Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I'm taking a break for the holiday and enjoying time away from the computer with our little one...

Happy holidays to you and your family! Cook, eat and be merry.

See you again in 2010.

Guten appetit.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mushroom Quiche

I love the holidays and I love traditions. When we lived in Germany, people always asked if we were homesick, especially during the holidays. I wasn't. I could tell you with utter happiness what my family would be doing on Christmas day, exactly what they would be doing, in order, hour by hour. It's the same, every year.

I'm so excited to be back and to share family, our traditions and the holidays with our Chef's Helper. His first Christmas! We've wrapped a couple of presents for him, and a couple of books he already owned. I think I'm going to wrap a couple extra empty boxes, as I hear kids at this age just love to unwrap. The present thing wont really be understood by him.

While we won't be celebrating with Tim's family, we will be thinking of them and sharing some of their family traditions. Every Christmas, for breakfast, Tim's mom made quiche (amongst other foods). I love, love, love quiche. I made this quiche for last years festivities (recognize the German kitchen in the background?), and have since made it at least 10 times. It's a solid recipe. Plus, I find most people like mushrooms. Not so with spinach or meat.

As I don't own pie weights, I improvised... dried beans create the same effect, and then I store those used beans in a ziploc for the next pie crust need. You can reuse them for... years?

I hope you are enjoying the holidays, surrounded by loved ones. And I hope you are feasting in delicious traditions.

Happy, happy days to you!

Mushroom Quiche
from Simply Recipes

1 recipe pie dough
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
1 pound assorted mushrooms, quartered or sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 large eggs
Pinch nutmeg
6 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (1 1/2 cups) - I used emmentaler/swiss

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 12-inch circle. Fit into a 10-by-1 1/2-inch round tart pan (with or without a removable bottom)(Note from Laura: I used a 9 inch pie plate, worked fine), pressing dough into corners. Transfer to freezer to chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Line pastry with parchment paper, wax paper, or aluminum foil, pressing into the corners and edges. Fill at least two-thirds with baking weights - dried beans, rice, or aluminum pie weights. Bake first for 15 minutes, remove from oven and let cool a few minutes. Carefully remove parchment paper and weights. Poke the bottom of the pie pan with the tongs of a fork and return to oven and bake an additional 10 minutes or until lightly golden. (Fork holes are for any air to escape.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool while making filling.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add shallots, and cook, stirring, until translucent but not brown, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms first release their liquid and then liquid evaporates and mushrooms are dark golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Place tart pan on a baking sheet to catch any run-off there might be (especially if you are using a pan with a removable bottom.) Sprinkle half the cheese evenly over the bottom of the crust. Spread mushrooms over the cheese and then top with remaining cheese. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, cream, and eggs. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Pour over cheese. Transfer to oven, and bake until just set in the center, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before slicing.

Serves 6-8.

Can't get enough quiche? Try these:
- Crustless Broccoli and Cheese Quiche
- Asparagus and Mushroom Quiche with Brown Rice Crust, from Fatfree Vegan Kitchen
- Spinach and Feta Quiche, from A Veggie Venture
- Zucchini and Tomato Quiche, from Chez Megane

Guten appetit!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Classic Apple Pie

Surprisingly, I've had a hard time thinking of a traditional dessert for Christmas. I'm not talking about gingerbread houses or sugar cookies. Those are fun to make pre-Christmas, to get in the holiday spirit. I'm referring to the dessert for Christmas dinner. And I'm certainly not about to attempt a Buche de Noel!

I don't know why this is, but oddly enough, we have relatively local Granny Smith apples in the market right now. And oohhhh, how I love an apple pie!

The last time I made an apple pie, Elise's recipe caught my eye because of the sherry and vanilla. I hadn't seen or used either before in an apple pie recipe. Sounded delicious and worth a shot.

Needless to say, once I had my second layer of crust on the pie, I realized I'd forgotten the step of adding the sherry and vanilla! Classic. That's what I get for trying to speed through a recipe.

As you may have guessed though, I've chosen Apple Pie as my Christmas dessert, and so I will have a re-do of this recipe. If it's half as good as the recipe was before, without the sherry and vanilla, it will be a huge hit! Truly, this is grandma's apple pie (with or without the sherry and vanilla) and not a crumb was left on anyone's plate. I can't wait to make it again.

I hope you have something equally scrumptious planned for your dinner festivities. If you still need a dessert, consider Elise's apple pie.

TIP: To prevent a raw bottom crust, bake pies for 20 minutes on the bottom rack, then switch to the center rack for the remaining time. (this trick works perfectly with this recipe, as Elise has you turn down the heat after 20 min)

See the holly leaves cut out of the pie crust? I loved this pie.

Old Fashioned Apple Pie
from Simply Recipes

Crust Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1/2 cup finely ground blanched almonds or almond flour (can substitute 1/2 cup flour if you don't have almonds)
16 Tbsp (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, chilled in freezer for at least 15 minutes
1 teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon brown sugar
3 to 6 Tbsp water, very cold

Filling Ingredients

2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 pounds of 1/4-1/2 inch thick slices of peeled and cored good cooking apples such as Granny Smith, Pippin, or Golden Delicious
1 1/2 tablespoons brandy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Egg Wash
1 large egg yolk
1 Tbsp cream

In a food processor, combine flour, almonds, salt and brown sugar, pulse to mix. Add butter and pulse 6 to 8 times, until mixture resembles coarse meal, with pea size pieces of butter. Add water 1 Tablespoon at a time, pulsing until mixture just begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it's ready, if not, add a little more water and pulse again.

Remove dough from machine and place on a clean surface. Carefully shape into 2 discs. Do not over-knead the dough! You should still be able to see little bits of butter in the dough. These bits of butter are what will allow the result crust to be flaky. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 375°F.

Combine sugar, flour and spices in large bowl. Use your hands and mix in the apples so they are well coated, then add brandy and vanilla extract.

Remove one crust disk from the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle some flour on top of the disk. Roll out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a 12 inch circle; about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll out the dough, use a metal spatula to check if the dough is sticking to the surface below. Add a few sprinkles of flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking. Gently fold in half. Place on to a 9-inch pie plate, lining up the fold with the center of the pan. Gently unfold and press down to line the pie dish with the dough.

Spoon in apple filling, mounding slightly in center.

Roll out second disk of dough, as before. Gently turn over onto the top of the apples in the pie. Pinch top and bottom of dough rounds firmly together. Trim excess dough with kitchen shears, leaving a 3/4 inch overhang. Fold dough under itself so that the edge of the fold is flush with the edge of the pan. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with a fork.

Stir yolk and cream in small bowl to blend. Brush over top of pie. Cut slits in top crust to allow steam to escape. Bake pie until crust begins to turn golden, about 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350°F. Tent the rims with aluminum foil or a pie protector if the edges are browning too quickly. Bake until crust is golden and juices are bubbling, anywhere from an additional 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the type of apples you are using. Transfer to rack; let stand 1 hour. Serve pie warm or at room temperature.

More apple desserts:
- Apple Tart, from Orangette
- Cranberry Apple Pie, from A Full Belly
- Apple Crisp, from Joy the Baker

Guten appetit!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Appalachian Trail Cookies

This recipe was written in the December 2008 Bicycling magazine, under the title "Super Foods Served Here". Good job marketing or editing or whoever makes up titles to articles. The words 'super' and 'food' together are being used (or overused?) like wildfire these days. But it works. That title would get my attention every time.

The article goes on to discuss a triathlete who's also a chef creating wonderful healthy foods for sports minded folks. It goes on and on, and at the end, they gave a recipe... for cookies! Um, now I'm really hooked on this article. I'm thinking 'healthy cookie'. Yes! Thank YOU mr. triathlete turned chef turned article writer.

And here we have them...

A healthy cookie. Mostly. A cookie is a cookie after all! But as cookies go, these are not only healthy, but super, super delicious.

They are a bit crumbly, but that may be because I cook the heck out of cookies, wanting them to be crunchy. And I'm willing to deal with the crumbly-ness, since it doesn't affect their tasty-ness.

For a take along snack on hikes, bike rides and car trips, these get two thumbs up from me!

* If feeding these to kids, beware: as you can see below, they do involve peanuts. But you can omit those and they would still be delicious.

Appalachian Trail Cookies
from Michael Pfab in Bicycling Magazine

1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup shredded coconut (I love this!)
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon pastry flour (I used all purpose flour)
pinch salt
pinch baking soda
pinch ground cinnamon
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup raisins (optional - I didn't use them)
1/3 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
1/3 cup M&M candies (plain)

Blend shortening, butter, brown sugar and sugar. Add egg and mix well.

Add coconut, flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Mix only until blended.

Fold in oats by hand, then mix in raisins, peanuts and M&Ms.

Spoon out in equal portions on parchment-lined baking pan. Bake at 360 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes two dozen.

Interested in the 'healthy' content of the cookies? 157 calories per serving, 7 grams of fat, 21 grams of carbs and 3 grams of protein. Sorry, they neglect to tell you how many cookies equals a serving.

Guten appetit!