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Simple Sides: After the Egg Hunt
By Dennis Linden


Competing schedules in the day-to-day lives of a busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together, but not impossible. In fact, with a little planning, cooking together can become a fun family event and learning opportunity. This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with one uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe. The dishes will be centered on seasonal fresh produce items; the recipes will always contain tasks will allow even the youngest kitchen helper to contribute to the family meal. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to judge the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where adult attention might be especially needed.



Many of the recipes presented here will seem very basic -- this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will provide the culinary foundation and confidence to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their experience in the kitchen develops. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a wonderful way to teach children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all of your hearts forever.


While your kitchen helpers may have spent a gleeful Easter Sunday morning gathering baskets of decorated eggs, by Monday the booty of the hunt is piled high in bowls taking up precious refrigerator space. You could try to get excited about a few weeks of egg salad sandwiches or, with a little imagination, use this sudden hard-boiled egg-stravaganza to teach your kids how to make a healthy version of a popular party tray favorite, Deviled Eggs, and watch ‘fridge space be gobbled free in no time!

First, I admit to having little self-control since early childhood when it comes to a tray of these tasty little devilish appetizers. I think that I am the first-born victim of my own mother’s classic mayo-based recipe that I remember being served to guests at every occasion. No doubt, as a young mother, her appetizer repertoire had not developed beyond boiling eggs! Anyway from a very young age, as a part-time server and full-time member of the clean-up crew at these events, I enjoyed my fill of leftover deviled eggs as a perk of the position. Still today I can’t just take one off hors d'oeuvres tray—not without quickly snatching a second as if a boy again! So, healthy sensibilities aside, I approached this no-mayo recipe with a deep-seeded culinary skepticism from my own “Best Foods” upbringing. That said, take it from this confirmed mayo-head, my favorite fatty condiment was forgotten in one bite as the same familiar creamy-eggy goodness of this recipe hit my palate – comfort food flavor packed with nutrients, rather than fats and only my arteries can tell the difference!

So what’s wrong with a little mayo slathered on a sandwich or mixed with egg yolk for that devilish stuffing? Let’s start with the fact that one tablespoon of typical mayonnaise contains about 90 calories. That is roughly 4.5 percent of one’s daily recommended caloric intake in a single tablespoon. Harmless enough, except no one eats just one deviled egg or one tablespoon of anything…especially considering that these tasty little apps are addicting! Plus that same one tablespoon of mayo also contains 10 grams of total fat – that’s 15.4 percent of the daily recommended intake and 1.5 grams of it is saturated fat, which is 7.5 percent of the daily recommended intake. One more…5 mg of cholesterol is also in that tablespoon, again nothing to worrying about being only 1.7 percent of daily recommended cholesterol intake. Right? Still, it all adds up, says the devil in charge of artery-clogging details and culinary temptations!

If kids are shown how and why to use healthy ingredient alternatives from the get-go, they will never develop (or miss) the taste of the empty, fat-laden calories that a condiment like mayonnaise represents to those of us whose palates were “trained” differently. Especially when mayo can be so easily replaced with tasty options presented in a whimsical color scheme that also gives evidence to this recipe’s high concentration of nutrition.

This no-cook recipe uses a short list of ingredients to make two batches of very different creamy fillings: an egg yolk mix and an avocado topping. The easy prep for each consists of a few simple tasks that everyone in the family can have a hand in, no matter their varying levels of culinary experience. A very young helper can be put to work peeling the eggs—carefully; while an older child can practice perfecting a clean slice of that peeled egg into equal halves. Everyone at the cutting board can lend a hand in the gentle removal of each hard-boiled yolk half – they pop right out! Careful not to split the egg white cups.

Normally, an ingredient list for a recipe being prepared by kids would never include the infamous, stain-everything-it-touches, red beet. That is, until Melissa’s Peeled & Steamed Baby Beets were invented! Vacuum sealed to maintain freshness, these sweet miniature beets have been peeled and pre-cooked. Even a child can break that seal with a snip of the scissors, drain the liquid and pop out the number of beets needed with a squeeze of the packaging -- no red-tipped fingers or tie-died clothes to the process! To be safe, apron and gloves are still recommended! Only a few baby beets are needed to add a bit of sweetness, a vibrant color and oodles of beneficial nutrients.

So mayo is gone, being replaced by a few whipped beets and a small amount of heart disease preventing olive oil. The naturally occurring nitrates in beets are easily converted into nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide, in turn, helps to relax and dilate blood vessels, thus improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure. Nitric oxide may also reduce the oxygen needed for low-intensity exercise as well as enhance the tolerance to high-intensity exercise. Beets are also very high in antioxidants, immune-boosting vitamin C, fiber, essential minerals like potassium and manganese, which are good for nerves, bone development, liver, kidney, and pancreas health. Or you can train your kids to enjoy several tablespoons of mayo each day!

After a thorough cleaning of the food processor by your helpers, a very basic avocado and garlic topping can be whipped into a silky-cream goodness in a few minutes. No experience necessary to scoop the ripe avocado out of its skin along with a few cloves of Melissa’s conveniently packaged Fresh Peeled Garlic. And, if anyone really needs a nutritional excuse to eat avocado, try – “contains substantial amounts of Vitamins B, C, E and K, more potassium than a banana, loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids; regular consumption of avocadoes can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol by up to 22% and increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol by up to 11%”. Plus it’s got to be one of the most creamy delicious taste experiences on the planet!

Lastly, let the fun of using a pastry piping tube begin! Your helpers can take turns filling each egg cavity to the brim with the beet-yolk mixture. Have a few sacrificial practice egg halves on hand, as working with the piping tube will take a few tries to get the right touch. Once the eggs are filled, another lesson in equipment cleaning needs to be practiced before the piping tube can be reloaded with the whipped avocado for a slightly more delicate dollop on top! A fun lesson that underscores the value of producing both an attractive platter presentation as well as an irresistibly tasty and healthy finger food. Enjoy the hunt and the day after!

Beet & Avocado Deviled Eggs
Servings: 18 pieces




Ingredients:

9 Hard-boiled eggs, shelled
2 each Melissa’s Peeled and Steamed Baby Beets
1 TBS olive oil
2 tsp. salt, divided
1 Haas avocado, whipped
3 cloves Melissa’s Peeled Garlic
1 piping bag, reusable

Preparation:



Peel the eggs, slice them in half lengthwise and remove the yolks. Cut the beets into small pieces.

Place beet pieces, egg yolks, ½ teaspoon of salt and tablespoon of olive oil in to a food processor. Process until smooth and transfer into a bowl.



Next, place avocado and ½ a teaspoon of salt and the garlic into a clean food processor, then whip until smooth.



Load beet and egg yolk mixture into a piping bag and fill each egg white half. Clean piping bag, refill with whipped avocado and squeeze a dollop on top of each egg. Serve and consume immediately; left over night the beet red coloring tends to bleed out into the egg white half. So not a dish to be made ahead of time.