Friday, April 26, 2013

Liz's quiche

Regular readers are probably pretty surprised to see me touting quiche because I've long claimed to be a crust hater.

I think I should have clarified. I really only dislike that thick crust edge and when a pie has a top crust. Most people would argue that that's pretty much the whole crust, right? Which is why I always say that I hate crust.

But as long as I'm the one doing the cooking, I can make pies or quiches without a top crust and give the fluted edge to Mr. Ninj. Problem solved.

So I guess I'm back on the crust bandwagon. Especially with an easy, whirl-it-up-in-the-foodprocessor crust recipe (see below).

This quiche, however, is about more than its crust. This quiche has history.

This quiche is one of the first things I ever cooked -- when I was seventeen years old.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup

Confession: I had never eaten tortilla soup before I made this recipe.

Another confession: This is not surprising, as there are lots of things I have never eaten before. I, probably like many of you, will often read a description of the dish or list of ingredients, think "eeew!" and then never give it another thought.

Lately, I've been learning that my judgmental nature has cut me off from some pretty good eating.

(Remember the stew?)

In reading a recent issue of a popular food magazine, I was drawn to a photo and recipe for tortilla soup; it was gorgeous and looked delicious. Then I read the headnote. What made this one noteworthy, in the magazine's view, was the chef's secret substitution: instead of tortillas, he used butter. An assload of butter. I think it was an entire stick.

What the ... ? Wouldn't that then be BUTTER SOUP?

I don't know about you, but when I want a little crunch alongside my sandwich at lunchtime or a vehicle to scoop up some yummy guacamole, I DON'T GRAB A STICK OF BUTTER.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Peanut butter banana oatmeal muffins (from your best girlfriend)

Clearly, I can't get over my breakfast obsession.

But before I even get to these yummy, Elvis-y muffins, I have to tell you about my weekend.

We had houseguests, which gave me a great opportunity to trot out some of my favorite recipes from this blog, some not often sampled by anyone other than Mr. Ninj and me:

While planning the weekend menu, it finally dawned on me what a great variety of recipes I have collected and tested. And they are all in one place, online, easily accessible in my kitchen without searching through folders full of scraps of paper.

In a nutshell, I'm using my own blog as a database.

I've been fretting for a while that my blog is not useful because it's not niche-y enough -- that is, it's not easy to label, elevator-pitch style. Some blogs are easy to label, as they focus solely on vegetarian recipes, vegan recipes, desserts, Indian food, gardening, canning, DIY crafts, knitting, "skinny" recipes, toddler-friendly food, Southern food ... you name the niche, there's a blog out there filling it.

It can make the generalist feel a little ... well ... too general. (Akin to my engineer husband not understanding why anyone, ahem, would choose a liberal arts education over a more specialized one.)

But my experience this weekend helped me to realize that it's OK to be a generalist because I'm filling my own niche, both for me and for you, my readers: the what's-for-dinner (or breakfast or lunch) niche, punctuated by the occasional foray into the world of DIY (gardening, pantry staples, crafts).

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Chocolate-strawberry quick bread

I love it when a recipe that is easy, delicious and timely crosses my path.

Just such a perfect event happened earlier this week.

It was late afternoon and I was craving a little something sweet (but it's me, so not too sweet) but didn't feel that I had the time or the energy for a whole batch of cookies, nor did I want the calorie overload. In checking my Facebook feed, I found the perfect solution.

Simple Bites had just posted about a chocolate and jam tea cake. I pulled up the recipe and loved the fact that it was touted as a "way to use up last year's preserves" (got those) but was also a tiny bit disappointed that it called for a lot of butter and whole milk -- not quite stealthily healthy enough for me as a snack.

So I adapted it.

As I did so, it occurred to me that, while I am not by a long shot the best or most inventive cook I know, I am proud of how much my skills have improved and my knowledge grown since I started this blog three years ago. (Remember, I didn't really know how to cook much at all until I was nearly 30.) Practice makes perfect, right?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Gardening: how to start seeds indoors (part 1)

As spring is just around the corner (knock on wood) here in Vermont, I can finally let my thoughts turn again to gardening.

It's difficult, over the course of the long winter, to think about next year's garden when it feels like the cold and the snow might just last forever. But once March rolls around, I begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel and start planning my garden.

Each spring, I make a graph-paper map of my garden and decide what plants I'm going to put where, being mindful that most crops should be rotated around the garden space annually, rather than being replanted in the same place. At the end of the gardening season, I make notes on that map, delineating the successes and failures, yields, pest issues, amounts of mulch and compost used and any other significant items that I want to remember -- because, if you're like me, you can't remember details from one month to the next, let alone from one year to the next. Then, in the spring, when I make my new plan, I consult the previous year's notes and use those to guide my plant selection and placement.

A few weeks ago, I drew my plan for my 2013 garden and decided which vegetables I would grow. Now it's time for the fun part: seed starting.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Pasta con sarde

Around Chez Ninj, we love anchovies -- a lot.

If a recipe calls for three anchovies, I'll add at least five. And there is no such thing as "leftover anchovies" in this house, because they make a nice snack all by themselves.

Therefore, you might think it odd that neither of us has ever had sardines before. Little canned fishes seems right up our alley, yes?

I thought it was odd. So I went searching for a sardine recipe.

And I found a doozy: pasta con sarde (yep, Italian for "with sardines").

Sardines (also called pilchards) are small, oily fish from the herring family, rich in calcium and omega-3s. It is historically thought that they received the monniker "sardine" because they used to be so abundant around Sardinia.

Now, everything I read says that fresh sardines are preferable to canned. But I live in a landlocked state, it's the middle of winter and I have yet to find a great local source for unusual fresh seafood, so I went with canned sardines.