. I liked the paprika best. Parmesan cheese has been a topping I have tried and liked in the past.

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Okay, okay.

I’ll address it. I get it. Your thinking, “Hey Claire, late blog today. What’s up with that, huh?” (I know you couldn’t possibly have anything more important than Bloom… insert sarcasm here.)

Yes, I have been posting all the other Egg Series posts around the middle of the day. This is because I have proofread my writing from the night before as I eat lunch.

But, today was one of those days where I was traveling for work and got to spend much of the day at my alma mater.

I have done work on the campus for years, which I do love because I love the university and the people affiliated with it… but, because I am there so often I sometimes wonder about what it would be like to drive up to campus and have it feel different or special.

The feeling I am envious that my girlfriends, who make it back once every other year, feel.

Today it was.

Today, campus was different.

My home, my favorite place in the world, saw evil this week.

It has been bruised and its people have been exposed to the cruelty that is in this world.

But also today, as I drove the streets I could drive in my sleep, I saw what makes my university special.

Pride.

Community.

Greatness.

Love.

Despite everything that happened on Tuesday, Purdue University is strong.

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And in that sense, nothing has changed.

Egg Series Day 4: Storing Fresh Eggs and a Spicy Frittata

A few of my friends have reached out to me recently and commented about how “pretty” the brown eggs are in the pictures from this week’s Egg Series.

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This made me smile. They are pretty with their shades of brown. Some have little spots that look like freckles.

They are so fun.

And I am kind of proud of them.

I would love to show them off on the counter. They would look totally cute in my Tuscan, farmhouse inspired, Pottery Barn-ish kitchen. (… Technical interior design terms. Trust me.)

But, to make sure eggs stay fresh and safe I keep them in the refrigerator. It best this way. Plus, if eggs are in the fridge they can keep up to five weeks.

It is also best to keep eggs stored in egg cartons with the pointed side down to ensure they maintain their natural moisture and keep their yolks centered. Smells from other food items in your fridge could potentially enter the eggs due to their pourous shells. Egg cartons also protect the eggs from these smells. In addition to the cartons, freshly laid eggs have a protective coating on the outside of the shell, called the cuticle or bloom. (I didn’t know this when I started this blog. Ironic, right!?)

We have asked friends and family to help us out and save their egg cartons to store all the eggs.

We have asked friends and family to help us out and save their egg cartons to store all the eggs.

The bloom helps to seal the pores, keeping odors and bacteria out. To protect the bloom on our hen’s eggs we do not wash our eggs until we are about to use them. Commercial eggs from the grocery store are washed and then coated with an oil to reseal the pores.

Eggs are most typically thought of as a breakfast food, but Adam and I gave it a try for dinner last night and made a frittata. It was easy, cheap and did not disappoint. It even had Adam asking, “Where has this been all my life?!”

Paleo/Low Carb/Gluten Free friends? This is great for you!

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Spicy Frittata

13 ounces sausage, chopped (We used turkey sausage… I am going for lean meats these days and it was in the fridge. Chorizo would be really good.)
½ Yellow Onion, finely diced
2 jalapenos, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
About two cups sliced plum or roma tomatoes (I used a 14 ounce can of plum tomatoes… because it’s January. Womp. Womp.)
Two cups eggs, whisked together (Took us eleven eggs to get two cups; Egg beaters or just egg whites would work fine.)
4 ounce package of crumbled feta
Chopped Parsley for toppings

Heat olive oil in cast iron skillet or other oven proof skillet. Add chopped sausage and cook until lightly browned over medium heat.

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Add the peppers, garlic, and onions and saute for about three minutes. Stir in spices and salt, cook for one more minute.

Spread sausage and veggie mixture around the bottom of the pan. This will serve as a “crust” for the frittata.

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Add sliced tomatoes to the top of the meat and veggies. It can look as pretty as you want it to.

Pour in whisked eggs. Let cook for thirty seconds then lower heat to low. The warm thirty seconds will set the bottom of the frittata. Then you want it to cook slowly.

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Continue to cook on low for ten minutes. While cooking, turn on broiler to high.

Add feta to the top and cook for another three minutes. The sides should be set, but the top should still be a little runny.

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Carefully place skillet into the broiler. Cook for three minutes. The frittata will puff up and become lightly brown.

Cover with chopped parsley.

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Cut like a pizza and enjoy!

Egg Series Day 3: Eggs for Breakfast

Eggs are great to add to your diet when you are trying to lose weight, especially at breakfast. There are studies that show eating eggs at breakfast can reduce your calorie intake by 400 calories per day. This is because the protein in eggs makes you feel fuller longer and you likely eat less than normal at your next meal.

The protein in eggs also gives you tons on energy in comparison to a carb-ladden breakfast so you are able to take on your day. In the 1960’s there was a campaign by the Egg Marketing Board saying, “Go to work on a egg.” The old adage is true and is something Adam and I have adapted thanks to our continuous supply of eggs.

I love to make omelets for breakfast because they are quick, easy and a great way to get some veggies in the morning as well. (Or, use up left overs from the night before.)

Below is one of my favorite omelette recipes that is super easy to create at home.

Spinach and Feta Omelette

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When I was twenty my family went on a Mediterranean cruise to celebrate my parent’s twenty-fifth anniversary. Everyday was jam packed with sightseeing and beach-ing so this was my go-to at the make your own omelette station on the boat. It was light, yet gave me tons of energy for our busy days. Feta and spinach are often in our fridge (Or garden, if it’s summer!) so not a lot of thought goes into recreating this one.

Omelettes can be intimidating and a little tricky. The way I see it is, if it looses it’s shape and becomes more of a egg scamble, who cares? It all taste the same in the end!

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Crack three eggs in a bowl, add a little S&P, a tablespoon of water and whisk with a fork.

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Melt a tablespoon of butter (Olive or grapseed oil works great too) in a skillet. Add Onions to cook, add spinach after onions begin to become golden. Stir to combine as spinach begins to slightly wilt.

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Add egg mixture to coat bottom of skillet.

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Cook together, peal back sides with a spatula. Once nearly all the egg is cooked and pulls from sides of skillet add cheese.

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Fold over and serve!

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There are so many great combinations of flavors that are great in omelettes. A close second favorite for me? Mexican style with lots of pepper, spice and salsa!

Breakfast of Champions!

Breakfast of Champions!

Egg Series Day 2: Egg Labels and How To Hard Boil

Navigating the wonderful world of eggs these days can be a little crazy. “Cage-Free.” “Free Range.” “Organic.” “Hormone Free.”

Crazy.

Here’s what it all means:

Cage Free– Term established by the USDA meaning the chickens have been raised without cages. They can walk around and flap their wings. But, don’t be fooled: This doesn’t necessarily mean that they have access to the outdoors. They can be “cage-free” in a barn and never see the light of day.

Free Range– Term established by the USDA. Means the birds are cage free, with access to the outdoors but there are no regulations on how long they are outside, the conditions of the outdoors, or what the chickens eat.

Pasture Raised– This is not a term regulated by the USDA. It means the chickens feed in a pasture and eat a diet of bugs and grasses in addition to feed. It might also means that the hens are possibly fenced in or kept in a pen.

Natural– Sounds nice… but this really doesn’t mean anything. All chickens and eggs are natural because they are not a processed food. There are no regulations surrounding this term.

Organic– This is regulated by the USDA and means that the chickens were fed feed that had no contact with pesticides and fertilizers. There are no regulations for the conditions the hens live in. Keep in mind that all egg laying chickens are hormone free. This is based on a USDA regulation. They are given antibiotics if they are ill, but that is all that is permitted.

The eggs from our backyard hens are, by definition, Pasture Range and Organic. They have their coop, but we let them roam throughout the yard everyday. They have feed in the coop but also eat grass and bugs.

Exploring the yard last September.

Exploring the yard last September.

We have five hens and get about four eggs each day. I have gotten in the habit of hard boiling ten to twelve eggs each week. They are so great to have in the fridge for a quick snack or an on-the-go breakfast.

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There is a little bit of a fine science when it comes to hard boiling eggs. If they don’t boil long enough the yolks are runny. If they boil too long the yolks turn green.

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And it may seem super basic, hard boiled eggs… easy, right? But, many of my friends have admitted to not knowing where to begin when making hard boiled eggs. I even had to Google it when I lived in my first apartment.

Older eggs make peeling the shells off easier.  I had to learn this the hard way...

Older eggs make peeling the shells off easier. I had to learn this the hard way…

Thanks to a lot of practice, I think I finally have it down.

I used a dozen eggs we had stocked up in the fridge.

I used a dozen eggs we had stocked up in the fridge.

Place eggs in the bottom of a sauce pan. Cover with about one inch of water and bring to a boil.

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Once boiling, remove from heat, place lid on pan. Let sit for twelve minutes.

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Run eggs under cold water.

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Enjoy right away or place in the fridge. They last about a week in their shells… but ours never make it that long!

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Egg-cellent Egg Series: Day 1

I started 2014 with a cleanse where I eliminated sugar, alcohol, dairy, grains and starches. I lost six pounds in ten days.

The strong skeptic in me assumes it was because I was saving my daily booze calories… and yes, okay, it was a little drastic. It’s not the best idea to go cold turkey with anything.

But, it wasn’t a huge adjustment for me. I kicked my soda addiction and hopped on the H2O train a few years ago saving myself from sugary beverages. (I was a major Diet Coke lady and this was actually easier than you would think.) Bread has never really been a staple in our house, unless I make my- now famous- Rosemary Focaccia. But, getting out the mixer is a workout in itself so it doesn’t happen often. And Adam and I obviously love, love, love any and every veggie, so incorporating even more into our meals is no problemo at our house.

However, in the spirit of being honest, wine and dark chocolate have been missed.

I actually finally caved and had two glasses of red wine last night. But, in my defense, it’s been nearly three weeks. GO ME! And I have read enough about the heart benefits of drinking red wine that I would basically call it a health food. Basically.

But, what the cleanse really did was make me much more aware of what I am putting in my body when I eat. Yes, I try to eat organic, local and clean. I have for quite sometime now, but I now know so much more about the science behind these and other choices I make.

Sugar has been a big one that I plan to continue to watch. When consuming sugar I want to find it from more natural sources, like fruit and agave. Too much sugar is linked to inflammation and significant signs of aging. Not to mention, many sources of sugar are full of unnecessary calories.

I also plan to put focus on getting a majority of my calories from vegetables and good sources of protein. Fortunately, both of these are found right in my back yard thanks to the garden and chicken’s eggs!

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Over the years, eggs have battled a bad reputation due to their link to high cholesterol and heart disease. I remember “experts” talking about avoiding eggs all together throughout my childhood. But, here’s the deal: Your body needs a good balance with fat and cholesterol. Good fat, like the fat in eggs helps maintain that balance. Fat from fried food? Not so much.

Thanks to the good fats found in eggs it allows for the better absorption of the many other vitamins found in the little spheres, including Vitamin A, B Vitamins, protein and potassium. These nutrients aid in muscle, brain and nerve development. In fact, there are few foods out there that have as many nutrients as a single egg!

The chickens have been major troopers with all the snow and freezing temperatures in Indiana this winter. So, I have decided to showcase them on my little soapbox for the next week to express my “thanks” for their daily gifts: their fresh, nutrient packed, brown eggs.

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Everyday this week there will be a post on Bloom featuring an egg-cellent recipe and some egg-citing facts!

It’s going to be egg-straordinary!

… I crack myself up.