Monthly Archives: October 2011

Spinach and Feta Mini Quiches

So you might be expecting a Halloween inspired post from me this week, but I haven’t been satisfied with any of the treats for tricking that I have attempted lately. So this one is to kick off the impending party season.

This is a classic and simple vegetarian brunch option that could make an appearance as an horsd’oeuvre too. And of course, a Quiche is always a nice treat for your lunch break.

Shopping List:

1 1/2 cups frozen potatoes O’Brien-style

1 pound baby spinach

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup feta cheese crumbles

8 organic eggs

1/3 cup low-fat milk

Instructions:

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. And grease with butter or spray with cooking spray a 12- cup muffin pan.

2. In a large saute pan over medium heat, warm garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil for about 1 minute. Then add the spinach to flavored oil.Stir the spinach as you let it cook down. It will reduce to almost 1/4 of the size, after about 5-7 minutes.

3. In a medium-sized bowl (preferably one with a spout) beat the eggs and milk together.

4. Divide the frozen potatoes, spinach and feta between the 12 cups. I put the potatoes on the very bottom of the cup, but the order doesn’t really matter too much.      

5. Pour the egg mixture on top of the veggies and place the muffin pan in the oven. Let it bake for approximately 17 minutes. You want to make sure the tops are no longer wet and then they are ready.

Makes 12 mini Quiche.

Drinking Chocolate with S’mores Topping

It was a cold and stormy night…That’s how all the classic mystery stories begin, right? Well, this piping beverage is no mystery. Three simple ingredients plus a few decorative accents and you’ve got a yummy treat to cuddle.

Shopping List:

2 cups milk, whatever type you prefer. I used 1%, and the drink was still pretty rich.

1 cup semi-sweet baking chips, use the best quality available. I used Ghirardelli.

2 teaspoons Agave syrup

marshmallows and graham crackers for topping it off.

Instructions:

1. Over medium-high heat in a small sauce pot, warm the milk until a skin begins to form on the top, but do not let it boil. This takes about 5 minutes.

2. Vigorously stir in the chocolate chips, so that they melt and do not clump together.

3. Lower the heat and add the Agave syrup, a necessary step to avoid the bitterness of the baking chips. 

4. Let the flavors melt together for a minute if you can wait, then pour it into mugs and tops with giant marshmallows and crumbled graham crackers.

 

Serves: 4

P.S. While we are on the topic of super fantastic chocolate. Check out this stuff! It’s all natural cocoa peanut butter. We tried it on a graham cracker as bedtime treat. So super good, it’s like a those cup-shaped chocolates that I love. Check out the Peanut Butter & Co website for more flavors and a store near you that sells it.

Simple Technique: Chicken Stock

Sometimes there’s nothing more comforting than coming home to dinner already made. And when it’s soup that’s on, count me in! This super easy and simple standard will have you feeling like you don’t have to rely on the store bought stuff all the time.

It’s certainly easier sometimes to grab that carton of low-sodium broth in the soup aisle, but this stock cooks itself. No really!

You can let it work on its own in the slow cooker while you are at work. It’s also really nice to have some on hand in the freezer for a quick addition to casseroles or other recipes instead of running to the market when you’ve depleted your stash.

Ingredient list:

1 cup baby carrots, or 3 carrots cut in thirds

1 onion (quartered)

2 celery stalks (halved) and the inner leaves

3 bone-in chicken thighs with skin

1 bay leaf

1 Tablespoon whole black peppercorns

Instructions:

1. Place the carrots, onion and celery and leaves in the bottom of a 6 quart crock pot. Place a steamer tray on top of the vegetables.

 2. Then, in the steamer put the chicken, the bay and the black peppercorns.

3. Pour 8 cups of water between the crock pot and the steamer. This should end up almost covering the chicken.

4. Turn the crock pot on to low and let it cook for 9 hours. Don’t worry if it ends up being longer, the flavor will only get richer.  

5. After 9 hours get a large bowl ready and pull the steamer out with everything still inside and put it in the bowl. You can easily pick out the chicken, but be careful they will be so tender they might fall apart in the process. Toss out the peppercorns and bay leaf, don’t eat these.

6. Next use a slotted spoon to take the veggies out. You can decide if you want to keep these lovelies or toss them out. You can certainly keep them in your soup or use them for a side dish separately.

7. Now that you’ve got just the broth, add 1 tablespoon salt , plus another teaspoon of salt. And then refrigerate the broth to help skim off the fat.

8.This makes 6 cups of broth. You can freeze this in freezer-safe bags in 2 cup portions, or you can add back your chicken once you’ve shredded it. And add in whatever veggies you like. I like it simple, some pasta stars, chicken, and some fresh baby spinach.

Sicilian-style Bean Soup: Pasta e Fagioli

It’s not “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” in this soup that makes it a standout. It is the garlic, basil, thyme and rosemary that waft through the air as the aroma of freshly made Sicilian Bean Soup simmers away on the stovetop.

For sometime now I have been an advocate of soups for dinner. It started with a simple Chicken Noodle fascination, but then it led to a Soup and Salad Diet while the hubby and I were engaged. Especially if you’re a harried mom, like me, using a few quick staples can allow you to pull together a fabulous meal with little prep but lots of satisfaction.

Now there are many lovely elements to a soup, such as health benefits and dimensional flavor without a lot of work. But I think one of the best qualities of soup is that it forces you to slow down and take a deep breath and savor it slowly. Much of my life suffers from the perpetual list of daily activities, and when it comes to mealtime, I feel forced to get it done as fast as possible. But soup forces me to slow down.

Although Pasta e Fagioli is a pretty varied soup in Italy, different regions have their own spin on it, it’s really considered a peasant’s soup. Ultimately, this is because all of the ingredients are pretty easily found on the farm and it can be diluted to last for days. In my version of this dish I’ve replaced the pancetta with  ground chicken. Some recipes for this soup include tomatoes. However, the versions that I have enjoyed the most have not included them, so I left them out.

Keep Your eye out for more soups to come from me this season. It’s such an easy mis-week meal I can’t resist.

Shopping List:

1 pound ground chicken

1/2 an onion diced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium carrot, diced

14 oz.  low-sodium canned white beans

32 oz. chicken stock

1 cup water

2 cloves garlic or 2 teaspoons granulated garlic

1/2 teaspoon crushed rosemary

1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons fresh basil sliced thin (here’s a tip: use your kitchen scissors to cut it directly into the pot)

1 cup dry small pasta, like elbow or ditalini

1/2 grated parmesan cheese

Instructions:

1. In a large dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat saute the garlic and olive oil for a minute or until fragrant. Then cook the ground chicken and sliced onions until the meat is cooked through. This will take about 5-7 minutes.

2. At this point pour in the chicken broth, the water, the beans, the carrots and the herbs. Raise the heat and let it come to a boil.

3. Then toss in the pasta and cook according to the directions, about 7 minutes for the elbows I used.

4. Serve this topped with a couple of tablespoons of parmesan cheese in each bowl. Yes, you read right! We Sicilians like our cheese:)

Serves: 4-6

Lentil Chorizo Soup

Today was the first day of Fall in my book. That’s by LA standards, people! Yes. We had a bit of cloudiness that might suggest our warm weather is heading out. What better reason do I  need to post my first soup of the season.

This steaming bowl is inspired by a soup I have tasted a few times at MBPost, a new restaurant in town that is getting a lot of attention for a good reason. The food is fantastic at this swanky yet casual spot. My hubby and I have ordered a soup similar to this one on several occasions since the social house has opened. And each time it stands out as excellent. After the last time I thought why not try to make something similar at home. And that’s when I realized how easy this concoction really is.

Shopping List:

1 cup dry lentil beans, soaked overnight in 4 cups of water

half of a 12 oz. beef or pork chorizo, casing removed

32 oz. beef broth

cilantro

1/2 onion, finely diced

1 carrot, diced

1 garlic clove, smashed

1 lime juiced

1/4 cup light sour cream

Instructions:

1. Remove the casing from the chorizo and saute it with the onions in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  As you cook the chorizo, much of the fat will ooze out. And there is a lot of it. The first time I cooked chorizo I wasn’t sure it was really cooked because my test for ground meat is to check whether it’s firm or pink, but chorizo is super red in color. So, I just went by texture. It took about 8-10 minutes for the chorizo to look dry and felt firm to press.

2. After cooking the chorizo, use a slotted spoon to remove the meat and drain it on paper towels, while you remove some of the grease from the pan. Leave about one teaspoon of the fat.

3. Return the pan to high heat this time, and add the lentils, chorizo and onions, garlic, carrots and broth. Bring all of this to a boil. Once it comes to a boil reduce the heat to a simmer. Let it simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender.

4. To serve squeeze the lime into the soup, and then ladle the soup into bowls. Top each bowl with fresh chives and a teaspoon of sour cream and a nub of crusty bread. At the restaurant they serve it with a couple of steamed shrimp, but I didn’t take that extra step this time. Enjoy!

Serves 4-6.