Give Me A Great Big Quiche!

Spinach, onions, bacon, mozzarella.Image via Wikipedia

I love quiche. I know there are people who hate it–with a passion. It’s probably one of those things that you either absolutely love or just cannot even begin to like. A couple of years ago I ran into Paula Dean‘s recipe for Quick Quiche on the food network website. And wow, is it good. And the really cool thing is you can alter the recipe in so many ways. I even lighten it up a bit by using 2 percent milk cheddar cheese, lite mayonaise and whole milk instead of cream.

The original recipe calls for spinach and cheddar or swiss cheese. But I’ve made it with carmalized onions and bacon, just plain cheese, ham and cheese, and I’ve been daydreaming about all sorts of other combinations for different occasions. It’s definitely one of those savory, one-dish recipes that you can serve for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s pretty inexpensive too.

In fact, I served the spinach and cheddar and bacon and caramelized onion versions when my in-laws were in town. It was a great way to feed a lot of people at once and definitely economical. I just added a big bowl of a lightly-dressed salad and dinner was served!

As a mom, you have to love the fact that you can make a quiche on the weekends and get your kids involved to practice their egg cracking and mixing skills. The recipe also calls for measuring out tablespoons of flour, which my little boy can do with great precision. Little Sophie just loves to watch and get into all of the cupboards and drawers when my back is turned the other way, and remind me that the stove is ” ‘OT!” (So glad she is getting the hang of that information!)

So here is what we do at my house to make spinach and cheddar quiche and carmelized onion and bacon quiche (my two favorites!):

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Then, gather all of the ingredients:

-1 package of two frozen deep-dish pie crusts (any brand is fine)

For spinach and cheddar quiche:
-4 eggs
-1 cup of shredded medium 2 percent milk cheddar cheese
-1/3 cup of minced white or red onion
-2 tablespoons of flour
-1 cup of whole milk (Paula uses cream)
-1/2 cup of lite mayonaise
-1 package of frozen spinach (defrosted overnight)
-Garlic powder
-Salt and pepper

For bacon and caramelized onion quiche:
-4 eggs
-1 cup of shredded medium 2 percent milk cheddar cheese

-1 cup of sliced white or red onion
-2 tablespoons of flour
-1 cup of whole milk (Paula uses cream)
-1/2 cup of lite mayonaise 
-5 slices of bacon cut into bite-sized pieces
-Garlic powder
-Salt and pepper

Preparation for the spinach and cheddar quiche is pretty easy. Just combine all of the wet ingredients, add the flour and whisk. Unwrap the spinach and wrap it in paper towel to drain the extra water out. Add the spinach, onion, shredded cheddar cheese, garlic powder and a little salt and pepper, mix and pour into the pie crust.

For the bacon and caramelized onion quiche, start out by frying the bacon pieces on medium heat until fat is rendered and bacon is crispy but not too crispy. Place the bacon on a paper towel to drain and add the sliced onions to the hot bacon fat and continue to cook and stir until the onions are darker brown and sweet. Then combine all of the additional ingredients the same way as the spinach quiche, mix well and pour into the second pie crust.

Place both quiches onto a foil-line baking sheet and onto the center rack of the oven. Bake for an hour or until the tops are golden brown and a knife stuck into the center comes out clean. Cool a bit after baking and slice like a pie and serve. Life is good.

My kids seem to like the cheese version the best. I think it’s the green flecks from the spinach that throw them off. But all kids are different. I just cut up the slices as if it were scrambled eggs and they seem to go for it. It’s really a good source of protein for them. Cheers! (I think I might try a brunch-style version next time with smoked salmon, capers, swiss, and caramelized onions. Oh yes.)

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Comfort Found In a Bowl of Beef Stew

What do you make for dinner when you are trying to stay on a tight budget? For me, frozen chicken nuggets and french fries just won’t cut it. (Well, sometimes in emergencies.) And only rarely do we make that trip to McDonalds for the coveted kids happy meals and whatever random combos for us in order to have dinner on the cheap. No, I actually like the challenge of making something awesome out of meat and produce that is affordable but delectable when you combine it the right way.

Such is the case with beef stew. You just can’t go wrong with a steaming bowl of thick, rich stew with tender chucks of beef, carrots, celery and onion. The only drawback to making this dish is the time it takes to cook it. But, when it’s done, beef stew is a dish that my kids gobble up and my husband finishes with a satisfied smile on his face. 
Here is what I put in it: 
– 1 pound of beef stew chunks
– About four cups of water (or 2 1/2 cups water and 1 beer)
– 1 stalk of celery cut into small chunks
– Two carrots cut into small slices
– 2 potatoes peeled and cubed
– 3 cloves of minced garlic
– 1 small red onion cut in half and sliced into thin slices
– 1/2 tablespoon of Italian seasoning
– 2 bay leaves
– 1/4 cup of flour
– 1 teaspoon garlic powder
– Seasoned salt
– Black pepper
Prepare veggies and garlic ahead of time (save preparation of the potatoes until right before water is added to stew so they don’t turn brown). Heat oil in a cast iron dutch oven on the stovetop. Add the garlic powder, seasoned salt and black pepper to the flour. Using tongs, coat the meat in the flour mixture and shake off excess. Place the meat in the hot oil and cook on one side until golden brown. Flip and brown on the other side. 
Add onions and garlic to the pan and stir, scraping up the brown bits from the pan. Add the Italian seasoning and bay leaves. Add water and reduce heat to medium/low, place lid on top and cook for about an hour and a half, stirring periodically. 
Add carrots, celery and peeled and cubed potatoes and cook for 20 minutes more. You might want to add a bit more water before continuing to cook since the potatoes will thicken the stew. Add regular salt to taste. 
I usually cool the meat and cut into small pieces for the kids and serve the veggies on the side. Talk about a wholesome, one-pot meal for the whole family. And cheap too. Definitely less than $10 for the whole dinner! 

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The Steak-House Meal At Home

Ok, so I do a lot of thinking about food. I sometimes wish we could just pick up and leave–with the kids in tow–and drive down to this little local bistro that has one heck of a happy hour menu at a great price! But it’s too nice of a menu and place to rush the trip. My son, now almost five, could probably sit and draw while my husband and I noshed on the chilled gazpacho soup garnished with scallop ceviche, avocado and cucumber ($4.50 a bowl) and followed it up with the beef bourguignon ($9) and the Australian lamb chops with port wine sauce ($12!). But we wouldn’t be able to savor the affordable gourmet happy-hour meal with the must-have glass of syrah or cab that the food deserves–unless we downed everything with extreme urgency before the “heeby jeebies” set in.

“I want down, mom. Can we go now? What’s that red stuff on the plate? Can I use my napkin as a karate bandana?”
And I won’t even go there–thinking about our little almost-two-year old little girl. She is so sweet. And then she realizes she is strapped in. Yikes! Does anyone have ear plugs. You can’t blame her. She just discovered she is her own little individual person.
“Mommy. ‘Et me dowwwwwwn!”
Ok, I know. One word. Babysitter. The thing is, money is so tight right now that the happy hour prices would just go out the window if we hired a babysitter for this venture. So I sit and stare at the happy hour menu and scheme to figure out how I am going to have some of those dishes. Soon.
And finally, this weekend, I got an idea. Why not make a dish from their menu at home and see how it turns out? Yes! So I decide on a traditional steak-house dish: Filet Mignon Wedge Salad. It’s simple. Char-grilled fillet mignon, sliced, and draped over a wedge of iceberg lettuce with yummy, rich bleu cheese dressing drizzled on top! Double Yes!
So I check out the filets at my local grocery store and sure enough, with it being the fourth of July weekend, they’re on sale. Two nice-sized filets for six bucks. Throw in iceberg lettuce and good bleu cheese dressing and the whole thing is $10. Well, I spied some fresh jumbo, raw shrimp so I threw 12 of those in the basket too! And of course, a nice bottle of cab.
Ok. Here’s what I did on Friday night:
1. Feed the kids, bathe the kids and put them to bed.
2. Have my husband light the coals (he refuses to get a gas grill and that’s ok!)
3. Salt and pepper the filets and skewer the shrimp through tail and head lengthwise and brush with oil that has been seasoned with “seasoned salt” and lemon and have my husband grill the steaks until medium rare (should still be tender to the touch when you push on the center with you’re finger but not too tender) and until the shrimp curl up slightly
4. While steak is resting and shrimp cooling a bit, quarter the lettuce and place one quarter on each dish
5. Slice steak and drape over the lettuce and drizzle bleu cheese dressing over all
6. Serve shrimp next to steak and lettuce combo
7. Open bottle of red wine and enjoy the food and several hours of good conversation, music and laughs! Now that’s a restaurant-quality endeavor.

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