Rescuing the salmon with coconut bones

Not all of my recipes turn out. Also, since I am easily distracted and usually am cooking many things at once, I often burn things. I’m trying to be better about setting a timer, but sometimes even that steers me wrong. Take last Friday. I was following the instructions on the George Foreman Grill for medium rare salmon, but it came out well-done. (Note to self – check the salmon after 2 minutes next time)
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I couldn’t bear the thought of throwing away a pound of wild sockeye salmon, so I searched for Paleo recipes for salmon cakes. I decided on this recipe from Everyday Paleo because it was supposed to be “the best salmon cakes ever!”. I was also impressed with all the positive comments the recipe received. I made some mods based on the comments.

Salmon Cakes

1 pound wild caught Alaskan Salmon
3 eggs
1/4 C shredded coconut
1 tsp granulated onion
1 tbsp dried dill
1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
a few shakes of red pepper flakes
about 1 tsp fresh ground pepper
a pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup coconut oil

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Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add coconut oil. Peel the skin off the salmon, then flake into small pieces with a fork. It should look like the above picture when you’re done.

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Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl, then add the seasonings to the eggs and beat again. Tom was my sous chef.

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Dump the mixture on the salmon…

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…and mix well.

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Form the mixture into 8 patties. Fry for 3 straight minutes (no peaking)

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Then flip over and fry for 3 minutes on the other side.

Homemade Ginger Mayonnaise
2 eggs
2 tbsps apple cider vinegar
1 tsp yellow mustard
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
1 cup extra-virgin oil
1 cup macadamia nut oil

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Place all ingrediants except for the oil into a food processor. Cover and mix while you count to 5.

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Continue to mix while you slowly add the oil. See me pouring it in slooooooowly. If you pour it in too quickly it won’t magically turn into mayonnaise. Once all the oil is in, continue to blend while you again count to 5. .

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It should be mayonnaise now. This looked and tasted like mayonnaise, only more flavorful – so much better than commercial brands full of unhealthy polyunsaturated fats!

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This made a very large jar. If I had been paying better attention, I would have cut the recipe in half.

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Lunch is served! This was another fine-dining quality meal that required very little effort. I also was pleased to turn a flop into something fantastic. These had much better flavor than salmon flakes made with crackers or breadcrumbs. The mayonnaise was the perfect topping. I was surprised how easy it was to make! I don’t know why I never tried that before! Jewel was excited to try the salmon cakes, but then I noticed her rather gingerly picking at them.
Jewel: “Do yours have bones in them?”
Me: “No, I haven’t found any.”
Jewel: “Well, mine are just full of bones!”
Me: “Jewel, that’s coconut.”
This of course resulted in peals of Jewel’s tickled-with-herself laughter, and now in our family we refer to shredded coconut as bones.

An Evening in the Easily Distracted Kitchen

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My plan last night was to cook one of Jewel’s favorites, Flat Iron Steak with Balsamic Reduction. This is a recipe that Jewel picked out a couple years ago to include in a holiday cookbook for her class. She handed me the cookbook without saying much about it, and I was flipping through recipes for macaroni and cheese and variations-on-a-cool-whip-theme desserts, when I saw this amazing-sounding steak recipe. I asked Jewel about it (since I had never made this recipe before), and she said that she had browsed AllRecipes looking for a good steak recipe. She suggested we make it for Christmas Eve dinner, and that is our new tradition. However, this is an elegant but easy to prepare meal that is a shame to only serve once a year.

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I asked Jewel to help me prepare dinner since my back was acting up and I knew that she would be motivated to help ensure that this meal turned out. When she was getting out the salt and pepper, Jewel spied the curry powder I had made this past weekend.
Jewel: “Oh, can we use the new curry powder on the steak?”
Me: “No, it’s a balsamic reduction sauce. Curry wouldn’t go with it.”
Jewel: “Well, can we make something else with it?”
Me: “We have a head of cauliflower. We could make an Indian cauliflower dish. You find a recipe while I start the steak.”
I was seasoning the steak (I used a flank steak) when I heard Jewel scream and throw down the Indian vegetarian cookbook she was perusing. There was a dead bug in it. I took her word for it. Bugs, dead or alive, are Tom’s job. So she turned to Google, and she noticed a new feature on the side bar that allows you to narrow down your recipe search based on some key terms. So we chose “coconut”, “curry powder” and “30min or less” and Google came up with this recipe:

Roasty Toasty Coconut Curry Cauliflower
Ingredients:
1/2 head of cauliflower (~3 cups of pieces)
1 teaspoon coconut oil (we used a tablespoon or so)
1/2 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
a pinch of cayenne pepper, optional
1 egg white

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Do you see the Santa face in the cauliflower? Jewel did.

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I cut up the cauliflower and separated the egg while Jewel greased the pan and mixed the spices together. Don’t throw that egg yolk away! That’s where all the nutrition in the egg is! I added the leftover yolk to the frittata I made this morning.

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The cauliflower should be cut up into precisely one inch pieces. You know I had to bust out a ruler for this… Um, no. Then I remembered the Sweet Coconut Curry Granola Bars that Jewel hadn’t tried yet. So we had to take a quick snack break.

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I made these with just dates as the sweetener and they turned out fantastic. I also subbed sesame seeds for the sunflower seeds since that’s what I had. I used the last of the raisins and a mixture of dried cranberries and cherries for the balance. I also added cayenne because my old batch of curry powder was fairly mild. I was aiming for a Whole30-approved snack that wouldn’t trigger my sweet tooth, and I think I found it. However these bars themselves are so addictive that I had to have a few bites while writing this. Jewel also liked the bars very much, even though they were full of “bones”. More on that tomorrow.

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Right now we need to get back to making dinner. It’s easier to mix the spices together in a gallon ziplock bag, but it’s also more wasteful. I’m not a fan of disposable plastic.

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My mixing bowls have lids, but any large enough storage container would work. First I shook the egg white with the cauliflower, and then I added the spices to the cauliflower and shook them again. It helps to sing “shake, shake, shake the cauliflower”, but it’s not worth the $60 WordPress wants to charge me upload video to demonstrate. Coating the cauliflower thoroughly with the egg white and then the seasoning is a key step.

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Jewel tried to take a less blurry picture of me, but the iPad camera decided to quit working, probably out of fear. We switched to my phone, since actual cameras are too complicated.

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Dump the cauliflower gently onto the greased baking sheet. Bake for 15 min at 400, flip and bake for 10 more minutes.

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Cook the steaks for 3-4 min per side in ghee over med-high heat. The recipe calls for butter, but butter shouldn’t be used at high temperatures. Ghee is clarified butter. Remove the steaks to a platter and keep warm. I love our warming drawer! Sauté a chopped clove of garlic for a minute, then add balsamic and reduce by half.

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Pour sauce over steak and sprinkle with chopped parsley so that it looks fancy.

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Place cauliflower in a bowl and top with the coconut that fell off so that it looks fancy too. This is the coolest picture of the cauliflower because Jewel’s foot is in it. The cauliflower really tasted like a dish from an Indian restaurant. I think the fresh curry powder made a difference. I will double the recipe next time. Tom, Jewel and I all really liked it. We also served leftover portobello mushrooms, creamed spinach and steamed broccoli with this meal.
Are you still wondering about the Santa face?

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There it is!

Coconut Pumpkin Soup

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I chose this recipe as I choose a lot of my recipes, based on the need to use up leftovers. I had most of a can of pumpkin leftover from making White Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Truffles and a good bit of coconut milk that I had opened just to drizzle on fresh blueberries. I searched for a Paleo recipe for pumpkin that wasn’t muffins or pie. That turned out to be quite a challenge! So I was excited to happen upon this soup recipe which I hoped would have a similar flavor to the coconut soup that Surin serves at lunch. (Yes I know that Surin is about as authentic as my hair color, but their soup rocks!) As usual, I’ll post the recipe with the mods I made:

Paleo Coconut Pumpkin Soup!
Ingredients:
1 medium onion chopped
2 medium carrots chopped
1 medium green sweet pepper, seeded and chopped
1 T coconut oil
1 15oz canned 100% pumpkin
1 14oz can unsweetened coconut milk
14oz chicken broth
1 medium fresh jalapeno chile pepper, seeded and finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 T freshly snipped cilantro or parsley

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Sauté onion in coconut oil over low heat until soft. When I need just a small amount of chopped onion for a recipe, I go ahead and chop up the whole thing and keep the leftovers in the freezer. I used leftover chopped onion for this recipe.

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Increase heat to medium low and sauté carrots and peppers until tender. Try not to eat too much of them when you chop them up.

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When you get a jalapeño pepper out of the freezer, see the chicken broth and belatedly realize that it is frozen solid. Thaw in a bowl of hot water.

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Add remaining ingredients except parsley or cilantro. Get busy cooking the rest of dinner and completely forget to take any more pictures.

This soup received mixed reviews. I absolutely loved it, as did my office mate, who is also a huge fan of Surin’s soup. Tom thought it was just ok, and Jewel and another coworker didn’t care for it. When I had some leftover soup for a snack at work today, I decided that the problem ingredient was the green pepper. It has a slightly bitter flavor that just doesn’t go well with the pumpkin. Next time I will use mushrooms instead. Also I’ll use cilantro instead of parsley, which was too crunchy and harsh. I’ll try to take a picture of the soup at work tomorrow and add it to this entry.

Edited to add a picture of a bowl of soup:

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Whole30 for Lent

The

Although I am no longer a practicing Catholic, I have been observing Lent for the past few years. One of the things that I like about the Roman Catholic Church is how the church calendar follows the seasons. In December is Advent, the anticipation of the birth of the Christ Child. In late winter and early spring is Lent, a time for penitence and reflection leading up to the death and resurrection of Christ. The readings from the Bible follow this pattern as well, and the sermon is based on the readings, not vice versa. For this reason I do get something out of going to a Catholic mass, even though I don’t agree with all the teachings of the church. I am not a fan of the modern services that have become trendy in Protestant churches now. They pick a topic and then pick a few verses from the Bible out of context to justify the point they want to make, and then give it some sort of catchy name that is similar to a video game or a tv show. That just seems backwards to me. Also, there is no change to observe the seasons, neither in the readings nor the mood. The mood is “happy happy joy joy” all the time. If this works for you, then great! Everyone is different. I am just explaining why it doesn’t work for me.

I observe Lent with no sense of obligation. It is a personal choice. Last year I gave up Facebook. The year before that I gave up Facebook games. These were choices that led me to spend more time with my family, and 40 days is long enough to break a habit or start a new one. This year I am doing Whole30, which is a very strict version of the Paleo diet: no grains, legumes, dairy, sweetener of any sort, white potatoes or alcohol. Also no Paleo desserts, junk food or baked goods. I realize that this is almost the antithesis of traditional Lenten fasting, but I am going “meatless” on Fridays. (I still eat fish.). The other thing that is forbidden during Whole30 is weighing yourself and measuring your food. You are supposed to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. I like this idea of trusting my body rather than obsessing over the numbers. I’ve been eating Paleo for long enough to know what my portions should look like, so this has freed me from calculating the calories of everything I cook.

So, how many people knew that Lent was actually 46 days long? Yeah, me neither. The Sundays in Lent don’t count. If I were doing a traditional Lenten fast (no dairy, meat or oil), I’d be all about chowing down down on some meat and fat on Sundays! But the key to Whole30 is to break old habits, and indulging once a week would not be helpful. I don’t know if I’ll make it 46 days. I will reevaluate how I feel on Day 30. I am hoping that eating 100% clean will help my back, but I know that I am grasping at straws at this point.

For the next month or so, starting yesterday, I’ll be posting recipes that are Whole30 compliant. For the most part these will be savory dishes, but I will include some fruit-sweetened treats. Larabars are allowed on Whole30, so I plan to make some homemade versions. If anyone else out there is doing Whole30 for Lent, please leave me a comment. It would be great to support each other.

Skillet Sweet Potatoes and Sausage

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I made a deal with Tom last night. If he would take the kids to the school at 5:30 a.m. to catch the bus for the math meet, I would cook him a hot breakfast. He said that he had planned to take the kids anyway, and I had planned to cook a hot breakfast anyway, so it all worked out. I woke up at 6:45 in a perfectly Primal way with the sunlight streaming into our bedroom window. I’ve had my eye on this recipe for a skillet breakfast for a couple weeks now. I actually meant to make it last week, but I screwed up and baked all the sweet potatoes. Duh! I modified the recipe slightly to make it lower in calories since I’m not currently exercising and Tom is trying to drop a few more pounds.
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Skillet Sweet Potato and Sausage Breakfast
Makes 4 servings for middle-aged people trying to watch their weight

1/2 tablespoon oil or fat (coconut, olive, lard, etc)
12 oz breakfast sausage
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
Salt, pepper, chili powder or other seasonings to taste
4 eggs
Fresh grated cheddar cheese
Handful of fresh chopped parsley
Hot sauce

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Cook breakfast sausage over medium heat until browned.

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With a slotted spoon or spatula, transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Leave some grease in the pan for cooking the sweet potato. Place another paper towel on top of the sausage and set aside.

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Add diced sweet potato to the pan.

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I seasoned the potatoes with salt, freshly ground pepper and chili powder. I think curry powder would taste good, too, but I didn’t think about it at the time. Stir frequently so the potatoes don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

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I steamed the potatoes to get them to cook through. I steamed them twice for 3 min at a time. This also allowed the potatoes to brown and slightly carmelize.

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Add the sausage back to the pan and make 4 wells for the eggs with a spoon. Crack the eggs into the wells. Cover and cook until whites look solid, 3-5 min. I added the shredded cheese to 2 of the servings for Tom.

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I topped mine with fresh chopped parsley. I also sprinkled mine with tabasco sauce. Isn’t the tabasco bottle so cute and mini? Tom said that the recipe had sounded good to him but not great. Once he started eating it he was raving about it. There’s something about the flavor of the tender sweet potatoes offset by the slightly spicy sausage that is more than the sum of its parts. Just like the movie Logan’s Run: the acting isn’t great (with the major exception of Jenny Agutter), the special effects are marginal and even the directing is barely adequate. But there is something compelling about the movie. I think that Jenny Agutter draws the viewer in, and as she is Logan’s guide she also serves as the viewer’s guide to this 70’s vision of the future. The same goes for this breakfast. All of the ingredients are quite ordinary, but the combination works together better than you would think. I have always liked skillet breakfasts with white potatoes, but this is even better. Next time I might throw in some baby spinach as well. This is a great way to start your day right with a serving of vegetables!

Another Primal Feast

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Based on my recent blog posts, about all I eat is breakfast and dessert. I thought it was about time that I posted a full meal again. Dinner is usually pretty basic: a meat and three vegetables, often minimally prepared. I am happy to eat this way because I like to taste the flavor of my foods rather than mask them with excessive seasoning. On weeknights I have limited time to cook, and it’s fast to grill or broil some meat and steam some veggies. It’s a satisfying meal, but nothing to blog about. The other night Dora was gracious enough to make her famous fish sticks, so I had time to be more creative.

Primal Feast Menu: Almond Parmesan Tilapia, Mock Potato Casserole, beet greens and roasted asparagus

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I split the difference between the recipes and preheated the oven to 400. Chop the cauliflower into florets.

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Boil cauliflower in salted water until soft, about 15 minutes I think.

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While the cauliflower is boiling shred the cheese. Jewel and and I love this raw cheddar I found at Earth Fare. Never buy shredded cheese. The anti-caking agents ruin the taste and texture.

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Mash the potatoes with a potato masher or a fork. (When someone tells me to “mash” a button, I still envision using all my force to try to break the button into smaller pieces)

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The final result of mashing. See what I mean?

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Add the butter, green onion, sour cream, and 1/2 of the cheese. I used onion powder since Tom doesn’t like crunchy onions. It turned out that we didn’t have sour cream, so I used full-fat yogurt instead. I don’t recommend that substitution. This tastes much better with sour cream.

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Place mixture in greased casserole dish and bake for 15-20 min or until bubbly.

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Now it’s time to start on the fish. The recipe calls for butter, so I used the leftover butter from Shrimp with Lemon Butter Herb Sauce

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For fish seasoning I used Penzey’s Forward. Isn’t this an awesome label? It’s so 1977. I’m mentioning this seasoning and the shrimp butter because I think they were both key to the wonderful results I had.

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Melt the butter in a bowl and mix the dry ingredients in a pie plate. Cut the fish fillets in half lengthwise. Dip them in the butter and then dredge them in the flour, sprinkling them with more flour if necessary.

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Place fish onto a greased pie plate or baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

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Take out the casserole and stir. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. I sprinkled it with paprika as well to make it pretty. Return casserole to oven. At this point I also put the leftover asparagus in the oven to heat up.

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Wash the beet greens. I cooked the beet roots as well and made marinated roasted beets the next day. They were the best beets I’ve ever had. They were especially good in salads.

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Steam the beet greens in a little water until tender. Drain and toss with olive oil.

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I ended up broiling the casserole for a few minutes to brown the top.

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Here’s how the fish look when they’re done.

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My dinner. The surprise hit of the night was the beet greens! Jewel and Tom thought they tasted like a sweeter version of Swiss chard. The only problem was that they didn’t like the roots! Oh well, I’ve really come to enjoy marinated beets on my salad! Jewel and Tom also liked the Almond Parmesan Tilapia. Jewel told me that it was very smart of me to think of putting the shrimp butter on it. I try to tell the about ideas like that so that they learn to be creative cooks themselves.

Avocado Circus Eggs

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When I was a child my favorite breakfast was “Circus Eggs”. I have no idea where we came up with that name for Egg in the Basket but I still am rather fond of it. I loved dipping the buttery fried toast into the soft yolk. Eggs in Avocado Slices is a sophisticated adult take on the recipe, which is why I knew Jewel would like it.

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Preheat a pan over medium-low heat with a little olive or coconut oil in it. Lop both sides of the avocado off like this. Leave as much intact as you can. I don’t know how to describe what I mean so just look at the picture.

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Now slice what’s left of the avocado in half so it looks like this picture.

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Enlarge the holes where the pits were. I used a medicine cup, but a shot glass might work as well. Save the leftover avocado pieces to put on your salad at lunch or go all-out and make some homemade guacamole!

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I’m pretty spastic when it comes to cracking eggs, so I cracked them into little bowls first. This step is optional but recommended for the coordination-impaired.

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Place avocado slices in pan.

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Gently pour the eggs into the holes in the avocado slices. As you can see, my eggs were too large. Medium eggs would be about the right size. If you’re lucky enough to find pasture-raised eggs, choose a couple of the smaller ones for this recipe.

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Cover the frying pan with a lid so that the yolks will cook before the bottom gets burned. This only takes a few minutes.

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This is what mine looked like when they were done. Yeah, I’m not ready to host a cooking show quite yet.

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Jewel and I thought these were delicious. I’m not sure I’ve ever had cooked avocado before, but cooking it brought out the creaminess of the avocado, and eggs and avocado are a natural match. I served this with thick-sliced bacon, so I was able to dip the bacon in the yolk. Yum!