Irish Apple Cake

Usually when our anniversary rolls round we are up to our ears in some house project.  If we were smart we’d do a trip or something fun like we did a few years ago.  But then again the list won’t take care of itself!

A big project is to redo the wrap around porch which means pulling up boards and lay new ones down as we go.  When most of it was done it was time to get in a skip to get the trash removed.  Silly me, I thought we could work on our foyer and walk in closet.  Might as well fill the skip up!

What was I thinking?  Granted it will cross two more projects off the list.  But we’re tired!  In the days leading up to our anniversary my husband took a few days off to make a dent in the projects.  When our anniversary rolled round we hit a wall where my husband had to handle things as I was unable to.  I felt guilty!  So I thought I should bake him a treat.  It was the least I could do.

Given that we went apple picking and we have a ton of apples I had to pick something that would use some up.  I have a great book called “Irish Traditional Cooking” by Darina Allen.  In it is a recipe for Irish Apple Cake.  I mostly followed it.

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.

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In a medium sized bowl add 2 cups of flour, 1/3 tsp baking powder, and 8 T of butter.  You want the butter at room temperature so you can blend the ingredients.  With a pastry fork or your hands work the ingredients together until it looks like breadcrumbs or small beads.

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Mix in half a cup of sugar then add one beaten egg.

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You will need 1/2 to 2/3 cup of milk.  Gradually add a little bit of milk at a time until the dough is soft and incorporated.  This dough will be a pain to work with as it is wet and sticky.  Flour your hands and rolling pin to work with it.

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Grease a 9″ spring form pan.  Roll out half of the dough and place it in the bottom of the pan.

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There is a good chance you’ll have to patch holes with this so don’t be discouraged.  Press the dough up the sides a bit.  Slice a couple of apples and layer them round the middle.  Sprinkle brown sugar over the apples.

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Roll out the rest of the dough and place over the apples.  Brush with a beaten egg.

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Bake for 40 minutes or so until the dough is cooked and a nice golden colour.

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Good luck waiting until this cools.  Slice and serve.

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My husband did appreciate this with a cup of tea when he got a chance to take a break and sit for awhile.  🙂

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Finally French Baked Eggs!

There are times where you have to try, try, and try again.  Such is life.  It gets a bit annoying when that happens with a recipe.

I saw a recipe in a cookery book of Barefoot Contessa’s for easy baked eggs.  Ooh, I thought, this looks amazing.  Let’s have a go.

To start her method was to broil.  I followed it to the letter.  Three times and failed each time.  I was starting to get annoyed!  The flavours were there but the yolk would over cook and the whites would stay runny.  Not the way I wanted.

In the meantime I tried Jovina Cooks Italian recipe for Marinara Baked Eggs.  I still struggled with getting the yolks runny but it was a better result.  My husband and I talked about maybe separating the eggs and cooking the whites for a bit.  Darya on Tortore mentioned in the comments the same idea so that settled it.  I was going to give it another try.

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This recipe is for one serving.  Finely chop a handful of parsley, rosemary, and thyme.  Then finely mince a clove of garlic.  Grate about a 1/4 cup of fresh parmesan.  Set all this aside.

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Preheat the oven to 400F/205C.  In a shallow bake safe dish heat up 1 1/2 tablespoons of cream and a tablespoon of butter.

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Separate three eggs and add the whites and half the cheese and herb mixture to the dish.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Bake until the whites are almost set, fluffing a few times as it cooks.  Add the three yolks.

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Add the rest of the herb and cheese mixture.  Bake a few minutes more until the yolks are warm but still runny.  I was feeling really positive by this point!  Once the eggs are cooked, remove from the heat.  Grate a bit more parmesan over the eggs.  Toast up crusty bread to serve with.

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Look at that, runny yolks!  This was easy.  🙂  And oh so good.  I am so happy I figured this out.  There is an extra step but it means I get the result I’m supposed to.

Baked Eggs and Getting on the Right Path

Yesterday I started my physio for my hip.  Something I should have done when I fell in January.  I have no excuse but after a total of about 3 months resting the back in bed over the course of this year I wised up.

Because I had two severe falls within 5 years on my left hip I shifted the SI joint.  Which apparently is really hard to do.  But I seem to want to excel in the worse areas.  The woman who is guiding me through physio said that while a lot of people say they’ve shifted the SI, it’s not common.  Injuring that area is but not the shifting bit.  It’s been an interesting look into body mechanics.  The muscles reacted so quickly to protect the area and “locked” things down.  But I didn’t do anything to fix the ligaments so now that I’ve been fixing the muscles things are disabled.  Loosey goosey, if you will!  So I have to have a brace round my hips as they said I need to treat it like, in layman’s terms, I sprained my bum.  Oops.

But I’m thrilled we now have a plan action.  Spending a crazy amount of time heating and icing my lower back and hip gets very boring very quickly.  I have too many things on my list!

One dish I’ve been trying to get down is baked eggs.  I had been trying to do a French recipe from Barefoot Contessa for baked eggs.  She had said to broil them and I’ve had no luck.  I got the flavour down but not the cooking part.  Jovina Cooks Italian posted about marinara baked eggs.  Actually baked, not broiled and I had some marinara sauce to use up.  I can take a hint.  🙂  This is my take on it.

Preheat the oven to 425F/220C.

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In a small baking dish add a third cup of marinara sauce.  Heat this up in the microwave.

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Add three eggs.

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Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

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Baked until the egg whites are firm and the yolks are runny.  This is the tricky part.  So don’t get discouraged if you struggle with this bit.

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Top with basil and season with sea salt and pepper.  Buttered toast is perfect to go with this.

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This was a great way to start the day.  Full of flavour and hearty.  And it went way better than the French recipe but I’m not giving up on that one.  Once I get that down I’ll post it.

Put the Devil in the Eggs for the Holidays

Every year I worry there is enough food for the holidays then I end up being confronted with a stuffed fridge.  And coming up with many ways to creatively empty said fridge.  But as the family’s dietary needs change there is a challenge of making sure everyone has something they can eat without making them ill.

One has to follow the fodmaps diet and she loves eggs so I thought it would be fun to dust off a classic and update it a bit.  We used to love the deviled eggs that mum made when we were growing up.

I had to make sure that at least one of the ways I made them didn’t have any garlic.  Because I planned on using my homemade mustard I had to make another variation.

After doing a bit of research on the internet, because it’s been years since I boiled an egg, I got to it.  I did the eggs the day before so they were chilled completely when it was time to peel and make up.

Various sites gave me the following steps to take to cook the eggs.  First place the eggs in an empty pan.

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Fill with cold water until the eggs are covered.  Add a bit of salt and white vinegar.  This helps contain any egg whites that might leak if the shell breaks.  Bring to a boil and turn off the heat and leave the eggs in the water for 10-12 minutes.

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Place the eggs in cold water to cool down.  When it is time to put it all together, peel the eggs.  I found it worked best for me by whacking the eggs round to crush the shells a bit then peel.  Slice the eggs in half.

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Scoop out the yolks into a bowl.

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For the fodmaps version I added a couple of spoonfuls of plain greek yoghurt, a few teaspoons of horseradish, fresh thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.

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Mix well and adjust the ingredients as needed.  Some of us like the punch of horseradish!  Fill in the egg whites with the mixture.  For the second version I added a few spoonfuls of the plain greek yoghurt, a few dollops of mustard, fresh thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.

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Again mix well and add it to the egg whites.  For the mustard deviled eggs I dusted them with cayenne pepper to give it a bit of a pop.

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This starter was a simple way to add a ton of flavour to the menu and make sure it met all the various dietary needs without a lot of effort.

Eggs Benedict with Avocado

There was a break in the humidity this weekend which allowed us to take advantage of weather to do a lot of little chores in the garden.  I am a bit worried about the potatoes as the leaves are looking a worse for wear.  After some research I realised that we aren’t given enough nutrients for them.  Hopefully I can get that sorted this week. 

Still no sign of the parsnips.  I mean none sprouted.  I find it really strange so I’m wondering if the packet of seeds was any good.  Keeping fingers crossed we chased off the rabbits again this year.  We were dealing with squirrels and the rabbits snuck in.  One was bold.  I ran towards it making all sorts of noise and it just looked at me.  Guess I need to work on my technique. 

After several hours of puttering about I was in the mood for a hearty lunch.  I had an avocado and some homemade ciabatta bread so it was a small leap to eggs benedict.  Makes sense, right?

As delicious as this meal is there is some of juggling with the prep to get it all done at the same time.  I made a half recipe from the Fanny Farmer’s Cookbook as a 1/2 cup was enough.  Set up the ciabatta to be toasted and buttered, then set up the eggs to be poached

If you are new to hollandaise sauce definitely use a double boiler.  When I started I didn’t have one and so learned in a small saucepan. 

In the pan over very low heat whisk two small egg yolks.

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These need to be whisked but not so much you scramble them.  Add a tablespoon of lemon juice and slowly add 1/8lb of melted butter while stirring.

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Slowly add a tablespoon of hot water, dash of cayenne pepper, and salt to taste.  Stir for a minute or so until thickened.  

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Layer the bread, avocado, poached eggs, and the sauce.  Season with salt and pepper.

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This is such a treat when the egg is cut into and the yolk blends with the hollandaise sauce.

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After a hard morning working in the garden this was a great reward. 

A First Crack at a French Omelette…

Well it’s back to reality now.  We came back on Thursday from a fabulous trip to England to see friends and family.  Thursday was a 21 hour day so I barely avoided going face first into the pillow when we made it home.  A friend of ours asked me what I missed when we were gone and it was a bit erm ketchup?  Seriously, when we move back we’ll be asking any visiting friends to bring us ketchup.

Of course I missed our kitchen.  My husband and I got a bit of cooking in, there was an amazing leg of lamb, but it’s hard when it’s not your kitchen.  Not knowing where things are slow you down!  And if you are trying to cook to allow your mother-in-law to relax, it’s hard for her to relax if you are asking where things are.  But we did our best.

After doing a few travel and train posts I was anxious to get back to recipes though the jet lag held me back a bit but today was better.  I thought I’d be bold and go for a French omelette.  The fluffy, creamy, make in a few seconds but has a high level of technique kind.  And as it was my first time, take pictures!  Hmmm.  Maybe the jet lag hasn’t worked it’s way through yet.  But I did it anyway.

I used Julia Child’s book Mastering the Art of French Cooking for this.  It highly recommends a non stick omelette pan.  Which I don’t own.  I own a crepe pan.  I think I upped the level of difficulty right there as it is helpful to have some sides to the pan.

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The cooking of the eggs is very quick so prep the ingredients beforehand.  I chopped up fresh thyme and chives from the garden and grated a 1/4 cup of fresh parmesan.  In a bowl beat 2-3 eggs until blended.  Don’t whip them just get them integrated.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Heat a tablespoon of butter in the pan you are going to use, moving it about to coat the sides and the bottom.  The book says that once the foam subsides and just before the colour changes it is hot enough.

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Add the eggs and slide the pan back and forth.  The book recommends using a fork but as I don’t want to scratch the pan I used a silicon spatula but you want to stir the eggs quickly as the eggs thicken.  Not scramble them mind but keep the egg moving as it spreads out to cook.  This only takes a few seconds.

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As it begins to fluff up and starts to look like a broken custard add your fillings.  And when they said in a few seconds they weren’t kidding.  I could have used three arms for this with taking photos!

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Gently move it about folding it over itself by bringing the pan to a 45 degree angle.  If it sticks whack the handle a few times.  However you do this you don’t want the eggs to stick.  They’ll start overcooking.  Roll it onto a hot plate.

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Add a bit of butter to melt over the top and serve.  I was quite pleased with this being the first attempt but I can see I need some practice.  I don’t mind.  🙂

PS, I see coming back to the PC that the website changed.  Anyone know how to preview before publishing?  I can’t find it.

Goat Cheese and Leek Quiche

I don’t know what my expectations were for the food on the ship.  I don’t think they were high or low but maybe just hopeful.  We enjoy good food and it’s part of our experience when we travel or just live.  Overall it was fair to middling but I did get some inspiration here and there to try at home.  One starter my husband ordered was a goat cheese and leek tart. I had a small bite and thought I could come up with something that we’d all like.

We got back home late Tuesday night after a nearly 20 hour day of traveling.  Now you would think that would mean we needed a good long sleep.  Oh no.  Bright eyed at 4am.  Why?  The only good thing was we managed to get a ton of stuff done before 7am.  Unpacked, laundry started and all!  Picking up the dogs is always an adventure after a trip.  They love the kennel and get excited when we pack their things but they are equally excited to come home.  They barrel down the hallway leaping about like idiots.  Trying to get the harnesses and leashes back on them is like wrestling an octopus!

Then the day dragged as we had to wait until school was over to get the kids.  We missed them so much!  I wanted to do a home cooked meal for them but I needed something simple as I knew by the time dinner needed to be made I would be struggling to keep my eyes open.  This quiche would do the trick.

Preheat the oven to 425F/220C

I prepped the veg first.  I chopped several mushrooms, couple cloves of garlic,  and a small leek from our garden.  And sauteed them in some olive oil.  As they soften I added just a smidge of veg bouillon and a few splashes of water to the mix.

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In a small bowl I prepared the rest of the mixture.  Mix together 4 eggs and two cups of milk.  We use 2% milk and that works just fine.

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I crumbled up 4 oz of soft goat cheese and added it to the egg mixture.  To season salt and pepper to taste and add a few teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce.

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Set this aside and make the pastry dough for the pie shell.  Spoon in the leek mixture and spread along the bottom.

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Pour in the egg mixture on top and bake for 15 minutes.

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Reduce the heat to 350F/175C and bake for another 30 minutes or so.  Until the toothpick test comes out clean.

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If you are not jetlagged, hungry, and wanting a pillow let it set for 5-10 minutes.  I barely made it 5 before I was ready to serve so it was a bit soft but the flavour was there.

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This was perfect comfort food after a very long day.  But it was wonderful to have a sit down dinner with the kids again listening to how their day went.  I missed that.

A Proper Fry Up – Not Just for Breakfast!

Once or twice a year my husband and I drag ourselves out to do some real shopping.  Neither of us like shopping and I drag more than he does but it has to be done otherwise we’d wear through our clothes and start getting funny looks.  It went as well as it could and we were exhausted by the time we got home yesterday after two days of trying on clothes.  Seriously, they really need to make it a better shopping experience.  I love Brooks Brothers clothes (from the outlets of course :)) but the sales woman explained to me that they run really small so I should be looking at 4 sizes up.  Excuse me?  How is that a good marketing plan?  She was very nice but I went two doors down to Talbots and found my size that fit.  🙂  It’s times like this where I will freely admit my husband has the patience of a saint because I get really cranky.  This is the only time I will admit it though!

So to give us some strength for the weekend I thought it would be fun to have a fry up for dinner.  For those that don’t know it’s a full English Breakfast.  The only thing I didn’t do was the fried bread.  I’m trying to be good.  Ahem.

We have a source for the Irish Bangers, the HP brown sauce, and the Heinz beans.  The only thing we don’t have is the English bacon.  Which I like but not as much as streaky bacon so we were in great shape.  This does have to be staged somewhat so it can all be served hot.  I start the bacon first as you need the fat for the other components.

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The beans go in a small pot to heat up.  It’s important to keep stirring as you go so it doesn’t catch on the bottom.

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The bangers come fully cooked but they need to be warmed up.  These are very thick so I pierce them with a knife and microwave for a minute or so then put them in a skillet with a bit of olive oil to brown them nicely.

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Once the bacon is done I place it on a warmed plate with paper towels to blot and keep them in a warmed toaster oven.  As things finish cooking they join the bacon to keep warm.  I sliced up some button mushrooms and tomatoes.  The mushrooms need to cook about halfway before adding the tomatoes.

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After the mushrooms and the tomatoes are removed from the skillet it is time to fry the eggs.  Normally I fry my eggs in fat free cooking spray but not when I do a fry up!  I love the flavour of fried eggs in bacon fat.  Just can’t do it very often.

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Serve everything together and it goes down a treat.

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When the kids came home last night they found out we still have bacon and bangers so they requested this for dinner tonight.  I mean we wouldn’t want the ingredients to go to waste now would we?  😉

Zucchini/Courgette Flans

In the interest of complete transparency, I need to confess.  I hate zucchini.  Right up there with Brussels sprouts.  However, we are currently growing them in our garden.  We let our kids each pick a veg to grow and my daughter picked zucchini.  Sigh.  And they are huge!  So of course I have been on the look out for recipes.  Something that would make me like zucchini.  I have recently found the blog Manger which is a wonderful blog with amazing pictures and recipes.  I would love to have her photographer.  Whoever it is knows their stuff.  This past weekend she blogged about Bastille day and in among the recipes was one for zucchini flan.  I thought it would be perfect to try.

Now in her recipe she mentioned using two large zucchinis.  I don’t think she had in mind what I harvested.

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Preheat the oven to 350F/180C

In her recipe she said to thinly slice in half rondelles.  This thing was 3″ in diameter in some spots.  For this recipe I used 1/3 of the above zucchini and cut it up in small triangles.  I didn’t have shallots so I used 1/2 an onion from the farmers market.  These were the sweet ones I found and used last week.

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I finely chopped the onion and a clove of garlic.  Use either a large clove or 2 smaller cloves.  I drizzled a bit of olive oil into a skillet and heated that up.

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Saute the zucchini, garlic and onion.  While this is cooking beat 5 eggs in a large bowl.  Her recipe calls for 4 T of corn starch to be mixed into the eggs.  I had about 2 1/2 T so I supplemented with flour and it came out well.  The hardest part was getting rid of the lumps!

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Grate 105g of cheese like a guyere.  I used the Jarlsberg we have on hand.  I grabbed a handful of fresh mint from our garden and chiffonade the leaves.  Mix all this together.  Once the zucchini mixture starts to become lightly brown remove from the heat.

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Add to the egg mixture and mix gently.  Add the remaining ingredients of 2 T of lemon juice, 1/2 tsp of nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.

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Use a tin with small muffin wells that are sprayed with oil.  Spoon in the mixture.  This made about 8 flans with the size I had.  Bake for 20-25 minutes depending on your oven.

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I had decided to make these when it was much cooler.  The day just got hotter so by the time I needed to make these I didn’t want to cook!  So I thought these would be perfect with a light salad given that the humidity was drifting back up.

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The kids loved these and so did my husband.  The lemon juice and mint added a brightness to the dish.  I would have loved it if it didn’t have zucchini.  My son did ask me if I could make these again for his birthday.  Which is next June so hopefully I don’t forget!  🙂

Poached Eggs on Toast

I love eggs and usually have them for breakfast but I don’t have poached eggs often.  Not sure why as I love them.  But this past weekend I have a craving for them.  They aren’t difficult to make but you need to watch your timing.  I learned my technique from my dad who has made some fabulous breakfasts over the years for us.

Start with a medium pan and pour 1/4 cup of white vinegar into the water.  Bring to a boil.

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While it is coming to a boil place the eggs in separate cups.  You want to keep the eggs apart so one can go on each piece of toast.

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Once the water is boiling it’s time to put the eggs into the water.  You don’t want to plop them in!  You need to roll the eggs in gently.  Because of the timing of cooking you don’t want to poach a bunch of eggs at the same time otherwise you’ll have some overdone and some underdone.

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I prefer my yolks runny so I cooked them for 2 minutes and 45 seconds.  My dad prefers the golden colour but not runny so he cooks his for 4 minutes.  Once done remove and place on the buttered toast.

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I used this bread.  Salt and pepper to taste.

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A quick but delicious breakfast!