April 12, 1995|By Jane Snow | Jane Snow,Knight-Ridder News Service

When I was a kid, a playmate's annual Easter-egg hunt had a gluttonous twist. The three children in the family peeled and ate every egg they found, on the spot. The one who ate the most eggs was the winner.

Years later, when Paul Newman gulped down all those hard-boiled eggs in Cool Hand Luke, I wasn't impressed. Been there, seen that.

This Sunday, most folks will have enough hard-boiled eggs on hand for their own egg-eating contest. You might want to try it, just for the fun of watching the diet dictator in the family go screaming into the night.

Aiyiii! Cholesterol!

Makes you long for the good old days when the National Egg Board touted cholesterol as "the building block of sex hormones" and recommended that teen-agers eat "a minimum of 5.7 eggs per week."

But this isn't 1970, so what do you do with all those colored eggs?

For starters, refrigerate them. Don't leave them out for more than two hours or bacteria could grow. That means refrigerating them the night before Easter, after coloring them; and again after the egg hunt in the morning, or after they're used as a centerpiece for Easter dinner.

Hard-boiled eggs will keep for a week or more in the refrigerator, so there's no need to eat them all in one sitting. In the coming week, you can turn them into deviled eggs, pickled eggs, and spinach salad with sliced raw mushrooms and strips of leftover Easter ham instead of the usual bacon -- or for the nutrition-conscious, a cholesterol-free egg salad tinged an eggy yellow with turmeric.

Fresh works against you

If you haven't bought eggs yet for coloring, do so pronto. If you wait until this weekend, you probably won't be able to peel them without also peeling away half of the white. Fresh eggs are very difficult to peel.

Ideally, eggs should be a week old for easy peeling, but even a few days old is better than farm-fresh. That's because as eggs age, they lose carbon dioxide and water and take in air. The air forms a pocket between the membranes separating the shell and the white, making the eggs easier to peel.

Those who forget to buy eggs in advance can try freezing them for 30 minutes (no longer), then dipping in warm water and peeling. The shell contracts when cold then expands when warm, helping separate the membrane from the shell.

Got that? Now here's why that ugly, dark ring sometimes forms around the yellow of hard-boiled eggs: You boiled them instead of cooked them.

Boiling eggs, as opposed to steeping them in hot water, sometimes causes a reaction between the sulfur in the yolk and the iron in the white. Hence the ring. Boiling also makes the eggs hard and rubbery instead of solid but creamy.

Steep those eggs

The recommended method for hard-cooking eggs is to place them in a single layer in a deep skillet or large saucepan, cover with cold water and bring rapidly to a boil. Place a lid on the pan and immediately remove from the heat. Let stand (no peeking) for 17 minutes for large eggs or 20 minutes for extra-large.

Stop the cooking by carefully draining off most of the water and letting cold water run into the pan until the eggs are cool. Then dry, color and refrigerate.

Then eat -- all in one sitting, if you want.

Here are some recipes for those with more restraint.

Grilled Ham and Egg Sandwiches

Serves six

6 hard-cooked eggs

1/2 cup chopped, cooked ham

cup finely chopped onion

1/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese

2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

salt to taste

12 slices rye bread


Chop eggs and combine with ham, onion, cheese, relish, mayonnaise and salt. Spread six slices of bread with butter and place butter-sides down on a grill or in a skillet. Spread each with some of the filling. Top with remaining slices of bread and spread tops with butter. Grill until sandwiches are toasted on both sides.

Or sandwiches may be placed on a baking sheet and baked at 400 degrees 5 to 8 minutes, until golden on bottom; then flipped and baked 5 to 8 minutes longer.

This recipe is from the "American Heart Association Quick & Easy Cookbook," Mary Winston, editor.

Low-Cholesterol Egg Salad Sandwiches

Serves three

6 hard-cooked eggs

1/4 cup fat-free, cholesterol-free mayonnaise

2 tablespoons minced green onion

2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

6 slices whole-grain bread

3 lettuce leaves

Peel eggs and remove and discard yolks. Chop egg whites.

In a small bowl, combine egg whites, mayonnaise, green onion, bell pepper, mustard, tumreric, paprika and black pepper. Spread egg mixture on three slices of bread. Top with lettuce leaves and remaining bread slices.

Per sandwich: 197 calories, 2 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams fat.

This recipe has been adapted from "Pasta Salads" by Andrea Chesman.

Tuna-Macaroni Salad

Serves four to six

3/4 pound elbow macaroni

2 ribs celery

1 large carrot

1/2 onion

1 cup fresh parsley

3 hard-cooked eggs or 6 hard-cooked egg whites, chopped

1 can (about 6 ounces) tuna in water, drained

1/2 cup fat-free mayonnaise

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