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Natural Easter Egg Dye: It Really Worked!

31 Mar

Thanks to two bloggers working together, Leandro and I were inspired to try our hand at natural Easter egg dyes and it was so, so, much fun!

Boil, boil, toil and trouble

Boil, boil, toil and trouble

The road to this adventure was winding

Out, out, damn spot (cutting beets)

Out, out, damn spot (cutting beets)

My friend, Ashley, posted a “fun Easter craft” on the Hot, Cheap & Easy Facebook page recently. It linked to Lisa Leake’s  100 Days of Real Food   a terrific blog about her adventures, discoveries and triumphs eliminating processed food from her family’s diet. The original post was Natural Easter Egg Dyes  and the guest blogger was Christina Le Beau whose blog, Spoonfed, covers her quest to raise children who are literate about food. Women after my own heart.

Ready, steady, go - note the glorious colors already on the Restoration Farm Eggs

Ready, steady, go – note the glorious colors already on the Restoration Farm Eggs

Continue reading

Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs (Buying Tips and Cooking Instructions)

10 Mar

We love eggs around here and Leandro especially likes them hard-boiled. One of our favorite laid-back dinners is hard-boiled eggs with broiled asparagus. Olive oil to coat the asparagus and a bit of salt for both eggs and vegetable is all the seasoning we need.

The length of time it takes to bring the water to a boil when the water covers the eggs by an inch is the magic time period!

The length of time it takes to bring the water to a boil when the water covers the eggs by an inch is the magic time period!

As you might guess, I almost invariably buy organic eggs when I buy in the supermarket and from local folks whenever possible. And yeah, they tend to cost a lot more. To me they are worth it in terms of better conditions for the hens and less chance of harmful chemicals for my son.

The taste however? Well I don’t find any appreciable difference. It is mostly when I buy local free-range eggs that I notice a difference in the vibrancy of the yolk color and the intensity of flavor. Continue reading

Kid’s Party Snack Alternative: Bagel Buffet, Starring Cream Cheese Two Ways!

26 Jun

My pizza party days are over. I used to like the occasional slice, but once you have a kid and start attending kids’ parties with alarming frequency, the whole pizza thing becomes tedious (and hard on the waistline), except for the part about not having to figure out lunch for your kid for a day. I like that part a whole lot.

Mind you, I have served pizza at a number of Leandro’s parties. Three regular pies, sliced in 16ths, for the kids. Another one or two pies for the parents. Guilty as charged.

Cream cheese with chives

By the time they get served, the waxy cheese is getting hard, the crust is soft, and chewy and the sauce, whatever it was, is gone. Besides, regular slices bore the hell out of me. Call me a snob, but if you lived in Italy for a couple of years and ate wood stove-crispy thin pies (slice? Cosa e? Ma scherzi.…) topped with seasonal veggies and homemade sausage with a carafe of the charming local plonk most Friday nights out with your charming boyfriend who didn’t mind your bit of flirting with the charming Italians who owned the place….well, a leaden slice of regular from a box choked down to the soundtrack of overexcited preschoolers and bounce-house kiddie-pop might also feel somewhat wrong to you.

Maple-Walnut Cream Cheese

Anyhoo, I wanted to change it up just a little this time around. It’s not just the pizza thing; it’s that I like to cook and entertain and this seemed to me to be an chance to manifest my own self in a more public forum than usual. It is all well and good to set yourself up as a food blogger because your child has been indoctrinated to believe that what you are making him is good stuff. It’s quite another thing to lay it out there for public tasting and scrutiny.

And of course, the other reason is that in my universe, you honor your guests by serving them nice food.

We celebrated Leandro’s birthday at the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center at Jones Beach. The time was from 10 am-noon on a Sunday. If you have ever been in downstate New York on a Sunday morning, you will understand that bagels are the only appropriate response. It’s like the venerable five o’clock cocktail, only heavier on the carbs. So I went with pre-sliced mini-bagels from Seaford Bagel – convenient, but with ample opportunities to prepare a few spreads of your own.

Buffet table note: cheese and ham slices and mustard and mayo rounded out the buffet. Not one of my 50 Shades of Martha moments on the decor, but it worked well enough. A Box of Joe, juice boxes, and bottles of water completed the spread.

In my own defense, I am not completely bonkers and did not bake the main event: The “birthday cake” was cupcakes, ordered from Stop & Shop. Yes. A chain grocery store. Did you really think I was going to bake an effen cake!?! They were, by all accounts, delicious, topped with butter cream and decorated with Spiderman, Hello Kitty and other rings. Eternal thanks to the wisdom of Marianne/Madrina, for her bagel shop and cupcake source recommendations.

Among the spreads were tuna salad and egg salad (click to get those recipes from earlier posts), and the following two easy cream cheese variations. The maple-walnut spread was especially popular (and so easy it’s almost embarrassing). The kids mostly ate straight-up butter or cream cheese. But the parents and big kids who came to show solidarity were All Over the buffet table and even made a few to-go bagels. (Hector and Sean, I am naming names!!!). We also had plenty of bagels left over to pack in the cooler for our glorious, post-party beach afternoon.

I hope you’ll try them next time you want to bring up your bagel buffet game without killing yourself. Don’t pay for store-made. These are too simple and the praise too gratifying.

Thanks to all of you who came and made this day one of Leandro’s best and most memorable ever. I will eat your party pizza every time and enjoy your company, so don’t fret or hesitate to invite us to the next one. Leandro needs the break from his mom’s obsessiveness!

Cucumber slices are an easy dress-up for cream cheese and chives or tuna salad

Cream Cheese with Chives

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

2 Tbs chives, chopped

1 tsp green onion, chopped fine (including white part!)

In a bowl, mix all ingredients thoroughly. Chill at least a half hour for flavors to incorporate.

Maple Walnut Cream Cheese

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

2 Tbs real maple syrup

½ tsp vanilla extract (if you actually have maple extract, you can use it here)

½ cup chopped walnuts, plus walnuts for garnish

In a bowl, mix the cream cheese, syrup and extract. Stir in the walnuts and chill for at least 30 minutes. Turn the cream cheese into your serving dish and garnish with whole walnuts.

Egg Salad…Amped

11 Apr

Have you ever seen the MTV show “Pimp My Ride” where a beat-up, tin-can of a vehicle gets a total tarted-up makeover- complete with features like aquariums and shoe racks and hydraulic surfboard lifters?

Well, sometimes I like to play culinary “Pimp My____________(fill in the blank with your favorite, but somewhat tired go-to everyday recipe).” You know, take a dull salad and add grilled shrimp and fruit, or top your morning toast with salmon and creme fraiche, or add truffle oil to any old thing to make it special.

The Chinese make cracks in eggs before hard-boiling in tea to make "1,000 year old eggs" -- that's my excuse for the rather oddly-colored post-Easter eggs you see here...

In honor of the ridiculous number of luridly-dyed hard-boiled eggs in my post-Easter fridge, today’s episode is “Pimp My Egg Salad.” Just add a number of tasty pantry items to a normal egg salad and voila! You have a hottie-hottie, hot-hot, lunch where before sat a bland and boring boiled egg.

By the way, to boil eggs perfectly, set them in cold water that covers by an inch. Bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat, cover and allow to sit for ten minutes. Drain and shock the eggs in ice water (to help the peeling later). Using eggs that are not farm-fresh will make them easier to peel (more air between shell and membrane).

 

Look closely and you'll see that blue color....

Egg Salad…Amped

4 hard-boiled eggs

2 Tbs mayonnaise

1-2 tsps prepared mustard

1 tsp minced red onion (optional)

1 tsp capers, drained

Five large pitted black olives, sliced

1 Tbs roasted red pepper, diced

Salt to taste

Dash of sriracha or other hot sauce (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Salt to taste and add hot sauce if desired. Serve in a sandwich on toast or atop a salad.

Party Snacks: Devilishly Good Stuffed/Deviled Eggs

3 Jul

One of the keys to a good summer dinner party is to have plenty of cold (make ahead) dishes that will delight your guests, give them a chance to ease into the party and buy you time to serve drinks and get the grilled stuff on the table.

This is the first of several posts that will help you set up a beautiful and tasty cold appetizer table (with wonderful leftovers).

Deviled eggs may sound like a throwback to the days of dubious casseroles, mystery meat and hallucinogenically-colored gelatin dishes with — oh God — marshmallows, but please reconsider. Stuffed eggs have an illustrious history, have been popular since Ancient Roman days (at least according to www.devilledeggs.com) and were served in 13th century Andalusia, Spain.

So, we’re talking — not bad 70s potluck fare — but classic tapas of the highest order. That they are finger food only adds to their charm; I believe hands-on food brings guests closer and requires less fuss in setting the table.

My stuffed eggs are very simple to make and always disappear very quickly from the buffet table. Rather than incorporate hot pepper into the creamy center, I like to add a dab of sriracha hot pepper sauce to the top of half the stuffed eggs (so those who don’t like spice can enjoy them also).

Top up these tapas with hot sauce….

Devilishly Good Stuffed Eggs (makes 12-14 servings)

6-7 fresh eggs

3 Tbs prepared mayonnaise

1-2 Tbs nonfat plain yogurt

2 tsp prepared mustard

1 tsp minced parsley leaves

Salt to taste (not usually necessary because of the mayo and mustard)

Sriracha, if desired, or several pinches of ground cayenne pepper

Perfect hard-boiled eggs. Place eggs in saucepan with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil,  and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cover  for ten minutes. Drain and place in ice water until cool.

When eggs are cool, peel and slice in half. Pop out yolks into a large bowl, placing whites on a serving tray. To the bowl add mayo, yogurt, mustard and parsley and mash into a creamy paste. Place in a ziplock bag, jamming into one corner. Snip off the corner point and squeeze into the holes of the egg whites (as if you were icing a cake; my son enjoys helping with this). Apply one dab of sriracha to each egg if desired or garnish with pinches of cayenne.

Serve with dry white wine, dry rosé (from Long Island!) or a dry sparkler.

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