Friday, August 27, 2010

Crustless Cheesy Quiche

I am thrilled to share this recipe with you today because it is my new go-to dish when I need to provide food for a brunch or special event like a baby shower. Calling this a "Quiche" is very misleading because the addition of cottage cheese and baking powder and magic make this a light and airy but full of flavor dish. Inspiration for this recipe was found at SimplyRecipes and I changed it up a bit for our personal tastes.

Slice one onion and saute over medium heat (low and slow) until caramelizing happens. I absolutely love caramelized onions. Start this first and then let it cook down, stirring every so often as you prepare the rest of the quiche, adding olive oil as needed to keep it fro burning. During the last minute of cooking, I added one minced garlic clove, cook for one minute then take the pan off the stove to cool.

Next I took the last three pieces of bacon from my fridge and baked them in the oven on a wire rack set on a jelly roll pan at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. I like cooking bacon in the oven because everything crisps up and you aren't left with chewy fat. I let this crisp really well and then crumbled it for the quiche later.

Now we need to make a roux. "Roux" is the French word for "brown," and brown describes a roux in color. A roux is a base for gravies, soups, etouffee, gumbo and many other Cajun and French dishes. It serves as a thickener, binder and flavoring. Any cook who has made gravy from pan drippings, flour and milk has made a sort of roux. The principles are very similar. With a roux, however, only flour and fat are used.

1st rule of roux is patience. It takes time to reach the desired stage of brown and not burned and you should be diligent to stir the roux constantly. Cooking slowly and evenly is a must to prevent burning.
2nd rule of roux is to use a heavy pot, a whisk and a wooden spoon. The pot should be heavy and not have any hot spots. A dutch oven or iron skillet works best. A wooden spoon is great to use because it does not impart a metallic flavor to the roux.

3rd rule of roux is we don’t talk about how difficult roux can be – we just put our big girl panties on and make roux.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Using a whisk, stir in flour; cook, stirring until bubbly. Gradually add milk and whisk to make sure there are no lumps. You can switch to a wooden spoon now and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until sauce thickens. Remove from heat; set aside to cool, about 15-20 minutes.
This couldn't be easier to whip up - and customize. You know how I love to have recipes on hand that use up whatever you have in the fridge and pantry. Make this your own!

Next, combine cottage cheese, baking powder, salt and Dijon mustard and 1/2 t dry mustard in a mixing bowl. Set aside.
You could mix this by hand, but why? If you have a kitchen aid mixer, you are a lucky one - use it! In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat eggs and add softened cream cheese.
Add the roux once it has cooled and mix well, but don't over beat. Fold in the shredded cheese. You can use 6 ounces shredded Swiss cheese and 3 T grated Parmesan cheese - or add what you have on hand. I used shredded cheddar and Parmesan.
Oh how I love this porcelain quiche dish with fluted sides, a wedding gift from my friend Nesi. It's perfect for serving this cheesy crustless quiche.  You can use a 10" pie plate too, just butter the sides and bottom of your baking dish well.

You can add the ingredients however you like, I added half of the batter, then sprinkled on all of the caramelized onions.
Then pour in the remaining batter and smooth the surface.

I had these beautiful tomatoes from the farmers market, and sliced them pretty thick, and pressed down onto the top of my quiche.

Meat! Where is the meat? After crisping up some bacon in the oven I let it cool and then crumbled it on top of the quiche. This can absolutely be left out, but not in my house.
Finally I topped everything off with a sprinkle of shredded cheddar. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until puffy and lightly browned.
I pulled the foil back and put the quiche back in the oven for 5 more minutes so everything was nice and brown on top.

Let this rest for 10-15 minutes before serving. Jim and I actually had this for dinner, and then ate leftovers for breakfast the next two days. It was great warm out of the oven, we both had two slices each. And I should note it kept very well in the fridge also, tasted great reheated. I think you should make this for a Saturday morning Breakfast for the family - I bet everyone will love it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Texas Treat: Chicken Fried Steak Sliders

Even though I made these Chicken Fried Steak Sliders on whole wheat buns, I'm not even going to pretend this is a good-for-you dinner because it is bad, bad, bad. Just look at the photo, it's all brown! I'm a fan of color in my meals. What I do love about this meal/snack/appetizer/party food (whatever you want to call it), it tasted GREAT!

Knowing how to make a proper chicken fried steak in the south is like earning your southern woman badge. I've made chicken fried chicken before (ever made Chicken Parmesan?) but it's not the same thing, and neither is calling it Country Fried Steak...In Texas, it's Chicken Fried Steak (CFS). In the Lone Star Sate, we serve CFS with mashed potatoes and a tasty cream gravy poured over the top. I suspect all Texans have their favorite way to prepare CFS, but I really didn't eat it that much growing up. I've seen it served in plenty of restaurants and have sampled enough of it to know what my personal preferences are though. It took me some time to dig through various recipes until I found one that would work for me. I loved reading Homesick Texan tell her story and some history of CFS. I finally found the recipe I chose to follow on of all places.

I think Mark puts the recipe perfectly here: "It’s basically a cheap cut of beef (such as a bottom round or cube steak) that you beat the living daylights out of. Then it’s dredged in buttermilk, egg, and seasoned flour before being deep fried until golden and crisp on both sides. The chicken fried steak alone would make for a cardiologists nightmare, but then it’s drown in a cream based gravy. I’ve tried to reduce the heart attack quotient a little by shallow frying in vegetable oil (instead of lard) and by making the gravy with milk instead of cream, but I won’t lie to you, there’s not much you can do to make this “healthy” without stealing from the soul of this dish." -Mark,

I started with a cup of flour in a shallow bowl and added 1 T salt, 1 t black pepper, 1 t onion powder, 1/2 t hot paprika, 1/2 t baking powder, 1/4 t cayenne pepper. Mix with a fork or your hands.

I like using cube steak because it's an inexpensive cut of beef and this round steak has been extra-tenderized.
I used the Saltgrass Seven Steak spice to season the meat, the rest of these were added to the flour.

I cut the cube steak into fourths to fit my slider buns, then dredged in the seasoned flour.
Next, dredged in the beaten egg (which I also seasoned with 1/2 T Saltgrass Seven Steak spice).
Lastly, dredge one again in the seasoned flour.
All prepped and ready to go.
In my heavy iron skillet I added about 1/4" of vegetable oil and set heat to medium. When the oil hits 375 degrees it's ready. Add the steak and let them sizzle without disturbing them until the edges get brown. Carefully flip and let the other side brown. When they are golden on both sides, transfer to a wire rack in the oven (set to 200 degrees) to keep them warm.
I took a package of whole wheat rolls, split them in half, and put them in the oven to toast up a bit. You could also pop these in a toaster oven, or face down on a skillet to crisp up the rolls.
The step that just can't be skipped (in my opinion) is the cream gravy. I have to admit I had a lot of "misses" when I first started making cream gravy a few years ago - it's a skill that I think you learn by trial and error. I started with 2 T oil in my iron skillet (drained off the leftover oil from frying the steak and left roughly 2 T) then sprinkled in 2 T of leftover flour (that was already seasoned when I used it to dredge the steak) and with a whisk I move the flour and oil around and let it bubble and brown. Next you add milk (or cream) and I can't tell you the exact point to add milk - but if you do this enough times you learn the look and feel of the flour. You don't want the flour to burn, but you do want it to cook and get a little crumbly - then you add the milk a little at a time and whisk whisk whisk to make sure it doesn't clump. You stand there with your whisk watching it and stirring and let it bubble and add more milk to thin it out. I added a cup of water with a beef bouillon cube it (just for the boost of flavor) and watched it and tasted it until it was perfect. Turn heat to low or off, and be aware that as the gravy cools it will thicken up, so the consistency you are going for is a little runny.
The last step is to assemble our little chicken fried steak sliders. I put a small spoonful of gravy on the buns and sandwiched the chicken fried steak right in the middle. Jim couldn't get over how awesome these were, I couldn't get over what an unhealthy treat I had made for us. But that's what it was - a treat, an experiment with Chicken Fried Steak served on a cute little whole wheat bun. These were fun to make and a very tasty Texas treat.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Domestic Diva: Stitch Lab

I was thrilled when one of my girlfriends e-mailed me a few months ago about Stitch Lab, an adorable sewing store in South Austin that holds weekly sewing classes of various experience levels. My automatic reply was, "Yes, I want to go too!" My friend Taylor and I signed up for the beginner sewing class even though both of us have some experience sewing, but it had been a while and neither have any sort of formal training. See, Taylor and I have this joke about seeing something in the store and saying, "I can make that!" We both like to jump into projects, whether we have the skills or not and learn by doing. I've had to rip out many a seam in my days because I didn't use a pattern... well sewing is not like my cooking. You do need to know what you are doing, and using a pattern has proved very helpful.

Isn't this adorable? Leslie Bonnel, the crafty and sassy leader of Stitch Lab found this frayed house in South Austin and along with a team of creative and willing friends, they flipped the house in less than a month to open what is now a warm and welcoming space for crafters.

The 1920's bungalow was turned from shabby to fabulous with refurbished wood floors, restored cabinets with original glass pulls and dark, rich wood - all provide a fabulous backdrop for the bright colors of the fabric.  

The colors! The space at Stitch Lab is open, bright and cheery and stocked with everything you need to create something new every day. To say the space is inspiring is an understatement, it makes me want to turn my spare bedroom into my personal craft room (which I've since decided I AM DOING!)

I arrived early on day one (of course.) I wanted to get my sewing machine dusted off and set up correctly. I chose this sunny spot in front of the window at the front of the house.

The manual - I'm so glad I held on to that little booklet. I had so much to get reacquainted with.

Here is Taylor as we learned to put thread on the bobbin, load it correctly and practice a basic stitch.

She was a pro - of course. (I'm convinced we have crafty genes.) In this series we learned all functions of the sewing machine, all basic machine skills, an introduction to hand sewing skills and everything you need to know about fabrics, marking, pinning and cutting.

By the end of the first night, Taylor and I had each made ourselves these drawstring bags. Not sure what I'm going to do with mine, but it was a great starter project and got us reacquainted with our machines and comfortable sewing again.

Night two we tackled a more advanced project - a 14 inch square pillow with piping and a ZIPPER!
I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to learn how to insert a zipper, the possibilities after learning this skill are endless. Taylor worked with this super fun and vibrant brown, red, pink and yellow floral fabric.
I chose a silk cream fabric with a repeating figure eight design stitched on to it. So maybe we were supposed to choose something easy like cotton to work with - didn't they know I have a problem following directions? I march to the beat of my own drum.
This fabric was going to be perfect for my Master Bedroom Makeover. Since I'm married now I need to learn to share - and Jim said the pink and red colors I have going on in the master bedroom are not going to cut it so my new color scheme will be cream with chocolate brown and a dusty blue.

This pillow was step one in the right direction.

Pictures of Taylor pinning the zipper to the fabric for her pillow.
Our amazing instructor Hayley, who since art school has worked for Polo Ralph Lauren, as a costume designer for theater and independent film production. Since she's been back in Austin Hayley has even designed a line of unique, one-of-a-kind handbags, run a successful sewing studio and is launching her first quilt fabric line this year. I swear, being around such talented people is just contagious - I wanted to soak up all the knowledge she had to give.

Yes, I was that student asking a billion questions. How many times have you poked yourself with a needle, has sewing ever made you cry, what does your home craft room look like? Her answers were: More times than I can count, one time I threw my sewing machine off the table I was so mad, it's set with everything a seamstress needs.

Here are my two finished pillows! I took a picture of the back of my 14 inch square pillow to show the zipper I put in. The piping, which I thought was going to be tough, really wasn't. I'm going to also teach myself how to make my own piping, I know I can.
The third night of class we had a choice of projects. Taylor made a really cute messenger bag (I wish I had a picture of it) and I made a more advanced pillow. The bolster pillow was made out of this great silk chocolate brown and dusty blue material, and I use a solid brown for the circular ends.

My favorite part (which turned out to be the hardest part) were the beads that I used on my seam instead of piping. It was a bugger to complete but I'm very happy with the finished decorative pillow.

Oh look, a zipper on the bolster too!

What's so cool about Stitch Lab is that they offer an Open Sewing Studio during the week for crafters who may need a little assistance, advice, and support on individual sewing projects. It's a chance for me to suck the creativity right out of them... wait, that didn't sound quite right. I mean feed off their energy, or something like that. But sometimes you just need a little extra help on a project, but don’t need a full class series - and I'm uber excited this is an option for me.

Click HERE to visit the Stitch Lab website!

I will surely keep you updated on the room makeovers. Kitchen is done, office is in the works, master bedroom is in the works and the spare bedroom that is becoming my craft room is still a disaster.