Thai Iced Tea Ice Cream with Sesame Brittle Swirl

Thai Iced Tea Ice Cream with Sesame BrittleMy teaching load is pretty heavy this semester, so I’m doing much less of all of the things I love – spending time with friends, cooking, making things with my hands, blogging, and the list goes on. Still, it’s good work, a paycheck, and it makes me really present when I am able to put time into things I enjoy. Last week, in the middle of a major tech glitch in one of my online courses, a student meltdown over confronting their own homophobia, and the realization that I had scheduled papers due in all of my classes on the same day, I quit. I closed my school’s loaner laptop for the first time in four straight days, shut my desktop off for a few hours, and just thought about what I wanted to do with my sudden window of freedom…ahem, I mean self-care!

Thai Iced Tea Ice Cream with Sesame BrittleI’ve been knocking around the idea of making Thai iced tea ice cream since last summer when I saw someone’s photos on Pinterest of it. Big, round globes of soft orange ice cream, piled on top of a waffle cone – I already knew what it must taste like! As the thought stayed in the back of my mind, though, I’ve continually thought about what I could add to give it a different spin or add some texture. When it comes to ice cream, I’m usually a purist, but I saw so much potential here for doing a little more. I had a clear winner in mind, but when I went to my pantry in order to get some serenity last week, the cans of coconut milk I thought I’d find there were nowhere to be found. Did someone make a delicious curry while I wasn’t looking? Who’s to say? But with that idea down the drain, my eyes fell on a bag of sesame seeds I had bought a few months back wanting to make one of my favorite candies of all time – sesame brittle.

Thai Iced Tea Ice Cream with Sesame BrittleLike magic, the two ideas melded and it was just the undertaking I was up for – multi-stepped so that I could successfully avoid work and give myself the break I needed and yet not so cumbersome that I’d be sorry I started halfway through. For someone not looking to cook the day away, you might want to split this up over two days, making the brittle and the ice cream base on the first day and churning and assembling the ice cream on the second. When I have the time, I prefer to make ice creams over two days anyhow because it allows the base to get really, really cold in the refrigerator overnight so that it churns faster and gets thicker once you introduce it to the machine.

Thai Iced Tea Ice Cream with Sesame BrittleSince I wanted to start and finish this ice cream on the same day, I began with the base and then put it in the back, coldest corner of my fridge and let it sit there for several hours while I made the brittle, allowed it to cool, and broke it up. Breaking the brittle to the point where it is about the consistency of store-packaged toffee chips is a tough job (so is not eating all of it before you crush it), but I relied on a trusted, vintage ice crusher to do the job. You’d have just as much success putting the brittle into a bag and crushing it with a rolling pin, of course.

Thai Iced Tea Ice Cream with Sesame BrittleThe brittle itself is nutty from the toasted sesame seeds and then sweet and caramelized from the honey. I add a little cinnamon and a little cardamom to add a some extra warmth and spice, but you can leave those out if you don’t have them on hand. The brittle is, obviously, great in ice cream, but it’s also perfect on its own. I was so bananas over it that I plan on making a bunch at Christmas and handing it out with cards. Here’s where I’d go into detail about how I accidentally semi-burnt a batch, but nibbled at it until it was suddenly gone anyway because it was sugar and butter and honey and, thus, still delicious.

Thai Iced Tea Ice Cream with Sesame BrittleIt adds a great crunch and texture to the ice cream, which tastes, as you might imagine, just like Thai iced tea, but creamier. The flavor of the tea is really pronounced, but that’s what I love about this recipe. If it seems too strong to you the first time you make, go a bit lighter on the steeping time and that should help. Without the brittle, I’d worry about the tea flavor being a little overwhelming and the base not sweet enough, so keep that in mind if you decide to make this sans brittle; you may want to increase the sugar and/or decrease the steeping time.

Such a beautiful, delicious dessert and one that is definitely worth the time spent. When chaos, inevitably, strikes this week, at least I’ll still have some ice cream to get me through. It wound up being just the thing to take my mind off classses and allowed me to enjoy being back in the kitchen with just an idea and some time on my hands.

Thai Iced Tea Ice Cream with Sesame Brittle
Yields about a pint & a half

For the Brittle
 (adapted slightly from here)
Ingredients:
3/4 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of honey
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon of ground cardamom
1 Tbsp water
1 cup raw sesame seeds
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 teaspoons of butter
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda

Directions:
In a heavy-bottomed pot, add the sugar, honey, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, and water and stir to combine over medium heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes stirring occasionally, then stir in the raw sesame seeds. Cook the mixture, stirring often, until it turns an amber color. This can occur anywhere between 5-10 minutes and it is very important you not only keep watch for the color to change, but that you also use your sense of scent. When you can smell the sugar caramelizing and the sesame seeds toasting, check on the color and wait until it reaches a rich medium brown. If you have a candy thermometer, the temp should be around 300°F. Once the sesame mixture has reached the desired color and temperature, remove the pan from the heat. Immediately stir in the vanilla extract and butter. Once the latter has completely melted, stir in the baking soda. This will cause the mixture to foam up a bit, but don’t be alarmed. As you stir, and as it settles down, the foam will subside. Pour sesame mixture onto a baking sheet that has been lined with a silpat or parchment paper. For the ice cream, I like to spread it out a bit so that the brittle is about 1/8″ thick or even less. If I was serving it on its own, I’d spread it to about 1/4″ thickness. Once the brittle has completely cooled and hardened (about 25 minutes), break it into pieces and enjoy or grind it up for use in ice cream.

For the Ice Cream
Ingredients:
1/2 cup of Thai tea leaves – I used these
1-1/2 cups of whole milk
2 cups of heavy cream
1-1/2 cups of sugar
3 large eggs

Directions:
Consult your ice cream machine’s directions and plan ahead to freeze the insert if necessary. In a heavy-bottom saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the milk and 1 cup of the heavy cream. As small bubbles form around the edges, pour in the tea leaves and stir gently for about three minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to sit and cool for about 20 minutes so that the tea leaves steep into the mixture. While this is cooling, measure the sugar into a medium mixing bowl and add the three egg yolks. Beat with a whisk until the mixture is a pale yellow and the texture is almost like a paste. In a separate heavy-bottom saucepan, add the remaining cup of heavy cream and allow to warm over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Bubbles around the edge will form indicating it is getting hot. When this occurs, pour in the egg and sugar mixture and mix thoroughly until combined. Turn the heat down to medium and stir the mixture gently, but consistently, for about 10 minutes. You’re creating a custard here and while this isn’t difficult, your attention is key in making sure it doesn’t cook too far, or get too hot too quickly, creating a curdled texture. As the heat rises, the mixture will thicken into a custard. As soon as you sense this happening, remove the pot from the heat and continue to stir for a bit as it begins to cool down.

After about 15 minutes, strain the custard through a wire sieve in order to remove clumps which may have formed during the custard-making face. Place in the refrigerator to cool down while you continue with the recipe. Take your pot of Thai tea and strain it. Allow this to cool as well. When both mixtures are cooled, combine thoroughly and then keep in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before churning. When the Thai iced tea base is completely cold, pour it into your ice cream machine and allow it to process according to the manufacturer’s directions. In the final five minutes of processing, shake in about a cup of the sesame brittle crumbles and allow the machine to stir them in. When the ice cream has finished churning, transfer to a freezer-proof container and store.

 

Eggplant & Bruschetta Napoleons

Eggplant NapoleonsYou know what is hard work, friends? Wedding planning! And, more so, wedding planning that includes creating all of the decor & various adornments alongside making most of the food. Phew! Luckily, it’s fun and creative work and all for a very dear friend, so it balances out.

Still, with so much going on, feeding oneself can feel like such a chore. While I am fortunate enough to get Bear-made meals each and every week, not just tough ones, I still long to get into the kitchen and cook – I just might not have my usual stamina once I get there. Here’s where this quick dish comes in!

Eggplant & Bruschetta NapoleonsEggplant & bruschetta napoleons are an easy summer dinner because there’s not a lot required of them and they can be made in pieces throughout the day; or even, in part, the day before if you’re anticipating a jam-packed tomorrow. What’s more is that you can tailor them to your tastes and your time commitments. Do you want to grill the eggplant slices instead of frying them? You can do that. Would you rather use your stovetop grill pan instead of trudging out to the patio or backyard? Done and done. Want to just roast them off in the oven and walk away for a bit? Still delish. When I made these recently, I topped the napoleons with an easy balsamic reduction. If that feels like too much for a busy weeknight, a light dash of extra balsamic on top will work fine too. I will say, though, that the added bit of sweetness from the syrupy balsamic reduction changes the flavor of the whole dish in a fantastic way.

Eggplant & Bruschetta NapoleonsWith a green side salad – I’m thinking some light, lemon-y dressed arugala – eggplant & bruschetta napoleons are a delicious and satisfying meal that will make you feel gloriously rewarded for all of your hard work. Also, tomorrow’s leftovers make an awesome second round of this exact meal or an amazequake eggplant and bruschetta sub for lunch. Try it on crusty Italian or French bread with a little homemade basil mayo for the ultimate sandwich.

Eggplant & Bruschetta Napoleons
Yields 2-3 servings

Ingredients
5 plum tomatoes
1/4 cup of diced red onion
6 leaves of thinly sliced basil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Pinch of sugar
Salt & pepper
3/4 cups of balsamic vinegar, divided
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil, plus more for pan or grill
1 large eggplant
1 16-ounce log of fresh mozzarella
Italian-style bread crumbs (optional)
2 eggs (optional)

Directions
Salt & drain your eggplant. Line a baking sheet with two layers of paper towels. Slice eggplant in 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch slices and place on baking sheet. Lightly sprinkle with salt and allow to sit a half hour. After time has passed, flip the eggplant slices and do the same to the other side for about 15 minutes. The paper towels will be damp with excess moisture and the bitterness sometimes associated with eggplant. Remove eggplant from paper towel and set aside.

Next, make the bruschetta. Seed plum tomatoes then chop and add to a mixing bowl. Add diced red onion, garlic cloves, basil, garlic powder, sugar, salt, pepper, 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar, and 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil. Mix thoroughly and set aside. Allow to sit at least 2 hours before eating. If waiting to serve this, store in refrigerator. Bruschetta can be made up to two days in advance.

Prepare the eggplant to your desired liking. You can brush it (and your grill or grill pan) with olive oil and grill each side. If you go this route, cook it to the point where it has nice char, but still has some body to it. You don’t want it to be a mushy mess (technical term). Same goes for roasting. If you’re frying the eggplant, scramble two eggs in a bowl and then dip each slice in it until submerged, shake off excess egg, and dip both sides in seasoned bread crumbs. In a frying pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat and fry each slice of eggplant approximately 4 minutes on each side until done. Keep your cooked eggplant slices hot in the oven at its lowest level of heat; for mine, that  is 170°F.

While your eggplant is frying or grilling, pour 1/2 a cup of balsamic vinegar into a small pot and bring to a boil over high heat – watch this closely, as it can reduce entirely and burn quickly. Once boiling, knock the heat back to medium and cook about 5-7 minutes or until it becomes a thick syrup. When it reaches this consistency, immediately remove it from the heat.

When your eggplant is finished cooking and your balsamic reduction is ready, prepare your napoleons. Put down a wide slice of eggplant for the base and top it with a 1/2-inch thick slice of fresh mozzarella. Follow that with another slice of eggplant and another of mozzarella, then top your stack with a hearty helping of bruschetta. Drizzle balsamic reduction on top.

Panzanella Salad

Panzanella SaladMy two go-to meals any time of year, but especially in the summer, are, in many ways, variations of the same thing – antipasto and panzanella salad. Growing up, antipasto was a weekend staple whenever company was coming and usually consisted of fresh mozzarella, soppressatta, olives, eggplant caponata, pepperoni, and provolone so sharp it’d make my nose run. Oh, and bread. So much delicious, chewy, Italian bread in long braided loaves covered in sesame seeds.

With summer nearly upon us and the reminder that sweet, juicy tomatoes do exist (buying tomatoes in the winter is so depressing, isn’t it?), panzanella takes many of the same flavors of antipasto and dresses them up in an easy one-bowl lunch or dinner that is totally satisfying and filled with fresh, delicious, good-for-you ingredients. When I posted a quick snapshot on Instagram last week of panzanella in the works, a follower asked for the recipe and while I will, of course, give you one here, the truth is that it changes every time! But that’s what makes it so easy and so perfect for summer when fresh veggies are all over the place.

Panzanella SaladWhile this version has tomatoes, cucumber, and red onion as the stars, I’ve also used combinations in the past that include fresh zucchini, grilled eggplant, and red peppers, among others. If you’re not familiar with panzanella, tomatoes are always a staple alongside toasty cubes of a rustic bread, such as Italian bread, ciabatta, or French bread, which soaks up the juices from the vegetables and the vinaigrette only to soften and become little, tasty bites that just explode summer when you bite into them. I like to toss my bread in a frying pan that has olive oil and garlic in it as it toasts and dries out, but you can also do it on a baking sheet in the oven or grill two halves of a loaf and cube it after it’s cooled. There’s a lot of flexibility here.

Adding mozzarella cheese, freshly torn basil, and other goodies, such as soppressata, could be seen as gilding the panzanella lily, but it also bulks up the salad and makes it feel a little bit more special, especially when serving it to guests. Though rustic and easy to prepare, I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed with this meal. In fact, the leftovers may even turn your workday around when you have the remains for lunch, though I do recommend also packing a roll of breath mints in that case considering the abundance of garlic. Panzanella holds up and never disappoints. It’s a keeper and an easy, versatile summer meal.

Panzanella Salad
Yields 4-6 servings

Ingredients
1 loaf of Italian or French bread
2 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
Olive oil
1 Tablespoon of butter
Salt & pepper
1 pint of grape tomatoes, halved
6-8 leaves of basil, torn or thinly sliced
12 ounces of fresh mozzarella
6 ounces of soppressata, cubed
1/2 of a large cucumber, halved and sliced into thin half-moons
1/4 cup of red onion, thinly sliced
Balsamic vinegar

Directions
First, cut the entire loaf of bread into 1-inch cubes. In a large frying pan with deep sides, melt the tablespoon of butter into approximately 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and add the thinly sliced garlic. Allow the garlic to gently cook for 1-2 minutes before adding the bread and tossing it in the oil and butter mixture. Allow the bread to toast, flipping cubes over and tossing it every 2 minutes or so. If pan seems very dry, drizzle in a little bit more olive oil. Cook until all cubes are toasted and the exterior of each is crisp. For a whole loaf of Italian bread, this will take about 10-12 minutes.

While the bread is toasting, slice the vegetables and basil and cube the mozzarella cheese and soppressata; set aside. When the bread is finished cooking, add it along with the toasted slices of garlic into a large mixing bowl and allow to cool down for about 5 minutes. At this time, you can walk away and assemble the salad later on or finish making it. Add the sliced ingredients to the bread and lightly salt and pepper. Next, drizzle the salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and toss together thoroughly to combine. I usually start by adding about two tablespoons of vinegar, tossing, and seeing where I’m at after. Remember, your vegetables will release moisture upon contact with the warm bread and then even more so with the acidity of the vinegar, so add a touch more vinegar if you’d like, but this will soften more and more as it sits.

When you eat the panzanella is entirely up to you and your preferred texture. I eat it all kinds of ways, but I prefer it about a half hour after everything is incorporated and macerated. The bread still has some crisp texture then and I like that bite, but it is also delicious once everything has really softened together and the bread is moist with all of the flavors. Depending on what you prefer, allow the salad to sit on the counter for a bit and then serve it or store in the refrigerator for a few hours, or overnight, before enjoying.

Guinness Fudgesicles

Guinness Fudgesicles[Note: I made these fudgesicles and wrote this post last week when we received another 6 or so inches of snow. I’m pleased to report that, mere days later, I’m publishing it with the promise of it reaching 70°F today! Welcome back, Spring! Please be here to stay. My sun dresses have missed you!]

I can’t believe I have to write a post about ice cream while the snow is falling outside with abandon and several inches are already under foot with more to come. Scratch that. I can believe it because I just remembered recently that on the first week of May last year, I wrote and told you all about the coconut ice cream with graham cracker swirl I was making amidst a blizzard. Oh, Minnesota, never change!

Guinness Fudgesicles are the perfect treat for those among us who love a rich, chocolatey dessert, but one that is punched up a bit by the bitter creaminess of a good stout beer. They are everything you remember about fudgesicles as a kid, but upgraded a bit because we’re all adults here and deserve a little something sophisticated with our desserts from time-to-time.

Guinness FudgesiclesIt might seem, upon first glance, that there’s not a lot to these, but in a way, that’s what makes them perfect. They’re not loaded up with a lot of superfluous ingredients, nor do they require a lot of technique. There’s just a bit of melting, some whisking, a pour or eight and they’re off to set up in the frozen recesses of your freezer. For full disclosure, if you have to go and buy a bag of chocolate chips to make these, or a bottle of Guinness, you’re going to have some leftovers.

Sorry about that not-a-problem. I have faith that you can handle it.

Guinness Fudgesicles
Yields 8 2.5oz pops

Ingredients
1 cup of milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1-1/2 Tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup of sugar
1/3 cup + 1Tablespoon of Guinness, divided
1 Tablespoon of cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 cup of half and half
1/2 cup of 2% or whole milk
1 Tablespoon of butter

Directions
In a small, heavy-bottomed pot melt the chocolate chips over low heat. While waiting for them to melt, prepare the other ingredients, checking on the chocolate every minute or so to avoid burning. When the chips have melted, add the half and half, milk, salt, cocoa powder, sugar, cornstarch, and 1/3 cup of Guinness. Stir to combine. Raise the heat to medium and cook for 5-10 minutes or until it begins to thicken. You may want to switch out your spoon for a whisk in order to make sure your mixture is free of any lumps. When it has thickened slightly, remove from the heat and add the butter. Stir in and allow to melt fully, incorporating it completely. At this point, taste the chocolate and see if the taste of the Guinness suits you. I wanted a little extra oomph, so I added 1 Tablespoon after cooking and the Guinness flavor really blossomed.

Pour mixture into 8 popsicle molds and freeze for 30 minutes. Then, insert the popsicle sticks and allow to continue freezing until they are solid. Before serving, you may need to dip your molds in warm water to loosen them. If they seem a little too soft after this process, lay them gently on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and return to freezer for 15-20 minutes before serving.

Pasta with Mascarpone, Lemon, Spinach, & Pine Nuts

After all of that complaining I went and did about the length of winter, today the thermometer reached 98°F. In Minneapolis. In May. Normally, such temperatures turn me into a wild beast of a thing, but truth be told, I was only a little bit sorry for today’s heat. While the meows were seeking out cool, dark corners to lay in and Bear was putting in extra screens and moving fans around, I knew that, finally, the time had come to make this pasta dish! I’ve been holding onto the recipe from the Kitchn since it was published last October, waiting for the weather to warm back up and, more importantly, for it to coincide with the sale of mascarpone cheese! The latter seeming, at points, even less likely than spring’s eventual thaw.

Being the lucky lady that I am, I found a sale on a tub of the good stuff last week, though I won’t deny tapping my foot and mulling over whether or not the time was yet nye. Turns out, it was and a sensible purchase was had! When I saw the temperature was going up this week, I knew the time was upon us to indulge.

Have you ever had pasta with a sauce that is heavy on the lemon? If you’re not shy about the idea, try it. You’ll ask yourself why you don’t eat pasta with lemon-something-or-other all the time. Take this sauce, for example. There’s so much brightness from the fresh lemon juice and the lemon zest, but then the mascarpone gets stirred in and it’s creamy, dreamy with just a little bit of sweetness to take away some of that punch from the citrus. The spinach wilts into the hot pasta, so it’s soft and earthy, but again, nestled throughout this smooth, velvety sauce that gets a little kick with some garlic, fresh cracked pepper, and just the right amount of parmesan cheese. The toasted nuts join a little fresh lemon zest on top and another turn of the pepper mill.

Every forkful feels like the perfect bite. It is as elegant a dish as it is easy. The ingredients are few, the method simple (and great for warm days), and the clean-up is virtually effortless. I used one pot, a bowl, and a colander only. Pro-tip: Mix the sauce in the same bowl you’ll serve it in! You’ll have one less bowl to clean and, better yet, your pasta be coated by every last drop!

Spaghetti with Mascarpone, Lemon, Spinach, & Pine Nuts
Serves 4 as a main course; Adapted from here.

Ingredients:
2 lemons, zested & juiced (I used 5 tablespoons of juice)
8-ounces of mascarpone cheese
1lb of spaghetti
1 very large bunch of fresh spinach (approximately 6 cups), chopped
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
Salt & fresh pepper
3/4 cup of pine nuts, toasted

Directions:
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. While waiting for the water to bubble, prepare the sauce. Combine 3/4 of the lemon zest, lemon juice, mascarpone, garlic powder, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper and mix until fairly smooth. If you have a few lumps, they’ll work their way out when they hit the hot pasta. If you haven’t already done so, you’ll want to toast your pine nuts while waiting for the water and pasta, as well. Add them to a dry pan and set over medium heat until they’re are lightly browned, giving them a shake every 2-3 minutes. When you can really start to smell them, they’re done.

Cook the pasta. With a minute or so left before the pasta reaches “al dente,” add the spinach. When the pasta is finished, scoop about a cup and a half of pasta water from the pot and then drain the noodles. Add the noodles to the bowl with the sauce and add about 1/4 cup of the pasta water and stir together. Add more pasta water until a creamy consistency is achieved. Top the pasta with the remaining lemon zest, the toasted pine nuts, and a few cracks of fresh pepper. Additional parmesan can be added, if desired.

DIY Garden Markers

Let’s pretend it’s for real spring. Like, the kind of spring that blows in with warm days and cool nights, that lasts a few weeks before the temperatures really rise and the humidity of summer is upon us. Let’s pretend the 70-degree days of just this past weekend hung around, that it didn’t drop 40 degrees overnight, and that I didn’t, prematurely, put away the down comforter. Let’s pretend that I was able to spend part of the day outside today turning over my small gardening plot in the side yard, laying down new ground cover, and bringing home my plants from the store. Let’s pretend that it didn’t, instead, flurry this afternoon, forcing me to drag my slippers back out and abandon my pitcher of iced tea in the fridge for the hotter, steamier variety.

Sigh. Let’s just pretend.

You see, I wanted to take photos of these adorable DIY garden markers among the beautiful, green, thriving plants of a garden, but Midwestern weather and I are having a bit of a tiff right now, so that’s not yet possible. For some of you, it may have already happened, while for others of us it feels like a distant dream, but whenever your vegetable garden is planted, consider brightening it up a bit with this simple craft, no? Most of the items needed are available from your local dollar store and the rest, which can be found at a craft store, or even Amazon, will only run you a few dollars more.

The best part about these, aside from being really cute and totally unique, is that a few thick coats of Mod Podge make them washable and able to stand the test of time by not peeling or chipping. They’ll last for years to come, fairly safe from the elements (I can’t yet promise that they won’t fade), which also makes them a really wonderful gift! Did someone say, Mother’s Day?

I just labeled my set with a marker and some cute handwriting, but I can see using a fancy paper cutter, like a Silhouette or a Cricut (oh, how I yearn for one or the other!) to create more elegant lettering, should you have access to one. Depending on fonts, colors, and pattern of paper, the sky is really the limit in how you customize these for your own. Charlotte made the green ones below to match her manicure. How femme is that?!

Since it seems I still have a few weeks to go in prepping my summer garden, I’ll be sending this batch to my mother and grandmother in hopes my good deeds will have me rewarded with some sunshine and warmth. Hopefully, they’re up for the task of growing more than tomatoes and basil this year! What’s on your list to grow this summer?

DIY Garden Markers
Supplies:
Wooden spoons
Acrylic craft paints
Foam brushes
Paper plates for your paint palette
1 piece of scrap paper for the label’s pattern
Craft glue
Mod Podge, original
Scrapbook paper
Scissors
Sharpie marker

Use the outline of a wet spoon on scrap paper to create a pattern for your labels.

Directions:
To create your DIY Garden Markers, first paint your wooden spoons with two coats of acrylic craft paint. As you finish the last coat of your final spoon, place the spoon on it’s back onto the piece of scrap paper to make a mark, as seen in the image on the right. This mark will serve as your pattern for spoons’ labels. Finish painting the final spoon and allow to dry. Cut out the pattern for the label and then use it to carefully cut shapes out of the scrapbook paper for each spoon. When all of your labels have been cut out, use the marker to write the name of each vegetable. Adhere a label to the back of each spoon with craft glue, smoothing out any wrinkles as you go. After each spoon has had it’s label affixed, paint the entire spoon from top to bottom with a fairly thick coat of Mod Podge. Continue applying first coat of Mod Podge to all spoons. When finished, begin again with the first spoon and apply a second coat. You will want to apply a total of 3-4 coats per spoon. When finished, allow the spoons to dry completely. I suggest waiting at least 12 hours before using.

 

Bacon Dijon Deviled Eggs

Well, readers, here we are: one day past the week where few could escape the notion, or practice, of hard boiling and dyeing eggs, and one week further into spring where, at least in the Northeast, the days have finally been warming up a little bit. On Saturday, I walked around without my coat on for a solid 30 minutes until the sun ducked behind a cloud and I, miserably, trudged back to the car to get it before resuming the mini antiquing jaunt I took with my mom to a neighboring town. Lion, lamb, I know.

This is all to say that ’tis the season for doing something with hard boiled eggs, which, when I’m faced with, always results in deviled eggs. I resisted deviled eggs until I was about 20, even though my own mother was rumored by family and friends alike to make absolutely delicious ones. When I finally gave in, I realized several things: 1) Everyone loves deviled eggs and I was totally missing out and 2) You can mix almost anything into a standard deviled egg recipe and it only makes them more delicious. So many variations can be born, which brings me to my favorite point about deviled eggs: depending on context even more than ingredients, they can be considered fancy fare or not!

Take these bacon dijon deviled eggs (that even Ollie would, apparently, be interested in eating. Cat bomb!). On that plate up there, with their little pickled onion garnish (I have a whole beautiful quart of these to use, y’all), they look pretty enough for a tea party or some sort of shower. But put them on a table next to some ribs and corn and it’s summer in the backyard being sweaty and lazy with your pals.

Deviled eggs never disappoint and this version is no exception. Who doesn’t want a little smoky, crispy bacon stirred into their eggs alongside the gentle bite of dijon mustard? That sounds like the start of a perfect egg sandwich! I know not everyone will be inspired to go so far as making the pickled onions, but let me just argue for the extra step by simply saying that their addition to these deviled eggs is kismet. The little burst of pickling liquid and onion juice, which so nicely cuts through the richness of egg yolk, mayo, and bacon, is a pairing that shouldn’t be missed. If you do forego the pickled onions, these deviled eggs certainly will not disappoint on their own; though you could always add a little slice or mince of dill pickle to the tops, which would do the job, too.


Bacon Dijon Deviled Eggs with Pickled Onions
Yields 24 halves

Ingredients:
1 dozen eggs
1/3 cup of mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons of dijon mustard
4-6 pieces of thick sliced bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled
1 Tablespoon of minced onion or dehydrated onion flakes
1/8 teaspoon of smoked paprika
Salt & pepper to taste
Pickled onions to garnish, optional

Directions:
Several hours before serving, or better yet, the night before, hard boil the eggs. Using eggs purchased at least a week in advance will help with the peeling process later, as older eggs shed their shell much easier.

Put all 12 eggs in a heavy-bottom pot and cover with cold water by at least an inch. Add a pinch of salt to the water and bring to a boil. Once the eggs begin boiling, cover with lid, remove from heat, and allow to stand for 15 minutes. Drain hot water and fill the pot with cold water until the eggs can be handled. After several minutes remove them from the pot (which will eventually turn the water warm again due to residual heat – you don’t want this to happen!) and gently crack the shells a bit all over. Transfer the eggs to a big bowl of cold water and allow to sit until completely cooled. Pre-cracking the shells here will allow them to loosen as they finish cooling in the second bowl of water.

When the eggs are cooled, crack further and peel. I find peeling them under running water in the sink helps remove the shells easily, too. When finished, slice each egg in half lengthwise, putting the yolks in a clean, dry bowl and lay the whites on the plate you plan to serve them on. In the bowl with the yolks, use a fork to crumble all of the egg yolks. Add a small trickle of water, about a teaspoon, to the yolks to help them cream together a bit before adding the remaining ingredients. Add minced onion, salt and pepper, mayonnaise, dijon mustard, and smoked paprika. Blend until fairly smooth. Fold in the chopped bacon and fill the egg white halves. When finished, garnish each with a slice of pickled onion.