my "go-to" quiche

when i went away to college (seems like eons ago, especially since my youngest sister is a junior!), my mom filled my arms with yellowed and tattered "classic" cookbooks that she had collected over time. Included were two by Adelle Davis, who I really do enjoy, and a copy of Better Homes and Gardens' New Cookbook, from 1993. The first two I have read cover to cover, and I have used the latter for basic recipes, such as a roast chicken or classics such as spaghetti pie. But my most favorite recipe from that book comes in the form of quiche – via a recipe titled "Choose-a-Flavor" Quiche.

How crass a title for such a lovely and comforting meal. Paired with a crisp, fresh salad, a slice of this quiche is, quite literally, to die for. And this is from someone who has an iffy relationship with eggs. (It's a texture thing ... )

Last night's dinner included the quiche. This time with leftover honey-baked ham from Christmas (which I had deftly tucked away in the freezer) and leftover mushrooms and onion from my produce box, along with a combo of white and cheddar cheeses. Here's the recipe:

Choose-a-Flavor Quiche
  • One single pie crust, pre-made (yes, I'm working on this)
  • 3 beaten eggs – 1-2 of the yolks could be eliminated, I'm sure
  • 1 1/2 c milk – any percent works
  • 1/4 c sliced green onions or sauteed white onion
  • salt/pepper
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 c chopped protein – chicken, ham, sausage, crab meat, bacon ... but could be replaced with more veg
  • 1 1/2 c grated cheese – just use what you have on hand
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Optional: add whatever other veg you like, such as sauteed mushrooms or spinach
  1. Preheat oven to 450*. Line pie crust in a greased pie pan (I prefer pretty, fluted ones!). Pierce crust bottom a few times with a fork and bake for 5-10 mins. Reduce oven temperature to 325*.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk eggs and add the milk, veggies, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add the protein. In another bowl, toss the cheese with the flour and add it to the mix, stirring well. Pour it into the crust and bake it for 35-40 minutes, until bubbly, golden brown and set in the middle. Let stand for 10 minutes and serve.
That's it. It's easy to throw together, oh-so satisfying and always reliable. Especially on a winter night.

The last thing I will add is some exciting news: the hubs and I are officially growing an organic, raised-bed vegetable garden this year. We bought a 55-gallon food-safe barrel that we'll be crafting into a rotating composter (heck, what better way to use our produce remains than to grow more produce!), and we'll be making the bed with rail-road ties. Photos and progress to follow.

Enjoy the quiche! And this view of this week's fruit salad: blueberries, kiwi, grapefruit and orange.

On the menu this week: artichoke chicken and roasted broccoli; half-price sushi night out :); and a cheesy chicken rotini with sauteed zucchini.


a day of random eating: southern caviar, loaded potato soup, and French cheesy-herb bread

there is no other word to describe yesterday's eating other than random. i wanted Southern Caviar (a black-eyed pea salsa), loaded potato soup, artichokes dipped in homemade Italian dressing (like we used to do growing up) and cheesy-herb bread from a French cookbook I received as a gift. So, that's what we had for dinner. And it was delicious. And I totally earned it with a 3200-yard swim!

As promised, here is my take on the Southern Caviar recipe, which uses bottled Italian dressing. I don't like bottled, processed dressings because of all the "stuff" they put in it (preservatives, flavor enhancers, cheaper oils) and because dressings taste better and are less expensive when you make them at home.

Italian Dressing Mix
  • 2 tbsp oregano (homegrown and dried!)
  • 1 tbsp garlic salt
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp parsley
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/4 tsp celery salt
  • 1/4 tsp thyme (homegrown and dried!)
Mix the herbs thoroughly in a little jar – you can see how classy mine is! – and store it in your pantry. When you're ready to use it, mix two tablespoons of it with 1/4 c white wine vinegar and 1/2-2/3 c canola oil (to taste). This gave me just enough to pour over the Southern Caviar, below, with a little leftover to dip a delicately steamed artichoke into.

Southern Caviar (sure to be a hit at any party ... or by yourself with a bag of corn chips ... )
  • 15 oz can black beans, drained
  • 15 oz can black eyed peas, drained
  • 10 oz Mexican-style tomatoes, like Rotel
  • 11 oz canned corn, drained
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 c Italian dressing (above)
  • Tortilla chips
Simply mix the first seven ingredients and let them hang out in the fridge for a while so the flavors marry, and then show no mercy with the chips.

Next, I made this creamy potato soup (with leftover homemade chicken broth!), but loaded it by sprinkling the top with cheddar, bacon crumbles and green onions. The recipe doesn't call for it to be creamed, but I really wanted to use my immersion blender, so I whirred it until it could take it no more. yumm-o!

The cheesy bread is from "Around My French Table," and was gooey with white and sharp cheddar, and herby with sage, rosemary and parsley – which are some of the only living herbs in my garden. Next time I'll buy some chives to give it an oniony bite.


nutso for nuts

My favorite food to this day is peanut butter. hands down. not the crappy over-sweetened kind with a cartoon character on the label, but good old natural, chunky peanut butter with the layer of oil on top that has to be manually (and sometimes forcefully) combined, and then stored in the fridge.

Now that you know where I stand on that important issue, I discovered something that might be better, if that's possible. It happened because I ran out on my lunch break yesterday to grab some healthy snacks for my desk drawer at work – scored a big bag of peanut, cashew and dried cranberry trail mix, too – and i came across the aisle of nut butters. i took my time, reading each of the glorious labels with care: almond, almond honey, cinnamon peanut, dark chocolate peanut and cashew. And then, stuck behind a jar of standard peanut, I saw it. Cashew-almond-peanut butter. A triple threat.

At risk of looking like a five year old, I'm sharing with you a frequent weekend breakfast for me: whole-wheat waffles toasted with peanut butter and then topped with banana slices. And maybe a sprinkle of cinnamon if I'm feeling frisky. Mmmmmm. But this time with the triple threat, it was over the top. And it may become my new favorite.

Changing subjects, I went to a ladies-night-in party last night where Southern Caviar was served. This is the third time in several months that I have seen this at a party – and it's so addicting! It's a black-eyed pea salsa – love, love, love black-eyes peas – that also has corn, tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, and garlic, mixed with Italian dressing. I think I might make some today with a homemade Italian dressing. I'll post the recipe after I get it tweaked.

Also wanted to share the pics of our yummy grass-fed, locally and humanely raised steaks. They were humanely eaten and enjoyed with a portabella steak seasoning (yes, another Christmas present!), as well. :) The produce box provided the potatoes and our trip to the natural foods store left us with some asparagus, so it was a good meal.

The last thing I'll mention is that I have also decided that the more veg you throw into marinara sauce, the better it is. This week I also made a quick post-work/work-out dinner of marinara (from the jar, I did say it was a quick dinner ... ) and fresh whole-wheat, sun-dried tomato and smoked mozzarella ravioli. In making the sauce, I first sauteed some leftover spinach, chopped onion, garlic, mushrooms and bell pepper from the produce box, and then added the red and some of the remaining frost-resistant herbs (hello, rosemary and oregano!) in my garden. We didn't even need a side item it was so chocked full of veggies. And it was quite tasty, but – alas – I have no photo to share, so I'll post this week's produce box bounty (some of it) instead.

Have a great Saturday!


"christmas tea" and the choices we make everyday

I drink Bengal Spice tea everyday. Everyday. Sometimes twice a day. It sounds exotic, doesn't it? It's really not. It's a type of decaf Celestial Seasoning inexpensive tea, and it tastes (and smells) like cinnamon and cloves. My intern at work refers to it as "Christmas tea," well, because that's what it smells like. In fact, I'm drinking some now, on my back patio as I type this ... in January. I love where I live.

Ok, enough about the tea. After the hubs and I went to the pool yesterday for a workout (3,000 yards, baby!), we swung by Native Sun, our local natural foods market. I had never been (a sin, I know) and have been wanting to check it out. I literally could have spent hours in there. For a post-workout snack, we got smoothies at the juice bar – I got a peanut-banana one and the hubs got a mixed berry one, which were both killer – and then continued our shopping for the week. For being mostly organic foods, I really didn't notice that the prices were that much higher for most of the items we bought, although we did splurge on two locally raised grass-fed, organic NY strips and a package of ground beef, which I will cook this week. The items that were significantly more expensive? Organic canola oil (since I suspect that my old brand is GMO canola ... ), peanut butter (I'm an addict), meat, and dairy.

That said, here comes the back-and-forth on my feelings about organics: Imagine yourself in the produce aisle of your local grocery store. In front of you are three kinds of apples: an organic apple, a locally grown non-organic apple, and a non-organic apple, let's say, from Washington State. The prices vary, from most expensive from least expensive. What do you choose? How do you choose? First: applaud yourself for eating fresh produce – period. As it stands today, I think that it's a toss up between the first and second apple. The first is guaranteed to be grown naturally and without pesticides. Good stuff. But – and here it comes – if it was picked a week ago and flown to your store, the nutrients are probably half of what's in your locally grown apple. Like I said: toss up. And if you can't afford the organic or locally grown stuff? I give a nod to one of my food heroes, Nutritionist Ellie Krieger, when I say to buy the standard, non-organic apple. After all, you're eating fresh, whole foods. And that's a great choice no matter what.

In short: buy organic and locally when you can, especially on the stuff that you regularly eat. But buy a variety of fresh produce always.


venison-sausage stuffed shells for dinner

Thanks to a great Christmas gift from my husband's family, we have had a ziplock bag of fresh venison sausage tucked away in our freezer and a made-from-scratch jar of pasta sauce in the pantry just waiting for the right occasion. Last night, the occasion was upon us. We had already worked out four and five times that week and needed something ooey-gooey and cheesy to reward ourselves with. And so it began.

I had some leftover organic spinach and onions from my co-op box, so I sauteed those up with some garlic. After they cooled, I mixed them with ricotta, egg, parmesan, fresh herbs and seasoning. The hubs cooked and drained the ground venison and added it to the mix. It looked pretty enough to eat on its own, but it needed some red and the ooey-gooey. (I'll neither admit nor deny licking my fingers at this stage of the game.)

I added some red wine to the pasta sauce and brought that up to a simmer. I had forgotten that I had half a block of fresh mozzarella hiding in my cheese drawer (yes, I have a whole drawer dedicated to cheese...) so I used the last of that to top the pasta with, along with the last of my parmesan cheese. Into the oven it went until it was bubbly and golden, and oh-so aromatic.

Now, I have to admit, by the time I got to the gym after work, and did my thing and got home, and then put this together, we were really, really hungry and I forgot to take a picture. But trust me, it was good!

We also had a couple of those little Alexia dinner rolls all toasted up, so we sopped those in an Italian herb spice mix (another Christmas present from a neat local spice shop) and some olive oil. Yummy. And satisfying.

I don't have a recipe to post for this, so if you want to try to repeat it, I think these are about the right proportions. Eyeball what looks right to you, though, just to be on the safe side:
  • ~16 shells
  • 1/2 lb sausage, ground
  • 8 or so slices of fresh mozzarella (I love this stuff because it's much stretchier than the pre-shredded stuff, and you don't need as much)
  • Parmesan
  • Dried or fresh herbs, to taste
  • 12 oz tomato sauce
  • 15 oz ricotta


I'm back! (with a vengeance...)

I can't believe it's been nearly a year since I wrote. My career has taken some interesting twists and turns in that time and I also chose to take on a couple more volunteer positions in the community, which have both been very fulfilling...and busy. So now, after an increase in responsibilities at work and the addition of the service stuff, my resolution this year, I decided, would be simple: to slow down. So now, as we all push into 2011, I vow to make time for the true loves in my life – writing, cooking and eating – again.

It's funny how much a person can evolve in the way she thinks about food in a year (and a half?). As I reread my past posts from 2009, I realize that I have come a long way in that sense, even if I haven't written about it. First, my thoughts on organics – though still somewhat in flux – have solidified in favor of them in a big way. More and more of them are appearing in my pantry, fridge and on my plate. The reasons for this are numerous, as detailed below.

The discovery of a local organic co-op that supplies me with an affordable surplus of organic fruits and veggies on a bi-weekly basis (see a recent selection to the right). Words cannot describe how much it rocks. And as a result I have expanded my palate even more: I have eaten dandelion greens, which are kind of bitter, and kiwi berries, which are like a cross between a kiwi and a grape, and more. Fascinating. And delicious.

Reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food.  I love this man. His advice is simple: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. While most Americans would argue that they do eat food – maybe too much and maybe a little heavy on the meats, but food nonetheless – Pollan argues that the "foods" most Americans eat actually are so processed that they are more products of science than nature. He goes so far as to suggest that if a packaged food item advertises that it now has More Fiber! or Less Sugar! or Added Vitamin C! to steer clear. These grocery items are sad victims of Nutritionism, the newest national "eating disorder" that forces people into thinking they should eat with a focus on single ingredients and nutrients (really, whatever the latest food fad dictates). Pollan instead directs people to start with basic ingredients – fresh produce, limited meats, and natural grocery items (though shoppers should also be wary of the empty marketing term, "natural" because it has no formal definition) – and make real food at home, with a focus on variety and freshness. He also is a proponent of organics. No additives, pesticides or chemicals. NO GMOs. No preservatives. No sneaky fake flavors or chemical dyes. Just...food.

Consideration of our planet. I have been reading about conventional farming practices and, frankly, it's pretty horrifying. Just like germs that become resistant to antibiotics, weeds and crop-consuming bugs have become resistant to pesticides. So, instead of figuring out more natural ways of fixing the problem, farmers – with the funding of the U.S. Government – are paying scientists to produce Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), including corn, soybean, cotton, canola, and other variants, that are more resistant to the same pesticides that no longer work at the "safe levels." Ok, sounds fine, right? The problems here are plenty, but the main ones are as follows:

1) Now even more dangerous pesticides can be dumped directly on our food without killing them. In addition to delivering even more Round Up (yes, industrial Round Up is what's used...) directly to our systems, this poisons our soil, drinking water and natural habitats – disturbing all levels of the food chain. I don't need to explain how dangerous and scary this is.

2) GMOs have been shown to cause cancer and organ failure in lab rats and these organisms (not food) are literally grown in petree dishes. 95% of canola, 85% of soybeans, and 75% of corn are GMO products now, no label required. And guess what? If you eat non-organic processed foods, you're certainly eating GMO soybeans and corn as syrups, stabilizers, thickeners, flavor enhancers, etc. It's not as simple as just avoiding these items in the produce aisle. (Rising cancer rates in America? It can't have anything to do with popular processed foods and GMOs. Oh, and the FDA? They haven't officially stamped approval on these items; instead, they have "acknowledged" that the producers claim that they are safe, and have allowed them in our supermarkets.)

3) Today's crops have been genetically engineered for mass production, not mass nutrition. Industrial farming is under intense pressure by food giants to produce more, more, more (for less and less money). The solution? Genetically modify the foods so that they grow faster and bear more. The result? Zucchini and beets with lowered nutrition. Why? These plants are rushed and don't have time to develop deep roots that draw the minerals from the soil, nor do they have the time to grow the way nature intended. We're short-changing ourselves here. Organics are grown slower and naturally, to make sure that every last mg of Vitamin C develops on its own before its picked.

That's all for now on the scary stuff. For now, I will leave you with this SUPER YUMMY granola recipe, which I have been eating by the bowlful with vanilla yogurt. (Note: I didn't have agave, so I doubled the honey, and I used dried cranberries in place of the mango, simply because it was what I had on hand.) Enjoy!

I will post more delish foods in the next post, and will keep you posted on what I learn from here on out. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject.