Menu Suggestion: Quiche

website quiche

“Okay, it needs to be something filling but it can’t have any nuts, dairy, soy, wheat, oats, or coconut in it. Also, it shouldn’t be too complicated, something easy for me to make, and quick, too, because I won’t have a lot of time; but it needs to look like it took some time, because, well, you know, I don’t want them to say anything snide. And it would be great if it could look pretty and elegant. Oh, and it should taste good, of course.”

I couldn’t help myself. As my friend’s rambling came to a halt, I laughed at her. “Well, I’m glad you’re not asking me for much,” I said.

My friend had just learned that she was expected to host her in-laws (parents-in-law and sister-in-law and her husband) for Mother’s Day, and unfortunately while my friend has many wonderful skills, she really does not like to cook – at all! Hence, the frantic SOS phone call to me.

Fortunately, I had a perfect solution to offer my friend: Quiche.

Quiche is a wonderful dish for company. It’s quick and easy to make, but looks elegant and is wonderfully tasty. You can also use up leftovers from your fridge to make it, and it’s incredibly versatile. You can adapt it for many food allergies, and you can even make it for folks who have egg allergies or are vegan, provided they have no soy allergies. As well, you can make up two, three or four different types in your oven at the same time, depending on the size of your oven.

Quiche Making Tips:

1. The crust: What’s lovely about quiche is that you can make a pie crust recipe of your own, you can purchase a ready-made crust, you can use a pre-made crust mix, or you can use the recipe I will provide below which doesn’t require any rolling at all and is adaptable to fit your allergy needs. I’ve even seen people use tortillas as the crust.

Crusts can be traditional with wheat, or they can be gluten free. Obviously, a ready-made crust is fastest, but even making one home-made doesn’t take very long at all. Like with pie-making, though, sometimes you will find that you need to cover the edges if you don’t want them to be too browned.

2. The filling: Quiche is lovely because you can put in whatever you want. Any type of meats, cheeses, and vegetables you have on hand will work in a quiche. What you should keep in mind, though, is that small, chopped up cooked pieces are best. Leftovers work well, because it’s already cooked, and you can just chop them up into bite size pieces.

If you’re starting from scratch, though, you can quickly saute chopped vegetables or meats in a few minutes. Make sure you cool them slightly, though, before adding the egg mixture. My favorite combination is spinach, mushrooms, broccoli, and chicken sausage, but you can make up any combination you can imagine.

You only need a cup or so of the filling to fit into your pie crust. How much filling to egg ratio you have, though, depends on what you like. The more filling, the less egg you’ll taste; the less filling, the more egg part you’ll taste.

3. The egg mixture: Quiche is essentially eggs mixed with cream or milk. The ratio between the eggs and the milk determines the texture of your quiche. For a 9 to 9.5 inch pie pan, you want to use the equivalent of three to four eggs. If you want a solid, sturdy, eggy quiche, you would use less milk, maybe about 1/2 cup. If you want a creamier, airier quiche, you would use more milk, like 1 cup.

Using cream versus milk makes for a richer quiche. Just about any type of milk or cream will work in quiche. I’ve used soy, flax and rice milk without any problems. I’ve also used soy and rice creamers.

You can also use egg whites to cut back on the cholesterol. Half liquid egg whites and half whole eggs works the best, but you can also use 3/4 cup liquid egg whites with just one whole egg.

If you can’t have eggs at all, tofu works wonders. Just blend up a block of tofu (I like the silken tofu) with the type of milk you prefer (2 tbsp to 1/4 cup) and mix your cooked filling ingredients and seasonings into it before pouring it into your crust.

How you make up your quiche with the egg mixture is versatile, too. You can put your cooked ingredients into the center of your crust and pour your egg mixture over the filling. Or you can mix your filling into the egg mixture and pour the entire thing into your crust. It depends on the texture and taste you want. For example, if I caramelize onions for a quiche, I like to layer that on the bottom of the crust and then add more layers of mushrooms or spinach or meat and pour my egg mixture over it, because then when I cut a bite of my quiche, I have the lovely layers to look at and the tastes to hit my tongue one at a time. However, if I’m using a chicken sausage and spinach, I prefer those tastes to be throughout my quiche, so I’ll mix them into the egg mixture before pouring the whole thing into the crust.

4. The seasonings: Quiche can be seasoned however you like. Italians herbs, Mexican spices, different types of cheeses, caramelized onions, minced garlic – whatever you want to experiment with works. I never use salt but I always use fresh ground black pepper and some combination of the afore- mentioned herbs and spices. What’s great is if you saute your vegetables or meats with your choice of herbs and spices and then adding some more to the egg mixture. The more flavor you can infuse into your quiche, the better. When I make my crust, I will often add crushed herbs and onion powder to it, as well. However, if you prefer things more on the mild side, simply using a little salt (if you aren’t going to use any other herbs and spices, you should use a pinch) and pepper is fine, too.

5. The baking: Cooking up a quiche is rather simple. Once your quiche is assembled, it’s like baking a pie. You choose what you want to do: Bake the entire thing at 350-375 for about 30-45 minutes (will vary, depending on our oven heat and the thickness of your filling and whether it’s a 9 in pan or a 9.5 or 10 in). Or you can first heat your oven to 425 degrees, cook the quiche for 10-15 minutes, and then turn the heat down to 325 for 15-30 minutes.

Easy Gluten Free, Dairy Free Vegetable Quiche Recipe

(This recipe can be adapted to use wheat and dairy if desired.)

(You can also use whatever filling you prefer instead of the option below.)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup Garbanzo Bean flour

1/4 tsp ground onion powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp crushed dried rosemary

1/4 tsp crushed dried thyme

1/4 tsp dried oregano

1/8 tsp black pepper

1/3 cup safflower oil

3 tbsp flax or soy milk

4 eggs (or 1/2 cup liquid egg whites mixed with 2 whole eggs)

1 cup flax or soy milk

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp dried oregano

10 oz thawed, chopped spinach

1/4 cup sauteed chopped mushrooms

1/4 cup chopped cooked broccoli

1/8 cup chopped caramelized onions

Cooking Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Mix the flour with the onion powder, salt, rosemary, thyme, oregano and pepper.

3. Whisk the safflower oil with the milk until it’s creamy. Pour into the flour mixture and stir with a fork until a dough ball forms.

4. Press the crust into a 9 or 9.5 inch pie pan, using your clean hands to form an even crust along the bottom and sides of the pan. Set aside.

5. Whisk the eggs with the milk, pepper and oregano. Set aside.

6. Combine the spinach, mushroom, broccoli and onions and arrange on the bottom of the crust.

7. Pour the egg mixture carefully over the filling and put the quiche into the center on the center rack.

8. Bake for 15  minutes. Reduce the heat to 325 degrees.  Bake for another 15-25 minutes. The quiche will be done when the center is slightly puffed and the egg is no longer runny. NOTE: When you reduce the heat, you may want to put aluminum foil around the edges of your crust to prevent too much browning. (My children like it toasty, so we dispense with that particular step, though.)

 

Advertisements

Cooking Techniques: Roasting Vegetables

Roast Vegetables

“Tell me, honestly, do you think it can be done?”

Three weeks ago my middle school daughter’s principal called. The director for her play had quit suddenly with no notice, after having done very little in the first place to ready the students and the production for their performance which was just over two weeks away.

He wanted to know if I thought it would be possible for the students to actually pull together an entire production in two weeks and whether I would be willing to step up to be the director who would attempt and achieve such a feat.

Having run a summer theater program where essentially that is what we did – pull together a production in about two weeks worth of time – I told him that the kids and parents could definitely do it and that I’d be happy to help.

There’s a difference, though, between directing a production which you’ve planned from the start where you put into place ahead of time the variables which you know you need to and what I just did in these past couple of weeks – which was essentially scramble like a mad person to discover what needed to be done and having it done as quickly as possible with the few options I had available.

Sometimes mealtime can have the same feel. Certain days you’re able to plan ahead and create an extraordinary meal with items you were able to purchase from the grocery store ahead of time. Other days you find yourself scrambling, wondering what you have available and how you can pull something nutritious and tasty together in a short period of time.

That’s where roasting vegetables becomes a literal godsend. You can quickly roast most any vegetable you have on hand, whether fresh or frozen, and make a nice meal for your family on those days like the ones I’ve recently had where you’re literally figuring out dinner with less than thirty minutes to serve it.

The first advantage of roasting vegetables as a dinner meal is that you’re serving something healthy to your family because vegetables contain good nutrients you need. Secondly, roasting intensifies and brings out the flavor in vegetables which make them tastier. Thirdly, roasting quickly cooks vegetables through, better than cooking them stovetop or grilling. Fourthly, you can use small amounts of good, healthy fats like olive oil to roast the vegetables. Fifthly, once you have the tasty roasted vegetables you can easily add beans or leftover meats to it for a more filling, yet quick, meal.

Some Tips for Roasting Vegetables:

1. High heat is better: Temperatures of 450, 475 and 500 degrees are best for roasting. I always roast at 500 degrees. The high heat reduces the opportunity for your vegetables to “steam”, and it caramelizes the outer “skin” of your vegetables, bring out the flavors and sealing in the tasty “juices”.

2. A clean oven is necessary: Because you’re cooking at high temperatures, your oven must be clean. A dirty oven will smoke and set off your smoke detector and add an unpleasant odor to your kitchen. If you have a self-cleaning oven, use the feature. If you don’t, it really doesn’t take that long to use a little hot water and soap and a scouring pad to get off any grime and crusted on pieces which might burn.

3. Rack positioning is key: Roasting your vegetables in the center of the oven will cook more evenly. Putting the pan on the top rack usually browns the food more. Putting the pan near the bottom rack gives the food more of a sauteing effect. Depending on what you’re going for, you should be sure to place your rack before preheating your oven.

4. Pan size and type are important: You always want to roast your vegetables in a single layer without them being on top of each other, so your pan should be large enough to fit all the vegetables your are roasting. You don’t, however, want a lot empty space around your vegetable pieces because this will cause burning, so your pan should also be just right for the amount of vegetables you want to roast.

The type of pan you use is important, too. You want a pan that can withstand high temperatures and which won’t cause your vegetables to stick to it. If possible, you should invest in a basic roasting pan which will serve you well.

5. The type of vegetable matters: If you are cooking a variety of vegetables, you should always cook root vegetables like carrots first, because they take longer to roast. Vegetables like zucchini take less time, so you will need to plan accordingly. You’d start the carrots first and roast them so they’re halfway done, and then add the zucchini, so the two vegetables will finish together.

6. Size also matters: You always want to roast the same type of vegetables of the same width and length, because if your vegetables are different sizes, they won’t cook evenly. If your vegetables are different textures, however, such as peppers and green beans, you want the area of the peppers to match that of your green beans, which may mean cutting your peppers into large squarish chunks as opposed to cutting them into slices which match the length and width of the green beans.

Also, if you’re in a hurry, this is obvious, but the smaller your pieces, the more quickly they’ll roast. I usually chop my vegetables so that I can have fully cooked roasted vegetables anywhere between 10 to 20 minutes.

7. Turning the vegetables is helpful: If you don’t want your vegetables to burn on one side, you should be sure to toss or turn the vegetables as you roast them. I usually toss the vegetables every five to 10 minutes, depending on the vegetable (root vegetables need the longer time).

8. Plant oils are better: One, oils like olive oil, have good fats, but cooking-wise, animal fats like butter or bacon drippings will brown your vegetables much more quickly than you want when you’re shooting for even cooking. As well, you can more easily very lightly coat the vegetables with a smaller amount of a plant oil than you can with animal fats.

9. Season wisely: I don’t like to use salt unless I have to. Many folks argue that you need salt to bring out the flavor. I have found that seasoning in certain ways is just as flavorful. For one, you can use flavored olive oil like a roasted garlic olive oil or a rosemary olive oil to coat your vegetables. Two, you can add freshly chopped herbs just after roasting. Three you can creatively flavor your vegetables – mix a little balsamic vinegar with a tiny bit of maple syrup; stir curry powder into your olive oil; make a lemony vinaigrette; make a sauce of your choosing – the options are endless.

10. Enjoy the roasted vegetables alone or as a larger meal: Once your vegetables are roasted, you can eat them as a meal in and of themselves or you can use them to create an entree. For example, tonight in less than thirty minutes, I roasted butternut squash, carrots and Brussel sprouts in the oven while I sauteed some onions in olive oil stovetop. I added curry powder and fat free, low sodium chicken broth, and when it had come to a boil, I added a can of no salt added chickpeas and let it simmer for about five minutes. By then the vegetables were roasted, and I threw them into the chickpea curry mixture, and dinner was done.

Cooking Techniques: Healthy “Meat”loaf

website meatloaf

“But… it’s just meatloaf!”

I was making dinner for some company when a friend called.  When she learned I was planning on serving meatloaf, she was rather shocked. I both understood and didn’t understand where she was coming from.

On the one hand, meatloaf for all intent and purposes was invented to stretch meat for the humble housewife trying to feed her family with what she had, so I realize it has a certain perception by the outside world. On the other hand, you find meatloaf served at fine restaurants all over the United States, because people LIKE meatloaf. It’s comforting. It’s tasty. It’s very American. It’s also extremely versatile.

One of the reasons I like meatloaf so much is that you can make it out of anything you want – even without meat! I have made salmon loaves, tofu loaves, lentil loaves, turkey loaves, chicken loaves, tuna loaves… the list can probably go on because I’ve even made a mashed sweet potato loaf!

So, I wasn’t very surprised by the email I received, asking about an article which indicated that meatloaf was high in saturated fat and a terrible meal to serve. The person emailing wanted to know if it was true and how she might be able to lighten up her favorite meatloaf recipe.

The true fact is that meatloaf made with traditional high fat beef definitely is not something you want to be eating on a regular basis. The good news, though, is that you don’t have to.

Tips for Making Healthy Meatloaf:

1. The “meat”: You can use anything you want for meatloaf. Low fat ground turkey or chicken, extra lean ground beef or pork, mashed lentils, flaked salmon, mashed tofu, the list is extensive. What’s important to keep in mind is that to get the right texture, your meat or beans or tofu or vegetables really should be either ground or mashed. If it’s too chunky, you won’t be able to mold it properly into a loaf which adheres. On the other hand, you don’t want pureed lentils or meat, either. Then your meatloaf will be too pasty and won’t have enough texture to hold together.

If you’re using actual meat, it should be uncooked as you put your mixture together. If you’re using fish like salmon or tuna, I’ve found that cooked, flaked fish or canned fish is better to use than uncooked fish. Lentils should be softened and not hard. Tofu can be any variety you like but I find that the firm versions work better.

2. The filler: One of the other problems with meatloaf is that traditionally folks use either white bread crumbs or saltine crackers as the filler. If you’re going to use bread crumbs or crackers, opt instead for whole wheat or a whole grain gluten free option instead. The higher the fiber, the better. I personally use whole grain gluten free oatmeal instead. It has a lot of health benefits, and it absorbs the liquid ingredients well to make for a moister meatloaf.

Another thing to consider is the amount of filler to meat. Sometimes people use an awful lot of the filler to stretch the meat. For the best taste and for better health, I wouldn’t recommend using more than 1/2 cup for every pound of meat.

3. The binder: Meatloaf which is made with leaner meats or fish or beans or tofu can end up being a bit dry, so you want to be sure to bind your meatloaf with something moist. Most recipes simply use eggs. If you’re allergic to eggs, though, you can use other things like a type of milk you’re not allergic to or a favorite soup. You can also do a combination of liquid ingredients. If I’m making a salmon or tuna loaf, I find that it needs both a liquid like “milk” and egg whites to keep its shape while also adding moisture.

A tip to keep in mind is that if you mix your filler (bread crumbs, oatmeal, crackers) in with the “milk” or soup and let the filler absorb the binder, it’ll make for a moister meatloaf plus bind your meat better. If you’re using eggs, you should do the same thing with the filler.

If you’re using eggs, usually recipes call for two eggs per pound. If you need to refrain from eating yolks, egg whites work just as well. If you’re using milk, about 1/2 cup mixed with the binder is what you’ll need. I like to use tomato soup, so I mix one can with 1 cup of oatmeal for a meatloaf made with 2 pounds of “meat”.

NOTE: A couple of weeks after giving birth to my third child, I was so exhausted that I poured some homemade split pea soup into the meatloaf instead of the tomato soup. It was one of the most delicious meatloaves we ever had! So, don’t be afraid to experiment.

4. The seasonings: Meatloaf can be rather bland so you should always use something to season it. Aromatics are a great way to go: saute onions, garlic and herbs and add it to the meatloaf when you’re mixing it all together. Another option is to experiment with flavors. My oldest loves to put cumin into everything. In meatloaf it adds a bit of an exotic flavor. My second daughter loves everything salsa, so she likes meatloaf with salsa added to it. If you don’t have dairy allergies, adding small chunks of cheese adds a new dimension to meatloaf. Let your imagination take over and see what you can create.

5. Additions: Traditional meatloaf is just meat and the filler, but you can make your meatloaf healthier by adding more than just those two ingredients. I like to saute spinach or grated zucchini and add it to my meatloaves. If you are using a ground meat, you can substitute half of the ground meat with mashed lentils or tofu. Sauteed multi-colored peppers adds both flavor and pretty colors. As with the seasonings, experiment and see what you like.

6. Shaping and preparing: Meatloaves are supposed to be in a loaf shape. That’s why they’re names as such. But you can do what you want. Sometimes I put the meatloaf mixture into muffin tins and make mini meatcakes. Other times I use little bread tins. Most of the time I use a glass pan which I pat the meat flatly into.

The tip to keep in mind is that you should always use a pan or muffin tin that just fits your meat mixture. Go all the way to the edge of the pan with the meat. If you form a loaf and leave space between the meat and the edge of the pan, the juices from your meatloaf mixture will fill that space and burn.

When you’re shaping your meatloaf, it helps to lightly wet your hands. This keeps the mixture from sticking but also allows you to smooth the meat mixture down as you pat it.

7. Cooking: Meatloaf made with actual uncooked meat should cook slowly at a temperature no higher than 350 degrees if you want it to be moist and tasty. My 2 pound meatloaf usually takes about an hour or so at 350 degrees. If I’m making them in muffin tins, I reduce the heat to 300 degrees and cook for half an hour.

If you’re making the meatloaf with salmon or lentils or tofu, then your ingredients are usually cooked so you can cook the loaf at a higher temperature of 350 to 375 degrees for half an hour or 45 minutes, just until the loaf is warm and cooked through.