Monday, February 29, 2016

A Month-of-Eggs: Spicy Nutella Nut Brownies and Natillas

We have an extra day of February this year. That means an extra recipe this year! Actually, we have two extras because I met the most wonderful culinary mystery writers at Left Coast Crime last week. This post is up later today than usual because I shifted gears. More on Ellie Alexander and her recipe later.

I take personal responsibility for boosting egg sales this month. Not just because of the many, many dozens I have gone through, but you, Loyal Reader, have also bought more eggs than you might have normally.

To celebrate the end of this month and this year’s cycle of recipes in February, I have two wonderful and easy recipes, both desserts, to present to you. The first is the easiest brownie recipe you will EVER make. It’s egg-heavy so it’s very light (odd how that works, eh?). This brownie kinda melts in your mouth.

Spicy Nutella Nut Brownies
Spicy Nutella Nut Brownies (serves 9)
4 eggs, room temperature
1 cup Nutella, warmed
1 tablespoon cinnamon
¼ cup nuts (small or rough chopped)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spray an 8x8” pan heavily with non-stick cooking spray.

Beat eggs with your mixer for 7 or more minutes. The eggs will be foamy and tripled in size. Don’t beat longer than 10 minutes.

Warm the Nutella in the microwave for 30 seconds. If not thinned out, heat in 15 second increments until you have a heavy syrupy texture.

Slowly add the Nutella to the egg mixture. Mix with the mixer until no egg is visible. Add in cinnamon and stir to blend in.

Pour the brownie batter into the baking dish. Sprinkle the nuts on top.

Bake for 30-35 minutes. To check doneness, the sides will be pulling away from the pan and a toothpick will be mostly clean when inserted in the middle.

Let cool. Slice into 9 pieces and collect the compliments.

DH’s Rating: 5 Tongues Up  “This is really tasty. So you just come home from a conference and make a dessert!”

The second recipe is directly tied to said conference. I had the pleasure of serving on a panel with four extraordinary culinary mystery writers at Left Coast Crime this past weekend. There are many yummy recipes or food descriptions in all their books, but given my current egg-obsession, Ellie Alexander’s “Natillas” recipe caught my attention. I am printing this exactly as Ellie lists it in Meet the Baker, a book you should read if you like culinary mysteries as I do. 

I will be sharing more information here in upcoming posts about some of my learning at Left Coast Crime. But here is a delectable vanilla pudding, just as written in the book, that would be a luscious and easy-to-do recipe to serve your pickiest guests. You might even tuck some into some of those cream puff shells you have left. 

4 eggs
3 cups whole milk
1 cup of granulated sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
1 whole vanilla bean
1whole cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla extract
Freshly grated nutmeg and ground cinnamon

Pour milk into a saucepan and place the cinnamon stick in the pan, heat on low, stirring occasionally. Separate eggs. Save whites in bowl for later. Whisk egg yolks with sugar and add cornstarch. Remove the cinnamon stick from the warm milk. Add the egg mixture to the warm milk and heat until it boils and thickens, stirring frequently. Slice vanilla bean, add seeds to the mixture, and add the teaspoon of Mexican vanilla. Remove from heat. In a large bowl beat egg whites until stiff and fluffy. Fold these into the mixture. Chill in parfait glasses. Garnish with fresh nutmeg and ground cinnamon.

*Carlos places a day-old biscuit in the bottom of his parfait glass before filling it with the pudding. The biscuit will absorb moisture as the custard chills. He calls this Spanish trifle.”

NOTE:  In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I didn’t have Mexican vanilla. I only use vanilla bean paste instead of the more liquid extract. I don’t think that changed either the texture or taste.

This is a very eggy-tasting pudding, so it is quite different than people expect. And the vanilla and cinnamon layers of flavor really enrich the dish.

DH’s Rating: 5 Tongues Up  “This is good! It’s lighter than I thought it would be.”  I am calling his reaction “the meringue effect”. We’ve done a lot of recipes using meringue this month. Meringue really lightens up a dish.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Month-of-Eggs: Overnight Mexican Breakfast Casserole

DH loves his Southwest flavors, and he would order this if it were on a menu. I am including Kate’s recipe here and her picture of it. You’ve seen my pictures. Hers of this dish is much nicer!

One thing I love about all these breakfast casseroles is the variety. We have frequent weekend guests, and it’s so nice to serve a bunch of people with little muss or fuss. This one in particular is assembled the night before, making mornings with company or family much less stressful.

Kate has a wonderful site with great recipes, and she loves to hear from her readers. This is only one of her breakfast casseroles. So here is Kate’s Overnight Mexican BreakfastCasserole from

I reprinted her original recipe and hope you enjoy it as much as we did. I didn’t change a thing, and you know how I like to change recipes!

Overnight Mexican Breakfast Casserole

1-14 ounce can black beans or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2-10 ounce cans Rotel, drained (she used one mild green chile and one
         cilantro and lime)
1/4 teaspoon. salt
2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese blend, divided
2 slices thick cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
5 large eggs
1/2 cup low-fat milk
1/2 tablespoon Chipotle Tabasco sauce
8 corn tortillas

In a large bowl, stir together black beans, Rotel, and salt.

Spread heaping 1/4 cup of bean mixture on the bottom of a greased 9x9-inch baking dish.

Place 4 tortillas over the bean mixture, overlapping tortillas slightly.

Layer half of bean mixture and then 1 cup of shredded cheese over tortillas.

Add another layer with remaining 4 tortillas.

Top with remaining bean mixture.

Sprinkle crumbled bacon over bean mixture.

In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and Tabasco sauce.

Pour egg mixture over everything.

Cover, and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Spray one side of a sheet of aluminum foil with nonstick cooking spray, and cover baking pan tightly with foil.

Bake for 30-40 minutes.

Top with remaining 1 cup cheese.

Return to oven, and bake, uncovered, for another 5-10 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

DH’s Rating: 5 Tongues Up  However, he was glad this was dinner not breakfast. He’s not a beans-in-the-morning kind of guy.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Month-of-Eggs: Vanilla Cream Puffs

I’ll bet you thought we were done with sweet egg-heavy recipes. But I’ve got a few more up my sleeve. They need to make February longer so I can cook everything I want. Oh, right. They did this year. Well, it’s still not enough days for me!

I’ve made cream puffs before on this blog when I did mini-dessert cream puffs
but this time we are doing grown-up size ones and filling them with a delicious vanilla cream. We are egg-intensive today!

Before starting the cream puffs, make your vanilla cream filling. It takes a while for the filling to thicken up and cool down.

Don’t be intimidated. This recipe sounds harder than it is. But it is somewhat time intensive so allow for that.

Vanilla Cream Pudding (~3 ½ cups—eat extra as pudding with fruit)
(serves 8)
3 egg yolks
3 cups of milk
½ cup sugar (or equivalent sweetener)
1/3 cup cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
1/2 vanilla bean, split

Before you start mixing, get a bowl larger than your pan and fill it with ice. Set aside.

With a mixer, beat egg yolks in medium-size bowl. Once eggs are frothy, add milk slowly while continuing to mix.

In a pan, whisk sugar, cornstarch, and salt. When well-combined, whisk in a small amount of the egg mixture, enough to make a smooth, not thick paste.

Slowly add in the remaining egg mixture, whisking all the while. Keep mixing with a spoon until well-blended.

Cook the mixture in the pan over a medium-low heat. Stir continuously all sides and bottom of the pan.

When the thickened mixture comes to a boil (takes about 20 minutes), let boil for one minute as you still stir.

Add water to the bowl of ice and immediately cool the mixture by placing the pan in the bowl of ice water.

Continue to stir the pudding as it sits in the bowl of ice water for a few minutes to speed up the cool down.

Scrape vanilla bean seeds into the pudding mixture and add the pod pieces, too. Stir to incorporate.

Cover pudding to keep air from forming a skin on the vanilla cream pudding.

Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Begin making the cream puffs for filling.

Cream Puffs
1 cup water
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 400°. Prepare baking sheet with non-stick spray. Sprinkle on flour and then bang pan in sink to shake off the excess. (Or line the pan with your Silpat sheet or parchment paper.)

In a small saucepan, bring water, butter and salt to a boil. Remove from heat and add the flour. Beat vigorously. The dough will form a ball that comes off the side of the pan.

Add one egg and beat well until fully incorporated. Then add second egg, beating again until the batter looks smooth and shiny. Continue adding in eggs one at a time.

Put about about 3 tablespoons per puff on the prepared pan. You should have 8 puffs. They will rise so allow at least two inches between puff. 

Moisten a finger and smooth the top of each puff.

Bake about 25 minutes until the puffs are golden and then remove them from the oven. Turn off oven but leave door closed.

Immediately puncture the side of each puff to allow the moisture out. Put puffs back in the oven for 12-15 minutes so they will dry out more.

Remove puffs and put on cookie rack to cool. Once cool, cut off the top of each puff with a serrated knife. Handle carefully as they are delicate.

After all the tops are cut off, with a small fork twirl around the inside of the top and bottom of the puff to remove the remaining wet dough. Discard the dough.

If ready to serve dessert, get the vanilla cream pudding from the refrigerator. Remove the vanilla pod pieces and stir the vanilla cream pudding.

Fill puffs right before serving as they get soggy when left too long. Store unfilled cream puffs in a zipper bag or freeze.

NOTE: The way to a perfect vanilla cream pudding is a heavy pan and low heat. Constant stirring keeps it from burning or curdling. Be sure you mix in pudding from every surface of the pan so it cooks evenly.

DH’s Rating: 5 Tongues Up  Even though it is a generous dessert portion, it is light and doesn’t taste too sweet or heavy.

Friday, February 26, 2016

A Month-of-Eggs: Egg Pie?

Baked Pizza with Egg
In Chicago, I first encountered the use of the word “pie” to mean pizza. Midwestern farm girl like me? I thought pie was that sweet pastry thing we had after dinner. Who knew?

Well, who doesn’t love pizza, and with the right ingredients it can be quite a healthful meal. As you know, my recipes are always suggestions of what you might use. Add your own veggie choices here. I had spinach and asparagus I needed to use. Maybe you have mushrooms about to depart the earth or bell peppers. Mix it up. Allow people to make their own designer pizzas after you put out bowls of ingredients.

Today’s recipe was inspired by Bacon, Eggs, and Asparagus Pizza
and I decided to play off it to create one of my own.

The two-ingredient pizza dough is a fun one to do with kids. So you might try it out. Or you could use your own favorite pizza dough recipe. If you use already baked pizza crusts, adjust the oven cooking time and temperature according to the package directions.

Egg Pie (serves four)
4 small pizzas (about 8”)
1 cup pizza sauce
2 tablespoons best quality olive oil, + extra for brushing on pizza dough
4 small handsful baby spinach
2 cups Italian cheese blend
½ onion, sliced in rings
2 garlic cloves, minced
16 thin asparagus spears
4 eggs

Egg Pie Two-Ingredient Pizza Dough (makes four individual pizzas)
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1-1½ cups self-rising flour, plus extra flour for kneading (see NOTE)

Mix ingredients in a bowl until a soft ball forms. Turn out onto a kneading surface coated with flour.

It will be very sticky so keep adding in flour as you knead. You will knead the dough for about 8-12 times to break down the gluten and to incorporate the flour to make a smooth dough ball.

Divide the dough into four rounds and press each into a pizza shape.

Brush surface of each round with olive oil.

Cut ends off asparagus and reserve the tops. Slice the stems. You will only cook the stems.

In a small skillet saute onion, garlic, and asparagus until just softening, very al dente.

Add pizza sauce to each pizza and spread evenly.

Place spinach in an outer, overlapping layer.

Top entire pizza with cheese.

On each round, put four asparagus tops in a box around the center (to hold the egg).

Layer on garlic, onion, and asparagus stems, leaving the center of each pizza free of vegetables.

Add an egg to each asparagus box and put in oven.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. Bake a couple of minutes longer if the dough isn’t brown enough for you or the egg whites are not set.

NOTE: Don’t buy self-rising flour. Make your own. To one cup flour, add 1½ teaspoons baking powder and ½ teaspoon salt. Sift several times to make sure it is mixed well.

DH’s Rating: 3 Tongues Up  He’d rather I left the egg off since it didn’t add to the flavor profile for him. (Not that he said it that way!) He did eat it all, however. He loved all the veggies.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Month-of-Eggs: Quinoa "Fried Rice"

This is the countdown. Today’s recipe and then four more days of eggy goodness.

We eat a lot of stir fry. Sometimes with a bit of leftover meat, but most often we just go vegetarian. As you know, one must be careful to ensure our bodies get complete proteins when we do that.

Fried rice along with the veggie stir fry does that. Beans and corn. Grains and cheese. Eggs and grain. Those are time-honored combos. With fried rice you get a grain with the complete protein of eggs.

When “fried rice” is made with quinoa, one of the so-called “super grains”, you have sealed the deal. You get twice the protein by swapping out quinoa for rice. We like this fried rice alternative for dinner with or without the stir fried veggies. It’s that good! Last night we had it as the entrée with some fruit.

When I made fried rice in the past, I would choose a better rice alternative like brown rice or basmati. But substituting in quinoa gives a whole new flavor and texture profile. I’m not sure I’ll ever do the traditional again.

This is a very fast recipe since quinoa cooks more quickly than rice. More time goes into the prep than the cooking! How great is that?

Quinoa “Fried Rice” (serves 4)

1 cup dried quinoa (see NOTE)
2 cups broth (chicken, beef, or vegetable)
3 tablespoon best-quality olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup peas, frozen
3 tablespoons soy sauce
4 large eggs, whipped frothy
3 green onions, sliced

Cook quinoa according to directions on the package.

In a large skillet, heat two tablespoons olive oil and add onions, carrots, and celery. Cook until barely al dente then add garlic. Stir to incorporate.

Add in peas and soy sauce. Stir to mix thoroughly.

Add the remaining olive oil and immediately add in eggs. Stir continually to scramble the eggs with the cooking vegetables.

Add quinoa and mix thoroughly until heated through (just a few minutes).

Remove from heat and top with green onion slices. Serve immediately.

NOTE: Most quinoa requires that you rinse off the saponin coating prior to cooking. If you don’t, the quinoa is bitter. I buy Bob’s Red Mill quinoa which has been rinsed at their factory, so I just cook it. Much faster than doing the cleaning!

DH’s Rating: 5 Tongues Up   He likes quinoa anyway and enjoyed this new way to eat it. He thought it a “very tasty” dish.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Month-of-Eggs: That's A Roma, Italian Baked Eggs

Italian Baked Eggs
Do you like my clever title? Sometimes I just get so pleased with myself! 

We know how well eggs go with pasta from the Pasta Carbonara I shared. 
Today is another dish to serve alongside pasta since Italian Baked Eggs have a tomato sauce base.  If you only want one egg, reduce the number of eggs. Keep other ingredients the same. 

That’s A Roma: Italian Baked Eggs
½ cup pizza sauce
1 small handful baby spinach
4 large eggs
¼ cup milk
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup Asiago, shredded
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried basil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray two 10-ounce ramekins with non-stick cooking spray.

Put ¼ cup pizza sauce in the bottom of each ramekin.

Layer spinach on pizza sauce and top each with two eggs.

In a small bowl, combine the milk, garlic, cheese, salt and pepper, and basil.

Top each egg dish equally with milk and cheese mixture. Put on the middle oven rack.

Bake until whites are cooked through, 15 minutes. Check eggs for doneness and cook longer if needed.

Serve in ramekin with a side of pasta to sop up the sauce under the eggs.

DH’s Rating: 3 Tongues Up.   He wasn’t wild about the tomato sauce with the eggs. He wasn’t really specific just that he wouldn’t be asking for this again. I thought it quite tasty! Different strokes, eh?

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A Month-of-Eggs: Bread Bowl Eggs

Baked Bread Roll Egg
I have noticed the chef judges on one of my favorite cooking shows, Chopped, critique the dishes prepared for them by commenting on how well the competing cooks ensured that each bite has the flavors of all the basket ingredients. Winners include that delectation consistently in their dishes.

Well, this little baby would win that round hands down!

When you put cheese, bacon, eggs, and bread together in a compact space, you can’t help but get all the flavors in each bite. There are so many foods you can cook eggs in!

This recipe is for one Bread Bowl Egg. To serve a crowd (or provide a second bread bowl for someone), simply multiply everything by the number of eggs you want to serve. Wouldn’t this be fun for a brunch? Easy and quick, and most of the prep can be done in advance.

I always bake the bacon in the oven in advance and you can core your rolls the day before. Assembly and baking the day of the event is a cinch.

Bread Bowl Eggs (for one)
1 large dinner roll, rounded top one
3 teaspoons cheese, divided (cheddar, taco, Asiago, etc.)
1 slice bacon, crispy and cut in half
1 medium egg
Sprinkle of Italian seasoning (or tarragon or basil)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the top third off the roll and set aside on the baking sheet

Starting from the center, “core” the roll, removing the interior bread. Don’t go too deep or too close to the sides. You want the roll to bake without leaking egg. (see NOTE)

Put 2 teaspoons of the cheese on the bottom of the bread bowl.

Lay the bacon strips on opposite sides and press into the bottom.

Unbaked Bread Roll Egg
Crack an egg into the indentation.

Top with remaining cheese and Italian seasoning. Season with salt and pepper. Put the roll tops on the baking sheet to toast the last five minutes.

Bake for eggs for 15 minutes. Check to see if the egg is as done as you like. Cook longer if necessary.

NOTE:  All those interior roll bread crumbs can be tossed with herbs and butter and toasted for topping salads or soups. I also use them as is for the gluten in meatloaf. Put in a zipper bag and store in the freezer until ready to use. The dog likes them, too, after they soak up the bacon grease on the pan.

We pierced the egg yolk with the toasted roll lid and soaked up some of the goodness. Then we just picked it up to eat. Only the ultra-fastidious would use a knife and fork!

DH’s Rating:  4 Tongues Up  We had this for lunch and one egg each with some fruit was very filling. He liked that the bread didn’t overpower the egg (since I removed most of it!). Good, but he liked the Eggy Taco Cups better, he said.