Friday, December 27, 2013

Elegant Quiche Cups

It was a calm, peaceful Christmas day at our house. Weird, right? Since I work at a church, this is one of the busiest times of year. Honestly, I didn't realize how tired I'd be by the time December 25th rolled around. (Can you relate?? Hee) I needed the calm. And, while I absolutely loved just hanging out with Matt & Sam the dog all day in the stillness, I think I just want this kind of Christmas once in our lives. :)  So, along with our nontraditional Christmas came a nontraditional Christmas dinner...sort of.

Quiche can be dated back to the 1300s, a German-influenced French pastry, and the French word "quiche" comes from the German "kuchen," meaning cake. Something like that. What I'm trying to say is this is old and traditional and seemed like the perfect Christmas dish in keeping it simple and beautiful. (Simple is a challenge for me! Having 8.9 side dishes is my minimum for a merry day.)

So this quiche is 1)gluten free and 2)gluten filled. It's great for a dinner for a crowd when you aren't sure how many are coming. And these cups reheat really well! How? Keep reading.......

Elegant Quiche Cups
When you need an elegant, easy, semi-quick dinner, go to a quiche cup. You can modify the ingredients based on what you have in the fridge, and you can customize each cup for picky particular eaters that you are cooking for. The crust is separate from the quiche, so a soggy, reheated crust is a thing of the past! Plus, with an option of gluten-free or gluten-filled, it's a dish for all! Fill with the same amount of veggies as this recipe if you don't want a super egg-y quiche, or add more eggs and less veggies for those who adore the incredible edible egg.

Makes 6 BIG quiche cups (using a 6-cup LARGE muffin pan, or makes 9 standard-size muffin cups)

Quiche Cups:
8 large eggs
2 TB flour (use brown rice or other gluten-free flour to keep it GF)
1 TB olive oil
1/3 chopped green bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped yellow onion (about 1/2 of a small onion)
1 zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
3 garlic cloves, chopped
4 cups fresh spinach
5 slices cooked turkey bacon (or bacon of your choice), chopped
1/2 cup of chopped mushrooms
Seasonings: garlic powder, seasoning salt, 21 Seasonings Salute (Trader Joe's), lemon juice, Chipotle Tabasco --Season with any or all of these, to taste!

Snowflake Crust:
1 1/3 all purpose flour (alter with gluten free flours according to flour packaging)
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2-3 tablespoons cold water

Fresh spinach makes ALL the difference in this dish.
Step One: In a large saute pan, saute olive oil, bell pepper, onion and zucchini for 2 minutes. Next, add garlic, spinach, and 2 TB water and let cook until spinach is slightly wilted. (Spinach will cook more in the oven.) Ste pan aside to cool a bit.


Snowflakes in dough form
Step Two: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Now let's make the crust: In a food processor (or with a hand mixer in a bowl), beat the butter, flour, salt and sugar on medium-high. Add the water a bit at a time, until the consistency of the dough is crumbly and the butter is dispersed throughout. Roll the dough out onto a FLOURED surface and, using a large snowflace cookie cutter, cut out 6 snowflakes. You can use any large festive cookie cutter (mine is about 5 inches in diameter). Warning: this is a lazy woman's pate brisee recipe, so it will not be the smoothest pie dough you've ever worked with! Set your snowflakes on a cookie sheet and set aside.

Cups about to go in the oven!
Step Three: Let's assemble our quiche. In a large bowl, add the 8 cracked eggs and whisk. Add the flour and whisk a little more. Fold in the sauteed spinach/veggies mixture, turkey bacon and spices and stir. Spray the muffin pan with nonstick spray, and spoon out the egg mixture. (I used a 1/3 cup measuring cup to evenly distribute the egg mixture.) To make it pretty, sprinkle with chopped chives and top with mushrooms before putting in the oven.

Step Four: Put the muffin pan AND the snowflakes into the oven (muffin pan on the bottom rack, the snowflakes on the top rack), baking for 30 minutes. Remove both pans from the oven. Check on the snowflakes after those 30 minutes and, if they're lightly brown and a bit crisp, remove from the oven to cool. Otherwise, bake for a few more minutes. For the quiche cups, top with cheese and bake for 10 more minutes. The cups should be solid and the cheese melted.

Step Five: Carefully remove the quiche cups from the pan using 2 teaspoons (my secret for removing most muffins/cupcakes from pans). Using the spoon-side down, circle around the cup to loosen the quiche. Then, life with the 2 spoons on opposite sides. Top with a golden snowflake and serve with a salad or fruit on the side! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

There you have it--healthy, elegant, simple. Enjoy.

Happy holiday-ing!

Cinnamon Candy Apples

Who doesn't love a nice caramel apple sometimes?
Halloween has come and gone, but the apples are still plentiful. And Christmas season is coming to an end (tell that to every retailer, heh), but does cinnamon ever really go out of season? I think not.

Granted, the three most used words on this blog are "easy," "banana," and one guessed it...CINNAMON. Ah, cinnamon. I find any excuse to sneak it into a recipe. Mostly in breakfast dishes and baked goods, but sometimes an entree or hearty sauce, too! And why not just out there, in plain sight, coating an apple?

Cinnamon Candy Apples
Using cinnamon hard candies makes this treat a snap to make, plus the cinnamon soaks into the top layer of the apple flesh. Yum.
You'll need:
Parchment paper or a silicone baking liner
4 apples
4 skewers or Popsicle sticks
1 1/3 cup cinnamon hard candies (unwrapped!)
2 TB light corn syrup
Cooking spray

Prep: Lay out a sheet of parchment paper sprayed with nonstick spray or a baking liner on the counter. Carefully insert a skewer or popsicle stick into each apple. 

Step 1: Spray a small pot with cooking spray and toss in the cinnamon hard candies. Stir in the light corn syrup.

Step 2: Heat over low-medium heat until mixture is bubbly and the candies are melted.

Step 3: Quickly dip each apple into the cinnamon mixture to coat. Use a spoon to coat each apple entirely. Immediately place the apples on the wax paper and let cool for 30 minutes. The coating will turn back to its hard candy form...take care not to break a tooth while devouring the spices-y awesomity!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ruby Red Smoothie

Hello, friends! Ready for a sweet-tart smoothie? Need some energy?

Ruby Red Smoothie
1/2 ruby red grapefruit
3 celery sticks
1 apple, cored
1 banana
Handful of ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend! Drink. Be energized.

Happy Monday!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Jump-start Jollity

You've eaten all of the turkey (and ham). The potatoes, the dressing, the pie, and even that pesky green bean casserole. It was good for a while, but geeze!, we're over it. Let's move on. Our brains and wallets and stomachs need a jump-start. Back to a healthy life. This dish is easy, quick, and uses stuff you already have at home.

Jump-start Jollity

If you need a jump-start from holiday frivolity and overinduging, try this! If you like it a lot, make it a regular on your grocery list. Feel full, not bloated. Be nourished and energized.
1 cup of dried quinoa (cook as directed on package)
4 cups of raw veggies (zucchini, yellow squash, broccoli, bell peppers, greens, carrots, etc.)
2/3 cup water
1/4 olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
5 garlic cloves, chopped
Spices: (your choice of a few dashes of) red pepper flakes, rosemary, basil, sage, salt, pepper

 Step one: Start cooking the quinoa. Meanwhile, chop the raw veggies. I sliced my squashes and peppers into bite-size/rounds, but the broccoli were bigger chunks (because they cook faster, and I don't want overcooked broccoli).

Step two: In a large skillet/wok on medium heat, add the water and create steam. Drop in the 4 cups of veggies, add the lid, and let steam for 5-7 minutes, or until almost fully cooked. Remove from heat and transfer veggies (do not drain) to a casserole dish or large heat-safe bowl. Set aside.

Step three: In the same skillet/wok, add the olive oil and heat. Add the onions and saute for 1 minute, then add the garlic. Salt and pepper. Stir with spoon until mixture is toasted and lightly brown on the edges. Add the spices you'd like at let 'toast' in the olive oil mixture for 1 minute. 

Step four: Add the veggies (and water they're in) back in to the skillet and stir veggies into the sauce. Add the cooked quinoa and stir, adding additional spices if needed. Salt and pepper.

Serve piping hot. So healthy, so delicious!


Happy eating! Laurel

Monday, December 2, 2013

Day 16: The Ultimate Compromise Pie

Ever watch The Chew, that show?

I'm not often home when it's on, but I caught an episode a couple of weeks and HAD to make this pie for Thanksgiving. You see, I'm not the biggest pie nerd. I really like to eat pie but, on my list of 25 top items to bake, pie might not make it. It's nothing against pie, I just like other things, too. So, when I saw this awesome recipe by Carla Hall and realized how awesome it was, I had to make it. I got excited about pie!

My mom helped me make this because I am pie dough-illiterate. My dough tastes pretty good, but it's not pretty. I'll work on that.

The Ultimate Compromise (Pumpkin Pecan) Pie

Lightly adapted from Carla Hall from The Chew

For the family that can't agree on pumpkin OR pecan pie. For the people who like pecans but can't stand the super-sugary sweetness of the pecan pie filling. For those who like to put pumpkin in everything they eat between the months of September and December. This pie is for you.

Crust Ingredients:
  • 1 tablespoon Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Table Salt
  • 1/3 cup Water
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold Unsalted Butter (cut into 1/2-inch dice)
  • 2 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour (plus more for rolling)
Crust Directions:
  • In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar and salt in the water.  Refrigerate until very cold, about 30 minutes. During that time, refrigerate your butter, flour, mixer bowl, and paddle, too. (optional)
  • In the chilled bowl, combine the cold butter and flour.  With your hands, toss the butter in the flour until each cube is lightly coated.
  • With the chilled paddle, beat the flour-butter mixture on low speed to just break up the butter, about 60 seconds.  Add the water mixture all at once and raise the speed to medium-low.  Beat just until the dough comes together in big chunks, then turn off the mixer. 
  • Divide the chunks of dough in half and very gently pat each group into a round 1-inch-thick disk.  Wrap each tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour, before rolling.  You can refrigerate the disks for up to 1 day or freeze for up to 3 months. 

Pie Ingredients:
  • 1 recipe for Carla's Perfect Pie Crust
  • 2 tablespoons Butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 3 Eggs (lightly beaten)
  • 1 tablespoon White Vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup Dark Corn Syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups Pecans (chopped)
  • 1/3 cup Pumpkin Puree
  • 1/4 cup Cinnamon Sugar (for garnish & topping) 
  • Whipped Cream (for garnish)

Pie Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll out pie dough to 1/8 inch thickness and line a 9 inch pie plate, allowing excess to drape over edge. Fold over edges and crimp, then trim any remaining excess. Line the pan with parchment and pour in baking beans or weights (or use a round, flat oven-safe bowl for pressure, like Corningware). Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until crust is light golden.
  • Meanwhile, cream 1 TB butter and sugar, then add beaten eggs, vinegar, salt, vanilla and corn syrup. Stir in 1 cup of the pecans and all of the pumpkin puree.
  • Pour filling into prepared pie crust. Place pie on baking sheet. Bake on center rack of oven for 50 minutes or until set; after 40 minutes, toss the remaining 1/2 cup of chopped pecans in cinnamon sugar and remaining 1 TB butter, melted. Top the pie with the pecans and continue baking.  Cool completely on wire rack. Serve with a garnish of whipped cream and remaining cinnamon sugar. *Note:  If crust is browning before center is cooked, tent edges of pie with foil and continue baking.
 There you have it, the ULTIMATE COMPROMISE. It's delicious, and it's even better the next day. Thanks, Carla, thanks.

Happy compromising!

Day 15: Cinnamon Pecans and Almonds

These cannot be more simple...cinnamon pecans and almonds.

They're a fun snack but, since I have trouble with self-control (and eating the entire bowl in one sitting), I like to sprinkle them on salads or oatmeal. Let's make them.

Cinnamon Pecans and Almonds
Recipe from George Stella
4-6 snack-size servings
2 TB butter
1 1/2 cups nuts (I mixed pecan halves and slivered almonds)
1/4 cup sugar (your favorite kind)
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a saucepan on medium heat, melt the butter. Add the rest of the ingredients and saute for 3 minutes, or until slightly crispy. Remove from the heat and store in a glass bowl. Let cool and enjoy.

Happy snacking!