16 May, 2012

Caprese Quiche

I recently spent the weekend with The Boyfriend's family, and his mom served up 2 beautiful quiches, and it got me to thinking- considering how much I love quiche, why do I never make it??

And then I remembered that The Boyfriend must eat as soon as he arises, or the world will feel his wrath.  I do not exaggerate. He knows it, I know it, and anyone else that knows him.. knows it.  Consequently, there is never time to prepare a quiche. Really, who has an hour and a half to prepare breakfast?

Well I took matters into my own hands last week.  I made pie crust, and froze half so I can whip up another quiche at any given moment.  The remaining crust I used for Caprese Quiche, and had it for lunch, and breakfast for the next two days (The Boyfriend had some for breakfast too- by the miracle of the microwave).

The caprese flavors- tomato, basil, and mozzarella- work beautifully in a quiche.  Because the flavors are more delicate, I made a lighter, fluffier quiche to not overpower the simple ingredients.  The taste though, is anything BUT simple.

Make sure you use the freshest ingredients for this quiche.  Do not commit the Ultimate Sin of buying a bag of pre-shredded mozzarella! Just don't do it!  Those bags say low moisture for a reason- they will make for a dryer, less elastic quiche (think about having a pizza- some pizza when you pick up a slice the mozzarella cheese stretches for miles before you can get it to tear- that's REAL, more elastic cheese... some pizza you can pick it right up, no long strings of cheese- that cheese is a little dryer, and what you will get with pre-shredded cheese).

So for best results, buy fresh mozzarella near the deli, NOT mozzarella from the refrigerated section. You'll thank me later.

Caprese Quiche

For the Quiche:
3 eggs (room temp)
2 egg whites (separated while cold, egg whites at room temp)
1 tomato, sliced into 6 slices, placed on a paper towel to absorb excess moisture
1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
3 basil leaves (for garnish)
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, grated
1/2 cup mozzarella, cut into thin, round slices. Reserve 3 of the most perfect round slices.
1 cup milk
salt and white pepper to taste (I added about 1/4 tsp salt and a 1/4 tsp white pepper)
1/4 cup flour
extra virgin olive oil

A 9 inch pie crust (Purchase one, or for best results, make the crust below)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Sprinkle tomato slices with a little flour on each side. 
  3. In a saute pan, drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil in pan over med-high heat.
  4. Add the floured tomato slices, and cook until just turning golden, about 2 minutes each side.
  5. Transfer to dry paper towels to drain (same way you drain bacon on paper towels. 
  6. Use a whisk (or fork) to beat the 3 whole eggs together.  Add the milk, chopped basil leaves, salt and white pepper.  Add the egg whites and SHREDDED mozzarella cheese.  Whisk to combine.
  7. Add 3 tomatoes to the pie crust so they are not overlapping. Add the SLICED  mozzarella on top of the tomato (making sure you reserve 3 of your prettiest slices)
  8. Slowly pour the egg mixture over the tomato and mozzarella.  
  9. Place the remaining 3 tomatoes gently on top of the egg mixture. Top each tomato with a basil leaf, and top the basil leaf with the 3 reserved slices of mozzarella.
  10. Bake in preheated oven 45-55 minutes, or until cheese is melted and quiche is golden on top.

For the Crust:
Recipe from The Joy of Pastry by David Munn

Makes two 9-inch pie crusts

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
10 tbsp cold butter
1 large egg
2 tbsp ice water
  1. If you have a food processor, add the flour, sugar, and salt to the processor.  Cut the butter into small cubes, and add them to the processor gradually, pulsing to combine.  Continue pulsing until butter is distributed and you have a very crumbly dough.
  2. If you do not have a food processor, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes, and cut it into the dough.  When cutting into the dough, I use a sharp knife, and literally keep cutting the dough on the sides of the bowl.  The butter gets broken up into smaller pieces, making a crumbly dough. 
  3. Remove dough from food processor if using, and add to a large bowl. Now the dough is in a large bowl for everybody.  
  4. Using your hands, grab handfuls of dough and squeeze together slightly (don't squeeze super hard!).  You must do this fast, because you don't want the warmth from your hands to melt the butter. Continue squeezing until butter chunks are about the size of raisins.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix together the water and egg, and add to the flour mixture.  Knead it through the flour mixture until the liquid is dispersed, but do NOT over-knead it. It will still be a very crumbly dough.  You'll be tempted to add more water.. don't.  A crumbly dough means a flaky pie crust.
  6. Form the dough into a ball.  You;ll have to squeeze it a bit to get the crumbs to form a ball.
  7. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.
When rolling out the dough:
  1. Remove dough from fridge. On a lightly floured surface, begin to gently roll out the dough.  Make sure you also flour your rolling pin, and dust some flour on top of the dough as well.
  2. If dough begins to crack, use your hands to lightly press it back together.  
  3. Keep checking to make sure the dough is not sticking to the surface.  If it is, peel it up with a spatula, and add more flour to the countertop. 
  4. Roll the dough out to about a 9 inch round circle.  
  5. Carefully lift it with a large spatula and place it in the 9 inch glass pie pan.
  6. Press down the sides so the crust is even with the baking dish. Place the whole dish in the fridge to let the dough relax for about 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Remove crust from fridge and bake for 12 minutes.  Prebaking the crust without the quiche filling will keep the crust from getting soggy.
  8. Let cool for about a half hour before filling it with the quiche ingredients.

11 May, 2012

Gluten-Free Sugar Cookies

Gluten-free mama?

No problem.  Whip her up these sugar cookies quick.  You can't even tell they're gluten-free!  

They are light sugar cookies that melt in your mouth.

I don't usually use boxed cake mixes, but these are really great for a quick gluten free treat, and you don't have to buy 16 gluten free flours to make it!

I wish I had a fun cookie cutter, or bright sprinkles to use.

But I didn't.

The beauty of these cookies is you need so few ingredients.  I'll be keeping a box of this mix in my house for a quick gluten-free dessert anytime.

Gluten-Free Sugar Cookies

Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker

1 box gluten-free Betty Crocker yellow cake mix 
    (found with other cake mixes, NOT in gluten-free aisle)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp water

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar.  
  3. Add the egg and water, mixing just until incorporated.
  4. Gradually beat in the boxed flour mix.
  5. Roll dough into small balls and place on ungreased baking sheet 2 inches apart (give them room, they will expand!)
  6. Gently flatten the dough balls a bit with the bottom of a glass.
  7. Bake 9-11 minutes. or until just beginning to turn a golden color.  Underbake, don't overbake!
  8. Let cool on pan for 5 minutes. These cookies are delicate due to being gluten-free.
  9. Carefully remove to a wire rack, and cool completely. 

08 May, 2012

Blueberry Crumb Bars

Ohh how I love fruit bars!  I look at it as a guilt-free way of eating pie.

You know that moment when you're pretty full, and Auntie Mae is presenting dessert- a pie oozing with blueberries and happiness, topped with a dollop of whipped cream sweetness, the sun shining in the background, birds singing songs of smiles and pie.. and you think 'oh I really shouldn't..'

But it would be a whole thing if you didn't take a slice. Auntie Mae shoves a plate at you, her fingers calloused from making the pie crust by hand, her face sunburnt from picking the blueberries just this morning, and you just have to eat it (and who are you kidding, you know you want it)

.. and it's a whole event with the plate of the pie and the fork and the sitting-down-so-you-can-eat-the-pie and the pass-the-napkins because I drooled blueberry pie on my new white pants..

Hellooo fruit bars... aka the same ingredients as pie- bars.  Just pick up a bar and keep it moving.  It's not even dessert really.  There's no fork needed.  Heck, you don't even need a plate!   Perfect for picnics and BBQ's.

These blueberry bars get gobbled up quick.  If you think you made enough, make more. Trust me.

Blueberry Crumb Bars

Recipe adapted from Allrecipes
Makes 24 good sized bars

1 1/2 cups white suger
1 tsp baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cpld unsalted butter (2 sticks) cut into pieces
1 egg
1/4 tsp salt
4 cups fresh blueberries
3 tsp cornstarch
Zest and juice of one lemon
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup of the sugar, 3 cups flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add the lemon zest. Blend in the egg and butter with a fork or pastry cutter (I used a food processor) The dough will be crumbly.  
  3. Pour half of the dough into the prepared pan. Pat down to make the crust for the bars.
  4. In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries.  Sprinkle the blueberry mixture over the crust, and crumble remaining dough over top of the blueberry layer.
  5. Bake in preheated oven 45 minutes, or until top is just slightly brown.
  6. Cool in pan on a wire rack.  Let cool completely before attempting to cut (the bars will fall apart if you try to cut when still warm).
  7. Store in airtight container in fridge.

07 May, 2012

Chicken Salad with Pecans, Grapes, and Green Peppers

A little sweet, a little crunch.. this chicken salad has it all.  I made this to bring to a BBQ, and unfortunately it never made it there.

Why, you ask?

Not because it got gobbled up ever-so-quickly.  No.  Because on the way to the car the container slipped from my fingertips in slow-motion fashion as I (in slow motion) yelled a inappropriate curse word at the top of my lungs, resulting in a super dramatic chicken salad explosion.

I would've taken a pic of the Chicken Salad with Mulch, but didn't think you all would be into that recipe. Here's what it looked like in my house before the explosion:

Luckily I had already tried the chicken salad, so I know it was good.  I liked the green pepper in place of the celery.  I also enjoyed the different textures of sweetness from the dried cranberries and sliced grapes.

The Boyfriend got to eat some too, since I had a little container of it stashed in the fridge just for him, the Most Excellent Girlfriend that I am.

This was very much a contents-of-the-fridge-and-pantry chicken salad.  The original recipe calls for tarragon vinegar, walnuts, shallots, and celery.. none of which I had.  I would've liked to use the tarragon vinegar though.  But I made due, and it turned out great.

Chicken Salad with 
Pecans, Grapes, and Green Peppers

Recipe adapted from Epicurious
Makes 4-6 servings

4 cups cubed (1/2 inch) cooked chicken (about 1 3/4 pounds)
1 cup pecans, chopped
2 large or 3 small garlic cloves
1 small onion, minced
1 green pepper, diced small
2 cups red seedless grapes, sliced in 4 or 5 slices each
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp dill week
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Throw all ingredients in a bowl and mix.

Special note:  Make sure you use a grip of steel when carrying to your car.  

A few other fave summertime recipes:

04 May, 2012

Mint Julep Meringues

Confession.   I don't know why the Kentucky Derby is a big deal.  I'm sure I'd enjoy it- as I like to party.  I get down with the drinking, the eating, then the drinking some more.  Hanging out outside.    Drinking.

Don't think I'd glance in a horse's direction though.   I mean, if everyone else looked I wouldn't intentionally NOT look.  Alright, maybe I'd glance.  But I'm just not that interested.  

But any excuse to cook.. 
          and drink...

                     sounds pretty good.  

Why I chose to make these little guys on such a goomy/wet/humid day, I'll never know. 

Everyone knows that the humidity will make meringues crisp exterior a little soggy!
                              (maybe everyone but me.... )

Anyway, I took the plunge, and they turned out pretty good, despite the humidity. I modified Emeril Lagasse's recipe for meringue cookies, by adding the mint julep ingredients: mint and bourbon!

Mint Julep Meringues

2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 tsp cream of tarter
2/3 cup superfine granulated sugar    (Important! Do not use regular sugar)
1/2 tsp mint extract
2/3 tsp bourbon

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites until foamy.
  3. Add the cream of tarter and beat until fluffy but not dry.
  4. Add the sugar in batches, about 3 tbsp at a time.  When halfway through sugar, add the mint extract and bourbon.
  5. Add the remaining sugar in batches. Beat until sugar is dissolved and meringue is shiny and bright.  It should be fluffy and sticky to the touch.  If it is runny or liquid-y, something did not work.  Start over.  (I had to do a do-over! Didn''t beat the egg whites until foamy enough, and added too much bourbon the first time.  Big surprise, trying to booze my recipes up..
Next we will put the meringues in the oven.  If you don't need the green stripe for decoration, you can use a tsp to scoop meringues onto your baking sheet.  They will not change size, so scoop them as prettily as possible.

If you want the green stripe- grab a pastry bag and green food coloring.  On one side of the pastry bag, drop 4 or 5 drops of green food coloring on the side, letting it run all the way down in as straight a line as possible.  Carefully fill the pastry bath with meringue batter, a tablespoon at a time.  If you just shove it in, the green food coloring will make your meringues green all over. 

Then pipe out the little guys on you baking sheet, put in the oven and TURN THE OVEN OFF.  Leave, undisturbed, for 2 hours or until dry and crisp.  

Store in an airtight container.

02 May, 2012

Oh, Fiddleheads!

Fiddleheads, fiddleheads, roly poly fiddleheads...

In case you didn't know, fiddleheads are a type of fern the grows in the New England area (as well as other areas worldwide.  They are the unfurled fronds of a fern.
Don't eat them before cooking!  They will make your tummy hurt.

I prepared them for an appetizer yesterday, and upon presenting them to The Boyfriend he looked at me like I had lost my mind.  'Am I supposed to eat that?' he says.

Of course!  And they were so good!  
They are extra-special because they are only available once a year for a couple weeks ONLY.  And that's it, they're gone!

They have a 'grassy' taste and texture- think asparagus or artichoke.   They're delish with something fatty/salty- like prosciutto di parma!

I got a super-simple recipe from MSNBC oddly enough.

Fiddlehead Ferns with Brown Butter and Prosciutto

1 lb fiddle head ferns, washed and trimmed (cut off  a couple centimeters of the cut end)
12 paper thin slices of prosciutto
3 tbsp brown butter (recipe follows)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
pinch salt

  1. We are going to boil the fiddleheads. Add about 1 quart of water to large pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Grab a large bowl and fill it halfway with ice water. Set aside. 
  3. Place a colander in sink.
  4. When water is boiling, add fiddleheads.  Cook one minute (do not overcook!).
  5. Remove fiddleheads.  Pour in colander to drain.  Then pour the fiddleheads into the ice water, submerging completely.
  6. While they are in ice water, brown butter. Add the 3 tbsp of butter to a saucepan over med heat.  
  7. The butter is going to start to turn a brownish color.  Start to stir constantly.  We are looking for the butter to turn a brown color and have a nutty aroma.  Once the butter begins to froth at the edges, keep stirring for about one more minute, and remove from heat. The butter will keep cooking in the pan.
  8. Grab the plates and arrange a slice of prosciutto on each one.
  9. Add the fiddleheads to the pan with the butter, and toss gently.  Add pepper and salt.
  10. Top the slices of prosciutto with the fiddleheads, and voila!  Spring's finest. Serve at once.

Double Orange Goat Cheese Cupcakes!

A little tart, a little tang...

I've been nuts for cupcakes lately.  Looking through my pantry, I didn't see many good cupcake ingredients.

I did see oranges in the fridge that will never get eaten.
I saw goat cheese leftover from failed appetizers this past weekend.
And of course my favorite ingredient that must go in everything I create lately (including the failed goat cheese appetizer- Jasmine Blossom Honey!


It all worked out!

These little mini cupcakes are delish!

The frosting is not too sweet, it's light and fluffy. 

The goat cheese center complements the orange honey cupcake- this is not an overly sweet cupcake. Good for breakfast?  Why the heck not?!

Double Orange Goat Cheese Cupcakes

Recipe modified from Half Baked- the Cake Blog

You will need:


1/2 cup butter, room temp
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp orange zest
1 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice

Goat Cheese Topping:
6 ounces goat cheese, room temp
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg

Frosting recipe follows.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line 2, 24 muffin pans with cupcake liners
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together all dry ingredients- flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a small bowl mix together the wet ingredients- buttermilk, honey, orange zest, orange juice, and vanilla.  Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until combined.
  5. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  6. Gradually alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until combined.
  7. Using a tablespoon fill the cupcake liners a little over halfway full, not quite 2/3 full.
  8. Now make the goat cheese topping.
  9. In a mixing bowl, mix the goat cheese and sugar until well combined.  Mix in the egg.
  10. Using a teaspoon (or the same tablespoon, but I found a teaspoon easier to use) top the already filled muffin liners with a dollop of the goat cheese topping. Use the tsp to press the dollop down into the batter a bit, but not so much that it reaches the bottom.
  11. Bake both sheets 8-10 minutes, switching the position of the two baking sheets halfway through.
  12. Let cupcakes cool in pan for 5 minutes, and then remove them to a wire rack to finish cooling.
  13. Once completely cooled, frost with the frosting.

8 ounces goat cheese, room temp
1/4 cup butter, room temp
3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup whipping cream
2 tsp orange extract (or if you don't have, substitute 1 tbsp orange zext and 2 tsp orange juice)

  1. Cream goat cheese and butter in large mixing bowl.
  2. Slowly add powdered sugar, mixing to combine.
  3. Add whipping cream and orange extract.  Whip on high speed for several minutes until frosting is light and fluffy.
I must admit my measurements on the frosting are approximate- I added and tasted, until I got the consistency and taste I was looking for.  

Yes, there is a large amount of whipping cream in this frosting, (who doesn't love whipped cream?!)  I was looking for a really light, airy frosting, as a typical buttercream frosting sounded too heavy for these little bites of bliss. 


A couple other favorite recipes: