Menu Suggestion: Quiche

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“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.)

 

Cooking Techniques: Allergy Friendly Lasagna

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“You know, the lasagna song!”

Several years ago, a friend shared a funny story about her youngest. Her daughter was in preschool at the time, and one day she asked her mom to help her sing the lasagna song from church. My friend was a bit confused, and she explained to her daughter that she didn’t know what song her daughter was referring to. Her daughter got exasperated and said, “You know, the lasagna song! The one we sing every Sunday at the end.” My friend finally figured out that her daughter was talking about the “Hosannah” song which to her daughter’s young ears sounded like “lasagna”.

Ever since my friend related that story, I can’t think about, make or eat lasagna without chuckling and singing to myself, “Lasagna in the highest!”

As funny as my friend’s anecdote is, people don’t tend to laugh when they are trying to make something as wonderfully rich and gooey and tasty as traditional lasagna with substitute ingredients. Often they get frustrated because “it’s just not the same”, which is what the email I received this week said.

When it comes to substituting for anything, whether it’s lasagna or something else, the two main things people look for are whether the taste and the texture resemble the original. If one or both don’t, then folks consider it a failure. While I would argue in general against this litmus test for success, the fact remains that people continue to judge food on these two criteria. As such, if you are going to serve someone lasagna that is dairy and gluten free, you want to be sure that people will enjoy it. Below I’ll share some tips for making delicious allergy friendly lasagna. The tips are helpful for making traditional lasagna as well.

Tips for Allergy Friendly Lasagna:

1. The pan: You can make any type of lasagna in just about any size, depth or shape pan, but if you want to make your life easier, invest in a nice lasagna pan which usually is 11 by 14 x 3. This is the perfect size for lasagna noodles. They fit both width-wise and length-wise, and perfectly fits a lasagna made with two boxes of noodles. You’ll save yourself the hassle of having to cut and size your noodles which will also save time in your assembly of the lasagna.

2. The noodles: Whether you are using regular, whole wheat, or gluten free lasagna noodles, the tips remain the same.

a) For the best taste and texture, you do want to cook the noodles on the stove top first. Yes, you can use the no-cook method (which I do indeed utilize sometimes!), but the texture and the taste definitely will reap the consequences. The better method is to cook the noodles before using them.

b) Do not overcook the noodles. You want to actually under cook your noodles by two minutes. When your lasagna is cooking in the oven, the noodles will continue to cook, so if you don’t under cook your noodles on the stove top, they’ll become mushy while cooking in the oven.

c) To preserve the texture of the noodles, you should immediately rinse your lasagna noodles with cold water to stop the cooking when you’ve drained them from the stove top water. Pat them lightly dry and line the noodles on a surface for easy use when assembling the lasagna. You don’t want to leave the noodles on top of each other, because then they’ll stick to one another and you’ll have a big mess on your hands. What I do is I line one of my large cookie sheets with plastic wrap or parchment paper and line the noodles side by side on the cookie sheet so I can simply reach for them as needed.

3. The filling: Traditionally folks use ricotta cheese or cottage cheese or a combination of both as the lasagna filling. For folks who have dairy allergies, though, you can use tofu or a nut “cheese”. I like to use the silken tofu, because when I mash it with my potato masher, the silken tofu has as similar texture as the ricotta and cottage cheese. Also, I’m allergic to nuts. If you aren’t allergic to nuts, though, and are allergic instead to soy, there are some good recipes online for nut “ricotta cheeses” which are basically pureeing soaked nuts such as cashews, almonds and walnuts (about 1 1/2 to 2 cups) with water (1/2 cup), lemon juice (1tbsp) and garlic and herbs.

Regardless of whether you’re using real ricotta or tofu or a nut cheese, the hint for creating delicious lasagna is to flavor the “cheese”. I cook up a small amount of Italian chicken sausage and make a paste in my food processor with fresh basil, oregano, garlic, black pepper, and onions. I add both the sausage and the herb paste to the tofu and let it sit covered in the fridge while I’m working on the noodles, vegetables and sauce, so the flavors can meld.

If you’re like me and want something a little more to your lasagna, you can also add vegetables to the “cheese” before you assemble your lasagna. I like to roast vegetables like zucchini, squash and eggplant or saute spinach and mushrooms. After the flavors have had a chance to meld in the tofu, I gently mix the vegetables into the tofu. If I want a meat lasagna, then I cook up more than just a small amount of chicken sausage or some ground turkey and add that instead of the vegetables. For both the meat and vegetables, you should be sure to season and flavor them with spices, herbs, garlic or onions and black pepper as you cook them. Even though your “cheese” has flavor, adding bland vegetables and meat to the cheese will simply dilute the flavor you worked to incorporate.

Finally, if you are not allergic to eggs or are not vegan, if you mix up a couple of eggs with a fork and then blend it well with the tofu or nut cheese mixture, it will make your filling a bit creamier like ricotta as well as lend some stability to the lasagna.

4. The sauce: I like to make my own tomato sauce when I can, but I also use a no-sugar added jar sauce on occasion, too. The important tip to keep in mind for a good lasagna is to make sure your sauce is a thick sauce. A thin, runny spaghetti sauce is a definite no-no for lasagna. Since I’m of the opinion that more vegetables are always better, I tend to keep aside some of the lovely roasted or sauteed vegetables I made for the cheese, chop it more finely, and add it to the sauce as well. This not only adds more texture, but more taste — especially if you’re using a jarred sauce.

If you are making your own sauce, be sure to cool it before assembling your lasagna. Since we don’t want to affect the texture of our cooled noodles, we want all our ingredients to be at least at room temp before assembling so that the only additional cooking of the noodles will occur in the oven.

5. The assembling process: It’s important to “build” your lasagna so it’ll be stable for eating. The best way to do this is to alternately lay each layer of noodles opposing to one another. So, if you put all your noodles width-wise the first time, then layer them length-wise the second and so on. I find that the best lasagnas follow the pattern of sauce, noodles, sauce, noodles, then half of the filling, noodles, second half of filling, noodles, sauce, cheese.

For the sauce, it’s important that you completely cover the bottom layer of the lasagna pan with sauce before laying down your first set of noodles. Whether you want to have sauce on top of your cheese filling or not is up to you. If you don’t add sauce on top of the cheese filling, you’ll have a drier lasagna, which a lot of people prefer. If you want a moister lasagna or like the flavor of the tomato sauce melding with your cheese filling, which is the way I like it, then you should layer the tomato sauce on top of the filling before layering another set of noodles.

It’s also important to put sauce on top of the last layer of noodles. You can certainly simply put your cheese on top, but then the top layer of noodles will cook into a crispy top layer instead of being moist and soft for eating.

6. The cheese: Most people put mozzarella on top of the last layer of noodles and sauce. For folks with dairy allergies, Daiya makes a mozzarella which tends to melt almost like mozzarella. Taste-wise, though, it can have a little off-flavor which puts people off. So, what I do is I flavor the Daiya cheese with the same herb paste I used for the filling. I puree a blend of fresh basil, oregano, garlic, onions, and black pepper and mix it in well with the “mozzarella” cheese. I put it in the fridge while I’m working on the other parts of the lasagna, so that when I’m ready, I have a nice flavored cheese for the top of my lasagna.

The tip for the top layer of cheese is to put the cheese on when you’re done assembling your lasagna so it can be melting while the lasagna cooks, but to be sure to grease the aluminium foil before placing it down on the lasagna. This will prevent the mozzarella from sticking to the foil when you remove it.

After you’ve cooked your lasagna, if you’re using the Daiya cheese, you should broil it for 2 to 4 minutes, watching it closely, because this will give your “cheese” that golden brown toasty top that you would normally get from mozzarella cheese.

7. Cooking the lasagna: Most lasagnas will cook for about 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven. You should double-fold a piece of aluminium foil and cover your lasagna, being sure to grease the underside before putting it on top of your mozzarella. This will insulate your lasagna more evenly by matching the sides and bottom of your pan in width. After 45 minutes, you should remove the foil and cook the lasagna for another ten minutes to help the cheese brown. If you are using the Daiya cheese, be sure to broil it after those 10 minutes.

When your lasagna is done, it’s important to let it sit for ten to 15 minutes before serving. You can absolutely serve it immediately if you want, but be warned that your pieces will fall apart as you remove them from the pan. If you let the lasagna sit before serving, however, you’ll be able to cut nice solidified squares or rectangle pieces.

“Dairy”licious: Substituting Dairy Products

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“It’s chocolate.  How bad can it be?”

My oldest had been diagnosed as lactose intolerant, and I had purchased a soy yogurt for her to try.  It looked and smelled like chocolate pudding, but apparently it did not taste like chocolate pudding!

Feeling a bit frustrated by the vehemence of her refusal to eat another bite, I grabbed the spoon, dipped it, and stuck some yogurt into my mouth.  Let’s just say that my oldest is turning 17, and she still laughs today about the face that I made at the taste of that chocolate soy yogurt.   To say it was unpleasant is a definite understatement.

For many of us who have grown up with the tastes and textures of dairy products, it can be an adjustment to have to switch from milk to almond, rice, soy, flax, or coconut milk or from milk yogurts to soy or coconut yogurts or from regular cheese to soy cheese.  I myself have simply given up on cheese.  After trying too many types to name, I’ve admitted that I will never like the taste of a non-dairy cheese.

Substituting for Dairy

I have, however, found yogurts, milk, and ice creams which I like, and I’m grateful that I have.  I’m even more thankful that I can still cook and bake all the foods I love even without dairy.  I simply make a one to one switch for all products such as milk, yogurt, cream cheese, or sour cream in any given recipe.

If you’re substituting with a soy product for dairy, you won’t often find much of a difference in your desserts or cooking.  If you use a rice product, you will find that you may have to increase your dry ingredients by a tablespoon or two because rice produces a thinner, runnier milk, and you’ll need to increase your fats by a tablespoon or two because rice milk has no fat in it, unlike the milk you’ll be replacing.  If you’re using an almond or coconut milk or yogurt, make sure you like the taste of either, because the subtle taste will underlie whatever you’re baking or cooking.

Substituting for Heavy Cream

The most difficult recipes to substitute for are if you want to make something which requires heavy cream.   For soups and anything else you would normally thicken with cream, pureed cooked veggies work really well as a substitute.  For cakes, whipped cream, mousses, and other such goodies canned coconut milk does the trick, providing you have no allergies to coconut and also like the taste of coconut.  I know some folks who say that pureeing raw cashews with water is also a good substitute, but I haven’t tried that myself since I’m allergic to tree nuts. Another option is to use aquafaba which is the liquid formed from cooking chickpeas. You can purchase no salt, no sugar added canned chickpeas and use the liquid as you would heavy cream by putting it into your mixer and whipping it.

Replacing Liquid Dairy

If you simply want to replace the dairy produce altogether, though, you can also substitute with other types of liquids and foods.  For baked goods calling for milk, substituting water or 100% fruit juice works excellently.  Simply decrease the amount by 1/4 since milk tends to be a thicker liquid.  As with rice milk, though, you sometimes need to add a tablespoon or two to your fat amount to compensate for the fat that would be in the milk.

Replacing Solid Dairy

If you want to substitute the dairy in something like a pumpkin pie or cheesecake, silken tofu works well.  For pies, you’d replace the 14 oz can of evaporate milk with one package of silken tofu.  For a cheesecake, if a recipe called for four packages of cream cheese and I didn’t want to substitute all four packages with soy cream cheese, I would substitute with two packages of the soy cream cheese and two packages of silken tofu.

Replacing Cheese

And if you really do need to use a vegan cheese, which I do in a lasagna, for pizza, and in a macaroni and cheese dish, there are the Daiya and Chaou brands.  Their cheeses do tend to melt similarly to real cheese, and if you flavor them with your herbs, garlic and onions, the taste is similar to real cheese. My tip for you, though:  After you bake your dish, broil the top for a couple of minutes to fully melt the cheese into that gooey-ness you like from a real cheese. Another tip, if you mix just a tiny amount of olive oil in with the cheese, when you bake it, it will become more crusty like mozzarella.

Dairy Free Dark Chocolate Snack Cake

Ingredients: 

3 1/2 cups 100% whole wheat flour or 3 cups favorite gluten free flour blend

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup Hershey Special Dark unsweetened cocoa (or regular unsweetened cocoa if you prefer)

10 oz package Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips

1 cup chopped dried cranberries (or another dried fruit like cherries or raspberries or blueberries — if you have a food processor, chop the dried fruit into even smaller pieces to more evenly distribute the flavor through the cake)

1 cup Agave or honey

3/4 cup your favorite plant based oil (I like avocado oil with anything chocolate)

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups water (or fruit juice if you’d prefer)

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or another type you prefer like white or raspberry)

Baking Instructions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 11 x 15 pan.  (I would use “If You Care” parchment paper, but you can Pam spray it or coat it with oil or butter and flour.)

2.  Mix together the flour, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder.  Stir in the mini chips and chopped dried fruit.  Set aside.

3.  Blend together the Agave, oil, vanilla, and water.

4.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet with the vinegar, and mix quickly just until the dry ingredients are moistened.

5.  Pour into the prepared pan, and bake for 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

6.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack, or if you’re like my children, dig into it while it’s still warm!