Kitchen Adventures: Quiche Tartlets

I am the definition of a breakfast person.

I could eat it three times a day – eggs for breakfast, cereal for lunch, crepes for dinner.  Bring me to a diner at any hour and I am 99.9% likely to order hash and poached eggs.  I simply can’t live without a good meal to start off my day.  But when I combine my love for breakfast with my tendency to hit snooze a million times (right family?), it gets to be an expensive habit that ends up with me stopped in at Dunks on my way to work.

Luckily, I saw this pin the other day and decided to whip up some planned-ahead breakfasts so I could save some money and time in the morning.  These tartlets came out great, and in 45 minutes, I was able to pack up 6 healthy breakfasts to eat and freeze for the week ahead.

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Quiche Breakfast Tartlets

  • 5-8 oz of baby spinach
  • 1 cup baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 links chicken sausage (optional)
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated (low-fat preferred, or another kind of shredded cheese works too!)
  • 3 eggs and 6 egg whites (I use them from the carton) (alternatively, you can use 5 eggs)
  • Dash skim milk
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.  In a frying pan, heat up 1 tsp olive oil and cook the mushrooms.  Cut the chicken sausage into small pieces (1/2 dime sized or so) and add to mushrooms, browning lightly.  Remove from pan.  Wilt spinach in frying pan. add to mushrooms and sausage.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Pour into lightly greased muffin tins, making sure that each section has all types of filling as well as some liquid.
  3. Bake in oven for 20-25 minutes, until edges are browned and tops are solid.  Remove from tins and let sit before freezing/storing.

By the end, you should have 12 muffin-sized crustless quiches (mine actually made 5 mini muffins as well – use it all up!) which are each worth 2 PointsPlus each (I recommend two as one serving).  In one travel-sized bite, you have cheese, eggs, meat, and veggies, or as I like to call it “perfection.”

These quiches are super versatile to whatever you have in your kitchen – asparagus and red pepper, cheese and more cheese, garlic and onion, you name it.  My recommendation: go light on the fat, especially in the cheese.  I only had full fat cheddar around, and these were a little more oily than I would usually eat, but they’re still quite healthy and definitely delicious.

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What’s your go-to breakfast food?

Kitchen Adventures: Peanut butter cookie brownies

What’s better than a chocolate chip cookie, a peanut butter cup, and a brownie?  Being able to eat all three of them at once.

I found this recipe on Pinterest and made it for my office’s Pie Day Friday.  Even though it wasn’t technically pie (ok, not at all), it rocked because:

  • I was able to get all the ingredients at CVS on my way home
  • All the ingredients cost less than $10 and made more than 20 servings
  • I was able to make different portions easily
  • I was able to give the extra peanut butter cups to my gluten-free colleague so he could have somewhat the same thing as the rest of us

These were a huge hit and especially great for when you don’t have time to get to a full-blown grocery store or need something that travels well.

Cookiebrownies

Peanut Butter Cookie Brownies

  • 1 bag of small Reese’s peanut butter cups
  • 1 box of brownie mix and the ingredients to make it (varies by box)
  • 1 roll of refrigerated cookie dough or box of cookie dough mix and the ingredients to make it (varies by box)
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F.  Grease a muffin or mini-muffin tin
  2. Press cookie dough into the bottom layer of each section.  Add a peanut butter cup. Top with brownie mix, filling to about 2/3 full overall. (The cookies and brownies will both take up a little more space when cooked.)
  3. Bake for 18 minutes, less for mini-muffins.  When testing to make sure your treats are done, don’t let the melted chocolate from the peanut butter cup throw you off.  I overcooked mine a little, but they were still delicious.

Done!  I made 12 large muffins, 12 mini muffins, and 1 mini loaf pan (with the leftovers) with these ingredients.  Serving recommendation: warm these up and top them with ice cream.  You won’t regret it.

Kitchen Adventures: Stuffed artichokes

There is basically never a time when I don’t want a stuffed artichoke since my college roommate first introduced me to this delicacy. (Hi Jill!)  It’s not the fastest thing in the world to make, but it’s completely worth it, especially when you can start eating it before going out with your friends and finish the rest when you come home starving after a night of dancing… if you can stand to not eat it all in one sitting.

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Stuffed Artichokes

  • 1 cup Italian bread crumbs (or plain bread crumbs with Italian seasoning added)
  • 2 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped garlic (I use jarred but this is about 1 1/2 cloves)
  • 2 small to medium artichokes
Stuffing in progress

Stuffing in progress

  1. Lightly toast bread crumbs in a frying pan – no oil needed.  Put water on to boil with a steaming basket big enough to hold your artichokes upright.
  2. Cut off the top 1/4 (or so) of the artichoke with a knife, and trim the stem except for the last 1/2 inch or so.  Fan out the remaining segments of the artichokes and cut off the spiky tips with scissors.  You should only need to cut off about the top 1/3 per section but you should make sure you get all the sharp bits even if it means losing a little more of the ‘choke.
  3. Mix everything else together and start stuffing!  Start at the outer pieces and put the bread crumbs as far down in each segment as you can.  If you separate the pieces as you go, you should be able to get a good amount in each section.  When you get near the middle, keep stuffing – that’s the best part!
  4. Stand up the artichokes in your steamer basket over boiling water, cover, and cook for 45-60 minutes depending on the size of your artichokes.  Add more water to the pot as needed.

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C’est tout!  Just peel off the segments and eat them from the base, and then attack the middle with the fork once you get past the rougher outer layers.

Did your college roomies ever share tasty treats from home?  What do you put inside your stuffed artichokes?

Kitchen Adventures: Crockpot style

Things I love: coming home to the smell of something cooking.
Things I hate: anything that could feasibly burn my house down.

I have a bit of a complicated relationship with the idea of crockpots.  I just don’t trust them.  I know that they work for tons of people, but I just can’t wrap my head around intentionally leaving something cooking in my kitchen when I’m so far away.  So in my quest to get over this, I decided to take on a classic crockpot recipe today – with a twist – while I was out and about in the neighborhood.

The results were confidence inspiring and actually amazingly delicious – more so than anything I’ve made this way before.  The recipe is modified from a “Crockpot: the original slow cooker” cookbook I nabbed for $5 outside of Borders once upon a time.

Other than the delicious taste, this recipe wins because it just involves chopping some things up (no braising the meat, etc.), cooks at one temp the whole time, and doesn’t require you to buy tons of things you’ll never use in another recipe.  It’s also adaptable to almost any veggie – you can just use this as a starting point.  Definitely recommend for anyone who’s looking to spice up the old classic this winter!

Beef stew

Asian Beef Stew – Crockpot Style

  • 1 onion, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 1/2 pounds round steak, cut up – I got mine pre-cut into stew meat sized chunks at the deli
  • 1 head of celery, sliced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced – make your slices pretty thin, my carrots still had some crunch to them!
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced (really, can use as little as 1 cup or as much as you want)
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup beef broth (look for low sodium and low fat versions)
  • 1/3 cup hoisin sauce – the one weird ingredient!
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  1. Combine onion, beef, celery, carrots, and mushrooms in a large crockpot (the book recommends the 5-quart version, as though you have multiple sizes just filling your cupboards).
  2. Combine orange juice, beef broth, hoisin sauce, cornstarch, and curry powder in a small bowl – whisk together until cornstarch is dissolved.
  3. Pour into crockpot and give it a good stir – cover and cook on high for 5 hours or until the beef is tender.  When the beef is almost done (go ahead, peek!), stir in a cup of frozen peas and cook for a final 20 minutes or so.

Serve over rice, share, freeze, and enjoy!

This is definitely going in my list of easy favorites.  It has a great warmth to it, between the spiciness of the sauce and the curry.  The beef was so tender and tasty – I’m really looking forward to eating this all week.  Seriously!

What’s your favorite crockpot creation?  Had any major flops you learned along the way?

Kitchen Adventures: Easy Bake Tofu

No lightbulb required!

With Christmas approaching, I pulled out one of my great gifts from last year – a Silpat baking mat.  I wanted to see if this mat could amplify my love for tofu (and if starting cooking before I was starving would give me time to bake tofu for once) and I was not disappointed.  Here are a few steps to perfection:

Easy Baked Tofu

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz of firm tofu (I used TJ’s small block, but you could just double this if you were working with a bigger block of tofu)
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3/4 tbsp soy sauce (or so – I intended to use more but mine ran out!)
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
  • Dash of hot sauce
  • salt, pepper, and garlic powder as desired
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Cut the tofu into thin slabs, about 1/4 or so thick and as wide as you can get them and still have them stay intact when you mix them with the sauce.
  2. Mix together the remaining ingredients in a bowl with a fork.  Add the tofu and let sit for 5 minutes (or longer if possible).
  3. Place slabs of tofu on a baking sheet (I used mine lined with a Silpat mat) and bake for 10-14 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Enjoy!  I ate mine with spaghetti squash and poured the remaining marinade over the whole dish (bonuses of cooking with tofu: you can stop to eat the ingredients at any time AND you can reuse any leftover marinade safely.)

PS: I do actually cook more than just tofu – proof is here!  For Thanksgiving, I made a new Brussels sprout dish and lots of different egg concoctions.  What have you made or eaten lately?

Kitchen Adventures: Autumn in a nutshell

An acorn squash shell, to be exact.

My obsession with simply-cooked acorn squash has me buying them in multiples every time I go to the store.  Settling down to one for dinner (or as part of dinner) is the perfect way to end a blustery fall day.

All it takes is a small acorn squash, goat cheese, and brown sugar.  Start by cutting the squash in half, and scooping out the seeds and the pulp with a spoon.  Then put both halves of the squash cut-side down in a small microwave-safe casserole dish (mine is about 10″ across) with 1/2 inch or so of water in the bottom.  The goal is to give the squash enough water to steam, but not so much that it will take a long time to get hot.

Cook on high for 5 minutes, then poke the outside of the squash to see if it’s soft.  My small squash tonight took 15 minutes to cook fully, but it’s a good idea to check every 5 minutes and then just add more time to the clock if it needs more.  The inside should be bright orange-yellow and the outside should be tender when poked for it to be done to my standards.

Remove from the dish, top with goat cheese, salt, pepper, and a tablespoon of brown sugar.  And voila – you’ve got dinner!  This is also really good reheated the next day, but I’ve only made it that far once and have succumbed to eating the whole thing every other time.  If it’s all you eat for dinner, you might be hungry later – this dish is only worth 3 PointsPlus (aka super healthy).

What’s your favorite fall food?

Kitchen Adventures: Mini muffin, mega delicious

In my flurry of cooking last weekend, I made some awesome mini muffins to snack on all week.  I know that I’m never really going to get over my sugar cravings in this lifetime, so I figured it was time to find a way to indulge in a healthier manner.  This was the perfect balance.

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The recipe I used is here, with the following changes:

  • I didn’t have quick oats, so I chopped up whole oats in a food processor before starting
  • I forgot to buy vanilla yogurt so I used the plain Greek yogurt I had around, along with an extra tsp of vanilla and a tbsp of brown sugar to balance it out, overall
  • Mini chocolate chips are amazing and I ate many of them.  That’s all.
  • I think this could have stood to have another banana added.  It didn’t have a lot of banana influence, if you ask me.

This made 45 mini muffins, though it was supposed to make only 36 – maybe I let it sit too long as I used my one muffin pan or maybe I wasn’t filling them enough, but I don’t really mind either way.  More to share!  They are not super sweet, but they’re tasty, healthy (>1 pointplus each!) and easy to make – win!

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The numbers game

The life of a woman in 2012 often feels like a numbers game.  The number of calories in each granola bars, the number of times per week you go to the gym, number of ounces of water you “need” to drink each day, the number of hours you sleep each night (and what time that sleep starts, even!) and the ultimate number: your weight.

I’ve been working for years to see beyond the numbers.  When I was on the crew team in college, it became abundantly clear that the sleep number mattered most (though it was thoroughly unattainable), and the calories and number on the scale needed to cease to matter – only with this view did I turn into a strong woman with broad shoulders (I literally had to go out and buy new shirts) and strong calves.  But in the post-college world, I’m surrounded by numbers again, and seemingly ridiculous ways to reach them.  Why give up running if it’s your passion, just because it’s forcing your weight to plateau?  And can you really live a life without chocolate (who would want to??)?

Recently, Alice Randall penned a New York Times Op-Ed calling for black women to commit to setting a new standard for curves and getting under 200 pounds.  I don’t disagree with her health-based reasoning – I operate on the idea that you should avoid every kind of cancer you can (because they might sneak up on you anyway) and that theory can extend to other diseases.  But what I really love about her writing is the blow-back it’s gotten and the debate it started.

All the opinions are interesting, especially the way they question stereotypes about fat and thin people, but the message that I really love here is that instead of focusing on any one number, we’re bringing it back to health.  How much fat do you have around your heart, rather than how much weight is around your hips.  How often you dare to take the huge staircase at work instead of who wears an XS top and who’s in an XXL.  And who is moving, shaking, and living their life, and going to get more out of it as a result.

This is my goal: to feel strong, and hot, and like I can take on anything without starting to wheeze.  To look good in my clothes no matter what size they may be.  And not to punish myself with ill-fitting clothes because I’m striving to be a perfect size __, and still working every day to be a better ME.  And doing it in a way that makes me happy – Hunger Games gym classes, post-work swims, and everything in between, no matter what parts of me get overly muscular and what parts stop shrinking.

Because what really matters is the life that these numbers help you live – and at the end of the day, isn’t it better to enjoy life than to stop and measure?

What do you think about Randall’s article and these responses?

Kitchen Adventures: Lemon Blueberry Cobbler

Not only was it Pi Day this week (or “pee” day, as my European friends say it), it was my turn to make something tasty for Pie Day Friday at work.  Since we decided that “round things” qualified as pies whether or not they had a bottom crust, I tested this new recipe out on my colleagues.  Let’s just say we ate it all in one sitting and the inside of my lips are still blue.

This would be delicious with tea and homemade whipped cream – it’s sweet, but not cloyingly so, and just tastes really fresh, hot or cold.  I based my recipe off of this one, with a bunch of changes (especially in the spices, where they asked for cardamon which costs $18 at the store!!  I went for everyday spices instead, and never looked back).

Lemon Blueberry Cobbler

  • 2 cups fresh of frozen blueberries (one small bag of frozen did it for me)
  • zest from 1 medium lemon
  • juice from 1 medium lemon
  • 1/3 cup sugar (more, if you want!)
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch (double if you’re using frozen blueberries, they tend to give off a lot more liquid)
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (F).
  2. Mix together blueberries, lemon zest and juice, sugar, and cornstarch with a spoon until well mixed.  Transfer to a round pie plate or baking dish.
  3. Sift together (or mix lightly) the dry ingredients, then add cream and mix until a dough starts to form.  The original recipe says to make this into five discrete dumplings, but I spread mine around like one big crust (less fighting!) and it worked really well.
  4. Bake at 400 for about 30-35 minutes, until the cobbler topping is cooked through and slightly brown.  (Mine took 45 minutes because my oven hates me.)

 

By the time it had cooled overnight, all the liquid was absorbed and it was really easy to transfer (and delicious when we ate it hours later!)  Eat and enjoy!

How did you celebrate Pi Day?  What’s your favorite kind of pie or cobbler?

Kitchen Adventures: Tahini Orange Squash and Tofu

Tahini and I have a thing going.  Once I open a jar, all I can think about is how I can mix it into whatever dish I’m preparing.  Eggs, pasta, spinach – you name it, I’ve tried to incorporate tahini into it.  I even have more than one muffin recipe that calls for it (weekend project!).

Cooking in progress!

Last night, I took that obsession to a new level when I ripped this 101 Cookbooks recipe for Miso Sesame Winter Squash apart so I could incorporate my favorite ingredient of the moment and keep from spending more than an hour in the kitchen.  The result was delicious (but I bet the original would be too, if I had any desire to buy molasses and if Boston was able to get more than four kinds of squash in February).


Tahini Orange Squash and Tofu

  • 2 pounds butternut squash (about 1 – I bought two halves already peeled and sliced at the grocery store!) halved, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch thick pieces
  • 8 oz firm or extra firm tofu, pressed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 large onion, chopped into bite-sized pieces (optional)
Sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil – used it all in the sauce
  • 1 teaspoon tamari
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 heaping tablespoon tahini
  • juice from one orange (about 1/2 cup)
  • juice from half a lemon (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 5 tablespoons water

Tofu and sauce

  1. Cut the tofu into large slices (4 pieces or so total) and press between cutting boards lined with paper towels (I usually throw a heavy pot on top for some pressure).  Let sit while you continue prepping.
  2. Slice the squash into small pieces and set it to steam above a pot of water – mine took about 20-30 minutes (our timer is broken, sorry!) until you can easily cut it with a fork.
  3. While that’s cooking, whisk together the sauce in a medium sized bowl.  Cut up the tofu into smaller chunks and add to the bowl as well, letting marinade for at least 10 minutes.
  4. Saute an onion in a large frying pan/wok with a little sesame oil.  (This was not part of the original recipe, but it worked really well to soak up the sauce, so I’m sticking with it!)
  5. When the onion is a bit translucent, add the tofu to the pan and cook on high, letting the sauce start to boil down. *If you want to put some quick rice, couscous, or quinoa on to cook, this is the time to do it!*
  6. After about 5 minutes, add the squash to the pan as well and cook together for another 5 minutes or so.  The tofu won’t have a crust or anything like that, but when it’s warm and you can’t stand the amazing smells anymore, it’s ready to eat!
Phew!  By the time I took this recipe and turned the entire thing on its head (sauce concept, type of squash, cooking technique), it was an hour later, but it was still super delicious and totally worth it.  The orange really came through in a surprising and tasty way.  This made enough that I had two servings last night, put two away for lunch, and packed another one away in the freezer for some later date.
What’s your latest cooking adventure, real or hoped for?

Dinner is served!