Monday, May 6, 2013

0 Recipe #359: Baked Egg in an Avocado Topped with Homemade Pico de Gallo

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This was today's breakfast, although it could also be served for lunch or dinner, or even as a snack. Of course, this recipe is yet another selection from The Athlete's Cookbook. You'll probably notice that there have been a plethora of avocado recipes here lately. That's no coincidence. It's been an avocado kind of week. :)

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last couple of years, you've probably already seen 5 zillion articles plastered all over the web (and other forms of media) about how the avocado is one of the world's most amazing superfoods. :) Avocados are particularly rich in healthy monounsaturated fats and vitamin A, both of which have a myriad number of health benefits, many of which are of particular use of athletes. For starters, Vitamin A supports muscle tissue growth by helping to create essential proteins in the body. It also helps boost testosterone, which plays a key role in increasing muscle mass and bone density. Vitamin A also has another athletic benefit: it helps oxygenate your blood by supporting red blood cell formation and transporting iron to your red blood cells. And of course, if you're trying to improve your VO2 max (how much oxygen your body is able to consume and use while exercising), you'll want to take full advantage of this benefit.

And here's another major health benefit: Avocado oil significantly boosts the absorption of beta-carotene and lycopene, two very important carotenoids (i.e., one of the major classes of phytonutrients) containing high levels of antioxidants, both of which are not-so-coincidentally found in copious amounts in this recipe. :) (If you need a hint as to exactly where these carotenoids are located, then check out the ingredients in the homemade pico de gallo. :-D For example, tomatoes, for one, are rich in both lycopene and beta-carotene.)

So how does this carotenoid absorption process work, exactly? Well, one notable distinction of carotenoids is that they are fat soluble (i.e., they can be dissolved in fats). This is important because, when fat-soluble nutrients are dissolved, this make it easier for them to be stored in the liver and fatty tissues of your body and then utilized for various life-critical functions.

In a study done by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the carotenoid bioavailability of salad, (which consisted of romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and carrots -- all high in carotenoids), was shown to be significantly higher (by 200-400%!) when ingested with full-fat, as opposed to reduced-fat, dressing. So, in other words, in order to reap their full benefits, it's best to eat carotenoid rich foods with a bit of fat, particularly healthy, full-fat selections like avocados or olive oil. And it doesn't take a lot of fat either; as little as 3-5 grams of fat will do the trick.

Thus ends today's mini nutrition lesson. :) And now onto the recipe.... Enjoy!

Baked Egg in an Avocado Topped with Homemade Pico de Gallo

General Ingredients:
1 Haas avocado, pitted, peeled, and halved
2 large eggs, at room temperature
salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Pico de Gallo Ingredients:
1 c. vine-ripened tomatoes, diced and drained of liquid (about 1 extra large tomato)
1/8 c. scallions (about 1 large scallion)
1 Tbsp. jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced (or for less heat, 1/2 Tbsp. jalapeño or 1 Tbsp. green bell pepper)
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 tsp. (mild) Mexican chili powder
1/16 tsp. (dash) salt
1/16 tsp. (dash) ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, finely minced

Directions: Preheat oven to 425°F. Using a spoon, scoop out a small amount of avocado from each avocado half. Nestle the avocado halves into a small baking dish so that they stay upright. Crack an egg into each avocado half, then season with salt and pepper, to taste. Place the baking dish into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until cooked as desired. While eggs are baking, make the pico de gallo. Combine all ingredients into a large bowl and set aside. (Or, for faster prep, do this step in advance and then refrigerate mixture in a covered container until serving time.) Remove baking dish from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving. Top each half with pico de gallo and serve.

Yield: 1-2 servings, depending upon appetite. :)

Chef's Notes: IMPORTANT: Do not cook the avocado in the oven for longer than 25 minutes, or else it will taste bitter. You could say that the egg baking on top of the avocado acts as a kind of "heat shield." :) Haas avocados are one of the few kinds of avocados that can be cooked for a short time without being rendered inedible, so be sure to specifically use Haas avocados in this recipe.

Alternate Preparation: This dish could also be made in a toaster oven. To make this recipe Paleo, simply omit the salt.

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