Friday, December 19, 2014

Apple-Bacon-Cheddar Quiche

Okay, drop whatever you are doing and go make this quiche for dinner!  It is the perfect sweet-savory combination with bacon, sauteed apples, and Cheddar cheese. I love adding Cheddar to my apple pie, and this is sort of like an ultra-creamy version of that...but you can eat it for dinner.  I love the olive oil crust -- it's way easier than a butter crust, and rolls out very quickly with no need to chill it in the fridge.  Overall, I was impressed with how easy this recipe, it's not a 30-minute-meal, but it doesn't feel overly difficult for a weeknight and all the components come together quickly. You could also substitute store-bought pie crust to speed things up even more.  Definitely stash leftovers in the fridge--the quiche is fantastic cold for lunch the next day.

Apple-Bacon-Cheddar Quiche
Serves 6-8

Olive oil dough:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large eggs

For the filling:
4 ounces bacon, cut into small squares
2 apples, peeled, cored, and diced
6 ounces Cheddar cheese, grated
1 T flour
2 cups half-and-half
3 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
2 pinches ground white pepper

1. Make the crust.  Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center, and add the oil and eggs. Use a fork ot beat the oil and eggs together, and then gradually draw in the dry ingredients a bit at a time until the dough starts to hold together.
2. Turn out on to a lightly floured work surgace, and fold the dough over itself 4 or 5 minutes until smooth.  
3. Roll out the dough into a circle about 12 inches across.  Transfer to a 10-inch springform pan or tart pan and fit into the pan.  Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge.
4. Set a rack at the lowest level in the oven, and preheat to 400 degrees.
5. Place a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add the bacon, and cook, stirring often, until it is nicely browned but not super-crisp.  Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside.
6. Drain off some of the bacon fat, and then add the apples to the skillet.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until tender.  Remove from the heat and set aside.
7. In a small bowl, toss together the cheese and flour.
8. Remove the tart crust from the fridge.  Scatter the bacon over the bottom of the crust, and then top with the apples.  Scatter the cheese over the apples.
9. Whisk together the half-and-half, eggs, salt, and pepper. Pour over the cheese.
10. Place the tart in the oven and immediately lower the heat to 375 degrees.  Bake until the filling is set and nicely browned, 30-40 minutes.  Cool for a few minutes in the pan before serving.

I was sent a complimentary copy of Nick Malgieri's Pastry to review.  All recipe-testing and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Thai Steamed Fish

I am always looking for fun new ways to prepare fish, and this recipe fit the bill.  It's quick to make -- just chopping a few veggies, making a quick sauce, and popping everything in the oven -- and extra quick to clean up since the fish is baked in a foil packet.  I also like that the veggies cook right alongside the fish so everything is ready to go.  I found the sauce to be pretty mild -- that's not a bad thing, but next time I would probably add more lime juice and maybe a drizzle of coconut milk.  I served the fish over coconut rice (recipe linked below), but it would also be good on its own or with rice noodles.

Thai Steamed Fish (adapted from Budget Bytes)
Serves 4 as a light meal

1 medium orange bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 medium zucchini, cut into thin strips
1 pound perch fillets (or substitute another mild white fish)
Salt and pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp fish sauce
1 T rice vinegar
1 T honey
Pinch of Aleppo chile flakes or red pepper flakes
Juice of 1 lime
Coconut rice, to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Tear off two large piece of foil and place side-by-side on a large baking sheet.
2. Divide the peppers and zucchini between the two pieces of foil, and arrange the perch on top of the vegetables.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, vinegar, honey, chile flakes, and lime juice.  Drizzle half the sauce over each packet.
4. Fold over the foil so the fish is completely covered, and then pinch together the edges to seal. Make sure to leave a little air inside the packets for steam.
5. Bake 20 minutes. 
6. To serve, spoon coconut rice into four bowls.  Divide the packets among the bowls, and pour any juices/sauce remaining in the packets on top.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bon Appetit's Ultimate All-Butter Christmas Cut-Outs

Now, before I give you this recipe I will say that my mom's sugar cookie recipe is my all-time favorite.  But, we found ourselves with a hankering for cookies and didn't have any Crisco, which my mom's recipe requires.  I found this all-butter recipe from Bon Appetit that is almost as good!  I would definitely recommend it if you don't prefer to use Crisco or just don't have any on hand.  The cookies are thin, crispy, sweet, and will definitely put you in a Christmas mood.  The dough is a little sticky when rolling out, but the cookies held their shape well in the oven.  We went with super bright frosting, but you can decorate these any way you like. Cue the Christmas carols, turn on the lights, and enjoy some cookies!

Bon Appetit's Ultimate All-Butter Christmas Cut-Outs (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Makes 2-3 dozen

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1-1/4 cups (2-1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla

1. Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.
2. Using an electric mixer on high sweet, beat the butter and sugar until well combined, about 3 minutes.  Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla, and beat until just combined.  Add the dry ingredients, and stir a few times with a rubber spatula. Then turn on the mixer on low speed and mix until just combined.
3. Divide the dough into two disks, and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill at least 2 hours.
4. When ready to bake, place racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment.
5. Let one disk of dough sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes, and then roll out on lightly floured parchment until 1/4-inch thick (or even thinner -- I love thin cookies!).  Cut out shapes and transfer to cookie sheets.
6. Bake 10-15 minutes, depending on size -- check them frequently as they can go from underbaked to burnt in just a minute or two.  Repeat with remaining dough.
7. Cool on wire racks and frost with your favorite icing (I combine powdered sugar, butter, milk, and vanilla, to make mine).

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate pudding is total comfort food to me.  Last month, Tim was sick and so I made this pudding to help him feel better.  It's very easy to make, and I like it because the eggs are cooked, making it a good choice for kids or anyone feeling under the weather who doesn't want to take the risk on food poisoning.  It's chocolate-y without being over-the-top decadent...basically the perfect bowl of warm pudding to warm you up and heal whatever ails you.  Leftovers are also really delicious chilled.

Chocolate Pudding (adapted from Recipe Girl, original recipe here)
Serves 6

2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup white sugar
3 T cornstarch
3 cups milk (I used 2%)
5 ounces chocolate chips
Generous pinch of salt
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch in a large bowl.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, chocolate chips, and salt.  Whisk over medium heat until the chocolate melts and the mixture is hot but not boiling.  Gradually whisk into the egg mixture, stirring constantly, until all the chocolate mixture is incorporated.  Whisk briskly for a minute or so, and then return to the saucepan.
3. Continue to whisk over medium heat until the pudding is thickened, 12-15 minutes.  (The pudding will be smoother if you whisk constantly, but if you're a multitasker like me, you can get away with whisking vigorously every minute or so...if things get too lumpy, use a rubber spatula to strain the pudding through a mesh strainer.)
4. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla.  Serve warm, or pour into a storage container, top with plastic wrap (pushing the plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding), and chill until ready to serve.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Secret Recipe Club: Winter Abundance Bowl

My partner for this month's Secret Recipe Club was Leigh of Chit Chat Chomp.  At first, I thought I'd want to make one of Leigh's fabulous-looking tarts.  Take a look at these salted spiced pumpkin tarts, the glorious sticky hazelnut toffee tart, or a deep dark chocolate tart.  Yum!  As it turned out, we ended up a little overloaded on sweets and rich foods and instead found refuge in Leigh's winter abundance bowl.  This is the perfect recipe to have in your back pocket during the holiday season.  It makes a delicious light dinner full of bright vegetables that really hits the spot after a weekend of over-indulgence.  But, at the same time it's warm (instead of cold like a salad) and features a kick-ass creamy dressing, so it matches my need for comfort on cold winter nights.

I made a few substitutions based on what I had on hand (as well as replacing the broccoli with green beans because my fiance is violently opposed to broccoli!), but the main components of the dish remain the same.  A warm, whole grain-lentil mixture forms the base of the dish.  I subbed in quick-cooking farro, red quinoa, and red lentils for Leigh's brown rice and green lentils to speed things up a bit, and the switch means this dish can be ready in about 20 minutes.  Next come bright veggies: tender orange sweet potatoes, bright green beans, and crunchy red cabbage with a hit of lime.  If you're making the dish after lots of holiday craziness, do yourself a favor and buy everything pre-cut.  It makes the dish even quicker and can be fairly cost effective if you shop at a store like Trader Joe's.  Finally, everything gets drizzled with a super-tasty ginger-cashew dressing.  It's a little sweet, a little lemon-y, and a lot delicious, and really brings all the elements of the dish together.  If you have leftovers, this dish is also fantastic room temperature for lunch the next day.

Winter Abundance Bowl (adapted from My New Roots, via Chit Chat Chomp)
Serves 3-4

1/3 cup Trader Joe's 10-minute quick-cooking farro
1/3 cup red quinoa
1/3 cup red lentils
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
12 ounces thin green beans, trimmed
2 cups shredded red cabbage
Olive oil
Juice of 1 lime

For the dressing:
1 clove garlic
A large knob of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup cashews
1/3 cup water
Juice of 1 lemon
1 T olive oil
1 T apple cider vinegar
1/2 T maple syrup
Salt and pepper

1. Place the farro, quinoa, and lentils in a fine-mesh strainer. Rinse well. Place in a small pot and cover with 2 cups water. Add a generous pinch of salt. Cover, bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer 12 minutes. Drain well.
2. Meanwhile, set up a steamer basket over simmering water.  Add the sweet potatoes, cover, and steam 4 minutes. Add the green beans on top of the sweet potatoes, cover, and steam an additional 8 minutes. Test a bean and steam another minute or two if it is not tender to your liking. Drain. Season with salt.
3. Meanwhile, place the cabbage in a small mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, add a generous pinch of salt, and squeeze over the juice of 1 lime. Very briefly mix together with your hands, gently massaging the cabbage to help it get just a touch tender.
4. Meanwhile, make the dressing. Place the garlic and ginger in a food processor or mini chopper. Process until very finely minced. Add the cashews and process until the mixture resembles sand. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and process until smooth, scraping down the sides a few times.
5. To serve, spoon some of the farro-quinoa-lentil mixture into each bowl. Drizzle with a spoonful of the sauce. Top with the cabbage, green beans, and sweet potatoes, and drizzle with more sauce.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

I have made a couple of enchilada recipes from Budget Bytes -- I love her homemade enchilada sauce, and the fillings are always hearty and satisfying.  This version might be my favorite one yet.  Shredded chicken is combined with black beans and corn, and then the filling mixed into super creamy tomato-cream cheese sauce.  Despite the longish list of ingredients, the filling comes together fairly quickly and then gets rolled inside tortillas.  The enchialadas are smothered in a homemade enchilada sauce -- it's way better than storebought sauce, and is easy to make with pantry ingredients.  Finally, I couldn't resist sprinkling a little cheese on top.  The result is gooey, cheesy, slightly spicy enchiladas that are total comfort food.  If you have leftovers, they keep well for lunch the next day.

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas (adapted from Budget Bytes, original recipe here)
Serves 4

For the sauce:
2 T vegetable oil
2 T flour
2 T chili powder
2 cups chicken broth or water
3 ounces tomato paste
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 garlic powder
1/4 tsp Aleppo pepper or cayenne pepper (to taste)
1/2 tsp salt

For the enchiladas:
15 ounce can diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cumin
4 ounce cream cheese, cut into 4 pieces
2 cups chopped or shredded cooked chicken
15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
Eight to ten 8-inch tortillas (I used tortillas that were made with a combination of corn and wheat flours)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1. Make the sauce.  Combine the oil, flour, and chili powder in a medium pot.  Turn the heat to medium, and whisk the ingredients to combine.  When the mixture begins to bubble, let it bubble, whisking constantly, for one minute -- the mixture will be very thick.
2.  Whisk in the chicken broth a bit at a time, and then add the tomato paste, cumin, garlic powder, Aleppo or cayenne pepper, and salt.  Whisk until smooth, and bring to a simmer.  Once the mixture thickens slightly, taste and adjust for seasoning.  Set aside.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
4. Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Add the diced tomatoes, garlic powder, and cumin and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the tomato liquid has thickened slightly.  Add the cream cheese and stir until it is melted and the mixture is combined.
5. Stir in the chicken, black beans, and corn.  Cook for a few minutes, until everything is heated through.
6. Spoon a thin layer of the sauce into the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish.
7. Scoop a heaping 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture into a tortilla and roll it up.  Place in the baking dish.  Continue rolling the enchiladas until you have used up all your filling (you should get 8 to 10 enchiladas).
8. Pour the rest of the enchilada sauce over the rolled enchiladas and spread it out evenly with a rubber spatula.  Sprinkle with the cheese.
9. Bake for 25-40 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the enchiladas are as crispy as you like them.  (I don't like mine very crispy, so I pulled them out on the sooner end, but do as you like!)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Shrimp and Grits

I'm a huge fan of shrimp and grits, and this dish hits the spot with some added veggies.  The recipe comes together surprisingly quickly.  The trick is to cook the grits in a pot with non-stick coating so that you don't have to stir constantly and can prepare the shrimp and vegetables while the grits bubble on the stove.  I've found that a non-stick pot plus a vigorous whisk every few minutes will result in smooth, delicious grits without having to stand over the pot the entire time.  Just make sure to use a silicone-coated whisk so that you don't destroy the coating on the pot and get non-stick flakes in your food (ew).  These grits are enriched with Monterey Jack cheese and scallions, which makes them even more tasty than usual.  On top are shrimp sauteed with peppers, onions, fennel, and tomatoes, which makes for a great combination.  I went with small shrimp to save money, but of course you can use larger shrimp if you're serving this for company or in the mood for a splurge.

Shrimp and Grits (adapted from Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown)
Serves 4

For the grits
1 cup grits or polenta
4-1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
3 scallions, white and light green parts chopped

For the shrimp
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 T vegetable oil
1/2 large onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
1 bell pepper, trimmed and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 chili, minced (choose something hotter or milder depending on your taste, or add a pinch of chili flakes)
2 plum tomatoes, chopped

1. Bring the stock to a boil in a medium non-stick pot, and whisk in the cornmeal while stirring constantly.  Turn the heat down to low, and continue to whisk vigorously every couple of minutes or so while you work on the rest of the dish and let the grits bubble away.  The grits should take about 15-30 minutes total...they're flexible.
2. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels. 
3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil.  When it's hot, add the shrimp in a single layer.  Cook just a minute or so on each side, trying to get a little color on the shrimp.  Then transfer to a plate and set aside.
4. Add the onion, fennel, and bell pepper to the skillet and turn the heat down to medium.  Add a bit more oil if needed to keep the vegetables from sticking.  Saute until the vegetables are just starting to soften 3-4 minutes.  Add the garlic and chili, and cook for another couple of minutes.  Add the tomatoes, and cook for another 3-4 minutes until the tomatoes release their juices and the vegetable mixture is looking saucy.  Season generously with salt.  
5. When the grits are looking just about ready, whisk vigorously and then whisk in the cheese and scallions along with a bit of salt.  Let cook another couple of minutes to melt the cheese and soften the scallions.
6. Stir the shrimp into the vegetable sauce, and cook until they are hot and cooked through.
7. Serve the shrimp and vegetables over the grits.