Monday, January 13, 2014

Make ahead quiche

This past summer was a banner year for Swiss chard and other leafy greens from my CSA. I didn't mind, I love the stuff, plus I knew I'd want greens come winter. Some members did grumble quite a bit over it though. Bet they'd welcome it now.

What I did was I froze tons of it. Well what was tons of it fresh anyway - chopped, blanched and frozen it's a LOT smaller. Still as tasty and almost as healthful though. Basically it's as easy as it sounds - I roughly chopped the greens, and in the case of chard (and escarole) the stems, and quickly dropped it all in some slightly salted boiled water. I swished them around for a few seconds (but no more then a minute) and then quickly transferred the greens to a waiting bowl of ice water, where I swished them around until cool. I then removed it from the water, squeezing out as much liquid as I could and froze it in reasonable portions (I did 1 cup containers).

Now that its winter and my CSA share consists of root veggies, I'm glad I did all that. I'm preparing for the birth of twins (if all goes on schedule they come out next week) and trying to cook some meals in advance. I have a ton of venison sausage from my husband's autumn hunting trip so I decided on making a few quiches as they are easy to pre-make & freeze, balanced complete meals, and are very forgiving in the reheating process - over baking by 10-15 minutes is no big deal.

I opted for the easy route of store bought, pre-made pie shells in the disposable aluminum pie plate - I know I won't want to bother with extra dishes with two newborns... plus I used my nice Pyrex pie plates at Christmas for pumpkin pies and of course left them with various family members (I'll get them back eventually).

Once the crust is established (and indeed you can skip the crust altogether if you prefer) quiche is ridiculously easy. Mix a bunch of ingredients with egg and bake, basically. I opted for low fat cheddar cheese, greens, venison sausage and eggs. I made four all together, two with straight kale, and two are a mix of escarole and Swiss chard. The sausage is without any casing and simply cooked and crumbled. As for the eggs, I did about 2/3 whole eggs and 1/3 egg white just because, well, it's a lot of egg. I super finely chopped the greens in the food processor and decided what the heck and instead of shredding the cheese, just went ahead and chopped the cheese up in the same method - I can't imagine it will make a difference.

Quiche (makes 2 deep dish 9" quiches)
2 - 9" deep dish pie shells
3 cups blanched greens, room temp, finely chopped
8 oz cheese (I used low fat cheddar), shredded or finely chopped
7 large eggs
5 large egg whites
1.5 cups cooked, crumbled sausage, cooled
salt & pepper

Pre-heat oven to 350. In a big bowl beat the egg and egg whites with the salt and pepper. Add the greens, the cheese and the sausage. Mix well. Pour into pie shell. Bake for either 1 hour (or until center is fully set) and eat, or bake for 45 minutes, allow to cool and freeze. To eat bake another 30 minutes (from frozen state).

Friday, January 3, 2014

Sweet Potato Bread

Its a snowy day so its some sort of law I'm supposed to bake, right? Oh wait maybe the law is about preparing food in advance of giving birth... Well either way I did. 

My husband is a good man who usually eats anything I cook without complaint. But for some bizarre reason he does not love sweet potatoes. This is very odd to me; they are so tasty. And a hassle because we get a lot of sweet potatoes from the CSA. He can usually be coaxed to eat them, but he never really enjoys them. Meanwhile we had some monster huge ones that needed eating.

I got a massive, and so far seemingly really good, cookbook for Christmas (Good Housekeeping Step By Step Cooking) which I've been perusing lately. I saw an interesting looking recipe for sweet potato biscuits which I considered. But I've been in a mood for sweets, muffins, cakes, etc. So I decided on sweet potato bread. Mind you this is not a recipe in the book. But then to me, recipes are mere suggestions, not rules. I figured I could modify the banana bread recipe.

Of course in the spirit of suggestive recipes, I changed a few other ingredients as well, mostly based on the reality of what I had on hand. All purpose flour was switched for mostly whole wheat, butter was joined with coconut oil due to a lack of enough butter, brown sugar mixed with regular sugar because I just opened a new bag and want to use it before it hardens. And I added chocolate chunks, because I had some and why not? Oh and I doubled the recipe to accommodate having 2 cups worth of sweet potato (and to have an extra loaf for freezing). The cinnamon blend is something I've mentioned before and always have on hand (mostly cinnamon, mixed with some ginger, nutmeg and clove). Much of the directions however are from the cookbook.

The result is delicious. And nutritious. And enough to enjoy some now, and freeze one loaf for next month when I'm dealing with two newborns and in no mood to cook. And finally, husband approved.

Sweet Potato Bread (makes 2 loaves)
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp cinnamon blend
1.5 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
8 tbsp butter, softened
1 tbsp coconut oil
4 eggs
2 cups cooked, mashed sweet potato
1/2 cup water
chopped walnuts and semi-sweet chocolate chunks (about 1/2 cup total)

Pre-heat oven to 350.
In a big bowl whisk together the flours, cinnamon blend, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Using a mixer (I used a KitchenAid stand mixer with the whisk attachment), blend the sugars, butter, oil and eggs on low, then increase to high speed for 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add the sweet potato and water. Mix until well blended. Then slowly add the flour mixture until incorporated. Finally mix in the nuts and chocolate.
Pour the mix into two greased loaf pans. (Its ok if it looks like the pans are only half full, it rises quite a bit). Bake for about 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Venison Stew

My husband recently did a very traditional "provider" thing and shot a deer, which he had butchered and brought home as our meat supply for the next few weeks (you can read about it here).

I have limited experience with venison - I've eaten it a handful of times previously and had never cooked it before. But meat is meat and in the winter, and especially with me being pregnant with twins, meat is a welcome food. 

My husband took the deer to the butcher, so he decided on what cuts to get, not me, although I had given a bit of preference before he'd set out on the hunting trip. He brought home several packets of breakfast sausage, 2 roasts, some steaks, some tenderloin, some backstrap and some stew meat. Plus two packs of ground hamburger meat he'd traded for some sausage from a hunting friend (and as such was not "our" deer, but rather the friend's). That first night home it was late so we had burgers, but since they were someone else's meat, I don't count them as the first proper meal cooked with venison. Plus burgers, while tasty, aren't exactly rocket science to make. I admit I did fancy them up a bit by adding pureed onion, bell pepper and parsley (I was afraid the lean venison would be too dry without adding something) as well as a bit of salt. But really then all I did was grill them and serve on rolls with cheese, and a side of herb roasted potatoes.

For the first real meal, I dug into the stew meat. My husband isn't a big stew fan, but I am, plus I had tons of root veggies from the CSA filling up my fridge. And, perhaps most importantly, stew is easy. I have no experience with venison but I know its a lean, gamey meat and I figured a nice liquid-laden dish was a good introduction for me. Plus I wanted to get a feel for the stew meat before attempting to use in a batch of eagerly-anticipated-by-my-husband chili.

It was the right choice, it was easy and it came out well. I used almost no seasoning, just some salt and pepper and a bit of wine, but otherwise let the veggies and the meat flavor the stew. Slow cooked on low for about 7 hours, the meat came out tender and perfect, the once hard veggies soft and easy to eat. And true to form, there is almost no visible fat on the stew - not as it cooked, nor forming a creamy white layer at the tops of the jars of stew stashed away in the fridge. Just hearty, tasty stew waiting to be eaten for lunch on cold days as I figure out the rest of those cuts of meat.

Venison Stew (about 6 hearty servings)

2 lbs (I think) venison stew pieces
2 rutabaga
2 medium potatoes
4 small "salad" turnips
7 small carrots
1 leek
1/2 red onion
4 cups water
1 cup red wine
salt & pepper

2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cold water

Chop (and if desired peel) vegetable into bite sized cubes, or in the case of carrots, into "coins". Place everything into a slow cooker, liquid and seasoning last. Cook on low for 7 hours. About 20 minutes before you are ready to eat, mix the water and flour together and pour into the stew and mix in well. Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


The real 'thing' with a CSA membership is getting what you get, based on the crops planted, the weather, the bugs, any plant illnesses going around and bunch of other factors you the consumer have no power over. Some people love the surprize element, some people hate it, some just deal with it.

This year we've been getting lots, and lots, and lots of Swiss chard. Now I love Swiss chard, its a definite favorite. Truth be told all the dark leafy cooking greens are. I can live without the lettuce but spinach, kale, chard, beet greens, turnips greens and any other of the non-lettuces? Bring 'em on. Apparently my fellow CSA'ers are not as keen on it. So last time we got chard not only did I get my bunch, but I got a bunch another member forced upon me (oh twist my arm!)

I tell other people all the time to just use it like you would spinach. Apparently this advice is not appreciated. I dont know why, but ok, whatever.

I have sauteed it, made pesto with it, mixed it into tomato sauce, mixed it with ricotta cheese, chopped some into curry - really I find it quite versitle. Tonight I made it into quiche.

I love quiche because its so adaptable. You can make it vegetarian (well ovo-lacto vegetarian anyway) or use any kind of meat you want. You can load it with veggies, or use veggies sparingly. Lots of cheese, or limited cheese. As far as I know the only required ingredients are a pie crust, eggs and some cheese. So go nuts, use what you have.

A trick to the chard, and the leeks, by the way, is a big bowl of water. Its simply put the best way to truly rinse the sand off. You just aren't going to get it all under running water, you aren't. So fill a giant bowl with water, or even just your sink basin, and roughly chop your chard and/or leeks and dump them in and swirl around for a bit. The greens float, the dirt sinks. Easy-peasy.

1 pie crust
2 egg whites
6 eggs
6 ounces shredded cheese (I used pepper jack)
2 ounces chopped pepperoni (I used low fat turkey pepperoni)
1/2 large bunch of Swiss chard, chopped (this would equal 1 grocery store bunch in my experience)
1 medium leek, chopped
2 tablespoons of sour cream (because I had it; I used low fat)
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Boil some water with a touch of salt and drop in your chard. Cook for about 2 minutes then drain. Once its cooled a bit give it a finer chop (I like to pulse it in the food processor, but you could chop by hand).
In a big bowl beat the egg whites and eggs, and after a while the sour cream, salt and pepper. Add the leeks, chard, and cheese and mix well. 
Pour into a pie shell and bake about 45-60 minutes.

Monday, September 9, 2013


I have many friends of Italian heritage, and many who have married into Italian families. In many ways I'm envious of the strong food traditions they learn from their families at large, after all Italian food is amazingly delicious. But one thing I don't envy them are the rules. For every "secret" and trick I've heard about Italian cooking I've also heard some obscure or oppressive rule, about how things have to be done. No thanks. No one imposes rules in my kitchen but me.

And so I present my Italian inspired but almost certainly blasphemous in some way eggplant-not-quite-rolatini. Its sort of a cross between eggplant parm and eggplant rolatini with a hint of lasagne method (because I didn't dare try to actually roll my eggplant) and cooked by an absolutely non-Italian New Yorker. And it is delicious. And rule free. Use any variety of tomato. Make it any time of the month. Packaged mass produced mozzarella cheese is fine. Go crazy. Heck here's a non-Italian trick for the mozzarella cheese: 30-40 minutes before starting anything put it in the freezer. Then use a food processor to chop it (or shred it if you have that attachment). So much easier then shredding squishy cheese by hand!

Like so very many of my dishes it utilizes what I had on hand. If you want to make it authentic to my recipe, then utilize what you've got, its a more honest following then to buy my exact ingredient list. I winged it, so you can too. I made my sauce because I had tons of tomatoes on hand from my CSA, but go ahead and open a jar if you prefer.

1 eggplant
ricotta cheese
mozzarella cheese, shredded
tomato sauce*
bread crumbs
Italian seasoning
2 eggs
cooking oil

For the sauce
4 medium fresh tomatoes
1 small or half a large [sweet] pepper
1/2 small onion (I use red, but white or yellow is fine)
2-3 cloves garlic
teaspoon of sugar or honey
olive oil

Set a pot of water to a boil.
Slice your eggplant to disks about 1/8 of an inch wide. Put a piece of paper towel on a plate, put down one layer of eggplant disks, salt lightly, add a paper towel and repeat until all your eggplant is salted and in between paper towels; weigh it down with another plate (if your plates are very lightweight, put a can of something on top of the top plate to give it some heft). This is one of those "Italian tricks" I've learned - its how you keep your eggplant from frying up slimy. Set aside while you make the sauce.  At some point in the middle of the next step come back and change the by-then wet paper towels for dry ones.

Drop 4 whole ripe tomatoes into the boiling water. Let them boil for about 1-4 minutes - until the skin cracks. Remove the tomatoes and run under cold water for a bit so you can handle them. Peel off the skin and quarter the tomatoes and remove the core bit. I also like to scrape out the majority of the seeds. I'm not obsessive about it but I get what I can out (this might require some more cutting, that's fine chop away.) Put the skinless, seedless flesh into a pot. Add the pepper and onion, roughly chopped, along with the garlic (I put it through a press first, but you can chop it if that's easier for you) and a dollop of olive oil. Set the whole thing to medium heat and cook for a few minutes. (This is a good time to change paper towels on your eggplant.) Using an immersion blender, puree all the veggies together. Add a decent shake of Italian seasoning, salt and the sugar, and stir. Bring it to a simmer, stirring occasionally, as you prepare the rest of the eggplant.

Prepare 3 small bowls and a drying rack. First bowl: flour, second bowl: 2 eggs well beaten, third bowl: bread crumbs and Italian seasoning. Now is also a good time to start preheating your oven to 350.

With a fork or tongs, dip a slice of eggplant into the flour to coat each side. Then dip into the egg wetting both sides, then into the breadcrumbs encasing each side. Place on drying rack. Repeat with each eggplant slice. Drying the breaded disks for a few minutes before cooking is another "trick" I learned somewhere, it helps keep the breadcrumb coating from just sliding off when frying.

Heat some oil in a large skillet - enough to completely cover the whole pan but not so deep the eggplant will be submerged. Starting with the first slice you coated (as its the driest) place the eggplant into the pan and fry on each side for about 3-4 minutes. While they are cooking put a layer of paper towel on your drying rack, so as you remove the eggplant its going right onto the towel on the rack. If you will end up with two layers of eggplant on the rack, put a paper towel between them.

In a small bowl mix 1/3 of your mozzarella cheese with a few generous dollops of ricotta cheese.

Now assemble. In a baking dish add about 1/3 of your tomato sauce, just enough to coat the whole bottom of the dish. Place a single layer of eggplant disks. Cover with ricotta cheese mixture. Add another layer of eggplant. Repeat this until there is no more eggplant and ricotta (ending with eggplant as your top layer). Pour remaining sauce over it all. Cover it all with the rest of you mozzarella cheese.

Bake for 30-40 minutes. 
Enjoy! Makes 4 regular sized servings.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pasta Salad

As so often happens I still had some old veggies to deal with when a new week new shipment of CSA produce came in. It was also in the upper 90's and extreme humidity, weather-wise.

I decided a nice vegetable laden pasta salad was in order. Sure boiling the water is a bit hot and steamy, but its pretty quick. I actually used the water twice to maximize its cooking awesome, and I made sure to cover my pot to reduce the steam escaping into the air.

I set my pot of water, with a bit of sea salt to boil and stemmed some old kale. Once the water was boiling I dropped in the kale and immediately set up a bowl of ice water. After about 1 minute (the time it took to ready the ice water) I used tongs to pull out the kale. I swished it to evenly cool it. I then dumped a box of high protein pasta in the still boiling, now slightly green water.

While the pasta cooked, I drained the kale (including really squeezing it out) and put it in the food processor - I'll come back to it later. In the meantime I chopped 4 small carrots and 1 medium zucchini and placed them in the sieve. I also chopped half an onion and set aside, and 1 garlic scape which joined the kale in the food processor.

When the pasta was done I poured it and its boiling water into the sieve over the carrots and zucchini. I let then sit for a moment to let the veggies just ever so slightly soften up from the heat as I turned back to the food processor. To the kale and garlic scape, I added a handful of almonds, some Parmesan cheese, about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and some fresh cracked black pepper. I processed it, occasionally scraping down the sides, for about 3 minutes until it was a nice smooth pesto.

I dumped the pasta and veggies into a large bowl, added the chopped onion and then about half to 3/4 of my pesto and stirred it all up, with a bit of salt.

We ate it warm that night, but the remainder was put in the refrigerator and enjoyed cold over the next few days. The remaining pesto in the meantime is handy as dip, or a sandwich spread.

Pasta Salad
1 bunch kale
4 small carrots
1 medium zucchini
1 garlic scape
1/2 large onion
handful of almonds
about 2 cubic inches of Parmesan cheese
about 2 tbsp of olive oil
salt & pepper 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Simple Bean Salad

Gosh I really love beans! Growing up, my family never ate many beans... if fact I can't remember my family ever serving or eating beans. I started eating rice and beans as a teenager, having been influenced by friends and neighborhood culture, but they just weren't a family thing. Now I go through about a dozen cans of beans a month. Chick peas, aka garbanzo beans, are easily one of my favorites. They are mild flavored, a nice round shape and certainly nutritionally great offering fiber and protein, as well as a slew of nutrients. They work very well in salads.

Any bean would do fine in this salad though, black beans, white beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, even green beans (although you'd be well advised to cut those up, and perhaps blanche them).

Any vegetables would work here as well. In fact usually my 'go-to' veggies for this kind of salad would be celery, onion, pepper and carrots. But it's CSA season and while I do in fact have celery, onion and pepper in my refrigerator at the moment, I wanted to stick with my organic CSA stuff. Any herbs work for the dressing as well, but again I was going for my CSA stuff, hence this particular blend. But really that's the beauty of a bean salad and what makes it so very simple - its very adaptable.

I had used the bulbs of my fennel last night to make Caramelized Fennel with Goat Cheese (my review: it was ok, but not my favorite fennel preparation. I think it would work really well as a brunch side, more so then a dinner side.) This left me with all the stalks today, about 8 or 10 or them, having used 3 bulbs for dinner. I had also purchased some fresh organic dill for that recipe, so even though it wasn't in my CSA share, I figured I was still being a purist by including it in my salad since ti was fresh and organic (heck the beans aren't CSA anyway, they are out of a can!

The salad couldn't be easier. Basically rinse and drain the beans. Then chop the crunchy veggies into pieces about the same size as the beans. Make the dressing and mix it all together.

I made the dressing in my mini chop, although certainly you could chop the herbs by hand and whisk in the liquids. I put my herbs in the mini chop first and gave it a good whirl. I scraped down the sides, added the vinegar, oil, salt and pepper and gave it another good whirl in the chopper. I then poured that over my beans and veggies and stirred it up. Voila! Bean salad. 

I fixed myself a bowl immediately, and divided the rest into containers and put them in the fridge. Really this kind of salad tastes best after a 30 minute to 24 hour wait, as the flavors meld and soak into the beans, but hey, I was hungry! You can eat this as is, or over lettuce, or even stuffed into a pita - really however you like it.

I used:

Stalks of 3 small fennel (about 8-10 stalks)
3 baby carrots
2 salad turnips
1 can chick peas

Fluffy part of 3 small fennel
1 garlic scape
parsley (just leaves off of two stalks)
Dill (just the leaves off 1 stalk)
Rice vinegar (about 2 tbsp)
Olive oil (about 1 tbsp)
Sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper