Category Archives: Side dishes

Slow Cooker Pork and Broccoli Rice Casserole

 

Sometimes, you just can’t. Can’t even. Can’t even think about running to the store, slaving over a hot stove, balancing a meal or a checkbook.

But your tummy is growling, your spouse is complaining, your kids are whining, your friends are coming over for dinner.

Enter the slow cooker.

It is a savior for anyone rushed for time (and who isn’t??) or tight on cash (can I get an AMEN!) or doesn’t love to cook (can’t say I feel it all the time, but there are days…) or lives alone, or feeds a family of ten, or… you get my point. I flipping love the things.

You can get a tiny 2 or 3 quart slow cooker for single or double cooking. You can get a giant 8 or 10 quart workhorse for crowds and big appetites, you can get multiple crocks in one base for buffet style hands off cooking. I kinda want one of those now… The point is, if you don’t have one you should get one!

This recipe is super simple, a classic favorite I pull out time and again.  I used pulled pork here because that is what I built into this week’s meal plan, but you could just as easily use shredded chicken, steak, tofu, etc.

Slow Cooker Pork and Broccoli Rice Casserole

It involves items I nearly always have around the house, including frozen veggies and brown rice.  Feel free to use white rice, or wild rice, or even crazy things like quinoa or couscous instead. You can also substitute any other frozen veggie you are partial to if broccoli just doesn’t do it for ya.  And if you’re feeling extra crazy and decadent, use milk instead of water, and toss on some shredded cheese at the end, just before serving.

Slow Cooker Pork and Broccoli Rice Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup shredded cooked pork
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 1/2 cups milk / water / broth
  • 2 cups frozen broccoli (or veggie of choice)

Optional: shredded cheese

Slow Cooker Pork and Broccoli Rice Casserole

Step 1: Put all the ingredients in the slow cooker.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or more, or high for at least 2 hours (to thaw the veggies).  Alternatively, you could put this in a baking pan and bake at 350 for 2 hours (1 if you use fresh and not frozen veg).

 

 

What are your favorite slow cooker meals??

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Stuffed Zucchini Boats

 

With the end of summer and onset of fall, summer fruits and vegetables begin to close down shop. The last of the tomatoes are ripening on the vine, the peppers are turning red, and the final enormous baseball bat sized zucchini are finally the last of the crop with no more flowers in sight. If you’ve exhausted the number of times you can make stir fry, or latkes, or zoodles, and have bags full of shredded zucchini in the freezer for later, here is a great recipe to make zucchini taste brand new to close out the season!

This recipe has a lovely presentation, and will make people think you’re a master chef who spent hours in the kitchen. In truth this takes about 10 minutes of prep and assembly, then you simply bake it until ready. You can easily make this vegetarian by omitting the ground turkey and using tofu or lentils or some other kind of bean / meat substitute.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 large or 2 smaller zucchini, cored
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup cooked rice
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup salsa (optional but recommended)
  • Optional: spices to taste

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Step 1: Cut the zucchini in half length wise, and use a knife or spoon to scrape out the inside core. Make sure you remove all the seeds, but you can save the pulp to add to the stuffing.

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Step 2: In a bowl, mix the cooked rice and meat (or beans, tofu, etc) with the pieces of zucchini pulp and salsa. Add the eggs and bread crumbs and any spices you want and mix well.

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Step 3: Spoon the stuffing mixture back into the hollowed out zucchini boats.

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Step 4: Bake face-up on a baking sheet in an oven set to 350 for about 25-30 minutes, until zucchini is soft enough to pierce with a fork and stuffing is slightly crunchy on top.

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That’s all there is to it! You can sprinkle on a bit of Parmesan cheese or garlic salt right before serving, or add extra salsa on top. You can sneak extra veggies in there too, I added a few bites of some roasted beets I had in the refrigerator, as you can see by the lovely pink color.

 

Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Ingredients

  • 1 large or 2 smaller zucchini, cored
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup cooked rice
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup salsa (optional but recommended)
  • Optional: spices to taste

Instructions

  1. Cut the zucchini in half length wise, and use a knife or spoon to scrape out the inside core. Make sure you remove all the seeds, but you can save the pulp to add to the stuffing.
  2. In a bowl, mix the cooked rice and meat (or beans, tofu, etc) with the pieces of zucchini pulp and salsa. Add the eggs and bread crumbs and any spices you want and mix well.
  3. Spoon the stuffing mixture back into the hollowed out zucchini boats.
  4. Bake face-up on a baking sheet in an oven set to 350 for about 25-30 minutes, until zucchini is soft enough to pierce with a fork and stuffing is slightly crunchy on top.
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http://www.budgetepicurean.com/vegetarian/stuffed-zucchini-boats/

 

 

 

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Refrigerator Pickles

 

Just imagine biting into the perfect pickle. It is softened, but still crunchy, with a tangy note accented with just a touch of sweetness and an after-bite of pepper. The delicious, fresh taste of summer, to be had any time you have a hankering! I have some awesome news, friends, you are capable of making your very own pickles! Yes, you!

You don’t have to buy sad, soggy pickles that were jarred in a factory months ago. And it doesn’t have to take hours of boiling water and hard work, expensive or obscure pickling spice mixes, or waiting months for the pickling process to be complete.  You can have the fresh, irresistible crunch of summer time bounty any time you want it, within hours, and using items you likely already have in the house. Well, as long as you stock your refrigerator with these pickles!

Refrigerator pickles in containers

My family always had these in spades during summer and fall, they are the perfect side dish, topping to burgers or hot dogs, or snacks eaten right out of the bowl by the handful. I have also heard them called “Dutch Pickles” by some crazy people.

They are also quite easy to customize. If you don’t like super puckery pickles, go easier on the vinegar and use more water. If you’re the sweet pickle kinda person, I will try not to judge you too much as you add up to a 1/2 cup of sugar. If you gag at the taste of black pepper, leave it out. If black pepper is for wussies, feel free to pop a jalapeno or habanero into the mix! You can also add other herbs and flavors like garlic cloves, fresh dill, sliced peppers, or mustard seed.

Whether you call them Refrigerator Pickles, or Dutch Pickles, or just pickles, you should definitely make this recipe at least once in your life! They are able to be eaten within an hour, best after 6-8 hours, and will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks. Though after you get a taste, I doubt they will last that long. 😉

Refrigerator pickles ingredients

Ingredients (1 quart):

  • 1 large cucumber or several smaller (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 – 3/4 cup vinegar (to taste)
  • Black pepper & salt to taste
  • Optional: thinly sliced radishes/ zucchini / carrot/ peppers

Quart of pickles

Step 1: Slice your cucumber and onion as thinly as humanly possible! If you are using other veggies, slice those up thin as well. Be very careful and be aware of knife safety of course, or use a mandoline if you have one. This is important to get all the lovely juices distributed as quickly as possible to pickle your veggies!

Pickles!

Step 2: Heat the water just to boiling, and dissolve the sugar. Press your cucumbers and onion in layers into a quart container, adding black pepper and salt as you go. Add the vinegar to the water and pour it all over the pickles.

Pickles fresh from the refrigerator

Step 3: Wait about 8 hours to overnight or longer. Now you have the perfect summer snack! Eat them straight from the jar, pile them onto sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, tacos, or dice them and add to potato or tuna salads. These delicious pickles are a great way to enjoy summer’s bounty, and will keep long after the cold chill of autumn rolls in.

And did I mention this recipe is fat-free, vegan, gluten-free, and barely 100 calories even if you eat the whole quart in one sitting?!? I won’t tell if you don’t…

 

Refrigerator Pickles

Refrigerator Pickles

Ingredients

  • 1 large cucumber or several smaller (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 - 3/4 cup vinegar (to taste)
  • Black pepper & salt to taste
  • Optional: thinly sliced radishes/ zucchini / carrot/ peppers

Instructions

  1. Slice your cucumber and onion as thinly as humanly possible! If you are using other veggies, slice those up thin as well. Be very careful and be aware of knife safety of course, or use a mandoline if you have one. This is important to get all the lovely juices distributed as quickly as possible to pickle your veggies!
  2. Heat the water just to boiling, and dissolve the sugar. Press your cucumbers and onion in layers into a quart container, adding black pepper and salt as you go. Add the vinegar to the water and pour it all over the pickles.
  3. Wait about 8 hours to overnight or longer.
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http://www.budgetepicurean.com/vegan/refrigerator-pickles/

 

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Caprese Salad

 

Isn’t it amazing how the simplest of things can tend to be the most delicious?  Sometimes we get wrapped up in crazy new flavors, seasonings, toppings, ingredients list as long as your arm. But it truly is quality that makes all the difference.  When produce is seasonal, fresh, local, and picked in its prime, there is nothing better. And nothing says “summer” quite like a fresh Caprese salad. Soft, creamy mozzarella cheese, tangy fresh basil, and plump juicy heirloom tomatoes fresh from the vine. OPA!

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High-quality cheese is a delight, while 99 cent slices of pasteurized processed cheese like product is hardly worth wasting the calories and preserving your insides. And you can taste the difference between a true fresh pressed, high quality olive oil and a knock off lower quality oil or mixture. It should taste grassy and strong on its own, maybe tickle the back of your throat a little. That is the anti oxidants working. It is worth investing in some! A little bit goes a long way.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 large fresh tomato
  • 1 large ball fresh mozarella cheese
  • Big handful fresh basil leaves
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Optional: Sea salt to taste

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Step 1: Slice the tomato and mozzarella into slices, about 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick. Layer them alternating on a plate with fresh basil leaves. Drizzle olive oil over it all, and sprinkle on some sea salt. That’s it.

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You can also make this salad on skewers to serve as an appetizer or snack, or use the tiny mozzarella balls and grape tomatoes for an adorable itty bitty version! These flavors also lend themselves very well to bruschetta or pasta dishes.

 

What is your favorite summer dish? Do you have other recipes with the Caprese flavors you’d like to share? Comment below!

Stuffed Squash Flowers

 

If there’s one thing every gardener knows, it’s to always over-plant zucchini plants.  Just kidding. Every gardener reading this just did a facepalm I bet.

Zucchini is notorious for going from a few fan-like leaves to a gigantic jungle of non-stop baseball-bat sized squash within days. The things just can’t stop won’t stop. And every summer, we still seem surprised when we end up with so many of the dang things, we can’t even give them away anymore.

(That won’t stop me from planting it and loving it every year!)

Squash flowers in the garden

Once you have exhausted all the stir-fried zucchini, zucchini bread, and Zoodles (zucchini noodles), you may stop to wonder, where do these things keep coming from?!

The answer: flowers!

Flowers get pollinated and produce new zucchini. Flowers are also tender and delicious when stuffed and fried. Why not do yourself (and your neighbors) a favor, and eat some before they grow into a 10-pound giant you forgot under a leaf until it got too big and woody to eat?? Also they are just really, really good.

Ingredients for stuffed squash flowers

Ingredients:

  • 6-12 zucchini or any squash flower
  • 2-3 tbsp cottage cheese (any kind of cheese)
  • 2-3 tbsp ground beef
  • 1 egg, or 3-4 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup oil (coconut preferably)

Fried stuffed squash flowers

Step 1: Rinse the flowers and make sure there are no friends still inside. Not a joke, I picked some flowers and dropped one in shock when it buzzed. A bee flew right out!

Step 2: Gently peel the flowers open, and pick out the stamen. Stuff a tiny bit of beef and cheese inside. To keep these vegetarian, you could use any cooked vegetable or grain combo and forego the meats and cheese.

Fried stuffed squash flowers

Step 3: Roll the stuffed flowers in the egg or milk, and then in the breadcrumbs. Completely coat it. Heat the oil just until it start to sizzle, then add the flowers. Fry for 1 minute and flip, fry the other side. Place onto a plate, and then try to let them cool enough to scarf them down!

You could stuff these little guys with any number of things, from rice to quinoa, to shredded carrots or feta. If you want it to be totally vegan, use plain water instead of egg to make the breadcrumbs stick. I made 8, and my husband only got ahold of one of them before I demolished the whole plate! You’re lucky I even got photos…

 

Have you ever tried stuffed flowers? What do you stuff them with? Let me know below!

 

Happy Easter!

 

Happy Easter everyone!  I hope today is filled with family and food and cute woodland creatures, and maybe some chocolates too.  But don’t get too crazy.  Remember, Easter & Halloween are dentists’ favorite holidays.

I will be enjoying the day with family, having an egg hunt, dying hard boiled eggs, eating some ham, and yeah probably having more than a few pieces of candy. 🙂  (Oh, and don’t tell, but I totally want to surprise everyone with this unbelievably easy [microwave only!] carrot cake recipe and healthy cream cheese frosting!  I really hope it is as delicious as it sounds.)

Enjoy the roundup below of creative, healthy ideas to make this the best Easter ever!

 

Natural Easter Egg Dyes from Rodale’s Organic Life

natural easter egg dye

How to Make Vibrant Naturally Dyed Eggs

50 Non-Candy Egg Stuffer Ideas

40 more Non-Candy Ideas

40 Egg-cellent Non-Candy Easter Egg Fillers

No One Will Guess These Easter Brunch Recipes Are Healthy

Easter Brunch

If they're going to be on your Easter table, they should totally look pretty. Get the recipe from Delish.

And of course, we can’t forget the CANDY!

50 Homemade Easter Candy Recipes

50 Homemade Easter Candy Recipes

15 Healthy Easter Desserts

 

 

Image at the top of page from HERE.

Mixed Winter Vegetables

 

Towards the end of February, it seems like nothing will ever grow again, and a juicy summer tomato is but a dream.  Most Americans just go to the supermarket and buy whatever exotic fruits or produce they are craving with no regards to whence it came, how many miles it has traveled, or how the nutrients have been degraded by early harvest and long travel time between dirt and plate.

I strongly encourage those yearning for the warmer days of spring where every corner bursts with greenery to make use of the oft-neglected seasonal produce.  Try searching Local Harvest for farmers markets near you.  Root crops store so well, while cold-tolerant crops are appearing in local markets.  If you are lucky you may even have farmers with greenhouses or cold hoops that grow tender baby greens and lettuces.

Many people cannot name 5 produce items that are in season any time of the year other than mid-summer, and maybe not even then.  During the coldest, bleakest times of winter it is especially hard to think of produce actually being able to withstand the harsh temperatures.  But in New England, there are tons of vegetables that you can find for mere pennies at the local markets, including: carrots, fingerling potatoes, beets (red and gold), rutabaga, squash, parsnips, turnips, radishes, leeks, onions, Brussels sprouts, baby micro-greens, spinach, kale, collards, and mushrooms.

This recipe makes a large meal for one, or side dish for two.  Feel free to mix up the vegetable content based on what you have available right now and what you like.  But if you are wary of these produce types, just try one and see how you like it.  You never know when you may fall in love with the sweetness of a golden beet, the carrot-like texture of parsnips, or the nuances of various radish strains.

Ingredients:

  • 1 parsnip
  • 1 leek
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 green onion
  • 1 small potato
  • 3-4 small beets
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar

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Step 1: Cut the tops and bottoms off of your produce, and dice into chunks or slices.  Add the olive oil & lemon to a frying pan, and add all the vegetables.  Cover tightly, and steam 5-10 minutes.  Stir up the veggies, cover, and steam another 10 minutes or so.  You want the heat low enough that it will slowly caramelize the sugars in the vegetables, not burn them.

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Step 2: Sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste.  Either serve alone or on the side with a meat and salad.  I enjoyed mine with some roasted chicken, baby greens, and homemade sauerkraut on top.  It is so simple, yet so wonderfully tasty!

 

 

Mandarin-Cherry Tuna Salad

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For a quick, healthy lunch, tuna salad is always a go-to.  Pretty much all you need is a can or pouch of tuna and some lemon juice, but there are infinite ways you can spruce it up.
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For example:
  • Add a chopped hard boiled egg
  • Toss in diced celery
  • Shred up some carrots
  • Add chunks of apple
  • Spoon in a few tbsp of relish
  • Hot sauce!

And many more options, as creative as your mind can dream up.  This particular recipe came about because the baby oranges were on sale, and we needed to use some up before they dried out and became inedible.  Oranges go great with tuna, but I wanted just a little bit more to round out the flavor.  Dried cherries were just the thing.  Feel free to use raisins or cranberries if that is what you have.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can or pouch of tuna, drained
  • 1 small orange (or 1/2 can mandarin orange slices)
  • 1 tbsp dried cherries (or cranberries or raisins)
  • 1 tbsp mayo or miracle whip
  • 1 tsp lemon juice or cider vinegar
  • 1-2 cups chopped greens, or a wrap, or 2 slices of bread
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Step 1: Open and drain a can of tuna, mix in a bowl with the mayo and lemon juice.  Add in the cherries.

Step 2: Either wrap it up, make it into a sandwich, or serve it over a salad, topped with the orange slices.  Season to taste and enjoy!

Napa Cabbage & Roasted Beet Slaw


Happy Valentine’s Day dear readers!

Hopefully you have someone or many someones close to you to celebrate with this weekend.  Valentine’s Day of course causes some polarizing feelings, based on what your relationship status is it seems.  But there are more types of love than romantic love.  Try taking today to celebrate all your loved ones, including your family, your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers, and even random strangers.  Everyone could use a hug or a smile or a kind word.

For Valentine’s Day recipes to impress, try:

If you want to try impressing your loved one(s) with a home-cooked meal but feel daunted, try searching my “less than 5” section for recipes that take less than 5 minutes, less than 5 ingredients, or less than 5 dollars to make.

This recipe is a light, easy slaw using ingredients that are around in February: cabbage, carrots, and beets.  Dried cherries or cranberries and honey sweeten it up, while apple cider vinegar & lemon juice gives it pucker power.  And the beets give it a lovely pink color!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 large cabbage
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 medium beets
  • 1 tbsp dried cherries or cranberries
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Step 1: Cut the tops off the beets, place in an oven-safe sprayed pan and roast at 350 for 35-40 minutes, until tender when pricked with a fork.  Dice or shred the cabbage into small strips.  You will need about 3-4 cups, but can halve or double the recipe as needed.

Step 2: Julienne the carrots or shred them. (Julienne means essentially cut into very thin strips like matchsticks).  When the beets are soft, let cool enough to handle and then cut them into thin strips as well.
Step 3: In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, carrots, beets, and dried cherries or cranberries.

Step 4: In a smaller bowl, combine the oil, honey, lemon, and vinegar and whisk until well combined.

Step 5: Pour the liquid over the vegetables in the bowl.  Add some salt & pepper to taste.

Step 6: Mix everything well to coat, and refrigerator for 1 hour up to 2 weeks. 

The liquid mixed with the beets turns a nice red-pink color.  This slaw is super healthy, and tastes great on its own or slathered onto sandwiches or hot dogs.  You can also pickle it by adding slightly more vinegar to cover in a bowl or jar, and leaving it out at room temperature for 4-7 days.  Then put on a lid and put it in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

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Have a healthy, happy Valentine’s Day!

Eggs in a Green Nest

 

One of the hardest hurdles when transitioning to healthier eating, at least for the majority of people, is eating leafy greens.  We all know that leafy greens are the healthiest things out there.  They contain tons of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  They cost us next to zero calories to consume.  Greens are full of digestible and indigestible fiber to keep your digestive system strong and healthy.

So why do they taste so bad?

Foods which to us taste bitter have an array of compounds in them that naturally protect the delicate leaves from insects who would love to snack at the salad bar of nature.  It is these compounds which tend to be so beneficial for our health.  Unfortunately, humans usually dislike the bitter taste at first.  Fortunately, you can re-train your taste buds to enjoy bitter, and there are many cooking techniques to make bitter foods more palatable.

Adding small amounts of high quality fat like olive oil, or a sour taste like vinegar or lemon juice, can help temper the bitterness of greens.  Sea salt or other salty sources like hard cheeses also helps mask the harsher flavors and draw out the sweeter notes.  My recipe for simply sauteed power greens uses these techniques to create a delicious side dish that even most greens-haters can enjoy.

Greens and Egg

In this simple breakfast recipe, I combine those techniques with fresh eggs for a superstar breakfast that is ready in under 10 minutes, packed with vitamins and nutrients and protein, and will keep you happy and full all morning long.  Enjoy over some brown rice or with whole wheat toast for a well rounded meal.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 fresh organic eggs, if possible
  • 1 large bunch greens (kale, collards, mustard greens, etc) or a mixture of greens to make about 1 – 1 1/2 cups
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp hard, salty cheese such as Parmesan
  • Optional: 1-2 slices wheat bread or 1/2 cup brown rice

Greens in Pan with Egg

Step 1: Rinse your greens to remove any dirt, and slice into thin strips or shred by hand.  Add the oil to the pan, then the greens, and drizzle with lemon juice.  Cover with a lid, and steam the greens for 5-7 minutes.  Optional: you can add a chopped clove or two of garlic

Greens and Egg Yolk and Toast

Step 2: Mix the greens, they should be bright and slightly wilted now.  Use a spoon or spatula to make a small indent in the pile of greens, and crack an egg into the hole.  Cover again, and steam for another 5-7 minutes.  The longer you cook the egg, the more well-done the yolk becomes.  5-7 minutes will leave it slightly runny, as in above photo.

Once the egg is cooked to your desired done-ness, remove to a plate and serve!  I sprinkled a little hard cheese over the egg, which gives it the perfect salty balance to the tart & bitter greens.  You can also use sea salt for the same effect.

You can easily increase this recipe to feed several more people, simply increase the volume of greens and crack in one to two eggs per person.  This is delightful plain with toast, or you could serve with black beans, salsa, hot sauce, relish… whatever floats your culinary boat.