Friday, May 30, 2008

Crustless Spinach and Cheese Quiche

"What's for lunch?" I pretty much hate that question. I don't mind creating dinner for a crowd, whipping up waffles for breakfast, or excessive bouts of baking, but for some reason I do not enjoy cooking up lunch. I'm completely content with a quick pb&j so I can get on with my day. But if the family is around, they like me to cook... or at the very least build some sort of sandwich for them. I usually comply. Begrudgingly.

I don't often feel inspired to make new lunch creations. But as I was browsing Cookie Madness the other day, I noticed that Anna had taken a detour from cookies and posted about a quiche. An unusual thing happened- I felt inspired to make lunch! Specifically, I was inspired to make her Crustless Spinach and Cheese Quiche.

I followed Anna's recipe with some minor changes: I added more spinach, I used reduced-fat feta, and I added a little more Parmesan.

This quiche baked up wonderfully. With four cheeses swimming within, we didn't miss the crust.

Letting the quiche sit for a few minutes ensured that the pie would firm up enough to make some nice, clean slices. I served it up with a big, green salad.

And since I went to all that trouble to make a nice lunch, and since it was a rainy day and we were all snuggled inside, wine seemed like an obvious choice to accompany our meal. The quiche was excellent, the salad was refreshing, and the wine made me sleepy.

So you see, when inspired... I can accommodate. The hubby is happy and pleasantly full. And all is well at lunchtime. Thank you to Anna for the recipe, which can be found HERE.

I know that the dreaded question will be looming overhead again tomorrow, but I'll be ready... with peanut butter in one hand and jelly in the other.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Baseball Cookies !

Sadly, I was not able to participate in the Daring Baker's challenge this month. So I thought I'd post on a different kind of baker's challenge instead. To mark the end of our Little League season this year, I created a baseball cookie for each of the kids on my son's team.

I used this great recipe that I found for cut out cookies: No Fail Sugar Cookies, which originally came from I made giant five-inch diameter cookies- using a tupperware bowl as my cut-out tool. I use KitchenGift's tip for rolling out dough without the mess: Rather than wait for your cookie dough to chill, take the freshly made dough and place a glob between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll it out to the desired thickness, then place the dough and paper on a cookie sheet and pop it into the refrigerator. Continue rolling out your dough between sheets of paper until you have used it all. By the time you are finished, the first batch will be completely chilled and ready to cut. Reroll leftover dough and repeat the process. Add added bonus is that you are not adding any additional flour to your cookies. This process works WONDERFULLY!

Martha Stewart's Royal Icing works really well for decorator cookies. I made the whole batch and then divided it up into 3 tupperware bowls. Place the lids on each until ready to use or they'll begin to harden. With icing tub #1, I piped all of the edges on first and let those dry a little bit. Then I thinned out icing tub #1 slightly and used it to flood the centers. If you give it enough time, it hardens nicely.

To make nice, even arcs for the stitching on the baseball, I used the edge of the same tupperware that I used to cut out the cookies to make impressions.

With icing tub #2, I mixed in 1 bottle of red food coloring to get a nice dark red color. If you use too little, you'll end up with magenta stitches. Boys don't like magenta. Then I piped red icing into the impressions, and also added the stitches.

Icing tub #3 was mixed with blue food coloring. Each cookie was personalized with a name and a number.

I made nice, thick 5-inch cookies... and I ended up with about 18. It's nice to have a couple extra ones because it's inevitable that one of them will get messed up at some point during the decorating process.

If you've got 24 hours to let these dry completely, you'll end up with icing that hardens nicely. I was in a bit of a rush, so I used a table fan to dry them today (and that worked just fine too.) Each cookie was slipped into its own quart-sized baggie and they were good to go.

The final game was a tie (happy kids all around!) The boys loved their cookies. And they especially enjoyed the fact that they were personalized. The moms and dads who snuck bites from their kid's cookies noted how delicious they were. And many of the parents asked me where I purchased the cookies :)

The cookie recipe can be found HERE.
The royal icing recipe can be found HERE.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Buckwheat- Banana Pancakes

I was lucky enough to grow up with a Mom who often did special things for us kids on Sunday mornings. Pancakes, waffles and french toast come to mind. We also occasionally piled into our old green station wagon and made the trip to Winchell's Donuts, fighting over which multi-colored creations would fill the box of 12. I try to do the fun Sunday breakfast thing once in a while for my family, with the exception of the donut trips (I just can't seem to justify that one!)

Yesterday's Sunday morning treat was Buckwheat- Banana Pancakes, adapted from a Bittman recipe. I made a few with raspberries and blueberries too.
This is a very different pancake recipe. If you're looking for the typical dense pancake that you might find at your favorite breakfast place, this probably isn't it. Egg whites are whipped up and folded into the batter, which makes for a light and airy sort of pancake. I had never used buckwheat flour for pancakes before but I was pleased with the results. My kiddo thought they were awesome. My husband thought they needed to be a little sweeter (but this comes from a man who puts sugar atop his sugar cereals.) You can certainly adjust the amount of sugar that you add to the batter, but with all that syrup... it seems overkill.

So what do you think... do you feel like some pancakes?

This recipe can be found HERE.

*fyi... they carry buckwheat flour at Henry's/Wild Oats/Whole Foods (or any sort of well-stocked gourmet or health food market.)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Emergency Blender Cupcakes

You only turn seven once. That's why you should get a first class ticket to Disneyworld for your seventh birthday, right? One lucky little boy who lives in my house received that gift.

Now before you call me "extravagant" and "outrageous," it's not really all it seems. We used air miles for the trip, and the way the crazy airlines are right now- a coach ticket demanded the same amount of miles as first class. And the real reason for the trip was that hubby had a conference in Orlando- so technically the hotel was a business write off. But the kiddo thinks it was all a special celebration for his birthday. And we did manage to hit all of the Disney parks. So we'll go ahead and take the credit for it. Since the birthday was spent in Florida, there was no special cake on the big day... just a candle popped inside a cannoli at the Italian joint where we went for dinner.

Cupcakes for the first grade class were the first order of business when we returned from the world of Disney.

This is my go-to recipe for homemade cupcakes: Emergency Blender Cupcakes. Why the name? Abby Dodge of Fine Cooking created these for emergencies... as in, "Mom! I forgot to tell you that we're supposed to bring cupcakes to school. Today!" They really do blend up nicely... you just toss the whole mess of ingredients into the blender and whir away. A bonus... you only mess up the blender- no bowls or anything else.

They rise up nicely too. An additional bonus: you likely will have all of the ingredients that this recipe calls for.

For an EASY and convenient recipe, these cupcakes are moist and quite delicious. I plopped oreos on top since the kiddo is a chocolate fanatic.

Here's what I did with them last birthday. I plopped baked cupcakes into ice cream cones and topped with frosting, candy quick, sprinkles and a red gummy bear. These were a big hit with the kindergarten crowd.

Disney trip and big birthday over... we move on to Memorial Day weekend. Barbecues and outdoor activities are planned, despite the unseasonal rainy weather we're having. I've posted a collection of my favorite Memorial Day salads on my site for the weekend. I hope you have a good one!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Lemon- Almond Cookie Brittle

This recipe has been tucked into my humongous cookie binder of magazine clippings for quite some time. It's one of those recipes that I've thought about often, and it's one where I felt I needed just the right opportunity to try it out. When the treat coordinator for my son's school emailed the other day to see if I'd bring goodies for a teacher meeting, I thought immediately of this recipe: Lemon- Almond Cookie Brittle. It seemed like it would be a good after- school treat.

The batter is spread into a large jelly-roll pan, topped with toasted almonds and baked until golden.

After letting it cool for a bit, the whole cookie just slips right out of the pan.

The cookie breaks apart easily. You can make the chunks as large or small as you'd like.

After breaking it into chunks, they get a quick dusting of powdered sugar.

Its flavor is reminiscent of almond pastry with a tinge of lemon. Perhaps a little bit like shortbread too. We snuck a few chunks for ourselves and brought the rest to the teachers. They enjoyed their "treat" immensely. We did too :)

This recipe can be found HERE.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Oven- Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic, Olive Oil and Lemon Juice

Side dishes don't get the recognition they deserve on most blogs. They're often shoved aside to make room for the main dish star or the baking masterpiece. Well, here's a side dish not to be looked over: Oven- Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic, Olive Oil and Lemon Juice.

Even if you're not typically a fan of this creamy white, strange-textured vegetable... this dish may sway you to swing the other way. Sliced garlic and lemon juice are roasted right into the cauliflower. Roasting imparts wonderful flavors unto this veggie. Wonderful flavors that you should not miss.

Add a sprinkle of Parmesan and chopped chives to the steaming hot, roasted cauliflower and serve it up right away. We enjoyed this with Sauteed Chicken with Olives, Capers and Roasted Lemons. And I do mean that we really enjoyed this. Major restaurant quality side dish, for sure.

This recipe can be found HERE.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sauteed Chicken with Olives, Capers and Roasted Lemons

A dinner to remember: Sauteed Chicken with Olives, Capers and Roasted Lemons- modified a little bit from Food and Wine.

My new favorite roasting venture: Lemons. Wonderful lemons.

Ever try roasting these golden gifts from nature?

With a drizzle of olive oil and a splash of kosher salt, they caramelize and transform into flavor-powerhouses that are unlike any raw lemon you've ever tasted.

While those luscious lemons are roasting, flour-dusted chicken is sauteed until lightly browned.

Olives, capers and chicken broth are added, and the whole bunch simmers until the broth is reduced.

Add the roasted lemons and a couple pats of butter and the magic begins to happen. The lemons impart their roasted flavor onto the chicken and into the sauce. Heaven.

The chicken is plated with the sauce drizzled over the top. It would certainly be good served over rice or alongside roasted potatoes. I chose to serve it up on its own with the sauce spooned over. Each bite of chicken was incredibly tender, and the sauce really made it over-the-top fantastic. Hubby kept saying things like, "How did you make this?" and "It's moist, not dry." (like I make dry chicken all the time or something!!) "It's so flavorful!" (He's so descriptive, isn't he?)

Long story made short: We loved it. A lot. And the roasted lemons really made the dish.

This recipe can be found HERE.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Peanut Butter- Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

If you're anything like me, you utilize your treasured ripe bananas for baked goods. Since we thrive on new recipes around here, I'm always trying to shake things up a little bit when it comes to banana bread. Add blueberries... make it whole grain... chocolate swirl... pumpkin. I'll try anything! This time: Peanut Butter- Chocolate Chip Banana Bread.

Too much, you say? Nah. The peanut butter, acts as the "fat" in the bread, taking a back seat to the banana flavor. It still comes through a bit, but it isn't the main event.

The chocolate is a bonus, of course. You could certainly sub any sort of chip in there... peanut butter chips, white chocolate chips... or no chips at all.

Helpful tip: Don't ever throw out those ripe bananas. Mash them up instead and freeze them in 1 cup increments in freezer zips. They freeze up just fine, and then you've got them for banana bread when the mood strikes.

Speaking of freezing, these loaves freeze well. Since the recipe makes two, freeze one and eat the other. You can also make these up as muffins instead of loaves.

This recipe can be found HERE.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Spring Lettuce Salad with Roasted Asparagus

Thin is in.... for asparagus, that is. Though I read somewhere recently that its thicker counterpart is more desirous of chefs and actually has more flavor to impart. The objection is that much of the good part is lost when people snap off the fuller stems and throw them out. Sure, you have to use a vegetable peeler to pare down the rough stems a little bit, but you'll find good stuff underneath, and an attractive product too.

Spring Lettuce Salad with Roasted Asparagus was lifted from Food and Wine. It's a terribly simple salad with big taste.

Roasted vegetables add so much flavor to every dish, and asparagus are no exception. Topped with olive oil, lemon zest and a sprinkle of kosher salt, these asparagus roast until just tender and the tips turn brown.

Spring lettuces are tossed with a lemony-dijon dressing and then asparagus and shaved Parmesan are added to finish the salad.

I might add that this is a good salad to eat if you're trying to jump on the thin-is-in bandwagon for the summer bathing suit season. Lighten the dressing with less olive oil and you've got a pretty healthy salad too.

Verdict in our family: YUM, YUM, and YUM. We will definitely be making this again.

This salad recipe can be found HERE.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Deep Chocolate Gateau: A Rich Chocolate Cake For Two

According to, if paid... a stay-at-home Mom in San Diego, CA would earn between $102,000 and $154,000 a year for her work as a mother. Is my husband reading this? The website lists all of the jobs that a mother does- you input your zip code, and it calculates accordingly. If you're looking for a something fun for to do for Mother's Day, you can actually print out or email a "paycheck" to give your mother (or spouse) for Mother's Day. Here's a little something for all the Mom's- working outside of the home or not- for your special day this weekend...

And I've made a chocolate cake today in honor of my wonderful Mom and mothers everywhere. This chocolate cake feeds just TWO... for you and your mom. And it's especially good for those of you who are whining about needing to lose weight, because after the initial indulgence, you won't have any leftovers.

This recipe for Deep Chocolate Gateau comes from an oooooold Bon Appetit magazine. We're talking 80's people! So old that the recipe isn't even on their site anymore. It should be though... it's that good. This is a reason why you should be happy that you have those old magazines just sitting around taking up space. They're occasionally worthwhile.

If you have a loaf pan, you can make this recipe. See how much batter is in there? Yep, that's right.... just a tiny bit. In fact, the baked cake will only be about a half-inch high! Once baked, you're going to cut it in half and make it a little two-layer, square cake.

A honey-almond flavored ganache is used between layers, and it spills over the top and sides as well.

Slap some almonds on the sides and the top and you've got yourself a pretty, gourmet-looking, EASY dessert.

Add strawberries for color.... and because they taste really great with the chocolate.

You're supposed to chill it, but I tore into this cake when it was still gooey and dripping with ganache. After chilling, it firms up and becomes more fudge-like. Because there's no flour in the recipe, this cake is not very cakey. I loved it. And my 6 year old partner in dessert-crime reported that it was a *major* restaurant-quality treat. This is the highest honor given to a recipe in our household!

Happy Mother's Day MOM! And to all of the other Mom's out there... I hope you have a wonderful Mother's Day weekend too. My plan is to relax, take a break from blogging & my obsession with Google Reader and spend some much-needed time with my family.

This recipe can be found HERE.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Chocolate- Toffee S'More Cookies

Any campers in the audience?

Who doesn't love a good s'more?... It's a rhetorical question, really because what kind of person wouldn't enjoy this sticky, messy, gooey creation of the camping world? Slashfood published an article about the history of S'Mores- where they noted that although the first recipe for S'Mores was published in the Girl Scout Handbook of 1927, the official origin isn't really known. That being said, it has remained a favorite dessert for camping trips and beach bonfires for years now. And there are all kinds of take-offs on this simple graham cracker, melty marshmallow and chocolate bar dessert. I was excited to find a recipe for Chocolate - Toffee S'More Cookies.

This recipe was published in Gourmet magazine in the section where readers ask for the recipes from places they've been. Seattle-Tacoma airport has a little place called Dish D'Lish, and they sell these giant cookies to travelers who are looking for a treat.

Dough for these cookies is rolled into a thick log and refrigerated until very firm. It's cut into ten thick slices and baked up with a gooey marshmallowy topping. When I baked my test cookies, the marshmallow topping browned up waaaaaayyyy too much, so I modified D'Lish's recipe to include baking the cookie until it spreads a bit, and then adding the marshmallow topping. That worked much better.

I would have liked them to be a little prettier. They're kind of an ugly cookie, dontcha think? But don't let that uglyness fool you. These cookies are really great. Toffee bits are melted within the giant chocolate goodness, and then you get gooey marshmallow in every bite too. The recipe makes 10 giant cookies, exactly.

It was perfect for a little barbecue that I was going to at my college roommate's house. Her teenagers gobbled them all up in no time and praised me like I was some sort of goddess that was sent to their home. These were super-polite *dream* teenagers who did the dishes without being asked, and asked me- with genuine interest- about my life and my recipe site. I suppose that's another post topic, but it was delightful being around such nice kids. I cross my fingers and hope that my little one will grow up to be so sweet at that age.

So how about it? Are you in the mood for chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows? If so, this is an amazing cookie to try. And go for the giant ones... don't try to make this your regular, everyday normal-sized cookie. This cookie deserves more.

The S'Mores cookie recipe can be found HERE.

I did a little investigating, and here are s'more great S'More finds...
S'More's Cupcakes from Cupcake Bakeshop.
S'More Cookie Bars from Baking Bites.
S'Mores from The Domestic Goddess.
S'Mores Tart from Big City, Little Kitchen.
Indoor S'Mores from Taste and Tell.