Thursday, March 29, 2012

Beet Crostini

A recipe that uses the whole plant and feeds the whole family!  A winner!

1 baguette, sliced
1 beet, including leaves and stems
1 cup of part-skim ricotta cheese

For this simple recipe, I toasted slices of baguette in the oven (425 degrees for 5 minutes).

While the slices of bread were toasting, I diced a cooked beet, raw beet greens, and raw beet stems into tiny pieces.

When the bread had toasted up to a nice, golden brown, I spread cool, part-skim ricotta cheese on it and then topped it with the diced beets, beet greens, and beet stems.

The result was a salty/sweet, crunchy/smooth, warm/cold treat that was a study in opposites and, therefore, a perfect snack no matter what you might be craving.


My daughters loved this.  My three-year-old enjoyed using a butter knife for the cheese and assembling all the ingredients on the toast.  My one-year-old liked eating the bread and beets as finger food, and then had a blast smearing the cheese around with a spoon.

For my part, I found that I could pretend that I was eating an appetizer at a fancy restaurant.  That's pretty impressive, considering I was sitting in my kitchen with two kids who were turning their hands bath-worthy purple with beet juice while I ate it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bay Leaf Wild Rice Pudding

I had to hit the web to figure out what to do with some of my herbs this week. 

I received three, fresh bay leaves.  Hmmm.

I had never used a fresh (rather than dried) bay leaf before.  I knew that dried bay leaves were good in things like soup and stew, and that they imparted flavor during cooking, but that they needed to be removed before serving.  But what about a fresh bay leaf?

It turns out that you use it the same way. 

But the funny thing about the Internet is that it provides both really normal suggestions (“make a tomato sauce” and “roast a chicken”) alongside really unusual ones (“make a rice pudding – trust me”).

And I am always drawn to the unusual ones.

As if using bay leaves in my rice pudding was not unusual enough, I decided to give my rice pudding an extra twist by using wild rice instead of a more traditional pudding variety.  Wild rice is actually a seed, rather than a grain.  That’s awesome for me, because it means that there is more protein and fewer carbs in wild rice than in white, or even brown (whole), rice.


I also decided to use whole milk, which is a huge departure for me.  I very much prefer to use low-fat or skim milk in all of my recipes.  However, my husband and I BOTH noticed that we were running low on milk, and EACH of us separately stopped at the store on our ways home from work to get more.  Which left us with FOUR gallons of whole milk and only one member of our household (the 13-month old) to drink it.  The cats volunteered to pitch in, but someone else was going to have to do something with all of that whole milk. 

This recipe is almost embarrassingly easy, although it does take a long time.  Patience is key.  I started the pudding when I arrived home from work (6 p.m.) and finished it when the kids when to bed (8 p.m.).  Thankfully, the first hour and a half required almost no effort; I literally left the pot on the back burner while I made the kids dinner, cleaned the kitchen, gave the kids baths, read them stories, watched a television show (our only one of the day – we believe in being active!), and put them to bed.  Only the final ten minutes were hands-on.

1 cup of uncooked wild rice
4 cups of whole milk
3 bay leaves
2 egg whites
Maple syrup (to taste)
Cinnamon (to taste)

Put the rice, milk, and bay leaves in a pot on the stove.  Cook, covered, on low for 90 minutes.  Check it every so often to make sure it is just simmering, rather than boiling or not bubbling at all.  It will remain very liquidy for almost the entire cooking time.  But it will start to thicken at the end. 


After 90 minutes, almost all of the milk should be absorbed (though it won’t seem quite “pudding-y” yet), and the wild rice should be plump and open.  At this point, stir in the egg whites very slowly (to ensure they don’t scramble). 

Keep stirring constantly for the next five to ten minutes over the same low heat; the pudding will thicken.  Be sure to stir constantly and really keep an eye on it, because as the pudding thickens, it could burn if you’re not careful.  Stop stirring and remove the pot from the heat when the pudding reaches ALMOST the consistency you would like.  It will thicken further upon standing for a few minutes off the heat. 

Remove the bay leaves and serve with a drizzle (about 1 teaspoon for a ½ cup serving or 2 teaspoons for a 1 cup serving) of maple syrup and a sprinkle of cinnamon. 


The complex flavor of the bay-spiked pudding itself is glorious; adding the maple syrup at the end allows you to control exactly how much sweetness you want (and adds something nice to the presentation).  The wild rice gives the pudding a welcome bit of color and crunch compared to a more traditional version. 

This was a weird, risky recipe, for sure, but it turned out really well.  I’ll have a hard time using fresh bay leaves for anything else in the future!  

Beet and Feta Salad

The Cheesecake Factory has a lovely “Beets with Goat Cheese” salad that, in addition to beets and goat cheese, includes apples, arugula, and pecans.  That salad -- which I have had on many occasions -- was the inspiration for this dish.

I cooked the three beets I received from my CSA by placing them in a baking dish with about 1 inch of water, covering the dish with tin foil, and then putting it in the oven at 400 degrees for one hour.  After removing the beets from the oven and letting them cool, the peels slipped right off and the beets were ready to dice into a salad.  I used only one beet for this recipe, and put the other two in the ‘fridge for another use.

1 beet, cooked, peel removed, diced
Greens from one beet, removed from stem and chopped
3 large leaves of kale, removed from stem and chopped
3 leaves of romaine, chopped
1 green apple, diced
1 small handful of raw almonds
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cracked black pepper, to taste

Arrange everything on a plate.  Drizzle with olive oil, balasmic vinegar, and cracked black pepper.  Enjoy!

Kale Craving

This week's CSA delivery included two mushrooms. 

They looked beautiful, but the truth is that neither my husband nor I is very partial to mushrooms.  Actually, that's being generous.  Both my husband and I hate mushrooms. 

So, we decided that we would give any mushrooms we received to people who could truly appreciate them.  Hence, the mushrooms are bagged up and ready to deliver to my parents.

With the mushrooms out, I was on the hunt for some additional veggies. 

Thankfully, there is a wonderful little honor-system farm stand on my way home from work; it just opened for the season and has lots of local kale.  I rarely carry cash, so when I pulled over to it last night, I had to stand on the side of the road, shaking my purse and turning my wallet upside down, in the hopes of scraping together $3 worth of quarters so I could buy a bag of kale. 

It occurred to me that a similiar scene used to play out frequently in front of the office vending machine, when I was craving Cheetos or Famous Amos cookies. 

My how my tastes have changed --  Now I crave kale!   

Fear not, I found enough quarters and got my fix.  ;-)

Monday, March 26, 2012

CSA Week #3

"Mama, the farmer brought us vegetables again!"

My two year old really gets a kick out of checking for the CSA delivery on Mondays.  Who says vegetables aren't fun?!

Here she is with the beets ("radishes" according to her...which I thought was actually a pretty good guess...):


And with the mushrooms.


And tickling her poor sister with carrot greens.


Here's the full bounty: Beets, lettuce, carrots, mushrooms, sage, thyme, and bay leaves.


I cannot wait to roast up those gorgeous beets!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Avgolemono

This week's stock: chicken.

I pulled all the meat off of the leftover Roasted Lemon Garlic Herb Chicken and set it aside.  Then I put the carcass into a stock pot, along with all my veggies trimmings from the week, and made a rich, wonderful stock.


I tasked my husband with finding a chicken soup recipe that he'd like to try.  He came up with Avgolemono from the January 2012 issue of Cooking Light.  It turned out to be the perfect choice, because I had lemon garlic chicken to add to this lemon garlic soup!

I followed the original recipe pretty closely, using slightly less oil and omitting the salt.  For garnish, I used sage and thyme, which I had on hand, instead parsley and basil.  And it was amazing.  My husband claimed this was the best soup he had in a long time.  Maybe even ever.

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
6 and 1/2 cups of low-sodium chicken stock (preferably homemade!)
1/2 cup uncooked rice (I used wild rice)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cups shredded, cooked chicken
2 tablespoons thyme
2 tablespoons sage

Put olive oil in a pan and brown onions and garlic.

Add onions and garlic to a large pot and add stock.  Bring to a boil and then add rice.  Simmer for about 15 minutes.

Combine juice, cornstarch, pepper, and egg in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Slowly pour egg mixture into the pot, stirring constantly with a whisk.

Add chicken to the pot.  Cook until the soup thickens and the rice is done (about 5 more minutes).

Serve with thyme and sage on top.


Eat This and Live Three Hours Longer

Garlicky, lemony kale and Brussels sprouts salad has become a go-to recipe for me.  If I blogged every time I made it, I would probably blog about little else.

I make variations of this salad several times a week.  Sometimes it's just kale; sometimes it's just Brussels.  Sometimes I use garlic; sometimes I omit it.  But I make this over and over and over again.

Which is great, because it's apparently adding at least three hours to my life each time I do.

My friend Drew emailed to thank me for this recipe, saying that he's pretty sure that it added "upwards of 3 hours to my life" and that it will "only continue to do so every time I make it."

He was even gracious enough to include a photo, complete with what looks like delicious trout (the filename was "making drew live longer one blog post at a time.jpg").


So glad you enjoyed it, Drew!  I'll do whatever I can to keep you around longer!

When my husband was getting on my case this afternoon for taking the time (yet again) to photograph my lunch ("Can't we just EAT it already, please?!"), I had my come back ready.

"You saw the email from Drew.  Be patient -- I'M SAVING LIVES HERE."

Kale, Asparagus, and Feta Frittata

It was coming to the end of my CSA week, and I still had a fair amount of kale and asparagus left.  So, I searched the web for kale and asparagus recipes and came up with an idea for a frittata.  I was super-excited (Frittata!?!  Why didn't I think of that?!?), especially because my dad makes amazing frittatas and I love them.  

A frittata is sort of in between an omelet and a quiche.  And my version, as usual, omits the egg yolks.

1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup kale, chopped
1/2 cup  asparagus, chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
10 egg whites
1/4 cup feta cheese


Turn on the broiler so the oven has a chance to heat.

Put the olive oil into a pan on the stovetop THAT CAN LATER GO INTO THE OVEN.

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and then add the onion.

After a few minutes, add the kale, so it can wilt.

When the kale is wilted and the onions are starting to brown, add the asparagus, eggs, and feta.  Give it all a quick stir at the start so that the ingredients are evenly distributed, but then DON'T TOUCH IT AGAIN.  You want the eggs to set, not scramble.

When the eggs are starting to set along the edges of the pan (the eggs should be about 2/3 cooked, but still runny on top), remove the pan from the stove top and put it in the oven under the broiler.  Watch it carefully from here.  You want the frittata to puff and brown, but not burn.  You can check to see if the eggs are set by wiggling the pan (if it still wiggles, they're not set).  When you think the eggs are fully set (no wiggle!), put a knife through the frittata to make sure it comes out clean.  If it does, you'll know the frittata is set all the way through.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool for about ten minutes.  Then, run a knife around the edges to loosen the frittata and then, carefully, using the knife and a spatula, remove it from the pan and onto a plate.


You can slice it up like a pizza for serving.  It's protein and vitamin packed, and excellent with a side of green salad!

Asparagus Feta Pizza

Saturday was a VERY busy day for our family.

In fact, it was a frozen-pizza-for-dinner kind of busy day.

That happens sometimes, and that's okay.

But it's not an excuse not to eat any fresh, local, seasonal veggies.

It took me about 1 minute to add fresh asparagus, a sprinkle of feta cheese, and some cracked black pepper to the frozen pizza before popping it in the oven.

Even on our busiest days, we still have 1 minute!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Roasted Lemon Garlic Herb Chicken

I am really starting to love roasting whole chickens.  They turn out so much juicier and more delicious when cooked from scratch that way.  [Chickens should, of course, be free range and pastured.]

My most recent bird was rubbed with 2 cloves of garlic, the juice of 2 lemons, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, cracked black pepper (to taste), and some snips of fresh sage and fresh thyme, all of which I muddled together with a mortar and pestle.


I stuffed the bird with the quartered lemons from which I had squeezed the juice, and the woody sprigs from which I had stripped the sage and thyme leaves.  Then I cooked it at 400 degrees for an hour and fifteen minutes.

The resulting meat was so fragrant that I didn't even stop to photograph it before tasting!

Bok Choy and Shrimp Soup

Last week’s CSA delivery included two, large bunches of bok choy.  Bok choy is not a vegetable with which I’m particularly familiar.  I knew enough to know what it was, but that’s about it.  The only memory of eating bok choy I could conjure was a really delicious soup with bok choy that used to be served in my college cafeteria (more than ten years ago, ahem).  So, after using the first bunch in a stir fry, I knew what I would have to try with the second bunch.

Luckily, I had a huge container of home-made vegetable broth at the ready!

2 carrots, chopped
½ large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1-inch diameter nub of fresh ginger, chopped
1 jalapeƱo pepper, chopped
1 large bunch of bok choy, chopped
1 teaspoon of olive oil
10-12 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth (preferably homemade!)
½ cup of low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
2 cups of cooked shrimp
3 tablespoons of spring (green) onions, chopped

Put the carrots, onion, garlic, and ginger in a pan with the olive oil and cook until the garlic and onions just start to brown.  Put the vegetable broth, soy sauce, bok choy, pepper, and the contents of the pan into a large pot.  Bring to a boil and then turn down to low, cooking for 30 minutes.

If you have raw shrimp, you can add them to the soup at the outset.  I had only the pre-cooked, frozen kind.  I defrosted them and set them aside to add when serving, so that they didn’t become overcooked.  Ditto for the delicate spring onions.

To serve, I put a few shrimp and a few pieces of spring onion in a bowl and ladled the soup over it.  The heat of the soup warmed the shrimp perfectly. 


I’m trying to watch my intake of carbohydrates, so I didn’t add any rice or noodles, but this soup would certainly be delicious served over either one.      

My husband loved it!  He had seconds and even inquired about the best way to bring it to work for lunch without making a mess.  [Freeze it in individual containers so that it’s solid and doesn’t slosh around during the commute, let it defrost during the morning in your lunch bag, and then heat it in the microwave.] 

Shrek Shake

How much kale did your kids eat today?

Mine ate this much -- about 2 cups.


I took this glass of kale, filled it halfway up with skim milk, and blended it.  When the greens and milk were completely smooth, I added about half a cup of frozen raspberries and the sections of one clementine, and then blended it all again.  The result was a light green, Shrek-colored shake that was a cool, sweet, vitamin-filled treat that both of my kids could LOVE.

They have both filled up on "Shrek shakes" before / during dinner for the last several nights in a row...and I couldn't be happier.

Lemony Asparagus Quinoa

1 cup of (dry) quinoa, well rinsed
2 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth (preferably homemade!)
Juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons of olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped spring (green) onions
1 cup of asparagus, broken into 1-inch pieces (reserve tougher bottom pieces for another use)

I think quinoa is amazing because it “feels” like you’re eating a carb-tastic grain when you’re really eating a protein-packed seed.  You can cook it in water but, just like rice, it is more flavorful if cooked in vegetable broth. 

I had red quinoa on hand and used it for this dish, but any variety would do.  Set the quinoa and broth on the stove, cover, bring to a boil, and then reduce to low.  It will take about 15 minutes to cook.

In the meantime, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and spring onions in a small bowl to make a lemony dressing.  When the quinoa is done, put it into a large bowl and toss it with all of the dressing.  Add the asparagus and toss to combine.  Serve warm or cold (leftover) as a fresh-tasting, spring side dish that appropriately celebrates the arrival of asparagus.



Tuesday, March 20, 2012

CSA Week #2

OMG!  OMG!  OMG!  OMG! 

ASPARAGUS HAS ARRIVED!!!

Ever since reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver, I have been patiently (and, at times, not so patiently) awaiting the arrival of spring in order to eat asparagus.  Week after week, I have snubbed the neatly packed stalks from Peru at Trader Joes (yes, the ones I used to buy, week after week, without fail, before reading the book). 

I have missed asparagus.  I have longed for it.  I have eyed it on restaurant menus and dejectedly asked for a side of something "in season" instead.

But now it is here!

I opened my CSA bag last night and actually gasped.  Thin, beautiful, asparagus stalks.  Plenty of them.  Fresh.  Local.  Sustainably-grown.  In season. 


There were other things, too: lettuce, kale, carrots, spring onions, thyme, and sage.  [Admittedly, CSA Virgin had to consult a "Visual Guide to Fresh Herbs" to figure out that the thyme was thyme.]

I couldn't wait to dive in to all of it, especially my long-awaited asparagus.  But it was 9:30 at night -- no time to cook.  So I made another simple salad of the lettuce, carrots, and -- yes -- the asparagus.


It was as glorious as I thought it would be.  I spent the night dreaming of what I would make with the rest.  

Vegetable Broth

When I first considered joining a CSA, my biggest fear was wasting too much food. 

I wasn't sure I would know what to do with half of the "weird" veggies I received.  I was concerned that the volume of vegetables would be more than I could eat.  I was afraid I wouldn't commit to chopping, cooking, and otherwise preparing the food I received.  I simply didn't know how I would handle all of that perishable produce, and was concerned that it would all rot in the bottom of my 'fridge.

I did a lot of research before I joined my CSA on this very question.  And my research all led me to one place.

Broth.

If you don't know what the heck to do with carrot greens, make broth. 

If last week's veggies are still kicking around when you get this week's delivery, make broth. 

It's a CSA coping mechanism, and it's a good one.

As it turns out, though, I used most of my veggies in the first week.  [Success!]

But I did have plenty of scraps (carrot greens, kale stems, cabbage hearts, etc.) that I collected in a tupperware container in the 'fridge over the course of the week.  I threw them all in a stock pot on Sunday evening, filled it with water, brought it to a boil, and then allowed it to simmer on low for 3 hours. 


What emerged was a rich, dark broth that is fat-free and salt-free, but nonetheless flavorful and perfect for making soup or cooking grains.

I strained it into a metal bowl and allowed it to cool overnight in the 'fridge before moving it to tupperware containers.  I put half in the 'fridge for a soup I have in mind, and froze the other half for later use.


I really love making broth from scraps like this.  It must be good karma not to waste a single scrap of plant food, right?

Pork Chops with Braised Vegetables

My grandmother's pork chops are the most moist and delicious pork chops anyone has ever made.  My grandmother doesn't do much cooking these days, but she shared her recipe with me several years ago.

3-4 pork chops
Black pepper, to taste
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 green apple, chopped
1/2 very small head of cabbage, chopped
Teaspoon of olive oil
Water
Apple sauce and sage for serving (optional)

First, she puts pepper on both sides of each pork chop (she also puts salt, but I omit it).  Then she puts a teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet and browns the pork chops for a few minutes on each side, just until golden brown. 

[This usually involves a lot of grease spattering on the wall.  And my mother yelling about such grease.  And my grandmother telling her to relax.]

Then she removes the pork chops from the pan (they're still raw on the inside...) and sets them aside.

In the same skillet, she puts a chopped onion, which she cooks until the pieces start to turn translucent in the remaining olive oil and browned bits from the pork chops.  I added sliced cabbage, apples, and carrots, too, but the original recipe is onions only.


Once the onions start to brown, she returns the pork chops to the skillet and fills the skillet with water until the pork chops are just covered.  She puts a lid on the skillet and cooks it on low for an hour.

My grandmother serves it with plenty of the "juice" and all the onions (or onions and other veggies, in my case).  A little apple sauce doesn't hurt, either.  And I had fresh sage, so I threw some of that on top of it, too.


This is a plain dish, for sure, but it is comforting and delicious.  I totally reject the idea that "comfort food" has to involve heavy, fatty food like macaroni and cheese.  Comfort food is whatever has been cooked for you, with love, for your whole life.  Whatever stirs up your memories.

[In this case, my memories involve my mom scrubbing the wall behing the stovetop before dinner was even served.]

I paired my pork chop and braised veggies with a green salad (romaine, kale, olive oil, vinegar, and black pepper).  Maybe one day my kids will think of pork chops and braised vegetables with a green salad as comfort food, too.  I can only hope!

["Mama, what are those SPOTS doing on the wall?"]

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring Greens and Rosemary Pesto Pasta

Basil isn't in season yet, but that doesn't mean you have to forego fresh pesto sauce!  This version substitutes kale for basil, and is really amazing.

1 pound of whole-wheat pasta
3-4 cups kale, stems removed
1 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup of walnuts
1 clove of garlic, chopped
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Sprigs of fresh rosemary

Start a pot of water for the pasta.  Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, put kale, olive oil, cheese, walnuts, garlic, and lemon juice in a high-powered blender.  Blend until smooth.  Top with rosemary.


Drain the pasta and serve with sauce, additional Parmesan cheese, and cracked black pepper.


Who needs basil?!

Peanut-Beef Cabbage Cups / Bok Choy and Kale Stir fry

Okay.  I finally got brave enough to do something more than make a salad with my CSA veggies.

Here are almost all of this week's CSA veggies in one delicious, Asian-inspired meal!

Peanut-Beef Cabbage Cups:

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup tamari (or low-sodium soy sauce)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 cup sesame seeds

Combine ingredients (peanut butter through sesame seeds) in a bowl and whisk together.  Set aside.

1 pound of ground beef (mostly lean, grass-fed)
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less to your taste)
1 teaspoon sesame seed oil

Put all the ingredients (beef through oil) in a skillet and cook over medium/high heat until meat is browned.  Add the sauce and continue to cook as necessary to evaporate/absorb excess liquid.

1 small head of cabbage, outer leaves removed
2 carrots, shredded into ribbons
Sesame seeds, for garnish

Scoop individual servings of the peanut-beef into individual cabbage leaves.  Top with carrots and sesame seeds.  Eat with your fingers!  My toddler really enjoyed this dish -- she loved setting up the cabbage, scooping the beef, and placing the carrots!


Bok Choy and Kale Stir-Fry:

2 big handfuls of kale, stems removed
1 bunch of bok choy
1 onion
1 handful raw cashews
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 cup water

Put all the ingredients (kale through water) into a wok and stir fry until vegetables are of the consistency you desire.  Serve alone or over brown rice with a bit of soy sauce.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Simple Salad

The simple salad I made with my first CSA delivery turned out to be so fresh and delicious that I had to make it again.  This time I didn't even bother with the carrots.  It was just crisp lettuce, white vinegar, chipotle-infused olive oil, and black pepper.

I served it with a few crustless spinach mini quiches and a clementine.  Heaven. On. Earth.


The best thing about "spring" food is how easy it is to prepare!  No more hours in the kitchen hacking away at butternut squash and then oiling it, roasting it, cooling it, scooping it, etc.  Lettuce just gets washed and put on a plate!  I never appreciated that before, but now I do!

CSA Week #1

My first delivery of vegetables from Practically Organic Community-Sponsored Agriculture has arrived!!!

The first delivery contained lettuce, kale, cabbage, bok choy, carrots and herbs, all grown sustainably only four miles from my house.  Everything is so bright and fresh and green!  I am so thrilled!


My first experience with CSA vegetables was a spectacular failure, so I decided to keep it simple this time.

I made a salad of lettuce and carrots, then topped it with white vinegar, chipotle-infused olive oil, and a dash of black pepper.  So crunchy and wonderful!  There is nothing like fresh veggies!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Crustless Spinach Mini Quiche

Okay, I've had it with winter produce.

I've done my best to keep eating things that were fresh and local throughout the long winter.  I've eaten (and loved!) a lot of butternut squash and kale, but I have been turning to the freezer more and more often lately for summer food.  Tonight's recipe contains frozen spinach (none of the out-of-season "fresh" stuff available now, which is wilted before it even leaves the store).

It otherwise contains no vegetables.

But I think you'll forgive me if you try these delicious morsels.


Two weeks ago, I hosted a party at which I served a version of these crustless mini quiche.  The original recipe called for whole milk, cream, egg yolks, etc.  I used all whole milk instead of cream and omitted the salt, but otherwise kept the recipe the same.  Instead of the shallot/zucchini filling recommended in the original recipe, I used frozen chopped spinach.  And it was amazing.

But I knew it still had enough cholesterol and fat to kill me.

So, I lightened it up.  For a tutorial on how to assemble the quiche, I recommend looking at the photo in the original recipe.  It was helpful to me.

2 cups of frozen, chopped spinach
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 and 1/4 cups of 1-percent milk
6 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Re-heat two cups of frozen, chopped spinach in the microwave.  Drain off any water and then press the spinach in a fine sieve to remove excess water.  Set aside.

Put cornstarch into a large bowl.  Slowly whisk in half the milk.  Slowly whisk in the egg whites.  Slowly whisk in the rest of the milk and the nutmeg.  Set aside.

Dip a bit of paper towel into the olive oil and use it to "grease" the insides of two mini-muffin tins.  This works better than using spray.

Put a pinch of grated cheese into each muffin hole.  About 1/2 cup of cheese should stretch across two mini-muffin tins.

Put about a 1/2 teaspoon of spinach into each muffin hole.  Again, the 2 cups of spinach should stretch across two mini-muffin tins.

Put about one and a half tablespoons of the cornstarch/milk/egg mixture into each muffin hole.  Each hole should be filled nearly to the top, but should not reach the top.


Put in the oven for 13-15 minutes, until each mini quiche appears firm and starts to get golden brown on top.  The edges of each quiche should crisp, so don't be alarmed to see some serious browning -- they're not burning.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.  Use a knife to loosen the edges of each quiche from the tin.


About 8 of these delicious, gluten-free, high-protein, vegetarian mini-quiches would make an amazing meal when paired with salad greens and a piece of fruit.  That's what I'm planning to eat for lunch the rest of the week at work.  I won't even microwave them (they might get mushy).  They're delicious at room temperature!

Per the original recipe, these can also be frozen and reheated on a baking sheet for 5 minutes at 400 degrees.  That's actually what I did for my party and they came out great!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

When Life Hands You Avocados...

A few weeks ago at the grocery store, we wound up accidentally taking a home an entire bag of someone else's groceries.  We're not sure how it happened, but by the time we noticed (at home), it wasn't practical to consider returning the items to the store.  We decided that the best thing we could do for our karma was to make the most of the unexpected bounty and then pay it forward later on.

The bag contained quite a large number of ripe avocados.  I'm happy to eat a chopped avocado straight up (as are my kids), so we ate many of the avocados just like that.  But by the end of the week, we were ready for something different.

I scooped the flesh out of two avocados and put it in the blender with about a cup of frozen blueberries.  I added just enough water to allow the blender to work, and then served the resulting "blueberry pudding" with a dollop of fat-free Greek yogurt.


It looked delicious, but -- in full disclosure -- I thought it tasted disgusting.  It clearly needed sugar (or something) to make it taste the way I expected.  But I don't generally like to add sugar to foods that stand well enough on their own (in this case, avocados and blueberries).

I didn't care for it (at all), but the "pudding" was made, and the kids were excited, so I let them taste it.

I expected "yuck" faces.

But I didn't get them.

They loved it.

They made such a mess in the course of devouring their pudding that I had to strip off their shirts before allowing them to continue.

They EACH finished an entire bowl!



I'm guessing they loved it because they didn't have any pre-conceived notions of what "pudding" should taste like.  [Another argument for keeping kids away from brand-name, processed "foods."]

So, thank you to whomever purchased those lovely avocados.  We enjoyed them chopped up all week, and then we got to try a fun new preparation that was a big hit with the under-three crowd!
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