Month: February 2011

Quiche to live for!

Quiche to live for!

I never gave quiche much thought until it was presented to me in the most elegant setting.  It was summer of 2001, and I found myself in London, England. I was traveling with my aunt Hope and a few of our friends. We were there for many reasons, but one of our mutual friends was getting married and we happened to get invited to the pre-wedding party. The party was held at the groom’s mother’s apartment in Notting Hill. I remember walking into the apartment and instantly being enchanted. It was decorated like a mini version of the royal palace. Colors of gold and blue tickled my eyes, and all the detailing was so well thought out. From the candle fixtures to the linens on the table, everything was done extremely tastefully. I remember the kitchen had a collection of pigs in chef hats. So cute. I was happy to be in a new place, but even more excited when I found out the groom’s mother had made 12 different kinds of quiche for our dinner. Needless to say, the dinner party was a smash, all her quiches were absolutely sublime. I got bitten by the quiche bug.

That same summer, I flew to Stockholm, Sweden to visit family friends, Kajsa and her lovely mother Anita. It was a whirlwind trip. I was so taken by theSwedish people and all their offerings–great shops, beautiful architecture,  salmon roe in a tube that resembled a toothpaste container, lamb roasted outside by a lake, and gorgeous parks. Kajsa and Anita made sure to make my visit eventful and introduced every last inch of beautiful Stockholm to me. One evening we decided to stay in for dinner. With Anita being a master in the kitchen… it was a no brainer. She asked what I fancied for dinner. Before I realized, the next words that were spilling out of my mouth were, “Do you know how to make quiche, Anita?” She looked at me with a face that read “challenge me.” Then answered, “Of course, it’s really simple.” The rest is history. For the next hour, I sat and marveled at her every move. That’s where I learned to make quiche… a cozy kitchen in Stockholm, Sweden.

Since then, I’ve played with so many variations of quiche, keeping what I loved of Anita’s teachings and adding touches of my own.

Ingredients:

1 – teaspoon olive oil

1 – pint cherry tomatoes (chopped in half)

1 – teaspoon garlic powder

1 – teaspoons of salt

2 – teaspoon black pepper

1 – package of Pillsbury pre-rolled pie crusts (two packages come per box,  you’ll need both)

2 – cups baby spinach (fresh)

6 – ounces crumbled feta cheese

1 1/2 – cups sliced mushrooms

6 – stalks green onion (chopped)

1 – teaspoon of Lawry’s seasoned salt

1 1/2 – cups colby jack cheese (shredded)

1/3 – cup chopped fresh basil

1 1/4 – cup sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)

1 – heaping tablespoon spicy brown mustard (I use Gulden’s)

11 – eggs

1 3/4 – cups half and half

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

In a frying pan, pour in olive oil over a medium high flame and allow oil to get really hot, then toss in cherry tomatoes with garlic powder, salt, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Saute on each side for 4 minutes. Then take off flame and set to the side.

In a round 12-inch baking dish at least 2 inches deep, take one of the packages of pie crust and place on the bottom of dish. Then take the other pie crust, lay it out on a flat surface and cut it into 4 long pieces.  Take each piece and line all around the baking dish to form a crust up the edge of dish. Some of the pie crust will hang over the edge, and that’s okay. Next, grab a fork and make little puncture holes all over the pie crust leaving a half inch in between fork holes.

Now the layering begins: Start with the baby spinach and arrange at the bottom of pie crust lined baking dish. Once you have the spinach spread out evenly and neatly, then add feta cheese. Next lay all mushrooms flat to create the next layer.

With any of the excess pie crust pinch dough in between thumb and two fingers, go around the edge of the baking dish forming the crust.

Go back to building your quiche. Add a layer of green onion, Lawry’s seasoned salt, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper .

Then add shredded colby jack cheese. Next, take your sauteed tomatoes and distribute them evenly to create your next layer.

Sprinkle chopped basil on top of the tomatoes, and then add shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

In a big mixing bowl, add spicy brown mustard, eggs and half and half and beat until combined. Lastly, pour entire egg mixture slowly over the top of your vegetable cheese layered pie crust.

Put in the center of the oven and bake for one hour.

Voila… you have quiche and it’s so good!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cranberry Pecan Cookies

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cranberry Pecan Cookies

This past Sunday,  Feb. 20th, I had a few girlfriends over for a potluck brunch.  What were we celebrating you ask? A few things…. a girlfriend’s birthday, I recently moved into a new house (bigger kitchen), a gathering of old and new friends, and of course good food. My girlfriends sure know how to make life more delicious.  We had an array of lick your plate clean dishes to choose from. Here’s what the menu consisted of: chilaquiles, shrimp cous cous salad, greek cucumber salad, butternut squash soup, mushroom spinach quiche, calabasitas, hash browns, enchiladas, lasagna, breakfast calzones, spanakopita and chicken empanadas.  For our dessert spread we had an amazing apple bundt cake (we ate every last piece of it), an apple pie, triple chocolate cake, a yummy fruit yogurt salad, and I made my oatmeal chocolate chip cranberry pecan cookies. Since then, my gals have been asking for the recipe.

Here’s the recipe along with a picture of half of the ladies eating outside in my patio.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 – cups of flour
1/2 – teaspoon of salt
1 – teaspoon baking soda
1 – teaspoon cinnamon
1 – cup of dark brown sugar
1/2 – cup sugar
2 – sticks of room temperature butter
1/2 – teaspoon of vanilla
1/2 – teaspoon of almond extract
2 – eggs
2 1/2 – cups uncooked oatmeal
1  – cup dried cranberries
1/2  – cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 – cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 – cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

In a medium bowl mix flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon together and set to the side.

In a large mixer bowl beat brown sugar, sugar, and butter together until well combined, about 5 minutes.  Then add in vanilla, almond extract and eggs and beat for another 3 minutes.  Then add your flour mixture in small batches until well combined.  Next add your oatmeal, cranberries, both chocolate chips and pecans… make sure all ingredients are well combined.

On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat, drop your oatmeal dough by heaping tablespoons 2 inches apart.  Bake for 11 to 13 minutes or until crispy.  Take out of oven and let cool for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

🙂  Cookie Tip:  If I want my cookies to be a little on the moist side, I pull them out a minute or two early.

 

Here’s a picture of my baby boy Max testing out the cookies before the brunch.  He gave his stamp of approval!

Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam Bread

Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jam Bread

 

I didn’t really eat peanut butter growing up.  Okay, I had the occasional Mazapan candy, but can you really consider that peanut butter?  My love affair with peanut butter didn’t take off till I was well into my teens.  I remember my high school cafeteria used to make this delicious peanut butter bread.  It was super simple. There were no frills to this bread whatsoever, but it was extremely addicting.  The nutrition bell would ring and low and behold, I would buy my warm peanut butter bread…at least 3 times a week. That’s a soft addiction…right? Awww, high school.

A couple of years ago, I realized that peanut butter bread was missing from my life. I had a new mission.  I asked everyone I knew if they had a good peanut butter bread recipe, but I ended up empty handed.  I even went as far as to call my old high school. I spoke to the cafeteria director who’s been there for the last 27 years to see if she could give me the recipe. To my horrified surprise, she told me that the peanut butter bread I had been fantasizing about came out of a box.  She told me it was sent to them in powder form and they just added water.  NO!  Either way,  it was now discontinued and they no longer make it.  I was back at square one….I decided to let my adult taste buds have a bit of an influence on me. I dreamed up a peanut butter bread that would be perfect for me now, but still be reminiscent of the peanut butter bread I so fondly remember from my teenage years! Here’s what I came up with…..

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons of baking powder
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 egg
1 1/8 cups milk
1/2 cup  strawberry preserves

For the Glaze:

1 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
4 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Generously grease a 9x5x3 loaf pan and set aside.

Mix flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside. In a large bowl mix peanut butter, sugar, egg, and milk until well combined. Then add your dry mixture a little at a time until all incorporated. Place half of the peanut butter batter into your loaf pan, then get the 1/2 cup of strawberry preserves and spread it evenly across the top. Make sure to stay a quarterinch away from the edge of the pan as you want your bread to envelope the preserves, it should look like a rectangle of strawberry preserves within the peanut butter batter. Then take teaspoons of the peanut butter batter and make a rim all around the preserves. Make sure the preserves don’t touch the edge of the pan.

Place the remaining batter on top of the strawberry preserves and spread it out evenly.

Bake for 60 minutes or until your toothpick comes out clean.  Run a sharp knife along the edges to pull it away from the pan and then let your bread cool down for 30 minutes before you remove it from the pan. Once you remove it from the pan, let it cool completely on a wire rack before placing it on a plate and adding the glaze.

How to make the glaze:

Whisk together confectioners’ sugar and milk until smooth. Add more sugar if you would like it thicker or more milk if you would like it thinner. Then simply drizzle the glaze on top of your bread with a fork.

ENJOY!

Lentils

Lentils

My baby loves lentils, that’s all I know.
When I was a kid I loved them so.
I had a friend named Sandra that lived up the street.
Her Grandma made lentils, they were always a treat.
I waited for them all year.
And during Lent they would appear.
We had to eat them slowly, so we wouldn’t burn our mouths.
Their delicious aroma smelled up the house.
My baby loves lentils, that’s all I know.

And as an adult … I love them so.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large brown onion (chopped)
2 tomatoes (chopped)
1 large tablespoon of chopped garlic
1/4 cup of cilantro leaves
2 dried chiles de arbol (take stem off)
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
5 cups of chicken or vegetable broth

2 cups of lentils (sorted, cleaned and rinsed) – I like to use “Verde Valle”

In a 3 quart pot (with a lid because you will need it later) , pour olive oil and let heat over a medium high flame. Toss in onion, tomato, garlic, chile de arbol, and oregano. Saute and mix occasionally for 10 minutes.

Then add in broth, and cilantro.  Bring to a boil.

Once broth is boiling add lentils, and reduce flame down to low/simmer.

Cover pot with lid and let simmer for 45 to 55 minutes. You will then have tender lentils in a tasty broth.

I serve mine with sliced avocado on top.
Sometimes crumbled feta cheese.
A corn tortilla quesadilla will make a special appearance now and then.

Just a bowl of lentils all on their own is equally delicious.

ENJOY!
Albondigas (Meatball Soup)

Albondigas (Meatball Soup)

At first people thought it was a joke.  I would tell my family and friends,“Whenever I make albondigas, Mando, my fiance, refuses to share the pot with anyone. Usually the person I was telling would laugh, and instantly request a bowl or ask to be invited over the next time I decided to make a pot.  I would then have to go further  into explanation that Mando had become insanely attached to my albondigas to the point of questioning how many servings I was going to consume out of the ginormous pot I always make. Every time I make a pot, he asks with ownership, “You’re only going to have one bowl…right?”  This story about Mando and my albondigas is usually received with shock, because everyone who knows Mando knows he is a quiet, nice, down to earth, generous guy….. He wouldn’t even allow a serving to slip past the front door to be sent to his mother (whom he adores with all his heart ), so can you imagine the resistance he put up when friends would ask Ha!  It was hopeless.

Once my circle realized there was a troll named Mando guarding these sacred albondigas, they started devising schemes on how to get their hands around a bowl.
One of my brave girlfriends sent a Christmas card addressed to him, with a drawing of a bowl of soup… big meatballs popping out over the top…and it simply stated “all I want for Christmas is a bowl of Nicole’s albondigas.”  He didn’t budge. In fact, he just laughed it off and said something to the effect of “dream on.  I ended up making them for her while he was out of town.  We called and tortured him over the phone about how perfect they had turned out.  He crumbled when this information reached his ears, his focus shifted, and he started to request a pot upon his return home.  He was crazed.
Whenever a dark cloud passes or a forecast of drizzle is on the horizon…the words “albondigas” and “please” are repeated in a song-like chant and sent my way by a darling named Mando.  Like clockwork, the second they are made, the greedy monster slides across his face to stake his claim on the entire pot.  He will eat every last drop of it over the course of two days. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner.  He asks me to keep it HUSH HUSH! “Don’t breathe a word to anyone that you made albondigas until I finish the pot.”  Most people think it’s ridiculous that he won’t spare a bowl, much less a taste…. I guess, I secretly love the thrill of knowing the albondiga troll.  Witnessing such psychotic behavior is pure comedy.

Ingredients for Meatballs:

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 1/2 pounds ground pork
3 big garlic cloves (chopped small)
6 sprigs of green onion (white part only, chopped small)
3/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 large egg
3/4 cup uncooked long grain rice (I use Mahatma)
pinch of chile flakes (the kind you use on pizza)
garlic powder to taste
Lawry’s Seasoning salt to taste
black pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix with hands till all ingredients are well combined. Then take a small handful of the meat mixture and roll between both hands to form a ball. Each should be the size of a golf ball or slightly smaller. Continue until all of the meat mixture is in ball form.

Then in a large frying pan, add a little oil (2 tablespoons) and fry meatballs over a medium high flame on each side for 2 minutes, just to brown/sear them a little. Take off flame and set to the side.

Soup Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium brown onions (sliced)
yellow bell pepper (sliced and deseeded)
5 –  32 oz boxes of chicken broth
large carrots (peeled and cut into 2inch rounds)
celery stalks (cut into 2inch sticks)
large zucchini (cut into 1inch rounds)
5 Idaho potatoes (peeled and cut into 2inch rounds)
4 corn on the cob (cut in half – 8 pieces total)
1/2 cup  fresh Cilantro

In a large pot (20 quart) over medium flame, pour in olive oil and let heat, then add onion and yellow bell pepper and saute for 8 minutes.

Then add seared meatballs. Slowly pour in chicken broth and raise flame to medium high. Let cook for 10 minutes.

Then add carrots and let cook for 10 minutes. Then add celery and let cook for 10 minutes. Lower flame to medium. Then add zucchini and cilantro and let cook for 5 to 8 minutes. Next add Idaho potatoes and cook for another 10 minutes.

Lastly, add corn on the cob and cook for the last 10 minutes! That’s it…. You’re done!

I like to serve my albondigas (meatball soup) with fresh lime, corn tortillas that are slathered in butter, and homemade salsa (optional if you like life more on the spicy side).

 

Hope you don’t have an albondiga troll in your house. 🙂