broccoli and spinach quiche

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Recently, I have realized the great qualities of quiche, and it has entered my weekend breakfast rotation. Quiche just has a lot going for it.

For starters, quiche is simple and easy to make, but when you bake it in a tart pan, it’s elegant and dressed up enough for company. Quiche is satisfying; a nice big wedge fills you up for several hours. Quiche also has it figured out in the balance department – we pack a lot of vegetables in the filling, which makes up for the butter in the crust and cheese in the custard. Plus, you probably have all of the major ingredients in your pantry (butter, flour, and eggs), and the minor ingredients (veggies, cheese) are super flexible. If you don’t have spinach, use kale! If you don’t have parmesan cheese, just throw in a little more cheddar!

broccoli and spinach quiche

crust recipe from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

note: I had a little extra filling that didn’t fit in my tart shell. If you have extra too, just bake it in a ramekin.

for the whole wheat pastry:

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour (preferably white whole wheat)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

8 tablespoons (1 stick, 4 oz) very cold butter, cut into small pieces

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons ice cold water

for the filling:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 small onion, diced

1 1/2 cups broccoli florets and tender stems, chopped finely

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups lightly packed spinach, chopped coarsely

1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half

4 large eggs

1/2 cup whole milk or half and half

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1/2 cup cheddar cheese

to make the crust:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, and salt. Add the butter. With a pastry blender or your fingers, work the butter into the flour until the butter is the size of peas. Stir in the water until the dough begins to hold together. Turn the dough out onto the counter top and knead gently about 5 times until the dough holds together well. Flatten into a disc and place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured countertop, roll out your dough to a little over a 12 inch circle. Lift the dough over your rolling pin and place in a 9 inch tart pan. Press the dough into the edges and press the extra dough off the top. Prick the bottom with a fork. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up.

Line your crust with foil or parchment paper and fill with baking weights  or beans. Bake the crust on a baking sheet for 15 minutes. Then, take the foil/parchment and weights out and bake for another 5-10 minutes, until the edges are beginning to brown and the bottom looks done. The pie shell should still be warm when you add the filling. Turn down the oven to 325.

Meanwhile, make the filling:

In a large skillet, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and broccoli and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 3 minutes more, until everything is tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add the spinach and cook until it wilts, about 3 minutes. Pour in the cream or half and half. It will bubble up. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook until the liquid has reduced and almost disappeared. The vegetables should just be coated in a thick sauce.

Whisk together the eggs and milk or half and half. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the vegetable mixture, the parmesan cheese, and half of the cheddar cheese. Pour into the warm pie shell. Top with the remaining cheddar cheese and bake until the center is set and the edges of the custard are lightly brown 45-55 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

brown butter oatmeal blondies

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One of my favorite questions to ask people is “What is your favorite kind of cookie?” It’s a great conversation starter, and I think your favorite cookie says a lot about you.You like triple chocolate cookies? Then you’re a person who knows what they like and eats it unabashedly. Molasses Spice Cookies? You’re spicy and sassy. Peanut Butter Cookies? You’re homey and comforting. But my most common answer (by far!) to the favorite cookie question is the humble chocolate chip cookie. Not surprising, because chocolate chip cookies have a lot going for them. The best ones are buttery and have notes of toffee and vanilla. They must be soft on the inside and crisp on the outside with the perfect ratio of cookie to chocolate chips. It’s a tall order, and the road there is often paved with extra steps and bowls and ingredients. The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies can be work (but, if you are still interested).

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These blondies are the answer to our problem. They have the texture and (almost one bowl!) ease of a brownie with the buttery, brown sugary, vanilla-y amazingness of the original. The oats add a nice heartiness and chew reminiscent of an oatmeal cookie, plus bonus points for hiding whole grains in our dessert!

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I mean, just look at that. Remind me why we haven’t all divorced cookies already?

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Brown Butter Oatmeal Blondies

adapted from Food 52

Note: Use good quality vanilla extract because the flavor really shines through in this recipe. If you like nuts, you could add 1/2 cup of toasted, chopped pecans or walnuts when you add the chocolate chips.

1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup, 4 oz)

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup old fashioned oats

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 large egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 8 x 8 pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper and grease with melted butter or oil.

To brown the butter: Melt the butter in a small, light colored skillet over medium heat. Cook until white bits (the milk solids) separate from the fat and turn golden brown. The butter will sizzle and sputter until the water cooks off. This will take a few minutes, but as soon as the white bits appear, they will brown very fast so pay close attention. Pour into a large bowl and set aside to cool (putting the bowl in the fridge or freezer would speed this up but pay close attention and stir occasionally).

To make the batter: In a small bowl, stir together the flours, oats, and salt. Set aside. When the butter is cool, add the brown sugar and stir for one minute. Add the egg and vanilla and stir for another minute until thick and smooth. Add the flour mixture and fold until almost incorporated (there can be a few flour patches). Add the chocolate chips and stir until completely incorporated, but don’t over mix. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 22-30 minutes. When done, they will be a golden around the edges and have a top that is firm but gives to the touch and cracks a little when touched. Cool completely before cutting into squares. These blondies freeze very nicely.

almond biscotti

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It’s December 26, and I am completely overdosed on cookies. At this point, I basically never want to see another reindeer shaped sugar cookie again (don’t worry, these feelings go away quite quickly). However, I still have a sweet tooth that needs satisfying. These biscotti do the trick.

To me, biscotti has always seemed like an adult thing. Dry, crumbly, and barely sweet, these cookies are made for coffee, something I did not appreciate earlier in my life. However, now I have realized that biscotti is actually the cookie’s more flavorful, sophisticated cousin. This almond version is delicious. Once again, Cook’s Illustrated has created a superior recipe. With a prominent but not overwhelming almond flavor and a gentle sweetness, these almond biscotti are a perfect after Christmas treat.

Almond Biscotti

recipe from Cook’s Illustrated

1 1/4 cups whole almonds, divided
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Using a ruler and pencil, draw two 8 by 3 inch rectangles spaced generously apart on the back of a piece of parchment paper. Place the parchment paper on a baking sheet.

Pulse one cup of the almonds in a food processor until coarsely chopped, 8 to 10 pulses. Transfer to a small bowl. Process the remaining 1/4 cup of almonds in the food processor until ground into a coarse meal. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and process until combined. Transfer to a small bowl.

Add the eggs to the empty food processor and process until the eggs are lightened in color and almost doubled in volume. With the food processor running, slowly add the sugar until combined. Add the butter and extracts and process until combined.  Transfer the egg mixture to a medium bowl and add half of the flour mixture. Fold gently until combined and then repeat with the second half of the flour. Gently stir in the chopped almonds.

Divide the dough in half. Form the dough into two 8 by 3 inch loaves. Brush lightly with egg wash. Bake the loaves in your preheated oven, rotating halfway through, until they are golden and just beginning to crack, 25-30 minutes. Allow the loaves to cool for 30 minutes. Then, slice each loaf on a slight bias into 1/2 inch slices. Lay the slices on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Bake until the slices are golden brown on both sides, flipping halfway through, about 35 minutes. Cool completely before serving.

 

Fresh mint ice cream with chocolate chunks

If you have ever grown mint in a garden, you probably know that mint is easy to care for. In fact, it’s almost too easy – it explodes in growth and takes over other plants. In our garden we have so much chocolate mint (yes, there is a variety of mint with a chocolate flavor – try it!) it’s almost a forest. In an attempt to put the forest to use, I made chocolate mint extract. Then I remembered how fantastic ice cream made with fresh herbs is. This ice cream has a minty freshness you simply can’t get with mint extract. And the chocolate chunks, well, they simply belong. Nothing hits the spot better on a hot day!

fresh mint ice cream with chocolate chunks
recipe adapted from Annies Eats
If you can’t find chocolate mint, normal fresh mint will have a similar flavor.

2 cups whole milk, divided
3/4 cup packed fresh chocolate mint (see note)
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
pinch of salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 oz. (3 tbsp.) cream cheese, softened
4 oz chopped chocolate

Set a fine mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, warm 1 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the milk to just below a simmer. Add the mint and remove from the heat. Cover and allow to steep for 30 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and the remaining 2 tablespoons milk.
Add the heavy cream, salt, sugar, and corn syrup to the saucepan with the milk and mint. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat. Stirring constantly, boil the mixture for 4 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return the pan to the heat and cook until the mixture returns to a boil and thickens. Pour the custard through the strainer you got out earlier. Press on the mint leaves to get as much custard as possible into the bowl.
Whisk the cream cheese and vanilla extract into the custard until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge. Once chilled, churn the mixture in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Right before the ice cream is done churning, add the chocolate to incorporate. Transfer the ice cream to a container and chill it further until it is scoop able.

banana muffins with chocolate and crystallized ginger

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Never underestimate the power of a good muffin. (Also: never underestimate the power of chocolate). A good muffin is wholesome while still being light and indulgent. With muffins, there is a delicate balance, and if you tip the scale too far, you’ll be in the realm of cupcakes. In these muffins, we keep the scale balanced by using some whole wheat flour.

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The chocolate and crystallized ginger combo may seem strange to you, but it works. The crystallized ginger brings pops of heat and sweetness while the chocolate brings a cool contrast. Together with the banana, they create a muffin much greater than the sum of it’s parts.

banana muffins with chocolate and crystallized ginger

Adapted from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (from about 3 large or 4 small bananas)
1/4 cup plain yogurt (not low fat)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two standard muffin tins with liners. Set aside. Melt the butter in a microwave or in a small saucepan. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the chocolate and crystallized ginger and whisk until well combined. Make sure the ginger clumps have broken up.
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs together with a fork. Add the mashed banana, yogurt, melted butter, and vanilla and stir to mix well.

Pour the banana mixture into the dry ingredients and stir gently to incorporate. Do not over mix or your muffins will be tough! Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling the cups 3/4 of the way full. Bake the muffins until they are golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25-35 minutes. Cool the muffins of a wire rack for 5 minutes and then enjoy!