Martha’s Good Eggs

Well here’s an exciting thing that happened to me…

One of my projects was chosen as a finalist in the Martha’s Good Eggs contest on the Martha Stewart website!

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I really like internet contests so… I entered the Martha’s Good Eggs Contest through Instagram by tagging some photos of my Easter eggs dyed with natural dyes and patterned with flowers, moss, and other small plants and herbs.

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Voting only lasted about 12 hours on Thursday… I didn’t win but it’s OK because I think I was more excited about being featured on the Martha Stewart website!

Wow!      Cool!      Awesome!     Happy face!     Ahhhh!

There are also so many other cool egg decorating techniques featured. If you are looking for something to do tonight, why not try one out!

Check out my photo on the website under Best Egg Decorating Techniques: Masked Eggs. The how-to on the website is a little different than my own instructions (I didn’t “glue” my leaves down with egg white). Try it out for yourself. Here’s another post I wrote about the first time I tried dying eggs with onion skins.

Thanks to those of you that voted! Follow me on Instagram @marisagrams

Happy Easter!

 

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Science and Cooking

Wow! It has been a looong time since I have updated this blog thingy. I have been keeping myself busy over the past few months but not writing about it at all.

I learned plenty of new cooking techniques thanks to a food science class that I signed up for online. The class is called Science and Cooking: from haute cuisine to soft matter science. It was offered through a free online education community called edX. edX offers classes through several universities and there is a variety of interests to chose from. You don’t have to pay for the courses (so you do not earn credits) but you do receive a certificate of completion if you score a certain percent on homework, lecture questions, labs, etc.

Science and Cooking is an introductory class at Harvard University. As far as I know, this is the first time it was offered in the Harvardx online setting. A few professors from Harvard were the main instructors but there were also lectures from (pretty famous) guest chefs. America’s Test Kitchen also stepped in every week to give at least one cooking example and explain how they tested a specific technique. The “textbook” that is used is On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee, who also spoke in the lectures from time to time.

Overall, this was a great experience and I would recommend taking a course through edX. I do have to say… there is no slacking off. The Science and Cooking class demanded as much time as any college course. I had to watch all the lectures, complete a homework set and perform and write up a lab every week. I was very happy to have a science background before diving into this… I was never super excited about chemistry, but I was glad to have the chemistry background. It really helped me complete the cooking class successfully.

So what did I learn?
A LOT!

Here’s an overview of what we learned week-by-week:

1. The history of science and cooking and a bit about the components of food (proteins, carbohydrates and fats). I know what proteins, carbohydrates and fats look like at molecular level- I learned that in Biology class – but this lecture made me think about the molecules and what happens to them when they are being cooked, mixed, digested, etc.

2. Energy, Temperature and Heat – I found out that my oven was 9-10 degrees lower than what the dial shows… so I know that I need to turn it up a little when I am baking. I also make ricotta cheese! Yes – it was so easy and delicious.

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3. Phase Transitions (solids to liquids, liquids to gasses) – a lot of examples using liquid nitrogen… no matter how many times you get to use liquid nitrogen… it never gets old. I made my own ice cream in a bag. I actually do this in school with the kiddos that I teach – another thing that never gets old, it’s always fun.

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4. Elasticity – Resistance to force – How does food change when you cook it? Does the texture change? Does is become increasingly more tough, or does it become more tender?

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5. Diffusion and Spherification – How long does it take for that marinade to penetrate to the center of you meatball? How can you make crazy little spheres of food – that are gelatin  on the outside and liquid on the inside – of olive oil, pea juice, and whatever else you heart desires….

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A little bit about chocolate. mmmm!

6. Heat Transfer – I thought this lab was going to be awesome because I got to make molten chocolate cake… unfortunately, my cakes were hard and not very molten.

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7. Viscosity and Polymers – Some of the chefs in this week’s lectures made some really awesome things like olive oil jelly candies. I’ll be attempting this when I get my hands on some of the correct gelatin sheets… I also made four different batches of mac and cheese.

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8. Emulsions and Foams – I made garlic aoli by hand (whisking like crazy) this week. Which was fun but I have to admit that I am not that crazy about mayonnaise….

9. Baking – This was actually one of my favorite weeks! The pastry chef from the Boston bakery Flour, JoAnn Chang, gives extremely clear tutorials and explanations about how the ingredients in baking recipes work and interact with each other. Baking is extremely scientific and you have to be precise… I sometimes don’t have to patience to measure and weigh everything. I think now that I understand what’s happening in my cake batter at a molecular level, I won’t mind taking my time.

10. Fermentation – I think my most favorite topic! I am currently trying to ferment pineapple vinegar. I don’t really know how its going yet but I will write an update in about 6 weeks and let you know…

We were also required to chose our own final projects. The final project had to be an extension of at least one of the topics we covered. I chose to answer the question: Can you substitute avocado for butter in a simple white cake? I’ll let you know what I found when I did my experiment in my next post!

Ethiopian dinner

I have been craving lentils lately. I ordered them a few times from a new restaurant that opened up in downtown Lancaster called Himalayan Curry and Grill. I have also eaten them at an Ethiopian restaurant and grocery called Addisu. They were delicious both places but I just can’t keep ordering take out!

I decided to try making the Ethiopian version at home. I read a bunch of recipes from around the internet and decided to try this one. I modified it a little bit based on what I had at home and the lentils came out amazing! I also made a chicken dish and vegetable side. I used most of the same ingredients in the chicken as the lentils. So if some of the quantities seem a little funny, it’s because I split them to make two dishes.

I mixed my own Berbere seasoning from this recipe also. I didn’t think this version was particularly spicy. My husband bought some right from the Ethiopian restaurant and grocery store. I ended up adding extra to my dishes because they didn’t really have that much spicy heat to them. You can adjust how much you add to your dishes depending on how much spice you like.

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3/4 of a large red onion, diced small

1/2 Serrano chile, minced

1 hungarian hot wax pepper, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 inch piece ginger, minced

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp. Berbere seasoning (from this recipe)

1 tbsp. turmeric

1 1/2  15 oz.  cans crushed fire roasted tomatoes

1 cup coconut milk

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (plus a little more as needed)

2 cups split red lentils

Heat the butter and olive oil in a deep cast iron pot and saute the onions, peppers, garlic and ginger for 5 minutes – salt and pepper to taste. Add in the spices and saute another 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Add in the tomatoes, coconut milk, and 2 cups of stock. Bring to a simmer and add in the lentils, then bring to a boil. Stir the lentils, cover and turn the heat down to low. Stir every ten minutes to keep the lentils from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Cook for 40 minutes or until the lentils are tender. If the lentils appear to be drying out, add stock a little at a time when you stir the lentils.

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The picture above shows the chicken before I broke it up. If you want to eat the chicken in pieces you can. It is still really good! But you won’t be able to pick it up with the Injera.

4 chicken thighs

pan searing flour (I use Wegman’s brand or you can make a mix of flour, salt and pepper)

1 tbsp. butter

1 tbsp. olive oil

1/4 of a large red onion, diced small

1/2 Serrano chile, minced

1 Hungarian hot wax pepper, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 inch piece ginger, minced

2 tbsp. Berbere seasoning (from this recipe)

1 tbsp. turmeric

1/2 can crushed fire roasted tomatoes (from the 15 oz. cans used in the lentils)

about 1 cup coconut milk

1 cup chicken or vegetable stock

Dredge the chicken in the pan searing flour. Sear both sides of the chicken thighs in the oil and butter in a low cast iron pan with a lid. Remove the chicken and saute the onions, garlic, peppers, and ginger – add salt and pepper to taste. Add the seasonings and saute until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, coconut milk and stock. Nestle the chicken thighs back into the pan, submerged under the sauce. Bring to a boil, cover, and place in the oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. The chicken will come out falling off the bone! When you remove the pot from the oven, remove the chicken thighs and pull the chicken off the bones. Chop the chicken in to bite size pieces and place them back in the sauce. I added about a teaspoon of the Berbere from the restaurant to this to give it a little more spice. Here’s what it looks like:

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1 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 head shredded green cabbage

2 carrots

1/2 Spanish onion, sliced thin

3 garlic cloves

1 tsp ginger, minced

1 tbsp. turmeric

1 tbsp. cumin

1/4 cup of chicken or vegetable stock

Saute the onions, ginger, and garlic in the olive oil. Add in the spices and saute until fragrant. Add in the carrots and cabbage, salt and pepper to taste, and the 1/4 cup of stock and saute. Cover and stir every few minutes until soft. I ended up adding a little of the Berbere from the restaurant to this to give it a little kick.

Here it is all put together. I served it on top of Injera, just like at the Ethiopian restaurant and we ate it with our hands!

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I would like to try to make the Injera by myself. We got this one from the Ethiopian restaurant. They sell almost all of the ingredients that you need to make their food and the equipment you need as well. They have the pan to make Injera but it comes with a hefty price tag and I just don’t think I would use it that much. I did have the idea today to try to make it in my crepe pan! So for next time, I’ll try to do it myself. I think I am going to try to use this recipe. I’ll let you know how the crepe pan works.

Braising Meats

I received a very pretty bright red braising pan from my friends Loretta and Jenny at my tea party bridal shower earlier this year.

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It is made of heavy cast iron with enamel coating. The bright red exterior is complimented by a cream-colored interior. The light-colored inside allows you to see your food cooking and browning on the bottom. You can get this same one at Target. It’s good quality, it’s pretty, and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg! I also have a cast iron dutch oven that I use to braise larger pieces of meat that my husband bought me years ago for Christmas. These heavy cast iron pans will last you a life time if you take care of them. There are so many options, and so many varying prices. You don’t have to buy the most expensive one, but I do think it is important to get one with the cream-colored inside so you can see the food you are cooking!

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I have been using this pan a lot lately especially since it started getting chilly outside. One thing that I have been making quite often is braised chicken. I have seemed to achieve perfection when I make chicken this way…. It always comes out sooooo juicy and falls right off the bone. You can make a simple dinner from it with some steamed veggies or you can pull it off the bones and use it in all kind of dishes.

I like to make chicken thighs because I love the dark meat but I have used breasts and even a whole chicken. I buy the bone-in, skin-on chicken and it should be cut into pieces if you’re going to cook a whole bird.

Start by heating the pan over medium-high heat and adding olive oil or butter (or both). Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides and place it in the hot pan skin side down. Leave it alone so the skin sears and becomes brown and crispy. You’ll know when it is ready to turn when it releases from the pan without resistance. Don’t pull the chicken or try to get it unstuck before this point, you’ll just end up pulling the skin off.

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Flip the chicken over and let it cook on the other side for the same amount of time, until the chicken releases from the pan by itself, don’t force it.

Add in cut up garlic and onions (or whatever other veggies and herbs you want) to the pan and just saute them for about a minute.

Add in chicken stock until it covers about half of the chicken (usually about two cups). You should be able see the top of it above the broth.

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Bring it up to a bubble and then cover it. Turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for about an hour. You can also move the pan into the oven at this point and let it bake at 350 degrees for about an hour. You’ll get pretty much the same result.

If I have large pieces of chicken, I usually put it in the oven. If I am just making a few chicken thighs, I leave it on the stove.

Here’s what happens when it is done…

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You can touch it with a utensil and it will just melt apart!

Mmmmm…

You can save the braising liquid to make gravy by adding it to a roux or you can use it in soup. It is packed with a lot of flavor. The onions and garlic become super soft and pretty much just fall apart. You can strain it if you want but I usually just leave the aromatics in it and use the liquid as is.

Here’s a few simple dinners I made:

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Braised chicken with mashed sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli.

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Chicken braised with leeks and white wine added to the braising liquid, sauted mustard greens and broccoli.

This chicken meat is also great to add to soups and noodle bowls, added to pasta dishes, and it is delicious in chicken salad for sandwiches.

I have made several other meats using this method. The cooking time varies but it is the same basic process. Here’s a few more examples…

Braised Short Ribs and Root Veggies:

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Dredge the short ribs in flour, salt and pepper and sear on all sides. Add carrots (unpeeled), garlic, onion, and rosemary to the pot and saute for one minute. Use a stout beer as your braising liquid, I used root beer stout home-brewed by a good friend of mine. Add in some beef stock to bring the liquid about up to the top of the meat (about 1 cup). Bring everything up to a bubble, close the lid, and place in the oven at 350 degrees for 2-3 hours (depending on how large your short ribs are). You can check them by pressing on the meat with a utensil. If the meat starts to separate then they are done. The fat in the short ribs with render and they will fall apart and melt in your mouth! The carrots will hold their shape if you leave the skins on, just clean them well.

You can make gravy with this braising liquid or just spoon it right over the meat when you serve it. I served mine atop mashed parsnips.

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Ginger Braised Pork:

I used a pretty big pork roast for this – about 4.5 lbs. I had to cook this in my larger dutch oven.

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Sear the meat on all sides.

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Add in onions, garlic, and two apples (skinned and diced) and saute for about a minute. Add in a bottle of ginger beer – I used a home-brew again made by a friend. You can find ginger beers in some fancy bottle shops or you can substitute with any kind of fall beer or lager. I think it’s important to note that I used beer flavored with ginger, I did not use the ginger beer that is like ginger ale soda- I’m not really sure how that would turn out… probably too sweet but who knows! Leave me a comment if you try it!

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I used vegetable stock to bring the liquid level up higher – about half way up the roast. Let it come up to a bubble and cover it with the lid. Place it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 3 hours.

You’ll be able to tell it is done by pulling at it with a pair of tongs. If the meat pulls apart easily, it’s done. If it doesn’t pull apart, just put it back in the oven and check it periodically.

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Once again, you can make gravy with the braising liquid or just use it as-is. I served this pork with roasted mixed fall veggies and rice. I added it to my version of an Asian noodle bowl with bok choy, rice noodles, and ginger flavored broth. I also made a stuffed squash with a mixture of pork, mushrooms, rice, and cheese.

Braising does take time, but if you make more than you need for one meal, you can freeze it. I have made so many dishes using the meat that I braised and saved in the freezer. Just portion out about 1 cup per freezer bag. If you add a little of the braising liquid to the bag that you freeze it in, the meat will still be moist when you defrost it. Check back for upcoming recipes and ideas for using the braised meats – I have a lot!

Grilled Sausages with peppers and onions

I have been trying to use the grill in new ways lately. I wanted to use the cast iron skillet over hot coals to cook something. So, I grilled some onions and peppers in a cast iron skillet to eat with grilled turkey sausages. It was a quick and easy dinner.

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I cut up the peppers and onions and tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper. They went into a small cast iron skillet that I heated on the grill. Once they are on the grill, make sure you turn them over a few times with the tongs or they will burn. I placed the sausages on the outer part of the grill so they cooked a little slower.

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The sausages stayed nice and moist and juicy on the grill. I tossed the sausages into the cast iron skillet after I removed the peppers and onions – just for a minute – to make the outside of them pick up some of the sausage and onion juices left in the skillet.

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I made a spread with spicy brown mustard and horse-radish to spread on the buns: 2 parts mustard to one part horse-radish. Then piled bun with a sausage link and peppers and onions.

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I would like to try to cook other foods on the cast iron skillet. I am open to ideas, so leave a comment if you have any!

 

Pizza on the Grilling Stone

I received a special grilling stone from our two chef friends (Gretchen and Aaron) for our wedding – thank you guys! This is the one that I am lucky enough to have. It is pretty versatile and you can cook a lot on it, I definitely recommend it.

We tried it out a few weeks ago and I am ready for another go at using it. It was fun but I definitely need some practice.

I made pizza dough using this recipe that I found. Pizza dough is yet another thing that I really need to practice making. This one came out ok, it didn’t rise as well as I would have liked. I need to get in to the habit of planning ahead and making my dough a little farther in advance. I often decide on a whim that I want pizza and then become a little impatient and end up not giving the dough enough time to rise because I am starving!

We heated the charcoal up and placed the stone on the grill. I had enough dough to make two pizzas. I got the dough ready by stretching and rolling it out and putting cornmeal on the bottom to keep it from sticking to the stone. I got all my ingredients ready and headed out to the grill.

We placed the dough for pizza #1 down on the stone and then tried to put all the toppings on. We covered it and waited about 10-15 minutes. That was too long! We definitely burnt our first attempt at grilled pizza. It tasted ok, but it was really burnt on the bottom…

So my next attempt was a little better. I got the dough ready for pizza #2. This time I put it right on the pizza peel so I could slide it off really fast onto the stone. I put all the toppings on it before I put it on the grill.

Here we go, pizza #2:

Roll out the dough

Fresh tomatoes


prosciutto and chopped up kalamata olives


Fresh basil


Topped with fresh mozzarella cheese and a little salt and pepper.

I carried the whole thing out to the grill and slid pizza #2 off pretty quickly, covered up the grill and waited another ten minutes.


Pizza #2 was pretty successful!

It got stuck a little bit on the stone because there were some burnt  spots from pizza #1 that I couldn’t get off. It was a great first attempt but I think next time I will do a much better job.

Improvements for next time:

  • Do not burn the first pizza or all other pizzas will get stuck.
  • Put the prosciutto on the top so it gets crispy instead of soggy.
  • Try putting the cheese under the toppings.
  • Less toppings, so they aren’t fighting against each other, the olives kind of took over this time.

I also really want to try to grill a pastry on the grill using the stone. I think I may attempt a peach tart!

Natural Dyes: Black Walnuts

I have been really interested in natural dyes this year. Remember my Easter egg dye experiment? I used onion skin and herbs to color eggs and they came out rather beautiful.

I am taking a class this summer designed for teachers that is all about “materials science.” I am learning a lot of cool stuff and performing pretty interesting labs that have to do with polymers, magnets, solar panels, dyes, wood, paper, and so many other  cool science things. We spent a whole day on dyes (natural and chemical) with the Chemistry professor and part of a day using natural dyes with the Botany professor. Needless to say… I was excited!

I had to do an assignment comparing two different materials dyed with black walnuts – silk and cotton. Here’s the recap of how to dye using black walnuts and the results for the different materials:

Here is what the black walnut tree looks like. The walnuts start off really green and hard and turn brown and fall to the ground as they mature. You want to use the walnuts that have turned brown and have fallen on the ground. Fall is the perfect time to harvest them, so you might need to plan ahead if you want to use them for dyeing.

You’ll need to crack open and remove the husk from the hard shell inside. There is a dark substance between the husk and the nut shell that is going to provide you with the dark brown color for the dye.


I think the best way to crack the walnut it is smash it between two heavy rocks, boards, etc. I chose to use some bricks from my back yard. They made crushing the walnuts pretty easy. DO NOT try to cut the nuts with a knife, they are very hard and you can easily slip and cut yourself!

Here are my crushed up black walnuts. I am using 16 walnuts to 16 cups of water for my dye. This will give you a nice brown color, you can add more or less depending on how dark you want the dye.

In the kitchen… bring the water and nuts to a gentle boil in a pot large enough to add whatever you are dyeing. Once it is boiling, give it a stir and reduce the heat down to medium heat. Allow the liquid to gently simmer for about 15 minutes. While the walnuts are simmering in the water, prepare your material to be dyed. Turn on the ventilation fan on your stove! The walnuts give off a strong odor when boiling.

I am using an old 100% cotton t-shirt and 100% silk scarf. Which of these materials absorb and retain the brown dye better? There’s only one way to find out…

Soak your material in warm water and ring it out.

if you want to make patterns on your shirt of scarf, you can do so by folding it in different ways. I am going to try to make a classic swirl pattern on my shirt and scarf. Here’s how its done:

Pinch a small area of the shirt/scarf and twist it in a circular motion. You can use rubber bands to secure your twist… but I used bakers twine and tied up my twisted patterns on the t-shirt to hold them in place. I think the bakers twine was actually easier and held better than the rubber bands, so you might want to try it!

I made about 5 twists on the shirt, all secured with the twine.

I did the same with the scarf.

Submerge the prepared shirt/scarf into the black walnut dye and make sure they are covered by the water.

You can leave your project in the dye anywhere from 2 hours to a day. Depending on how dark you want your piece of art work to be.

I left mine in the pot over night and through out the day for 18 hours! Here’s what it looks like when it comes out:

I placed my shirt in the sink and rinsed it while I was cutting the bakers twine off. I didn’t want to make a big mess and splash the dye all over the place, so the sink was a good place to remove the twine.

Rinse the shirt/scarf thoroughly with water until it runs clear.

Check out your pattern!

Both the t-shirt and the scarf look pretty good. I think the silk really took up the dye better than the cotton.

Wash your items in the washing machine… by themselves! You may get brown dye on other items if you wash the dyed clothing with other clothing at first.

After the wash, it appears that the silk did take up the dye better than the cotton. Are you ready for the explanation? I might get a little nerdy…  but I’ll keep it simple.

Silk fabric has the ability to form ionic bonds with the dye. Ionic bonds are strong! Silk also has more places in its chemical structure to which the dye can bond. What does that mean? That means your dye won’t wash out of the fabric very easily and it will appear to have a richer color for a long time.

The cotton fabric forms hydrogen bonds. These are not as strong as Ionic bonds. So your fabric might fade from a lot of washing and your color might not appear as rich.

I haven’t tried this yet but if you add a stronger acid (like vinegar) to your dye bath, the brown color will be altered a bit. You can also add a base to change the brown to a different hue. I still need to do some research on that to figure out what kind of household acids and bases I can use.

It’s amazing how many natural things you can dye fabrics with! I’ll be sharing some of my other natural dye experiments as I work through them. I have a white tank top that I am going to try dyeing with turmeric next. There are so many foods and plants that will turn things beautiful colors. Leave a comment if you have tried dyeing fabrics with other natural dyes – I am always looking for new ideas!

Happy Easter!

I spent last night dyeing Easter eggs with some of my friends. My friend Janeen had a bunch of different egg dyeing kits that we used. I also wanted to try some natural egg dyes, like onion skins and purple cabbage.

Here’s some photos of our creations:

We painted some with metallic dyes…

We also made some really cool patterns by twisting rubber bands around the eggs and dipping them in different colors:

Here’s our eggs we dyed with onion skins. they came out with some pretty neat patterns. We use fennel fronds and cilantro to make patterns by placing them between the egg and the onion skin.

Here’s a link to give you some more specific instructions on how to use onion skins and other natural dyes to color eggs. We didn’t get to use the purple cabbage. I’m saving that one for next year.

Over all, I really like the mix of patterns and colors that are in my egg display this year.

There is no way we are going to be able to eat all of these beauties this week so I intend to pickle a bunch of them!

I followed this night of dyeing eggs with a great baked egg breakfast. I made my favorite frittata with a big salad made with local early spring greens.

For the Frittata…

Scramble 8 eggs with 1/4 cup of light cream and season with salt and pepper.

Mix in 1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese, 1/2 chopped ham, 1/4 chopped parsley, and 1/4 cup minced sweet onion.

Pour it all into a baking dish (sprayed with non-stick spray) and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes (until the center is firm).

A delicious and easy brunch to start off the day! If you’re lucky enough to have tomorrow off, give this recipe a whirl! It is also great to make and put in the refrigerator. It heats up in the microwave just fine so it makes a great quick breakfast.

I hope everyone had a great Easter!

Spring Grilling Tips, Perfect Chicken and Smokey Veggies

It has been incredibly lovely outside in Lancaster!  On Tuesday I walked home from work without a coat and I decided it was time to clean out the grill and make something smokey.

I had chicken legs and thighs in the refrigerator that I had planned to bake in the oven, but I decided to prepare them for grilling as soon as I got home. I would normally marinate them overnight but I only had an hour and I really wanted to be outside using the grill. I cleaned up my 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken legs and thighs, rubbed them with salt and pepper and placed them in a zip-top bag with 1/4 cup of Garlic Expressions vinaigrette and 1/4 cup of olive oil.

While the chicken was marinating, I cleaned up the grill and got my charcoal heated up. I like to use a charcoal grill so much that I got rid of my propane gas grill when we moved a few years ago. I have a simple Weber One-Touch and some of their accessories. A lot of people think it is too much work to get the coals lit and ready, but if you get one of these contraptions it makes your charcoal heat up pretty quickly.

It’s called a chimney starter. You stuff the bottom with a piece of newspaper (or fire starters) and light it. The cylinder shape shoots the flames up into the coals like…yes… a chimney! I’ll share my secret for getting the coals to light even faster: Twist up a piece of newspaper so it looks like a wick to a candle. Place the wick in the center of the starter standing up and surround it with your coals… like the wick of a candle. You can light the newspaper on the bottom and the top and your coals will catch fire even quicker… if you are really the impatient type.

While the chicken is marinating and you have the grill coals heating up… get your veggies ready!

I am using a medium size sweet spanish onion cut into large chunks, a box of frozen artichoke hearts (thawed), and about a pound of mini sweet peppers. The peppers can go right on the grill, they are large enough that they won’t fall through the grates but I put the onions and artichokes on bamboo skewers so they won’t get lots through the grates. Drizzle all of your veggies with the same garlic vinaigrette as we marinated the chicken with and olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Ready to grill!

I have spent a lot of time perfecting the way I cook chicken. Chicken is such a staple… it’s cheap, it’s readily available, and if it s cooked bad, it’s can make your dinner a disaster… if it’s cooked good, it can make you a star chef! Here’s how I set up the grill to get juicy, perfectly grilled chicken. It takes a little longer but it is so worth it.

Put your hot coals on one side of the lower grill grate and add enough extra briquettes to last you about 1 hour of cooking time. Place an aluminum foil pan on the other side. You can buy disposable ones at the grocery store or you can just make your own out of two sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Make sure the sides of your pan are at least 2 inches high, you are going to want it to hold about a 1/2 gallon of water. Fit your pan in next to the coals and pour in the water. Here’s what my set up looks like:

Replace the upper grill grate and put the lid on the grill with the vents open. Allow the grill to heat up for a few minutes. Then remove the lid so that you can clean the upper grate. I like to use a triangular wire grill brush. It easily scrapes away anything on your grate. Make sure you heat up the grill grate before scraping, it makes it a lot easier to clean.

Take your chicken out of the zip top bag and place it on the side of the grill above the water pan (skin side up). Reserve the rest of the marinade in the bag for when you flip the chicken. Cover the grill and allow the chicken to cook for about 20 minutes. Here’s what it looks like after about 20 minutes:

Flip the chicken over (skin side down now) and brush some of the marinade onto the pieces. Look at the grill marks that are starting to form!

Cover the grill again and allow the chicken to cook for another 20 minutes.  Use a thermometer to check the temperature of your chicken, the thermometer should read 160-165 degrees F. Flip the chicken over (skin side up) onto the other side of the grill (right over the hot coals). Only leave the chicken there for a few minutes and repeat on the other side. This will crisp up the skin but be sure to watch it because it will burn quickly!

Remove the chicken and place it onto a piece of aluminum foil. Wrap the chicken and let it rest until you have grilled your veggies.

You can start the veggies while you are crisping the skin on the chicken. Here’s a grill full of deliciousness!

Place the veggies on the side of the grill over the water pan and cover for about ten minutes. The veggies will get warm and a little softer without getting burned on the outside. Remove the cover and place the veggies over the hot coals for a few minutes on each side, just to get a little char around the outside.

Remove the veggies and place them onto a platter. You can serve everything family style but I like to create a plate for each person.

Serve the chicken and veggies with a nice salad topped with this vinaigrette: 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice, 2 tsp. of the garlic vinaigrette that was used for the marinade, 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. My salad included baby spinach, baby pea tendrils, mustard greens, and shredded romaine lettuce.

I like to make a little extra dressing and toss the artichokes in it because they can get a little dry on the grill. Pile everything onto your plate and enjoy. The colors really look lovely together, don’t you think?

A perfect grilled dinner on a beautiful day! We paired this dinner with a cool Nugget Nectar from Troegs Brewing Company and ate out on the back deck, here’s to an early start to spring!

P.S – Check out what I’m doing with the left overs in my next post!