Erynn’s Egg Bites

In 1973 we bought a copy of The Last Whole Earth Catalog, and we still have it. The 60’s and 70’s were the two decades most associated with the back-to-the-land culture, and though we never moved to a subsistence farm in the middle of nowhere, we had friends who tried it. We bought the catalog mainly because it was an important resource for anyone interested in doing things the old-fashioned way.

If you wanted to build a log cabin, learn how to raise goats or to make your own sandals, there were leads to the animals, tools, books and people who could help you. There were cookbooks listed as well. One of my favorites was Gourmet Cooking for Free, which included recipes for delicacies that people often discard, like beaver tail and moose nose. I searched Amazon and discovered that the book is now available in a Kindle edition in case you are looking for a recipe to turn that woodchuck in the back yard into a tasty stew.

While I was not looking for exotic meats, I stopped in at the Whole Earth Grocery shortly after I began working at the RiverTown Newspaper Group in River Falls, Wisconsin. I think that subconsciously I expected to find it staffed with people near my age who once dreamed of homesteading in Alaska. Instead, I found college students dedicated to the proposition that everyone should eat locally-sourced organic foods. That’s how I became acquainted with Erynn, manager of the store.

She liked the idea that I bought lots of yeast and baked most of our bread and that I, like her, felt that home-cooked foods were tastier and better for a person than most of the frozen and canned choices in the major supermarkets. We exchanged a few recipes. Here is one that I finally made. It’s a winner.

INGREDIENTS:

6 eggs
1 T cold water
1 tsp. olive oil
8-10 sausage links cut into pieces or 1/2 lb. bulk pork sausage
1/2 cup chopped red and/or green peppers
1 small onion (about 2 inches in diameter)
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. salt, divided

 
PROCEDURE:

Clean and chop the onion and peppers into an eighth to quarter-inch dice and set them aside in a small bowl. If you are using sausage links, cut them into thin rounds.

Cook the meat in a skillet over moderate heat until it is no longer pink and just beginning to brown. Use a wooden spoon to break the meat into small pieces as it cooks if you are using bulk sausage. Set the meat aside in a mixing bowl.

Preheat the oven to 350º and lightly grease a cookie sheet.

Put the chopped pepper and onion into the pan and cook for about three minutes until the vegetables are tender but still crisp. Remove the pan from the heat and put the vegetables into the bowl with the meat. Grate the cheese and add it to the bowl. Mix everything together.

Heat the pan and coat it with a teaspoon of olive oil over moderate heat. Beat the eggs until they are lemon colored with one-eighth teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of water. Lightly scramble the eggs over low heat until they are cooked but not dry.

Measure the flour, baking powder, baking soda, garlic powder and an eighth teaspoon of salt into a sifter and add the flour mixture by thirds to the meat and vegetables. Mix the ingredients to the consistency of meatloaf. Fold the eggs into the meat mixture until the eggs are uniformly combined.

Form balls about three inches in diameter and slightly flatten them to make thick patties. Place them two inches apart on the cookie sheet and bake for eighteen to twenty minutes until they are lightly browned.

Depending on how big you make them, you will have eight to ten Egg Bites. Enjoy!

NOTES:

Erynn noted that you can substitute bacon cut in small pieces and lightly cooked for the sausage and implied that you could use other varieties of Cheddar cheese. She also specified organic flour, but I must confess to using Hudson Cream Flour. It is not certified organic, but it is an exceptional product made from hard winter wheat in Stafford County, Kansas. It is not carried by stores in the Upper Midwest, but you can order it from the mill. Just search for Hudson Cream Flour.

You can freeze Egg Bites and microwave the number you need in just a couple of minutes. They are perfect for mornings when you are running late or when you have houseguests and would rather enjoy a cup of coffee and visit with them instead of cooking breakfast.

Erynn made a very good point as she concluded her email to me. “Ohh— remember to keep your ingredients as local and organic as possible!!  It’s good karma and the taste is superior!”

She’s right.
 

Irma’s Swedish Rice Pudding

If you have ever been invited to a Smörgåsbord, you might have had the opportunity to enjoy one of the culinary triumphs of Scandinavia—Swedish Rice Pudding. It was often made for dessert when the housewife had rice left over from dinner the day before. A dessert made with leftover rice may seem a little pedestrian, but it is is just one of many classic comfort foods that use ingredients saved from earlier meals.

Bread puddings are a good example. The best versions are made with stale bread. Of course, there are savory dishes in this category as well. Sauces, soups and casseroles frequently call for stock or broth made by simmering that ham or beef bone or turkey carcass left over from Sunday dinner. We should also remember that the Thanksgiving turkey should be stuffed with dressing made with bread that is at least a couple of days old. The bags of dried croutons at the supermarket are paltry imitations of bread that has been allowed to develop its full flavor in your kitchen.

Like my mother, Irma often made her pudding with leftover rice, and it was delicious. We may have tasted it at one of the Smörgåsbords at the First Lutheran Church in New Richmond, but Irma also served it to us in her home. When I asked our friend Anne about her mother’s rice pudding, she told me she was pretty sure that it was her grandmother’s recipe. Anne’s grandmother died before she was born, but her mother was proud of the Swedish customs and recipes she had inherited. She contributed her Swedish Rice Pudding recipe to the New Richmond First Lutheran Church Cook Book.

When I asked Anne if she had any tips for me about how to make the pudding taste as good as her mother’s, she said, “Whisk the eggs until they are nice and yellow and use whole milk. Oh, the rice should be cold.”

While we were talking I had the church cookbook open to the recipe, so I replied, “The recipe says to drain the rice and blanch it in cold water.”

She hesitated and cleared her throat. “She used leftover rice, didn’t she?” I asked.

“Well, yes, most of the time,” confessed Anne. One of the secret ingredients of Swedish Rice Pudding is now known, so cook extra rice when you are making dinner. Your family will bless you on the morrow.

INGREDIENTS:

For the rice:
1/2 cup rice
1 cup cold water
Dash of salt

For the custard:
5 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
4 cups milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup raisins

PROCEDURE:

Bring the rice, water and salt to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer the rice until the water is absorbed, about twelve minutes. Rinse the rice with cold water in a colander and set it aside.

Preheat the oven to 350º and grease a three quart casserole. You could also begin heating some water.

Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until they are lemon yellow. Combine the sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl and whisk these dry ingredients into the eggs. Stir in the milk and vanilla, then stir in the rice and raisins.

Pour the mixture into the casserole and put the pan on a center shelf in the oven. Pour about an inch of hot water into the pan and bake the pudding for one and a half to two hours. Using a fork, gently stir the pudding after thirty minutes to distribute the rice, raisins and cinnamon in the pudding.

After ninety minutes, test for doneness with a table knife. If it comes out clean, the pudding is done. If not, let it continue to bake for a few minutes and test again. You can serve it warm or cold.

NOTES: If you, like us, usually have only one or two percent milk in the refrigerator, you can fortify the milk with some half and half or cream. I use three fourths cup of half and half with three and a quarter cups of one percent milk. I haven’t tried it, but adding a couple tablespoons of melted butter would probably also work.

There are nine different recipes for rice pudding in the First Lutheran Church Cook Book. That number tells me that there must be thousands of different recipes for this dessert just in Wisconsin. I know that my mother made one similar to Irma’s baked in the oven, but she also made a simple version with leftover rice, milk, eggs and sugar that she cooked in a saucepan. I will try to find that recipe, as that pudding tasted pretty good too and doesn’t take as long to cook.

Irma’s Swedish Rice Pudding tastes great made with rice cooked as above and even better with leftover rice! Trust Irma! And my mother!