Pancetta & Leek Quiche

I know, I can’t stop posting about quiches and tarts and things that are technically veggie oriented but are really just carbo-loaded vehicles for cheese consumption.  Guilty as charged.

On the other hand, when the Husband told me this was “the best ever,” obvi it’s going on the blog.  Sorry I’m not sorry.

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how does this end up looking like a pizza?!

Pancetta & Leek Quiche

  • 1 premade pie dough, brought to room temperature
  • about 4 oz diced pancetta
  • 4 large leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
  • salt, pepper, crushed red pepper
  • about 2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup or so heavy cream (or milk, or half and half, or whatever you have)
  • about 8 oz shredded Gruyere
  • optional: handful cherry tomatoes, halved, chopped green onions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Unroll the pie dough and press into a pie plate.  Prick lightly with a fork and bake for about 5-6 minutes, just to get the color nice and light golden.  Bonus if you can use a  crust protector.
  2. In a saute pan, over medium high heat, cook the pancetta until it starts to crisp up.  Reduce heat to medium low, and in that nice bacon-y fat, add your sliced leeks.  (Note: it will look like a LOT of leeks.  Don’t worry – they’ll all fit!).  Add salt, pepper, crushed reds, and parsley and let the leeks cook down a good while – about 10-12 minutes, until they’re nice and translucent.
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whip together eggs, cream, and a pinch of salt/pepper/crushed reds.
  4. In your (lightly) baked pie dough, spread the bacon and leek mixture evenly.  Top with a generous amount of cheese, and then carefully pour the egg/cream mix over the top.  Top, as desired, with cherry tomatoes for an extra pop of color.
  5. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until the crust is nice and golden, and the eggs are cooked all the way through.  Top with additional parsley and serve with a side salad.
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less pizza, more leek.

The Verdict:

I think we already established the Husband’s verdict.  As for me, any day I get to use the crust protector, that’s a good day.

Warm Quinoa Chickpea Salad

It’s official: I’m starting to feel like a human being again.  After nearly five days of not changing out of my pajamas, I finally put on real people clothes this morning and even dragged myself to work. I do feel sort of sorry for my colleagues, who are giving me a wide berth.  I promise…I’m packing Purell.

Feeling human again started with making this salad.  There are so many strong flavors in here you can’t help but wake up the taste buds.  And let’s face it: when you start tasting again – you start feeling and thinking again.  Or at least I do.  Recipe inspired by Food and Wine, but really, you can do this with anything you have in your fridge.

IMG_3179Warm Quinoa Chickpea Salad

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 bunches bok choy, chopped
  • 10-12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed
  • olive oil
  • 2 oz feta cheese (goat also works)
  • 3-4 scallions, chopped
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • a large handful parsley, chopped
  • simple vinaigrette – I like a dash of olive oil, balsamic, garlic powder, cumin, lemon juice, salt, pepper, crushed reds and just a splash of apple cider vinegar, whisked together
  1. Rinse quinoa well; cook according to directions.
  2. While quinoa cooks, prepare and chop all of your vegetables.  Whisk together your vinaigrette and set aside.
  3. With about 3-5 minutes to go on your quinoa, heat olive oil over medium heat in a saute pan.  Add minced garlic and chickpeas, cook about 2 minutes, or until chickpeas are warm.  Add bok choy and cook for a minute, then turn off the heat.
  4. In a large bowl, add all of your ingredients together – quinoa, veggies, chickpea, etc.  Squeeze the lemon juice over the salad. Add the vinaigrette last and serve warm.

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The Verdict:

This is the perfect meal.  It’s healthy, delicious, and oh-so-easy to make.  And the Husband, no quinoa lover, had TWO bowls.

Quick and Easy: Mexican-style Quinoa With Corn and Black Beans

A few days ago, my (new) sister-in-law sent me the below recipe, from Damn Delicious.  On my continued quest to empty our refrigerator and still cook healthfully before we leave this weekend, I decided last night was the perfect time to give it a try.  Almost everything in here comes straight from the pantry – and the best part: it all cooks in one pan!  (I think the Husband, on clean-up duty, appreciated that.)

Mexican-style Quinoa With Corn and Black Beans

  • olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 jalapeno (I didn’t have on hand, so I used a can of green chilis and of course, some crushed red pepper)
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup chicken or veggie broth
  • 1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 14.5 oz can corn, drained and rinse
  • a big handful of chili powder
  • a good dash of cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • juice from 1 lime
  • toppings: cilantro, avocado, cilantro, grated cheese
  1.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the minced garlic, the crushed red peppers (if you’re using them).  Also add your other “heat” factors – jalapenos, chilis, poblano pepper.
  2. Stir in quinoa, broth, beans, tomatoes, corn, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, cover and simmer about 20-25 minutes, or until the quinoa is cooked through.
  3. Remove from heat, stir in lime juice, and serve with your choice of toppings.
nonstop cilantro in our house
nonstop cilantro in our house…

The Verdict:

This was good, if not knock-your-socks-off.  Fresh ingredients – fresh jalapenos, fresh corn, fresh tomatoes – would really bring this up a notch.  And I’m not sure how I didn’t notice the lack of onion in the ingredient list – I’ve never met a recipe to which the addition of onion didn’t make it better!  Overall, though, this was quick and easy, a good way to use up the leftover ginger and cilantro sour cream mix from the other night, and it provided us with some great leftovers for lunch.  I might try this again in the future with more of a Mediterranean twist – I’m picturing garbanzo beans, sundried tomatoes, onions, garlic, tahini – tossed with fresh parsley and cucumbers?  Maybe the next time we need to clean out the pantry.

Old faithful: Unbelievably Good Chili.

I think almost anyone who spends any time in the kitchen has at least one or two “go-to” meals.  This is the meal you cook without ever consulting a recipe book, the meal you prepare when you know you need it to turn out well.  My “old faithful” is decidedly low brow, but simple to make, healthy, and (dare I say), delicious.  It’s chili.

This recipe is adapted – but still largely based – on my very first cookbook.  On a last minute trip to BJ’s Wholesale club the week before I went to college for the first time, my mom bought me The Complete Idiot’s Guide to 20-Minute Meals.  This book, with its step by step instructions, reliance on simple ingredients, and helpful hints, first convinced me that I could make something edible.  More than ten years later, this cookbook’s pages are falling out; they’re splashed with food stains; they’re dog-eared.  The book naturally opens to page 117 – the page marked “Unbelievably Good Chili.”

I will never get rid of it.

Varina’s Go-to Chili

  • 1 large can diced tomatoes (you can buy with chilis in them to spice it up!)
  • 1 lb ground beef (lean and mean!)
  • 1 can refried beans (non-fat works perfectly – this is the secret ingredient!)
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • Large red onion, sliced/diced
  • Olive oil
  • Jalapeno or poblano pepper, diced
  • 1 can corn, drained and rinsed
  • Chili powder
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Cumin
  • Salt and pepper
  • Feel free to twist it up – I like to add – tomato paste, green peppers, other types of beans
  • Toppings: Sour cream, cilantro, green onions, cheddar cheese, raw onions etc.
  1. In a large dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat, cook the onions down in olive oil until they’re translucent. Pop in a dash of salt and pepper.
  2. Brown the meat in the onions – making sure not to burn the meat. Especially if the meat is super lean (healthy as possible!), make sure it crumbles all the way (otherwise it gets clumps together and is pretty tasteless.)
  3. Add the diced tomatoes, corn, kidney beans and then the refried beans. Mix it all the way through. (Note: if you’re using tomato paste, put that in first so it has time to develop flavor).
  4. Cook down for about 15-20 minutes.  (This is a good time to get your cornbread going!)
  5. I like to add the jalapenos/poblanos/chopped green pepper with a few minutes to go before serving time, so they retain a bit of crunch.
  6. Add spices – a good handful of chili powder, about half a handful cumin. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix it up and let cook through another couple minutes.
  7. Serve with toppings!
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deliciousness in a bowl.

Doctored cornbread muffins

  • 1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
  • one egg
  • splash milk (use slightly less than the back of the box calls for, to make up for the moisture in the creamed corn)
  • can creamed corn
  • diced jalapeno
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Line a muffin tray with paper liners (Tip: if you spray them lightly with non-stick spray, your cornbread won’t stick to the liner when it’s done.)
  2. Mix all of your ingredients together in a small bowl and pour into the muffin tins, until each cup is about 2/3 full.
  3. Bake for about 15-20 minutes.
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pink liners courtesy of my sister…

The Verdict:

See title of blog post.  Enough said!

(No, seriously.  And the bonus is, you can generally make this from ingredients you can keep for a long, long time – ground beef in the freezer, cans of beans/corn/tomatoes in the cabinet.  The fresh ingredients are an added bonus, but don’t make or break the dish.  And it makes a TON of leftovers, if you’re feeding only two people.)

Frost Living: Kale, Mushroom and Pancetta Pasta.

Every so often when I was little, my mom would leave home for a few weeks to visit her parents and brother in Germany.  My mom is a trained chef, and for almost every single night of my childhood, my mom filled our home with the smell of onions, garlic and a well seasoned sauce.  We were beyond lucky to not only be fed a home cooked meal almost every night, but be to be fed an unbelievable home cooked meal almost every night.

So for those two weeks or so a year, my dad would be in charge.  And there is nothing my dad loves more than a good opportunity to empty the fridge/freezer.  Every time my mom would leave, we would live almost exclusively off of the contents of our freezer, which my mother kept well stocked (chicken breasts, half off! ground beef, buy one get one!).  “Time to live off the frost of the land,” he would announce.  First, we’d go through the frozen meats and vegetables, sometimes the chicken stock.  And then, by the time my mom got back, we’d be into the frozen pizzas, chicken nuggets, and ice cream.

I may be an adult now, but I still love a good “frost living” dinner.  Tonight was no exception.  After coming back from the Cape earlier today, we had no energy to grocery shop or even plan.  Tonight’s dinner brought to you exclusively from ingredients we already had on hand.

“Frost Living” Pasta

  • pancetta, diced
  • olive oil
  • mushrooms, sliced
  • red onion, sliced
  • garlic, minced
  • greens (leftover kale and bitter green mix – leftover from the pie earlier this week)
  • chicken broth
  • white wine
  • spices: garlic salt, salt, crushed red pepper, ground black pepper, ground mustard
  • pasta
  • cheese (we used cubed fontina)

1. Get a pot of water boiling; cook pasta according to directions.  Drain.

2. In the meantime, heat olive oil in a large saute pan.  Once heated, toss in the onion and heat until translucent.  Throw in a handful of diced pancetta.  Pour in a few turns of white wine, let it cook down for a bit before tossing in the garlic and a few sprinkles of each of the spices listed (minus the salt, which I like to save for last so as not to oversalt, and so as not to draw too much water out of the mushrooms).

3. Toss in the mushrooms – the more, the better, as mushrooms will cook down a whole lot.  Let them cook down a bit before mixing in the greens -again, the more, the better.  Add in some chicken broth to add a little bit of salted flavor; add in salt and pepper; let it all cook down and meld together.

4. Toss with pasta, add in some extra cheese, and enjoy.

The Verdict:

This is a go-to.  It’s always dependent on what we have in the fridge/freezer, and no pasta is ever the same.  But it’s almost always comfort in a bowl.  Key to this dish is the crushed red pepper – adds just the right amount of heat.

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not pictured: all the melted cheese.