Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Tale of Two Quiches

There once were two quiches with flaky crusts, fluffy eggs, and array of meats and vegetables . . . 

I've been making quiches for years, but I don't have any real recipe. It's four eggs, about a cup of heavy cream, half and half or whole milk--which ever I have on hand (usually whole milk)--and whatever odds and ends I have in the fridge--leftover chicken, lunch meat, a stray sausage or two, bacon, a healthy dose cheese, an array of vegetables, sometimes onion, sometimes minced garlic, if I feel like it I'll go through my spices, basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, etc . . . I also usually don't use a pastry crust--I know, it's not a real quiche without the crust. But Eric's mom uses a crust and she has a recipe from her brother that is delicious. So here is her recipe and my kinda recipe.

My Spicy Sausage Spinach Quiche:
1 store-bought, refrigerated pie crust
4 eggs
1 cup whole milk (half and half or heavy cream)
2 or 3 Echrich Jalapeno Cheddar Smoked Sausage, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup frozen spinach, thawed, drained, and chopped*

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a pie dish with the pie crust.

Bake the empty pie crust for 5 to 8 minutes. You don't have to do this step, but we discovered it gives you a firmer, less soggy bottom crust for your quiche.

Place the cheese, sausage, and spinach in the bottom of your pie crust. Beat the eggs and milk together in a bowl then pour into pie crust.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the egg sets in the center.

*Make sure your spinach is well drained or else your quiche will come out watery and runny.

Spicy Sausage and Spinach Quiche

Edye's Ham and Broccoli Quiche:
1 store-bought refrigerated pie crust
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 1/2 cup cubed cooked ham
1 cup frozen broccoli florets, thawed, drained, and chopped*
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a pie dish with the pie crust.

Bake the empty pie crust for 5 to 8 minutes. (Again, not necessary but helpful)

Place 1 cup of  the cheese, ham, and broccoli in the bottom of your pie crust. Beat the eggs and half and half together in a bowl then our into pie crust. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the egg sets in the center.

*Again, make sure your broccoli is well drained or else your quiche will come out watery and runny.

Ham and Broccoli Quiche
Both quiches were a success.



Monday, July 30, 2012

Smores Cookies!

If you don't have access to a fire pit (or a gas stove or wood-burning fireplace) these cookies are the next best thing to actual campfire smores. You should have seen Eric's face when I told him I was making smores cookies. But it was nothing compared to when I gave him one to taste. Before I was done baking, he sneaked into the kitchen to steal a few more. I already know these cookies won't last long.

This recipe comes from here with a few minor changes. It makes about two dozen cookies.

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup mini marshmallows

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray your cookie sheet with cooking spray.

Use a food processor to turn your graham crackers into fine crumbs. The site where I found this recipe said to use 7 graham cracker sheets to get 3/4 cup. I used 7 sheets and ended up with 1 cup of crumbs. So maybe 5 graham cracker sheets will work better?

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until it's light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the crumbs, flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until well combined. You can do this with an electric mixer, but I found it easier to do with my hands. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Scoop out a heaping tablespoon of dough and press two or three marshmallows into the center of the cookie* and place on the cookie sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

*The original recipe called for Jets Puffed Mallow Bits and added them to the dough at the same time as the chocolate chips. I tried adding the mini marshmallow into the dough, but when I baked my first batch of cookies, the marshmallows on the sides and bottoms of the cookies melted out.

 So on the second batch I put the marshmallows in the center of the cookie. This fixed the problem.



Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pesto Chicken Lasagna with Artichokes and Fire-Roasted Tomatoes

I love tomato sauce. It goes on just about anything, your pasta dishes: spaghetti, lasagna, goulash; your meats: meatballs, chili, chicken Parmesan; and is great for dipping bread. But sometimes you just want something different, something other than yet another dish covered in tomato sauce. That's where this lasagna comes in. It has so many of my favorite foods in it: pesto, chicken, artichokes, fire-roasted tomatoes . . . oh so good.

12 lasagna noodles
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
1 14-oz can artichokes hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
1 14.5-oz can fire-roasted tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup prepared pesto (I used Knorr pesto sauce mix)
1 cup ricotta cheese
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried basil, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the noodles according to package directions. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine chicken, artichokes, fire-roasted tomatoes,and pesto. Set aside.

In another large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, cream cheese, 1 cup mozzarella, Parmesan, garlic powder, 1/2 tablespoon basil, and milk.

Coat a little bit of the cheese mixture on the bottom of a 9x13 inch pan. Cover it with three lasagna noodles then add half of the chicken mixture on top and another layer of noodles. Add half of your cheese mixture, a layer of noodles, the rest of the chicken mixture, and then your last layer of noodles. Spread on the last half of the cheese mixture, sprinkle with remaining cup of mozzarella cheese and 1/2 tablespoon basil.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

I love when the people I cook for get excited about my food and help me come up with ways to make it better. When I first made this lasagna, we all agree it was good but still needed that oomph. Eric's mom suggested more pesto and fire-roasted tomatoes (which the recipe above reflects). I thought it needed more cheese (the recipe also reflects this). Even Eric's dad had a suggestion: replace the chicken with a spicy sausage. Next, time I will try this recipe with Eckrich Jalapeno and Cheddar Smoked Sausage. I think it'll be good. I would also like to try a version with sun-dried tomatoes instead of fire-roasted. When I was eating leftover lasagna, I added a couple dashes of hot sauce on top . . . very, very good.



Saturday, July 28, 2012

Pasta with Summer Squash, Tomatoes, and Brown Butter Sauce

Light, easy, and yummy, the perfect combination for a dinner on a hot summer day. To make the dish even more convenient, the cherry tomatoes came right out of the backyard.

2 cups tubular pasta
2 tablespoons butter
handful of chives, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
2 medium summer squashes, sliced into thin ribbons (zucchini can also be used)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Set aside.

In a large skillet, melt and brown the butter over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes or until the butter turns brown and releases a nutty aroma. Add the chives and squash. Saute for about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Cook until tomatoes soften, about five minutes. Remove from heat and toss with pasta, Parmesan cheese, and parsley.



Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Eric's Fried Rice

Eric and I both love food. While I do most of the actually cooking, he does participate in the recipe development, offering more than "I like it," "I hate it," or "it needs more salt." He takes his time and gives real thought to what would make a dish better. A few weeks ago we had homemade pasties (if you don't know what a pastie is, click here) bought from a local church event. His was beef, mine turkey, both with rutabaga and onion inside. While the pastry dough was to die for, the inside was a bit dry and flavorless--though I did discover that I like rutabaga. Eric immediately wanted me to try to make my own, but with my diced rosemary potatoes and some type of sauce inside. Cooking is a collaborative effort for us. But Eric does have a couple recipes of his own that he always cooks--seared parmesan chicken and fried rice.

After extensive research and a number of hit or miss attempts, Eric finally got it just right. He now does fried rice better than any restaurant out there. It basically comes down to two key tricks: cold rice and sesame oil.

Since Eric doesn't measure anything out other than the rice, this is more of a guideline than a precise recipe.

We were up north at my parents' cabin so we didn't have our wok and things got a little messy.
3 cups instant white rice, prepared and refrigerated for at least 24 hours or frozen for at least 4 hours
soy sauce, to taste (Eric prefers Kikkoman. I prefer low-sodium)
about 1 1/2 cups frozen peas and carrots, prepared
2 to 3 eggs, depending on how much you like eggs
sesame oil
2 cups prepared chicken, shredded, optional

Prepare your rice according to package directions. If you want rice for tomorrow's dinner, place in the refrigerator. If you're not good at planning your meals ahead of time--we're not--place the rice in the freezer for at least four hours. Refrigerating or freezing the rice prevents it from soaking up the oil and turning into mush.

Scramble and cook your eggs then set aside.

Cook the peas and carrots according to package directions. Set aside.

Heat the sesame oil in a wok or large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the rice. Continuously toss or stir so all the rice becomes coated in the oil and fried. Add eggs, vegetables, and chicken. Toss. Add soy sauce to taste. Cook until the food is thoroughly warmed.

Fried rice, shrimp in an herb butter sauce, parmesan tomatoes, and zucchini bites.

Eric has made this for both our families and they've both raved about. In fact, Eric's mom made his rice herself not too long ago and it turned out stupendous. And while we were up north with my parent a few weeks ago, Eric taught my mom how to make it.



Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Shrimp in an Herb Butter Sauce

Oh how I love shrimp. As a kid it was the only type of seafood I'd eat. Since then I have expanded my palate to include different types of white fish meat, crab, and lobster. Shrimp may still be my favorite. Luckily Eric and my parents like it too. While shrimp can be a healthy dish, I made it not so healthy with this butter sauce, but sometimes you just have to indulge. And this sauce is worth the indulgence. (My mom thought it was so delicious that she couldn't bring herself to throw out the little extra sauce that was left over).

Shrimp, fried rice, grilled zucchini, and grilled parmesan tomatoes
1 pound frozen pre-cooked shrimp, de-veined, shelled, and thawed
2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon dried dill
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 tablespoon, fresh chives, minced
2 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
1/2 tablespoon hot sauce

Heat shrimp. You can do this on the stove top, in the oven, or on the grill. Since it was in the 90s over Fourth of July weekend, we grilled it. You could probably also heat it right in the sauce since it's precooked. Set aside.

My mom insists on grilling on foil. Less mess.
In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Once it is melted, stir in the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about fifteen minutes. Toss in shrimp and serve.

My mom wanted to learn how to make fried rice and since Eric is an expert at it, he taught her and we had fried rice with our shrimp.

Normally he makes it in a wok, not a skillet, hence the rice everywhere.
I would love to share his fried rice recipe with you, but it's not really a recipe. He refuses to take the time to measure out how much soy sauce, sesame oil, or vegetables he uses. However, I will share the basics of making fried rice in the future.

We also made my zucchini chips and baked parmesan tomatoes  to go with dinner, except we grilled them instead of baked them. While they turned out delicious, I think I still prefer them baked.

It was such a delicious meal for our last night up north.



Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Applesauce Cookies with Caramel Frosting

I will use just about any excuse to try out a new dessert recipe. Visiting my parents for Independence Day was the perfect excuse to test not just one recipe, but two. These applesauce cookies were the second batch of cookies I prepared, the Baileys Cookies being the first. Applesauce cookies don't exactly scream summer--they do, however, yell out for autumn--but I had all the ingredients and I didn't want to wait months to try them. And I'm glad I didn't wait. They are cakey, fully of spice, and super yummy.

I slightly adapted this recipe. It makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Cookie Recipe
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 ts baking soda
1 ts baking powder
1 cup applesauce
1/2 ts cinnamon
1/4 ts ground cloves
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and cloves together. Set aside.

In a second large bowl, cream the sugar and shortening with an electric mixer. Mix in the eggs and applesauce. Gradually stir in dry ingredients until well combined. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of dough on a cookie sheet, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Allow to cool.

Naked Cookies
Frosting Recipe
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar

Place the butter, half and half, and brown sugar in a saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring until the mixture boils.* Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Allow to cool and then stir in the powdered sugar. Spread over the cookies.

*The caramel taste of the frosting isn't really that strong. My mom commented that she thought it tasted more maple than caramel and I agree with her. The brown sugar just didn't get to caramelize long enough, so next time I make these, I'm getting my candy thermometer out and boiling the brown sugar mixture until its temperature reaches 248 degrees. That should give it a good, strong caramel flavor.

Applesauce and Baileys cookies


Monday, July 9, 2012

Baileys White Chocolate Chip Cookies

For the Fourth of July, Eric and I headed up north to spend the holiday with my parents at their cabin. If anyone has a bigger sweet-tooth than us, it's my parents. So before we left I made two different cookies, Baileys White Chocolate Chip Cookies and Applesauce Cookies with Caramel Frosting, to surprise them with. The cookies barely made it three days.

The Baileys White Chocolate Chip Cookies were my personal favorite. They are fluffy, chocolaty, and not overly sweet. Not only did I love their taste, but I loved making them. I could smell the chocolate in the cookies from the moment I began mixing the ingredients together until the cookies were baked and cooled.

I found this recipe here. It makes roughly 3 dozens.

2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoon Baileys Irish Cream
1 cup white chocolate chips*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.

In another large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer. Add the eggs and vanilla and combine until fluffy. Mix in the Baileys. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ones. Fold in the chocolate chips. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerator for approximately 2 hours.

Seriously, I could not stop eating the dough.
Scoop a heaping tablespoon of dough on a cookie sheet, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.

*I'm going to let you in on a secret. Most recipes call for a 1 cup of chocolate chips, which is a perfectly adequate amount of chips. But I always add more. I pour in the cup then I add more until the dough looks like it has enough chips in it.

Baileys and Applesauce cookies