Farm-fresh Deviled Eggs (and a Giveaway!)

I love eggs for just about everything, and there’s nothing as tasty as a farm-fresh egg, so I am super excited to team up with NestFresh Eggs to share my favorite recipes for holiday entertaining, and give away some delicious eggs.

I’m really serious when I say there’s nothing as tasty as a farm-fresh egg. When I was a kid, my family moved to the middle of nowhere in rural Tennessee, and I was abruptly immersed in the life of  small farm. One of the first things we did was one of the simplest: buy some chickens, build them a small coop, and let them roam around our whole 20-acre farm. Here are some old shots of our lovely hens and roosters:

chickens1

As you can see, they basically ran all over the place, picking up bugs and whatnot from the grass all around their coop.

chickens2

I can’t begin to tell you how delicious those eggs were. As a kid, I was used to eating small, white, runny eggs, and these farm-fresh beauties changed my life. Once you’ve had an organic, cage-free, farm-fresh egg, you can never go back. And the Nestfresh eggs are the same: it’s kind of hard to explain how and why they taste so good: the yolks are more bright yellow, when you bake with them your baked goods are fluffier, and your scrambled eggs just taste … egg-ier.

Once you get it, you’ll see.

scrambled

Speaking of getting it, my friends at NestFresh are giving away two dozen eggs to one of my lucky readers. I’m organizing the giveaway through Rafflecopter, so click here and be sure to use all of your entry options to win!

(* Disclaimer: The NestFresh company gave me two dozen free eggs to assist with the production of this post, and they will supply the two dozen eggs that are the giveaway prize. I was not compensated for my opinions or in any other way.)

deviled eggs three ways

Since I am not a very great baker, my idea of “entertaining” with eggs is using them for what was always on the Thanksgiving and holiday party tables: deviled eggs. My grandma always made the standard recipe, using grated or diced onion, a bit of mayo and mustard, and sprinkled with sweet paprika on top. There was always a huge platter of them on the table, and, when dinner was finally ready and someone needed to eat that last deviled egg so the plate could be cleared, guess who stepped up to take one for the team? That’s right.

These days, I try to make my everyday, “boring” recipes with a little extra kick, both of flavor and of healthiness, so I have the traditional recipe as well as lighter/healthier one, and a kicked-up spicy one.

Before you get started on various deviled egg recipes, please remember to not take these appetizers too seriously. They don’t need to be perfectly shaped or perfectly styled … in fact, because they’re more natural, they probably won’t be perfect.

Just remember that there are no failures when it comes to hardboiled eggs: even the cracked ones you can’t use for deviling …

cracked

… are perfect for ramen.

ramen

(As a matter of fact, use some extra turkey and turkey stock after Thanksgiving to make your own homemade ramen soup to use up your leftovers. Trust me.)

Now for the deviled eggs. These three variations are totally simple, and you can make them using everyday ingredients. I made all three of them at once, to satisfy the tastes of several guests. Perfect.

Traditional:

traditional deviled eggs

  • 1 dozen eggs, hardboiled, chilled, peeled, AND halved
  • 3 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp of your favorite mustard (or try this homemade mustard recipe)
  • 1 tbsp paprika, plus more for garnishing
  • salt and pepper

spicy deviled eggs

Spicy variation:

  • 1 dozen eggs, hardboiled, chilled, peeled, AND halved
  • 3 tbsp mayonnaise
  • handful of grated cheddar cheese
  • generous squirt of sriracha (of course, feel free to use less if you have spice-sensitive guests, or use your own homemade sriracha like me)
  • toasted pine nuts (for garnish)
  • salt and pepper

yogurt/lemon/dill deviled eggs

Lighter/tangier variation:

  • 1 dozen eggs, hardboiled, chilled, peeled, AND halved
  • 3 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tsp dried dill, plus more for garnish

Instructions:

After your eggs are boiled, cooled, peeled and cut in half, gently remove the egg yolks and place in a bowl. Do your best to not puncture or damage the egg white, and set the whites to the side. When all of your egg yolks have been removed, add the other ingredients and mix well. Make sure the egg yolks are completely smashed, and the mixture is smooth.

Using either a spoon or a pastry bag (I use a makeshift pastry bag by cutting a tiny hole in the bottom corner of a freezer bag, then filling it with the mixture), fill the holes in the egg whites with the egg yolk mixture. Garnish as necessary and serve immediately.

traditional eggs recipe card

spicy egg recipe card

tangy egg recipe card

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October Unprocessed Made Easy: It’s the Little Things

How’s your October Unprocessed challenge going? This is my second year going clean for the month of October, and I see why this is really a lifestyle change instead of a simple diet or weight loss challenge. The more you employ small changes into your daily routines and everyday meals, the more an Unprocessed challenge won’t feel like such a challenge.

Obviously, living unprocessed is harder than it looks. It’s a great month-long challenge simply because it’s kind of hard to stick with. But making really small changes every day can help you eat clean the other 11 months of the year.

Here are a few small things that have worked for me, year-round:

Homemade condiments

Often, condiments and sauces are some of the first things people ask me about when I tell them about the Unprocessed challenge, but those sauces are some of the easiest things to make from scratch — and to leave out all of the mono-whatdjacallit sodium-hydrox-o-OMG. Seriously, read the label of the bottles in your fridge sometime. Most of them start with simple ingredients (salt, vinegar, tomatoes, etc.), and them all of a sudden, it goes off the rails with additives and stuff you can’t pronounce.

The solution is simple: Give up the labels and make your own. It’s very simple to make fresher, tastier, healthier versions of most of the condiments in your refrigerator right now. For the cost of a bottle of BBQ sauce laden with corn syrup, or mass-produced sriracha, or preservative- and dye-packed ketchup, or fake mustard, you can make a far better, healthier, tastier, cleaner version at home.

Here are my favorite condiments to make at home:

mustard

– salad dressings (usually I use a few tablespoons of homemade mustard or homemade jam, and put it in a mason jar with a bit of vinegar, some fresh herbs and olive oil, then shake it up)

sriracha (also kraut and kimchi)

curry ketchup and roasted corn relish

– roasted habanero salsa (and also a really awesome tomatillo salsa, but it’s not my recipe)

This week, I finished up a batch of homemade sriracha by draining the liquid from my fermented peppers …

fermented red peppers for hot sauce

then as I pureed the peppers for the sriracha,

homemade sriracha

… I used the liquid to soak a bunch of mustard seeds for a spicy homemade mustard.

spicy mustard

Awesome.

And have you ever tried store-bought sauerkraut? If you have, you probably hate kraut now, just on principle. Grab a jar or a nice chemical-free crock, and try making your own probiotics for a great project and a delicious and healthy nosh.

sauerkraut

Replace pasta with vegetables.

Lots of paleo recipe sites like this one have great ideas for replacing pasta with “zoodles,” or zucchini noodles. They’re easy to make and lots of fun, particularly if you have kids and need help getting them to eat properly.

Personally, I am a huge fan of spaghetti squash. It’s very simple to prepare; you can steam it my stabbing it with a few holes and either microwaving it (for about 2-3 minutes per pound) or slow-cooking it (4-6 hours on low setting, covered halfway with water), then using a fork to pull off all of the stringy bits, then mix it with your favorite sauce or pasta topping.

spaghetti squash

You can also cut it in half when it’s raw (you’ll need a wicked sharp knife) and roast it for the same effect. No matter how you prepare it, a medium-sized squash will give up enough stringy strands for at least 3-4 servings.

Replace meat with vegetables, or with better (aka cleaner) meat

Do you Portobello?

I love to replace hamburger patties with the big, hearty mushrooms, or just grill them with a little oil-and-vinegar salad dressing and serve as a side dish or vegetarian entrée option. No one will miss the meat when you grill up these babies. Eating Rules also has a great Portobello recipe this month.

cookout 019
Homemade bacon is beyond compare.

It’s stupid easy to make, and the homemade version is far better than any store-bought, nitrate-packed, pink slime. I take a nicely trimmed pork belly (my local Korean grocer does it perfectly and doesn’t look at you curiously when you request pork bellies), put it in a freezer bag with 2:1 ratio of kosher salt and brown sugar, then let it sit refrigerated for 3-4 days. When the meat is tough to the touch, it’s ready.

Rinse the meat, leave it in the fridge overnight without a cover, and smoke it for 3-6 hours, or until the internal temp is 160. That’s it. It’s unprocessed. It’s nitrate-free, it’s super-easy to make, and it’s f***ing delicious.

homemade bacon
Make your own cleaner version of everyday foods

Speaking of things that are easy to make, and the homemade versions far surpass the store-bought … my yogurt make is one of the best purchases I’ve made this year. You only need a bit of yogurt starter and some good milk, and the machine does the rest. I just make plain yogurt, then add organic honey or homemade jam. Bonus if you add some of this chow-chow from Friend in Cheeses Jam Company … it’s amazing! It’s all delicious and organic, and still unprocessed.

homemade yogurtAnd don’t forget, the idea is to control the ingredients. Think about other every day meals you can make from scratch instead of purchasing processed.

Fresh is best 

I have a subscription to a local farm network, so I get a weekly delivery of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. (I use Farm Fresh to You and I love it, but there are literally thousands of services out there, depEnding on your location.)

Cooking seasonally and locally usually means you’re eating the best, and no matter what you get in your weekly delivery, a recipe for it is only a Google search away. And when in doubt … CURRY. This is my favorite recipe for pumpkin curry, but you can literally replace the vegetables with anything. I did the same recipe with cauliflower. Yum.
curry

Lastly, don’t forget to use all of your gadgets! If you’re concerned about added fats, oils, and greases, you can’t go wrong with the clean taste of outdoor cooking and smoking. I used my outdoor smoker to pretty quickly (less than an hour) smoke a couple of pieces of salmon, plus some yams, fingerling potatoes and sliced delicata squash. A little olive oil, a few herbs, and you have a delicious unprocessed dinner in no time.

0salmon

 

Breakfast, dinner, snacks: Recipes starring Bacon Jam

Bacon Jam is a fantastic recipe and a welcome gift in its many variations … I myself have made at least three variations on the same recipe, like chocolate-chipotle bacon jam, bourbon bacon jam and the regular recipe. People are happy to get a jar … but then they always ask me, what is it good for?

Here are a few ideas:

Any egg dish:

  • smear it on the english muffin when you make a benedict;
  • add it to your egg mix when you make a quiche;
  • toss a spoonful into your scrambled eggs or omelette;

Any potato dish:

  • toss some with frozen tater tots or scalloped potatoes before baking;
  • use it to top a loaded baked potato or add to your warm potato salads;
  • mix with mashed potatoes or use it to make a gravy for your potatoes;

Any sandwich:

  • use it to top a tuna melt or grilled cheese;
  • mix it with ground meat for a meatloaf;
  • spread it (warmed) on a cold turkey or ham sandwich;

Any vegetable:

  • toss a couple spoonfuls into steamed corn, asparagus, green beans, etc., right before serving;
  • add to savory holiday dishes using sweet potatoes or yams;
  • add to soups and savory dishes featuring beans (like bean soups and chilis).

The answer, honestly, is that there are very few recipes that would not be made better with bacon jam; but it’s hard to just give someone a jar of it and say “I dare you to find something that ISN’T good with this jam!”

Here are two favorites of mine.

First, a delicious dinner. It’s easy to find a way to toss a spoonful of bacon jam into your scrambled eggs, but what about for later in the day? I got the idea for this one while I was enjoying a San Diego Restaurant Week three-course meal at the Brooklyn Girl Eatery in the Mission Hills neighborhood of San Diego. One of the appetizer choices was their Bacon -Wrapped Vietnamese Meatballs appetizer, which was delicious and spicy and smoky and a taste-bomb on several different levels. This is my version of their masterpiece.

Bacon Jam Vietnamese Meatballs

(This dish is a perfect complement to the depth of multiple flavors already in regular bacon jam … and the spice just makes it better.)

  • 1 bag of frozen, pre-cooked meatballs (about a dozen individual meatballs);
  • 2-3 tablespoons bacon jam (any of the variations would work);
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of Thai chili paste (or more if you want it spicier);
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar;
  • generous squirt of sriracha;
  • about 2 tablespoons of soy sauce;
  • 1 lb cooked spaghetti or angel hair noodles;
  • 1 pack of extra-firm tofu, drained and sliced into about 8-10 slices (1/4 inch thick);
  • 2-3 tablespoons kimchi, preferably homemade;
  • 1 large carrot, grated;
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, torn into bits;
  • olive oil;
  • sesame oil

Place the pre-made and frozen meatballs into a cast-iron or heavy-bottomed skillet coated with olive oil and sesame oil, and brown the meatballs slightly over high heat. Reduce heat, add the bacon jam, chili paste, brown sugar, sriracha and soy sauce, and mix all of the ingredients together until it forms a bubbly sauce and coats all of the meatballs (you may need to add a little more soy sauce). Cover and let it simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 20-30 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare and drain the cooked noodles. In a separate skillet, coat the pan in sesame and olive oil, and gently lay down the slices of tofu. Cook for about 3-4 minutes on either side over medium high heat, and drizzle a little soy sauce on each slice of tofu as well. Remove from heat and set to the side.

When the meatballs have been cooked thoroughly (make sure they are coated with the bacon/chili/sugar sauce), toss with the cooked noodles.

To serve, add the cooked slices of tofu and the pre-made kimchi, and top it with grated carrot and fresh basil. Serve immediately.

BJV meatballs recipe card

Next, an appetizer. There are also no shortage of easy dips you can make with bacon jam, although you will definitely want to heat it before adding it to most dips. My favorite so far is this easy sriracha and white bean dip, made even deeper and more delectable with the addition of delicious bacon jam.

Spicy Bacon Jam Bean Dip

(Try this with a few crispy pita chips next time you get the munchies. This is super-easy, uses what you probably have, and takes hardly any time to prepare.)

  • 1 can of white beans, rinsed;
  • 2-3 tablespoons of bacon jam (any variety), warmed up slightly in the microwave;
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil;
  • 1 teaspoons soy sauce;
  • 2 tablespoons sriracha hot sauce;
  • salt and pepper

Blend all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender. Check the taste and add more sriracha if necessary. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately with chips or bread.

bacon jam bean dip recipe card

$5 Slow Food Challenge: Phô for the Lazy American

I think I’ve outdone myself this time.

My last $5 Slow Food Challenge, a phenomenally good smoked chicken posole, seriously knocked the $5 per-serving idea out of the park … I ended up with a cool $3.24 per quart. Not serving. QUART. Awesome. This is a little more ($4.91 per quart) but it can be stretched to make a dozen meals if you have a little imagination.

As usual, I have adapted this recipe both to my own lifestyle and tastes. I don’t have a family to feed, and (knock on wood) I no longer have to struggle with affording a decent meal for less than 5 bucks. So I do things like cook a huge crock pot full of soup, invite a bunch of friends over, and after dinner, I send each of them home with a tupperware container full of leftovers.

Vietnamese phô is one of those dishes than can be made a variety of ways, with any sort of meat or vegetable you have on hand. Traditionally it is made with beef broth and rice noodles, then the diner adds sriracha sauce and soy sauce, diced cabbage and bean sprouts, and if desired, jalapeños or other peppers.

Phô is also a great dish for newcomers to certain types of Asian cooking. With the exception of a few sauces and perhaps the fancy noodles, all of the ingredients are familiar to American cooks. This is a great way to start experimenting with Vietnamese dishes and to familiarize yourself with how wonderful it is. If you haven’t enjoyed a big bowl of phô and a bânh mí (Vietnamese sandwich on crusty bread), you’re seriously missing out.

I changed mine a little because I wanted to make mine a little heartier and added fresh sliced mushrooms and tofu chunks as well, I enjoy water chestnuts and usually have a can of sliced ones in the cupboard, and I happened to have a London broil steak that I made on the Fourth of July and may have accidentally overcooked on the grill. (Ahem.)

The cost breakdown:

  • $5.75 … a slab of London broil steak
  • $2.19 … 32-oz. of vegetable broth*
  • $0.99 … pack of sliced fresh mushrooms
  • $1.59 … package of extra-firm tofu
  • $0.49 … small head of cabbage
  • $0.50 … bunch of cilantro
  • $0.99 … bunch of basil
  • $1.69 … 1 lb. package of bean sprouts
  • $1.29 … can of sliced water chestnuts
  • $2.39 … bottle of sriracha**
  • $1.89 … package of rice noodles
  • $2.10 … bottle of soy sauce
  • $2.69 … jar of hoisin sauce

Total: $24.55

For a 5-quart crock pot, that works out to $4.91 per quart.

* Vegetable broth is simple to make using scraps of leftover vegetables. If you can make your own, it will obviously save you more money, plus you’ll be able to control the sodium, etc.

** You should already have this in your kitchen. Seriously; there’s nothing it cannot do.

Again, this recipe started out as a way to save a wonderful marinated London broil that I accidentally mangled on the grill, but if I were you, I’d keep it rare. I sliced the steak very thin and put it in the crock pot with half of the cilantro and basil, the vegetable broth, water chestnuts, and an additional few cups of water to fill the pot. I added a few tablespoons of hoisin, and a few dashes of soy sauce and sriracha.

If you use a rare steak instead of one that you also mangled, leave it out.

After the broth has been simmering for at least 5-6 hours, add the sliced mushrooms and cubed tofu. From then on, any additional simmering is just adding extra flavor.

When serving, put the (uncooked) noodles in the bowl, and cover with a handful of diced cabbage and some bean sprouts.

Garnish with the rest of the fresh cilantro and basil. Then pour the soup on top (it will cook the noodles) and add more sriracha.

My last $5 challenge was a traditional Mexican stew that can be made with a variety of types of ingredients, and can be stretched to feed a huge party if necessary, and this is very similar.

You can make this recipe even cheaper by eliminating the expensive steak and using only fresh veggies (like shredded carrot, diced zucchini or fresh corn), or by making your own stock from leftover vegetables or meat scraps. You can stretch this recipe by adding extra water and broth (plus extra spices), and padding the sides with the cheap diced cabbage.

… Or maybe, you’re like me, and after eating phô for a couple-three days, you start to think of ways to use what’s left.

1) Maybe you’d like to split the tofu and steak between a pot of soup and a nice sandwich? Traditionally, bânh mí is served on a crusty French roll (a nod to the Vietnamese/ French colonial fusion cuisine), but you can make it any way you like.

Prepare the tofu as I have described below. While it’s cooking, slather two slices of bread or a roll (I like sourdough) with mayo spiked with sriracha. Layer the tofu (and thinly sliced steak if you like) on the bread and add a layer of sliced cucumber, mushroom, and shreds of carrot (peel the carrot, then when it’s peeled, go right on peeling slices off with your vegetable peeler).  Sprinkle with soy sauce. Top with fresh basil leaves and enjoy.

2) Maybe you’d like something heartier, using the broth from the delicious phô?

Prepare a cup of white or brown rice according to package directions. Pile it in a bowl with shreds of carrot, cabbage, some bean sprouts, and whatever else you have left. Pour the phô on top. Don’t forget the fresh basil and a few dashes of sriracha.

All in all, this recipe, plus a few extras that cost very little (bread for sandwiches, a cucumber and a carrot, a cup of rice), made multiple meals over multiple days, with very little grumbling at the repetition.

As a side note, I want to share a new way to cook tofu I learned recently — well, new to me. I don’t know about you guys, but it’s hard for me to find a good way to cook tofu that doesn’t make it taste terrible. (Amirite folks?) Anyway, my neighbor is from Korea, and when she let me into her kitchen for an impromptu vegetarian lunch one day, I was blown away at the ease with which she turned the tofu into slices of deliciousness. (Please note that this was not the tofu she made, her slices were much prettier. She’s obviously a tofu expert of some sort.)

She cut the (extra-firm) tofu into thick slices, about 1/4 to 1/2 an inch. Then she warmed a pan with sesame oil, and after the tofu was cooked on one side, she flipped it and added soy sauce to each slice. Of course, I added a spot of sriracha to each slice.

This is the single easiest and tastiest way to cook tofu that I have yet discovered. There are many tastier, but none so easy and fast.