Book Review: Deviled Eggs (and some Easter Egg hunt tips)

Vegans, don’t freak out on me, just stick your fingers in your ears, go Lalalalalala…and scroll down to tips on Easter Egg hunts with plastic eggs. 😉 Vegetarians and omnivores…prepare for the deviled egg revolution. 😀

First the warning: do not eat Easter Eggs that have been hidden and not refrigerated for hours. My rule of thumb which I’d heard over the years was no diary unrefrigerated for over 6 hours (not a problem for vegans LOL), but this book gives a much shorter time span for eggs. Two hours. Bacteria grow fast in warm environments, so the amount of time they are safe to eat at outdoor temperatures will be shorter — perhaps significantly shorter — than how long they will keep at room temperature. If you want to dye eggs and eat them (perhaps making them into deviled eggs) keep them in the fridge!

Deviled Eggs is sort of an incongruous title to be reviewing at Easter, but we have the Easter Bunny to thank for all the eggs this time of year. I got Deviled Eggs by Debbie Moose as an ebook. My all time favorite deviled eggs recipe is from this book! It (and a couple of others) were printed in a newspaper article years ago which I clipped out. The recipe I locked onto was “Bella Tuscany”. I made it for my next party and the plate was empty before half the guests had arrived! The next time I waited until half the guests had arrived before putting out the platter. They were gone so fast that anyone not there at the time didn’t get any. So I got another deviled egg plate and doubled the recipe, using a full dozen eggs for 2 dozen halves. Gone in nothing flat. Now what I do to make sure that everyone at least has a shot at the deviled eggs is to wait until about half the guests arrive before putting out the first plate, then wait until everyone has arrived before I bring out the second plate. Even so, late arrivals have to move quickly to beat out those just hovering, waiting for more of the Bella Tuscany deviled eggs. 😉

I like this recipe so much that I have adapted it to be an egg salad recipe. If you know anyone who hates egg salad, or deviled eggs (I mean, besides vegans) this will really open their eyes!

There are a number of recipes I want to give a try now that I’ve got the book. However, I do want to give a warning that not all the recipes are vegetarian. There are some that have meat in them though I think you could leave this out of those few. Except for Green Eggs and Ham which pretty much requires the addition of ham because otherwise it would be just Green Eggs. 😉 (If you know a good vegetarian ham substitute that could be chopped up for addition to this deviled egg recipe, please drop a comment.) That’s one of a couple of egg dying options she covers in the book. Myself, I’d like to try the “tie-dyed look” eggs.

I can scarcely list all the recipes in this book that I want to try, because it would cover most of the table of contents. One of the things I like about this book is that most of the time she doesn’t “try too hard” as some cookbook authors do. There’s a tendency in food writing today to try to come up with something, anything that has never ever been done before: novelty just for the sake of novelty. While you could point to some recipes in the book that might fall into this category (depending on where you personally draw that line), the book is well grounded in good kitchen technique, sensible, intuitive flavor combinations, and a surprising number of heirloom recipes and recipes from friends. So, it really has something for all tastes: very traditional deviled eggs — and wild and crazy deviled eggs. And everything in between. If you think your deviled eggs are so bland and boring that they’re not worth the effort to make, you can probably find something here to improve your recipe…or revolutionize it.

Until I made the Bella Tuscany deviled eggs I thought that deviled eggs were boring and not worth the effort. If I want a boiled egg, I’ll make a boiled egg. No need to make it any more complicated. That’s the beauty of this book: it can be as easy or as complicated as you want — and still be delicious!

There are only 50 recipes in the book, but honestly, that’s sufficient for most tastes and just reading the book has given me ideas for different things to try. It’s a bit pricey for such a small book, though there’s more to it than just the recipes, and the photos are also lovely (my Nook HD shows color beautifully). I got my ebook with a gift certificate. Ebooks can be gifted (Amazon, Barnes and Noble). One of the things I like about getting cookbooks as ebooks is that with apps I have stacks and stacks of recipes in my purse or pocket all the time so that I can check ingredients and amounts instantly at the grocery store if I decide on a whim to make something that’s not already on my grocery list. Ebooks are also instant gratification. No searching shelves at bookstores, no waiting for the book ordered online to be delivered. Two seconds after you buy an ebook you’re reading it. So reviewing an egg book on the Friday before Easter doesn’t mean you can’t get the book in time to use up those (refrigerated!!) dyed eggs. 😀

Plastic Eggs: While there’s something lovely about dyed eggs and dying them is a fun project, plastic eggs are the way to go if you do an Easter Egg hunt. That way if you find an egg in the hedge a month later it’s a delightful surprise, not one that makes you cringe. A lot of people fill plastic eggs with candy, but there are other ways to go. You can fill them with small objects like tiny plastic figures, stretchy beaded bracelets, little metal charms (choking hazard, if the children are very young). There need to be an equal number of things both girls and boys will like and the kids can swap off stuff. Though if beaded or silicon bracelets aren’t pink, the boys might not be offended and just try to stack up as many on their arms are they can. 😉 Or you can put slips of paper inside, redeemable for prizes (such as the pretty colored eggs in the fridge, or small delights like stickers, coloring books, puzzles), or more sentimental things like hugs and piggy-back rides. 🙂

Whether Easter is something you celebrate or eggs are something you eat, I hope you all have a wonderful spring weekend! 🙂

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Hair Of The Dog Brunch

I sometimes have friends over for brunch on New Year’s Day. I call it a “hair of the dog” brunch because in addition to having hot tea or coffee on offer I also make mimosas in champagne flutes with orange juice and leftover champagne. It’s a great way to finish off any open bottles from the night before or any bottles liberated from parties the night before. 😉

My current favorite sparkling wine for Mimosas is Barefoot’s Moscato Spumante. It’s sweet citrusy flavor make it the best OJ enhancer I’ve found so far.

The idea behind the brunch is to make it fast and easy, and invite just a few people who live close. Nobody wants to get up and drive across town just for breakfast if they’ve only had a few hours sleep. Likewise the cook may not be particularly sharp on New Year’s morning so what little prep there is should be done the day (or night) before.

The menu options from my past Hair of the Dog brunches go something like this:

Muffins or scones, baked the day before (or Every Day Muffins which can be popped into the oven at any time). Hot tea, cinnamon stick coffee, orange juice and sparkling wine for mimosas, Dog Party Eggs which are used for DIY taquitos with cheese and salsa. Friends often show up bearing baked goods, so between my various baked things and their various baked things, the only staple from year to year are the Dog Party Eggs and beverages.

On New Year’s Eve grate the cheese for the taquitos, saute the pepper, and bake any baked goods you want. (Or alternately, hit a bakery, keeping in mind that businesses close early on New Year’s Eve.)

Dog Party Eggs

6 eggs
1 chili pepper (poblano or Anaheim, depending on your preference and what’s available)
Chili oil (optional), otherwise cooking oil of your choice
1/2 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 tsp ground tumeric
Cheddar cheese
Flour tortillas
Your favorite salsa or hot sauce

These taquitos are sort of a Mexican-Indian fusion. I didn’t set out to create a fusion food; I just wanted something that didn’t look nasty after I converted it to be a vegetarian dish. The original recipe came in the cookbook which came with my first microwave, back in the late ’70s. I made it a few times on the weekend. It was not vegetarian. It had bacon and cream of chicken soup in it. Leaving out the bacon was no problem, but the obvious (to me) choice of cream of mushroom soup as a substitute for chicken was a bit problematic. It tasted fine, but it turned the eggs gray. 😦 (I’ve often thought of trying cream of potato soup, but without fail whenever I go to the store — any store– they’re out of cream of potato soup! There’s always a slot for it, but it’s never there!) Then one day I had an ephiphany; tumeric would restore the yellow to the eggs! Granted, it’s a mustard-yellow, but it looks good amd tastes great with the other spicy ingredients.

Saute the chile in cooking oil. For extra flavor try a flavored cooking oil, such as chili oil. Cool somewhat. Mix 1/2 can cream of mushroom soup, 6 eggs, and 1/2 tsp tumeric in a 1 1/2 qt casserole. Beat well with a fork until homogenous and well blended. Fold in the sauted chili pepper. Microwave 2.5 minutes. Stir, then microwave 2.5 minutes more. Stir. If the mixture isn’t done microwave for a bit longer, but be careful not to overcook the eggs! Your microwave may vary from mine so adjust cooking times accordingly. If you would like to double the recipe I’d recommend you mix up two batches and put the second one in after you’ve heated the tortillas. (I tried doubling the recipe and cooking in a bigger dish longer and wasn’t happy with the result.)

While the eggs are cooking, grate the cheese — if you didn’t do it the day before —and put a stack of flour tortillas between 2 plates (one upside down over the other). Pop these into the microwave for about 30 seconds to warm them up.

Muffins, scones, coffee, hot tea, orange juice and mimosas can be on the table and distributed while the eggs cook. The taquitos are best with the egg dish hot and fresh from the microwave.

Shashuka

Shashuka (3 eggs)

Shashuka (3 eggs)

You can make this for breakfast, but I prefer it as an easy supper dish. Although known as a popular Middle Eastern dish, some sources indicate that it may have traveled from Turkey or around that area. You can vary the seasonings to give it the flavor of any part of the world you wish, however. This dish is a very, very simple concept. In its most basic form it’s essentially eggs + tomato sauce + spicy seasoning. At its most complicated it’s also got onions, garlic, and some type of pepper (bell, chili, etc.) and a complex blend of spices. Every recipe I’ve seen is different. Actually, I’m not sure I’ve ever made it exactly the same way twice. It tends to be a last minute hasty supper when nothing else is planned and the cupboard is, if not bare, lacking ingredients for other things.

If you’ve got tomatoes or a couple of cans of tomato products, any spices on the shelf as long as there something hot and spicy among them, and eggs you can whip up some version of this. I may be taking some liberties calling this “Shashuka” considering some of the seasoning suggestions I’m going to make. I’ve also seen this called shirred or poached eggs in tomato sauce or spicy tomato sauce. If you use chili powder instead of other seasonings and serve with tortillas instead another flatbread such as pita, you can call it “Huevos Rancheros”. 😉

Here’s the way I made it most recently. 😀

5 eggs
1 14 oz can tomato sauce
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 tsp Turkish seasoning (I use a blend from Pendery’s)
1/2 tsp Hungarian hot paprika
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbls dried minced onion
A dash of black pepper (optional)

Add a 14 oz can each of tomato sauce and of diced tomatoes to a large skillet. Stir in a small amount of cayenne, Hungarian hot paprika, or red pepper flakes, (I use Hungarian hot paprika), garlic powder, dried minced onion, and a bit of black pepper if you wish.

Simmer for a few minutes on medium heat then add the eggs, breaking them carefully on top of the sauce. Simmer, covered, on low heat. After eggs look to be fairly “set”, splash a bit of the sauce over the top, but otherwise do not stir. Cook until eggs are done.

As I said before…there are many ways to make this. For a more elaborate dish, saute onions, peppers & garlic in olive oil before adding the tomato products. Throw in a few other seasonings, if you want to give it a regional flavor, such as Middle Eastern, Turkish, Indian etc. If using any kind of pre-mixed store-bought seasoning, check to see if it has salt in it before even considering throwing in a bit of salt. Many seasoning mixes have salt added. (The Turkish seasoning I recently used does.)

Toad In A Hole

Toad In A Hole

Toad In A Hole

I started not to post this recipe, because everyone knows how to make it, right? Uh, well, no, I didn’t even know how to make it until several years ago! It’s fast and super simple. I usually make it as a fast breakfast or lunch for one. (Though, of course, you can make two; just use a much bigger pan.) If the name doesn’t sound familiar, you may know it by a different name: there are dozens of names for it. “Iggy in a blanket”, “Moses in a boat” and the list is seeming endless. The language podcast, A Way With Words, even did a segment on the myriad names, which got so many responses they did a follow-up segment. (Both links are short excerpts.) I like amphibians, so Toad In A Hole, is what it is to me. 🙂 I’d read mentions of it in books, but until several years ago when I was browsing a cookbook, none of the (fiction) books said how to make it.

I don’t do it quite like the cookbook said and there are probably many minute variations on how to do this, but the recipe is, essentially, egg and toast, so really, there’s a limit on how fussy you can be about technique and instructions. Here’s how I do it.

I put a generous amount of margarine in a non-stick pan. Turn the burner on medium-medium high. Then I cut, or tear, a hole in a slice of bread, approximately 2.5 inches in diameter. (I’ve got a 2.5 inch biscuit cutter, which I use to make rounds of anything I want round. LOL) What most people say to do is to spread both sides of the bread with margarine or butter, either before or after you cut the hole in it. I just lay the bread in the margarine and rub it in a bit and when the side is “buttered” I flip the bread over. (If it’s soaked up too much margarine you can always add more before the egg goes in.)

The egg has set.

The egg has set.

Then I crack an egg (I use Eggland’s Best) and gently drop it into the hole in the bread. The yolk may end up off center. (I’m not sure if this is a tendency of eggs or if my stove isn’t quite level.) If this bothers you, and you are really fast and patient, you can immediately (but gently) push the yolk toward the center with a finger and hold it there until the white has set just enough to hold it in place. I did this in order to get a good-looking picture for the post, but this is the only time my Toad In A Hole has ever not been lop-sided. 😉

Flipped it once.

Flipped it once.

Cook on one side until the egg is about half-cooked, according to how you like your eggs, then gently turn it over and cook the other side until it’s as done as you want. I can’t give you a time for this because there are too many variables: how hot your burner is, how firm or runny you want your eggs. It doesn’t take too long to cook. Traditionally, I think, the eggs are supposed to be runny. When you cut up the egg and toast into bites you can then sop up the yolk with the toasted bread. If you like your eggs cooked all the way through, no problem. Just cook them longer. You may have to turn them more than once and cook them longer on a slightly lower setting. It may take a few times before you get the timing down for your stove and heat. The main thing is that the bread should be toasted, but not burned. Salt and pepper as desired.

Toad In A Hole

Toad In A Hole

This is a very simple plain dish and rapidly became one of my go-to comfort foods. I usually cook the egg to the point where it isn’t runny. If you want to fancy it up a bit, you can sprinkle (or grate) parmesan or cheddar cheese over it. When I’m not using a my smallest skillet I also butter the little round of bread I’ve cut out, and toast it beside the egg, then put a small dollop of jam on it for a sweet finish to the light meal. And I typically have a pot of hot tea, too. 😀 I can’t explain why I find Toad In The Hole such a satisfying meal. Perhaps it’s the simplicity. Perhaps because it’s something that I do for myself, a small, single pleasure, rather than cooking for family or friends which is a different sort of pleasure. I only know that I wish someone had told me how to make it years before I finally stumbled onto a recipe. That’s why I wrote this post. Enjoy. 🙂