31 March 2013

Curried Deviled Eggs



Pretty Leftovers

Everyone loves those beautiful colored eggs that decorate the Easter holiday. They are so pretty nestled into baskets, topping sweet breads and dressing up the table. It is hard to resist dying a dozen or more to celebrate the season. Once Easter morning is past, however, it is always a challenge to think of how to use up the leftover hard-boiled eggs.


My family loves Deviled Eggs.  Unfortunately in their traditional composition I don’t.  My aversion to a prominent ingredient in this simple down-home staple is lastingly ingrained. 


But I do think Deviled Eggs are pretty.  I fondly remember my Dad asking me to dress his Deviled Eggs with a pretty dusting of paprika some holiday long past. I loved the way the crimson spice drifted across the yellow and white as I gently shook the spice jar.


Trying Something New

This year, taking inventory of the hard-boiled eggs in my kitchen, I decided it was time that I turned over a new leaf and found a recipe for some Deviled Eggs of my own. Besides I saw some cute little Deviled Egg Chicks on Facebook and, overwhelmed with an appreciation for cute foods as I often am this time of year, I wanted to try making them myself.


I considered using mayonnaise, even found a small jar of the stuff, but as I persistently put off opening it I had another idea.  I decided to substitute an ingredient I do have some appreciation for – Nonfat Greek Yogurt.


This recipe is based on one I found on the Oikos Greek Yogurt website.  The curry powder and Tabasco sauce add a nice spark of sophisticated spice. And, for those of you who do appreciate mayonnaise, substituting it for the plain Greek yogurt should work fine too.




Curried Deviled Eggs
adapted from www.oikosyogurt.com

8 hard boiled eggs
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon curry powder (I used madras hot curry powder)
1/8 teaspoon hot sauce (I used Tabasco)
pinch of salt
paprika, for garnish

To hard-boil eggs: Place eggs in a large pot.  Cover eggs with water.  Place pot over medium high heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat until only very small bubbles are coming up from the bottom of the pan.  Cover pot and continue to cook at a low simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.

Remove from heat, drain water and fill pot with cold water.  Change the water several times to cool the eggs. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To make Deviled Eggs:

Peel 8 hard-boiled eggs.  Cut eggs in half length-wise. Carefully remove the egg yolks leaving the whites intact. 

Place yolks in a small mixing bowl.  Mash with a fork. Add the Greek yogurt, mustard, curry powder, hot sauce and salt. Mix with a fork until smooth.

Fill the cavity in the egg whites with the yolk mixture, mounding it up above the top surface. (You can fill the egg whites by scooping the yolk mixture into a Ziploc bag, sealing the top and cutting a lower corner from the bag to pipe the mixture through.  Or you can just use a spoon to scoop the yolk mixture into the eggs whites.)

Dust tops of filled eggs with paprika and arrange the eggs on a serving plate.


To make Deviled Egg Chicks:

Instead of paprika, for garnish you will need

Carrots
Cracked black peppercorns or black olives

Cut several ¼-inch slices crosswise from the wide end of a carrot.  Cut small wedges from the slices to use as beaks. 

Dice black olive slices into tiny bits to use for eyes or lightly crack black peppercorns and use those pieces for eyes.

Peel hard-boiled eggs.  Slice across top third of the egg. Carefully remove the yolks from the egg whites, breaking up and scooping the yolk out in pieces if necessary to leave the egg white outer hull intact. 

Mix the egg yolks with the Greek yogurt, mustard, curry powder, hot sauce and salt as directed above.

Fill the lower 2/3 of the egg white hull with the egg yolk mixture, mounding it up above the top surface as directed above.

Place the top 1/3 of the egg white on top, angling it back to give the look of an emerging chick.  Stud the front surface of the visible yolk mixture with a carrot beak and bits of black olive or cracked black peppercorns for eyes.  Set the eggs upright in a clean egg carton or in egg cups.


Or create some variation of your own....

Serve and enjoy!

29 March 2013

Bunny Breakfast Buns


Every year I think of making Hot Cross Buns.  I love the idea of them, the history and tradition.  If only I would embrace a little more advance planning I’m sure they would be delicious!


And I do believe that it’s not about the bunny, that the true message and significance of our celebration of Easter is that empty tomb and our victory over death in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.


So what happened? Why am I, once again, turning to prepackaged refrigerated rolls this Easter weekend?  Why have I skipped the Hot Cross Buns and made Bunny Buns instead?


At the convergence of attending to seasonal details and running short of time there are occasions when I have to find a way to dress up the table with what I have on hand.  These Bunny Breakfast Buns fit the bill this year. They are a spring treat that is practical, fun and seasonally grounded.  The recipe is quick and easy and while it is, perhaps, light on spiritual significance it is still sure to delight the children in your family or just add a little smile to your holiday brunch.



Bunny Breakfast Buns
Makes 4

1 can (8 count) refrigerated cinnamon rolls (I used Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls, regular size, not Grands)
24 chocolate chips
16 sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 375F.  Grease a large baking sheet.

Open the package of cinnamon rolls and place four of the rolls, evenly spaced on the baking sheet.

For each of the buns take one of the remaining rolls and carefully unroll the spiral of dough. Fold the strip of dough into a long oval.  Place the opening where the dough comes together at the top of a cinnamon roll you have already placed on the baking sheet pressing the pieces together.  Shape the oval of dough into bunny ears.

Dot the round spiral of dough with chocolate chips to form eyes and a nose and the sliced almonds as teeth. (or, if you plan to frost the entire Bunny Bun, wait until after baking and frosting to position the chips and nuts.)


Bake at 375F for 10 to 12 minutes until golden, or as directed on the package.

Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.  Use the icing in the package to frost the bunny’s ears, or as desired.

Enjoy!



23 March 2013

Fennel Salad




Outside my Back Door

Spring is here!  It officially arrived this past week.  So far, though, it seems to be keeping a low profile. Just going out the back door to my small garden I still put on my boots, rather than sandals, and pull on my coat.


Outside, after gathering a few leafy greens, I look up for a patch of blue among the clouds. I pull my coat around myself as I search without success and yet I find evidence that spring is irrepressible. Despite the clouds and the discouraging wind and chill flowers are bursting onto the branches outside my garden gate and daffodils are displaying their splendid blooms in time for Easter.




The Flavor of Spring

This salad is perfect for the season. Without quite letting go of the tastes and textures of months past, it pushes them forward into a dish that is dressed for a garden party or Easter lunch.  It harbors the cool crunch of winter in fennel’s celery-like texture, but embellishes it with playful notes of licorice and a fresh soft touch of spring green in its gentle fronds. 


A few Cuties add color.  They bring the flavor of winter sunbursts forward in their tender sections and bright citrus flavor without the bitterness of larger, pithier oranges.  I slice them in half cross-wise to release a little juice into the salad.


Dried cranberries also remind me of winter holidays and what spring leaves firmly in its wake while adding deep highlights of color and tangy flavor to an emerging spring palette.


Just drizzle these few ingredients with the elements of a simple dressing and toss. The flavor of spring is here!




Fennel Salad

1 large bulb of fennel
4 or 5 Cuties, or other small seedless oranges
2 Tablespoons dried cranberries
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
mixed spring salad greens, if desired

Trim away brown spots from the fennel bulb. Remove core and stalks.  Chop a Tablespoon or two of the fine feathery leaves and set aside along with several feathery sprigs for garnish.  

Thinly slice the fennel bulb using a knife or mandolin.  Place in a medium salad bowl.

Peel the Cuties, or other small oranges.  Cut them in half crosswise and separate the sections.  Toss with the sliced fennel.

Drizzle the fennel and oranges with the red wine vinegar and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Toss until well mixed.

Scatter dried cranberries on top of the salad.

Serve alone or on a bed of mixed spring salad greens, if desired.

Recipe Notes:  This salad can be dressed early and stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Use a different vinegar if you like.  I have used raspberry vinegar with good results.  Champagne vinegar or a white balsamic vinegar might be nice too. 

I think I might also add some toasted sliced almonds or other nuts next time.

Pomegranate arils would be an interesting alternative to the dried cranberries adding their own brand of wintery crunch and distinct flavor.

Enjoy!

16 March 2013

Triple Chocolate Guinness Brownies




Discovering a Blast from the Past

I have just discovered a truly awesome dessert for St. Patrick’s Day.  The recipe is flavored with a full bottle of Guinness Stout and is easily prepared from ingredients you are likely to have on hand, especially on St. Patrick’s Day weekend.


Not uncharacteristically, I am a little late to the game. This recipe came from a newspaper clipping.  I think I found it in The Oregonian.  The headline reads “Best Recipes of 2003.” There the recipe is attributed to “The New Irish Table” by Margaret M. Johnson.


I’m not sure why it took me a full decade to try it. I am a true fan of chocolate and I enjoy Guinness. Of course having the right recipe in hand at the right time to create a seasonal indulgence is a gift that sometimes escapes me. Luckily this year all of the required elements fell into place.




Elegant Brownies

These brownies, though essentially basic, are still a bit unusual. While brownies are most often described on a scale ranging from chewy to cake-like these little gems are in a whole other realm.  These have an elegant texture that isn’t really chewy, nor is it especially cakelike.  Instead they have a consistency more like a mousse cake or even a light cheesecake. These have a fine, though heavy, crumb and the compelling attribute of being both moist and very chocolately without being overly sweet.  They cut nicely into neat squares and look pretty topped with a dusting of powdered sugar. 


I followed the recipe with little variation.  By necessity I used regular sugar rather than the superfine sugar specified in the original recipe.  They simply didn’t have superfine sugar at my local grocery store.  I’m not sure what benefit it might offer anyway but I began the day determined to follow the directions as written, so I had to at least look. Once I couldn’t find the superfine sugar I figured what the heck and added a Tablespoon of espresso powder on a personal whim.  I think I had Irish Coffee on my mind and I love the smoky depth that coffee flavors add to chocolate. 


I also added a few minutes to the baking time.  At 25 minutes, the maximum time prescribed in the recipe, they still left my testing toothpick covered with chocolate. I baked them for another five minutes before removing them from the oven. Once cooled, the center turned out to be done but the edges were a little dry.  I might bake them just a minute or two less next time.




Triple Chocolate Guinness Brownies
Slightly adapted from The Oregonian’s recipe for Grace Neill’s Chocolate and Guinness Brownies

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate  (chips or chopped)
4 ounces white chocolate (chips or chopped)
¾ cup all-pupose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
1 Tablespoon espresso powder (optional)
4 eggs
¾ cup sugar
1¼ cups Guinness stout
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease an 8” x 8” square pan.

In a small saucepan gently melt the butter, bittersweet chocolate and white chocolate over low heat, stirring frequently until smooth.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder and espresso powder (if desired).  Set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs until frothy.  Add the sugar slowly beating until the mixture is smooth and lemon colored, several minutes.

Add the chocolate mixture and continue beating until well combined. 

Add the flour mixture and beat just until combined.

Whisk in the Guinness until the batter is smooth.

Pour batter into the prepared 8” x 8” pan. Bake at 375F for approximately 25 – 30 minutes or until the center springs back when touched lightly in the center. 

Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. 

When cool, cut into small squares (at least 16) and dust with a generous coating of powdered sugar.

Serve and Enjoy!

15 March 2013

Turning Points


Cross-country

Last autumn my husband and I drove cross-country from Washington to Tennessee.  I had envisioned the trip as part vacation and part necessity. Most of our possessions had been packed off to Tennessee or given away.  What remained when I turned in the keys to my apartment was loaded in my car and, since we generally enjoy road trips, we were driving it to Tennessee ourselves.



Planning the trip, I pictured a scenic drive under blue skies.  I even remember it starting that way, though now, as I look back through my photos, I can see that the warning signs were all there.  Even as we turned the bend at Cape Horn, not fifteen miles down the road, my snapshots show that beautifully familiar view of the Columbia River Gorge already veiled in a low haze.  By the time we left Oregon the smoke had begun to weigh on our enthusiasm. 



Driving Through the Haze

By the time we hit Salt Lake City we wondered what we had been thinking. For two days and over a thousand miles we drove on through a shimmering cloud of smoke.  While we had hoped to be awed by the scenery, by some grounded views from the shore of the Great Salt Lake we’d been flying over all summer and the majestic peaks of the Rocky Mountains as we crossed the Continental Divide, those vistas remained elusive.




Instead the smoke persisted, obscuring the horizon in a translucent haze.  Just as we thought we might be leaving it behind us it would gather again, even to the point of creating a mirage effect on the highway.  Driving was a job and staying focused was a challenge.  Our eyes hurt and disappointment began to nip at our heels but there was little to do about it except to keep driving.



A Notable Coffee Break

In the early afternoon of our third day’s travel, almost at the halfway point of our journey, we pulled into Laramie, WY, ready to take a break.  We were tired and hungry and bored. When we found Coal Creek Coffee Company in Laramie’s historic downtown it felt like an oasis.



We ordered lattes and a bowl of soup before taking a seat at one of their unique tables.  Most of the tables seemed to have writing on them but ours was nearly covered in hand written quotations on the subject of coffee. While we waited we shared thoughts from a variety of sources ranging from Napoleon Bonaparte to Good Housekeeping on the art and virtues of one of our favorite drinks. I loved the way the words were entwined, weaving the quotations into a pattern to decorate the table.



It wasn’t long before our order was ready.  The coffee was wonderful and the Tortilla Soup turned out to be unexpectedly hearty and delicious.  It was well spiced, brimming with a variety of wholesome ingredients and garnished with shards of blue corn tortilla chips.  It came with a side of Focaccia Bread that was also extraordinary and well appreciated.  After buying some cookies for the road we got back in the car satisfied that we had made a worthy stop in Wyoming and were well provisioned for the rest of the day’s drive.



Moving On

Though the smoke persisted into day four and Kansas, Laramie was a turning point.  The trip was not what either of us had expected but then a journey is hardly worth taking if there are no surprises. While we could not see much of the anticipated scenery the air quality did make for some stunning sunrises and sunsets. We were surprised to see people stopping in the middle of crosswalks in Salt Lake City to take photos of a huge orange sun lowering on the horizon like a Japanese flag behind the traffic lights.  It also encouraged us to take a few up close and personal side-trips we may have otherwise skipped, like the one near the Perrine Bridge crossing the Snake River and on to Shoshone Falls, ID.



It ended up being a good trip, maybe even the right trip at the right time.  I like to connect one place in my life to another via ground travel.  I like to see and experience what lies between.  It seems there is always something noteworthy, even when it isn’t quite what you expect.