Thursday, April 28, 2011

Macaroni-and-Cheese Quiche

As promised, and by request from a follower, the recipe for Mac&Cheese Quiche. A friend hooked me up with this recipe from Woman's World magazine. A great little magazine, I've gotten several recipes and craft ideas from it, check it out!

OK here we go:

1 lb penne pasta (or macaroni, cavatappi or corkscrews--I used traditional macaroni)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup finely minced shallots, about 1 large shallot
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups milk
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 8oz package shredded Italian five-cheese with cream cheese blend, such as Kraft
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
4 cups spinach leaves

*Some notes about the ingredients: at first I had a hard time finding shallots at the store. I was looking for them around the onions, they were in a separate little shelf in the produce section. While I usually buy skim milk, I did use 2% milk for this. If I'd been able to find 1% at the corner store, I would have used that. I was not able to find the five-cheese blend with the Philadelphia cream cheese at my local stores. They did have some of the other cheeses with cream cheese, so I just bought the regular Italian blend. For the eggs I used Egg Beaters. And I did not add the salt, since I try to watch the sodium due to my high blood pressure. I'd say the salt could be optional.*

Preheat oven to 350F. Coat 8" springform pan with cooking spray. Cook and drain pasta according to package directions.

1. In pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add shallots; cook until just tender, 1-2 minutes. Gradually whisk in flour until smooth; cook, stirring, 1 minute.

2. Gradually whisk in milk. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil; cook until thickened and coats back of spoon, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool 10 minutes.

3. Whisk in eggs, 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese, Parmesan, zest, salt and pepper until blended and smooth. Stir in spinach and pasta. Transfer to pan. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup shredded cheese. Cover with foil. Bake 45 minutes. Uncover; bake until golden, 10-15 minutes. Run sharp knife around edge of pan to loosen pasta. Let stand 20 minutes. Remove from pan and serve.

Here are some pics. And for the record, this was AMAZING. The only person who didn't eat it was my picky nephew, but even the 4 year old niece ate some!

Let me know if you try it and how it turns out! And I'd love to try it with other veggies too! I'm thinking broccoli next!

Happy eating!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Good Friday and Easter Sunday--a weekend of good eats!

So every year my dad does this awesome Good Friday fish fry and meal. Luckily, J & I were able to make it this year, and were excited my brother, sister-in-law, niece & nephew made it in from out of town as well.

This year on Papa W's menu: grilled tuna steaks, grilled zucchini slices, grilled shrimp skewers, homemade coleslaw, fresh rye bread from a local bake shop, breaded (fried) shrimp and crab cakes. PW makes the BEST crab cakes! He also made deep fried crab & Parmesan cheese ball appetizers that were AMAZING. (I definitely need to get the recipe!) 

Our family likes to laugh a lot and indeed we did. The first moment was when PW announced it was time to say grace, and I kicked off the Christmas Vacation grace scene by saying "I pledge allegiance to the flag..." and my SIL added "Grace died years ago." then began singing "And the rockets' red glaaaaare..."

The second time was when trying to juggle the "story" of what the crab balls and fried shrimp were for the kids. My nephew didn't want fish so everything was "popcorn chicken" and my niece wanted fish sticks so we could tell her they were fish. We're pretty sure my nephew knew none of it was chicken (he's 7) but the defeated look on his face trying to follow the rule of eating "just one", with his one chipmunk cheek stuffed with the (not going down) piece of fried shrimp was just priceless. (He didn't eat it in the end.)

I helped PW make a wonderful creamy lemon mustard sauce for the tuna and crab cakes. Delicious!  Here are the crab cakes, don't they look awesome?

Everything was delicious! Aside from the sauce, I didn't contribute much to the Good Friday meal. I DID, however, contribute the pepperoni bread that was prepped and ready to be put in the oven at 11:45pm, so it could be done just in time for the famed Good Friday Midnight Snack!

Easter Day, the feast was yet again at my parents' house. Mama W got the table all set and ready,

and also prepared some sides, sour cream cucumbers and chunky applesauce with whole cranberries.

PW slow roasted the Easter ham on the grill,

got the bread basket and rolls ready,

some broccoli with a side of buttered bread crumbs for anyone who wanted them, and I kept an eye on my macaroni & cheese quiche in the oven. Yes, you read that right--Macaroni & Cheese Quiche. I promise a separate post in the next few days specifically about the quiche and I will definitely include the recipe. Pretty easy and it is DELICIOUS!

Since I am not a big meat eater, here is my plate:

(The Mac & Cheese Quiche is the tall, piece of pie-looking item on my plate!) And J's, complete with ham and bratwurst:

I chose a nice bottle of wine for J & I to have with our dinner, and my brother also shared the bottle with us--Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages. Perfect--not too dry, not too sweet, and was a perfect partner to the variety of food we had prepared.

It was wonderful and we will definitely make that a regular wine in our wine rack!

We had a wonderful weekend full of family, friends and great food, and I hope you all were blessed with the same.

Stay tuned for the Mac & Cheese Quiche post and recipe!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Last Weekend's Lazy Meals

Well, last week I had a great stir-fry planned for yet another meat-free Lenten Friday.  However, after a long week at work, Friday evening came and J & I found ourselves sitting on the couch, exhausted. I kept trying to tell myself (& J) that stir-fry REALLY doesn't take that long, and I could do it. Then J said the magic words: "If you want, we can order a pizza pie--that's fine with me."  BINGO. So a Pizza Hut Stuffed Crust pizza with black olives it was! And some beer! (Lenten Fridays are calorie-free, right?)

Saturday I had much more energy on Saturday and we settled in for the evening to relax with some stir-fry and of course, some wine! Once again, I'll admit when I "cheat"--for the rice, I use the Bird's Eye Steamfresh Brown Rice (in the grocery freezer section). 4-4 1/2 minutes in the microwave, and just right for 2 servings. We'd purchased some new oils and sauces at Trader Joe's recently, so I took the opportunity to try some of that out!

I sauteed the tofu in some sesame oil then added a couple tablespoons of Trader Joe's Pepper Sauce. I added a touch of soy sauce then added the veggies--baby corn, sliced water chestnuts, broccoli and cauliflower. Just that touch of sauce was enough to add a lot of flavor (and a little spice!) to the dish. We opted for a Merlot--Table Leaf (a new brand for us)--which paired very nicely with the pepper sauce on the stir-fry. Delicious!

And just a little extra--tonight I baked cupcakes for the monthly birthday party at work tomorrow. Who doesn't love cupcakes, right?! And I had to add some sprinkles to some for just a little something special. I love to cook and bake, and especially when it helps spread joy to other people! I made full size and mini-cupcakes so those trying to stay on the healthier side of things can have a treat without a lot of guilt. I think I'll be having a mini (with sprinkles!) since I'm still not sure I have made up for that Stuffed Crust pizza on Friday!

Happy cooking (and eating)!

Hopefully up next: My dad's (awesome) Good Friday dinner!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

What a gorgeous day it was today here in Pittsburgh! Sunny, almost 80 degrees--the kind of weather J & I love!

We headed out early today to do a little shopping--specifically for a new bike for J. Last summer, we biked the South Side trail most weekends, and each time extended our trip, eventually extending through town and to the North Side. J found an awesome bike on sale at Dick's Sporting Goods. I did a little shopping as well, then we headed for home, anxious to sit on the patio and listen to the ballgame!

Our original plan was to stop at Page's Dairy Mart for some ice cream or a chocolate malt (Best. Ice Cream. EVER!), but after a long week--and one where we did not always have the healthiest of meals--I followed J's lead and decided to pass. I tried to think of what I could make for lunch that would be healthy, good and go well with the gorgeous weather.

Here's what I came up with:

I REALLY try to eat salad. I mean, it is a GREAT way to load up on a lot of veggies at one time. But I get really bored with salads easily. So I try to come up with new things to add to break the monotony. Summer is great for experimenting since the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables is so high that time of year. J picked up a couple containers of strawberries the other day, and we had some really good, crisp Gala apples as well, so I opted to make a great salad with red romaine lettuce, strawberries, apples, a little crumbled Gorgonzola, and chopped walnuts. We only needed a little but of red wine vinaigrette to top it off!

I had also scored some great plum tomatoes at the store, and had some baguette slices left in the freezer, so decided to try something new to me--making bruschetta. I didn't have a recipe to go off of, so I just went with what I was pretty sure was in it off the top of my head...tomatoes, basil and olive oil. I chopped up 2 plum tomatoes into small pieces, then tossed in a bowl with a little olive oil, fresh ground black pepper, and dried basil (I did not have any fresh on hand). For a little twist, I also added a dash of rosemary and thyme as well.

Next, I baked the baguette slices at 350F. I did some plain, and on other slices with a wee bit of Parmesan shreds or crumbled Gorgonzola. Everything turned out delicious!

I can't wait to try the bruschetta using fresh herbs--last year J & I had several herbs growing on the patio, and it was wonderful to be able to grab a handful of fresh herbs to chop and add to recipes!

We had a bottle of pink Catawba wine from a local shop in the fridge, and it was just perfect with this summer lunch!

I wish the ballgame had turned out as well as the lunch did! Chubbs didn't care though, she was just so thrilled to get her first really long nap on the patio!

Happy eating!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Saturday Night Dinner with Friends

Last night, J & I had our friends M & J over for dinner. M is a vegetarian, so I was excited to be able to try a new recipe out for Mushroom Stuffed Mushrooms. The recipe was very easy and can be prepped up to a couple days ahead if necessary.

I first prepped four portobello mushrooms by washing them, then taking out the stems and gills. Removing the gills really does create a lot of room perfect for stuffing! I then sauteed 6oz of chopped white mushrooms, adding a little onion, fresh-ground white pepper, and rosemary.
When the mushrooms were browned and tender, I added a cup of brown rice/wild rice blend. The recipe called for one cup of cooked wild rice, but I'll be honest, I cheated. "Real" wild rice is very good, but can often take up to an hour to cook. Buying a bag just for this recipe would have been a waste for us. Instead, I used a pantry staple, Minute Rice brown rice & wild rice cups. They are fully cooked and just need microwaved to warm. They're a great side for packed lunches, and less wasteful. They are one-cup servings, so I simply added one of those to the sauteed mushrooms, and stirred until heated.

The final ingredient to the stuffing is one of my favorites--goat cheese! 2 ounces, crumbled. I stirred in the warm mix just until melted and mixed through. This was the moment I thought "OMG these are going to be SO. GOOD."  After stuffing each mushroom cap, I topped with some sliced plum tomatoes. The recipe called for grape tomatoes, but the plum tomatoes at the store looked best, so I went with those.

At this point, I wrapped the tray and put it in the fridge, then started on the pastries. One of my other favorite staples to work with for hors d'oeuvres is the Pillsbury Crescent Creations dough. I rolled it out onto my cutting board and using a pizza slicer, made small squares.

For the filling this time, I opted to use the olive pimento cream cheese from our local bagel chain, Bruegger's.

Then I simply twisted the corners and made a little "purse". You can make it into a roll, a twist, a tube, whatever you like. I placed the purses on a greased cookie sheet, and put those in the fridge as well.

Later, when it was time to get the meal going, I let the mushroom pan come warm up a little to room temperature while I preheated the oven to 425 F. The last step was to add some breadcrumbs on top of the mushrooms--I also added just a touch of grated Parmesan.

Once the mushrooms were in to bake (for 30 minutes), I chopped fresh broccoli and cauliflower, and steamed it using a great stockpot we have with a steamer basket.

The last 10 minutes of baking, I put the tray of crescent purses in. They usually bake about 15 or 20 minutes at 375F, but since the oven was at a higher temperature, I cut the time down. Finally, we were set to go.

The mushrooms were DELICIOUS! This is definitely making it to the recipe box and will become a regular meal, as it was so easy. We paired the deeper taste of the portabello mushroom with Tisdale Shiraz, and J & M brought a Funky Llama Malbec, which also went well with the meal.

After some time for conversation and relaxing, we finished off with a simple and delicious dessert. Another of our several recipes that had been cut out of one of many magazines, Broiled Banana splits. Very easy, something new, and also delicious. I sliced two bananas lengthwise and laid them in a long sheet of tin foil. I melted a tablespoon of butter in a ramekin in the microwave, and brushed it on the bananas. The topping is simple--1 tablespoon of brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon mixed together. After sprinkling the mixture on the bananas, I sealed them up in the foil and broiled the bananas on high for about 5 minutes.

I sliced each half into 2 pieces and laid in the bowl, then topped with a couple small scoops of Starbucks Vanilla Bean Frappucino ice cream. I added a small sprinkle of Hershey's dark chocolate cocoa powder. Unfortunately, I over-toasted the sliced almonds, so I had to leave those off. However, marshmallow fluff saved the day (as M shares my love of it) as well as some chocolate covered coffee beans!

We finished off our evening with a competitive game of Scrabble! We couldn't have asked for a better evening! We just wish it could have lasted longer!

Try this simple meal for your next dinner--whether just for you or for company--I can guarantee it will be a winner!