Friday, December 31, 2010

Spinach Mushroom Pesto Quiche

I've never been an appetizer making kind of gal.  Putting together tiny little bites all decorated fancy has never been part of my skill set.  The idea of appetizers makes my mind go blank and a question mark appears on my wrinkled forehead.  I'd rather make meals.  Meals I can sink my teeth into.  Meals that fill my tummy.  Appetizers baffle me.

I made the intention back in November that I was going to allow more fun into my life and within a few week's time, I was invited to 3 partys.  Two of which require of all things ~ appetizers.  I pulled out my Martha Stewart cookbooks, knowing the Queen of All Things Domestic would surely have crowd pleasing appetizers, but the assembling of these dainty treats certainly did nothing to please me!

Then I remembered a quiche that I love, a quiche I haven't made in quite a long time!  Certainly I could turn that quiche into appetizer bites by cutting it into little pieces!  Appetizer problem solved!  This recipe comes from the Joshua Grindle Inn in Mendocino CA. 

Spinach Mushroom Pesto Quiche
  • 1/2 cup polenta
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 + 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp fresh pesto
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup mushroom, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes (no oil) chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 5 oz spinach, steamed and drained
  • 1 Roma tomato, sliced thinly (optional and if in season)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly oil the bottom of one pie plate.
  2. In a small saucepan, mix water and polenta and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and stir until thickened.  Add 1/4 cup Parmesan and salt and mix well.
  3. Pour into pie plate covering bottom.  Let cool until solidified, about 5-10 minutes.
  4. Spread pesto over polenta and sprinkle with mozzarella. 
  5. Saute mushrooms, garlic, and sun dried tomatoes.
  6. Beat together eggs, milk and cottage cheese.  Add sauteed mushroom mixture and spinach.  Mix well and pour into pie plate.  Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan and decorate with tomato slices.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes until center is set.

Spinach Mushroom Pesto Quiche

Yummo!  The perfect quiche for any occasion!

I usually am a dairy free girl, except for raw milk and my homemade raw kefir, but this quiche is so delicious that I occasionally allow myself a dairy splurge.  90/10 is my motto.  If 90% of the time I am eating good healthy food, that 10% won't do me in, hopefully! 

Happy New Year everyone, I wish you the best of health this coming new year and may your meals be delicious, healthy and full of love!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Preserved Lemons

Along the highway leading out of Valley Springs and into the central valley of California, is a little farming town where my mom went to high school.  And in that little town is a little library with a little parking lot.  And in that little parking lot are 4 trees growing wildly happy and full of fruit.  One orange, one lemon, one grapefruit and one blood orange.

And so I made the trip to that tiny little town and marveled at the bounty hanging from the branches.  With great appreciation those trees shared their fruit and I filled my paper bags, all the time wondering what fun I would soon be having in my kitchen.

Along the highway I made my way home to my own little town and my cozy house with its little kitchen.  And in my little kitchen I dumped those delicious looking lemons into the sink, gathered my sea salt, a large jar and a knife.

And what do you think I made?

Preserved Lemons
  • Lemons, Meyers I hear work best but these were a gift from Mother Nature so I won't complain
  • Sea salt
  • Large glass jar
  • Knife
  • Bowl
  • Something to smash the lemons with
  1. Scrub and clean the lemons
  2. Cut each lemon into fourths but do not cut all the way through.  The four quarters of the lemon should still be attached at the bottom.
  3. Pour some salt into the bottom of the jar, about 2 tbsp
  4. Sprinkle salt into each lemon covering the quarters
  5. Add a layer of lemons into the jar, sprinkle with salt and then smash!  Smashing the juice out of the lemon.
  6. Add another layer of lemons, sprinkle once again with salt and then smash!
  7. Continue until entire jar is filled.
  8. Sprinkle one last spoonful of salt over lemons
By now there should be quite a bit of lemon juice on the bottom of the jar.  More juice will seep from the lemons as the salt does its work.  Place jar on counter in a warm place and each day for 30 days shake your jar to mix up the salt and lemon juice.  To use your lemons, rinse the salt off the lemon and serve as needed.  These lemons can keep up to a year and do not need to be refrigerated.

Preserved Lemons

Serve your preserved lemons with Moroccan recipes here.

One little bag of lemons preserved, one little bag of oranges left dreaming of their destiny.

Butternut Squash Soup (for minimal cooking nights)

Sometimes even I, the Kitchen Witch, doesn't feel like cooking.  There are those rare days when I just want someone else to serve me some delicious food that I didn't make.  Sometimes I dream of fabulous food just magically appearing on my plate without my having to lift a finger.  And of course the dishes wash themselves!

Though I avoid processed pre-made food like the plague, every once in awhile I allow myself a little convenience.  But even then I'm careful with what I buy.  On a recent trip to one of my favorite stores, Trader Joe's, I was feeling a little cranky and not at all wanting to be in the kitchen.  A box of Butternut Squash Soup caught my eye, so I'd thought I'd give it a try.  But of course even when I'm cranky, I can't help mixing things up a bit!

Trader Joe's Butternut Squash Soup

A bowl of plain soup with no texture sounded a little blah, I wanted some heartiness, so I gave my Butternut Squash Soup a little umph! 

Here's my version of Trader Joe's Butternut Squash Soup:

  • Half a box of Trader Joe's Butternut Squash Soup
  • 2 slices of good quality bacon, fried and crumbled
  • 1 small yam, diced into small chunks
  • 1 small bunch of cilantro
  • Tbsp butter
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Place diced yam into a skillet on medium heat and sautee in butter until yam is soft.  Season with salt, pepper and some cinnamon
  2. Fry bacon, drain on paper towel, then crumble
  3. Warm up soup in a pot
  4. Chop cilantro
Pour soup into bowl, add cooked yams, sprinkle with bacon and cilantro.

Trader Joe's Butternut Squash Soup my way
It turned out delicious!  So delicious I thought I'd share it with you.  And if you don't have a Trader Joe's near you, use your favorite brand of Butternut Squash Soup, just be careful of the ingredients!

Feel like making your own Butternut Squash Soup?  Click here for a yummy recipe from Epicurious.  I personally leave out the brown sugar.  If you want to add some sweetness to this soup, add a little orange juice.  To tart it up, add a chopped green apple to the pan while sauteing the onion.

It will be about another month before I have that "I want nothing to do with the kitchen" feeling.  I'm excited to discover another "convenience" that I can easily make my own. 

In what ways to you let "convenience" into your kitchen?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Persimmon Cranberry Sauce

When was the last time you ate cranberries?  Was it Thanksgiving Day with the turkey and stuffing?  Cranberries seem to get all the love and attention they deserve on that holiday of thanks, but what about the rest of the season? 

Sure we often chug down some cranberry juice and dried cranberries ocassionally make it on top of our hot cereal and into our trail mix, but these little red berries deserve much more attention than we give them.

In my quest to eat seasonally, I am now tracking down these little red berries and creating tasty treats in the kitchen. Fresh cranberries are available in stores mid-September through December and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four weeks.

  • are high in Vitamin C and fiber
  • prevent urinary tract infections
  • may prevent ulcers and gum disease


Bright berries getting a bath
 Persimmon Cranberry Sauce
  • 3/4 lb fresh or frozen cranberries (3 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 star anise or 1/4 teaspoon star-anise pieces
  • 1/2 cup Agave Nectar or Brown Rice Syrup
  • 3 firm-ripe Fuyu persimmons (about 1 lb total), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice

  1. Bring cranberries, wine, water, star anise, 1/2 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.
  2. Add more sugar, to taste (up to about 2 1/2 tablespoons), and discard star anise.
  3. Fold in persimmons.
  4. Transfer to a bowl and serve at room temperature or chilled.
  5. Stir gently before serving.

My sauce cooling in a glass bowl

This recipe is courtesy of Epicurious, one of my favorite places to find cranberry recipes!  If you prefer not to use wine, use water or try orange juice! 

Now how do you eat this tasty sauce?  Why as many ways as you can imagine! 
  • Over a juicy breast of chicken
  • brushed over some pork ribs baking in the oven
  • spread on top of your favorite muffins
  • mixed into your morning oatmeal
  • stirred into some simmering beef stew
  • slathered over some baked yams

Get creative!

So next time you go grocery shopping, don't walk away from that bag of bright berries.  I know you've done it, I have too.  But I am more determined than ever to eat and enjoy the gifts Mother Nature offers me each season.  Here's to the humble cranberry!

How do you cook with cranberries?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Turkey Dumplings ~ Wheat and Gluten Free

One thing I adore about Thanksgiving is the leftovers.  Turkey sandwiches, turkey enchiladas, turkey stir-fry, turkey noodle soup, turkey pot pie, turkey a la king, no wait, not turkey a la king.  Unfortunately this year there were no leftovers.  You see, we had Thanksgiving at my mother-in-law's new home in Garden Valley.  Being that there were 20 of us hungry mouths to feed, come Friday morning a turkey wing and a scoop of stuffing were not going to cut it!

So this past Sunday I decided to have our own Thanksgiving.  Why not?  We definitely have much to be thankful for this year and my empty fridge was moping for some tupperware-filled holiday delights!

And what a feast we had!  A 23lb turkey for a family of four most definitely leaves a LOT of leftovers!  So what do I do with all that turkey?  Why make Turkey Dumplings of course! 

As a child, my mom always made Dumplings with the leftover turkey, so naturally I crave this soup after Thanksgiving.  If I recall correctly she used Bisquick, but since I'm enjoying my wheat-free gluten-free trans-fat-free lifestyle, I decided to try using my trusty Pamela's mix.  To my delight it turned out great!  So I thought I'd share it with you.

Turkey Dumpling Soup
  •  4 carrots sliced into thin rounds
  • 1/2 a medium yellow onion cut into small chunks
  • 3 cloves of garlic smashed and chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsbp thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne powder
  • leftover turkey ~ about 2 cups or as much or as little as you like
  • turkey broth ~ about 2 quarts  (see my notes below)
  • 2 cups Pamela's Baking and Pancake Mix Wheat and Gluten Free
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup milk or water
  1. Heat olive oil in large soup pot.  Add onions, carrots and garlic.  Season with spices.  Cook for a few minutes while onions and carrots get soft.
  2. Pour broth into pot, bring to a boil and then turn down heat to a fast simmer.
  3. In a separate bowl, pour in Pamela's Mix and cut in butter with a fork or pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Pour milk or water into flour mixture while stirring with a fork until mixture is a soft dough.
  4. Drop small spoonfuls of dough into pot.  Cover with a lid and let simmer for about 25 minutes or until dough is cooked through.  Stir and serve!

Turkey Dumplings

Now really I don't measure when I cook, so the quantities of the turkey, broth and spices are my best guesses.  Add more or less as you like.  Taste your food as you cook it and you'll know if you need to add more spice. 

So where did I get the turkey broth?  At Trader Joe's?  No!  I made it myself!  How you ask?  It is really quite easy and I know many of you already do this. 

After the turkey came out of the oven and cooled I removed all the meat.  Then I placed the carcass, yes the whole thing, in my biggest soup pot.  Covered it with water, brought the water to a boil and then simmered the carcass for about 8-12 hours, adding more water to keep the bones covered.  Let the broth cool, then strain, and you have the best turkey broth ever.  And trust me you can not get that at a store.  Unless you like preservatives, additives and a little MSG. 

So now we'll have Turkey Dumplings for a few meals and by the end of the week we will all hate turkey.  Luckily we can now look forward to that Christmas ham and all the yummy leftovers we can make with that!  Ham sandwiches, ham and eggs, ham and bean soup, ham and scallopped potatoes, ham and split pea soup . . . . . .

Liking that holiday pie but not the white flour crust?  Check out this Note on my Facebook page for a wheat-free gluten-free pie crust.  And yes, I made it with Pamela's.  I know I know.  I'll make my own flours soon, be patient.