I just want my frozen yogurt treat. Grrr.

Okay. I need to time travel back in history to about 2 ½ weeks ago. I hope I don’t offend anyone with what I am about to tell you. If you have a weak constitution, you may want to visit one of the blogs on my sidebar instead of reading on. I got sick. Make your acquaintance with the porcelain altar for it will become your best friend for days sort of sick. After I was feeling a little better, I felt sure that I needed to eat some food that would help the good guys in the battle raging for my GI tract. I could tell they were losing the battle big time.

I felt better enough to risk leaving the house. I went to our gourmet/health food store to buy some relief. I immediately thought Kefir would be a good thing to have. I could drink it like a shake instead of having to actually eat something like yogurt. I went to grab some Kefir but my favorite, Nancy’s, was nowhere to be found. In it’s place were commercial looking brands with labels that screamed “now with NutraFlora!”. WTF?! I don’t know what this stuff is and I am in no mood to figure it out. From what I can tell, it is some sort of fiber and the last thing I need is kefir that has been fortified with fiber. After the previous few days, the last thing I need to think about is being regular. I completed the shopping trip of desperation with a shopping cart full of yogurt, kombucha tea, amazake and a big bottle of acidophilus. I got better and life went on. For the time being, I completely forgot about NutraFlora.

                                            

I don’t eat a ton of packaged foods but there are certain things I don’t make from scratch that I enjoy a lot. Frozen desserts are part of that category. I went to Costco last week and saw that they were selling huge boxes of Julie’s frozen yogurt bars. I passed on them last week because they weren’t blackberry flavor. They were strawberry. Julie’s makes the most delicious blackberry ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet and these blackberry ice cream bars covered in dark, dark chocolate. Ohhhhhh. If those bars had been blackberry, I wouldn’t have made it to the check stand without eating them. But… they were strawberry. I left them where they sat. I went back to Costco today and saw the Julie’s frozen yogurt bars. They said “Hi Mimi. We are twelve delicious bars for $8.49. Please take us home”. I said, “Okay, please come home with me”. They were in my hand, on their way to my shopping cart when what did my eyes see? “Now with NutraFlora!” I turned the box over and didn’t see NutraFlora on the ingredients list. Just an item called fructin. Grrr. I put them back in the freezer.

I came home and started looking for information on this new ingredient that seemed to be making it’s way into all of the healthy seeming organic food. It turns out that NutraFlora is a prebiotic, meaning that it is a carbohydrate that is indestructible enough to make it to where your intestinal flora (fauna?) live. It feeds them and makes them healthy. According to the makers of NutriFlora, it is present in fruits and veggies but if you didn’t have “one serving of NutriFlora-enriched yogurt, you would have to eat about 22 bananas, 15 onions, 16 tomatoes, or 383 cloves of garlic“. Maybe this stuff is good for us, but I tend to be skeptical when they remove something from food and then enrich food that doesn’t contain it naturally with said nutrient. I am more of a whole foods gal, and I would rather eat the bananas, onions, tomatoes and garlic. It is my reasoning that if I do, I’ll get so much more nutrition than from my cup of yogurt, glass of kefir or frozen yogurt bar.

So, I made my own frozen yogurt bars and they were good. I could identify all three ingredients in the recipe.

Blueberry frozen yogurt bars

1 1/3 cups nonfat plain yogurt

1 1/3 cups frozen wild blueberries*

2 2/3 tbsp honey

Place all ingredients into a blender. Puree until smooth. Pour smoothie into ¼ cup capacity popsicle molds. Freeze until solid.

* I used frozen wild blueberries which are a small variety of blueberry. This recipe has not been tested using a larger berry. If you use a larger berry, taste the mixture before you freeze it (this is a good idea anyway since my idea of sweet may not be yours). Adjust to add more fruit and/or honey to taste. If making a change to the recipe creates more yogurt mixture than will fit in your molds, just drink it, this is essentially a thin berry smoothie.

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…and now for something completely different

Avocado. Mmmmm. Silky. Luscious. Cooling. Cake… Huh??? If the words avocado and cake make you want to have a Corona with lime to help soften the blow of having those two words appear in the same sentence, then this cake is probably not for you. You can leave now. There is a nice sunny beach somewhere with fish tacos and beer and guacamole. You are excused. If avocado and cake made you perk up and be curious, stick around with me for a minute, you won’t be disappointed.

I first became intrigued with the idea of avocado in a baked good after stumbling onto the recipe for avocado bread on the avocado.org site a couple of years ago. People use zucchini, carrots and bananas in baked goods. With it’s high fat content and creamy flesh, why not avocado too? My only problem: although I live in the middle of avocado country and I can get huge Hass avocados for a buck a piece, I am very miserly with them. I didn’t want to waste a good avocado or two on something that might suck.

This week, we managed to buy too many of these wonderful fruits, and like bananas, the window of yummy goodness is very short indeed. I had two avocados that were quickly heading past their prime. Today was the day to experiment.

The experiment went well. I have to admit that I was a little too bold with my experiment and the addition of chocolate chips, while well intentioned was possibly a mistake. They made the cake a little too rich. We tried a nibble of cake that somehow didn’t get polluted with chocolate and the dates and walnuts alone were just perfect. If you just have to have chocolate, it was pretty tasty but the cake would have been somehow more pure and elegant without the chocolate.

Why is this cake a surprise you ask? It surprised me with it’s super moist texture. Avocados are high in oil. If you look at the recipe, there is no added fat besides the flesh of the avocado. I used whole wheat pastry flour and yet, this cake was as moist as a cake made from cake mix. Just fabulous and yet another reason to drop the chocolate from the recipe so that you can enjoy the texture with just a little fruit and nuts to compliment it.

Avocado surprise cake

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

Zest from 1 large orange, chopped

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp salt

½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips, roughly chopped (optional)

½ cup fresh dates, chopped

½ cup walnuts

½ cup honey

¼ cup orange juice (about 1 large orange, juiced)

1 cup avocado (2 large), mashed until smooth

1 egg, lightly beaten

½ cup plain yogurt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, F. Oil and flour a bundt pan.

In a large bowl mix together, pastry flour, orange zest, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, chocolate chips (if using), dates and walnuts.

In another large bowl combine honey, orange juice, avocado, egg and yogurt. Mix until well combined.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Pour batter into the prepared bundt pan. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes until the cake is browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

How to season a wok

I’m very good at destroying things. It’s true. I’ve had two woks in the past. I followed the directions that came with these inexpensive carbon steel pans. Both times, no matter how well I cared for them, the seasoning came off and I rusted them most of the way through.

I love a good wok. A wok is so deep that you can pile the veggies into it and then crank up the heat and get a good sear on them. I’ve been wok-less for years and it’s been a major frustration.

A few years back, Gourmet did an article on the classic $15 wok. I saved the issue because the owner of the store that was profiled had instructions on how to season a wok and the instructions made so much more sense than the usual stove top method. I bought a wok and then forgot about it. Until today. Today was the day that a wok came back into my life.

I went hunting around the Gourmet website thinking that the instructions would be there, but of course I couldn’t find them so I’ll let you know what I did:

First, gather up what you will need:

A carbon steel wok

Steel wool

Dish soap

Vegetable oil

Paper towels

An old dish towel or wash cloth that you don’t mind damaging

Aluminum foil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Your wok will have some sort of coating on the inside to keep it from rusting. Using some steel wool and dish soap, scrub the inside of the wok thoroughly to clean off this coating. Dry the wok with a dish cloth.

Now look at your wok. Does it have a wood or plastic handle? Plastic? Sorry, these instructions aren’t for you unless you can remove the handle. If you can remove the handle please do so now. If it is a wooden handle and the handle cannot be removed, wrap the handle in a wet dish cloth and wrap the cloth completely in aluminum foil.

Using a paper towel and some vegetable oil. Wipe oil all over the inside and outside of the wok. (If you like the look of the steel you can leave the outside surface unseasoned but I don’t recommend it, an unseasoned bottom was the source of my rust problems with the other woks). Put the wok in the hot oven and allow it to bake for 20 minutes. Make sure your room is well ventilated and run the range fan. This will cause smoke! After 20 minutes, remove the wok and let it cool for at least five minutes or until cool enough to handle. Using an oven mitt, grab the wok by the handle (the wok will be cool, but the handle will still be warm, be careful!) and take it to the sink. Scrub the inside of the wok with the steel wool, using hot water only, no soap. Don’t scrub enough to remove the layer of seasoning, you just want to scratch the surface up a little.

Repeat the oiling, baking cooling and scrubbing three or four more times until the wok is bronze colored. It’s now fully seasoned.

So what did I make with my newly seasoned wok? Tofu and Broccoli Stir fry from the June issue of Eating Well Magazine. Click here for the recipe, the only thing I changed was to double the garlic (I so love garlic!) and substitute honey for the sugar which I recommend. The honey made the sauce sweet but also so very flavorful. This was a delicious and easy recipe that used a lot of pantry items.

If you don’t already have a carbon steel wok, go out and get one! They are very cheap and a great addition to your kitchen. And…now you know how to properly season it! Oh and by the way… never use soap on your wok. A little kosher salt and a sponge are all you need to clean it up and keep it’s non-stick surface in great shape!

A whole lotta yum

So… you may recall that I promised my boyfriend that I would bake treats with reduced sugar or no refined sugar at all. It’s been weeks and everything was going just fine until he said, “I want a cookie”. After I asked (excitedly), “Do you really want a cookie?” and he said “no“… well, I have of course been obsessing over cookies with real sugar. Sweet, chewy, bendy cookies. It sucks.

To make matters worse, everywhere I looked people were blogging about their cookies. Like this one, or that one or this other one or yet another. I was also bumping into websites (even healthy recipe sites) with cookies, like this or this. Ugh.

Today, I set the DVR to record the Oscars so that I could go on an adventure. We drove up north to look for wild flowers. We didn’t find the big field of lupine and poppies I remembered so we stopped at a local lunch place where we ate monster sandwiches. On the way out, I noticed what looked like giant biscotti. These things were enormous!! We both were obsessing over them and we almost drove back to the restaurant to get one, but we stopped at a local winery where we drowned our craving in Pinot Noir instead.

On the way home, my boyfriend mentioned that he wanted to get a sugar free pie on the way home. We have a bakery that makes these amazing sugar free fruit pies with dates or apple juice as the only sweeteners. Great pies but I was feeling frugal after splurging on lunch and wine tasting. I wasn’t about to let him spend $15.99 on a pie, so I told him I would make him pie.

I envisioned a variation on the sweet lemon crust from last time. I would do an orange scented crust and then the filling would be loaded with orange flavor and blueberries and spices. I always have such delusions of grandeur…

The crust came together like a charm. Flecked with orange rind, it was beautiful in it’s raw state. I have developed a habit of rolling the pastry out much larger than my pie pan and then I pinch the edges together, roll them under until they form a thick crust and then pinch the crust all the way around to give it a slight fluted shape. When I used this method this time, I created a hilariously outsized crust.

The filling was lightly sweetened with honey, but I think I needed more cornstarch. Our first couple of slices saw a pure collapse of the filling which was too wet. A consequence of not enough thickening agent and frozen fruit and liquid sweetener. As a consequence it was difficult to photograph a pretty slice. I forgot to add cinnamon and vanilla which I thought would be great in the filling so I was worried that the pie would fail, especially when I saw how wet the filling was. However, the flavor was wonderful. The crust, due to the acid in the orange juice, was as light and flaky as a croissant. A beautiful and delicious pie. But… I may still want a cookie. Harumph!

Sunshine in a blueberry pie

Crust:

3 cups unbleached white flour

1 tsp salt

1 cup cold, unsalted butter cut into chunks

1 tbsp honey

Zest from an orange

4 – 5 tbsp orange juice

4 – 5 tbsp cold water

Filling:

26 oz frozen wild blueberries

Juice and zest from an orange

3 tbsp (or more) cornstarch

3 – 4 tbsp honey

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Butter a 9″ pie pan.

Mix flour, salt and zest. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Add honey and orange juice to the flour mixture. Begin to mix in a tablespoon of ice water at a time, gently mixing the flour and liquid together, trying not to over-knead the pastry. Mix in just enough water to be able to form a ball of dough. Cut the dough ball in half and put half in the refrigerator. Roll out the first ball of dough until it is large enough to overhang the edges of your pie pan by at least an inch or two. Store the pastry in the fridge while you mix the filling.

In a large bowl, mix together, orange juice, zest, honey and cornstarch until well combined. Add frozen berries and stir until combined. Pour filling into pie shell, store in the refrigerator while you roll the top crust.

Roll out the top crust into a round that is one to two inches larger than the pie pan. Top the pie with the top crust. Pinch the overhanging lower and upper crusts together and then roll them under themselves to form a thick crust. With your thumb, make a fluted pattern by indenting the top of the crust edge. Cut steam holes into the center of the top crust. Bake the pie for 55 – 60 minutes until well browned. Check the pie at the half hour mark. If the edges are browning too quickly, use a pie shield or (if the crust is enormous like mine) crimp foil around the edges. Cool the pie completely before serving.

A friendly reminder: play with your leftovers

When I was a kid, my Mom would admonish me to eat everything on my plate because there were starving kids in (the third world country of her choice for that week). I’m not sure why parents did that. Kids are a bit selfish and it’s hard to get guilty about a kid you’ve never met in some country you’ve probably never been to. Sometimes I wish I had taken the parenthood route. Why? Because now you can hit ‘em with this one: “Jimmy finish your food! You know that food waste causes global warming and we’re all going to die!!”. Now that should get little Jimmy’s attention!

Anyway, the threat of global destruction isn’t half as personal as what many of us are going through economically right now and wasting food is really wasting money, isn‘t it? I am guilty like all of us of buying food and letting some of it go to waste each week and it makes me sad to toss out perfectly good food especially as we see our grocery bills go up and up. Lately, I’ve been concentrating on finding ways to identify what is hiding in the fridge and I’ve been finding creative ways to make use of it. For instance last week when we weren’t particularly hungry for an actual dinner but we wanted something to munch while watching the Olympics, I made a veggie tray of carrots, celery and radishes (all things I buy for soups and salads and toss out a few of each week as they rot). A quickie guacamole made out of an overripe avocado, lemon juice and salt made a terrific dip. This was healthy and strangely satisfying. That same week I also turned leftover brown rice into sourdough rolls.

A couple of days ago I made the Indian Spiced Salmon from the Muir Glen cookbook that I got with the tomatoes I reviewed. The recipe is a knockout, full of garam masala and sweet from honey. The problem with this recipe is that it makes a lot of sauce since you need to braise a couple of pounds of salmon fillets. We ate a generous amount of the sauce with our four servings of salmon over two days, but when we were done, we had a full two cups of the sauce left over! Organic canned tomatoes are pricey so it seemed like a shame to waste the sauce but I didn’t really want to eat it on pasta due to the garam masala and sweet honey flavors. I saved the sauce anyway (which normally means putting off throwing it away until I find where it got pushed into the back of the fridge two weeks later). I also made a pan of homemade polenta to go with the Tuscan chicken dish we liked so much from the same book. This makes a load of polenta. Such great food but what on earth do you do with the odds and ends and things you are tired of eating?

I was so proud of myself this morning. Having a desire to try an Israeli/North African dish called Shakshouka (tomato sauce poached eggs) for a very long time, but a failure to remember to buy the ingredients, I suddenly realized I could use leftovers to make something similar. Fifteen minutes later we were eating breakfast food good enough to be served in a fine restaurant on leftovers that could have ended up in the trash next week. Here is how simple this meal was:

Mock Shakshouka (tomato poached eggs)

2 cups leftover tomato based sauce of your choice (I used leftovers from this salmon dish)

5 large eggs

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat the sauce over medium high heat until simmering. Crack 5 eggs over the sauce, season with salt and pepper to taste and lower the heat to medium. Cover the pan and cook for 5-8 minutes to the desired doneness (5 minutes for runny yolks, longer if you like a hard poached egg). Serve eggs with a liberal amount of sauce.

Griddled Polenta

6 or more 1” thick slices of homemade or store bought cooked polenta

Olive oil spray

Heat a cast iron or other heavy skillet over medium heat. Spray liberally with olive oil spray. Lay polenta in pan and griddle for 3 – 4 minutes on each side, until browned and slightly crisped.

Wow! That was easy and so delicious. We got an extra high quality meal this week with little more than the effort to imagine what could be done with leftover food. Please, I encourage you to go into your kitchen today and really look hard at what is sitting in your pantry and your refrigerator. A box of macaroni and cheese, a can of tuna and frozen peas could be your next satisfying lunch with the benefit of keeping wasted food out of the trash, money savings and the end of that nasty fast food habit.

You can thank me later.

Free Whole Foods salad!

Almost.

O.K. I lied. Uh. Sorry.

But it feels like it is for free. Did you know that Whole Foods Market has a collection of it’s recipes online? Did you know that the recipes are actually really good? My salad feels like it was for free because it is full of ingredients I already have in my refrigerator, my pantry and my garden. Click here to view the recipe for Brown Rice Al Fresco Salad. It is a crispy, tangy rice salad, perfect with turkey sandwiches. The only thing I did differently was to substitute half lime juice for the lemon juice since I was short a couple of lemons and I used a little less mint since my herb garden is a little sleepy at this time of the year.

It’s January. A new year. But do yourself a favor. Instead of making resolutions for your health that you’ll never keep, just look around. A healthy lifestyle is as close as adding a new recipe to your arsenal. Look for recipes that feature whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy and lots and lots of fruits and veggies. Enjoy!

Time flies

I can’t believe how quickly that past month flew by. About an hour ago it was mid December and I posted about the no knead bread that I made. A few minutes later it was Christmas. A couple of minutes ago we rang in the new year and now it is already mid January. Before I knew it, my blog had started to gather dust. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking. I have! It’s just that I haven’t been cooking anything you haven’t already seen before.

Last week I made a frittata. I don’t know why it’s been so long since I’ve made one except for the fact that eggs give me problems. I’m a little egg impaired. It’s not my fault. The rental house we live in includes a thirty year old stove. It is so old that the burners are warped and some of them are beginning to fail. Also, I need to mention that it is electric instead of gas which poses it’s own set of challenges. I cannot make a decent fried egg in these conditions. Scrambled eggs either work or they don’t depending on how the stars are aligned that day and… I cannot make an omelet at all. Don’t even ask me to try. It is always a disaster. However, with the help of a heavy, well seasoned cast iron pan, a frittata is simple and foolproof. Why? Because I can start it on the craptastic stove and finish things off in the broiler.

To me, frittatas are a wonderful thing. Like quiche, you start with a formula and work from there. A frittata is your choice of seasoned veggies and optional meats, topped with eggs, then topped with your choice of cheese. The combinations are limitless. The other wonderful thing is that a frittata doesn’t have to be a breakfast item. Frittatas work equally as well for lunch as they do for dinner if you put a green salad on the side. Leftover frittata heats well. I had the leftovers of the one I made last week wrapped up burrito style in a whole wheat tortilla. It was scrumptious!

I usually go for veggies – no meat for my frittatas. I just like how clean tasting they are without all of the extra fat. For years I made a spinach and potato frittata. I was stuck in a rut on that one. It was so good, Greek style with a topping of broiled feta cheese. What changed things for me was a food network show where someone broiled zucchini for a frittata. I think I have a new love. Zucchini makes a very light delicious frittata. Last week I did a feta and mozzerella blend for the cheese. I used sharp cheddar and parmesan this week, delish! Go with what you like for the filling and the cheese. You won’t regret it.

Veggie frittata

Loosely adapted from Moosewood restaurant cooks at home

2 medium zucchini

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large red onion, halved and then sliced thinly

2-3 small potatoes cut in half lengthwise and then thinly sliced

2 small garlic cloves, chopped fine

½ tsp each dried dill, oregano and basil

Salt and pepper to taste

4 large eggs, beaten

Up to half a cup grated or crumbled cheese (I used ½ cup cheddar and a couple of tbsp parmesan)

Preheat the broiler. Split the zucchini in half lengthwise and then chop it in half crosswise. Broil for 8 – 10 minutes (turning it over after 5 minutes) or until tender. Cool slightly and then slice half moons. Reserve.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large cast iron or heavy broiler-proof skillet. Add onions and potatoes to the pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook covered over medium heat, stirring every few minutes or so for eight minutes. The onions should caramelize and the potatoes will brown. A minute or two before the veggies are done, add the garlic and spices.

Stir in the zucchini and top the veggies with the eggs. Swirl the pan a bit to make sure the eggs cover all of the veggies. Lower the heat to low and continue to cook the frittata covered for a another eight minutes. Top the frittata with the cheese. Continue to cook, the frittata, covered for two more minutes. Move the frittata to the broiler. Broil for two more minutes until the eggs are set and the cheese is lightly browned and bubbly. Let the frittata stand for a couple of minutes and then cut into slices to serve. Serves four to six people depending on their self control

Muir Glen Tomatoes: Product Review and a Giveaway!

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by the nice folks at Muir Glen tomatoes. They offered me a free sample of their 2009 Reserve Tomatoes to review on my blog. The nice folks at Muir Glen, are really nice folks: they also offered to let me give away the same nice box of goodies to one of my lucky readers. (I’ll give you more details at the end of this post).

When I was corresponding with the representative from Muir Glen, I tried to appear really casual. You know, really savvy and cool. I let her know that by sending me and my readers freebies, she was not guaranteed a good review! Little did she know  the reality of the situation:  I use their tomatoes every time I cook (so she was almost guaranteed a good review, in fact, I was trembling with anticipation about receiving this kit!). I came across their products years ago and in my opinion, the canned tomatoes are the best on the market. They taste good. They don’t taste like the can they come in. Not only do they have tomatoes of exceptional flavor, but the tomatoes are organic which is important to me. Why? Because not only am I concerned about the pesticide residues in my food and in the environment, but tomatoes have been one of those foods that have been genetically modified quite often in the past. Although there is no proof (yet) that GMO foods are harmful to us, I have a gut feeling that I should avoid them. Certified organic foods cannot contain GMOs. After the box arrived, I started pouring through the materials included in the shipment. I learned that the high quality of the tomatoes has to do with careful handling from the farm to the can. I also learned that these tomatoes are grown in California which for me, makes them a local food (yeah!).

Now, let’s talk about the box I received in the mail. It is gorgeous! You get a wooden crate filled with goodies.

Inside the box is a packet talking about the two cans of Reserve tomatoes included within. There are also two recipe cards. Now… I was promised recipe cards and at first I was a little disappointed because I saw only two recipe cards and I didn’t yet realize what the book underneath these materials was.

It turns out that the book is a gorgeous cookbook, with all of the information about how they grow and package the tomatoes, but…it includes 50 pages of delicious sounding recipes with full color photos of the food. This is a gorgeous book, and in my opinion. it is  worth as much as the tomatoes themselves if not more. After perusing this book, I decided I would use the four cans of tomatoes to make two of the recipes from the book so that you can get an idea of what the recipes are like.

Below the books, nestled away, were the four cans of tomatoes. There were the two cans of reserve tomatoes: Yolo Red diced tomatoes and Brigade whole tomatoes. Also included were Fire Roasted tomatoes and Adobo Seasoned tomatoes.

I used the reserve tomatoes to make Braised Tuscan Chicken with Fennel and White Beans. Upon opening the cans of tomatoes, I took a taste of each. I was disappointed with my choice in recipes for a minute, because the Yolo Red tomatoes where so sweet and delicious, they would have been wonderful used in something fresher such as a bruschetta or in a salsa. (If you win my contest, take note of that). The Brigade tomatoes had good acidity and tasted like they would be perfect for this slow braise. The only surprise I had, happened when I poured the Brigade tomatoes out of the can. If memory serves me right, a 15 oz can of tomatoes usually includes about 5 or 6 tomatoes. When I poured, three perfectly gorgeous round tomatoes popped out of the can. I had to laugh, I guess they didn’t want to smash them, so they only include enough tomatoes to not get smashed in transit. Luckily, the can of diced Yolo Reds where packed full, making it so that I had plenty of tomatoes for the recipe. The braised chicken came out delicious. The sauce begged for bread to sop it up and was loaded with chunks of vegetables and beans and a hint of herbs, the tomato flavor was outstanding. The chicken was falling off the bone tender. I’ll be making this chicken dish again!

The next day, anxious to taste the Adobo seasoned tomatoes, I decided to make the vegetarian chili recipe. I tasted the tomatoes upon opening the cans. The fire roasted tomatoes are familiar to me. They have a good roasted tomato flavor with a hint of smoke from the charred tomato skins you see floating among the diced tomatoes. I tasted the Adobo Seasoned tomatoes. The flavor was strange and familiar at the same time. I had to taste again before I realized that it is a light version of the super hot adobo sauce you find in a can of chipotle with adobo sauce. It is like they added just a hint of chipotle to their tomatoes. I had a really good feeling about cooking with these!! The chili turned out to be a smash hit. I followed the recipe exactly, using the prescribed amount of jalapeno and chili powder even though I knew that half my tomatoes had a good kick already. The chili came out spicy with a hint of that good chipotle flavor. It was wonderful. I’ll be looking for the Adobo Spiced tomatoes at my grocery store, I can think of many recipes that would be improved by using them.

So… you are probably wondering how you can get a box of these tomatoes and recipes for yourself.  Please leave a comment on my blog between now and Monday December 7th. I’ll hold a random drawing and one lucky Delectable Tidbits reader will receive a Reserve kit from Muir Glen.  Unfortunately, Muir Glen can only ship the reserve kit to people in the U.S., Sorry.

If you are not the winner, you can still get a Reserve kit. Muir Glen has these Reserve kits available for $7.00 at this link. By my calculation, that price barely covers the cost of the tomatoes much less the shipping and you get a crate to recycle for storing CDs and the cookbook and… Muir Glen will donate money to the charity Chefs Collaborative each time we buy a reserve kit. They are donating $2 for every Reserve kit they sell and $1 for each person who becomes a fan on their Facebook page (My friend Kevin is laughing at me right now because I am anti-Facebook, but hey, it’s for a good cause! So stop laughing Kevin!)

So, all of my friends and lurkers, leave me a comment.  Good luck everyone!!

I almost forgot…

 Garlic Spinach 

…to make spinach.

 
I already have a head of chard in the crisper that has seen better days and I almost forgot to cook my spinach too. A few days ago, I made some lovely New York steaks. I was going to have baked potatoes with sour cream with minced green onions and my favorite recipe of garlic spinach. I bought a large head of spinach and somewhere between fighting with the charcoal and baking the potatoes for what felt like hours, I had a sudden case of amnesia which resulted in my grabbing a bag of frozen peas after the steaks were done. Don’t get me wrong. I love frozen green peas, I’ll eat them with anything and my choice of an Asian inspired spinach dish might seem odd with steak and potatoes but oh… the garlic… oh… the residual sake…oh…the rich tamari. It would have been so very right.

I did a save today while scouring the fridge for a potluck lunch. My honey was going to have some leftover soba with slices of the leftover steak. I was going to have some leftover meatloaf. To round out this potluck lunch, I still needed to eat up the focaccia from last week before it goes the way of the melting chard in the crisper. So, yes, it was an even a stranger assortment of food than what I intended but the spinach, as always, (was not enough spinach but it) was the star.

Note: I am going to give the recipe for one head of spinach which will make two small servings of cooked spinach. So just enough for two people to fight over. If you need to feed more people or you think you will go out of control and want more of something so incredible, use two heads of spinach and your largest skillet.

On another side note: There is nothing worse than getting sand in a bite of food. I used a salad spinner with a removable colander as a bowl to wash the spinach. I fill up the bowl with cool water. Swish the spinach around and then remove the colander. At this point, inspect the water left in the bowl. There will be sand. Pour out the water, rinse the bowl and repeat the previous steps. I usually do this process about three times before I am satisfied that the sand is gone. For this recipe, do not spin dry the spinach, you want the spinach to have residual moisture.

Garlic spinach

  

1 large head of spinach, leaves removed from stems, washed well but not dried

½ cup sake

3-5 cloves garlic

2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce

1 tbsp brown rice vinegar

1 ½ tsp toasted sesame oil

Optional: Tatami Nogarishi or cayenne to taste

Special equipment: garlic press, large skillet or wok

Heat the skillet on medium high. Add spinach and cook until it begins to wilt a little. Press the garlic cloves directly into the spinach. Give it a stir. Add sake. Cook another minute or two, stirring, until spinach starts to shrink and the sake begins to evaporate. Add tamari, brown rice vinegar and sesame oil. If you want a little kick add tatami nogarishi or cayenne to taste. Continue to cook until the spinach is tender and the sauce thickens a little. Be careful not to overcook. The spinach should still look green, overcooked spinach looks brownish. Serve immediately.

An old favorite with a new twist

Sourdough Quiche

If someone were to ask me what my signature dish was, I would probably have to say tomato zucchini quiche. I have been making this dish for years. It has a flaky whole grain butter crust. Sweet tomatoes cooked just until the juices flow. Zucchini sautéed in the pan juices of the tomatoes with herbs. Sharp cheese; it’s a gorgeous creation that I am always happy to serve.
 
Years ago, I wanted to bake a tart out of the Greens cookbook. It was an unusual tart with a yeasted crust. I made it once and soon forgot about it. I didn’t enjoy the crust and longed for my butter pastry. The tart itself was strangely not delicious. I went back to standard quiche and forgot about this little dalliance.
 
I planned to bake with my sourdough this week and nervously realized that it was getting late if I wanted to participate in a fun little weekly blogging event that I have become so hooked on. I knew I would need lunch the next day and started to think about that ill fated yeasted crust of the past. I am a much better cook now than I was years ago and I am now the proud owner of a tasty sourdough starter.
 
Armed the next day with my active starter, Deborah Madison’s updated olive oil yeasted tart dough recipe as my guide and my imagination, I set out to remake my favorite quiche. I wanted a flavorful crust so I added lemon zest and herbs to the dough. After my problems last week with the flaky sourdough rolls, I added the starter on top of the amount of liquid called for in the original recipe. The result was a beautiful silky soft dough flecked with goodies.

I added caramelized onions and fresh herbs to my filling. I have never been able to make my quiche in the 35 minutes called for in most recipes. The tomatoes may be the culprit so I baked the quiche for 55 minutes using a pie crust shield during the last 20 minutes of baking to protect that lovely crust.

The result? Delicious! The crust was moist and herbal under the filling and crunchy at the edges, reminiscent of the sourdough pizza crust I make which has a toothsome quality and a grainy, malted flavor.

The filling was a mélange of different flavors due to the layers of cheese, herbed veggies and custard.

I would like to submit this delicious concoction to this week’s YeastSpotting event on Wild Yeast. Susan usually posts the new submissions by Friday so click here to see what the other talented bakers decided to make this week.

 

Sourdough Quiche Slice

Tomato Zucchini Quiche with a Sourdough Crust
 
Dough:
 
½ cup active sourdough starter
 
½ cup room temperature water

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 egg, beaten

½ tsp salt

1 cup unbleached white flour

¾ cup stone ground whole wheat flour

1 tbsp minced chives

¾ tbsp minced fresh rosemary

½ tsp lemon zest

Filling:

½ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

¼ cup grated parmesano reggiano

1 – 2 tbsp olive oil

5 -6 chives roughly chopped

1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves minced

3-4 sprigs fresh oregano, leaves removed from stems and chopped

Dried basil, to taste

Fresh ground black pepper

¼ red onion, sliced thin

2 small heirloom tomatoes, sliced

1 medium zucchini, julienned

3 eggs beaten

1 cup milk

Paprika for garnishing

Prepare the crust:

In a large bowl, mix together the starter, water, olive oil, egg and salt. Stir in the white and whole wheat flours until combined well. When the dough feels stiff, turn it out onto a lightly floured board. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Use a bench scraper to keep the dough from sticking to the board as you knead. The dough is a little sticky. Form the dough into a smooth round and place it into a greased bowl. Cover with a clean towel and let the dough rise between an hour and an hour and fifteen minutes. Press the dough into an oiled 9 “ pie pan, making sure the sides of the dough are thicker than the bottom and that the dough fills to the top of the pan. Let the dough sit, covered until you are done making the filling.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Filling:

Heat one tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add the onions and a pinch of rosemary and cook until limp and beginning to caramelize (about 5 -6 minutes). Transfer the onions to a bowl. If the skillet seems dry, add a little more of the olive oil. Add the tomato slices and all the oregano, a pinch of the chives and the remaining rosemary. Cook without stirring until juicy but still firm (about 3 -4 minutes). Stir the tomatoes gently so they don’t break up, but the herbs mix in. Transfer the tomatoes to the bowl of onions, being careful not to transfer much tomato juice. The pan should be full of juices and you may not need to add more oil, add the zucchini, the remaining chives, a sprinkling of dried basil to taste and a few grinds of black pepper. Cook the zucchini until just tender but before it browns. Remove the zucchini from the pan and let it cool a little bit.

Mix the beaten eggs and milk to make your custard.

Assemble quiche:

Put the pie pan on a cookie sheet. This will keep the quiche from dripping all over the oven if it overflows and give you a tray to carry the quiche to the oven. Sprinkle cheddar and then parmesan onto the surface of the crust. Add the veggies on top of the cheese. Pour the custard over the filling. Sprinkle the surface of the custard with sweet paprika. Put the quiche still on the cookie sheet, into the oven where it will bake for 50 -55 minutes. At about 35 minutes, check the quiche. If the crust is looking nice and browned, use a pie crust shield to keep the crust from burning. Ovens vary, so keep checking the quiche every few minutes up to 55 minutes. When the quiche is firm all the way to the middle, it does not jiggle, it is time to remove it from the oven. Let the quiche cool considerably before you dig in. I was too anxious (the quiche was still pretty hot) and if you look closely at my pictures, you can tell the middle of the quiche did not set as well as I would liked it to have. So…. patience, patience!!

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