EASTER-Y DEVILED EGGS

This dancing egg chick that was recently installed on the esplanade outside my office reminds me that every year around this time I get lots of visitors to the blog looking for cute deviled egg ideas for Easter — this year is no exception.  Apparently deviled eggs are not just popular in the South!  So for those of you hunting for a fun appetizer for an Easter meal, here’s the updated 2017 annual roundup of Easter-y deviled eggs.

Your family will cluck with approval at these cute little chicks from swellkid:

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Not handy with a piping bag?  Food & Whine shows you how to have your chicks and eat them too, without the fuss:

Use a small ice cream scoop to make these stand-up stand-out Easter chicks (Larry, Moe, and Curly) from delish:

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Or perhaps these cuties from kitchme.com:

A plateful of cute Easter critters from saveonfoods.com:

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These colorful ones from Real Mom Kitchen are sure to wow:

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Little hens and chicks from eye candy (not sure which one she made first, the hen or the chicks):

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Keep ’em guessing with deviled egg bunnies/mice from MyFudo:

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T’was the night before Easter and all through the house . . . .

Or trim radish slices to make less ambiguous bunnies, from kraftrecipes.com:

Everyone will ooh and aah at this pretty springtime presentation from Hungry Happenings:

Making deviled eggs into daisies [1]

Ditto for these showy deviled eggs from Created by Diane:

What kid could possibly resist these adorable bunny eggs from Paas?

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Another cute bunny idea (although I might leave the whiskers off) comes from PapaWow:

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And adorable bunny feet eggs from Hungry Happenings:

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A basket of deviled egg cuteness (soak celery in water to make it pliable for the handle):

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Here’s another adorable Easter basket deviled egg from Taste of Home with candy-coated sunflower seed eggs and sprouts:

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If you’d prefer something a little more reverent for Easter, you might try these carrot crosses from Happier than a Pig in Mud:

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Not deviled eggs, but here’s a few fun ways to serve hard-boiled eggs for Easter and use up those leftover dyed eggs:

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Gather a few giggles with these hatching eggs from Hungry Happenings:

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Here’s my own recipe for Easter Lily Deviled Eggs (I really need a better a photo).  Feel free to use your favorite recipe for deviled eggs for these or any of the ideas above.  Or try a new one — like this great-sounding one for Chipotle Cilantro Deviled Eggs from Savoury Table.

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EASTER LILY DEVILED EGGS
Print
Recipe type: Appetizers
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 dozen hard-boiled eggs
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 12 mini fillo shells (recipe developed with Athens brand)
  • Paprika (sweet or smoked), to garnish
Instructions
  1. Slice eggs in half lengthwise. Carefully remove yolks and place in a small bowl; set whites aside. Add mayonnaise and mustard to bowl, and using a fork, mash together with yolks until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Spoon or pipe yolk mixture into fillo shells. Cut triangular petals from reserved egg whites with a sharp paring knife. For each deviled egg cup, arrange 5 petals decoratively around filling, sprinkle paprika lightly over filling, and serve.

 

easter-lily[1] Happy Easter!

SEIWA MARKET

Seiwa Market is a Japanese grocery that opened in September 2016.  It’s located at 1801 S. Dairy Ashford, #116, in a large strip center, flanked by numerous Asian businesses.  I’ve been to a number of Chinese and Korean groceries in Houston, and was curious to see what this Japanese market offered.  It has an unusual business philosophy, which is stated on its website as “What is the right thing to do as a human being?”  (Wouldn’t it be nice if we all stopped to think that from time to time?)  Seiwa Market advertises that it offers “affordable Japanese quality products at affordable price through partnership with GYOUMU Supermarket Japan.”

This little market is packed full of interesting things.  The produce department, which is the first area you’ll see when you enter, although small, offers plenty of fresh items, including a variety of fruits (biggest apples I’ve ever seen), herbs, potatoes and yams, shishito and other peppers, and citrus.

Beautiful red yams 

One produce item that intrigued me was gobo, which I was unfamiliar with:

I’ve since learned that gobo is burdock, a thin root vegetable that grows to be more than two feet long.  It’s often added to stews and stir fries, and pickled gobo is sometimes sold to accompany sushi or rice dishes.  It’s crunchy and has a sweet flavor similar to lotus root.  I wish I’d bought some when I saw it.  Next trip.

If you’re a green tea aficianado, you’ll be ecstatic at the many green tea and matcha items available.  In addition to dozens of excellent green teas (sold loose or in bags) and matcha powders, there were a bunch of green tea confections — a whole end cap display full of them

img_8633How about some matcha Oreo bits sandwiches, for example?

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Or matcha Oreo soft cookies?

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Matcha Pocky, anyone?

On weekends, the market has soft, sticky sweets flown in from Japan.  These were very popular with shoppers–there was a line to buy them, and they sold out by lunchtime:

There’s lots of interesting grocery items on the shelves, including a wide variety of sweet and savory snack foods and condiments.

Of particular interest to me was the many rice cookers for sale (I’ll be purchasing one for each of my kids soon).  They range in price from around $50 to several hundred dollars.

There was also a nice little assortment of Zojirushi thermoses, as well as tiffins, and lunch kits.  Zojirushi thermoses are incredible, and will keep your liquids hot or cold for at least 24 hours — they are reportedly popular with chefs for keeping sauces warm.

Seiwa Market also offers prepared foods and sushi, and although I did not try any on this visit, they appeared to be fresh and nicely prepared.

On my way to check out I passed a freezer case full of Mushi Cake.  I don’t know what Mushi Cake is, but I am guessing it is a popular treat.  Maybe next time — to go with the gobo.

There are some unusual recipes on the market’s website, none of which looked terribly appealing to me, but are worth checking out for the unintentionally awkward translations, like this description of Mixed Rice of Ginger:  “A little ginger and soy sauce are accented. Because ginger is not too tight, I will eat many cups! It is an easy recipe that can be even surplus rice.  If you keep the mixed rice with a rice cooker etc. for 1 ~ 2 hours, the taste becomes familiar and it becomes even more delicious.  Well, maybe ginger is “not too tight,” but I’m pretty sure that if you eat “many cups” of this mixed rice, soon your pants will be.  🙂

My daughter and I enjoyed our visits to Seiwa Market.  It’s quite out of the way for us, so we won’t be going regularly, but when we’re in the area, we will be sure to stop by.

TRUFFLED AVOCADO TOAST

One of my New Year’s resolutions, like I imagine most of my readers, was to lose weight — a resolution I believe I’ve made every year since 6th grade.  And I’ve been trying hard to keep that resolution–at least it feels like I’ve been trying hard.  I finally gave in and joined Weight Watchers for the hundredth time, except this time I promised myself that I’d try to stick to the program and not skip meetings.  It’s slow going, but at least it’s going.  If you’ve ever seen a WW ad featuring one of their success stories, you’ll notice a disclaimer at the bottom that says “results not typical.”  Well, say hello to “typical.”  My goal this year is to be “not typical.”

There are tons of WW “ambassadors” on Instagram, and they all joyously eat the rainbow, delight in ethereal baked goods made from egg whites and protein powder, and regard fat-free cheese, yogurt, and cool whip as a sort of holy trinity.  Everything they eat (and I do mean EVERYTHING) is Instagram-worthy, or at least Instagrammed.  But as I’ve learned over the years, this kind of eating tends to favor quantity over quality, is not sustainable in the real world, and is not for me.  I’ve tried a few of the products — the plasticene Velveeta slices (only 1 point!), the snack bars that taste like they’re coated in candle drippings (only 2 points!), the fat-free plain yogurt with fruit (pucker up!), and the1-point tortilla wraps that are gummy from cellulose fiber (OK, I kinda like these) — and have decided to focus instead on making healthier choices, eating smaller portions, and tracking (the bedrock of the WW plan).  And just to be clear, I will never ever accept Fat Free Cool Whip as “frosting” — that is just sadness.

So I expect that I’ll be posting some healthier recipes that fit in with what I’m trying to accomplish.  If appropriate, I’ll add the WW smart points value.  ‘Nuff said.

Avocado toast seems to be a particular favorite among not just WW devotees, but the world in general, although it seems that it is quickly being replaced by sweet potato toast (I know, not really a “toast” thing, and I can think of other ways to ruin my toaster besides running slices of sweet potato through it 4 or 5 times in a row).  Long before avocado toast starting trending, however, my parents used to make it, mashing it on toast and declaring it was “just like buttah.”

l had a small piece of a precious black winter truffle left in my fridge.  Jeanne, my “truffle pusher,” taught me that to enjoy truffles, they need a base of fat and salt.  But copious amounts of fat is kind of a no-no at the moment — and then I thought of the avocado, which is “just like buttah.”  And it worked — avocado toast with thin truffle shavings and a touch of flaky sea salt — that was one special breakfast!  Winter truffle season is over, but I may revisit this when summer truffles are available.  And for those of you without access to fresh truffles, I have confirmed that a teeny tiny drizzle of truffle oil is pretty delicious on avocado toast, as I suspect truffle salt would be as well (oh, the grueling research I conduct).  No recipe, just photos.  🙂

(6 WW smart points — 1/4 avocado (3 sp), 1 slice toasted sourdough or artisan bread (3 sp))

FUSS-FREE APPETIZERS FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS

Whether you’re entertaining a crowd, or planning a quiet night in for New Year’s Eve, here are three appetizers that are fuss-free, elegant, and always popular.

Fuss-free appetizer #1:  duck rillettes, cornichons, and french mustard

Serve with crostini. (To make crostini, slice a baguette into 1/4″ thick slices, place on baking sheet, and brush one side lightly with olive oil — bake at 350 degrees until dry and crispy).  In a pinch, you can serve with sturdy crackers.  This goes well with any kind of wine.

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Fuss-free appetizer #2: caviar, crème fraiche, and mini pancakes

The caviar is a splurge, but Costco has it this time of year at a significant savings off the regular price.  Traditionally, caviar is served with buckwheat pancakes (blini), but I couldn’t find them locally, wasn’t about to make them, and ordering them was prohibitive because they had to be shipped on ice.  But then my boss introduced me to H-E-B mini pancakes, and they are just perfect.  This goes well with champagne.

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Fuss-free appetizer #3:  cambozola and sweet crisps

Cambozola is a triple cream, brie-style blue cheese (think camembert and gorgonzola).  Sweet Crisps are sold at Corner Bakery, and are thin slices of raisin pecan bread, brushed (I assume) with butter or oil, sprinkled with coarse sugar, and baked until crispy (there are loads of “copy-cat” recipes on the interwebs).  Although cambozola is perfectly delicious on a plain ol’ cracker, it is divine on a sweet crisp.  If you are lucky enough to have a friend who sends you her homemade sour cherry jam, by all means, dab a little on top of the cheese!  This goes particularly well with red wine.

img_8683None of these appetizers will take you more than 5 minutes to put together, and I promise you, they will disappear almost as quickly.

SPICY MUSSELS IN WHITE WINE

I found this vintage mussel dish on ebay.

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It’s kinda ugly in an interesting sort of way.  I believe it was made in France in the 1950s by Vallauris.

Have you ever heard the saying “some days you’re the pigeon and other days you’re the statue?”  How about “some days you’re the dog and other days you’re the hydrant?”  Well, I’ve got another one for you — some days you’re the seagull and other days you’re the mussel.  Seagulls have a taste for mussels and other shellfish.  To get at the meat inside the shell, they carry the mussel high in the air, and then drop it on rocks below.  They do this over and over until the shell finally cracks open, and then they feast.  (A nice video of this, with some sea lions as an added bonus, can be seen here.)

After certain unpleasant and entirely fascinating recent events in American politics, I think we all might feel a little mussel-like, as if we’d been repeatedly dropped on sharp rocks until a seagull can come and pick our innards out.  This feeling, together with the mussel dish, is the inspiration for this recipe for Spicy Mussels in White Wine.

On Fridays and Saturdays, the Costco near me has a sort of pop-up seafood shop, and they almost always have 3-pound bags of beautiful Prince Edward Island (“PEI”) mussels   — rarely a broken shell in the whole bunch.  In researching mussels, I learned that the size of the mussel varies with the season — they are largest in October and smallest in March.  If a batch of mussels appears to be different colors, don’t worry — pale white meat indicates a male mussel, and a warmer, more orangey colour, a female.  (Yep, another step closer to being Cliff Clavin.)

This recipe is quick and easy, and is  a delicious light meal any time of year. Crusty bread is, of course, mandatory for sopping up the broth.  For times when you are perhaps feeling mussel-like, a soothing, steaming, savory bowl of mussels in white wine will help you feel like you are soaring with the seagulls in no time, at least momentarily.

SPICY MUSSELS IN WHITE WINE
Print
Recipe type: Seafood, Main Courses
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2¼"-thick slices of lemon
  • 2 pounds fresh mussels, scrubbed and debearded (discard any broken shells or that won't close)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ cup chopped seeded tomatoes
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, crushed red pepper, and salt, and saute until onion is golden, approximately 4-5 minutes. Add wine and lemon and bring to a boil over high heat. Add mussels and cook, covered, until mussels open, stirring once to rearrange mussels, approximately 6 minutes. Discard any mussels that do not open. Using a slotted spoon, transfer mussels to individual serving bowls. Boil liquid remaining in pot until reduced to 1 cup, approximately 3 minutes. Season broth to taste with salt and pepper. Pour broth over mussels. Sprinkle with parsley and tomatoes, and serve hot.
  2. (Note: Have lots of crusty bread on hand to sop up the broth.)

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THANKSGIVING DAY GIVING

It’s not that we don’t have seasons in Houston — it’s just that they tend to not be very dramatic.  It’s been unseasonably warm this fall — too warm for the leaves to turn color — and the signs that Thanksgiving was approaching were subtle.  One clue was the ripening pecans hanging in clusters, which made the squirrels very happy:

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Another clue was the appearance of acorns.  I pass some kind of oak tree on my way to work that had the BIGGEST acorns I’ve ever seen:

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There was an occasional colored leaf:

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Soon, turkeys started going on sale at the grocery store, along with canned pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and Pepperidge Farm stuffing, leaving no doubt that Thanksgiving was nearing.  And that meant it was time for my son’s Boy Scout Troop’s 2nd Annual Thanksgiving Day Luncheon for senior citizens living in and around our little community.

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When my son was working on his Eagle project (a fence around utility structures in a neighborhood park), a city employee suggested that the Troop might consider hosting this luncheon, which had been abandoned 5 or 6 years ago by the group that had previously hosted it.  Sure, why not?

Last year we had 19 guests, but this year word spread and we had close to 50.  Through donations of ingredients and dollars, we were able to provide a mostly home-cooked meal (meats and pies were purchased) of roast turkey with gravy, smoked ham, stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, Southern-style corn, green bean casserole, fresh cranberry relish, vanilla cranberry sauce, rolls and butter, and assorted pies with whipped cream.

We did most of the cooking two days before, using Senior Services’ well-equipped kitchen.

img_3821The day before, Troop volunteers set up the activity room.  Working within our budget and the fact that we had to use paper and plastic tableware, I think we managed to make the room look worthy of our guests.

Our guests started arriving about 30 minutes before the start of the meal, and it gave us an opportunity to visit with them.  They were excited to be joining us, and many came elegantly dressed.  The room was buzzy with happy chatter.

The scouts did a great job of serving up the meal and interacting with the guests:

We sent each guest home with leftovers, for later in the day (because really, it isn’t Thanksgiving without leftovers):

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Each guest also received a festively-wrapped loaf of homemade Pumpkin Ginger Bread or Cranberry Orange Bread, for snacking on later in the day:

I’ve previously posted the recipes for Pumpkin Ginger Bread and Cranberry Orange Quick Bread.  These are such great little loaves — fragrant and moist, not too sweet.

The luncheon was a great success, and I enjoyed it as much as our guests.  As one of our guests was leaving, he called me over and said “I only have one complaint — everything was so good that I have nothing to complain about.”  He gave a little chuckle and said “That’s my joke.”  That’s the kind of complaint I love to hear!  I hope you got lots of “complaints” this Thanksgiving as well.  🙂

 

HOLIDAY ENTERTAINING WITH LA MADELEINE

This morning I attended a special holiday event at the original Houston location of La Madeleine County French Cafe, located at 10001 Wertheimer, in the Carillon shopping center, featuring some of the restaurant’s new offerings.  This bright and spacious location is one of my favorites.

La Madeleine’s first location opened in Dallas in 1983, and since then has grown to approximately 70 locations nationwide.  The restaurant’s casual atmosphere and French-inspired dishes make it a relaxing place for a leisurely meal, or to savor a cup of dark French roast coffee with a freshly-baked croissant or pastry.

We were ushered into a private room, where orange juice and champagne were waiting at each place setting for guests to make their own mimosas.

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What a great way to start the day!

We were told that we were going to be served three courses — breakfast, lunch, and dessert — in order to sample a variety of La Madeleine’s new holiday dishes.  The invite should have read “Dress — stretchy pants.”

First up was the new Country French Brunch from the catering menu, which included Egg & Cheese Croissant Bake, Cheesy Potato Gratin, an assortment of mini croissants (plain, almond, blackberry, and chocolate), and Fresh Cut Fruit Salade.  If you have it delivered, the restaurant will set it up like this:

You can also pick it up packaged and ready to bake at home (350 degrees for 20 minutes, I believe) (this is a more economical option, if you have an oven available):

The two hot dishes were rich and cheesy and just plain delicious.  Even though we all knew there was more coming, there were a lot of members of the Clean Plate Club.  If you need a dish to bring to a holiday potluck, or something special for a holiday weekend brunch, or just don’t feel like messing up the kitchen yet again this holiday season, the Country French Brunch is your answer.  The fruit salad, prepared fresh daily, was a nice complement to the rich dishes, and looked pretty on the plate.

Next up was the Holiday Cafe Sampler, which included the new Turkey and Cranberry Puff Pastry (also referred to as a friand), with a side of the restaurant’s famous Caesar Salade and a cup of the equally-famous Tomato Basil Soup:

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The sandwich, which also had gruyere inside, was accompanied with a side of gruyere cheese sauce, just in case there was a button on your pants that hadn’t popped open yet.  The sandwich, with everything it had going on, was a meal in itself, although that didn’t stop anyone from enjoying the soup and salad.  The cranberries in the sandwich provided a nice tart contrast and a bit of color, and definitely felt Thanksgiving-ish (or maybe day after Thanksgiving-ish).

As you might guess, at this point, there wasn’t much room for dessert, so we were invited to pack a to-go box to enjoy later.  The desserts, in true La Madeleine style, were beautiful and worth every calorie.  There were 3 creme brulee creations — caramel creme brulee, creme brulee cheesecake (cheesecake with a layer of creme brulee on top), and a gingerbread creme brulee tart.  There was also pumpkin pie, pecan tart, sacher torte parfait, and a fruit and cheese danish.

You can check out pricing and order online here.

Before we left, we were given a gift bundle, prettily packaged for holiday giving, which included a 12-pack of k-cups of La Madeleine’s french roast coffee, a cheerful coffee cup that said “joie de vivre,” a giant heart-shaped linzer cookie, a jar of La Madeleine’s tomato basil soup, and a soup bowl decorated with tomatoes that said “Bon Appetit.”

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I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t be as thrilled as I was to receive one of these great bundles for a gift.  For that person who is difficult to buy for, or maybe just for someone you really like, keep this in mind.

I get invited to events like this from time to time.  Sometimes, if I’ve previously been to the establishment and was not impressed, I decline.  Sometimes it conflicts with my day job.  And sometimes I go and end up not writing about it because if I can’t, in good conscience, enthusiastically recommend an establishment, I won’t post about it — too many other places to find negative content on the internet.  This was one of the nicest events I’ve been invited to.  The staff was warm and welcoming, the food was wonderful, and everyone had a good time.  My family has been going to La Madeleine for decades — the sachertorte and strawberry napoleon have been desserts at many a special dinner here, I craved their blueberry scones when I was pregnant, and we always have a bag of their croutons in the refrigerator for Caesar salad.  I expect that the Country French Brunch is about to become a new holiday tradition for my family.