My Kingdom for an Egg

Day-Old ChicksIt might be time to stock up on eggs. Of course, since they don’t have the greatest shelf life, maybe the time has come to cook up a bunch of eggs–maybe 10 or 12 dozen–and put them in the freezer for future use.

Why? It seems that a huge grocery chain in Texas has begun limiting purchases of eggs to three dozen per customer. This news, reported in the Washington Postevokes images of bread lines and ration books.

The news, as the grocer suggests, comes on the heels of what has been a devastating several months for egg farmers in the United States. Avian flu, which has proven lethal in other parts of the world, has spread throughout the United States like wildfire. Since April, when cases began spreading by the thousands each week, the virus has escalated to a point of national crisis.

While this information might not portend quite the level of dread that might accompany the apocalypse, it does point out just how fragile our food economy is. Should chicken and eggs rise dramatically in price, consider the ripples that would follow. More to the point, consider the impact such increases would have on your budget.

So stock up on those eggs soon. While you’re at it, fill your freezer with chicken. The food funds you save could be your own!

Prosciutto Protein Power

I thoroughly enjoy meat and cheese. Although I can get along nicely on a low-fat diet much of the time, there are other times when I simply need some good old saturated fats to fill my pores with oil. If you enjoy this sort of a thing, then this snack item might be the perfect fit for you.

The idea of wrapping a bit of mozzarella with a slice of prosciutto is hardly something I invented myself, but to be honest, I’m not the sort of person who invents recipes.

Cheese PackageMy prosciutto mozzarella rolls are pretty simple. In their latest version, I did my shopping at Costco. The ingredients were 2 one-pound packages of mozarella ($6.89) and an 18-ounce package of three different meats, prosciutto and two salami-like varieties ($11.69).

Preparation was slightly more complicated. I opened one of the packages of cheese and cut it in half across the middle. I then divided the resulting halves into quarters and then eighths and eventually sixteenths. My goal was to wind up half-ounce bars of mozarella. Since this cheese is rounded on the ends, I had to do some slightly imaginative cutting to yield approximately equal segments. Because of this guesstimating, I’m pretty sure that the calorie count is only approximate. I won’t tell if you won’t.

Meat PackageAfter creating 32 half-ounce cheese portions, I set to work on the meat. This was terribly complicated and involved opening the package and separating the individual slices. Actually, getting the prosciutto apart was a bit challenging. (As the prosciutto was considerably larger than the salamis, I cut the whole stack in half and used half slices of it. Using entire slices will add only about 13 calories to your resulting roll, so that choice is 100% up to you.) I wound up using only 5.3 ounces of meat for the pound of cheese, so even after doing the other pound of cheese, I’ll have a very nice portion of meat remaining.

Having gotten this far, I simply rolled the meat around the cheese and put the resulting finished products in a tub for the refrigerator. Some people add basil to cheese before rolling the meat on. I considered painting some pesto onto mine. I’ll probably give that a try for the next batch.

A Tasty TreatSo what do we have in the way of results? I wound up with 30 rolls in the fridge. (Yes, I ate one and Olivia ate one. There were 32 made.)

On the calorie front, the cheese comes in at 70 calories per ounce, thus each roll has 35 calories in cheese. The 3 meats have 3 counts, ranging from 60 to 90 calories per ounce. Since there are roughly 6 slices per ounce, the portions I used range from 10 to 15 calories per roll. I’ll just go with the highest number and say that these rolls carry 50 calories each. That’s not too bad.

Certainly there are cheaper snacks about, but I’m pleased on that count as well. The cheese, once thoroughly divided and subdivided, costs just below $.11 per roll. The meat adds another $.07. So each roll cost me a whopping 18 cents.  I’ve been finding two of these to be a very satisfying post workout snack, for when the body is screaming for protein. That snack costs me 36 cents and only 100 calories.

On the economics front, a previous batch of these, made from ingredients purchased at a Walmart grocery cost me $.37.5 per roll. Clearly there’s a value in going the bulk route.

Crispy Lentil Bites Revisited

You might accuse me of cheating here, but I’m going to jump back two weeks to discuss the Crispy Lentil Bites that I introduced two weeks ago. I’ll probably lose your trust even more thoroughly when I admit that when I first wrote that entry, I had not yet actually conjured up any of these items in the kitchen. Now that we have all of that out of the way, let’s get on to the matter at hand. Having now made two batches, totaling three recipes, I can speak as something of an authority on these balls, drawing three useful conclusions.

First, my initial effort at the CLBs–you have to admit that Crispy Lentil Bites is an absurd mouthful–yielded only 18 balls. I puzzled over this, wondering if my CLBs were 1/7 larger than the ones the recipe’s author had made. I also noticed that my results were not only not freakishly spherical like the photo, but they were considerably darker. Frankly, they looked like no-bake cookies to me, which did not keep me from eating them.

As I put my Chocolatey Crispy Lentil Bites (CCLBs) into the fridge, I realized the reason both for the shortage and for the color. I’d neglected to put in the two cups of oats. The result? I had CCLBs that were much more like a dessert than a healthy snack. Also, since the calorie hit from the oats amounts to roughly half of the total in that recipe, I reduced the calories in the CCLBs considerably. My calculations have the oat-free version coming in at about 78 calories per bite vs. the 111 of the original recipe.  That’s almost a 30% drop!

Second, Penny and I made a double recipe of CLBs, being careful to include the oats this time. The resulting mixture did not hold together nearly as well as the CCLBs had, but once they had been refrigerated for a couple of hours, they easily formed into a tidy, oat-encrusted ball. Again, ours were not nearly as perfectly spherical as the ones in the original photo, but I’m not planning on entering any professional chef competitions.

Second, in the process of creating these CLBs, Penny thought that they would make a good on-the go breakfast. To that end, she bagged them up in groups of three. Since we got 47 balls out of a double recipe, the calorie count per item came in at 98. That gives us a 300-calorie breakfast that can be pulled out of the refrigerator and eaten in the car if needed. For my tastes, the carbs are a bit high at 15g, but that’s a good bit less than my typical breakfast of raisin bran.

Finally, I did a bit of calculation on the economics of the CLB. My initial grocery run for this recipe was a bit shocking as I had to buy a number of items that we don’t typically keep in our pantry. My initial thought was, “Wow! These things are expensive.” Then I worked up a spreadsheet demonstrating how much each ingredient contributed to the price. A couple of the prices were estimated. The “Recipe Amt” is the percentage of the package used in a single recipe.

Pkg Cost Pkg Amt Recipe Amt Recipe Cost
Lentils 1.46 16 oz 0.25 $0.37
Coconut Oil 6.48 16 oz 0.01 $0.06
Coconut Sugar 4.48 16 oz 0.073 $0.02
Coconut Flour 5.58 16 oz 0.092 $0.03
Oats 3.00 42 oz 0.133 $0.40
Coconut shred 2.82 16 oz 0.65 $0.18
Pumpkin Sds 2.44 12 oz 0.166 $0.41
Chc Chips 1.86 16 oz 0.125 $0.23
Peanut Btr 3.00 40 oz 0.088 $0.34
Honey 6.00 24 oz 0.235 $1.42
Recipe Cost $3.45
Per Ball Cost $0.15

Again, these numbers might be a bit off, but they shouldn’t vary by more than 50 cents total. This puts the entire recipe at $3.45 or $.15 per ball. Penny’s three-ball breakfasts will cost us a whopping $.45! That’s cheaper than my Costco-purchased raisin bran before the milk is added!