Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Revisiting the Ghost of Leftovers Past

Today a good friend of mine came over for lunch and girl talk.. I had an idea in mind for a simple menu, but alas, the items I needed were no longer in the refrigerator.

So back to the drawing board. What is in the refrigerator? I had some leftover Chicken and Couscous from last week that needed to be used up so I quickly formulated a plan of action:

First, gently reheat the casserole in the microwave.

Next, I trimmed some fresh basil from the herb garden to freshen the dish up.

Now, I separated the couscous mixture from the two chicken pieces that were left. The (boneless) chicken got diced and set aside in a bowl. The couscous was freshened up with the basil, which I cut into ribbons, a.k.a. chiffonade.

The chicken pieces were now going to be a tasty chicken salad, after the addition of about 3 Tbsp mayonnaise, and a hint of mustard, about 2 tsp. Stir to combine, correct the seasoning if necessary, and viola! Yummy chicken salad.

I served the chicken salad on toasted buns that I rubbed with a clove of garlic for an extra layer of flavor. Since the couscous already had the tomatoes and mushrooms mixed in, our lunch turned out quite balanced and delicious.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Art of Pantry Foraging

We've all been there; staring at the contents of your refrigerator or pantry wondering, "What do I make for dinner"

Luckily I'm the kind of gal that always has canned tomatoes and rice, or in this case, couscous, in the cupboard. Also, luckily for me the herb garden is bursting with basil right now. That set the gears into motion..

I remembered seeing this dish on Rachael Ray's show before and decided to use that as my inspiration. Since I didn't have the soft cheese for the inside, I thought the couscous mixed with the pesto sauce would make a nice substitution. I also didn't have any pine nuts, so I used almonds instead.

Stuffed Chicken with Pesto Couscous

4-6 Chicken breast or thighs, boneless and skinless
1/2 cup slivered almonds (or pine nuts)
8-10 large sprigs of Basil
Parmesan cheese, grated, to taste
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 cup couscous
1 cup chicken stock
2 medium onions, diced
1 large can of diced tomatoes or tomato sauce
1 small can of sliced mushrooms, drained
Salt and pepper, to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 350*F.

Start by toasting the nuts lightly in a skillet over medium heat, you do not need oil. Stir or toss often so that they do not burn. Pull the nuts off the heat when they start to turn toasty brown and release their delicious aromas and set aside.

Next start the couscous, bring 1 cup of chicken stock with about 1 tbsp of olive oil to a boil. Once the liquid comes to a boil, quickly stir in the couscous and remove from the heat. Cover the pot and let sit for 5 minutes.

Sweat a quarter of the diced onions in a medium saute pan with olive oil. Season with a small amount of salt and pepper. When they are translucent set aside for the Pesto sauce.

In the same pan, saute the remaining onions in another Tbsp of olive, again seasoning lightly, until they are translucent. Add in the can of tomatoes and bring to a simmer. To break down the diced tomatoes a bit you can use a potato masher to smush them and break down the chunks. Add the can of mushrooms last. Simmer over medium heat until you are ready to assemble.

To start the pesto, take the basil leaves off of their stalks and do a rough chiffonade, to help the food processor get started. Add the basil, nuts, onions, grated Parmesan cheese, and a few tablespoons of olive oil into a food processor. Pulse at first to combine, then puree until smooth, adding olive oil as necessary to make a paste. Combine the pesto paste with the couscous and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

To assemble: Spoon a small amount of the tomato sauce into the bottom a large glass casserole pan to help prevent sticking. For chicken breasts, slice the piece almost in half so that it opens up like a book. For boneless thighs, they should open up in a similar fashion, if not slice them open as well. Season the insides with salt and pepper. Scoop a large spoonful of the pesto couscous mixture onto the chicken pieces. Roll them up and place into the pan, seam side down. If there is any left-over couscous mixture, tuck it around the chicken pieces. Top the chicken with the remainder of the sauce. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake in the oven on the middle rack for 50 - 60 minutes, or until the chicken pieces are done.

Please note that for this recipe some measurements are estimated; I assembled this with the end result in mind, so please use your best judgement and adjust the amounts to your tastes

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Classic Chicken and Mushroom Casserole

My take on the classic casserole. I start the dish on the stove top and finish it in the oven. It takes a good hour and a half total prep and cook time, but can be prepared in advance and frozen for later. You can use white or dark meat, use your preference, or what was on sale at the market. What I consider 4-6 servings would equal 3 or 4 large breasts or up to 6 thighs.

Classic Chicken and Mushroom Casserole

2 cups water
1 cup brown rice
Chicken, enough for 4-6 servings
approx 4 Tbs EVOO
1 large onion, diced
1-2 stalks of celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
(1/2 cup white wine, optional)
2 cups white button mushrooms, roughly diced
2 cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
about 1 cup of milk or chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

First, preheat the oven to 350* F, then start the water for the rice and add rice when it comes to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low and allow to simmer, undisturbed for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large pot or dutch oven, brown seasoned (salt and pepper, both sides) chicken pieces in a little bit of olive oil over medium high heat. Your pot should be able to go from stove top to oven; if the handles are not heat proof, cover them with aluminum foil before transfer it to the oven. The aim is to sear the chicken and get a nice yummy brown crust going. They may stick a little at first, but should come loose as the crust begins to develop. When they have browned on both side, pull the pieces out and set aside on a plate. (Use the cook time of the chicken to dice up your veggies)

Next into the pot should be your onion, celery, and carrot, all diced. (This trio is also know as trinity, and is considered to be a good all around aromatic addition to many dishes) Reduce the heat to medium and season the veggies and allow them to sweat, stirring often. You may need to add another Tbs of olive oil. As the vegetables sweat they should pick up the flavor left in the pot from the browned chicken. If they need help to pick up the color, deglaze the pan with white wine. The wine will dissolve the residue left from the chicken, and add a subtle layer of flavor in the dish.

When the first three vegetables have cooked down, add in the chopped mushrooms. Season these lightly and allow to cook down as well. Once the vegetables have become soft, you can add the seared chicken pieces back into the pot, along with any juices they have leaked onto the plate.

Add in the two cans of cream of mushroom soup and about 1 cup of milk or chicken stock, however much you need to loosen the soup into a thick sauce, and mix well. Put on the lid to your pot and put the whole kit and kaboodle in the oven.

When the rice is al dente pull it off the heat and add the entire contents of the pot to the casserole in the oven. Stir well to combine, and continue to bake, checking every 30 minutes or so for doneness. The chicken should be done when the juices run clear, or when it hits 165* F internal temperature.

When the casserole is done, pull from the oven and allow it to cool a bit before eating to avoid any burn tongues. However, it will smell so good, you won't want to wait. Don't say I didn't warn you!

N.B. If you are making this ahead, proceed through the recipe up until the point you put the whole thing in the oven. at this point you will want to transfer the mixture into a pan or casserole dish that can transition from the freezer to the oven. Stir in the rice when it is ready and wrap the dish in tinfoil, cool to room temp and then freeze for later. (Do not put the dish in the freezer while it is still hot, that would only raise the temperature in your freezer and potentially cause food born illness due to the other frozen items thawing and re-freezing)

To re-heat the meal, bake in 350*F oven until warmed through.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tuna Croquets and Wilted Spring Salad with Mushrooms

This is a quick wilted salad bursting with garlic flavor, sized just right for one person as an entrée, or good for two servings when paired with a starchy side. If you are making this for two people I would suggest using 2 cans of albacore, and making 4 croquets total.

2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Garlic Clove
1/2 cup Raw White Mushroom
3 cups 50/50 Mix
1 tsp Parmesan Cheese, Grated
1 can , drained Solid White Albacore In Water (5oz/142g)
1 tbsp Sandwich Shop Garlic & Herb Mayo
0 tsp Salt*
1/2 tsp Pepper*

Heat up 1 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil in a medium sauté pan. Mince the garlic cloves and add to the oil in the pan until the garlic aromas have been released and the garlic has been slightly browned. Roughly chop the mushrooms and add to the garlic. Sauté in the pan for several minutes (5 - 8) until they have released their liquids and have browned up.

In the meantime, mix the drained tuna with the 1 Tbsp of garlic and herb mayo in a small bowl. Score the mixture in half and scoop the halves out and form into balls. Set aside.

When the mushrooms have browned add the salad mix to the pan, one handful at a time. Use tongs to toss the salad in the pan, so the leaves become evenly wilted. Pull the salad out of your pan and set aside on your serving plate.

Put the pan back on the heat and pour in 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Place the tuna croquets into the olive oil and let sauté until brown on the first side. Do not move them around or they will fall apart. Once a brown crust has formed, after 2 - 3 minutes, flip and allow the second side to brown.

Sprinkle the tsp of Parmesan cheese onto the wilted greens and plate the finished croquets on the plate.

* You may want to enhance the flavors more by squeezing on some lemon juice, onto either the greens or the croquets.

I didn't get any pictures in because I was hungry. Oops.. Next time I will have my camera handy!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Banana Rama Part 2

In honor of my boyfriend's birthday, I made him a cake flavored like one of his favorite desserts: Banana pudding. He absolutely adores bananas and the cake was a big hit with everyone who tried it. It was a "semi-homemade" concoction; I augmented some store bought ingredients to keep things simple.

Banana Pudding Cake

1 box Yellow cake mix
Water, eggs, oil, as called for in the cake mix
2 Bananas, mashed
1 box instant banana pudding
2 cups of milk
1 container of vanilla frosting
Nilla Wafers, crushed

Prepare you cake pans by greasing the bottoms and sides, either with a cooking spray or butter, or whatever your preference is. To make removing the cakes easier you may want to grease the bottom, then place in a piece of parchment paper that has been cut to fit the pan, and grease the paper.

Make the cake mix according to the directions, i.e. stir in the water, oil, and eggs until blended. Fold in the mashed bananas until well blended. Pour cake mix into greased pans and bake according to the directions on the box (approx 30 minutes for 2 8" pans at 350* F).

While the cakes are baking prepare the pudding according to the directions on the box. (Basically Whisk the powder and the milk together until smooth and slightly thickened.) Cover the pudding tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator to finish setting.

Also, while the cakes are baking, Crush a few handfuls of Nilla Wafers. You can pulse them in a food processor or pop them into a large plastic bag and roll them with a rolling pin until the break down into crumbs. Set the crumbs aside.

When the cakes are done, (a fork or toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean)remove from the oven and allow to cool. I prefer to let the cakes cool completely before I try to remove them from the pan, but if you are in a hurry, let them cool at least 10 minutes, then cool the rest of the way on a plate; this particular cake is quite moist, I think it would fall apart if you place it directly on a cooling rack.

To help get the cakes out of the pans, run a paring knife around the edge of the pan to loosen up the sides. Then just flip the pan over on top of a plate or round covered with parchment or plastic wrap, and let gravity do the rest. The parchment at the bottom of the pan (now the top) should keep the cake from breaking into sections as it falls out.

Once the cakes have been removed you can cut them into halves. Using a bread knife, keep the blade level as you score the outside of the cake. Using the score lines as a guide you can cut through the center and they should be even.

Layer your first piece onto a foil or plastic covered cake round, with strips of parchment paper just around the edges. You can make your own rounds with recycled cardboard, old pizza boxes work well. They should be the same diameter or slightly bigger as your cake.

Now you can start building your pudding layers, scoop about 2/3 of a cup of pudding onto the first layer and smooth it out to about a 1/4" away from the edge.

Next, careful place on the second layer, and repeat the pudding layer, then the third layer, and the last of the pudding.

Last, place your top layer on. Trim up the sides if they are uneven (save the trimming for a taste test :) )

I like to start icing the sides first, then the top. Use a thin layer as a crumb coat on the sides. Scoop the rest of the icing out onto the top and carefully smooth out, and down the sides until evenly coated. The sides don't have to be perfect, since we will be covering them with Nilla Wafer crumbs.

To add on the crumbs, carefully pick up the cake in one hand and scoop the crumbs into your other. Holding the cake at a slight downward angle, press the crumbs in, one handful at a time going around the edges until the cake sides are completely covered. I recommend doing this over a large platter or cutting board, or a wide shallow bowl to catch the falling crumbs. Once you have crumbs all the way around you can gently knock off the excesses back into the bowl/platter.

That's it! You can slice up another banana to decorate the top, but hold of doing so until just before serving time as the bananas will eventually start to brown (or in my case, slide off the top).

Friday, April 15, 2011


Banana: a tropical ,mostly yellow, fruit that comes from an overgrown herbaceous plant (not a tree). The fruits have a rind that peels from the top offering great portability and a convenient handle for out of hand eating.

The banana has many culinary applications, ranging from sweet to savory, depending on the ripeness and thus the starch vs. sugar content. A green banana has a very high starch content and can be fried or mashed like a potato. A ripe banana will have a yellow or yellow-brown color and possibly soft brown spots that are sweeter than the rest. As the ripening process happens, the skins will turn from green to yellow, meanwhile on the inside of the fruit, the starches break down into sugars and the pectin found naturally soften the flesh.

We often see bananas at the supper market in their greener less than ripe state. I resist these bunches in favor of the bags of "Ripe" bananas. Ripe bananas are less expensive due to their shorter shelf life and have already started turning brown and are perfectly soft. These are the ones that are just right for baking purposes.

Banana bread is my usual "go to" application, though I often improvise fruit combinations for variety, my favorite being strawberry-banana. Another favorite banana confection are my Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. They tend to be quite moist and are packed with flavor.

The following recipes call for mashed bananas. To do so efficiently, slice them up on a cutting board first, then use a fork to smash them against the board. If you try it in a bowl they just slide all over the place.

As per the Joy of Cooking, 75th anniversary edition:

Banana Bread

A classic recipe, quick to make and a great standby.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick)butter, softened
1 to 2 large eggs
1 to 1 1/4 mashed ripe bananas (2 to 3)

Have all ingredients at room temperature. Pre-heat the oven to 350* F. Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan. (You can re-use the wrapper from your butter)

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter until its creamy. Then add the egg(s) one at a time, beating until incorporated. If you have closer to 1 cup banana, use both eggs, if you have more use just the one egg. Beat in the bananas until incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients in about three parts, beating until smooth after each addition.

Scape batter into the greased pan. Bake the bread about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool slightly then unmold. Cool completely before slicing.

This is my take on the basic banana bread recipe.

Strawberry Banana Bread

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick)butter, softened
1 to 2 large eggs
3/4 to 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (1 or 2)
3/4 to 1 cup mashed ripe strawberries (6 to 8 berries)

Use the same steps as above.

When choosing the strawberries, choose the soft or bruised "over ripe" berries. Since they are going to be mashed, their appearance won't matter, and they will be all the sweeter for their ripeness. When mashing use the same technique as above for the bananas; slice off the hulls, or the leaves. Then flip the berries onto the flat you just made and slice the berries into quarters. Mash the quarters with your trusty fork.

Have all ingredients at room temperature. Pre-heat the oven to 350* F. Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan. (You can re-use the wrapper from your butter)

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter until its creamy. Then add the egg(s) one at a time, beating until incorporated. If you have closer to 1 cup banana, use both eggs, if you have more use just the one egg. Beat in the bananas until incorporated.

Add the dry ingredients in about three parts, beating until smooth after each addition.

Scape batter into the greased pan. Bake the bread about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool slightly then unmold. Cool completely before slicing.

NB - I used a 8 x 8 inch pan for the pictures. In doing so I was able to cut the cook time in half, to 30 minutes. Since the 8 x 8 inch pan is wider there was more surface for the oven heat to bake. Again, check for doneness with a toothpick or a fork.

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip

These cookies come out super soft and are very delicious!

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
6 Tbsp butter, softened
1 Cup Banana, mushed (approximately two whole bananas)
1 large egg
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
(1/2 cup slivered almonds, optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two baking sheets (nonstick cooking spray works, but I like to use the butter wrappers, after I've dumped the softened butter into the mixing bowl.)

In a medium bowl combine the flour, oats, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

In a large bowl beat the sugar and butter with a wooden spoon, until just combined; do not over mix. Add the banana mush and the egg and stir just to blend.

Add the flour mixture in three parts and stir well after each addition until just combined.

Drop the dough by rounded Tsps on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch in between. Bake until golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheets about 5 minutes then transfer to a rack to continue cooling completely.

*NB, I have made these before with a combination of rolled oats, and banana flavored instant oatmeal, approximately a 1/2 cup of each. This yielded a cookie with an extreme banana flavor.

One added bonus; since these are made with whole wheat flour and rolled oats they have a bit more fiber than your run of the mill chocolate chip cookie, not to mention the extra potassium and other vitamins contributed by the bananas.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Little Color to Beat the Blues

Spring has arrived! After much teasing from Mother Nature, we are starting to see a solid run of warm days. Along with the warmth, we are starting to see more color outside. The grey of the roadside trees is starting to be broken up with patches of faint green and reds of the buds, and ground is sporting patches of creams and yellows thanks to the daffodils.

Produce is also becoming more colorful as more fruits and veggies come into season. I celebrated this fact by using up some frozen veggies to make room for fresh. Inspired by a recipe from the Rachel Ray show, I made Beer and Honey glazed Chicken with a Spiced up Succotash and a basic Risotto. The beer and honey simmer down to form a glaze on the chicken and the succotash is quite colorful and full of flavor.

I didn't give specific amounts here because I didn't use any. This is certainly a technique you can adjust to suit your own needs. When I made the succotash, I used two different types of corn and the baby Limas. About half a bag of frozen vegetables went in per each vegetable.. That did result in a rather large batch of succotash.

Beer and Honey Glazed Chicken with Old Fashioned Succotash

1/2 Red Onion 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
Yellow Corn (frozen or fresh of the cob)
Baby Lima beans (Frozen, fresh if you are lucky)
1 can of diced tomatoes
Tabasco sauce, to taste
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Boneless/Skinless Chicken Breast or Thighs
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 can or bottle of beer
Good squeeze of honey

Start the succotash first by sauteing the onion and garlic in olive oil, in a medium to large saute pan. After a few minutes add the corn. Allow the corn to brown up, stirring often, about 5 minutes.

In the meantime, start the chicken. If you cut it into bite size pieces it will take less time to cook. Season it well with salt and pepper. Heat up some olive oil in another medium pan and place the chicken in seasoned side down. Season other side and allow the chicken to brown up, stirring often if using bite sized pieces. If using whole parts, just check a few times to prevent sticking, and flip when the first side has a nice golden brown.

Once the corn has started to brown up, add in your Lima beans and give that pot a whirl. Allow them to saute a bit and then add in your tomatoes and hot sauce, always season to taste. If you like yours hotter, try adding a whole diced jalapeno to the tomato mixture (as was originally called for in Rachael's version). I like my food more mild so I added about 2 dashes of hot sauce, but made sure there was plenty of cracked black pepper. (In fact I managed to drop the pepper mill into the pot entirely.. )Let your veggie mix simmer together.

Meanwhile, back to the chicken. For whole pieces, remove them once both sides have been browned and the pieces are cooked through and hold them on the side. For smaller pieces you can leave them in the pan to absorb flavor. Pour in about half of your bottle of beer. (the rest is for you, you deserve a nice beer for all of your hard work) You will be essentially de-glazing the pan with the beer, so be sure to give it a good stir, picking up all the browned bits at the bottom. Squeeze in a good bit of honey, 2 or 3 turns around you pan, and stir to combine. Taste your seasonings and adjust if necessary. Allow the beer and honey to simmer down into a glaze, it should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Pour your glaze over the whole pieces or just spoon out some extra when you serve the bite size pieces.

The resulting dinner is quite simple and very flavorful :)

For the risotto, usually made with arborio rice, just follow the directions on the package. I use chicken stock when being served as a side with chicken, but vegetable stock works just as well. If you are good at multi-tasking you can make the risotto at the same time on another burner. (start it first, then succotash, then the chicken)

Any starch could be used as a base, and the rice could be cooked with other methods. My notes from the original recipe mention using a summer squash as a replacement for a starch, and would be quite good with this recipe.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Pie in your Pocket

I believe Pocket Pies, a.k.a Hand Pies, a.k.a. Turnovers to be a long lost art. They fit in your hand and are filled with anything you can imagine; savory meats to fruity treats. Most cultures seem to have their own versions of them and there are almost as many cooking methods as there are filling possibilities, most notably, baking, pan frying and deep frying.

I was able to make one with some leftover short crust dough I had made for a quiche, and the second half of an onion, also leftover from making the quiche.

Onion Turnover

The full dough recipe is here.

I had a scrap big enough to re-roll into an oval shape, approximately 6 x 8 inches. I placed the scrap on a baking sheet and held it in the refrigerator until my filling was ready.

For the filling I used 1/2 a large onion, sliced. I browned the slices in a small saute pan with a little bit of Olive Oil and some salt and pepper to taste. For one half of the onion, it took almost 30 minutes to get to the desired color. Stir often! When the onions had the right color to them remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Once the onion filling is cool enough spoon it onto one half of the rolled out pie crust leaving a margin around the edge and folded the other half over. Press the turnover lightly to release any air bubbles then fold the edges over in layers or crimp lightly with a fork to seal. Using a knife or kitchen shears, slice 2 or 3 slits in the top to allow for steam ventilation.

Bake in a 375* pre-heated oven for 25 - 30 minutes until the dough has turned a light golden brown. I checked mine at 15 minutes then again after another 15 minutes.

Quick and Basic Pie Dough

adapted from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking"

Pate Brisee
Short Paste, Pastry Dough, Pie Crust

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
6 ounces (1 1/2 stick)chilled butter, cut into bits
4 Tbsp chilled shortening
scant 1/2 cup iced or really cold water, plus more as needed.

I would recommend having all the ingredients ready before mixing by hand, including the water, so as to avoid having to wash your hands repeatedly, or getting flour all over your kitchen.

"Place flour, salt, sugar, butter and vegetable shortening in a big mixing bowl. Rub the flour and fat together rapidly between the tips of your fingers until the fat is broken into pieces the size of oatmeal flakes. Do not overdo this step as the fat will be blended more thoroughly later"

When blending the flour and butter together it maybe helpful to look for a wet sand kind of texture to the flour. Its ready for the next step when you can squeeze some of the dough in your hand and it stays in a clump when you release it.

"Add the water and blend quickly with one hand, fingers held together and slightly cupped, as you rapidly gather the sough into a mass. Sprinkle up to 1 tablespoon more water by droplets over any un-massed remains and add them to the main body of the sough. Then press the sough firmly into a roughly shaped ball. It should just hold together and be pliable, but not sticky."

If you do happen to add to much water, you can add a bit more flour to the dough ball in the next step called fraisage, or final blending.

"Place the dough on a lightly floured pastry board. With the heel of one hand, not the balm which is too warm, rapidly press the pastry by two-spoonful bits down on the board and away from you in a firm, quick smear of about 6 inches." Basically you are making sure the butter is well blended into the dough. Once the dough has been smooshed, gather it up into a mass and knead it briefly into a ball. Lightly flour the ball and wrap it up in plastic wrap or waxed paper. You can place the dough into the freezer for up to an hour until it is firm, or refrigerate for 2 hours, or overnight.

"Uncooked pastry dough will keep for 2 to 3 days under refrigeration, or may be frozen for several weeks. Always wrap it airtight in waxed paper and a plastic bag." (I imagine plastic wrap would be just fine)

What to do when you have too many eggs in your basket

I recently celebrated a special night and had my family and close friends over for a Pancake Supper for Fat Tuesday.

Fortunately there was a lot of great food and good fun had by all (and a lot of yummy leftovers to eat the rest of the week)

Unfortunately between purchasing eggs myself, getting another dozen from my Mom, and the roommate bringing home another dozen a few days later, we were left with quite the plethora of eggs in the refrigerator..

I decided to use them in such a way so they would be a little more appetizing than egg salad for a week: Quiche.

I have recently acquired a copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by the esteemed Miss Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck. I've perused a few pages and it seems to be a comprehensive and extremely well written culinary tome.

I based my quiche making on the recipe for Quiche aux Epinards with only a few changes. I made my quiche in a square baking dish instead of a tart pan or round pie plate. Instead of blanching the spinach, I sauteed mine in a large pan in olive oil. I also sauteed some diced mushrooms to add in as well. Lastly I used Mozzarella cheese instead of Swiss cheese.

You could probably get away with a store bought pie crust or use a roll of biscuits, re-rolled into a round and placed in the pan as a crust. If you can't get the biscuit dough to roll out thinly, let it come to room temperature and then press into the corners of your pan. Remember to poke holes in the bottom with a fork so the crust won't puff too much then pre-bake the crust slightly; 8 - 10 minutes in a 375* oven should do the trick.

Spinach and Mushroom Quiche

8 inch partially cooked pastry shell (recipe to follow)
5 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 container of sliced mushrooms
1/4 large onion, diced
1/2 16 oz bag of fresh spinach
1/4 large onion, sliced
4 to 6 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
Pinch of nutmeg
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup grated Mozzarella cheese

If you are making your own pie crust, assemble the dough and let chill in the freezer for about an hour while you prep the rest of the ingredients.

Heat up about 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large saute pan. Drop 2 or 3 of the lightly smashed garlic cloves in the oil. They should still be in large chunks, big enough to pull out with tongs later, once they have flavored the oil.

Dice 1/4 of the large onion and add to the hot oil. Saute the onions until they soften and start to become translucent. While the onions are cooking, quickly dice up the sliced mushrooms and add those to the pan as well.

Saute the mushrooms, stirring often, until they have released their juices and have started to brown up. This can take about 8 - 10 minutes. Once the mushrooms have browned, season them to taste with salt and pepper, cook a few moments more, then spoon them into a bowl and set aside. Pull out the chunks of garlic clove and discard.

In the same pan, pour in another 2 - 3 Tbsp of olive oil and another 2-3 cloves of smashed garlic. Slice the onion quarter this time and add those to the oil to saute until softened and slightly translucent. Go ahead and pull the garlic gloves now so they don't become lost in the spinach.

Start adding the spinach in handfuls. It will look like a lot, but the leaves will start to wilt down. Add the spinach in batches if they don't all fit into the saute pan at once. Stir often so the unwitled pieces can get closer to the heat. It should only take a few minutes for all of the leaves to wilt down. You don't want to over cook them; they should look bright green.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside to cool slightly. While the mushrooms and spinach cool, start making the egg portion of the quiche.

Beat the 3 eggs, milk and a pinch of nutmeg in a large bowl to blend. Gradually stir the mushrooms and spinach into the egg mixture. Add 1/4 cup of the Mozzarella cheese and stir to blend. Set the mixture aside while you finish the crust.

Preheat the oven to 375*

Take the ball of dough out of the freezer and roll out on a floured counter or board. Work quickly so you don't over soften the butter in the dough. Knead the ball a few times to soften, then using a rolling pin, roll the dough into about a 1/8 inch thickness. Turn the dough and re-flour the board as necessary so the dough doesn't become sticky.

Once the pastry has reached the desired thickness carefully transfer the round to your baking dish. Trim any overhanging edges and pinch the dough about 1/8 inch above the rim of the baking dish, to make a even ridge of dough around the edges. Poke holes in the bottom of the pastry dough and pre-bake it for 8 -10 minutes, or until it starts to brown. To keep the dough from puffing up too much, layer a piece of tin foil on top of the dough and either sandwich another similar shaped dish on top, or poor in some dried beans or rice. This is also called blind baking.

After the crust is ready, carefully pour the quiche mixture into the prepared pastry shell; it should come about 3/4 up the sides. Sprinkle the rest of the Mozzarella cheese across the top and place the quiche in the middle of the center rack and bake for another 30 - 35 minutes. The quiche is done when a knife plunged into the center comes out clean.

Julia says that the quiche "will stay puffed for about 10 minutes in the turned-off oven with the door ajar. As it cools, it sinks down. It may be reheated, but will not puff again. A cold quiche makes a good snack and is easy to take along on a picnic."

Here is the recipie for the pie crust