Cheating on our no ice cream pact with honey vanilla frozen yogurt

So, I’ve mentioned that we’re trying to eat healthier as a result of my mister’s accident, and thus his botched training schedule for his ten mile race coming up in October. This led him to decide to temporarily cut out one of his favorite food groups: ice cream.

Less than twenty-four hours after he told me he was quitting ice cream, he sent me a message on gchat: “Do you think if I put a container of yogurt in the freezer, it would turn into frozen yogurt?”

I explained the whole ice crystal thing, suggesting that he could try making it with a method similar to a granita if he wanted — put it in a shallow pan, freeze for an hour, stir with a fork, repeat. He seemed disinterested in such an undertaking.

This discussion reminded me that I’d been mulling over an ice cream maker purchase for a while — I just couldn’t justify the space it would take up. Then suddenly, everything changed. Last week, I had dinner with an old friend. She mentioned that she’d been making a lot of ice cream lately, and said that I should get an ice cream maker. I explained my hesitance to get yet another appliance, and she said, “Oh, just get the KitchenAid attachment! That’s what I have.”

*record scratch*

There’s a KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment? Of course there is. Of course.

Never mind the fact that it’s not that much cheaper or smaller than a standalone ice cream maker. I was able to rationalize to myself that it would make my KitchenAid more useful, so I needed to purchase it.

So now I’ve got my ice cream maker. But I can’t make any actual ice cream until after October 21st.

But he had said he’d eat frozen yogurt, didn’t he? Slightly sweet, delightfully tart and tangy frozen yogurt. Yeah, I can get into that.

This frozen yogurt isn’t exactly what you’d call “healthy,” but it’s a significant cut in calories, fat, and saturated fat, as well as having more protein. Also, if you use a yogurt with live and active cultures you still get those benefits — freezing only makes them go dormant rather than killing them, so they’ll heat back up and do their thing once they get into your gut.

Hopefully this will hold us over until October 22nd.

honey vanilla frozen yogurt

Honey Vanilla Frozen Yogurt
Adapted from Vanilla Frozen Yogurt by David Lebovitz in The Perfect Scoop

Makes about 1 quart

3 cups plain full-fat Greek yogurt (I used one 24 ounce container of Greek Gods Artemis yogurt)
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a storage container, stir together yogurt, honey, and vanilla extract until smooth and integrated. Make sure there are no sneaky pockets of honey hiding on the bottom of the container.

Chill for at least one hour in the refrigerator.

Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. It will be soft serve consistency when you are done with the ice cream maker. If you’d like a scoopable frozen yogurt, transfer to a storage container, smooth out the top, put a square of parchment paper directly on the surface, and put the lid on. Then pop it in the freezer for at least two hours.

A tip I picked up from the Amazon reviews of the KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment, if that’s what you’re using: Along with freezing the double-walled bowl as instructed, freeze your dasher to ensure that everything is as cold as it can be when you start churning.

Ginger-almond breakfast cookies for hurried mornings (i.e. every morning)

Honestly, I’m usually pretty boring about weekday breakfasts. I just keep a jar of peanut butter and a sleeve of rice cakes in my desk at work. I used to supplement by picking up fresh fruit when I passed Whole Foods on my way in.

But it finally happened. My office moved to the suburbs. Yeah, there’s still a lot of businesses close by. But “close by” used to mean across the street. Now it’s a ten minute drive.

Gone are the days of popping over to pick up fresh fruit. Ditto on the days when I want to treat myself to a croissant or muffin.

So I decided to look for something else I can treat myself with. Something that is tasty, but still packed with fiber and protein. Something that will store well in the freezer. Something that will allow me to at least make an attempt to face my mornings with alacrity.

I must say that these zippy little breakfast cookies fit the bill.

ginger-almond breakfast cookie

Added bonus: these are accidentally almost vegan. The only non-vegan ingredient is honey. I’m not vegan and a big fan of the taste of honey, and the vegan friend that I see most often is willing to let it slide on honey, so that’s what I use. If you’re strict, you can easily use agave nectar.

Ginger-Almond Breakfast Cookies
Adapted from Oatmeal Breakfast Cookie by Laura

Makes 16 cookies

1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup honey or agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 heaping cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if your almond butter is salted)
1/3 cup roughly chopped crystallized ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine oats, flour, flax, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, salt and baking soda.

In your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat applesauce, almond butter, and honey or agave on medium speed until fully combined. Add extracts and beat again briefly.

Add dry mixture to wet mixture and stir on low. Once batter is fully integrated, fold in chopped crystallized ginger.

Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets (use a big spoon from your cutlery set). I put 8 cookies per sheet — two rows of four, evenly spaced, which makes a medium-sized cookie.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, until browned. Rotate your pans halfway through baking time to ensure even browning. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Once cool, wrap individually in plastic wrap. Put wrapped cookies in a gallon size freezer bag, suck out the air with a straw, then store for up to three months in the freezer.

Let thaw for about a half hour before eating (or overnight in the fridge). Alternatively, zap a frozen cookie for about 15 seconds in the microwave to thaw and slightly warm it.

These are smaller than the average breakfast cookie you might get from the store or from most other recipes — I have a small appetite in the morning. Feel free to either make them bigger (and cook for a bit longer), or smear on a bit of Greek yogurt as “frosting” to add a bit more heft.

Poutine home fries, when you need to indulge

We’ve been trying to eat healthier lately. Lots of salads.

See, my mister got hit by a car while he was on his bike several months ago. Broken collarbone, surgery, physical therapy, and no running or biking for about two months. This was extra unfortunate, because he had just started training for the Army Ten Miler that he’s running in October. He’s tip top now, except for having a rod and some screws in his shoulder. (Despite the worries from apparently everyone, he does not set off the metal detector at the airport.) But he missed a lot of training time, and got a bit out of shape when he was unable to exercise.

I, on the other hand, am a bit out of shape just because my main form of exercise is getting down on all fours and chasing her around the house.

So, we’re trying to eat healthier.

But sometimes you have to indulge yourself, right? Sometimes you just need to eat a disgustingly huge pile of greasy potatoes, cheese, and gravy.

poutine home fries

Poutine Home Fries
Serves 2

5 smallish-mediumish red skin or yukon gold potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons butter*
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 heaping teaspoon Marmite
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 heaping teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
4-6 oz white cheddar cheese curds*
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash and dry your potatoes, then dice ‘em up. Leave those skins on — fiber makes it healthy, right?

Preheat a cast iron skillet over low heat, then add oil and heat until it shimmers and easily coats the bottom of the pan.

Add diced potatoes and a few dashes of salt and grinds of pepper, then stir to coat and cover. Cook covered over low heat, flipping with a metal spatula occasionally to prevent sticking, for 20-25 minutes until fork tender.

While potatoes are cooking, microwave water in a measuring cup with a spout for 2 minutes or until hot. Then add nutritional yeast, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, Marmite, pepper, salt, garlic powder and onion powder; stir to dissolve. Put the 1/2 teaspoon with the Marmite directly into the water and stir to ensure that all of that weirdly delicious paste dissolves off the teaspoon into the broth.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Add flour and cook, whisking frequently with a gravy whisk, until it turns light brown and no longer smells like raw flour. You have a roux!

While whisking constantly, slowly pour the broth into the roux. Do not add it too quickly or your gravy will take forever to thicken up properly. It will get very thick as you pour the liquid in slowly, and you’ll have to whisk aggressively along the bottom to make sure everything gets integrated. Make sure to scrape any sludge from the bottom of the measuring cup in there, too.

Once all of your liquid has been added, continue to whisk constantly until your gravy is smooth. Leave over medium-low heat and let cook for 8-10 minutes, whisking occasionally, until gravy is sufficiently thickened. Take a taste and add more salt if needed — just remember that you’ve salted your potatoes and the cheese curds will be salty as well.

While your gravy thickens, check to see if your potatoes are fork tender yet. When they are, raise heat to medium-high and brown the potatoes. Keep a close eye and flip frequently to prevent burning.

Scoop browned potatoes onto two plates. Add 2-3 ounces of cheese curds to the top of each potato pile. Smother with gravy, and let sit for a minute or so until the cheese curds start to melt. Grab fork, shovel into your mouth, repeat.

* To make this recipe vegan, substitute olive oil or vegan margarine for the butter when making the roux for the gravy. Cut up some hearty chunks of a cheddar Daiya wedge to substitute the cheese curds.

Ensalada de lechuga con elotes, aka cheesy creamy spicy salty corn salad

One of my favorite ways to stretch a side dish is to eat it on a pile of greens and call it a salad. Bean salads, fresh salsas, potato or chickpea or egg salad — it all works, and since these dishes usually have some kind of dressing incorporated into the dish, there’s no need to worry about making something separate to drizzle on top.

In fact, I’ve already posted a few of these recipes here. Make a side, throw it on greens, and it’s a meal!

So when I saw a recipe for a salty and spicy Mexican street corn side dish, I knew what its fate would be.

elotes green salad

This is a very light meal, so if you want to make it a bit heartier, go ahead and amp it up with a bit of added protein. Quorn Chik’n Tenders or pressed cubed tofu, lightly pan fried, would be perfect in this. You’ll just have to add a bit of extra mayonnaise to stretch the dressing.

Ensalada de Lechuga con Elotes
Adapted slightly from Elotes Salad by Five and Spice

Serves 4

4 ears of fresh corn
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small lime, juiced
2 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise*
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 heaping cup cotija cheese, crumbled*
1 ripe but firm avocado, diced
8-9 ounces lettuce (butter leaf, green leaf, or an heirloom mix are all nice)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 ounces Quorn Chik’n Tenders or cubed tofu (optional)

If you’re adding tofu or Quorn, cut into bite-size pieces if needed. Add a bit of olive oil to a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Pan fry, flipping occasionally, until lightly browned. Set aside to cool slightly.

Shuck and wash corn, then slice the kernels off the cob. Toss with olive oil and spread on a baking sheet. Broil for 5-10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the corn is lightly browned and starting to get crispy. You’ll hear the kernels starting to pop in the oven — that means they’re getting good and ready. Once they’re browned, remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.

Stir mayonnaise (use 3 tablespoons if you are using an added protein), chili powder, cayenne pepper, and lime juice together in a medium bowl. Add the corn and crumbled cotija and stir to coat.

Add diced avocado and fold gently to integrate. It’s good to use a fairly firm avocado in this recipe so it doesn’t turn to mush when you mix it in. Ripe, for sure, but just ripe. Give it a taste, and add salt and pepper to taste. I actually didn’t add any salt — cotija is a very salty cheese.

Rinse and dry lettuce, then tear into bite-sized pieces. Arrange on plates, and top with generous scoops of the corn mixture.

* To make this recipe vegan, substitute Vegenaise (or homemade vegan mayonnaise of your choice). For the cotija, substitute 1/4 to 1/3 cup of your favorite vegan parmesan alternative — cotija is basically Mexican parmesan. I imagine Daiya cheddar or pepperjack shreds would also work in a pinch. Or you can simply omit the cheese and add salt and nutritional yeast to taste.

The obsession continues with s’mores cupcakes

s'mores cupcakes

My ongoing obsession with s’mores-flavored-things-that-aren’t-s’mores continues with these delightful cupcakes. I used this as an excuse to buy a culinary blowtorch, which was very fun to use. (Tip: that particular torch is used with butane canisters that are usually used with camping stoves, which can be found cheaply at hardware stores or, apparently, Asian markets.)

Toasting the marshmallow frosting is a really nice aesthetic touch, but I didn’t notice a whole lot of difference as far as the taste, so you’d be fine without if you’re not an impulse buyer like I am. If you decide to go for it, be careful when you’re toasting them — it’s easy to set those cupcake liners on fire. But I’m definitely not speaking from experience, no way, no how. I definitely did not ever-so-slightly singe the edges of any of those liners.

s'mores cupcakes

The plain cupcakes can be made ahead of time and stored in airtight containers overnight, and probably a little longer in the fridge. The ganache can also be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge.

However, from what I’ve read that this frosting doesn’t take well to being stored. It makes far more than is needed for these cupcakes, so I’ve had it in my fridge. I’ve been eating it on my failed attempt at the All the Colors of the Rainbow (Chip) Cake, and it seems to have stood up just fine. You can take your chances if you want, but it is fairly quick to whip up so you might want to do it when you need it.

A funny thing about this marshmallow frosting… it doesn’t actually contain any marshmallows, or even marshmallow fluff. My friend Emily loves the smell of a freshly opened container of marshmallow fluff (yeah, I know…), and she kept asking if she could come over and sniff when I was made this frosting. Smelling freshly cracked egg whites just isn’t the same, I suppose. Anyway, the lack of marshmallows means this recipe is vegetarian without having to drop mad dough on those yummy-but-pricey vegan ‘mallows.

S’mores Cupcakes
Chopped and screwed from Graham Cracker Cake from All Cakes Considered by Melissa Gray and Fluffy White Icing-Marshmallow Frosting by Cake Duchess

Makes 24 cupcakes

Cake:
25 graham crackers
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Ganache:
8 ounces chocolate chips (semi-sweet or milk according to preference)
1 cup heavy cream

Frosting:
1 cup sugar
4 egg whites, room temperature
1/3 cup of water
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Position your rack in the lower third of your oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line two muffin pans with cupcake liners.

Turn your graham crackers into crumbs in your food processor. Add coconut and pulverize until everything is pulverized and integrated.

In the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed until smooth. Add sugar gradually and beat until fully blended, scraping down the sides as needed.

Add two of the egg yolks, beat for one minute, add the other two, then beat for an additional minute. Scrape the sides of the bowl, add the vanilla, then beat for one minute more.

Reduce the speed to low, and add graham cracker crumbs and milk in three batches, stirring to combine between each addition — about 1 heaping cup of crumbs and 1/3 cup of milk for each batch. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then stir again briefly to make sure the batter is fully blended.

If you only have one bowl for your stand mixer, transfer this batter to a large bowl and wash and dry your mixing bowl. If you have an extra, well bully for you.

Add egg whites to clean mixing bowl and attach your whisk attachment to the mixer. Beat on medium speed until frothy, then add cream of tartar. Increase speed to medium high and beat until the egg whites have firm peaks.

Add about a quarter of the egg whites to your bowl of graham batter, and fold in gently until combined. Then fold in the remaining egg whites.

Divide batter evenly among your 24 cupcake liners, and toss them in the oven. If your oven is not big enough to put them side by side, you’ll have to be extra careful about swapping them halfway through your cooking time.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool in pans for ten minutes, then remove from pans and cool fully on a wire rack.

Then, ganache darnit (sorry), get that chocolate and cream out! Put the chocolate chips into a heatproof bowl. Add cream to a small saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t burn on the bottom, until it just starts to boil. You’ll just have the tiniest bubbles starting to form at the edges. Pour your hot cream over the chocolate chips and let sit for 2-3 minutes. Stir carefully until melted chocolate combines with the cream to create a dreamy creamy chocolate sauce. Cover and let chill in the fridge until it firms up to a consistency like soft fudge.

While your ganache is chilling, cut holes into the top of your cooled cupcakes — a bit bigger than an inch in diameter, and until you’re about a half inch away from the bottom of the cupcake. I use a small paring knife.

Once your ganache is chilled, add it to a piping bag with a large round tip (or a zip top bag and snip the corner off until you have a large tip). Put the tip all the way to the bottom of the hole in each cupcake. Squeeze and slowly raise to fill the hole completely with ganache. I like to fill them until each cupcake starts to bulge a little bit. It’s fine if your ganache is not completely level with the top of the cupcake.

Once you’ve filled all the cupcakes, it’s frosting time!

Put your egg whites in the bowl of the stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Stir on medium low speed until your whites become frothy and thick and form soft peaks.

While your egg whites are whipping, combine sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat without stirring. Boil until the temperature on a candy thermometer reads 245 degrees — you’ll have a thick clear syrup that is covered with bubbles. Do not let it turn brown! Remove from heat.

Try to time your egg whites so they are are ready when the sugar comes off. Turn the mixer to high speed, set a timer for 7 minutes, then very carefully pour the sugar syrup into the mixer in a very thin stream. Once you’ve poured all of the sugar syrup in, sit back and don’t touch!

In the last minute of stirring, add the vanilla.

Now you have a fluffy white frosting. Taste it. Doesn’t it taste just like marshmallows??

Add to a piping bag with a large round tip. Be gentle with it so you don’t deflate it. Starting in the middle of each cupcake, right on top of the ganache, squeeze a blob of frosting out that is about the size of a mini marshmallow (maybe a big mini marshmallow…). Now squeeze out little matching blobs all around the one in the middle until you’ve covered the top of the cupcake.

Now for the fun part! With a small flame, gently torch the top of each cupcake until the frosting is browned to your liking. For some people this means golden brown, but for those of you who are in the “char it to hell” camp, go nuts.

If you’re making these to bring somewhere but still want to taste them before you go, add some of those cake cores to a bowl. Heat up the leftover ganache for 15 seconds or so in the microwave, and drizzle over the cake. Then glop a big spoonful of frosting on top. Yum. You might want to eat it with a fork, though.

Arugula pesto capellini with over-easy eggs

Pasta with eggs is one of those dishes I make all the time. It takes no time at all to whip up on a week night, and you can do whatever you’re in the mood for or whatever you have on hand — pesto, tomato sauce, just plain oil and herbs. It’s always delicious. And then breaking that drippy egg over the top somehow makes it seem fancier, like you didn’t make this just because you had a long day at work and you’re starving.

Here’s one of my favorites!

arugula pesto capellini with over-easy eggs

Arugula Pesto Capellini with Over-Easy Eggs
Serves 4-6

1/2 cup olive oil, separated
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons pickled peppercorns, rinsed and smashed (optional)
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
9-10 ounces arugula
4 jarred artichoke hearts
1 pound capellini pasta
4-6 eggs
Parmigiano-Reggiano, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Boil a large pot of water over high heat for your pasta.

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium-low heat until it easy coats the bottom. Add garlic, peppercorns, salt and dried herbs and stir to coat. Saute for about five minutes, stirring frequently, until it smells super fragrant and the garlic is soft. Don’t let it brown!

Turn the heat down to super low and add the arugula. Cover and let sit for a minute or two until it starts to wilt. Stir, replace the lid, then remove from heat and let sit for another minute until fully wilted. You may have to do this in a few batches, depending on how big your pan is.

Dump everything into the food processor and toss the artichoke hearts on top. Blend until everything is chopped and integrated. You may have to add the arugula in batches, but once it’s broken down it should all fit.

Add the remaining 1/4 olive oil and zizz it up again.

By now your water should be boiling, so add your pasta and stir according to the package directions. I love capellini for this dish because it usually cooks up in about 2-4 minutes. However, you could also substitute spaghetti or linguine — anything long and fairly thin works well.

Reserve about 1/2 cup of pasta water, then drain pasta and add back to your pot. Use pasta water to thin pesto as desired. Give it a taste, and add more salt if desired — but remember you’ll be topping it with salty, delicious cheese. Pour almost all of your pesto into the pasta and toss with tongs until fully coated.

Back to the nonstick pan! Add a touch more oil if needed, and heat again over medium heat. Once it’s hothothot, crack an egg for each person. You may have to do this in a few batches. Once the whites start to cook and get a little structure, turn the heat down to very low and continue to cook until whites are mostly opaque. Gently flip eggs and cook briefly, just about 20 seconds or so until the whites are set, then transfer to a plate. Don’t break the yolks!

If you have a sous chef available, have them serve up little nests of your coated pasta onto plates while you’re cooking the eggs. Then you can plop your over-easy eggs right on top of the pasta.

Drizzle each egg with some of your reserved pesto. Serve with a hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a microplane so everyone can cheese it up to their heart’s content. Dig your fork into your egg yolk and let it seep all over your pasta. Sigh contentedly.

Chipotle cheddar eggs for a Deviled Egg Pageant

I really love deviled eggs. I mean, really love them.

I love them so much that a few weeks ago I hosted a Deviled Egg Pageant.

That’s right, I invited a bunch of people over to make their very best deviled egg to compete for fabulous prizes. And of course, eat a bunch of deviled eggs.

Three of my friends volunteered to judge, which meant I was free to compete. This also meant that I was free to hem and haw about what type of deviled eggs to make. Zesty horseradish deviled eggs? Wasabi deviled marble tea eggs? Sesame deviled eggs with pickled ginger? Or maybe just my classic recipe, topped with capers and smoked paprika?

I decided on a smokey chipotle cheddar egg, in part because my recent trip to Ohio. We stopped at a cheese shop (I really love cheese, too) and I found a delightful smoked cheddar cheese which I knew would be perfect with the equally smokey chipotles. I also knew that a chipotle cheddar egg might be the way to my deviled-egg-hating friend’s heart, since she already loves my chipotle mayo.

Guess what? She ate one. Deviled-egg-hater my ass.

There were a bunch of delicious eggs (and some non-eggs) entered into the pageant. Best Egg in Show was a fabulous egg with sesame oil in the filling and topped with black and white sesame seeds. Audience Choice was a tie — potato skins, made to look like deviled eggs (by the egg-hater, of course) and a wonderful classic mustard/mayo/relish combination. Best Classic Egg was a stone-ground mustard and dill number. And Best Modern Egg?

chipotle cheddar deviled eggs

You’re looking’ at ‘em. In fact, they were so popular that I have to apologize for the quality of my photo. I was rushing around so much before the party started that I didn’t get a chance to take a photo. At some point I went over to the table to get more eggs and realized that only two of these puppies were left. I snapped a quick shot right before another one was grabbed!

I didn’t expect to win (there were so many good eggs), but I’m glad I did. Aside from having proof that I make pretty awesome deviled eggs, I got to keep one of the sweet plaques that I made for the winners. It’s now in our “trophy case” which only consists of this plaque, and my mom’s Silver Spurs trophy from 1974.

best modern egg

Chipotle Cheddar Deviled Eggs
Serves 10

12 eggs
1/2 cup chipotle mayonnaise
1/2 cup smoked cheddar cheese, finely grated
2-3 tablespoons adobo sauce (from the can the peppers came in when you were making your mayonnaise)
a few wedges of lime
1/4 teaspoon of salt, more to taste
homemade taco seasoning, to garnish
smoked cheddar cheese, to garnish

So, first you’re going to hard cook your eggs. There are a million different schools of thought on this, but the way I prefer is as follows:

Put your eggs in a single layer in a large pot. Cover with cold water that is an inch above the eggs. Pop a lid on that sucker, put over high heat and watch it like a hawk. Once the water just starts to boil, remove from heat.

Let sit for 9 minutes with the lid on. Then drain the hot water and immediately fill with cold water from the tap. Keep the tap running until the water is no longer heating up from the residual heat from the eggs. Or, you can add ice cubes until they stop melting. Basically, you just want to cool those eggs down!

I find it easiest to peel the eggs when they are completely cooled, so I usually cook them the day before I need them, then peel and assemble after a night in the fridge.

Peel your eggs! This would be a good time to mention egg peeling difficulties. You know when you just get eggshell shards and shredded whites all over the place and you want to just toss everything in the garbage can? This means your eggs are too fresh. If you are making deviled eggs, you should try to buy your eggs a week ahead of time to age them in the fridge. (It’s also never a bad idea to cook one or two more than you need, just in case.)

So slice your eggs in half and scoop out the yolks into a bowl. You see how perfectly yellow your egg yolks are, like the noontime sun? That’s what an expertly cooked egg looks like. Greenish-grey rings around pale yellow yolks? OVERCOOKED.

Crumble your egg yolks with a fork, then mix in your mayonnaise, adobo sauce, the juice from a lime wedge or two, and salt. Mix until all the lumps are gone. This might take a while doing it by hand, but it’s the difference between great deviled eggs and mediocre deviled eggs — no yolky lumps. If you find that your mixture is too thick, add a little more lime juice, or if you’d like it spicier, a little more adobo sauce.

Next, stir in the smoked cheddar. I grated mine with my microplane to get truly tiny bits of cheese that disappear into the filling, and was very pleased with the results. If you don’t have a microplane, just use the small holes on your grater.

Now give it a taste, and add more salt as needed. The salt will really depend on your personal tastes, as well as how salty the cheese you’re using is. It’s always easier to add more salt than to take it away, so just take lots of taste tests… nobody minds doing that, right?

Put your filling into a piping bag with a large tip of your choice. Or, put in a zip top storage bag and cut the corner off. When I travel with eggs, I like to arrange the whites on a plate and cover them, then bring my piping bag of filling and any garnishes separately. Then you can fill them quickly on site without having to worry about smushing on the trip.

So, arrange all your egg whites on a plate. Then pipe a generous amount of filling into each. Sprinkle a pinch of taco seasoning over each egg. Then with the microplane, grate a wee bit more smoked cheddar over the entire plate.