Saturday, September 5, 2015

Quiche on a whim...

It was 2pm and I hadn’t yet eaten.  I was hungry but really wanted something satisfying, not just something quick.  I had just been to the grocery store and was trying to stuff my freezer with the meat and frozen fruits and veggies I’d just purchased when I saw the pie crust….  I sometimes like to keep one in the freezer in case of “emergency".  Well this one had been in there for a while so it was time to put it to use.

I love eggs and was considering a quick egg sandwich anyway, so this was a perfect, much tastier alternative.  I didn’t have a recipe – I just started throwing in some cheeses and veggies I had in the fridge/freezer.  Of course I needed a little bacon too, so I chopped up a few slices and cooked those until crisp.  Here’s what I ended up with:

4 whole eggs
4 egg whites
½ cup milk
¾ - 1 cup cheese of your choice – I used a mix of grated asiago, grated parmesan, and a couple slices of pepper jack that I tore into pieces
½ red bell pepper, diced, sautéed
3 scallions, thinly sliced – white and green parts, lightly sautéed
½ cup frozen chopped kale, thawed and drained
¼ - ½ cup frozen corn kernels
3 strips bacon – chopped and cooked until crisped, drained on paper towel
Pinch of garlic powder
Salt & Pepper to taste

A few notes –
  • When adding onions and /or veggies, be sure to sauté them for a few minutes first to get some of the water out – you don’t want a soupy quiche!  Plus, that sauté will add some good caramelized flavor.  Let them cool a little before stirring them into the eggs.
  • Beat the eggs slightly with a fork then add the milk and beat again.  Slowly add and stir all additional ingredients together and pour into unbaked pie crust.
  • I baked this at 375 degrees on a preheated cookie sheet for 30 minutes, and then let it rest out of the oven, still on the cookie sheet, for 10 minutes before serving.  It was perfectly tender and held together nicely.
  • Don’t be afraid to just go with the flow in the kitchen.  That’s the beauty of cooking, it’s often an experiment – and if you think ingredients sound good together, then they probably are.  

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Farro Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

It's been a month and I'm still being inspired by Turkey.  The food was just so fresh and flavorful - perfect timing as we barrel into summer.  A friend of mine has a great rooftop in Logan Circle so we took advantage of the amazing Memorial Day weekend weather and grilled out.  This farro salad was one of our sides.  I had a very similar salad at Kafe Ara in Istanbul and I haven't stopped thinking about it.  Farro isn't a grain you see all that much in the US.  We have it, sure, but it's more often seen in Italy and other parts of Europe and the Middle East.  I'm not sure why, it's flavorful and slightly chewy like good and hearty, and it cooks way faster than barley or rice - I'm sold.

The add-ins below are just one (really delicious) option - you can add any veggies you like with any dressing you like.  You can add chunks of chicken to make this a meal, or serve it as a side to a fish filet.  Use wild rice instead of get the point, its completely customizable.  This version is sweet, tart, salty, crunchy, chewy - all of the varying textures and flavors make it super satisfying.  I hope you give it a try! 


2 cups uncooked Farro
1/2 cup Slivered Almonds, toasted
1/4 cup Dried Tart Cherries, roughly chopped (or whole, your preference)
1/4 cup Pomegranate Seeds
1- 1.5 cups Cucumber, diced
1/4 cup Sprouts, rinsed with roots trimmed off (optional, I use alfalfa)
2-3 Scallions, chopped
2 Tbsp Fresh Parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp Fresh Mint, chopped
1/3 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
Lemon Vinaigrette*


Cook farro according to package instructions, then drain and set aside to cool in a large mixing bowl.  I add a couple shakes of Montreal Chicken seasoning, as well as one chicken bouillon cube, just for added flavor.  You can always use chicken stock/vegetable stock/plain water – whatever you choose.

Toast the almonds in a dry small frying pan on medium-low heat, just until they start to brown and you can smell them – should only take a few minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Chop and prepare all other ingredients.

When the farro is cool, add remaining ingredients.  Drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss well to coat the entire salad.  Add additional vinaigrette to taste.  Feta can be tossed in with everything else, or just crumbled on top.  Serve at room temperature, or chilled if you prefer.

*I make my own vinaigrette.  I don’t measure anything (sorry!!), but here is what I include:

Fresh Lemon Juice, a few tablespoons
Dijon Mustard, a tablespoon or so
Salt & Pepper, to taste (slightly more pepper than salt)
Dried Thyme, couple shakes of the bottle
Honey or Agave Nectar, maybe a tablespoon (or use a pinch or two of sugar)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – good quality – probably ¼ - ½ cup

Whisk everything together until well combined.  Can be stored in a jar or bottle in the fridge for a couple weeks.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Orange Ricotta Cake - A Taste of Turkey

On my trip to Turkey a few weeks ago, I stayed one night in an adorable old stone hotel, called the Taş Otel in the town of Alaçati (Ah-la-cha-tuh).  Every afternoon they serve their guests homemade cakes and çay (black tea).  When I went into my room, there was a cookbook laid out on the bed.  What?!  To an avid baker, this was basically the best gift ever.  Who needs mini soaps or lotions or a mint on their pillow?  Give me the cake. 

So, last weekend I was up in Cape Cod visiting my parents, relaying the details of my trip to them – seemed like the perfect time to test out one of these recipes.  My mom is also a baker and my parents love sweets.  My mom picked this recipe for us (and wrote down another to try later herself).  This cake was super easy to whip up.  My dad is allergic to nuts so we left them out, and frankly, I think the texture of the cake was a bit too soft to handle them.   

I made this in a loaf pan thinking it would have the texture of banana or zucchini bread, but it’s actually much lighter and fluffier than that.  The loaf pan was okay, but I think next time I’d use a 9" round or 9x9" square pan and eat this with a fork.  Loaf pan/round pan/nuts/no nuts – do what you prefer, but definitely give this a try.  The orange flavor comes through nicely but isn’t overpowering, and the ricotta provides that perfectly satisfying crumby texture.  No icing necessary.

And of course - when in Turkey, stay at the Taş!  Alacati Tas Otel


125g unsalted butter, softened
225g sugar
3 eggs
450g AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
Grated zest of 2 oranges (I used 1)
2 spoonfuls orange marmalade (I used 2 rounded Tbsp)
100ml orange juice
100g chopped walnuts (I omitted)
125g ricotta (I used lowfat)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix butter, sugar and eggs until well blended.
  3. Add flour, baking powder and vanilla.  Mix.
  4. Add orange zest, marmalade and juice.  Mix.
  5. Add ricotta and stir to combine.
  6. If using walnuts, mix half into the batter and sprinkle half on top prior to baking.
  7. Bake for 30-40 minutes in a greased pan.
  8. Cool in pan on a wire rack.
Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Merrrrhaaabaaa Turkey!

Ok first let’s set the mood…listen to this while you read this post:  Zaynah - Kate Linn

This song was on the radio in almost every cab I took in Istanbul.  In fact, I “Shazamed” it during one of my rides because it was so familiar by that point I had to know what it was.  I kinda love it.  Anyway, let’s get to the trip…

Basically, I spent two weeks eating my way through Istanbul (and parts of southwest Turkey) with some friends, and I loved every minute.  We got a ton of sightseeing in too.  It was rare if we made it home before midnight.  We’d leave the house before noon and tool around all day, generally starting with a big traditional breakfast, tea and coffee, and then ending the day with wine and mezze.

A proper Turkish coffee, complete with some Turkish Delight
Items of note:

1) Turks absolutely love yogurt, eggplant, meat (beef and lamb) and bread.  Lots of other things too obviously, but those three things play a prominent role in their diet.

2) You start your day with tea (çay – pronounced chai), have breakfast, then move on to coffee afterwards.  If you start with coffee, chances are, you aren’t Turkish.

3) It’s perfectly acceptable to have at least 5-10 glasses of çay per day.

4) Simit is sold everywhere for about $0.37 each (1 Turkish Lira).  The easiest way to describe it is a large, skinny, sesame bagel that’s a little dry.  It is truly a staple.  I found it much tastier when slathered with jam, honey or olive tapenade.

5) In addition to simit, another favorite treat is kaymak - clotted cream made from water buffalo milk.  Yes, seriously.  Our food tour guide referred to this as "The Queen" of Turkish breakfast.  Generally, a large glob of it is placed on a plate and surrounded by honey.  You take a smear of the cream and honey, smear it on your simit then groan in delight.  Typically it is eaten maybe once a week or so - its not an everyday thing by any means, but I'll tell ya - every place I had breakfast had kaymak!  Here's an article about it: Kaymak

6) Baklava does not have honey in it!  Who knew?  I think here in the States, it usually does, but traditionally it gets its sticky sweetness from simple syrup (sugar dissolved into water).

7) You will be hard pressed to find other types of food in Istanbul.  Turks love Turkish food – why would they eat anything else?!  I’m down…
In addition to eating out for every meal for two weeks, a friend and I did a culinary walking tour around the Beyoğlu neighborhood, including parts of Cihangir and Taksim.  It was really interesting and fun to check out some little mom & pop places tucked into the neighborhoods.  I highly recommend doing one if you have the time.  Here is the site we used:  Culinary Tour

Ok - I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.  The moral is, Turkish food is fresh, full of flavor, and relatively healthy compared to other cuisines.  

Olives and Cheeses
Even homegrown olives!

Never short on bread, and not a packaged loaf in sight.
Look at the color of those yolks!  
Fresh squeezed, of course.
Amazing bakeries for both sweet and savory items.
Iskender - bread cubes covered with meat, butter sauce and yogurt.

And from our walking tour...

Olives, olives and more olives.
Name a vegetable - they pickle it!
Stuffed Mussels - with rice, raisins, pine nuts and cinnamon
A row of Meyhanes - restaurants serving Raki!
Aaand, that's a sheep's head!
Not a bit will be wasted.
Finished product - all seasoned up - brain, cheek, eye muscle and tongue.
And there I am, trying out the cheek - not bad!!  I stopped there...

Now get to Turkey and dig in!

(Turkish Breakfast pics at top courtesy of Christina McDowell)
Thursday, February 26, 2015

Whole Wheat English Muffins

Ok so maybe shape-wise these don’t look so great, but hey, everyone has to start somewhere.  Before these, I didn’t even think homemade English muffins were an option.  Not really sure why, I have made tons of other bread products over the years, but when Thomas’ makes them as tasty as they do, why mess with it?  But you know me, I’ve gotta see for myself…

Well, other than a little time for this dough to rest, these were SO easy.  Like for real.  Mix up the dough, let it sit for an hour or two.  Scoop them into a pan to brown for a few minutes on each side, then transfer them to a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 more minutes.  Before you know it you have some really delicious muffins.  And I know exactly what ingredients I put in them – nothing fake or preserved about them.  Now that’s my kind of nooks and crannies.

The dinner version - topped with pesto and mozzarella.
And for breakfast - toasted with peanut butter.

Here are the ingredients and a link to play-by-play instructions:

2 ¼ tsp instant (rapid rise) yeast
⅓ cup warm water (between 100º-110ºF)
¾ cup buttermilk, room temperature
½ cup low-fat Greek yogurt, room temperature (I used nonfat)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 ½ tsp honey (Optional)
1 tsp kosher salt
2 cups white whole wheat flour (King Arthur Flour, of course!)
½ tsp baking soda
Yellow cornmeal, for sprinkling on the baking sheet

Monday, February 9, 2015

Crockpot Roast Chicken

I’ve been craving a good home-cooked, home-style meal.  These gray days just make me want to turn on Netflix, get under a blanket and eat something warm and comforting.  Enter the Crockpot – a little work with a bigger return.  This time, I put an entire chicken in it and wow, it was literally falling off the bone when it was done.  Now this isn’t your beautiful, golden, crispy skinned chicken – this one is all about tenderness and flavor, and it delivers on both.

While a big pile of mashed potatoes would have been amazing with this, I opted for a slightly healthier, lower-carb option – mashed cauliflower.  I cut up an entire head and steamed it.  Admittedly, I did include one Yukon Gold potato, just to help with the texture – I mean come on, try as I might, that cauliflower is not going to turn out like potatoes do.  At any rate, when it was all tender, I followed the same process that you do with potatoes – a little butter, a splash of milk, some salt & pepper, and in this case some garlic powder….quite tasty if I do say so myself!  Tasty enough to fool my stomach (this time at least).  It’s definitely worth a try, if you haven’t already done it.

But back to the chicken.  It’s pretty simple – you cook up some onions, garlic and tomato paste, add a few other flavor components, then pour it all into the Crockpot.  Place the chicken on top and let it go.  The recipe calls for cooking it for 4-6 hours.  I went with 5, and I think I easily could have cut off at least 30 minutes, but it will depend on the size of your chicken as well as your Crockpot.   Get ready to enjoy the amazing aroma that will soon fill your house.

Here’s the recipe:

By the way, this says to skim the fat from the cooking juices, then strain it and serve with the chicken.  I went ahead and cooked it down with a little flour to make it more of a gravy than juice.  I highly recommend that method.

And if what you’re looking for is that crispy-skinned version, look no further than this one – Oh. My. Yum:    The Bitten Word

Monday, February 2, 2015

Tortilla Time

Quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas, sandwich wraps, fresh chips, soup toppers – so many uses for tortillas.  You can even sprinkle them with some cinnamon and sugar and bake them into a crispy treat.  But have you ever looked at the ingredient listing on those store-bought tortillas?  Even the 100% whole wheat ones, which are presumably better for you?  Well, I saw a few recipes for homemade tortillas online, and knowing I had some in my fridge already, I came home and checked the info on the back….sure enough, about 15 ingredients, more than half of which I was clueless about.  These have 5.  That’s it –the store-bought ones went into the trash immediately.

One afternoon when I had some free time, I decided to give them a go.  The recipe said they took about 45 minutes start to finish, but come on…that couldn’t be right.  I’m glad to say it was.  Just a few ingredients tossed together and kneaded a few times, divided and rolled out into rounds, then fried in a dry pan for about 30 seconds on each side and donezo!  Seriously - that simple.  This recipe makes a dozen.  If you like them a little thicker, you can always cut it down to 9 or 10, or if you’re going for tacos, make them smaller and get up to 15-16….another bonus to making your own. 

Anyway, here’s the process and what I did with mine.  It included some making some fun cuudles (my word…think zucchini noodles (zoodles), but with cucumber!) with my new kitchen gadget, and obviously talking like Ned Flanders while cranking them out… cuudly doodly!  Don’t be jealous.  ;)

Roll out to about 9"
Fry in a dry pan
Cuudles!  Just ignore that weird flaccid cucumber core....

3 cups All-Purpose or White Whole Wheat Flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup refined coconut oil, melted (or canola/olive oil)
1 cup warm water

  1. Melt the coconut oil in a small pan and set aside.
  2. Add the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and mix completely. 
  3. Pour the water and melted oil over the flour mixture and stir gently until everything comes together in a ball.
  4. Knead the dough for about 30 seconds – 1 minute, then divide into even pieces.
  5. Roll each piece into a ball and cover to let rest for 10 minutes.
  6. After resting, roll each ball out to your desired thickness (these will only puff ever so slightly when you cook them).
  7. Cook each tortilla in a dry pan over medium-high heat for about 30-45 seconds on each side, just until some light brown bubbles start to form.
  8. Set aside on a plate, and stack them as each finishes cooking to keep them warm.
  9. Use immediately, or wrap them individually and store in the fridge for a few days, or the freezer for a few weeks.
Turkey Roll-Ups - I seasoned some cream cheese to use as the spread - yum!

Note – I have an alternative recipe that adds some chopped spinach to the flour mixture.  That version is mixed in the food processor for even distribution.  I’ll be trying those soon!

Recipe adapted from: Homemade Tortillas

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Chili. Chicken Chili.

It got cold here in DC, and that means its chili season.  In fact, I can’t believe I haven’t already made it this winter.  Beef stew made it into the line up once, but no chili…  I decided to follow the masses and make a chicken chili, which seems to be the cool thing to do these days.  I think I’ll always be partial to the ground beef variety that I grew up with, but if I’m going to stray from that, this is a good direction to go!

I first had this chili at a chili-tasting, of sorts, that my office held a while back.  Three people hauled in their crock-pots, each with a different kind.  I loved this from first bite.  I did make a couple changes to the recipe, but only slight ones, and it was mostly due to my grocery store not having the proper ingredients.  Here’s how it’s done:

Recipe adapted from: Chicken Chili


3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (or store-bought rotisserie chicken)
1 14.5oz can white beans, partially mashed
1 Tbsp canola or olive oil
1 medium jalapeno pepper, minced (I used 1 red jalapeno and 1 serrano chili)
2 medium poblano peppers, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt & Pepper
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 ½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ancho chili powder (I used ¼ tsp chipotle chili powder and ¾ tsp regular chili powder)
1 14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes (my addition - chili isn't chili without some tomatoes)
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 limes, juiced (plus additional wedges for serving)
¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped

  1. Trim the chicken breast of any excess fat and poach them in chicken broth (and a couple shakes of McCormick Montreal Chicken Seasoning if you have it) until just cooked through.
  2. Drain the cooking liquid and let the chicken cool.  When cooled, shred the chicken with 2 forks.
  3. While the chicken is cooking, chop the onions, peppers and garlic and sauté until slightly soft.
  4. Add spices, stir to mix evenly and cook another minute or two longer.  Add canned tomatoes at this time, if using.
  5. Add chicken broth and lime juice and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
  6. Add beans and continue to let simmer for another 10 minutes or so.
  7. Add the shredded chicken and chopped cilantro and stir to combine.
  8. Let simmer about 5 minutes longer.  Serve and enjoy!
  9. Optional toppings:  sour cream, tortilla chips, shredded cheese, lime wedges, additional cilantro