Tomato and Black Bean Salsa

…and it’s Fight Back Friday!

It’s HOT here. Like 94 F hot. I know – we don’t really understand hot here on the West Coast with our onshore flow and lack of humidity. And honestly – I don’t mind the hot. It just requires some adjustments to daily living… especially when you live in an OLD house with no air conditioning!

One of those adjustments – for our family at least – is cooking and eating outdoors.

Oh we love the grill!

Oh we love al fresco!

So – in honor of the season, and a lovely gift from the folks at Daregal – I decided to throw together a little salsa to enjoy with in the warm weather.

Tomato and Black Bean Salsa

I should tell you up front – this couldn’t be any easier to put together. It will take you all of about 15 minutes – tops – and will be worth every last darn second of the investment of your time!

Remember these?

The REAL canned beans I canned not so long ago? They’re fabulous and amazing – just had to tell you.

That’s what I started with….

…one can of black beans. These are kind of thick and gooey – and so yummy. That’s good. If they were commercially canned they’d have a lot more fluid on them – and in that instance, I’d definitely get rid of the majority of that fluid.

Next, I added 1 and 1/2 cups of frozen corn.

You could use canned or fresh. Fresh would be mind-blowingly amazing, of course – and if I had any, well, you know what would be here instead! As it is, the frozen works just fine.

Next, 4 medium tomatoes, diced:

A bunch of green onions, sliced fairly thinly…

This was about 7 green onions, with the majority of the green included.

Next, two large avocados seeded and peeled, then diced. I always sprinkle salt on top of my avocados – my Mom must have taught me that decades ago when I was a little girl living on Lamer Street, finding ripe avocados that had fallen off of the tree in the back yard and munching on them…

Anyway – about half a teaspoon of the Kosher salt sprinkled here.

Now – this is so cool – Daregal sells fresh frozen chopped herbs. I’ve used 4 Tablespoons of the fresh frozen chopped Cilantro.

OH MY WORD!

I *hate* chopping fresh Cilantro. All of the stems and time and trying to figure out measurements! UGH!

This stuff is awesome!

This was SO easy!

Then I add the remaining 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt, add 1/4 cup of lemon juice, and mix together!

It looks yummy, doesn’t it?

Well looks are deceiving.

It’s life-alteringly fabulous.

You’ll have to excuse me now… I need to go eat a large quantity of this stuff!

Enjoy!

Tomato and Black Bean Salsa

Ingredients

1 can

Black Beans (approximately 15 oz)

1 1/2 cups

Corn (Canned, Fresh, or Frozen)

4 medium

Tomatoes, diced

1 bunch

Green onions, sliced

2 large

Avocados, diced

4 Tablespoons

Daregal Fresh Frozen Chopped Cilantro

1 1/2 teaspoons

Kosher salt

1/4 cup

Lemon juice

 

  1. If black beans and/or corn are canned with a lot of fluid, drain most of the fluid off before placing in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add tomatoes and sliced green onions.
  3. Dice avocados and then sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt. Transfer to mixing bowl.
  4. Sprinkle Daregal Fresh Frozen Chopped Cilantro and remaining teaspoon of Kosher salt over ingredients in mixing bowl.
  5. Add lemon juice and mix thoroughly.

Notes:

Cover and refrigerate for about an hour prior to serving.

Serve with tortilla or pita chips.

Enjoy!

Asian Pasta and Veggie Salad

…and it’s Fight Back Friday!

Have I mentioned lately that I’m on a salad kick?

Be it green salad, pasta salad, or any other kind of salad – I got some serious love going on where salads are concerned!

In the past, I’d just grab some stuff out of the fridge and throw a salad together. If it were a pasta salad of any kind, it tended to have a bit of an “Italian” twist to it. That’s just where my cooking roots are, so where I naturally lean.

Lately, though, I’ve been craving Asian-themed food. Not quite sure what exactly it is that has me dreaming about it. Whatever the catalyst – I’ve got to admit to some fear and trepidation involving “throwing a salad together” with hardly a thought if the outcome is to be recognizable (and hopefully palatable!) in that genre.

Well over a week ago I started surfing the web and studying up on what could go into a successful Asian-tasting pasta salad.

I’ll be honest.

I’ve had some pretty awful renditions at potlucks, etc.

BUT – I’ve also had some incredibly wonderful renditions at potlucks, as well!

When all was said and done I gathered some recipes that had elements that seemed like what I was hoping for, and determined a game plan.

I gathered the ingredients…

…and started prepping the veggies.

First, I snapped the woody stems off of the asparagus tips. You know about that, right? You hold the asparagus spear, bend it – and it will snap right at the perfect place – no more yucky woody asparagus stems! Woo Hoo! Once they were snapped, I did a fairly rough chop of them, then transferred them to a large mixing bowl.

I normally would use the tops of the green onions – but honestly, I was trying to salvage a bunch of green onions I got on a ridiculously cheap sale – and so just the whites on these green onions. Cleaned up, and sliced – they’re perfect.

I can’t believe I forgot to take a picture of the pea pods and peas! But honestly – not all that exciting. I opted for frozen on both of these. I normally would not opt for the frozen pea pods – unless they were the frozen straight from my garden. These ones – truth be told – were pretty bland and – well, life would have been fine had I skipped them all together. Use fresh if at all possible! Please! And I really prefer to use frozen petite green peas for salads. They’re fabulous, so easy to add, and hold up beautifully.

I used about 1/4 of a cup of bamboo shoot strips. These came from a can. I’m not so into using stuff from a can – but this item I just can’t find fresh anywhere nearby. I really ought to have gotten some water chestnuts, too. But I forgot! It would only have enhanced the salad overall. If you want some – throw them on in!

Next I sliced up 8 marinated baby corn. It literally takes seconds to do this – and they taste great, not to mention offer some beautiful color, and texture to the salad.

Next – the cucumber. I opted to julienne it. It would have been fine to rough chop, slice – whatever! But I thought julienning would be good. Next time, I’ll likely use the larger julienne setting on my mandolin. You have one of these, right? I love mine – although had I to do it all over again, I would totally have gotten the V slicer design!

Okay – so all of the veggies are in the large mixing bowl, right?

Now – pour the just cooked, just drained pasta right on top of the veggies. You want to give the veggies a bit of a par steam here with the heat contained in the noodles.

Now go ahead and stir it up thoroughly. See?

Now, while the pasta and veggies are cooling a bit, let’s throw the dressing together.

I grabbed a canning jar to put it in, along with the soy sauce, seasoned rice wine vinegar, safflower oil, dry mustard, ground ginger, garlic powder, and plum sauce.

Once you have all of the ingredients in the jar, shake away! Give it a couple of minutes of vigorous shaking – you want this to emulsify nicely.

Now, dump that dressing on the veggies and pasta:

…and stir it all together.

Doesn’t it smell heavenly?

It tastes good too.

BUT – it will taste even better if you cover it up and put it in the fridge until it’s chilled through.

Trust me on this – it really will.

I was pretty surprised, honestly, that it turned out so wonderfully. I’ve been snacking on it for several days yet – and loving it!

You could kinda go wild with veggies with this one. You like green, yellow, or red peppers? Throw some in! (I’m allergic to them, so I’m not gonna be doing that, okay?) Want some julienned carrot, or sliced celery? Go ahead – live it up, add some in!

Things I’m thinking now that some time has passed…

First – I ended up preferring this with 1.5 times the dressing. It would have been okay with just the single recipe – but I wanted it a little wetter. Know how some pasta salads have all the liquid on the bottom and you gotta stir them up before serving? That’s not this salad. The pasta pretty much drinks up the dressing – it won’t be sitting in liquid – even with 1.5 times the dressing quantity.

Second – it completely could have handled more veggies – lots more veggies. And I love veggies. So next time, I will add more veggies!

Third – you could totally add meat of some sort to this salad and it would fare beautifully. I seriously contemplated dicing up some thinly sliced roast beef and adding it in here. That would be lovely. I’m allergic to chicken – and if I weren’t , it would be an a-okay option, as well. As it turned out – I wasn’t feeling the whole meat thing this time out – which is okay. That’s the beauty of salads – they are completely flexible!

All in all – I like this salad – a lot. And I’ve been thinking the past few days…. “What will be coming up in the garden in the near future that I could add here? Hmmm….”

I love summer!

Enjoy!

Asian Pasta and Veggie Salad

Ingredients
1 pound Cut spaghetti
1/2 pound Asparagus tips, chopped
1 bunch Green onions, sliced
1 cup Pea pods
12 ounces Frozen petite green peas
1/4 cup Bamboo shoots, strips
8 Baby corn (marinated), sliced
1 medium Cucumber, julienned

 

Dressing
1/3 cup Soy sauce
1/3 cup Seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup Safflower oil
1 teaspoon Dry Mustard
1/2 teaspoon Ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon Garlic powder
1 Tablespoon Plum Sauce

 

  1. In a large bowl, combine vegetables, and toss together.
  2. Cook cut spaghetti in 4 quarts of generously salted water in a large pot. Cook until al dente – about 6 minutes. When done, drain in a colander. DO NOT RINSE. Transfer to bowl with vegetables.
  3. Now mix dressing together. If you prefer a wetter salad, use 1.5 times the recipe.
  4. Toss salad thoroughly, making sure all ingredients are coated with dressing.
  5. Cover and refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors to develop.
  6. Enjoy!

Notes:

You could use regular angel hair pasta, spaghetti noodles, or really any pasta you prefer with this salad. Similarly, you could really mix up the vegetables, as well.

Even with 1.5 times the dressing, this salad is nowhere near “soupy” – if you want a wetter salad – be bold and double the dressing!

Creamy Orzo and Veggie Salad

…and it’s Fight Back Friday!

Since I lost my stomach in February, eating has been – ahem – shall we say, a bit of a challenge?

One of the first questions people ask when they learn I don’t have a stomach (really – I don’t have a stomach – at all!) is, “Can you eat?!”

“Yes,” I always say, “I can eat.” And then clarify, “But it’s definitely different, and it’s a process learning what works, and what doesn’t.”

For the most part – meat and bread just don’t work for me anymore. So I’m doing a LOT of vegetarian eating. Good thing I like it so well, huh?!

I’ve eaten lots and lots of soup. I’ve eaten lots and lots of salads. Yesterday, after I got home from work and was needing some calories, I just couldn’t bring myself to have another cup of soup, or another green salad. I ended up snacking on a thinly sliced piece of turkey sandwich meat, and longing wistfully for a nice, yummy, deli sandwich. It was then that I realized, “I really want pasta salad!”

Pasta presents some of its own challenges. If it’s too bulky (like macaroni or penne) it’s gonna kill my gut. If it’s small and somewhat delicate – it will work beautifully. It was then that I decided that I needed to throw together a nice orzo pasta salad.

You ever do that? You get an idea of what something should taste like, what the texture should be like, and then start throwing stuff together – and voila! – a new dish is born.

This – my friends – is just that sort of thing. Kind of a hybrid of a few different salads I’ve thrown together in the past, but with a bit of a twist. Honestly – it turned out absolutely sublime. One bite and I couldn’t help but smile – a lot. I’m going to enjoy eating every last bite of this yummy stuff!

I wish I could tell you these were all the ingredients, but it’s not! As I started pulling things together, I kept adding stuff – and well – here’s the start of the ingredients!

First – cook the orzo:

Don’t be tempted to cook it in a small-ish pot. You want to use a big pot – this one holds 5 quarts.

After 10 minutes, it will look something like this.

Next, you’re going to drain the hot water off of the orzo, and then rinse it with cold water until it cools enough to handle. It doesn’t have to be frigid or anything.

Now, add the Balsamic vinegar and mayonnaise. I know – it sounds nutty, but it’s so good!

Mix together thoroughly.

Add the diced provolone and Italian Roast beef. Mix together thoroughly.

Now, add the sliced green onions, julienned zucchini, and quartered mushrooms; mix thoroughly.

Make sure to use juicy tomatoes! Core and then dice them – making sure to get every last drop of that lovely juice into the bowl! Mix together thoroughly.

Now, chop/dice the marinated vegetables, and the avocado. I sprinkle about half the salt on the avocado, and the other half on the orzo.

And of course, mix thoroughly!

And this is what you’ll end up with:

Isn’t it pretty?

Honestly – it’s AMAZING. You’re going to love it. I sure am!

Creamy Orzo and Veggie Salad

Ingredients
1 pound Orzo
1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar
1 cup Mayonnaise
1/2 pound Italian Roast beef, sliced thin
1/2 pound Provolone, sliced
4 Green onions, sliced
1 small Zucchini, julienned
3/4 cup Button mushrooms, quartered
7 ounces Marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
12 Marinated asparagus spears, chopped
6 Marinated baby corn, chopped
1/2 cup Black olives, sliced
4 small Ripe tomatoes, diced
1 large Avocado, diced
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

 

  1. Cook orzo in 4 quarts of generously salted water in a large pot. Cook until al dente – about 10 minutes. When done, drain in a colander, rinsing with cold water until cool, then drain. Transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Immediately toss pasta with Balsamic vinegar and mayonnaise. Make sure all of the pasta gets coated with this mixture.
  3. Dice Italian Roast beef and provolone, add to orzo mixture.
  4. Add julienned zucchini, sliced green onions, and quartered button mushrooms. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Add marinated artichoke hearts, asparagus spears, baby corn, and olives. Mix thoroughly.
  6. Add diced tomatoes, avocado, and kosher salt. Mix thoroughly.
  7. Cover and refrigerate. Ideally, this should rest for several hours before serving. When you remove it from the refrigerator, if it has soaked up too much of the liquid – add a little more Balsamic vinegar and mayonnaise, or alternatively, another juicy diced tomato.
  8. Enjoy!

Notes:

This salad is just as flexible as can be – and can include the vegetables that you enjoy. There are very few seasonings because the Italian roast beef and marinated vegetables bring quite a lot of flavor.

Orzo is a great little pasta with quite a protein punch! 6 grams of protein in a 1/3 cup serving. Not bad!

In the olden days…

…and it’s another Fight Back Friday!

I can admit it. I was one of those girls who read “Little House in the Big Woods” and all that followed. I was fascinated by the “olden days” as I was known to call them.

I was pretty amazed by the fact that my Grammy was born in 1912! That was a LONG time ago. Keeping in mind I was like 10 – and that would make it the early 1970’s!

What was even more mind blowing was the fact that my great-grandma – referred to as GG on notes in my Mom’s things – (my Grandpa’s mother) was born in 1889. Dang – that was really a long time ago!

Even at a pretty young age I was trying to fathom the thought of doing things “the old fashioned way” or sometimes known as “the more comlicated” or “harder” way of doing things – just because the results were – well – amazing!

There was never a formal education of Dina about my great-grandmother – it was snippets of conversation over prep for a family dinner, for the most part, when I learned things like, “And she would always put up all of her own pickles, sauerkraut, jams and jellies – every year!” or “And she insisted on the freshest ingredients… she was known to go out to the hen house and collect eggs to make sure they were fresh enough!”

I learned that she loved people.

That she truly enjoyed cooking – even though she cooked for a living.

And that she took great delight in blessing people with a meal that was more than just memorable.

My Grammy and my Mom probably didn’t realize they were encouraging me to be a Food Renegade – but they were.

Going to baking school, and then internships at the old Rose’s in NW Portland and Beaverton Bakery kinda sealed the deal. I loved the statement on the wall of the Rose’s bakery on NW 20th that offered no apology for using the highest quality real butter, cream, chocolate, and old fashioned methods to produce their products.

Learning that a little more complicated sometimes wrought results that were enough to rock your world kinda got me hooked on opting out of the prepared, pre-packaged, eat it in the car culture that my generation was embracing.

 

[Lora Opal Gatton White and Carl Leslie White – my great-grandparents, with their grandchildren.]

To that end, I’ve taken much delight in finding GG’s old recipes. I am fortunate enough to be the recipient of them. More than a little heartbreaking, the fact that my Mom and Grammy aren’t here to impart their memories about them, or hints and insights regarding them. Sadly – they are scattered – through bins and boxes and folders that Mom had put away – probably with a grand plan in mind to get them organized (and likely into a scrapbook! – if you knew Mom, you’re laughing out loud right now!) one day.

In the past few weeks we’ve been trying to get more organized – to try and consolidate some of the treasures, and deal with stuff that was to have been my “project” for the summer last year. Yeah, then I got sick…. and all of those plans pretty much went far, far away!

Imagine my thrill and delight when I came across this:

It’s GG’s recipe box! How cool is that?!

Honestly – too cool for words.

I wish I could say to you, “And since then I’ve gone through and chronicled what I’m going to make first, second, third…” but I can’t. I had to go back to work this week, and well, most of my energy has been directed toward just surviving.

BUT – I have plans, people!

Big plans!

I’m gonna go through GG’s recipes (I found a couple of folders, too!) and find some gems to share with you.

I promise!

In the meantime – I’m gonna share one little find, just to give you something to play with.

I will tell you that GG and Grammy both loved candy. And I remember more than once Grammy confiding in me that GG made the most amazing candy.

I love that.

I mean – hello?! – have you read the ingredients on any of the candy that’s passed your lips in recent months? SCARY!

So – without further ado – and admittedly – without having tested it myself, only with the memory of Grammy raving over this particular recipe – is GG’s Caramel Candy.

Caramel Candy

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 lump of butter (the size of a good sized egg)

Optional: nut meats

Put 2 cups sugar in boiler, add 1 cup of milk, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and butter and let cook.

At the same time, put 1 cup of sugar in a skillet and let brown. When brown, pour into boiling mixture. Let cook until it forms a soft ball in water.

Beat well.

Add nut meats, if preferred.

That’s it!

Simple.

Basic.

And yummy.

Isn’t being a Food Renegade a wonderful thing?! J

You Need One of These

…and it’s Fight Back Friday!!!

Do you have kids?

Do they eat food?

Snack food?

Do they seemingly subsist on things that you sometimes wonder ARE food?

Yeah – I have three teenagers in my house.

Know what they love?

Popcorn.

Lots and lots of popcorn.

Seems simple enough, right?

Buy the popcorn.

They will eat it.

Guaranteed.

Typically in fairly short order, as well.

But there’s a moral dilemma involved.

Do you buy the stuff at Costco?

Yeah – that one. Those 32 bags will be gone in one week at my house.

Seriously.

But then you read the ingredient list:

And aside from the fact that I don’t know what the heck TBHQ really and truly is, and that the corn and corn products used are probably GMO – it looks like it should be healthy, right?

Ummm… I just can’t go there. I refuse to believe it.

So, for a while we tried this:

Loved it!

But, sadly, it didn’t stand up to the constant abused heaped upon it in our household. And honestly, kinda spendy to replace. So we didn’t.

So, for a while we tried something sorta like this:

Honestly – it’s a pain in the butt. It sits on the shelf. No one seems confident about using it. And it has pieces – that if lost – render it unusable. Frustrating.

So… one day, while perusing the pages of my very favorite cooking catalog, William and I came across this: (I have mentioned my love of Sur La Table here before, haven’t I?! J)

Interesting… very, very interesting.

It’s a microwave popcorn popper.

It’s supposed to be easy to use.

And durable.

And easy enough for a teenager on the brink of starvation to use.

I was intigued.

Guess where I went!

And this is what came home with me:

The box says things like…

Pops corn in microwave with no oil.

Made from Laboratory Glass

Butter Melting Lid

…and my favorite…

Dishwasher Safe!

The sales girl said, “…and it really works.” She went on a similar litany of items that hadn’t so much. She also mentioned that they sell out of them regularly, and this was the last one they had in the store. She said it was oftentimes easier to get it from the online store. She said people love them!

I was pleased to hear this.

When I unpacked it at home, I pulled the instructions out of the box and a few things concerned me.

“Simply fill the bottom of the popper with one layer of kernels – about 1.5 ozs.”

That means NOTHING to a teenager.

So John and I experimented. As it turns out, just shy of 1/4th of a cup is about 1.5 ounces – but it doesn’t make very much. Also turns out that 1/2 of a cup is WAY too much, and said popped corn will be somewhat scorched. (Isn’t it good to have chickens who don’t care and will greedily consume ANY popcorn offerings?!)

One-third a cup is just the perfect quantity of kernels for this popper.

Step one of teenager translation completed.

Next, it says, “Place in microwave on high for approximately 2 minutes and 45 seconds, no oil necessary. Cooking times may vary.”

Oh dear – my kids are used to the “Popcorn Button” on the microwave. Approximate means nothing to them.

So more experimentation ensued…

Using the Butter Melting Lid loaded with butter – it takes about 3 minutes 10 seconds to achieve the correct outcome.

Using no butter – 2 minutes 45 seconds is just right.

These are things that teenagers can and will understand and implement into day to day life.

I was satisfied.

Taste testings confirmed that popcorn made with this device does, in fact, taste MUCH better than prior methods of popping corn, for some unknown reason.

Two of my children will be fine using this appliance and popping corn with reckless abandon. The third will ask me or one of the other kids to do it. But then, it took said kid an alarming length of time to decide to learn how to do the yucky Costco popcorn – yes, the push the “Popcorn Button” kind. That’s okay – not a bad thing to learn new things!

So – after about ten batches of popcorn – I’ve decided we may have waited too long to purchase this thing. I like it. Enough to actually eat the stuff myself – which happens fairly rarely!

It Just Always Works

…and it’s another Fight Back Friday!

One thing that I hear from a lot of people is that they don’t make pies – well, because of the crust.

I always ask why – ’cause, honestly, I think the crust is a breeze! And well, it just always works. And well!

They say things like… it looks okay – but tastes awful! or, mushy pile ‘o sticky gook! or, something as all encompassing as, “It just doesn’t ever turn out!”

I think the fact of the matter is simply that folks are starting with a recipe that does no one any favors.

I have a pie crust recipe that will do you favors – lots of favors, and garner you cheers whenever you choose to share the fruits of your labor!

This is a pie crust recipe that came from my Great Grandma (referred to as GG on the corners of old recipes that were hers!) who was a professional cook. She really knew what she was doing, that GG!

So here, without further ado is GG’s Pie Crust.

GG’s Pie Crust

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 3/4 cups Butter or Lard

1/2 cup ice water
1 egg
1 Tablespoon vinegar

  1. Keep the fat (butter or lard) cold until you’re ready to use it. Cut it up into small chunks. Return to refrigeration until you’re ready to mix into dry ingredients.
  2. In a glass, add together ice and water – set aside and allow to chill through.
  3. Place the flour, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl. Mix together thoroughly. You can do this with a stand mixer, a wire whisk, or the like.
  4. Cut fat into the dry ingredients – working together until the mixture resembles coarse meal, approximately small pea sized.
  5. In a glass measuring cup, combine 1/2 cup of iced water, 1 egg, and 1 Tablespoon of vinegar. Use a small wire whisk or fork to mix completely.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the other ingredients – combining until just moistened completely through. DO NOT OVERMIX!
  7. Form dough into a large rectangular round with your hands. Wrap in plastic wrap, or place in a large zipper plastic bag. Refrigerate until chilled through.

So – that’s it. You’ve just made pie crust with minimal effort and it’s going to be FABULOUS. Seriously. I kid you not.

What I do – ’cause honestly – it’s a pretty sizeable chunk of dough you’ve got there – is I roll out as many crusts as I can from the recipe, put them in pie tins, and then freeze them. You can even layer them – putting waxed paper between each crust – and then put them in plastic wrap and store them for as long as a couple of months. Then – next time you need a pie crust – pull one out of the freezer and you’re set to go!

Voila!

Happy pie crust making!

Potato Crusted Quiche

and it’s Fight Back Friday!

Well – it was Fight Back Friday – and then my computer got the hiccups – and so you’re getting Fight Back Friday on Saturday. Sorry!

I gotta tell you – I love quiche.

Well – it has to be good quiche, because bad quiche – ewww…. YUCK!

Good quiche is – well, obviously – the polar opposite of what bad quiche has not going for it… you know, that rubbery consistency, the slightly (or not!) burnt egg aroma and taste, greasiness, and is overall – not an experience you want to repeat.

The problem being – too many people have come to accept that quiche is:

1. Hard to make – a total lie!

2. Not worth the effort – fallacy!

3. Is probably nutritionally not so great for you – um, not!

4. Kinda yucky tasting – au contraire!

I’m here to show you that quiche is one of those things that is easy to do, fun to make, is nutritionally fabulous (protein galore!), and tastes utterly divine.

There’s something important that you need to know starting out, though. You need fresh eggs. Seriously fresh eggs. Like go out the back door and collect the eggs from the coop and then start cooking fresh eggs. (Julia Child agrees with me on this!) I know you may not have a backyard flock of chickens – and that’s okay. If you don’t – find someone who does and buy a dozen eggs from them! Totally worth it, people! (And you should know my bias – I feel like this should be the case for all food – fresh, local, organic – do this, and fabulous food will ensue!)

Okay – so – insider tip: all good quiche is built around two basic ingredients: fresh eggs and excellent quality heavy whipping cream.

That’s it!

Seriously!

From there on out it’s about what floats your boat.

This post is about a potato crusted quiche, but it could just as easily be about a traditional pie pastry crusted quiche, or even a crustless quiche. Quiche is incredibly versatile, easy to throw together, and willing to work with you. I’m going to throw in ingredients that I love and have on hand – but you could mix it up any way you wanted!

So let’s get down to it!

So this is a potato crusted quiche, right? All that means is you’re going to take some frozen hash brown potatoes, a couple of beaten eggs, about 1/2 a cup of shredded white cheese – whatever you have on hand is fine. Mix them all together, press them in the bottom of a pie plate or something akin to that. Go ahead and bake it for about 20 minutes at 350 F. It should look something like this:

Yeah, I know, it’s not a traditional pie plate. This was actually my Grammy’s and she cooked all sorts of stuff in this pan. It is circa 1940-something, and has been well used and loved. I particularly love it because it’s so nice and deep – so I can put lots of yummy stuff in my quiche.

Note: you could totally put the potato crust up the sides of the pan. I just wasn’t in the mood for that this time, so didn’t.

Go ahead and take it out of the oven and set it aside. You don’t want it piping hot when you have the filling ready.

Moving on to the filling. I start with bacon – a wonderful place to start, don’t you think?

I took 8 slices and just cut them up into little strips. It’s so easy to do it this way. Once it’s cut up, throw it in the frying pan and cook until they’re nice and brown – but not so brown that they’re super dry.

Perfect!

Then I remove the bacon to a paper towel lined bowl, leaving the drippings behind in the pan. You’re gonna need those drippings!

Now comes the love…

Is there anything more fabulous than a sautéed Vidalia onion?

I think not!

Again – I remove the contents, not the bacon drippings.

Next, the mushrooms. I always debate whether or not to add mushrooms to my quiche. Some of the time I do, some of the time I don’t. The reason I hesitate? Well – it’s the texture. But since this quiche has bacon in it – say, opposed to some diced black forest ham – it’s already a little bulky, so the mushrooms are no biggie. If this were the black forest ham rendition, I’d probably throw some spinach in there with the sautéed onions and call it perfection.

Back to the mushrooms. Yes, there are bacon drippings in there, but not a whole lot left, so I added a couple of tablespoons of butter to aid in the whole sautéing effort.

You don’t want to cook these down to shoe leather or anything. Just enough to soften them up and give them the opportunity to suck in some of that buttery/baconey goodness.

Voila!

Here are our toppings:

Now it’s time for cheese.

Here’s the thing – you can use any old cheese you want. I’ve used cream cheese, various Spanish cheeses, goat cheese, cheddar, co-jack, muenster, jarlsburg – you name it, I’ve probably thrown it in a quiche. They’re all fabulous. Just choose cheese that complements your other ingredients.

For this quiche I used some Monterey Jack and some Swiss cheese.

I would normally have a block of Swiss on hand that I would grate, but I found an insanely cheap package of sliced Swiss at the grocery store the other day and brought it home. Sliced is fine!

Now is when you start layering.

First – sprinkle a little bit of the Monterey Jack on top of the potato crust, then top it with the Swiss.

Now add the bacon:

Next the onions:

And then the mushrooms:

Now more cheese – Swiss first this time:

And then the Monterey Jack:

Easy so far, right?

It just stays that way… Now for the rest.

You’re going to need six fresh eggs.

These were laid yesterday and today. See that dark speckled egg on the right in the front? BB laid that one – her eggs are SO fabulous!

Crack those eggs into a container that you can mix the eggs in easily. I have a stick blender that I love that came with a fabulous container that is perfect for this application!

This container has markings up to 24 ounces. The eggs take up about 8 ounces, then I fill the balance up to the 24 ounce mark with heavy cream.

Now blend those babies until they are as smooth as can be. It takes a good two or three minutes with the stick blender to get the consistency that I want to see.

Time to put everything together!

Now – insider tip.

Put the pan with the oven.

NO – I did not skip a step.

See? Put the pan in the oven:

NOW… pour the egg/cream mixture in the pan. Like so:

Perfecto!

Now you need to find something else to do for an hour. Yep, it takes a whole hour to bake. But that’s okay – there are dishes to wash, laundry to fold, kids to nag to clean their rooms, chickens to chase… The time will fly.

And soon – you’ll find this in your oven:

Isn’t it pretty?

The real key here is to make sure that when you jiggle the pan GENTLY that you don’t see any movement. You want it to be just set up.

I go so far as to use a toothpick to make sure it is:

Exactly as it should be – the toothpick will come out clean. (Yes, sorry – I have Blu-Kote on my thumb nail! A chicken keeper’s work is never done! And yes, it can take WEEKS to wear off!)

Now all you have to do is wait for it to cool a bit before you can dig in.

That is the hard part!

Voila! You have now made an amazing quiche – it wasn’t hard at all, was it? You’re going to make it more often, aren’t you? Nod your head up and down. You will – I know you will, as soon as you have a bite of this luscious treat!

And just so you know – I make a quiche about once every week or so. I cut it up into 8 pieces once it’s cooled some, cover it and put it in the refrigerator. Then, every morning I take it out, take a piece from the quiche, put it on a plate and microwave it for about a minute to 90 seconds – and I then have a fabulous breakfast with little or no effort!

Warning: others will find out how marvelous this is and will want some, too. Be prepared to make quiche on a regular basis!

Potato Crusted Quiche

Crust:

1.5 cups frozen hash brown potatoes
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup shredded white cheese (your choice)

Preheat oven to 350° F.

  1. In a bowl, mix together hash browns, beaten egg, and shredded cheese.
  2. Press hash brown mixture into a pie plate, covering as much of the surface as possible.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes. There will be some browning at the edges.
  4. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Filling:

6 eggs
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
8 slices bacon, diced
1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
12 mushrooms, sliced
2 Tablespoons butter

  1. Cook diced bacon in medium pan until it is cooked through and fairly browned. You don’t want it super crispy. When cooked through, remove the bacon from the pan and set aside – leaving the drippings in the pan.
  2. Sauté thinly sliced onion in the bacon pan. Cook until translucent and beginning to brown. Remove onions from the pan and set aside – leaving the drippings in the pan.
  3. Sauté the mushrooms in the bacon pan. Add the butter, cooking the mushrooms just until they have tenderized. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. Sprinkle half of the Monterey Jack and Swiss cheeses on top of the crust.
  5. Now layer the bacon, onions, and mushrooms on top of the cheeses.
  6. Sprinkle the remaining Swiss and Monterey Jack cheeses in the pan.
  7. In a bowl, combine the eggs and heavy cream. Beat until thoroughly incorporated and smooth.
  8. Place the pan with crust, fillings, and cheeses in the oven.
  9. Now pour the egg/cream mixture into the pan.
  10. Bake at 350 F for 50 to 60 minutes – until the center is set and a toothpick comes out clean.
  11. Allow to cool slightly before cutting.

Soup

…and it’s Fight Back Friday!

I know, I know… It’s been ages! But you throw in some major surgery, complications from said surgery, having to relearn how to eat, stuff like that – and well, I gotta be honest – it’s taken me a while to even care.

The good news being, of course – that I do, indeed care. And not only that, I’m on a major soup kick. So, I thought it only natural to start back there!

So here’s the thing – I’ve just always kind of assumed that everyone has this inborn ability to throw together a pot of soup. And not just any soup – soup that makes the horrible stuff you buy in the can (shudder!), or get at the grocery store’s deli, or even more than half of the stuff you can get at a decent restaurant make you want to sing the hallelujah chorus – you know, really amazing soup.

Cause – honestly – it’s really basic. And well, what would life be without the ability to peruse the fridge, freezer, and homemade canned goods and craft an incredible pot of soup that just makes you smile?!

Okay – so let’s talk building blocks.

The foundation of every good soup is a good quality stock. If you’ve never made stock and feel intimidated – let me just put your fears to rest – it’s a total breeze. All it takes is a nice big pot (I have a love affair going on with my All Clad 12 Quart Stainless Steel Stock Pot), the stuff from meat that you would normally toss out – i.e., the carcass, bones, cartilage, etc. (these are things you can put in the freezer until a convenient time to make your stock), an onion, some celery, maybe a few carrots, and lots and lots of water. See Diana‘s excellent post on making stock here. I will say, if you’d like, you can go to the expense of purchasing stock. I personally avoid the canned stuff – but when I do need to buy stock at the grocery store, I opt for the Pacific Natural Foods products – I love that I can get the six pack at Costco!

Next building block – in my humble opinion! – is the veggies. They don’t have to be your most pristine for soup. If I have odds and ends of veggies while I’m cooking – stuff that won’t go into the dish I’m preparing, but I don’t want to throw out – I’ll throw those odds and ends into a container in the freezer – to hold onto for soup making days! Although I will say that there is nothing like strolling through your own garden at the height of summer and bringing in a variety of veggies to put in your pot of soup – sigh! Your soup can be as varied and individual as you are – but for me, there are typically some building blocks that I pretty much NEVER omit: onions, celery, garlic. Okay – I don’t put garlic in my navy bean soup – but I think that’s the only one I can recall that doesn’t have it in there.

The next building block – protein. I was a vegetarian a long, long, long time ago. Kind of a stupid vegetarian way back when – so much so that I got good and sick from not paying attention to protein. Well, I learned my lesson – and then much later had weight loss surgery – which meant I’d always have to pay attention to protein for the rest of my days. Since then I’ve been quite the carnivore. But you know what? It’s a total toss up for me – I’m just as happy with a soup with no meat in it as not. It’s just that nowadays I choose to make sure that there is a decent representation of complete protein (i.e., a grain and a legume) in my pot of soup!

And finally – spices. These, again, can vary as widely as you want them to. Some soups I will spice quite heavily. Others – almost not at all. It really has everything to do with YOUR tastes and preferences. What I like very well may not float your boat.

Okay – all that being said, I’m going to walk you through the soup I made yesterday. I gotta be honest here – I’m not sure if this…

…is a soup or a stew – ’cause there’s just not all that much broth, it’s pretty hearty. But when I was growing up, a stew was something that had a gravy-like or cream-type base, and a soup didn’t. So, for the sake of keeping us all on the same page – I’m gonna call this one a SOUP.

First – I start with my 5 quart stainless steel pot. I throw in about 4 tablespoons of butter, turn the eye to about medium heat, and then start chopping.

I chop up an onion – I like my onion to be kinda chunky because I love onion – so it’s a rough chop. Type of onion is up to you. I adore sweet yellow onions, so that’s what I use – and the biggest one I can find. Choose your onion based on your preferences. Once your onion is all chopped up – throw it into that soup pot

Next, I chop up celery. For this soup I used the heart of a bunch of celery that was nearly finished up, and about five more stalks from the new bunch of celery. Yes – that’s a lot of celery – but… well, yeah, it’s true – I love celery, too! When yours is chopped up, throw it into the soup pot. Go ahead and give the onion, celery, and butter a bit of a stir – we want those onions to get sort of translucent before it’s all said and done.

I’m a garlic girl. I’m honestly not sure there is such a thing as too much garlic – but to spare my family some, I try to show some restraint. For this soup I minced seven fairly decent sized cloves of garlic. Toss the garlic in with the onion, celery, and be sure to stir it in so that it gets coated with the butter – there’s nothing worse than burnt garlic!

I had a bunch of mushrooms that needed used up – so I chopped up about 15 of those to throw in. A quick insider tip – if you have mushrooms that need sliced or diced quickly – pull out your handy dandy egg slicer/wedger!

Next I peeled and chopped 8 decent sized carrots. I love carrot chunks in soup!

I love a soup with a bunch of cabbage in it, too, so I chopped up half a head of cabbage and threw it in to sauté with the onions, celery, garlic, and mushrooms.

I like to see some caramelization – i.e., browning – starting to happen – it just brings out amazing flavors (and smells!). Sometimes – depending on how many veggies I have in there by this point in time – I might have to add a little more butter to keep things from getting too dry.

Okay – my favorite thing to see at this point is some nice browning on the bottom of the pan, too. This is where having a nice acid to throw in serves quite nicely. I added 16 ounces of canned diced tomatoes. Using my silicone spat, I made sure to release the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, using that tomato juice to aide me. If you don’t want tomatoes, then try a little bit of red or white wine – it serves nicely.

Now… If you want to throw some meat in there – you go ahead and do that. For my pot of soup I opted for vegetarian, so no meat in mine. BUT – there is lots of wonderful homemade soup stock. I added 4 cups of beef stock and 8 cups of turkey stock. I don’t know what there is about a soup with a blend of two stocks – but it brings out a lovely nuance flavor wise. I personally love it – so I do that a lot! And for truth in advertising’s sake – I’ll mention that I store my home made stock in the freezer in 1, 2, and 4 cup containers. I put them under hot tap water just long enough to loosen them from the container, and then put the block of frozen stock on top of my veggies. It melts down quite nicely.

This is the point in time when I take inventory of what other veggies I have on hand. Yesterday it was two cups of frozen corn and one can of green beans. I knew I wanted a grain and a starch, so I didn’t really need much more than that. I toyed with the idea of throwing some frozen peas in, but yeah – it just didn’t do it for me.

I’ve been wanting a barley soup – so about a cup and a half of barley went in. As did a cup and a half of medium shell pasta. I knew that once the barley and pasta soaked up all the fluid they could this was going to be a fairly “hearty” – aka not very brothy – soup. But you know what? It smelled so fabulous I just didn’t care!

Once all of the ingredients were in, I gave it a good stir, put the lid on, turned the heat down to medium low, and went and checked on my baby chicks.

Time is of the essence at this juncture.

Soup needs the chance to slowly meld all of the flavors.

About an hour’s worth of melding later I got my tester spoon out and took a little sip. It was quite good. BUT… it needed a little something. A bit of pepper – fresh ground, maybe 10 or 12 turns on the grinder; a shake or two of garlic powder, about two teaspoons of kosher salt, and about a teaspoon of celery salt. I mixed it together well, let it simmer for about 10 more minutes, and then tasted again. Voila! Perfection!

See? Total breeze.

The great thing is that these basic principles can be used for pretty much all soup making.

Yes, some soups are more complex than others. Some are so easy it seems a little unfair all of the praise they garner – like my Navy Bean Soup – just onions, celery, carrots, ham stock, soaked navy beans, and diced ham – that’s it – and it’s amazing!

So – next time you feel the need for a good cup of soup – don’t wonder where you’re going to buy it – or heaven forbid, which can you’ll open! – grab your soup pot and throw a pot of soup together!

You’ll be glad you did!

Fresh Apple Cake

…and today is Fight Back Friday!

It’s been particularly interesting – this whole food thing – during this season of my life when I’m allowed to eat or drink NOTHING. The fact of the matter is this: I love food. I also love drinking – my big addiction? Tea. I drink – normally, anyway – a boatload of tea daily. Mostly green tea – it’s a wonder Starbucks and Tazo haven’t folded during this six week NPO venture of mine!

At first it was pretty difficult for me to even be near the end of the house where cooking and eating was going on. But now that I’m four and a half weeks into my NPO experience, I’ve found some – well, I guess it’s relief – in getting into the kitchen and preparing things for my family.

A couple of weeks ago was when I got my feet wet with this. We had a family birthday party at our house, and being that we’re flat broke it was determined that we would make desserts for the event. Not like I can’t do that – I do have a degree as a professional baker, after all! It’s just that I don’t bake all that much anymore. I really do enjoy it when I finally break down and do it – but honestly, I love cooking – hands down – exponentially more.

One of the desserts that we prepared for that family birthday party is one that my Mom made for years and years. She would only make it when the new crop of apples came in – so it was always a fall treat. I think as a kid I thought it must be really hard to make since she only made it on rare occasion – but the truth of the matter is that it’s a total breeze to throw together – and the result is so wonderful, it’s a little bit criminal to restrict making it to just one season!

So let’s get baking!

Here’s what you’ll need: apples (these are from my uncle’s hunting partner, whose family owns a farm in Hood River – we are the fortunate recipient of apples, pears, plums – all sorts of wonderful fruit from their farm!), I’m using pecans this time cause it’s what I have on hand, sugar, eggs, oil, baking powder, flour, salt, cinnamon. That’s about it.

You need 4 cups of diced apples. Being the lazy girl that I am, I pulled out my handy dandy apple corer/peeler and went at it. I love this thing – it’s a total breeze to process apples in no time at all.

Dice the apples and put them in a medium sized bowl.

Now, dump the sugar on top – yep – all 2 cups worth.

And then mix it in thoroughly – you want every last little bit of apple coated. It’ll look something like this:

Okay – so set those apples aside. The next part I do in my 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup.

I should just interject here that I’m a really lazy baker. I almost always use my stand mixer for everything. I’m just not into doing a whole lot without it. But this recipe is so easy; it’s a waste of effort to pull out the stand mixer.

Okay, crack the two large eggs into the 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup, using a fork beat them pretty well – you want them pretty well blended. And yes, this is the same measuring cup that I measured my apples into – so you do see some apple residue on the side of the measuring cup. But who cares, right?!

Now I rough chop the pecans – I don’t want any huge chunks in there, this is pretty much what they’ll look like:

Add them to the egg and mix thoroughly. (Aren’t those eggs beautiful? The color on them is just gorgeous – our girls are such great layers – it’s just so fun to cook and bake with their eggs, because stuff is just so much better with them!)

Now add the 1/2 cup of oil and vanilla. By the way, I prefer the Safflower oil – it’s got a really neutral taste, and is so much better for you! Now blend everything together thoroughly.

Okay – now that you’ve got that all together, you’re gonna dump this on top of the apples. And, of course, you’ll want to mix it completely.

Here’s what it’ll look like when it’s all mixed in.

Okay – so just set the apple mixture aside.

Now it’s time to sift together the dry ingredients: 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons each of baking soda and cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon of salt. When I have to sift salt I opt for sea salt as opposed to Kosher – the Kosher won’t fit through the sifter. I always sift using a strainer and over one of my flexible cutting boards. They’re great for this sort of thing!

Once you have everything sifted together, transfer the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl.

Now add the apple mixture to the dry ingredients.

Mix thoroughly – but don’t overdo it. Everything will be moistened and incorporated, but you don’t need to beat it or anything. Takes maybe a minute to get it to just perfect.

I’ve decided today to bake these as muffins and mini loaves. I’m putting together a thank you package for C., my very generous nurse who gifted me with access to genealogy research a couple of weeks ago. She’s coming today to change my PICC line dressing, draw labs, and do a check-up. I figured I owe her big time! J

Note where my very favorite muffin pans came from! Yep! Sur La Table! I’m totally serious when I say they are the BEST pans I’ve got – anything that comes from Sur La Table.

Of course, grease and flour your pans. I cheat and buy Baker’s Joy spray. Love that stuff!

Here they are all portioned out:

And…

Baking at 350° F – for these, it takes about 25 minutes to get them baked through. If you bake the batter in a 9″x13″ glass dish, it’s going to take closer to an hour. Watch it that last ten minutes, though – because of all of the sugars it can go from done to slightly burnt pretty quickly.

I turn them upside down when they’re cooling. They’re so tender and moist; the top is actually the safest place to have against the rack.

You can serve them as is. Sometimes I sprinkle them with a little powdered sugar. But honestly, they’re great just plain.

Enjoy!

Fresh Apple Cake

Ingredients

4 cups

Apples, diced

2 cups

Granulated sugar

1/2 cup

Safflower or sunflower oil

1 cup

Nuts, your preference

2

Eggs, beaten

2 teaspoons

Vanilla extract

2 cups

All-purpose flour

2 teaspoons

Baking soda 

2 teaspoons

Cinnamon 

1 teaspoon

salt 

Preheat oven to 350° F.

  1. Combine apples and sugar, set aside.
  2. Mix together oil, eggs, nuts, and vanilla. Add to apple mixture.
  3. Sift dry ingredients together. Add to the other ingredients, mixing thoroughly, but not over mixing.
  4. Pour batter into a greased 9 x 13″ pan. Bake for about 1 hour – until a cake tester comes out clean from the center. Allow to cool before serving.

Notes:

This always turns out better when baked in a glass baking dish. If you bake it in anything else be prepared for it to turn out VERY dark. It’s just the sugar caramelizing, of course, but if you use glass – not so dark!

You can use pretty much any kind or mixture of different kinds of apples to vary the taste and texture of this cake. They’re all delicious! It has one character with walnuts added, another entirely with slivered almonds, and yet another with pecans. There’s lots of room for experimentation here!

Malin’s Home Made Crisp Bread

…and it’s Fight Back Friday!

Today I’d like to share a recipe from my friend Malin, who lives in Norway. I had the great pleasure of meeting her in February 2003 when we both were in Spain. She’s an incredible artist, a beautiful woman, and has wonderful taste in food!

Malin has recently been focusing on a high protein/low carb diet – and is enjoying it quite a bit. She mentioned that this bread has been a great option to have on hand as she’s been making this transition.

I should tell you that when she sent me the recipe, it was in metrics, so I’ve converted it to the best of my ability to US measurements. The baking temperature was 200° C – the conversion for that works out to 392° F – so I’ve rounded up to 400° F. So I urge you to keep a close eye on the oven toward the end of the baking time!

Malin’s Home Made Crisp Bread

Ingredients
1 1/3 cups Linseeds (Flax Seed), chopped
3/4 cup Hazelnuts, chopped
2/3 cup Almonds, chopped
3/4 cup Walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup Oat bran
1/3 cup Sesame seeds
2 teaspoons Baking powder
2 teaspoons Sugar
1/3 cup Heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup Butter, melted
10.5 ounces Cottage cheese
6 large Eggs

Preheat oven to 400° F.

  1. Combine all of the dry ingredients together in the bowl of your mixer.
  2. Whip the heavy cream and butter together, set aside.
  3. Using a hand mixer, blend the cottage cheese and eggs until thoroughly incorporated.
  4. Add cream mixture to dry ingredients until just incorporated.
  5. Now add cottage cheese mixture, mixing thoroughly.
  6. Spread the dough onto parchment lined baking sheets.
  7. Bake at 400° F for 35 to 45 minutes. When they are fresh out of the oven, use a pizza wheel to cut into pieces.

Notes: I recommend processing the first four ingredients on the Pulse option of your Food Processor. As you can see from the photo below, this is not a completely smooth dough, but leaving some texture with the nuts is preferred by some.

This recipe comes from my friend Malin, who is Norwegian. She swears by this bread, and recently shared the recipe and her picture of it with me. Thanks Malin!

Malin's Crisp Bread

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you were to portion this out to 12 servings, each serving would have 8 grams of fiber (13 grams of carbs), and 15 grams of protein!

This bread freezes well.