Hard-boiled Eggs

There isn’t much to say about this recipe, but it’s a basic one that ought to be in your cookbook somewhere. I’ve been making more of these lately so we can dye them for Easter eggs.

1. Wash eggs to be hard-cooked in warm soap and water.

2. Place eggs in a single layer in an enamel, glass, or steel pan.

3. Add enough tap water to come at least 1 inch above the eggs.

4. Cover the pan and rapidly bring the water to a boil. Then turn off the heat. If you’re using an electric range, take the pan off the burner.

5. Leave the cover on the pan. Let large eggs sit for 15-17 minutes; medium eggs about 3 minutes less; extra-large about 3 minutes more.


6. Heat retained in the water will continue to cook them, so remove eggs with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of ice water. Cooling helps prevent the green rings that sometimes form around the yolks.


Don’t worry if the eggs crack a little during boiling, because they are still cooked and perfectly edible. If you dye them, part of the egg underneath the shell will be colored, but since most egg dyes are food-safe it won’t matter.

To eat them, tap the eggs gently on a hard surface to make cracks, then gently peel off the shell.

Slice or cut them into chunks, sprinkled with a little salt. Chop them for an egg salad sandwich or crumble them for a salad. Or make them into deviled eggs — see my recipe here.

Candied Pecan Popcorn

20170128_162714This is a recipe that could earn you a lot of friends. I brought a container of this to work, and it was soon gobbled up by colleagues who asked me not to bring it in again because they didn’t need the temptation.

The original recipe came from the Food Network magazine, which always seems to have recipes that just simply work. It was the creation of Marcela Valladolid, who called for the addition of chipotle seasoning, but I leave that out in my version. Here is the recipe, with a few more changes from the original.

11 cups popped plain popcorn (very important: inspect carefully and remove all unpopped kernels)
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda

Heat oven to 250F degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and butter the foil.

When oven is hot, put popcorn on the pan and scatter the pecans on top. Place in the oven while you do the next step.

Place the sugar, butter, and honey in a small saucepan and heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally. When the sugar and butter have melted, increase the heat and boil for 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and quickly stir in salt and baking soda.

Remove popcorn from oven and pour the syrup on top, then mix gently with a rubber spatula to coat as much of the popcorn as possible. Bake for 1 hour, stirring with the spatula halfway through to coat more popcorn.

Remove from oven, stir once more, and let cool. To remove cooled popcorn from foil, lift it up at each end, gently moving the foil around to ease the popcorn off.

Pull-Apart Pizza Bread

This bread would be delicious to have with an Italian meal, for an afternoon snack, or part of a quick lunch. It tastes just like pizza but is made with prepared refrigerated biscuit dough. The fun part is pulling off the individual pieces, especially while it’s still warm.

I made this with my son yesterday after seeing the recipe in his children’s magazine. We put the bread on the dinner table and loved tearing the pieces off. There was one piece left over, but it didn’t last very long after dinner.

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup pizza sauce
1 12-oz. can refrigerated biscuit dough*
3 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano


Grease a 1-quart Bundt pan or angel food cake pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Heat the oven to 350F/175C degrees.

Sprinkle 3 Tbsp. of the cheese and 1 1/2 Tbsp. of the sauce around the bottom of the pan. Separate the biscuits from each other and tear each into three pieces.

Place the butter in a small microwave-safe bowl and melt in the microwave. Dip half the biscuits in the melted butter and put them into the pan. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and sauce, bell pepper, and oregano on top.

Slightly stretch apart the remaining biscuit pieces, dip into the butter, and add them to the pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until browned. Remove from oven and let cook 5 minutes on a rack. Remove from pan and place, inverted, on a serving plate.

*For those not in the United States, you’ll have to substitute a homemade biscuit dough for the canned, refrigerated kind. Do a search for “Southern buttermilk biscuit recipe” to find one. I have not made this one, but I love Southern Living magazine, and the recipe is probably good. Complete the recipe through Step 2, then weigh the dough and use only 12 ounces of it. Then divide in half and just pinch off large chunks to proceed with the pizza bread recipe.


Cheesy Parmesan Bites

I made these for an open house we hosted over the weekend. As the only hot appetizer on the table, they went pretty quickly!

They are very easy to make, and very easy to prepare ahead and bake when needed. Try as I might, I could not prevent the cheese from melting out the sides to keep these snacks looking pretty and perfect, but it seemed not to matter to the cheese lovers at the party and probably made them more appealing.

The recipe calls for Pillsbury refrigerated crescent rolls, which I don’t think are available overseas. A quick search online just now turned up this copycat recipe. It seems you can follow steps 1-3 to make the dough, then follow my instructions below to make the rest.

Makes 32

1 8-oz. package Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 cans refrigerated Pillsbury crescent rolls (one recipe of the copycat version)
1 cup very finely diced red bell pepper
Dried parsley

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C degrees. Mix cream cheese and 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese until well blended.

Open the cans of crescent rolls and carefully unroll onto a clean surface. Separate each roll into 4 rectangles, sealing the perforations. (If using the copycat recipe, try to roll out 2 rectangles, each about 14 inches long and 8 inches wide. Cut each rectangle into four smaller rectangles.)

Spread 3 Tbsp. of the cream cheese mixture lengthwise on each rectangle, making sure to go all the way to the edges.

Generously top with red pepper and parsley.

Fold one long end up over the filling to the center, then fold it up again to close the roll.

Cut each log into four pieces, then place seam-side down on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese and bake for 13-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

*Note: If making ahead, stop after making the logs. When ready to bake, cut the logs into pieces, then bake. There is no need to bring them to room temperature before baking.

Curry Almond Chicken Rolls

Here’s a recipe I got years ago from Tea Leaves & Thyme, a tea parlor and antiques shop in Woodstock, Ga., north of Atlanta. These are meant to be served alongside tea or coffee, though they also make a nice hors d’oeuvre. (This is also an easy way to use leftover chicken.)

Chopping the chicken is the most time-consuming part. For the almonds, I recommend buying them already chopped rather than doing it yourself — though chopping them by hand will give you pieces in different sizes, which looks nice on the end result.

Makes about 50

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
2 Tbsp. orange marmalade
2 tsp. mild curry powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
3 Tbsp. minced celery
1 1/2 cups finely chopped almonds

Cut each chicken breast into several pieces, then boil for 10 minutes or so, until it is no longer pink in the center. Drain it, then chop the chicken into small dice.

In a bowl, combine cream cheese, marmalade, curry powder, salt, and pepper. Mix with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in chicken and celery, then shape into 1-inch balls and roll in almonds.

Chill for at least an hour before serving.

Sweet Peanut Butter Spread

Here’s a simple and delicious spread perfect for smearing on toast for breakfast or a snack. Just mix 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter with 1 Tbsp. agave syrup — that’s it!

The syrup makes the peanut butter even smoother and spreadable. And it’s made with GI-friendly ingredients, which means it won’t spike your blood sugar, especially if you use whole wheat, sugar-free bread.


Kale Chips

I discovered these via a very cool food blog, A Thought for Food. They are a wonderful way to make one of the healthiest vegetables around, delicious and full of flavor. And they’re so light they practically disappear in the mouth.

The recipe calls for smoked paprika, which I used and really enjoyed, but the blog says you can also change the seasonings to suit whatever taste you like — from chili powder to cinnamon and sugar.

They are a terrific, healthy snack. They might also make a wonderful garnish, maybe on top of a creamy soup or on the side of an entree.

1 bunch of curly kale
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt, to taste
Smoked paprika, to taste

Preheat oven to 350F/175C degrees.

Wash kale and pat dry with a paper towel. Remove the stems and ribs of the kale. Rip into 2-inch (or larger if you prefer) chunks and place into a bowl. Drizzle olive oil on top of the kale and mix, making sure each piece is coated. Sprinkle with salt and smoked paprika, or whatever seasonings you are using.

Spread the mixture across baking sheets that have been covered with either parchment paper or aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes, or until each piece has dried up. Let cool before transferring to a bowl.

Luxury Tuna Salad

The phrase “tuna salad” probably doesn’t conjure up images of luxury, but this recipe may change that. I happen to love tuna salad — not just for the taste, but also because it can be healthy and adapted in various subtle ways. This is a great example.

I made this recipe last night for the first time in a while and was reminded of how delicious it is. I ate it on top of toasted wholemeal bread, but it could also be good on crispy lettuce leaves or as part of a sandwich. If you use fat-free mayonnaise, it also fits perfectly with a low-GI or Weight Watchers diet.

It’s so easy to make that it’s also worth noting this makes a good appetizer, put in small spoonfuls on crackers or in the crevices of celery sticks.

Makes enough for 4-6 sandwiches, depending on how much you fill them with.

3 celery stalks
4 canned artichoke hearts, either in water or marinade, but well drained
1 can tuna, in water or brine, well drained
3 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. mayonnaise
Mustard powder to taste

Dice the celery and put it into a bowl. Chop the artichoke hearts into eighths, then cut each slice in half and add it to the celery (you want slightly bigger chunks than the celery, but not too big). Add the tuna, mayonnaise, and mustard powder. You probably won’t need salt and pepper, but taste to be sure.

Amazing Tapenade

This delicious tapenade is full of good oils and a bit of protein, and is best eaten on crispy wholemeal crackers. It’s great as an appetizer at parties or for a healthy snack anytime.

200g (7 oz.) black olives, pitted* and chopped
55g (2 oz.) capers, chopped
55g (2 oz.) anchovy fillets, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. ground black pepper

Mix everything in a bowl. Do NOT add salt. If the anchovies come packed in olive oil, you may want to reduce the amount that you pour in afterward.

*To pit olives, place them on a chopping board and put the flat side of a large chopping knife on top. Press down quickly and firmly on the knife. You’ll feel the olive break; then you can easily remove the pit.

Pita Crisps

These are incredibly easy to make and are perfect with dips or as an accompaniment to soup. They look gourmet, so they would be great so serve to guests (try them with the Red Pepper Puree) — but they’re so simple that you could just make them for yourself.

Pita bread
Olive oil
Salt (sea salt if you have it)
Dried oregano

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C. Carefully separate the two halves of the pita bread, then cut into triangles. The size of the triangles is up to you.

Spread the triangles on a baking sheet (don’t let them overlap). Drizzle a touch of olive oil on each one, then spread the oil around with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with salt, freshly ground pepper, and oregano, and bake until lightly toasted.