Quiche it Simple During Lent

The Lenten season is upon us. This exercise in meatless Fridays sticks with me even though I am no longer a practicing Roman Catholic.

Culturally Catholic, I am. So the guilt about eating meat remains with me to this day.

Skipping meat on Fridays wouldn’t be that big a deal if I could serve the grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. I love grilled cheese. Any cheese melted between two pieces of bread slathered in butter or olive oil is pure heaven.

Except my daughter doesn’t eat cheese. And she has a nose that can smell it several rooms away.

If I crave a melted cheese sandwich, I eat in the middle of the night when she is asleep. Then I burn candles to get the smell out of the house.

Sometimes I will order one when we are eating out for lunch. But she is relentless in her ongoing commentary about how much she hates cheese.

Yes, this is odd. I am the mom. It is my house. But when your child is on the autism spectrum, however mild, this isn’t a battle anyone is going to win.

Fortunately, she likes most vegetables. So on many meatless nights, it’s just a plate of roasted vegetables and pasta or rice.

But I’m trying to find add a little more protein to her diet, which would consist largely of chocolate and chips if left to her own devices. We eat a lot of chicken.

When Lent rolls around, it’s time to cook more creatively. We live just a couple of miles from a chicken farm, so we always have fresh eggs in the house. That means frittatas, quiches, and omelets.

The beauty of any of these is that you are free to improvise. Throw some spinach in for some extra veg, add or change a cheese, and use fresh herbs if you have them.

I keep a box or two of frozen pie crusts that I buy at Trader Joe’s in Cleveland on hand. It’s one of my favorite crusts, and it saves time.

Today, I had some extra smoked salmon, green onions, and potatoes. If I had baby kale, chard, or spinach, it would have gone in too. I was finished in less than 45 minutes. Plus the leftovers can do double duty for breakfast or lunch tomorrow.

This is #whatsfordinner tonight.

XOXOXO

marnie

marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Salmon, Dill, and Potato Quiche
This is an easy dish for dinner or lunch. Pair with a cucumber or green salad. Depending on appetites, and whether it is lunch or dinner, this can feed from 4-6 people.
Course dinner, Main Dish
Cuisine American, French
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course dinner, Main Dish
Cuisine American, French
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Roll out pie crust so it will fit into a 9-inch pie pan. Place crust into pie pan and trim off edges. Top crust with parchment and pie weights or beans. Place on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove paper and beans and cook another 5 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, cook potatoes in salted boiling water until tender. Drain. Slice.
  4. Beat together the cream, eggs, dill, lemon zest, salt and pepper until the eggs are lighter and there is a bit of foam on top of the batter.
  5. Place cut potatoes over the bottom of the pastry. Then put half the salmon strips in the gaps. Sprinkle with half of the green onions. Pour over the egg mix.
  6. Bake for 25 mins until the top is firm. Allow to cool. This is best served at room temperature. Before serving, top with the remaining strips of salmon, some dollops of creme fraiche, sour cream, or yogurt. Sprinkle remaining green onions on top and some dill.
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Spring Closet Cleaning

Spring cleaning consumed the past two weekends. The warm weather is partly to blame. My daughter shares the rest.

Sometimes she helps me get dressed. A teen with a keen fashion sense of her own, I run outfit combinations by her from time to time when I’m trying to burst out of my uniform of leggings, tunic sweater and turtleneck. It’s the perfect way to hide the winter calories.

But, come the start of spring, the layers give way to … muffin tops and insecurity when getting dressed. My winter uniform hides a myriad of sins that spring strips away. As a result, I stand in front of not one, but two, closets filled with clothes.

And I have nothing to wear.

So I proclaim.

My daughter got tired of having her head bitten off when she dared say I looked “just fine.”  She politely suggested I call “that lady you interviewed who helps people with their closets.”

She was referring to Marian Taylor, owner of Simple Solutions for Living.

Clearly, I needed a closet intervention.

Marian not only assists the closet impaired like me, she specializes in downsizing. She helps people move into smaller homes (or new homes), especially empty nesters transferring to new digs without kids and seniors moving into assisted living.

If you have a parent moving – she’s the best. She makes the move so easy – and takes the stress off the the children by acting as an impartial arbiter of what stays and what goes. She doesn’t throw anything out unless you want her to, but she does have the tact to inquire just why you are keeping it.

She used this approach with my closet, which was filled with trips down memory lane: the skirt from Greece that I’ve worn once; the dress I bought when I didn’t have anything to wear to a funeral; the pants I bought on sale without trying on. Then there was the stuff that didn’t fit. And the stuff that looked great when I was a brunette, but does’t look so hot now that I’m a blonde.

By rehanging all my clothes – in order or color by category – we also discovered I had quite of few of the same items in the same color – just hanging in two different closets. Did I need 4 black skirts ? No. I don’t. Other people may have a different answer.

She also took the time to show me pairings of clothes. She took a blouse I liked, but had never worn, and matched it with a sweater I already had. I wore it this week. Now, when I head into the closet, I don’t stand there staring. I can see immediate outfit ideas.

Marian has a nifty app that allowed us to total up the charitable value of the clothes headed to the City Mission.

When we finished, she suggested a new organizer from ClosetMaid that would give me twice the space for the shirts and sweaters using a double rod system.

Marian is also a rep for Cabi, a clothing line that makes capsule dressing easy and fun. The colors coordinate from season to season. After cleaning so much black out of my closet, it was time to replace it with navy, which is much more flattering for me.

That was the weekend of Feb. 25. During the week, I ordered the closet organizer for my clothes. And other one for my shoes.

So the following weekend, I installed the closet organizer. It only took about 4 1/2 hours – it would take a pro a lot less. I think I spent an hour trying to find the studs in the closet wall. I spent another hour  to 90 minutes hanging and organizing.

The shoe organizing took another 90 minutes, 45 of which was assembling the new shoe rack. It is designed to hold 50 pair of shoes. Fifty should be plenty. I had to discard about 30 pair of shoes – some I could only wear for an hour or two because they hurt so much. Turns out I have a lot of black shoes.

Again – I’m a blonde now. Blue and beige are better choices.

But the new rule is: One in, one out (preferably two).

All this organizing means dinner hasn’t been particularly organized this week. Fortunately, I subscribe to one of those home meal prep delivery services. I’ve been trying out Hello Fresh (I’ve also tried Plated, Blue Apron, and Home Chef). I’ll write more about these later.

So I had a box with pork chops, sweet potato, and Brussels sprouts. I wasn’t fond of the recipe and directions, so I winged it. In less than 20 minutes, we had dinner. I pan seared the pork chops and finished it with a peach glaze from some peach preserves I had in the fridge. The Brussls sprouts were easy – they just went into a 400 degree oven with olive oil, salt and pepper, for about 10 to 12 minutes.

I hauled the Kitchen Aid out and attached the spiralizer and had sweet potato noodles in minutes. You could blanch them, but I tossed them into a skillet with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar. They could have gone into the oven with the Brussels sprouts if I had been thinking.

Sometimes we all need a hand with the basic tasks of living. Thanks to Marian, getting dressed takes just minutes. And thanks to the various meal services I’ve been trying, I was able to get dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes.

Now, if only those meals arrived already made …

XOXOXO

marnie

marniemead@gmail.com

Print Recipe
Pork Chops with Peach, Whiskey and Mustard Glaze
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Cook Time 15 minutes
Passive Time 5 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Cook Time 15 minutes
Passive Time 5 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  2. Pinch ground black pepper
  3. 1 teaspoons garlic powder<
  4. 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  5. 2 boneless pork chops, about 1/2-inch thick
  6. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  7. 1/4 cup chicken stock
  8. 2 tablespoons peach preserves
  9. 2 tablespoons bourbon or other whiskey
  10. 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  11. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  12. In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Season each pork
  13. chop generously on both sides and rub the mixture into the meat.
  14. Heat a nonstick oven-proof skillet on medium high heat. Add the olive oil and the seasoned pork chops. Sear on each
  15. side for 2 minutes to get a nice crust. Remove pork chops from the pan.
  16. Return the pan to medium heat. Add the whiskey and bring to a boil, then add chicken stock and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 2 mintues then stir in peach preserves, and mustard. Whisk to combine. Turn off heat.
  17. Return chops to the pan and turn several times to coat with the peach glaze. Place pan with chops in oven and roast until done, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  18. Let the pork chops rest for 5 minutes before serving, then spoon some of the glaze from the pan over the chops.
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Make It Easy Monday

My introduction to the pressure cooker came about 30 years ago when one of my podmates, a reporter who covered a lot of rural Illinois, was telling me about the hot water he was in with his wife.

An avid outdoorsman, he caught a snapping turtle and was cooking it in the pressure cooker. Unfortunately, he hadn’t removed the turtle from the shell and the resulting pressure build up blew the lid off the pressure cooker. And blew turtle all over the kitchen.

His wife was not pleased.

Knowing I was a cook, he then shared the proper method for prepping a turtle for the pressure cooker. I won’t go into details. It’s not pretty, and it involves nails.

I haven’t been tempted by a pressure cooker since.

So, like a turtle, I had my head in my shell for the past 18 months as blog and food writers would go on about the joys of the pressure cooker.

All I could think about was turtle spatter on the ceiling.

Reminder that things change a lot in 3 decades.

It was fellow Fairview resident and Vegan Cheers founder who dragged me into the moment. Lisa Rose hosted a pressure cooking class at Whole Foods Co-Op. Suitably impressed, I did some research and found the Instant Pot.

It meets my criteria of a multi-purpose device – meaning it needs to be more than a one-trick pony. The Instant Pot can saute, slow cook, pressure cook, make eggs, cakes, etc.

The first experiment was to make a bone broth. This is a rather tiresome exercise even in the slow cooker. It takes me from 4 to 8 hours. The whole house smells like chicken soup. Not a bad thing. But it’s like living above a restaurant. A whiff is fine. A couple of hours is OK. Go to bed and wake up the next morning – not good.

The Instant Pot made beautiful broth in less than 2 hours. I was officially impressed. (This is not a paid post, BTW).

Next up, chicken salsa verde. Why? Because on Mondays my daughter has tennis practice. And she’s starving when she gets home. And because I drive her there and back, so I’m not home to make dinner.

This is easy-peasy. Chicken thighs, some seasonings, and salsa verde go into the pot. Less than 30 minutes later, dinner comes out of the pot. You can serve with tortillas, rice, as a salad. You get the idea.

So my lesson has been learned. Don’t let your past dictate your future. And clean out your cupboards when you find a new device (say, bye-bye rice cooker).

XOXOXO

marnie

marniemead@gmail.com

Print Recipe
Salsa Verde Chicken
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Passive Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Passive Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Place the chicken in the Instant Pot or pressure cooker. Add the cumin, paprika, and salsa verde.
  2. Set cooker to high pressure for 25 minutes or on the Instant Pot press the meat or poultry button.
  3. When the chicken is done cooking, quick release the pressure or allow it to naturally release (can take 10 to 20 minutes). Release the lid. Shred the chicken in the pot with two forks. There will be a lot of liquid in the beginning. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before seerving.
  4. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste. Serve with tortillas, rice, use in burritos, quesadillas, tacos, salads, etc.
  5. You can make ahead and freeze.
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February Fun: Sunday Sauce on Wednesday

I once wrote that February, for me, felt like a month of Wednesdays. Wednesday is a day you just can’t wait to be over because it brings you that much closer to the weekend. Once February is over, I’m that much closer to spring.

I could choose to just hunker down under the covers and wait for the month to pass. Instead I strap on the cleats, rain boots, or snow shoes – depending on the day – and stomp into the rain, wind, snow, sleet, mud, and trudge on.

It’s also a month I like to mix things up a bit. Otherwise, we’re just looking at one gray day after another. Thankfully there are fewer days.

Last year,  I mixed things up a bit. After a lifetime of being a brunette, about 20 of them involving various hair dyes, I wanted to embrace the gray. I knew I was mostly gray to begin with, because my hair coloring sessions were coming alarmingly closer together. I’d wake up, and there would be the tell-tale gray line of demarcation – brown vs gray. If you were taller than my 5-foot-6-inches, it was clear to see.

This was one of those seemed like a good idea at the time moments. I spent hours in a salon having the color stripped out, bleaching, and dyeing. I was using the experience for a story in a women’s publication, talking about the trend to go gray, or “granny hair.”

There are two things at work here, though:

  1. Granny hair looks great when you aren’t a granny. The glowing complexion of youth in contrast to the gray does not make you look old. Gray on gray does.
  2. It is surprisingly difficult to dye your hair a pretty shade of gray.

I was going for a silver that some of my Irish relatives with dark hair have achieved naturally, including my father.

Alas, I could not go gray unnaturally. Or at least an attractive shade of gray. I had various mixes of browns, mud, pinks, and battleship gray. In the end, I became a platinum blonde.

It’s closer to my natural shade than brunette. It requires less maintenance.

Along those lines, I have been mixing up meals. Sometimes we have breakfast for dinner. We tried appetizers for dinner – deviled eggs topped with salmon roe, and avocado toast topped with salmon.

Today we’re having Sunday sauce on Wednesday. Why?

Because Sunday sauce in a slow cooker is perfect for a weeknight meal. Plus, there was plenty to freeze for another night.

What is Sunday sauce? Sometimes it is called Sunday gravy. Essentially it is two or three cuts of meat cooked for a long time with tomatoes. I typically make mine with beef ribs, sausage, and pancetta. Some people use the ribs, sausage, and meatballs. You can serve it over spaghetti, penne, mashed potatoes, tortellini, or polenta.

Whatever day of the week you serve it, I trust you will enjoy it.

XOXOXO

marnie

marniemead@gmail.com

Print Recipe
Slow Cooker Sunday Sauce
If you are going to make this with meatballs, make your own meatballs (or buy frozen) and bake them so they are partially cooked through. Add them during the final 15 to 30 minutes of simmering.
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Servings
people
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Servings
people
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season the beef with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat until browned all over. Transfer the beef to the slow cooker, cover and turn it on to high. Add the sausages to the slow cooker.
  2. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and add the pancetta. Cook until brown and the fat has mostly rendered out, about 5-7 minutes. Add the onion and garlic. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes
  3. Add the red wine and stir to release any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet. . Bring the wine to a boil and cook until reduced by half, about 4 minutes.
  4. Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker and add the thyme, rosemary and water.
  5. Add the tomatoes and their juices and the tomato puree to the slow cooker.
  6. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours or low on 8 hours.
  7. Transfer the beef to a bowl and remove it from the bone. Shred with 2 forks or with a knife. Return the meat to the cooker (lid off) and simmer the sauce on high for 15 to 30 minutes longer.
  8. Discard the thyme and rosemary sprigs and season the sauce with salt and pepper.
  9. Serve over pasta, mashed potatoes, or polenta with grated pecorino Romano cheese.
Recipe Notes

This recipe is adapted from Food & Wine

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