July 28, 2010

Enchilada Pie

Oh my!  This was divine, so divine I made it three times in one week.  My husband always jokes he was born a Mexican because he adores Mexican food (in reality he's preeetty white).  I was having one of those days where I needed to go grocery shopping but couldn't go for a couple more days.  I think I may have Googled corn tortillas and found a recipe like this one, but I don't remember.  I do remember being inspired by a recipe from somewhere.... Anyway, it's our new favorite breakfast, lunch, or dinner entree.

I had in the fridge a large bag of shredded cheese, lots o' salsa, sour cream, and some corn tortillas that had been sitting around far too long.  The first time I made this I used up some cooked chicken, and truth be told I liked that even better, but I ran out of chicken.  Luckily I had a bag of dried black beans that I soaked and cooked and was able to put them to good use here, and I was able to stretch my trip to the grocery store for even longer. 

So here is the "method".

Enchilada Pie "Method"

1. Line the bottom of a baking dish with corn tortillas (I think I used 3-4 per layer in small square pan)
2. Cover this mixture with salsa.
3. Add a layer of ricotta cheese, or sour cream, or plain yogurt, or any combo of those.
3. Add cooked chicken or beans to cover (around one cup for a small pan)
4. Apply a nice layer of shredded cheese (around one cup)
5. Repeat steps 1-4.
6. Cover with aluminum foil.
7. Bake in a 375 degree oven, oh, for about 20 minutes. 
8. Remove foil and bake about another 20 minutes.

July 23, 2010

Buttermilk Pancakes!

I am telling you what--nothing beats a good pancake.  Sure, you can have oatmeal for breakfast, or an omelette, or bacon, and those are all great, but pancakes are in a league of their own if done right. 

I've had a lot of pancakes before I finally found "the one".  I'm talking fluffy, tender, flavorful, comforting, foolproof, and healty.  You will swear off box mixes forever.

Really, I'm surprised box mixes are still on the market. I know I know, they're so easy, you say.  Honey, throwing together some pancakes without the mix means taking like one or two extra steps, and for all the flavor you get with that little bit of extra trouble, throw that white, gluey, processed mess away!  I was given a large box of pancake mix by someone, and although I never buy the stuff, I thought maybe it shouldn't go to waste.  I made a batch for the kids and they would not touch it!  I had a bite and understood why.  Ick. If all you've ever used is that you really don't know what you're missing.

I make a few different types of pancakes--regular, buttermilk, and buckwheat, and I can't wait to try the recipe for Pear and Buckwheat Pancakes from the book, Good to the Grain, but this recipe is really the family favorite in our house. Another reason I wanted to post these is I learned a little secret from the Good to the Grain book about a pancake topping made of just butter and honey, as pictured at left.  I think maple syrup may have lost its place for me.  This is so good!  It's butter and it's honey but when they mix together they make their own flavor that's earthy and sweet but not heavy or overly sweet.  Kind of like toffee? Definitely use good butter if you're going to do this; it makes a difference.  Two great brands: Organic Valley Pasture Butter and Kerrygold Irish Butter.  Each of them is made with cream from cows that actually eat grass like they are meant to, instead of being fed a "feed".  It makes all the difference in flavor and nutrition. 

I must try Sticky Toffee Pancakes from Feast by Nigella Lawson.  Doesn't that sound like it would make your day? 

I adapted this recipe from an older Betty Crocker publication that somehow ended up in my hands (Mom, did I steal it from you when I moved out?)  I have to say, anything I've ever made out of that book has been spot on.  I almost always use half whole grain flour like in the pics, but you can use all plain flour too, or even all whole grain.

Makes 10-12 medium pancakes

Buttermilk Pancakes

1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup all-purpose flour (or 1/2 cup whole grain flour, 1/2 cup all-purpose) 
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

(The healthiest way to prepare these is to soak the flours in the buttermilk overnight.  Just mix'em together and let it sit at room temperature, covered, overnight.  The buttermilk will break down all those components in the flour that make it difficult to digest, and a further bonus is it makes the nutrients in it more accessible to your body.  If it's your first time doing this you might want to soak half the flour in the buttermilk, then when you're ready to make the pancakes add the rest of the flour together with the remaining ingredients.  This way the texture is more like what you're used to in a pancake.)

If you are not going to soak the flour overnight, just throw everything into a bowl and whisk until smooth (or put it in the blender).  Sometimes I pre-measure all the dry and wet ingredients in different bowls the night before so it's all measured out for the morning (minus the melted butter, but you could substitute oil if you want to pre-measure).

It's a good idea to let the batter sit and rest, at least for a half hour if you can handle waiting.  Melt a pat of butter in a skillet on medium to medium high, then pour in or ladle in the batter. Allow to cook until bubbles appear throughout the pancakes, then flip over and cook for about another minute.

Meanwhile if you want to do a butter-honey topping, melt equal parts butter and honey in a small saucepan, then heat until boiling.  Cook a couple of minutes and it's ready to pour over your hot pancakes!  Yum.

July 3, 2010

Crustless Leek Quiche

When I was sixteen I had my first taste of quiche.  It was the real deal, and I had it in Paris!  I was on my way to a small village in the center of France where I would be spending nearly the next four weeks with an exchange family assigned by the student exchange organization. 

Unfortunately this program, in order to save money, had a group of over 100 students changing airports mulitiple times, causing layovers like crazy, so that by the time we touched ground in Paris, I'd been traveling for about 20 hours non-stop.  I'd been begun in Milwaukee, changed flights in Detroit, on to LaGuardia, where we then took a bus to JFK International to gather together all the students from around the US.  We then flew to literally the middle of nowhere in New Foundland, where we supposedly refueled for the journey over the Atlantic.  Before reaching Paris we dropped off exchange students in Madrid.

At our hotel we were served quiche.  I was already disappointed that whichever airport we were in was far enough out of town that we could see nothing of Paris, and now quiche.  Imagine a large group of travel-weary American teenagers sitting down to a dinner of quiche.  Our first culture shock.  I can't say my first taste of quiche was favorable.  Not only was it out of my element, but it was gummy, and hey, it was eggs in a pastry crust.  Why would anyone want to eat eggs in a pastry crust?  I just wanted a hamburger.

In my tiny hotel room, where I'd been assigned a chatty roommate and four hours to sleep, I lay in the dark trying to catch at least a nap, but no sleep would come as I worried about meeting my host family.

Fast forward, I've made it to the home of my host family, though I had my doubts I'd make it alive after driving so fast in their tiny "tin car". They have been so kind as to make me dinner as I try to settle in.  I don't have the command of the language to tell them that I've been awake for over 24 hours, and all I want to do is go to bed, so I politely sit down to dinner, where awaiting me is, you guessed it, a quiche. 

I have been instructed by the exchange student organization not to be impolite by refusing food.  My host sister has made the quiche herself, and I can see she is proud, so I accept a large piece.  Luckily that was my last quiche while in France.  It was better than the one I'd had in the hotel, but I still could not appreciate it.  It would be several years before I could appreciate quiche, and now I wonder what I could have been thinking.

This is, as named above, a crustless quiche. Why crustless?  Several reasons.  One, I'm a simple sort of girl who likes to cut down on steps in the cooking process, and if I'm being honest with myself, if I had to make pastry crust as part of the dish I'd never make quiche.  Two, my body does not process grains well and I look to avoid them in most of my food, and three, it's really tasty, even without the crust! 

The leeks add a soft sweetness that pairs well with the creaminess of the quiche.  If you've never used leeks before, you'll love the tenderness and flavor!  You can use most of the green portion, but use your judgment as to when to stop based on how tough it gets as you go up.  I encourage use of crumbled bacon in this if you have it on hand.  I used a cheddar/jack cheese combo, but I'm sure the traditional cheese would be gruyere.

Crustless Leek Quiche

serves 6, or 4 generously

6 eggs
2/3 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese
1 LARGE leek, chopped and rinsed of any grit between layers
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper, to taste

Chop and rinse leeks, then saute in butter until soft, salting to taste.  In a bowl, beat the eggs and milk together until well combined.  Stir in cheese, leeks, and salt and pepper to taste.  Pour into a greased square or round baking dish.  Bake at 350 degreees F for about 30 minutes, or until set.  Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.