Garden Quiche

img_2199

After almost a decade in Florida I have finally had success with the garden. For the first time since I left Jersey, I have actual home grown vegetables that I can eat. It is so exciting to me that I got a little giddy. Yes, that tells you something about how exciting my life is that I get giddy about vegetables, but there you have it.

I really missed good tomatoes. The kind of tomatoes that actually have flavor. The ones that taste like sunshine – you know, Jersey tomatoes. These are not Jersey tomatoes, but they have actual taste, actual flavor and there are more on the vine! I didn’t get a ton from the first picking, but enough that I decided to make a quiche.

img_2193I was pretty excited to have enough vegetables to make stuff with and I decided that the kale and the tomatoes would make a great brunch dish. I picked all the vine ripe tomatoes I had (just a handful, but that was enough) and a few kale leaves and combined that with a small shallot to make the filling for the quiche.

I stuck with a basic recipe and didn’t try to do anything fancy with it. Soften and slightly caramelize the shallots in a little butter, add the kale and cook until bright green and wilted. Season with salt and pepper and add the tomatoes.

I started with my basic pie crust, par baked for ten minutes to prevent the dreaded “soggy bottom” that always gets contestants on the Great British Bake Off in trouble. (If you have no idea what I am talking about, go you-tube and search … warning, the show is addictive.) Once the crust was baked I added the vegetables to the crust, topped with some grated gruyere cheese and then added the egg/milk mixture and baked. The results were fantastic!

Bob and I had the same reaction – we wanted to find fault with this. We wanted it to need something like bacon (or eggplant bacon in my case) but it just didn’t. It had a really good depth of flavor, a good bit of egg taste, the sweetness from the cheese and the freshness of the vegetables. We both went back for seconds.

Recipe:

  • handful cherry tomatoes
  • handful of kale (maybe 2 ounces??)
  • 1 shallot
  • 1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese
  • 4 eggs
  • 150 ml milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pat butter
  • 1 pie crust
    • 1.5 cup flour
    • 1 stick salted butter
    • 3-5 tablespoons water

To make the crust, mix flour and half the water in a food processor with a dough blade. Mix and add butter, one pat at a time until incorporated. Turn out onto floured surface and form into ball, adding more water if needed. Roll out into large enough circle to cover pie plate, press into pie plate and place in freezer until over heats.

Heat over to 350 degrees. Once hot, par bake the pie crust, ten minutes. Be sure to fork the crust to prevent air pockets.

While crust cooks, thinly slice the shallot and kale, cut the tomatoes in half. Heat one pat of butter (1/2 tablespoon) in pan and once hot and melted, add the shallot. Cook stirring until soft and slightly browned – three to five minutes – over medium heat. Add the kale and cook, stirring until soft. Add salt and pepper to taste (add more than you think you need so you don’t need to add more to the egg mixture). Toss in tomatoes and mix together.

Spread the kale mixture into the crust, forming a relatively even layer. Top with 1/2 cup grated cheese. Mix 150 ml milk with 4 large eggs and beat to combine. Pour egg mixture over the cheese and kale mix and return to the over. Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes, covering after 25-30 to prevent the crust from burning. Check that the eggs are cooked by using the toothpick method. Remove from oven, let sit for a few minutes then slice and serve.

*recipe for the quiche adapted from Food.com basic quiche recipe.

Biscuit Pie

img_2141

Sometimes I want to make something only to realize that I either can’t remember the recipe or I am missing something to make it. Sometimes that combination leads to to experiment and that experiment really works.

img_2138A few years back I became obsessed with savory pies, especially the chicken, ham and leek pie we had in England. I made a few versions of it and they always came out well, but not exactly the same. Since then I’ve reduced my meat intake considerably, to the point where I eat almost none. Every now and then, especially when the weather gets cooler, I kind of want the comfort food aspect that a lot of meat dishes can give. With that in mind, I decided to do a chicken, ham and leek pie again, but this time, I decided I wanted biscuits on it. Yes, biscuits.

img_2139I started this with a vegetarian base so I could split the filling and have a vegetarian version for later in the week. Leek, onion, shallot, garlic and carrot. Then I made the sauce because, as we all know, the sauce is the best part of any savory pie. A little wine, some heavy cream, vegetable stock and it became perfection. After splitting the filling, I dded the meat and topped with buttermilk biscuit dough (yes, homemade and darn delicious I must say).

img_2140The results were pretty fantastic. Light and savory biscuits with the rich sauce and you have comfort food heaven. I’m actually super excited to cook up the vegetarian version this week as I think it will be just as good without the meat. Maybe better.

img_2143

Recipe:

  • 1 pat butter
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts
  • 1/4 sweet onion
  • 1 small shallot
  • 2 smallish cloves garlic
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1/4 cup white wine (I used a moscato this go)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 chicken breast plus one chicken thigh
  • 4 oz. ham
  • buttermilk biscuits (I used this recipe from Girl versus dough – incredible and easy!)

To cook the chicken, heat pan over medium high heat. Add chicken breast and thigh and enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Cover and cook until cooked through, about fifteen minutes. Remove from heat and leave covered for a few minutes then transfer to plate to cool. Shred chicken with two forks.

Dice ham.

Heat oven to 425 degrees

Chop leeks, onion, shallot and carrots into a small to medium dice. Mince garlic. Heat pan with 1 pat of butter (about a half a tablespoon) over medium heat and add vegetables and garlic. Sauté until softened and aromatic. Season with a little salt and pepper. Add thyme and cook for about one minute, stirring frequently. Add wine and stir. Let the wine evaporate a little then add 1 cup of cream. Add flour (or arrowroot or cornstarch for no gluten, but with the biscuits … just use flour) to vegetable stock, stir and add to vegetables. Increase heat to medium high. Allow to cook for a few minutes until bubbling, then reduce heat to medium and let thicken and slightly reduced. (This is where I split the filling, keeping half totally vegetarian and adding the meat to the other half). Add chicken and ham and stir to combine.

Pour filling into an 8×11 pan and top with biscuit dough. Place, uncovered, into the oven for 20-25 minutes until biscuits are cooked through (mine took 23 minutes). Remove from oven and let rest for about five minutes, then serve. I served mine with a kale salad and it was comfort food bliss.

Cranberry Curd Pie

img_2135

I have a few days off and am caught up with school. Since this is a rare event, I decided to experiment in the kitchen a little and decided, as a nod to the holiday, to make a cranberry curd pie that I saw a recipe for. When I shared it with Val, she also got excited by it, but I ended up making it first. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, but close enough that I will still say it is the NYT recipe.

I started with the basic ingredients – cranberries, oranges and sugar. Since I love clementines and they are now in season, I have a bag of the on the counter, so I used two for this recipe. I picked up some beautiful cranberries at the store and cooked the zest and juice of the clementines with the cranberries and some sugar to make the base of the curd. One review said to not cook them down much, but I was fussing with the pie crust and ended up cooking it a little long. It still worked. img_2133

I used the mesh sieve method and strained the juice to make a really smooth curd. Here is where things started to get tricky. It took a while to strain the cranberry mixture. Probably more time than the author of the recipe intended, so it was pretty much room temperature when I finished. This does not lend itself to incorporating butter into the curd, so I returned it to the stove and stirred in the butter, one pat at a time, over low heat. It worked. The butter didn’t melt, but it did incorporate into the curd just fine. I took it off the heat, stirred a little more then added the eggs. The whole thing went into an oil based crust that I made (decided to skip the rice flour crust as I couldn’t find hazelnuts anyway) and then I baked it – slightly longer than there recipe said, but it wasn’t setting so an extra three minutes were in order. I made some whipped cream (new secret for whipped cream – use powdered sugar instead of regular granulated sugar. Super smooth and it helps stabilize the peaks) for the top and that was that. My arm hurt after the straining part, but still easier than the French Silk pie. img_2135

The results were delicious and I don’t say something I made was really good often. I usually find fault with it, but I can’t really find fault with this pie. Yes, it was suppose to be a tart, but I don’t have a tart pan. Yes, it should have a different crust, but this one worked out fine. Yes, it could have been a little fuller, but it didn’t need to be fuller. With this pie you get the tart of the cranberry, an undertone of lemon (without any lemon in the pie) and a clean flavor that is really nice after a meal. This probably won’t replace cranberry sauce at the holiday table, but it should. It really should.

On the pet front … Tigger, Leia and Arthas are all doing well. Arthas is up to two miles for his morning walk, and he is starting to ask to go for walks. He doesn’t bounce around like Jessie did, but he goes to the front door or to where my shoes are and he gets a little excited when he hears his leash. He is getting better with the cats, and they with him. We had a point of contention recently where Leia was on the couch when he wanted to go to sleep, but other than that, they are wonderful. I stopped by the shelter to donate some food I had gotten for Gracie (the other two won’t eat it) and they were super happy to see how well he is doing. As one volunteer put it, he just needed a chance to be a dog.

They really are good babies. I still miss Jessie and Gracie and Gracie’s loss is still really raw, but we are getting there. Tigger has become very affectionate recently and Leia continues to be the puppy cat she is – greeting us at the door, laying on laps etc.

Recipe Cranberry Curd Pie:

  • 12 oz. cranberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • juice and zest of one orange (or two clementines)
  • 1 stick (4 oz) butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs plus 2 egg yolks

Use your favorite pie crust – it will be fine. I pre-baked mine for ten minutes, just to set it.

Combine the cranberries, sugar and orange (zest and juice) into a sauce pan and cook on medium heat until cranberries pop and begin to break down. Stir often to prevent sugar from burning.

Preheat oven to 350 if not already heated from the pie crust.

Once cooked down, strain the mixture through a sieve or use a blender/immersion blender, to puree. If not warm after straining, return to heat for a few minutes, stirring frequently, then add butter, one tablespoon at a time, until fully incorporated. If mixture is hot, temper the cranberry mixture into the eggs then add eggs into cranberry curd and stir well to combine. (I didn’t temper here because the cranberries were fairly cool at this stage) Pour into pie crust and bake at 350 degrees for ten plus minutes to set. I cooked mine for thirteen minutes until the outer curd was set, then let it cool on the stove to set the rest of the curd.

Whipped Cream:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon (heaping) powdered sugar

Mix cream and vanilla together and beat with mixer on medium to high speed until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar and continue mixing until stiff peaks form. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

 

 

Fall Fix Up

img_2069

In Jersey, the big yard work happens in the spring. Spring clean up. I spent a number of years avoiding doing yard work each spring (and raking leaves every fall) but now I’m the homeowner and I can’t avoid the yard work more than every other year.

In part as a distraction from Gracie and school and work and part just because it was necessary and the estimate to pay someone to do it was way too high, I spent the last two weekends cleaning out debris from the bushes and mulching. A lot of mulching. 11 lawn and leaf bags of debris (leaves, twigs, etc) and 46 bags of mulch later it’s done. Yes.  46 bags.  All hauled in my little car. But I have to admit, it looks pretty good.

We did have someone trim and clean up the trees. Those I can’t do myself and they really needed it. But the yard is done and I think I can now ignore it again for at least a year.

My garden is having mixed success. The hot pepper didn’t make it, nor did the lavender plant. My thyme is trying to hang in there, but it doesn’t look good. The kale is great. The kale looks wonderful and I am anticipating a great kale pesto soon. The rosemary is good and the oregano also looks great. My tomatoes … well, two plants are clearly dead but and the other two look interesting, but I have baby tomatoes.

img_2053Last count there were twenty baby tomatoes on these two plants. I’m trying to make sure they get water, but not too much water and birds don’t get to them. I’m anticipating a nice little sandwich with kale pesto and garden tomatoes and basil. If I could figure our how to make my own mozzarella (I could but it looks like it takes the and precision so I’ll just buy that part) I’d have a totally home grown sandwich.

The pets are doing well. Arthas made it two miles on his morning walk today! He was a tired little puppy at about 1.5 miles, but he did meander back the rest of the way. Leia and Tigger are getting use to not having Gracie around, and they are still super cute. I love the picture above because it really shows the size differential, but they are still super cute.

I need a day off from my weekend, but there are two more weeks before the holiday. Happy November!

 

Chocolate Cake

img_2015

I’m not a big chocolate cake fan. I know, that is practically sacrilege, but it’s true. I find chocolate cake to be either too sweet, too bitter, too dry or just very one note. I will admit my preference of vanilla cake with vanilla icing can be very one note also, but vanilla tends to have more depth of flavor all on its own. Chocolate, at least in cake, doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong – I love chocolate and will happily eat it. But don’t be surprised if I pass on the chocolate cake.

This being said, I needed something to make me feel a little better this past week. It was a rough week, but I did manage to finish my Educational Law class (yippie) and I am up to date on everything at work (a minor miracle) and the Leia and Arthas are actually (fingers crossed) seemingly getting along well enough. Well enough as in the walk past each other, sniff each other a little, and hang out on the couch without incident. It’s a precarious peace still, but definitely getting there.

So why chocolate cake? Well, because I saw the recipe and decided that it looked good. Really good. The creamy filling should keep it from getting too dry, the cake itself has coffee in it, which gives it a little interest and the chocolate whipped cream adds a nice element to it. So why not? What is the worst that could go wrong? … I won’t actually answer that because it didn’t and if I decide to make this again, I don’t want it to go wrong. It’s also a pretty cake – from all angles.

So this was pretty good. If I make it again, I am using regular whipped cream for the topping instead of the chocolate version. For me, I needed something to break up the chocolate and add another layer of interest. But it is good. Darn good. Bob had it for lunch several days good.

And because I love my babies and how cute they are and how far they have come over the last three months ….

Arthas is now going for walks approaching two miles. Tigger is hanging out with the family and not running away every time I walk by him. Yes, he started doing this about two weeks ago – not exactly sure what caused him to freak out suddenly, but he did. Leia is trying to get to know Arthas and be nice to him. She will hang out near him (see above) and even sniff at him every now and then. He is letting her, as long as she doesn’t try to sniff his face. It’s progress. I’ll take what I can get.

 

Goodnight, Gracie

img_1953

Nine and a half year ago I saw a three and a half week old kitten who stole my heart within ten seconds of meeting her. The little kitten looked straight in my eyes and meowed as if to say, “take me home. I belong with you.” Nothing in the last nine and half years ever changed my opinion of her. Gracie is my kitten. My little girl.

About a week ago she went out at night, which is not unusual for her. But she has not come home in seven days, and I have to admit, as much as I hate every part of it, that she is gone. I found some fur on the front lawn and have to believe that Gracie tangled with something, as she is want to do, and this time, got the worst end of it. I am still checking the back door when I get home, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve looked under the bed for her in the last week, but I know – somewhere in my heart of hearts – that she is gone.

Parents sometimes say, “I hope you have a child just like you one day” as a curse upon their children. Gracie was me in cat form. She demanded attention when it was most inconvenient – such as on the phone, or going to the bathroom. She was smart, but not so smart that it was intimidating. She did her own thing and really, really didn’t care what anyone thought. She was her own cat, and I love her for that.

Jessie’s passing took a lot out of me, but I knew that she had a peaceful death and the time was right. I was there for her, as I was there for Patches, and if I couldn’t prevent their deaths, at least I could be with them and let them know they were loved right up until the end. I can’t do that for Gracie and that is the hardest part of loosing her. It wasn’t necessarily the best thing for her, I wasn’t there to love her; a small part of me will always wonder if just maybe, I could have done something differently.  I know the answer and I know she probably died as she lived – on her terms, doing her own thing and doing it her way. That doesn’t make it any easier.

Leia and Tigger have started to notice that she is not here, that something is different. They don’t care all that much, but they do notice, and need some comfort  – generally at 3 am which is not ideal. Arthas did’t get the chance to know Gracie – the loving, sweet kitty that she was – but he knows mommy is sad and he tries to help.

Goodnight, Gracie girl. You are loved and missed. Every day.

Garden

img_1880

Ok I started this post about three weeks ago, maybe four. And somehow I didn’t get around to post it, so …

It has taken me almost a decade of being in Florida to get use to the planting cycles. When my natural instinct is to pull out the tomatoes and put in lettuce (maybe) or just be done with the garden, I’m instead planting tomatoes … and herbs and other stuff … just in time for winter – aka our growing season.

I looked at my back yard and the flower boxes this morning and realized they were in terrible shape. We had so much rain for so long that I stopped watering everything and got out of the habit. Well … it hasn’t rained much since the tropical storm and my plants are showing it. I spent the morning cleaning out the boxes – trimming, pulling and just plain getting rid of most of what was there. The cats loved this since the rather large catnip plant had dried out and they got to play in it. All three of them. I created monsters.

But I also looked at the now cleaned out vegetable garden and realized – it is actual the right time to plant stuff! I can try tomatoes and peppers and herbs and … well, whatever I can find and remember to take care of. Bob and I went to Home Depot (because I couldn’t remember if the local nursery has vegetables and if they are open on Sunday) and I stocked up. Four kinds of tomatoes, kale, a variety of herbs and a poblano pepper plant for Bob.  Oh .. and more catnip, but that goes in the boxes. Vague attempt to keep the pets out of my vegetables.

I like it. I bought a bag of new soil and mixed it in with what was left after letting the garden go fallow this year. I made sure to dig down and make plenty of room for roots and I remembered to water. Now I just need the very large, very bright sticky note to remind me to water regularly. I’m super excited at the possibility of going out and picking dinner one night.  Yes, food my food eats, but whatever. I like rabbit food.

Ok – these might be a little hard to see, but Arthas is really such a cute puppy. Yes, he is all black, and that makes getting a good picture hard, but when I get one … such as him trying to lick the silverware in the dishwasher, it is pretty priceless. We also are now full advocates of the food toys – toys that you put kibble in and he has to work to get it out. Rather than downing his breakfast and dinner in thirty seconds, he has his toys down to ten minutes. We found the mushroom and the ball/donut work the best. He seems to like them and I like that he takes longer to eat and has to think. I would love it if I could get Tigger to use one, but he is stuck in his ways and won’t go for it. (I tried)

So the garden … it is growing. The pepper did’t do so well and the rosemary is hanging on at best. But the kale, oregano, thyme and tomatoes are doing great! I’m hoping that soon I will be able to pick my lunch.