Get Dinner Over Easy
Eggs may be the answer when you’re scrambling for a meal

By Lisa Turner
Photos by Rita Maas

It’s 5 p.m. and you have a hungry spouse, two ravenous kids, and half an hour to whip up a tasty, nutritious meal. A quick look in the fridge yields your solution: If you’ve got a carton of eggs, you’ve got a dozen ways to get started. Combined with just a few staple ingredients, eggs make a satisfying base for many a stress-free meal.

Eggs are great for your health, too, because they offer vitamins, minerals, and protein in a convenient, inexpensive, and low-calorie package. One large egg contains about 6 grams of protein and only 70 calories, less than an ounce of cheese or a slice of roast turkey. Eggs also boast iron and other nutrients, including choline, a compound essential for proper brain and nervous-system function, and lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that enhance eye health. And although eggs do contain cholesterol, new research confirms that eating eggs in moderation won’t increase heart disease risk. The bottom line is that eggs contribute to a healthy diet, and for people with normal cholesterol levels, an egg a day is a nutritious choice. It’s also a delicious choice: Because they’re relatively mild, eggs take to a variety of flavors and seasonings, from spicy chipotle to pungent curries, and can be married with nearly any meat or vegetable.

When you’re cooking with eggs, the key is a light touch. If frying, for example, cook eggs over low temperature in a smidgen of oil and remove from the heat as soon as they’re set; they’ll continue cooking over the next minute or two.

Now that you know the benefits and a few tricks, it’s time to get cracking. Start with these simple, quick dinner recipes that feature new ideas for eggs.

Chipotle Huevos Rancheros

Serves 4 / Reminiscent of enchiladas, these eggs get their kick from chipotle chilies canned with a spicy adobo sauce, available in most groceries. Serve with a tomato-cucumber salad.

1/2 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
6 eggs
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup low-fat sour cream, plus additional for garnish
2 teaspoons minced chipotle chili
1 teaspoon adobo sauce
1 cup grated low-fat cheddar cheese
3/4 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 6-inch corn tortillas
1 teaspoon canola oil
Prepared salsa, for garnish
Fresh cilantro sprigs, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 375º. In a medium pan, heat oil and sauté onion and green pepper until tender, 3–4 minutes. In a medium bowl, beat together 2 eggs, flour, sour cream, chipotle chili, and adobo sauce. Stir in cheese, beans, cilantro, and cooked vegetables.

2. Spray the bottom of a 1-quart glass pie dish with nonstick cooking spray and layer with corn tortillas, overlapping. Pour egg mixture over tortillas and bake for 25 minutes, until eggs are set.

3. About 5 minutes before pie is done, fry remaining 4 eggs in 1 teaspoon canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat, until set. Remove pie from oven and top with fried eggs. Cut into wedges and serve hot, garnished with sour cream, salsa, and fresh cilantro.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 359 calories % fat calories: 43 Fat: 17g Saturated Fat: 6g Cholesterol: 348mg Carbohydrate: 29g Protein: 23g Fiber: 6g Sodium: 445mg

Egg Foo Yong with Honey-Tamari Sauce

Serves 4 / Asian is easy in this healthier version of the Chinese favorite. For variety and extra protein, add leftover diced chicken, shrimp, or baked tofu. Serve with a side of steamed pea pods and cups of green tea.

6 eggs
3 tablespoons flour
1/2-1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
6 scallions, thinly sliced (white and pale green parts)
1/4 cup fresh mung bean sprouts
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped water chestnuts
2 teaspoons sesame or peanut oil, divided
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3/4 cup vegetable stock
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon low-sodium tamari
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1. In a small bowl, beat eggs. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, salt, and white pepper. Add scallions, bean sprouts, green pepper, mushrooms, and water chestnuts and toss to coat. Stir in eggs.

2. In a medium, nonstick skillet, heat 1/2 teaspoon sesame or peanut oil over medium heat. Ladle about 1/2 cup of egg mixture into skillet and cook until bottom is golden, 2–3 minutes. Flip and cook the other side for 2–3 minutes, until bottom is golden and eggs are set. Transfer to a warm platter. Repeat process with remaining oil and egg mixture.

3. While eggs are cooking, whisk cornstarch and stock in a small saucepan. Whisk in honey, tamari, toasted sesame oil and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium heat for 2–3 minutes, until smooth and thickened. Serve over egg foo yong.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 197 calories % fat calories: 52 Fat: 11g Saturated Fat: 3g Cholesterol: 320mg Carbohydrate: 12g Protein: 11g Fiber: 1g Sodium: 558mg

Creamy Egg-Tomato Pasta

Serves 6 / This simple and versatile pasta dish is low in fat and high in protein. Use whatever noodles you have on hand; for variation and extra nutrition, add chopped sun-dried tomatoes and a handful of baby spinach or arugula. Serve with a side of steamed, whole green beans or grilled zucchini.

12 ounces spinach linguine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup sliced red onion
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped black olives
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
4 eggs
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1. In a large pot, cook pasta until nearly al dente, about 10 minutes.

2. While pasta is cooking, in a medium skillet heat olive oil and sauté onion and mushrooms until onions are just tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and sauté 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes and olives and cook 4–5 minutes, or until tomatoes are tender. Add basil and remove from heat.

3. Drain all but 1 cup of the pasta water. Quickly return hot pasta with the water to stovetop. Add eggs, stirring vigorously to cook. Add tomato mixture and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 332 calories % fat calories: 27 Fat: 10g Saturated Fat: 2g Cholesterol: 146mg Carbohydrate: 47g Protein: 14g Fiber: 4g Sodium: 158mg

Monte Cristo
Serves 4 / This classic egg-battered sandwich uses turkey instead of ham for a healthier twist. Serve with a mixed green and arugula salad laced with black olives and dressed with a sharp vinaigrette.

8 slices whole-grain bread
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 1-ounce slices Swiss cheese
8 ounces sliced smoked turkey
1 large tomato, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
4 large eggs
1/4 cup nonfat milk
2 teaspoons olive or canola oil

1. Spread each bread slice with mustard. Divide and layer cheese, turkey, and tomato among four bread slices. Season with salt and pepper. Top with remaining bread slices, pressing down firmly.

2. In a shallow bowl or pie dish, beat eggs and milk. Dip both sides of each sandwich into egg mixture to soak in and coat well.

3. Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet. Cook sandwiches on one side until golden, about 4 minutes. Flip sandwiches, reduce heat, cover, and cook for an additional 4 minutes, until cheese is melted. Transfer to serving plates; slice diagonally and serve hot.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 448 calories % fat calories: 40 Fat: 20g Saturated Fat: 8g Cholesterol: 278mg Carbohydrate: 30g Protein: 38g Fiber: 5g Sodium: 639mg

Asparagus and Red-Pepper Strata
Serves 6 / This savory egg-and-bread pudding, laden with colorful spring vegetables, can be prepared in advance for an elegant one-dish meal. Serve with a simple green salad and a crisp white wine.

3 cups fresh asparagus (about 1 pound), tough stems removed
4 eggs
1/4 cup low-fat sour cream
1 cup nonfat or low-fat milk
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil
3 cups whole-grain bread cubes, crusts removed (5-6 slices)
1 cup chopped red bell pepper (about 1 medium pepper)
2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms (about 5 ounces)
1 cup finely chopped white or yellow onion
1 cup grated Swiss or Emmenthaler cheese (about 2 ounces)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, Asiago, or other sharp, hard cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Spray a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

2. Cut asparagus on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces. Blanch in boiling, salted water for 1 minute, then transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Drain and set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, beat eggs. Whisk in sour cream, milk, red pepper flakes, white pepper, and basil.

4. Place half of the bread cubes in the baking dish, then layer on half of the asparagus, red pepper, mushrooms, onions, and Swiss cheese. Pour half of the egg mixture over the vegetables. Lightly press down with a spatula. Repeat all layers. Top with Parmesan cheese. Press down again and let stand for 10 minutes.

5. Bake for 45–50 minutes, until firm in center and lightly browned. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 206 calories % fat calories: 37 Fat: 9g Saturated Fat: 4g Cholesterol: 156mg Carbohydrate: 19g Protein: 15g Fiber: 3g Sodium: 241mg

Spinach, Egg, and Potato Casserole
Serves 8 / Unexpected guests? Here’s the perfect meal—quick, inexpensive, and made with staples you probably have on hand. If you like, add 1/2 cup sliced black olives, or substitute them for the mushrooms.

1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2-3/4 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup sliced mushrooms (about 2 ounces)
1 medium russet potato, cut into small cubes
6 eggs
2 egg whites
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup low-fat sour cream
1/2 cup shredded low-fat cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Spray a 9x13-inch nonstick baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

2. In a colander, squeeze water out of spinach. Place on paper towels to drain.

3. In a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat oil and sauté onion, mushrooms, and potatoes until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

4. While potatoes are cooking, in a large bowl, beat eggs and egg whites. Thoroughly whisk in flour, salt, pepper, and sour cream. Stir in cheeses, spinach, and sautéed vegetables. Pour into prepared baking dish and bake for 40 minutes, or until firm.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: Calories: 203 calories % fat calories: 42 Fat: 10g Saturated Fat: 4g Cholesterol: 179mg Carbohydrate: 14g Protein: 15g Fiber: 2g Sodium: 531mg Lisa Turner is a food writer, recipe developer, and author of five books on health and nutrition.