Soft-boiled eggs and Winnipeg: Thank you, Mrs. Carsted

soft-boiled egg, egg cup

The simple egg took on a whole new dimension for us when we dove into the soft-boiled version. (c) Photo by Laura Groch 2014


One of my favorite leisure-morning breakfasts is the soft-boiled egg. I love eggs anyway, for breakfast, lunch or dinner, but the soft-boiled egg is special to me for several reasons. I enjoy the ritual of timing the eggs, of fishing them out of the hot water and centering them in the little blue-flowered egg cups my husband bought us one Christmas. We slice off the tops with a special tool, sprinkle a few grains of salt and use the special little spoons to scoop the white from the tops. Then we employ our favorite toasted (sometimes buttered) breads, torn into bits to carefully dip into the yolk.

It’s a relaxed, slow way to eat an egg, not suited for the rush-rush of the workday week. Soft-boiled eggs for breakfast signals that this part of the day, at least, will be unhurried, even contemplative, if only for a short time.

I wasn’t always a fan, though. My first encounter was with the specimens served to my aging grandmother, who refused to eat them without a great deal of coaxing by my grandfather and her caregiver. Even then, Nini nearly always managed to toss some of the egg to the floor or hide it in her napkin, her last stand against being led and fed by others at this stage of life. Not exactly an appetizing introduction.

No, I stuck to fried, scrambled — even poached for a time — and of course the trusty hard-boiled variety. Who on earth would want to eat a soft-boiled egg, an egg that admitted up front that it wasn’t fully cooked?

Then I married; and a year later we decided to quit our jobs and pull up stakes for a grand adventure. For two months, we traveled across America and Canada before settling in Southern California and finding new jobs.

One of our stops was in Winnipeg, Manitoba. We visited the tourist bureau there in search of lodging. For a lark, we picked up a list of bed and breakfast homes in the area. This was when B&Bs were truer to their roots: an inexpensive stay, just an extra bed in someone’s home, and breakfast the next morning provided by the hosts.

We were on a journey of adventure, so we decided to try one. We called and reserved our room for the grand price of $28. Told to arrive around 5 p.m., we visited some city sights and headed out about 4:30 p.m. for a drive across the city.

Our hosts were Helen and George Carsted, a middle-aged couple: He was a school principal, she a former schoolteacher turned real estate agent. Their home in a Winnipeg suburb was a split-level, and we had a pleasantly roomy bedroom on the upper floor and use of a private bath. Helen also volunteered the use of her washer and dryer.

The Carsteds were friendly — you’d have to be to want to share your home with strangers, even nice ones like we were. They offered restaurant recommendations for that evening, and even gave us our own house key. After we returned from dinner, Greg and Mr. Carsted sat by the fire in the living room and chatted, and Mrs. Carsted and I visited while I did our laundry. She was babysitting her grandchildren, whom she would ferry home later that evening.

The next morning, Mr. Carsted was off to work, and Greg and I awaited our first bed-and-breakfast breakfast. What would be served? Pancakes? Waffles? Omelets?

Mrs. Carsted was ready for us at 9 a.m. with cold cereal to start. Then came a basket covered with a green linen napkin: “I’ve got soft-boiled eggs and toast for you,” she announced with a big smile.

Greg and I looked at each other. We could hardly refuse to eat the eggs our delightful hostess was providing. I took a deep breath. “You’ll have to show us how to eat these,” I said. “We’ve never had them before.”

Unperturbed by her gauche young guests, Mrs. Carsted sat down and proceeded to teach us. Tentative at first, we quickly mastered the skill of beheading the eggs, then dipping buttered toast fingers into the deep-yellow yolks.

Those eggs were a small revelation, but also a lesson in humility: Had we not admitted our ignorance, we would not have been able to enjoy this breakfast offering for near on 30 years. Instead, we have eaten them fearlessly ever since.

The rest of the breakfast, recorded in my travel diary, was freshly pureed tomato juice, hot tea, and cinnamon buns. But the soft-boiled eggs became our tradition, a reminder of that grand two-month expedition to places unknown, meeting new people, learning new things.

Now, on Sunday mornings, with a fresh-brewed pot of tea before us and the scent of slightly burned toast in the air, Greg and I often think of our Winnipeg adventure as we crack into our soft-boiled eggs. Such a simple gift, that left such a lasting memory. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mrs. Carsted.


Fill a small- to medium-sized saucepan with enough tap water to cover 1-3 medium to large eggs. Bring the water to a boil; with a spoon, gently but quickly lower each egg into the boiling water. Once the last egg is in, set a timer for 3 minutes and 30 seconds. (That’s how we like ours.) Let the eggs come back to the boil and continue boiling until the timer goes off.

Use the spoon to scoop up the eggs quickly and set them into their egg cups. (If you don’t have an egg cup, improvise with a small liqueur glass or whiskey jigger.) Use an egg topper to slice away the top of the egg and shell (don’t forget to eat the white that’s in the shell top), or use a knife to crack into the top of the shell and gently work your way around it.

The egg should be on the slightly solid side of semisolid — the white should be cooked, but the yolk should be semiliquid. (If it’s hard-boiled, you’ll know you’ve cooked it too long.) Toast some bread or English muffins to your liking; butter the slices if you wish, then slice or tear them into pieces that will fit into the open end of the egg to dunk in the yolk. You can scoop out the rest with a small spoon, adding salt and pepper as you go.

If you want to cook more than 3 eggs, you’ll need to adjust your cooking time. For a thorough look at the process, check out Cook’s Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen piece on soft-boiling eggs here:


(c) copyright Laura Groch 2014

Make it milk: Fun snacks for kids

Tiramisu, calcium, milk, dessert, snack, National Nutrition Month

This Tiramisu Parfait is easy enough for children to put together, and it packs lots of nutritious calcium from milk. (Photos courtesy California Milk Processor Board)

Chef Gino Campagna, snacks, zucchini dip, tiramisu parfait, National Nutrition Month, California Milk Processors Board

Chef Gino Campagna offers these recipes for kid-friendly snacks and more at

March is National Nutrition Month, and the California Milk Processor Board is partnering with former Disney Chef Gino Campagna to create kid-friendly — and healthful — snack ideas that youngsters can put together themselves. Kids love snacks, but not all snacks are created equal, especially in terms of nutrition. These recipes were developed to give kids plenty of calcium in each serving. The National Institutes of Child Health report that almost 90 percent of girls and more than 80 percent of boys ages 9-13 aren’t getting enough calcium, needed for strong bones.

“We need to engage our kids in grocery shopping and cooking at a young age so that healthy habits stick with them through life,” says Chef Gino, Master Chef at Piccolo Chef, an award-winning children’s cooking school. “Fruits, veggies and low-fat milk can be incorporated into easy-to-make snacks that provide kids the nutrients they need.” Chef Gino has also worked with Michelle Obama’s “Chefs Move To Schools” program and Jamie Oliver’s The Food Revolution. Here are some of Chef Gino’s milk-based after-school snacks recipes. For more, visit


2 tablespoons Greek yogurt, vanilla flavor
2 teaspoons plus 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup of low fat milk
4 square graham crackers

Mix Greek yogurt with 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder and 2 tablespoons of milk, mixing until smooth and creamy. Begin by spreading a layer of the yogurt mixture in a small bowl. Next, pour 1/2 cup of milk in a wide bowl and dip one graham cracker in the milk for a few seconds until moist, but not soggy. Lay the cracker over the yogurt and spread another layer of yogurt on top. Repeat with the remaining graham crackers, ending with a layer of yogurt. Last, dust the additional teaspoon of cocoa powder on top of the parfait and refrigerate for one hour before serving — or eat right away. Serves 1. Each serving contains approximately 279 mg of calcium.


1/3 cup of milk
1/2 pound of sliced zucchini
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano Reggiano
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup basil leaves
A large pinch of salt
Crudités: carrots, celery, radishes, grape tomatoes, cucumber slices

In a blender, combine all the dip ingredients and blend about 60 seconds or until the dip is smooth. Use it for dipping cut-up vegetables or whole wheat crackers as a snack, or as a sauce for pasta. Serves 4. Each serving contains approximately 175 mg of calcium .

* Dip will keep in the refrigerator for three to four days


1 cup low-fat milk
2 cups whole strawberries, blueberries or raspberries
Sugar (optional)
6 Popsicle molds or 5-ounce paper cups with wooden popsicle sticks

In a blender, combine all the ingredients and blend about 60 seconds or until the mixture is smooth. Taste and add sugar as needed. Fill the Popsicle molds with the mixture and freeze for a few hours. If using paper cups, freeze until partially frozen and insert sticks, then return to freezer until frozen. Serves 6.

Each serving contains approximately 54 mg of calcium.


(c) Laura Groch 2014

Pesto for St. Patrick’s Day

cilantro pesto, pesto, meatless, vegetarian, St. Patrick's Day, St. Joseph's Day

Nothing says green like a pesto sauce! The brilliant emerald color comes from cilantro leaves instead of basil. (Photos by Laura Groch 2014)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! You won’t find a recipe for corned beef or Irish soda bread here today, but I do have a recipe that’s very green. And it’s also kind of Italian, which checks off St. Joseph’s Day (March 19), and it’s meatless, so it works for Lenten Friday meals too.

But I have to warn you, it’s not for everyone. This recipe is for a flavorful pesto — made with cilantro leaves instead of basil.

Cilantro is a flavor not universally embraced, although it is part of many cuisines, including Mexican, Spanish, Moroccan, Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian. The seeds and ground form of this plant are known as coriander, according to “The Encyclopedia of Herbs, Spices and Flavorings: A Cook’s Compendium” by Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz (Dorling Kindersley, 1992). Ortiz also writes that this is one of the bitter herbs eaten at Passover and is mentioned in the Bible.

cilantro pesto, pasta

Cilantro pesto has an assertive but pleasant flavor. Try it over your favorite pasta. (Mine’s fettuccine.)

It does have an assertive flavor, so this recipe may not be for everyone. However, if you love cilantro as I do, you might want to give it a try.

Fresh basil isn’t always available for pesto, and it’s sometimes pricey — whereas cilantro was selling in one of my neighborhood markets last week for 25 cents a bunch. At that price, it’s easy and economical to work up a couple of batches and freeze them. They thaw pretty well.

You can use this pesto to dress pasta or rice, or stir it by the spoonful into soups, as the French do with their pistou.

Be sure to wash the cilantro leaves thoroughly (they can hold a lot of dirt) and toss any wilted or yellowing ones. I usually first pick over the leaves, then swish them in several changes of water. If your bunch of cilantro has very long stems, trim them to about 4 inches long, otherwise the pesto may be too stringy.

Here’s my recipe. You can vary the amounts to your taste. To make it full vegan,

pesto, cilantro pesto, cannellini beans

Top your cilantro pesto with cooked white or cannellini beans for a protein boost.

try substituting some seasoned bread crumbs for the Parmesan cheese. Also, traditional pestos use pignoli nuts (pine nuts), and you can use those instead of walnuts if you prefer. We like to top it with some cooked white or cannellini beans for an extra protein boost.

In honor of today being St. Patrick’s Day, I’ve christened it:


1 bunch cilantro leaves (2 1/2 to 3 cups), cleaned, roughly chopped

1 to 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1/4 cup walnut pieces

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, or to taste

3 tablespoons oil, or to taste


In bowl of food processor, place first three ingredients. Puree for a minute or two, then add oil and cheese. Puree again for another minute or two or until thoroughly blended. Add salt to taste if you wish. Serve over hot cooked pasta or rice, and add cooked beans if you desire. Makes about 1 cup pesto.

(c) Laura Groch 2014

Don’t forget the CLIF drawing! Get your comments in

Reminder: If you’d like to enter the drawing for free CLIF bars, the deadline is end of day Saturday, March 15. The CLIF folks are publicizing their new Sierra Trail Mix bars by offering gift packs to three lucky winners. To enter,

CLIF bars, contest, giveaway

Don’t forget to add a comment on the blog for a chance to win free CLIF bars!

just leave a comment on the original blogpost at to be entered in the drawing for a free pack of CLIF energy bars! Three winners will be chosen. Good luck!

Stoked about stochasticity: Grapefruit Slam IPA

The label on The Stochasticity Project's Grapefruit Slam IPA.

The label on The Stochasticity Project’s Grapefruit Slam IPA.

Grapefruit Slam IPA. Sounds like something those folks at Stone Brewing in Escondido would do, doesn’t it? This beer, released Feb. 10 in 22-ounce bottles, comes from “The Stochasticity Project,”, and if you like bitter, you’ll probably like this new release. (Check out the label from a distance — see if you see anything familiar in the gridlike pattern on the bottle. Hint: It will be very familiar to drinkers of Stone brews.) The Stone folks seem to be running the publicity, but the beer is registered under Koochenvagner Brewing Company. (Hm. Stone was founded by Greg Koch and Steve Wagner. Just sayin’.)

Grapefruit Slam IPA. Step back a bit and look at the image in the center of the label. Recognize anyone? (Photos courtesy Stochasticity Project)

Grapefruit Slam IPA. Step back a bit and look at the image in the center of the label. Recognize anyone? (Photos courtesy Stochasticity Project)

Anyway, the Project’s web page ( describes the beer as a big-bodied pale ale “marrying hand-zested grapefruit peel with the inherent citrusy biterness of Centennial hops” —  “an intensely citrusy brew.” You should be able to find it at liquor stores all over San Diego County.

The Project answered a few questions via email:

Unusual name, Stochasticity. Where’d it come from?

Stochastic is defined as: random; specifically involving a random variable; involving chance or probability. We didn’t want to limit the beers coming from the Stochasticity Project to any one particular style of beer or specific characteristic. All of the releases will definitely involve a random variable whether it is timing of the beer release, ingredients, or the areas the beer will be available.

Who are the people behind/in charge of the Stochasticity Project? 

Everyone that makes up a brewery — brewers, beer scientists, quality assurance engineers, management, administration etc. Their goal is to develop beer recipes by exploring the science of beer, cutting edge theories and other ideas that govern the direction of this ongoing program.

Why grapefruit, and why such pride in such a bitter beer?  

The essential oils and monoterpenoids, like geraniol and citronellol, which are found in hops often provide aromatic components that are described in professional sensory panels as “citrusy.” Flavors like grapefruit, lemon and/or lime for example. The potential synergy of specific hop varieties with citrus fruit is something that brewers who research unique ingredients, and who focus on combining the art of brewing with science, have been experimenting with for a while.

You say your website is not going to be a forum for passive enthusiasts. What exactly are you going for here, then?

The website shares insight into the science behind boundary-pushing beers and features a plethora of information on how science is furthering the development of craft beer. This website isn’t for the average person just looking for a thirst quenching beverage, it’s for someone (who) wants to learn how the beverage was created and conceptualized.

(c) Laura Groch 2014

A winner, and another giveaway!

I’m happy to announce that Barbara Croonquist of Riverside won the free copy of Murrieta author Linda Amendt’s “Gluten-Free Breakfast, Brunch & Beyond” (Taunton Press, 2013), which I wrote about in September 2013.

Now I’ve got another giveaway for you, this one from CLIF Bars.  (Photo courtesy CLIF Bars)


Not to be left out of the chocolate frenzy for Valentine’s Day, the company’s  newest bar, Sierra Trail Mix, is the first CLIF Bar flavor to be made with sustainably grown cocoa from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. (Yes, it carries the frog seal on the package.) I’m not saying it’s equivalent to a morsel from See’s or Jer’s — but on the other hand, it’s a lot easier to bring along on a romantic stroll than a two-pound box. ;<)

Each 2.4-ounce energy bar also contains peanuts, organic rolled oats and raisins, among other goodies, and weighs in at 250 calories, 70 from fat. Suggested price is $1.39 per bar.

The CLIF Bar folks are offering three giveaways to readers who post a comment on this entry. Add your comment below by March 15, and I’ll choose three at random for a free gift pack of CLIF Bars!

(c) copyright Laura Groch 2014

This post was corrected on Feb. 17, 2014 from its original writing.

Bless these throats

St. Blaise is not the patron saint of cooks — that would be St. Lawrence — but he is the patron saint of throats, which is the main way we experience our food.  (That’s how I’m making this a food-related post, guys.) Today is his feast day, and on this day, Catholic Churches still conduct the annual blessing of throats associated with his memory. (Legend has it he cured a child who was choking on a fishbone.) I went to parochial school for six years, and after morning Mass on Feb. 3, we would line up to receive our individual neck check. Some priests just held two candles together in one hand in the shape of an X; in other parishes, the candles were specially formed to go partly around the neck. The priest held the juncture of the candles briefly to the person’s throat while asking St. Blaise to save us from all related ailments. A comforting ritual, as many rituals are meant to be. I just wanted to give St. Blaise a shout-out and a thank you on his special day!

(c) copyright Laura Groch 2014