Muslim Curry 8 2015

False Advertising with Spicy and Making a Curry

Back in the beginning of November we went to Sway in Austin and had the most amazing Jungle Curry.  It was spicy!  Spicy with loads of flavour and I wanted to try to recreate it.  In “The Complete Asian Cookbook” by Charmaine Solomon there is a recipe for Kaeng Masaman or Muslim Curry and was classified as a very spicy curry.  Ooh, I thought, maybe this could be close to the curry from Sway.  Hmmm not so much.  The flavour was really good but I had to spike it quite a bit at the end of cooking to get some spiciness.

First up was to make the curry paste.  Given what I had in my pantry I used already ground spices, except the cardamom pods.  The only two ingredients I didn’t have was mace and shrimp paste.  And because it is hard to find galangal I substituted ginger.

In a small bowl mix 2 tsp of chilli powder (I do wonder if the book had an error and should be 2 tablespoons), 2 Tablespoons of ground coriander, 1 tsp cumin, and 1 tsp ground cinnamon.  Set aside.

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In a small skillet heat up 5 cardamom pods without any oil.  Shake the pan so the pods don’t burn.  You want them to be golden brown.  Grind them finely in a spice grinder.

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In a skillet saute 1 1/2 cup of chopped onion in olive oil.  Once softened add 5-6 finely chopped garlic cloves.

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Place in a food processor.  Add about an inch or so of ginger, coarsely chopped, and about an inch of sliced lemongrass.

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Pulse until it becomes a paste.

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Add the spices and pulse to blend.

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Cover and chill for a few hours to let the flavours blend.

When it’s time to make the curry gather the ingredients together.  The one thing I don’t have access to is tamarind pulp.  So I left that out.  The rest is pretty easy.  In a large skillet bring cubed beef, 14 oz of coconut milk, 2 tablespoons of fish or oyster sauce, 15 cardamom pods, and a few dashes of ground cinnamon to a boil.  Then lower to a simmer.  Cook until the meat is cooked and tender.  The book did mention that you shouldn’t cover the skillet because it will cause the coconut milk to curdle.

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Remove the cardamom pods when the beef is cooked.  That way it won’t get confused with the peanuts!  Stir in a large handful of roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped.  Add all the curry paste you made earlier with 2 tablespoons of lime juice.

At this point, I tasted for spiciness.  I was already to be blown away but it was very mild!  So I added more chilli powder but not wanting that to be a dominating flavour I also added red pepper flakes until I got some heat.  The flakes are great because they don’t overwhelm the rest of the dish but brings the heat.

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Garnish with some peanuts and cilantro.  While this wasn’t close enough to the jungle curry it was a really nice curry.  And it showed me that making homemade curry paste isn’t overly difficult.  So I’ll be playing around with the flavours for my own paste.  :)

 

Spicy aubergine 7 2015

Spicy Aubergine with Roasted Chicken

I could use this hot spicy dish today given how bitter cold it is.  We’re in a deep cold snap and hopefully it won’t last long.  Guinness is not impressed at all.

Rosemary from Cooking in Sens did a post with spicy aubergine and veal a few weeks ago and I loved the flavours that were in the dish.  I had most of the ingredients and two chicken thighs to use up.  Plus our kids were coming back from Florida and I wanted to make them a nice meal to welcome them home.

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Use a glass bowl big enough to hold the meat you choose to use.  Finely chop a shallot to give you about 1/4 cup.  Add 4-6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.  Then add 7 tablespoons of peanut oil, 1/8 cup of Sriracha sauce, 1/8 chilli garlic sauce, 1/4 cup of rice vinegar, 1/4 cup of soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Mix well.  Add the chicken and make sure it is well coated.  Cover and set aside for at least and hour in the fridge.

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When it is time to make dinner heat the oven to 350F/175C.  Bake the chicken thighs turning every 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked.

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While the chicken is cooking add the rest of the marinade to a skillet.  Add a cup of chicken stock and bring the sauce to a simmer.  Allow it to reduce by about a third or so.  If the sauce is too spicy add more chicken stock.  I had to do this otherwise I think I would have blown the kids out of their seats.

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While the sauce is simmering, cube a cup and a half of aubergine and slice up the cooked chicken.  Add to the sauce and cook until the aubergine is cooked.  Just at the end add a handful of sliced scallion.

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Serve with rice noodles or rice.

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This was very spicy!  This would have a great chance of curing the common cold.  :)  Which given the season, isn’t a bad thing!

Cheese puffs 7 2015

Cheesy Canapés to Ring in the New Year

Well 2014 is done and dusted.  They go by faster as we get older.  I do wish I can figure out how to slow it down a bit.  Ah well, I’ll just have to enjoy the ride at the speed it goes.

As usual we had a lot of fun with our friends for New Year’s Eve, letting our hair down probably more than is good for us.  And as usual we had a lot of good food, enough for an army!

A few weeks ago apointgourmet posted about Thyme and Gruyere Canapés and I thought they would be perfect for the party.  I could make them earlier in the day and them warm them up at the party.

I decided to use the cheeses I had on hand for this dish which was jarlsberg and parmesan cheese.

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C

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It’s a good idea to prep the ingredients prior to starting the recipe.  The amount of cheese needed is about 1 2/3 cups with half a cup of that being parmesan and the rest jarlsberg.  Grate the cheese and set aside.  Finely chop fresh thyme to give you two teaspoons and set that aside with the cheese.  Add a pinch of sea salt and a few dashes of cayenne pepper to the cheese.  In a sauce pan bring a cup of water and 4 tablespoons of butter to a boil.  Remove from the heat and add a cup of flour.  Mix well until the dough becomes smooth.

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In a mixer incorporate the dough with the cheese mixture.

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One at a time add 4 eggs and mix well.

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Scoop into a pastry bag with a tip that has a large hole.  This is my least favourite bit as the dough is thick and sticky and likes to find it’s way out the top of the bag.  So annoying!  And it’s hard on my hand squeezing all the dough.  Create dollops about an inch in diameter and place them about 1/2 an inch or so apart.  Beat one egg and egg wash the dollops without letting the egg drip down the sides otherwise the egg can prevent the puffs from rising.

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Bake 25-30 minutes until they are golden brown.  Now the recipe I followed said 20-25 minutes but mine weren’t golden in that time frame, I suspect because of different ovens.  At any rate bake until golden.

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I had also come across an idea to do apples with cheese and pancetta.  So I used that for inspiration and decided to use fontina and prosciutto.  Very easy, just wrap the apple and cheese and bake until the cheese is melted.

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I really liked the balance of the sweetness of the apple and saltiness of the prosciutto.

Cheers!

 

New Years Eve 1 2014

Let’s Be Radical and Say Down With Resolutions!

New Years Eve 1 2014

Ah the time of year where resolutions fly willy nilly dooming their proclaimers to failure.  I used to be a big fan of resolutions.  It’s a rookie mistake and after a few years (ok several) I realised I was following the definition of insanity.  If you keep doing the same thing expecting different results….

I suppose, as I get older (not old), I’m less worried about what needs to be fixed.  And I am lucky as there isn’t much to fix.  It’s been another wonderful year with my husband and kids.  They are healthy, happy, and doing well.  What more could I wish for?

Hopefully 2015 will be just as good.  I do know one thing for certain.  I won’t make the year without my daughter passing me in height and my son is hot on her heels!  I’m destined to be the short one in the family.  :)

I wish everyone a very happy and healthy 2015.  And cheers to a fun night tonight!

Garlic chicken 6 2014

Bring on the Garlic, Thai Style

I love garlic!  Any dish that calls for a lot of garlic is ok by me.  Just make sure your date eats it too otherwise you are out of luck.  :)

My lovely husband bought me “The Complete Asian Cookbook – Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos & Burma” by Charmaine Solomon.  There are some amazing recipes in this book but the tricky bit is finding ingredients for some of them.  I have absolutely no idea where to find galangal, couldn’t find tamarind in any store, but I won’t be deterred!  No sir.  That’s what the internet is for.  In the meantime I’ll either adjust where I can or use the recipes in the book that have easy to find ingredients.

And we can get garlic so that was our first choice to try.  I’ve bookmarked several I can’t wait to try but this is our starting point.  It is called Kai Yang or Garlic Chicken.

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I adjusted the recipe to make two portions rather than the 4-5 it mentioned.  I didn’t back off the amount of garlic though.  :)

In a bowl large enough to hold the chicken add 6 cloves of garlic, finely minced, 2 teaspoons of sea salt, 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of coarsely ground black pepper, 3/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro, 1 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice, and a teaspoon of chilli powder.  Mix well.

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I chose to use chicken thighs, bone in, for this dish.  Add the chicken to the bowl and make sure the chicken is coated with the garlic mixture.

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Cover and place in the fridge for at least an hour.

When it is time to cook the meal preheat the oven to 400F/200C.  The book said to serve with rice and fresh tomato sprinkled with chilli powder.  I wasn’t in the mood for rice so I prepped sweet potato seasoned with the chilli powder and roasted it.  I also thought bok choi would be a great base to the chicken.

When the oven is ready roast the chicken, turning it every 5-10 minutes until it is cooked.  Take the rest of the garlic mixture that was left in the bowl and heat it up in a skillet with some olive oil.  Saute the bok choi as you take out the chicken.  You don’t want to cook the bok choi too much.

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Slice a fresh tomato and season with chilli powder and a bit of sea salt.  This was a new idea for me and I love it.  I’ll be having fresh tomatoes out of the garden this summer with this.  Fabulous!

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I loved this dish.  I was worried that it would be too strong with the pepper and garlic but it really worked.  I already have a few recipes from the book lined up to try.  :)

Photo light box 10 2014

Oooh I Got a Photo Light Box for Christmas!

On my Christmas list was a tripod for my camera because once winter comes and the dark night starts way too early my photos start getting bad.  I’m faced with countless photos ranging from way out of focus to just on the shaky side and I’m stuck trying to pick the best ones.  Forget natural light because it’s dark by then.  I did have one person say just turn out the lights you’ll be fine.  It was dark.

My lovely husband went a step further and bought me a light box kit!

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I was so excited to try this out and got the chance to yesterday.  My goal is to improve my photography skills so I can hold my own with Roger at Food, Photography, & France and Stefan at My French Heaven.  Their styles are what is in my head when I envision what I want my photos to look like.  My plan, once the tree is removed is to set up a mini photo studio in the round part of the parlor so when the natural light is available I can use it and when it’s not the box will be set up.  For the photos I took, the light is as it is shown above.

I took a few pictures in the window as finally we saw some sun!  The first one is in direct sun which can be very harsh but works for some things and the second in indirect light for comparison.

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With experimenting I found it to be very interesting.  One, because I’ve never actually taken a course, I have a steep learning curve.  Not surprisingly my best photos are outside where it is hard to screw up nature.  Right now using automatic settings worked best.

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But I played around the manual settings to see what happened.  I find I need to be more patient as the longer exposures came out blurry.  Turns out I’d set it up and click the remote without letting the camera stop moving.  I may have to get a sturdier tripod but I want to see if I can make this one work first because it is a good size.  So many photos were deleted in this experiment!  One thing that threw me was that on the manual settings the crystal was showing up yellow.

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So with a bit more mucking about I found in the white balance menu a tungsten choice.  I clicked that and the yellow went away.

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Obviously it is high time I downloaded the manual, ahem.  :)  Just playing with it a bit yesterday showed me that this kit will be a huge help to me and I can’t wait work on the set ups for the photos for my posts.  Now perhaps I can translate what is in my head to the camera!

Christmas 2014 1 2014

Christmas Traditions As The Kids Grow

It’s official, our kids have aged out of believing in Santa.  I have mixed feelings about that.  On the one hand I’ll miss them wanting to put out carrots for the reindeer, cookies and milk for Santa, and glitter to guide in the reindeer.  But then again we have a closet full of secret Santa paper that we’ve kept hidden.  We would wrap our son’s gifts in different paper from our daughter’s so no handwriting would be on the gifts to give away the magic.  That’s how I figured it out when I was a kid!

Because my husband had to travel half this month we got our Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving which is really early for us but we lucked out with amazing weather.  We go to a local farm where they have horse drawn carriages and pick out a tree.  Afterwards we have free homemade donuts and hot chocolate.

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I had a Griswold moment as we were picking out a tree.  As we found one I saw across the way The Tree.  I told the family to stay put, to hedge our bets, and took off running.  Now I don’t run.  There was a foot of snow and I’m in my winter boots huffing and puffing going as fast as I could.  Which isn’t very fast.  I got passed by the guy with a saw and a dolled up woman who laid claim to the tree.  I did a “Noooo!” and fell to my knees gasping.  The nice man said to me but there is another one right over there.  Before I could raise my hand and say “Yes!” the woman whipped round and claimed that one too.  I nearly did a faceplant in the snow.  So I trudged back to the family and claimed the one we hedged our bets with.  Actually it’s a gorgeous tree, just a bare spot in the back but we put that against the wall.  :)

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We do have fun decorating the tree with our favourite ornaments and Christmas music is put on.  Guinness could care less but Murphy is always willing to be in the way.  He generally curls up right at the tree looking up to see what we are doing.

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I was way behind with things this month.  I only made the Christmas cake two Sundays ago!  The recipe is here part 1 and part 2.  I thought, because we are obviously not having a white Christmas, it would be fun to decorate the cake with the three stages of the snowman.  I had in my head how I wanted to do the snowman and knew I had to head to the local candy shop.  And right there were snowman done out of marshmallow!  Perfect so I was able to recreate using what they did.

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Today we’ll be playing games and watching Christmas movies in our PJs.  After we bake mince meat pies and sticky buns for tomorrow’s breakfast.  And it’s tradition to order Chinese food for dinner tonight.  We eat it next to the tree with the fire going.  And can’t forget the Christmas crackers!

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Guinness and Murphy are taken care of with big bones for them to entertain themselves with.  :)

For those that celebrate Christmas, have a very Happy Christmas.  May it be safe and fun.  :)

Carrot ginger soup 4 2014

Carrot Ginger Soup

The sun will be starting it’s journey back our way today.  This makes me happy.  I’m not a fan of the shorter days.  After getting tired of not being seen walking the dogs we bought them LED lights to hang from their collars.  They are super bright so that should help with the close calls trying to get across the roads. Luckily they don’t seem to bother the dogs and they have an added benefit of lighting up the area they are sniffing so I can see if they are about to eat something they shouldn’t!

With all that has been going on the past few weeks I lost track what was in the fridge.  I have a bad habit of buying ingredients when we already have them because I don’t see them in there!  At some point we bought a bunch of carrots and I needed to use them up.  I have been wanting to try a carrot soup.  It’s funny growing up the only way I liked carrots was raw.  But tastes change.

I should say I only liked organic ones.  I don’t know what it is but conventional carrots are always dry to me and not as sweet.  I know for most things the taste difference isn’t huge between organic and conventional but things like tomatoes and carrots I find a big difference.  Organic carrots seem to have more water and sweetness to them.

I found this carrot soup recipe that looked really good and adjusted it to the number of servings we needed.  Their recipe said it would be 8 servings but I made what I thought was enough for 4 but it was really closer to 8 so who knows how much soup the original recipe would have made.

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Finely chop a 1/4 of a large red onion and saute in about 2 tablespoons of butter.

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While the onion is cooking peel and slice 3-4 medium sized carrots.  You want at least two cups of sliced carrots.  I think I ended up with nearly 3 cups.  Add them to the onion and stir well then add 2 cups of homemade chicken stock.  As it is coming to a boil grate about 2 inches of fresh ginger into the soup, season with salt and pepper, then stir well.  Simmer until the carrots are tender and cooked.  This took about 45 minutes for the carrots I had.  Then use an immersion blender or a regular blender to blend all the ingredients.  Put back on the heat and add 1/2 a cup of heavy cream.

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Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed and warm up as needed.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

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Full of flavour without much difficulty.  I discovered a few days later that it was very good cold as well so I will be having this in the summer as a light meal or a first course.  If I had some I would have garnished this dish with chives and the chive flowers.  Another thing to add in the summer when the garden is flourishing.  6 more months!  Not that we’re counting or anything.  :)

Filet with Oven Roasted Tomato 4 2014

Home Cooked Food – A Cure for Long Travels

It’s been a very busy year for my husband with business trips and he just did two weeks to close out the year.  It was a tricky time though, what with the kids’ Christmas concerts, teacher conferences, and the like.  Thank goodness for technology as I was able to record a few of the songs the kids did and we could have him on speaker phone so he could be part of the conference.  Which is wonderful as he hates to miss this stuff.

As you can imagine he misses the home cooked food as well.  Two weeks of sandwiches and so so hot food begins to wear a person down. So a special meal was called for.  I was ready for it too because the second week was a kid free week and I don’t really cook for myself so it was fun to get creative again.

For the first course I did a cheese plate and opened a bottle of a lovely red wine.  For the second I wanted to have some of his favourite ingredients.  Roasted parsnips and pan sauteed Brussels Sprouts were no brainers.

At Thanksgiving I was able to pick up beef tenderloin from the farm where I got the turkey.  I now have more of an appreciation of the labour that goes into perfect looking filet mignon.  My knife skills being what they are mine didn’t come out perfect but they weren’t too bad.  But there is definite room for improvement!

I purchased some grape tomatoes and I sliced them in half.  On a baking sheet add the tomatoes, pieces of garlic, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper then bake at 300F/150C.

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Bake for about 45 minutes.  Unfortunately the garlic didn’t cooporate and for some reason they came out hard as rocks.  So I chopped up more garlic, added some more olive oil into a skillet then sauteed this with the tomatoes.  Meanwhile broil the beef seasoned with salt and pepper to medium rare.  For meat that is 2 inches thick do 5 minutes on each side.  Mine was thinner so I did it for less.  Then rest the meat for at least 5 minutes.  While the meat is resting, add a handful of shredded basil to the tomatoes and a squeeze of lemon juice.

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Top the beef with the tomato mixture and serve.

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It was such a lovely evening catching up with my husband.  I miss him when he’s gone and there is always so much to share.  Of course I had to step back to make room for the homecoming the dogs gave him!  Goodness me it was like a pair of dolphins leaping about, quivering with excitement.  He was licked within an inch of his life!  LOL.

 

Deviled eggs 8 2014

Put the Devil in the Eggs for the Holidays

Every year I worry there is enough food for the holidays then I end up being confronted with a stuffed fridge.  And coming up with many ways to creatively empty said fridge.  But as the family’s dietary needs change there is a challenge of making sure everyone has something they can eat without making them ill.

One has to follow the fodmaps diet and she loves eggs so I thought it would be fun to dust off a classic and update it a bit.  We used to love the deviled eggs that mum made when we were growing up.

I had to make sure that at least one of the ways I made them didn’t have any garlic.  Because I planned on using my homemade mustard I had to make another variation.

After doing a bit of research on the internet, because it’s been years since I boiled an egg, I got to it.  I did the eggs the day before so they were chilled completely when it was time to peel and make up.

Various sites gave me the following steps to take to cook the eggs.  First place the eggs in an empty pan.

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Fill with cold water until the eggs are covered.  Add a bit of salt and white vinegar.  This helps contain any egg whites that might leak if the shell breaks.  Bring to a boil and turn off the heat and leave the eggs in the water for 10-12 minutes.

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Place the eggs in cold water to cool down.  When it is time to put it all together, peel the eggs.  I found it worked best for me by whacking the eggs round to crush the shells a bit then peel.  Slice the eggs in half.

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Scoop out the yolks into a bowl.

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For the fodmaps version I added a couple of spoonfuls of plain greek yoghurt, a few teaspoons of horseradish, fresh thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.

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Mix well and adjust the ingredients as needed.  Some of us like the punch of horseradish!  Fill in the egg whites with the mixture.  For the second version I added a few spoonfuls of the plain greek yoghurt, a few dollops of mustard, fresh thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.

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Again mix well and add it to the egg whites.  For the mustard deviled eggs I dusted them with cayenne pepper to give it a bit of a pop.

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This starter was a simple way to add a ton of flavour to the menu and make sure it met all the various dietary needs without a lot of effort.