When it comes to eggs, it’s tough to know what story the labels really tell. Cage-free, free-roaming, natural, free-range: In our minds we picture open, grass-flecked barnyards with black dirt below and blue sky above, and plenty of room to run, extend feathered wings and peck at grubs. In the simplest sense, a chicken’s life as it should naturally be. It turns out that labels don’t always mean what they imply and in the case of free-range and free-roaming (the only ones regulated by the USDA), far less. In order to apply the free-range and free-roaming label the USDA expects that producers allow hens access to the outside. The labels don’t speak to whether birds have room to move, or actually make it out the door. Or whether they are treated humanely and allowed to engage in natural behaviors, like pecking in the dirt. In a free-range barnyard all of these may be true—or may not.
For this reason Freshness Farms offers locally produced Glaum Ranch eggs, which are certified humane by Humane Farm Animal Care, “a national non-profit…created to improve the lives of farm animals by setting rigorous standards, conducting annual inspections, and certifying their humane treatment”. The label guarantees that a business meets HFAC’s program standards including: nutritious diet without antibiotics or hormones, and animals raised with shelter, resting areas, sufficient space and the ability to engage in natural behaviors. In short, to live the natural life of a chicken.
This week our school lunch boxes will be filled with eggy treats—protein-rich sustenance for young, growing brains and bodies. For starters we’ll turn to the now favorite egg “muffins” offered by guest writer Kelsey Snider this summer. These treats are simple enough for a preteen to pull together though their portability will appeal to all ages. Grab one on the run, morning or night. Dress them up with mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese for sophisticated taste buds—or stick with the original, perfect as it is.
There’s always deviled eggs and egg salad sandwiches (with diced celery and a dollop of dijon mustard), too—classic comforts that consistently delight. And on a cloudy, cool-ish September morning, I’m launching my high schoolers headlong into their busy days with a stomach fortified by scrambled eggs on toast. It’s the least I can do. I start with a sauté of green onion, diced tomato and chopped greens. Mushrooms too, when we have them, or whatever add-ins my bleary-eyed crew request. The eggs are slowly stirred over gentle, medium-low heat so they turn out smooth and tender, not tough. At the last minute I toss in a few pinches of grated or crumbled cheese—goat or cheddar, even salty feta for a greek twist. Some days we roll it all up in a warm tortilla with a dollop of salsa, or pile on a warm croissant. But mostly the mixture is heaped on simple toasted bread (sliced baguette if we’re feeling fancy). It’s a breakfast that can even be scarfed down in the car, if need be, wrapped in a paper towel.
Scrambled Eggs with Sautéed Mushrooms, Greens and Goat Cheese
My daughters love goat cheese, but you might try Cheddar or Monterey Jack. Whatever you have on hand. On a hurried morning forgo the mushrooms, though they add something special if you have the time. As does a side of potatoes.
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup sliced button mushrooms
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 small tomato, diced
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 1 handful chopped leafy greens such as spinach, arugula or chard (or a mix)
- 5 large eggs, scrambled with a fork
- 1/2 to 3/4 ounce goat cheese
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 toasted bread slices, or baguette
- Warm 1 tablespoon butter plus oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and garlic to the pan and cook until mushrooms begin to brown. Stir frequently. Add a bit of water if the garlic begins to stick (just a splash). Remove mushrooms from the pan and wipe pan out with a paper towel. Reserve mushrooms for garnish.
- Place pan back on medium heat and warm remaining butter. When butter sizzles add the tomato and onions, and cook until soft. Add greens and cook until just wilted. Turn the heat down to medium-low and add eggs to the pan. Stir constantly over gentle heat so the eggs cook gradually. When they are nearly done to your liking, stir in the goat cheese to distribute evenly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Divide the eggs and spoon over toasted bread on two plates, with mushrooms divided evenly as well, and sprinkled across the top.