Browsing Tag

dinner party

book review, recipe

Perfect Little World + Pickled Deviled Eggs

My latest Book of the Month selection explored the concept of a utopian society – a nice change of pace from the other books I’ve been reading lately. In Perfect Little World, Isabelle is a teenage mother without the father in the picture or the support of her own family. Lucky for her, Dr. Preston Grind is currently casting for his new experiment in childrearing – The Infinite Family Project.

30107561

Designed as a utopia for raising children, The Infinite Family Project brings together 10 children and 19 parents. They live in a housing compound among the best experts in child development and raise the children together as one carefully-chosen extended family.

As the only single mother in the project, Izzy has a few obstacles to overcome, but she eventually finds her place among the other parents. She becomes an apprentice to the hired cook, learning new skills and taking pride in her work. When a magazine comes to do a profile on them, she impresses even herself with pickled deviled eggs topped with candied bacon.

To the reporter and photographer, the experiment may not seem as cultish as they had originally thought. But, as with any family, things aren’t always what they seem to an outsider, and over the course of 10 years, the perfection Dr. Grind was seeking starts to show some cracks.  

Obviously, I seized on the opportunity to make my own pickled eggs and candied bacon and turn them into the masterpiece that Izzy served during the visit from the magazine. With Easter just around the corner, it seemed like a perfect fit. First, I learned how to pickle eggs with beet juice and how to candy bacon, but then I was ready to dive in!

Pickling eggs is pretty easy, and it’s a great way to make the deviled eggs look more festive. For wary picky eaters, it didn’t alter the taste all that much in this application, but added a bit of tang. Overall, it just made them better. 

I took my peeled, hard-boiled eggs and added them to a large jar. (If you don’t have a jar, another container will work, but glass is preferred.) To that, I added my pickling liquid – beet juice, vinegar, salt and water boiled together – and let the whole thing sit overnight in my fridge.

IMG_2802

The next day, I started with my candied bacon, since cooking it low and slow as suggested took a while and could be done while I otherwise prepped the deviled eggs. I recommend following the link in the notes section of the recipe and only making one or two slices total, if you’re making a dozen deviled eggs.

While the bacon cooked, I began working on the eggs. First, I cut them in half and arranged them on a plate.

IMG_2803

I scooped out the yolks and put them in a small bowl. To that, I added the mayo, vinegar and mustard. I stirred those together with a fork until most of the lumps were gone – this is especially important if you’re going the piping route. Then I added a generous sprinkle of seasoned salt and a bit of freshly ground black pepper.

IMG_2804

I used a piping bag in an effort to make the eggs look a bit more elegant, but feel free to use a spoon if you’re not trying to impress anyone. (That’s what I usually do.) Once the egg whites were filled, I added the finished candied bacon, which I cut into about half-inch sections.

Combined, the flavors complemented each other very well. The vinegar from the pickling helped to cut the richness of the deviled eggs and the candied bacon added an element of crunch and some sweetness to balance the tart. These lovely purple eggs will be a great addition to any Easter celebration or even a picnic as the weather warms up. Enjoy!

IMG_2772

Pickled Deviled Eggs with Candied Bacon

  • Servings: 12
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 6 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 15-oz can sliced beets with liquid
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • ¾ teaspoon white vinegar
  • pinch of Lawry’s seasoned salt, or to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • candied bacon as garnish, optional (see notes)

Directions

  1. Hard boil your eggs according to your preference or favorite recipe. (My method in notes.) Peel and place in a large jar.
  2. To make the pickling liquid, combine beets, vinegar, water and sugar in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is fully dissolved. Pour over the eggs. (I left out the majority of the beets because I didn’t have a lot of room in my container.)
  3. Make sure the jar/container is covered or sealed and then place in the fridge overnight.
  4. Slice pickled eggs in half lengthwise. Remove yolks and put into a small bowl. Place egg whites cut side up on a serving platter or tray.
  5. In bowl with yolks, add mayonnaise, mustard and vinegar. Mix until well-combined and not lumpy. Add seasoned salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Using a spoon or a piping bag and tip, fill the egg whites with the deviled egg mixture until finished.
  7. If using candied bacon, garnish with about half-inch slices on top.

Adapted from: Pinch My Salt’s deviled eggs and Sweet Little Bluebird’s pickled eggs

I made the hard-boiled eggs by placing them in a saucepan and filling with cold water until the eggs were covered by about an inch. Bring water to a boil and then immediately remove from heat. Cover and let sit for 12 minutes. Remove from the water and use a cold water rinse or ice water bath until eggs are cool.

If you choose to garnish with candied bacon, you really only need 1-2 slices per dozen deviled eggs. This link has a good explanation along with step-by-step photos. I recommend about 2-3 tablespoons of brown sugar for 1-2 slices. Use your best judgment.


book review, recipe

Small Great Things + Bite-Size Appetizer Trio

When I sat down with Jodi Picoult’s latest novel Small Great Things, I admit I hadn’t read a description. One of my clients had recommended it to me last last year, so I requested it from the library and sort of forgot about it. It came in a couple of weeks ago and I dove right in without expectation.

small-great-things-hc-400w.jpg

Right off the bat, this quote hit me. It felt so on-the-nose about the world we’re currently living in; I knew the right book had found me again.

IMG_2672

The narrative began, and I was immediately engrossed. I was also often uncomfortable. Three points of view bring this story to life – a black nurse, a white supremacist man, and a white lawyer who “doesn’t see color.” It isn’t shy about race or racism. The topic is the crux of the novel, the reason the story is being told. (Make sure to read the Author’s Note at the end.)

Ruth Jefferson doesn’t realize when she walks into the hospital room of proud new parents that she’s walking into a room of white supremacists. Despite her 20 years of experience, she is prohibited from having contact with them or their baby because of the color of her skin. The next day, when another nurse has no choice but to leave Ruth alone with the baby, he goes into cardiac arrest. She is forced to choose between obeying orders and her duty as a nurse, and ultimately, she is blamed for the baby’s death.

During the course of Ruth’s trial, each character examines their lives, their beliefs and the world around them. It’s intense and it will make you examine yourself and our world as well. Like any story told about race – real or imagined – it made me think, and I still can’t stop recommending this book to everyone I encounter.

To go along with Small Great Things, I opted to make a trio of bite-size appetizers. I wanted to make a “well-balanced” variety, so I opted for meatballs, spinach artichoke dip bites, and mini crab-stuffed mushrooms. All of them were easy and could, for the most part, be prepped ahead of time. Of course, they were delicious too.

I started with making the filling for the spinach artichoke dip bites. I combined my spinach (make sure it’s thawed and thoroughly drained), chopped artichoke hearts, garlic, garlic powder, salt and parmesan cheese.

IMG_2777

Then, I added the softened cream cheese and half of the shredded cheese, ground some black pepper over the bowl and mixed it all together. I set the filling aside while I cut the crescent roll dough into squares. I sprayed the mini muffin tin with cooking spray and popped one square in each opening, before filling it with the spinach artichoke mixture. I didn’t stress out about it too much – just made sure each one was amply filled and had a good sprinkle of shredded cheese on top.

IMG_2778

These should bake in a 375 degree oven for 15-17 minutes. After they’re finished, allow them to cool for 5-10 minutes before removing from the muffin tin.

Then, I moved on to the mushrooms. First, I cleaned my little army of mini bella mushrooms. (These are my favorite kind of mushroom because they have great flavor, but feel free to use white button mushrooms if you prefer.)

IMG_2779

The original recipe recommended that you toss the mushrooms in melted butter until they’re well-coated. I did that, but I took out of my recipe below. They were a little too moist, in my opinion. If you’d like to lightly brush the tops only with olive oil (or melted butter) that is probably sufficient.

I lined them all up on a foil-covered sheet pan while I made the filling. To make the the crab stuffing, take a medium bowl and combine the lump crab meat, cream cheese, shredded cheese, Worcestershire sauce and green onions.

IMG_2780

Then, I stuffed each mushroom with as much filling as would fit. It’s okay to be generous here – I had them all a little over-filled because the filling cooks down as it bakes. Top each mushroom with the parmesan cheese.

IMG_2781

The mushrooms should bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. After they are heated through and the cheese is melted, turn on the broiler for between 2-5 minutes, watching closely so they don’t burn. The goal is to get the tops to be a nice lightly golden brown.

While everything else was baking, I began on the meatballs. I combined all of the ingredients for the sauce – peach preserves, finely diced chipotle peppers, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a high-sided skillet.

IMG_2782

It turned it up to medium so that it could come up to a simmer and allowed it to cook at that temperature for about 5 minutes. Then, I added the meatballs and covered the pan.

IMG_2783

The meatballs cooked for another 25 minutes. I stirred them a few times, making sure they were well-coated and cooking evenly. Serve warm.

Spinach Artichoke Dip Bites

  • Servings: 24 pieces
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 9-oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 6-oz jar artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • ½ tsp minced garlic
  • 2 TBS shredded parmesan cheese
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • pepper to taste (freshly ground)
  • 1 can seamless crescent roll dough

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a bowl, combine spinach, artichoke hearts, garlic, garlic powder, salt and parmesan cheese. Blend in cream cheese and half of your shredded cheese. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  3. Using a rolling pin, lay out dough on a cutting board and lightly stretch to 8×12. (It should already be close to this straight out of the package.) Cut down into 2-inch squares, so you have 24 squares total.
  4. Lightly grease a mini muffin tin and place a square in each slot, gently pushing down to create an indent. (You do not need to mold it to the cup.) In most cases, the dough should naturally fall into the cups.
  5. Scoop about 1 Tablespoon of your spinach mixture on top of each square and gently push in. (Bites will mold to the tin while baking.) If there is any remaining mixture, add to cups that look less full than others.
  6. Sprinkle the remaining Monterey Jack cheese over the tops of each bite.
  7. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before removing from the muffin tin.

Adapted from: Lil’ Luna

Don’t worry about making sure your squares are perfectly uniform. I had a whole variety of some that looked more rectangle-y, some that were small and some that were larger. They all tasted delicious.


Mini Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

  • Servings: 80-100 mushrooms
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 80-100 mini Bella mushrooms (5-6 containers)
  • 8 ounces lump crab meat, drained
  • 8 ounces whipped cream cheese
  • 12 ounces (1½ cups) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 bunches chopped green onions
  • 1 TBS Worcestershire sauce
  • 4-6 TBS shredded parmesan cheese
  • olive oil or melted butter, as desired

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Wash mushrooms and remove the stems. If desired, lightly brush the tops only with olive oil or melted butter. Set aside.
  3. Mix remaining all ingredients except the parmesan cheese.
  4. Stuff mushrooms with the crab-cheese mixture. Top with the parmesan cheese.
  5. Bake mushrooms at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Broil for 2-5 minutes, watching to ensure they don’t burn. Mushrooms should be slightly golden brown on top.

Adapted from: Crazy Jamie

Bonus Recipe: If you have any of the filling leftover (as I did when I made these following the original recipe), it makes great crab quesadillas. Just warm tortilla(s) in a lightly greased skillet over medium heat. Add filling to one half of the quesadilla and fold over. Once the bottom is lightly golden, flip. Wait for that side to become lightly browned as well and ensure the filling is heated through. Serve with hot sauce, salsa, guacamole, or whatever toppings you prefer!


Chipotle Peach Meatballs

  • Servings: 60 meatballs
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 18 oz peach preserves
  • 3-4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely diced
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • ½ TBS Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 32 oz, or about 60 frozen cocktail meatballs (see notes)

Directions

  1. Add peach preserves, diced chipotle peppers, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, salt and pepper into a medium to large high-sided skillet. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Cooking in two batches, add half (about 30) of the meatballs and cover. Let simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally for an additional 25 minutes, or until meatballs are thawed.
  3. Using tongs so the majority of the sauce stays in the skillet, transfer the meatballs to your serving container and keep warm. Repeat step 2.
  4. Add second batch of meatballs and sauce to serving bowl. Serve warm.

Adapted from: The Culinary Compass

If you have multiple meatball options in your grocery store, opt for Homestyle as they’ll have less seasoning than Italian (which were the two options at mine).

If you prefer your meatballs saucier, you can use 18 oz (approximately 32) meatballs instead and cook in one batch only.


This post contains affiliate links. Full disclosure here.

book review, recipe

One Thousand White Women + Cornish Hens

When given the choice to remain in an eternity of solitary monotony or to move into the dangerous unknown to marry a “savage” stranger, what would you do? Having been committed to an asylum for her promiscuity, May Dodd is seemingly stuck without recourse. When President Grant agrees to provide a Cheyenne chief with 1000 white brides in a peace deal, May doesn’t hesitate to join the ranks.

51SZgpOcdOL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

In his novel based on a proposed scenario in history, Jim Fergus explores what would’ve happened if President Grant had made a different choice. One Thousand White Women follows May Dodd and her fellow brides – nearly all of them some kind of outcast in society – as they head west on a long journey by train, each of them promised to a member of the Cheyenne tribe.  

Told primarily through the journals May Dodd kept, the experience is unlike what anyone expected – Cheyennes and brides alike. All of the women are thoroughly changed in the end. May, a rich society girl turned working class mother turned asylum inmate, marries the chief of her tribe. She is looked to as much for her bravery as for her knowledge on how to please a man. Like her husband Little Wolf, she becomes a leader among the other women.

While still trying to find her footing in the beginning, her husband takes her on a so-called honeymoon to a remote part of the prairie. Unable to communicate effectively, May does her best to get her points across and makes herself useful by cooking meals for herself and Little Wolf, using his kill of the day. For one such meal, May finds some wild onions and herbs and uses them to stuff some grouse the Chief has caught.

In an attempt to recreate that meal, I got some Cornish hens (a modern-day city substitute) and, using other more ingredient-heavy recipes like this one as a guide, put together something a bit simpler that I hoped better aligned with what May might have made. I served them with simply roasted carrots (salt, pepper and oil) and corn.     

I was only able to find frozen Cornish hens at my grocery stores, so if that’s the case for you as well, make sure they’re thoroughly thawed. Then, I trimmed off some excess skin, removed anything left in the cavity, rinsed them off and patted them dry. Next I stuffed each hen with half of an onion, chopped into 3 large chunks, and 2 garlic cloves.

I rubbed the outside of them with some olive oil (you could also use melted butter) and covered then generously in fresh chopped sage and tarragon. I placed them on a foil-covered baking sheet and placed them in a 375-degree preheated oven for an hour.

img_2466

Once I checked the temperature to ensure they were cooked through, I removed them from the oven, loosely covered with foil and allowed them to rest for 10 minutes. They tasted just as good as they smelled!

img_2467

img_2468

Cornish Hens

  • Servings: 2
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 Cornish hens
  • 1 sprig of tarragon, leaves roughly chopped
  • 2 sprigs of sage, leaves roughly chopped
  • 1 medium onion, halved and cut into 3 smaller pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • olive oil or melted butter

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Ensure your hens are fully thawed. Remove any access skin, particularly around the opening, and anything that may be in the open cavity. Rinse them with cold water and thoroughly pat dry.
  3. Stuff each hen with a half of the onion and 2 garlic cloves.
  4. Rub each hen with olive oil and cover with the fresh herbs, making sure to cover both sides of each hen.
  5. Place seasoned and stuffed hens on a foil lined baking sheet with edges, breast side up.
  6. Bake for 1 hour, or until a meat thermometer shows the hens are cooked to 165 degrees F in the thickest part of the thigh or breast.
  7. Cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Serve with vegetables.