I don’t know about everyone else, but for me, whenever my in laws are visiting, I tend to have an above average number of kitchen mishaps. Take for example, the day a kitchen shelf “leapt” from the wall. It smashed my precious mortar and pestle received as a gift from Bjorn as well as a jar of balsamic reduction which spattered most of the kitchen with a thin layer of sticky brown goo. There were also those blueberry muffins that turned out like hockey pucks the day I invited Val for breakfast a few years back. Most recently, I attempted to make deviled eggs out of some lovely, fresh, farmer’s market eggs, and –the eggs would not peel. When the world hands you eggs that are locally grown, fresh, organic and lovely that —will not peel– make Disheveled Eggs! Disheveled Eggs start by following your favorite approach to making Deviled Eggs, mine being a stiff, simple egg yolk mixture with a little mayo, minced celery or shallot, salt, pepper and a bit of mustard to taste. The key to Disheveled Eggs is to pile on eye-catching, creative and tasty garnishes to disguise and distract from your less-than-perfect peeling and filling of the egg halves. Among my great garnish ideas either used or imagined are thinly sliced radishes, finely chopped chives, sprigs of dill and parsley, thinly sliced baby dill pickles, a tiny spoonful of capers, some flaky tuna or a little smoked salmon, a tiny bubble-tower of salty of caviar, a squirt of Sriracha “Rooster Sauce,” tiny olives, a heavy shake of smoked paprika, or a tiny pile of thinly sliced prosciutto. No matter how much you are sweating it in the kitchen, if you bring this platter of fancifully garnished eggs to table you will receive reactions of awe and delight–trust me. My quick-fix to classic deviled eggs was inspired by James Beard Award winning Canal House Cooks Every Day cookbook by Melissa Hamilton & Christopher Hirsheimer not only did this lovely tome inspire many of my imaginative garnishes, but they finally gave me instructions to cook eggs from soft to medium to hard with reliable results. For the ambitious who prefer to follow a recipe, here is a deviled egg recipe using homemade mayo piped into the egg halves recently posted on Amateur Gourmet. Bon Appetit!
I have a small group of girlfriends from school who all live around the Twin Cities with their wonderful husbands and significant others. We all have busy lives, so we don’t see as much of each other as we could before we all grew up and joined the workforce, but we manage to keep in touch by making sure every big event in each of our lives is celebrated. There are 5 of us in total which means we all get a chance to host small group celebrations every time someone gets engaged, married or has a baby, or in the lulls between those milestones, someone hosts a brunch or a game night. In early September, I hosted a baby shower for Betsy, who was expecting a baby girl. This is the chevron shower invite that I created at ontobaby.com, a great website that I happened upon that allows you to customize colors and content and create many neat things for free, and then print them, or send them out via email as a PDF. Since the shower, teeny little Vivian Kiyoko arrived, and she is beautiful and I am so thrilled for Betsy and her husband, Sam that they are parents of this perfect little person.
Like most easygoing and enjoyable parties, this one started with advanced preparation. I made a full recipe of Martha Stewart’s Corn and Zucchini Orzo Salad. The salad was lemony with juice of 3 lemons and zest, kicky from the jalapenos from our garden, tasty and light, but the recipe, which reports to yield 6 servings yields something closer to 16 servings. I guess the pound of orzo pasta, 6 medium zucchini and 6 ears of corn should have been a tip-off. Everyone loved the salad and it made for some good leftovers the next week for lunch. I served the crumbled feta in a separate bowl so each person could add their own. Somewhere along the line while preparing for the shower I read an article about all the things pregnant and nursing moms aren’t supposed to eat, so anything that could vaguely be construed to be unpasteurized or uncured was served separately, even though most of my groceries probably satisfied both of these pregnant-person dietary requirements. I’m a vegetarian in a mostly meat-eating world, so I am (over)sensitive to this sort of thing. I am so glad that Tea Sandwiches and Deviled Eggs are back in vogue. I like both of these baby shower classic snacks, so I made both. Tea Sandwiches are perfect baby shower bites–they are small, cute and girly. I made cucumber tea sandwiches with cream cheese and chives, and smoked salmon tea sandwiches with the same spread. Both the sandwiches and classic deviled eggs were yummy. Decorations are one of the things that make a gathering into a party, so even though this is a small shower with a group of girls who gather with some regularity and don’t rely on pretense, I had to decorate. Betsy was expecting a girl, I took that as license to go pink. I cut dots out of pink felt and strung them into a garland on embroidery floss. Each felt dot is secured to the embroidery thread with two hand-stitched french knots. [Try saying that five times fast.] I stuck these around the patio with pink striped washi tape. I also hung pink tissue paper balls from the house and our patio lights with washi tape. I bought little pots of pink mums; hearty ones, like the moms and moms-to-be at the shower. I wrapped the pots in poufy pink tissue paper, shiny clear wrapping paper and secured the paper to each pot with a wide pink ribbon, tied in a bow. The hearty mums decorated the table and served as a little favor for each person to take home. I marked every person’s place at the table with a plant stake topped with a pink polka-dot name card that I made with a strip of card stock, further embellished with washi tape that I stuck into the pot of mums at each place. To round out our lunch I served antipasto skewers which consist of golden cherry tomatoes, marinated artichoke heart quarters, salami, fresh mozzarella, marinated mushrooms, peppers and seasoned olives from the grocery store olive bar threaded on to short bamboo skewers, dressed lightly with balsamic vinaigrette and garnished with fresh flat-leaf parsley from our garden. I set up a buffet table on the patio so that we could help ourselves to food and drink while we relaxed and talked. I set out pink tumblers and reusable striped straws as well as champagne glasses out so everyone could pour their own pink lemon-aid Arnie Palmers from drink dispensers and San Pelligrino sparkling water from the bottle which was sitting on ice. I also set out bottles of fruity Joaia and Izzy’s soda, and of course, we popped a bottle of champagne. I served mixed nuts, mints and bridge mix in a cut glass candy dish, another nod to classic baby shower fare that I am happy to revive. Desert was simple and totally a highlight. I whipped cream and stirred in sugar and vanilla, and sliced strawberries and blueberries which macerated in sugar in the fridge. The whipped cream and fruit were a delicious topping to a white cake made in a bundt pan, served with coffee. Betsy took home a nice assortment of cute baby gear, books, clothes and other essentials, and this cute Locally Grown Clothing Co Minnesota onesie. Nice pick, Alison. September was a busy month! Having to buy a new car and getting a new roof for our house and a few trips out of town took the time I’d normally devote to blogging, but I’m back and planning to share a few “catch up” posts about the fun we’ve been having, stop back!
Summertime is a season and a mindset for me. It is a season to avoid being booked and busy as much as possible, to allow time to be free to savor summer’s simple pleasures. Over the weekend, this included a trip to the Saint Paul Farmer’s Market, a meal outside on the patio at a favorite restaurant, picking a few weeds in the garden, inviting my cousin over to hang out in our back yard, working up a sweat doing yard cleanup, going to the pool for a swim and sitting in the sun porch listening to rumbling thunder and watching rain pour down, giving our garden a thorough soaking.
The summer mindset is also reflected in the food we eat. We like to eat outdoors in our back yard on the patio as much as possible. The availability of a great variety of fresh produce at the market and from our garden shapes our menu. We make frequent use of the grill. Grilling has the multiple benefits of allowing us to cook outside on the patio, avoid heating up the house and further influences our food choices toward simple, classic summer fare.
One classic summer food staple that I’m thrilled to see back in vogue are deviled eggs. Why wouldn’t these re-emerge and get trendy? They are perfect, tasty bites, extremely simple and they can be made with all kinds of interesting ingredients. I’ve seen deviled eggs with crab meat, bacon, capers and even caviar-topped deviled eggs on food blogs and restaurant menus. I like a classic deviled egg the most, and I don’t follow a recipe. I boil, cool and peel the eggs, mash the yolks and mix in minced onion, a little grainy Dijon mustard and just enough light mayo to make them creamy. I attempted to pipe the filling back into the egg white halves from a pastry bag, but I chose too small a tip to allow the filling’s grainy mustard to squeeze through, so the piping experience started out with a few pretty, piped deviled eggs, then an explosion, followed by me filling the rest of the eggs with a teaspoon. Garnish is a must, especially with the teaspoon egg filling-method. In the off-season, I’m still a fan of a sprinkling of paprika, but in the summer, chopped chives or dill are my go-to garnish. I call the dill from our garden “Electric Dill” because it is so bright and fragrant, and the dill flavor just pops- electric!
Today was one of those days that I was half-way between two dinner ideas. Bjorn had thawed some lean ground beef raised by his uncle, and I had a hankering for a veggie burger with all of my favorite burger toppings, but also a salad. From what I’ve been reading, it is better not to eat bread and high-glycemic, addictive [delicious] carbs at every meal. The idea of a Cheeseburger Salad was born. I am sure I’m not the first to think of it. Mine ended up somewhere in the realm of California Burger meets Mushroom and Swiss, but the topping possibilities are only limited by your imagination–avocado, fried egg, pickles, sauerkraut and crispy bacon all come to mind. The basic premise is to deconstruct your favorite burger, up the veggie count, leave out the bun, and have yourself a great salad.
Bjorn grilled up a burger for himself, and a veggie burger patty for me, and topped both with thinly sliced provolone cheese. We sautéed mushrooms with some onions on the grill’s side burner, and served the burgers and sautéed mushrooms and onions on a bed of lettuce leaves with sliced tomato from the market. As a dressing, we used a little leftover creamy taco sauce that I mixed up for another meal which consisted of smoky chipotle and garlic salsa mixed with a little light sour cream.
We rounded out the meal with a few bright red radishes from the farmer’s market. We are both obsessed with farmer’s market radishes at the moment. They are brighter and spicy, and of no comparison to most radishes I’ve tasted from the grocery store. I’ve been keeping a bowl in water in the fridge so that they are ready for snacking and ready to be served at any meal, including breakfast! I cannot wait until radishes from our garden are ready to eat.
I’m sure I’ll make Cheeseburger Salads again, and will certainly make more deviled eggs. Even with the richness of a deviled egg, and melted provolone, the meal felt just little lighter. After the deviled egg filling vs. piping bag incident was cleaned up, the meal came together quickly, giving us time to sit back and watch the cardinals hanging out in the grass.