Quiche for Pi Day

quicheYesterday was Pi Day, so in celebration, I made us a savory pie, i.e. quiche, for dinner last night. Honestly, could I have done anything else?

This year’s math day also occurred when spring has sprung in California. (Sorry if you’re not there yet in your neck of the woods.) There are tender, green veggies all up in the place right now, so I figured our savory pie required more than a serving of vegetables to fully celebrate 3.14 as well as the changing of seasons. Inspired by the technique used by theKitchn, I assembled this quiche a bit differently than I have in the past and was quite happy with the results.

We paired our spring quiche with a glass of Riesling. The bright acidity stood up to the green flavors of the pie and kept the custard and cheese from being too heavy.

Spring Quiche


serves 8

2 9-inch gluten-free pie crusts (I used Wholly Wholesome GF pie shells)
8 slices of bacon, chopped
10 oz mixed mushrooms
1 bunch asparagus, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1/3 pound baby spinach
2 cups Gruyere, grated
3 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
pinch of salt and pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp dried dill

Cook crusts according to package directions.
Keep oven at 350 degrees F after removing the pie shells.
In a large skillet, cook bacon until browned. Add red onion and stir. Pour in mushrooms and stir. Scatter asparagus and cook two minutes, then stir. Sprinkle spinach on top and cook for two more minutes. Stir veggies until spinach is wilted and then pour everything into a colander and let drain.
In the baked pie shells, scatter half of the cheese. Pour the veggies and bacon into each crust. Scatter the other half of the cheese on top.
In a large bowl, beat eggs, cream, milk, and seasonings together. Pour an equal amount into each pie shell.
Put into oven and cook for 40 minutes. Cool for 20 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with a nice, dry Riesling.

Quesadilla Fusion

quesadilla fusionThere’s nothing like a good fusion to get those taste buds popping. Such was the case the other night when a small taste of summer in the form of sun dried tomatoes and basil came my way. Since wheat and I are no longer friends, a caprese sandwich was out of the question, so what could I do?

There are lots of great options for gluten-free tortillas, and melted mozzarella never goes amiss, so how about a quesadilla fusion? A bit of Mexican styling and an arrangement of Italian ingredients made for a colorful, delicious result. Charles enjoyed them so much, he asked for them again the next night. That, my friends, is what I call success! Serve up your new fusion sensation with a good microbrew pale ale.

Quesadilla Fusion

  • Difficulty: super easy
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serves 2
2 gluten-free tortillas (I used Food For Life’s Black Rice Tortillas.)
¼ lb mozzarella, grated
4 oz sun dried tomatoes
6 leaves of fresh basil
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons guacamole

Place a skillet over medium heat. On half of each tortilla, place tomatoes and basil. Scatter cheese over the top and scatter with a bit of pepper. Fold the uncovered half of the tortilla over.
Drizzle the skillet with a bit of olive oil and cook the quesadillas until the tortilla has browned. Carefully flip them over and continue to cook until cheese is melted. (If your house is chilly, help the process along by covering quesadillas with a lid.)
Remove to two plates and cut each quesadilla into wedges with a pizza cutter. Place a dollop of guacamole in the center of each creation and serve immediately.

Crepes and Grapes

crepeI don’t know if you’ve ever tried to pair wine with eggs, but boy, is it difficult! When you opt for breakfast for dinner — a.k.a. brinner — the challenge can be enough of a struggle that you end up going with a mug of tea.

The other night, I decided that crepes would make for a perfect evening. It’s easy to make the recipe gluten-free, and savory crepes seem so fancy when presented on a plate, scattered with a garnish and filling the house with the tangy aroma of onions and the woodsy tickle of mushrooms. But what to pair with our lavish meal? As luck would have it, Charles and Crystal — whom also works in the wine section — had just sampled an Alsace wine that Crystal thought would compliment the crepes. It was Hugel’s Gentil, and it really was perfect with our savory supper. Maybe I won’t feel quite so intimidated pairing an egg dish after this success.

Crepes with Mushroom Filling


crepe recipe interpreted from Alton Brown’s recipe
makes about 15 to 20 crepes

2 extra large eggs
3/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup water
1 cup gluten-free flour
3 tablespoons melted butter, plus some for the pan
pinch of dried dill
pinch of dried thyme

Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Put in refrigerator for one hour.
Warm a non-stick skillet on medium-low heat. Coat with butter and then pour crepe batter in, turning the skillet, only pouring in enough to cover the bottom of the pan. let cook about 30 seconds and flip, letting it cook another 30 seconds. Remove and let cool on the counter, a cutting board, or a large plate.
Repeat until all crepes are cooked. Any unused crepes — there will be a few — can be put in the freezer for later.

Filling
serves two

10 oz of mixed mushrooms
green onions, a couple of handfuls of the greens chopped
2 cups baby spinach
a drizzle of heavy cream
1/2 cup of Parmesan
curly parsley for garnish

In the same skillet, cook the mushrooms down until liquid is released. You may need a teensy bit more butter for the pan to keep the mushies from sticking.
Add the green onions and spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted.
Add the cream and Parmesan and cook until until cheese is melted.
Tip the pan so some of the liquid drains off and spoon filling into two crepes. You can either place the filling in the middle of the crepe and fold over each side or place the filling on the right side of each crepe and roll to the left.
Drizzle with some of the sauce leftover in the pan and garnish with parsley.


Serve with a tasty, Alsace wine blend and mmmmm…

Dynamite Gluten-free Pancakes

Pancake-Waffle-MixThis week’s post is a quickie, but I think it’s a good discovery, and you might just read this in time to pick up some mix before your Sunday brunch.

This past Sunday morning, I broke out a gluten-free sample we had for some pancake and waffle mix. We’ve tried quite a few mixes in the last year or so, and this one is by far the winner. It’s from XO Baking Company, and it is flippin’ fantastic. The pancakes were between the thickness of a crepe and a sourdough pancake, and they were so tasty. The consistency was smooth, and the flavor was perfect. I was so excited that when I took a bite, the first thing I said to Charles — after I stopped chewing, of course — was, “I have to tell my blog readers about this!”

I just special ordered a case of the mix today. I didn’t get compensated for this post at all. The sample was something Charles brought home from work (the perks of working in grocery), and I was so pleasantly surprised by how the pancakes came out. With most GF mixes, I’ve found that I have to add applesauce to the recipe in order to get moist, flavorful pancakes, but as I said before, this mix was perfect. Obviously, I’m sold. I did just buy a case, after all.

My Sunday brunches are planned out for the next few months, I think.

Acorn Squash Lasagna

acorn squashRemember last week when I waxed poetic on winter squash? Well, today I’m going to share a recipe, a pairing, and an amazing tip that I received from my friends Joey and Bill.

The dinner party that Charles and I had attended at the aforementioned friends’ house had winded down. As we shared a bit of dessert and finished our wine, they shared with us their secret to cooking winter squash — the slow cooker. It’s easy, Bill told us, you just poke the squash with a fork a few times, stick it in the cooker — no water needed — turn it on low, and let it go.

Of course, I had to try it myself. I washed off an acorn squash, (it still had some farm dirt on it,) poked some holes in it with a fork, and stuck it in the slow cooker before I left for work. When I got home that afternoon, the house smelled heavenly, and the squash was cooked perfectly. So easy! Thanks to Joey and Bill’s tip, winter squash will now be a main ingredient in many a dinner in the months ahead.

My now cooked squash became the star of the evening meal, Acorn Squash Lasagna — one of my all-time favorite dishes. I’ve played with the recipe a few times over the years, tweaking it until I was perfectly happy with it. It’s savory and just a wee bit sweet and filling enough that a square will do you for your dinner requirements.

winePairing this lasagna has always been more of a challenge than cooking it, as the squash flavors and cheese flavors don’t always complement a wine well, but I finally found something that works wonderfully. It’s Ventana‘s Chardonnay, a wine that Charles had brought into the store on a vendor’s recommendation. He had brought home the last two bottles the week before. A side note — the psychology of shoppers is often interesting. Did you know that customers are uncomfortable with purchasing the last item on the shelf? Especially with wine and beer, that last bottle will just stand lonely on the shelf while people pass it by. Because of this, Charles often purchases the final hold-outs of wine vintages and seasonal beers. It works for us, as Charles stocks his shelves with excellent options, and our cellar becomes more and more diverse. But back to this particular pairing … the Ventana paired well, its creaminess rounding out the lasagna. Nutmeg characteristics in the glass were the perfect, seasonal accompaniment with the squash. The pairing just screams, “Autumn!”

lasagna
Acorn Squash Lasagna

serves two

1 acorn squash, cooked, seeds and skin removed
1/4 teaspoon dried, rubbed sage
salt and freshly ground pepper
8 ounces goat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
4 gluten-free lasagna noodles (I used Tinkyada Rice Lasagna)
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cook lasagna noodles to package directions. I broke mine in half to fit the baking dish nicely.
Rub butter along the insides of a square baking dish.
Mix squash with sage, salt and pepper.
Mix ricotta with egg.
Place two lasagna pieces in the bottom of the dish. Spread with half of the squash.
Place two lasagna pieces on top, and spread with half of the ricotta mixture.
Repeat the lasagna-squash step, then the lasagna-ricotta step.
Sprinkle the top of your creation with the Parmesan, cover the dish with foil, and cook for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for 20 more minutes.

Gluten-free Update

sliced breadIt’s been two months since I decided to go gluten-free. I have to say, it hasn’t been as difficult as I thought it was going to be. It’s forced me to pay more attention to ingredient lists and sometimes search for alternatives, but because of how mainstream gluten-free eating has become, there are a huge range of options.

One of the things that I made sure to do was to have a Celiac Disease before I had followed a gluten-free diet for an entire month. I’m grateful to say that I tested negative for Celiac, though I am wheat sensitive.

I accidentally consumed wheat twice over the past two months and purposely consumed it once. Each time, I experienced swelling in my joints and intense pain. I also experienced the classic symptoms of bloating and stomach pain. The consistent reactions that I was able to replicate indicate that the sensitivity isn’t in my head, especially since I had the same reactions when I unintentionally ate wheat.

What does this mean for the future? Well, I’ll continue to seek out alternatives and share the successes and failures here. With the local food season going into full swing, veggie-heavy meals will be on the menu most nights. It’s always exciting to be presented with new-to-me produce from my CSA and to develop recipes around them. It should be an interesting summer.

But for the next two weeks, I’m going to be gallivanting in the desert, consuming Tasty Bites and Tanka Bars — the staples of our camping meals, but not very exciting in terms of a food blog. As soon as I return from vacation, I’ll be back to blogging. Until then, try some new recipes and drink lots of good wine.

Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder

slow cooker pork shoulderYou’re probably beginning to realize that while I occasionally enjoy creating a complicated meal, my stand-bys are simpler meals that have a few layers of flavor but are easy peasy to make. And I love my slow cooker. I have a small one that’s perfect for smaller meals as well as small roasts — even a chicken.

A couple of days ago, I found a pork shoulder in the freezer (that place is a constant source of surprise for me) and decided it needed to be dinner. After thawing overnight in the fridge, I slow cooked that bad boy until it was a tender, falling-off-the-bone flavor extravaganza and served it with some smashed potatoes.

Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder

One pork shoulder
1/2 cup red wine
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of mixed sweet and hot peppers (I had a bag of pre-sliced sweet bells, jalapenos, etc. that were in the freezer. I recommend a 3 to 1 ratio of sweet to hot.)
2 cups sweet cherries

Throw it all in the slow cooker. Set on low, and go to work. It will be cooked and the flavors will be nicely incorporated by the time you get home. Serve with veggies, potatoes, etc. — whatever side speaks to you.

Any leftovers can be turned into pulled pork sandwiches. I used a gluten-free hamburger bun that I toasted on the grill with a little garlic butter before filling. I added a couple of dollops of Larrupin Red Sauce to the pork for a bit more sweetness and heat.

Kelp Noodle Stir-fry

kelp noodle stir fryThere’s been a package of kelp noodles that we got as a sample quite some time ago that would stare at me sadly every time I opened the pantry door, wondering when I was going to get around to using it. Though I liked the idea behind the noodles, and I enjoy seaweed of many different sorts, it was difficult to feel inspired when gazing at a package of gelatinous-looking noodles surrounded by a nebulous liquid.

Yesterday though, yesterday, I spied some Lo Mein on the deli’s hot bar at work, and man it looked and smelled so good, and I couldn’t have it! So I decided it was time, time to give those doleful noodles a purpose in being. Frankly, now I’m wondering why it took me so long. I really enjoyed them. They were crispy and fun to bite. While they tried to ball up together, a little separating with a fork brought them into line again, and they picked up the flavors of the sauce. Plus, they were that healthy thing I’m always striving for, so that was a bonus.

stir fry ingredientsKelp Noodle Stir-fry with Peanut Sauce

1 package kelp noodles
.6 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into 1-inch pieces
small yellow onion, chopped
red bell pepper, sliced thinly
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 Tablespoons + 1 Tablespoon gluten-free Thai peanut sauce
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
drizzle of gluten-free Tamari
drizzle of gluten-free Sriracha
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Heat up skillet on high heat. Add oil.
Drizzle 2 TB peanut sauce, Tamari, and Sriracha on chicken and mix until chicken is coated. Toss in peanuts then place in hot skillet. Once chicken has browned, add onion and bell pepper. Stir for about a minute then add the garlic. Turn down heat to medium.
While the skillet does its magic and turns raw into cooked, place kelp noodles in a colander and rinse in cold water, separating the glob into lovely strands of translucent noodles.
Once onions are soft, throw in noodles and 1 TB sauce, stirring until the noodles are coated and warmed enough to become more flexible. When they’re flexing like a ballerina on a barre, serve that concoction with a couple of napkins. Until you get the hang of it, eating those noodles is going to be messy.

The red bell peppers are a nice counterpoint to the heat created by the Sriracha and play nicely with the nuttiness of the sauce. And I’m sold on those noodles. I’m going to be picking up a couple more packages. They just won’t stick around long enough to stare glumly out at me from the pantry shelf. I’ve learned my lesson.

Gluten-free Pizza

Gluten free pizza slice I had been noticing for quite awhile that when I ate bread, my joints would ache, and it kept getting progressively worse. It didn’t matter if it was organic, sprouted wheat bread or crappy French rolls from Sysco. First my left wrist would swell, then my knuckles, and finally my right elbow. Then my whole body would begin to HURT, I’d stiffen up, and it would be hard to move. Such negative reinforcement made me switch to a gluten-free diet pretty quickly, and I started to read “Wheat Belly” to get some answers.

While most of my meals are whole foods — lots of vegetables, some meat, some rice — sometimes, I crave comfort food. I’ve been investigating alternatives to some of my favorites. Keep in mind, I find these processed alternatives to be treats, so they’re not a regular feature of my meals. But sometimes, you just gotta have a piece of pizza.

gluten free crust For my first venture into the gluten-free world of pizza crust, I decided to go store bought. I’ll probably make a crust the next time, but it was a pretty tasty option. The texture, being rice, was interesting, both crispy and chewy, but it made for a good dinner.

Here’s my process:

Ingredients:

Chevre, pepper jack (shredded), and small mozzarella balls
extra virgin olive oil
pesto
nitrite-free salami
orange bell pepper (sliced)
portobello mushroom cap (sliced)
basil leaves
roasted red pepper flakes
garlic powder
Roma tomato
pizza crust

Ready for the ovenPreheat oven to 500 degrees. (You’ll be turning it down a tad once you put the pizza in the oven.)

Brush top of crust with olive oil. Spread a nice layer of pesto to almost the very edge of the crust. Follow with the pepper jack, crumble on the Chevre, layer the salami, mushroom, and bell pepper on top of the cheese. Next, cover the pizza with basil leaves and sprinkle with the mozzarella balls. Shake with a generous amount of the pepper flakes and garlic powder, and then follow the instructions on the box for cooking temperature and time.

While pizza cooks, slice tomato thinly. Once pizza is finished, layer the tomato slices on top of the cheesy goodness, and chomp away.

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