Thursday, March 31, 2011

Caramelized Onion and Spinach Quiche

I don't really do well with things that are sad. I don't like that heavy pit at the bottom of my stomach or the lump in the back of my throat I get before I am about to cry. I don't like feeling vulnerable. I don't like feeling unnerved. If something sorrowful pops into my head, I tend to push it right back out. I'm sure most of you can agree to that.
I have had a pretty cushy life, so to speak. Most of my loved ones are alive and well. I have great friends and family and a job and a master's degree on the way. My mom and dad let me live at home until I have enough money to get off my feet. I've never had any major illness and all my injuries are trivial from sport.
I've never suffered that one great loss that will change you forever. And I am petrified of that day. Why so somber, you ask? There are only two blogs that I read religiously, and one of the writers has been posting for the past few days about a horrible accident that her older sister was in. Today, she lost her sister.
I think of Vanessa, the 7-year-old who was not at all happy when I was born four days before her birthday. The only person in the entire world who can relate to my upbringing, my sister. I can't imagine saying goodbye to her.
Two of my best friends have lost their fathers within the past few years. I think of my Dad, and remember how I complain that he talks too much or how he always insists on repeating things over and over. But when I got a phone call two New Years Eve's ago telling me my strong Dad had been hit by a car, or when I got to the scene and saw how feeble he looked, I remember begging God that if my dad was okay, I would never complain again.
How quickly those requests come and go, and the trivial complaints return. In times of other's tragedy, I try to put my insignificant problems into perspective, and tonight, I think I'm doing okay.
Tonight, I am posting a spinach quiche recipe (adapted from Cooking Light) that comforts the soul. In times of grieving, I have found that one of the best ways to show you care is food, and though I can't send this across the country to Monet and her family, I will certainly be sending prayers and well wishes her way, and to anyone who has lost for that matter.

Caramelized Onion and Spinach Quiche
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 cups chopped onion
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups frozen Southern-style hash brown potatoes, thawed
1 (11-ounce) can refrigerated soft breadstick dough
Cooking spray
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1 cup milk
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups crumbled feta cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, sugar, and salt; cook for 30 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Stir in potatoes, and cook for 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from heat.
2. Unroll dough, separating into strips. Working on a flat surface, coil one strip of dough around itself in a spiral pattern (like a snail). Add second strip of dough to the end of the first strip, pinching ends together to seal; continue coiling the dough. Repeat procedure with the remaining dough strips. Cover and let dough rest for 10 minutes. Roll dough into a 12-inch circle, and fit into a 10-inch deep-dish pie plate coated with cooking spray.
3. Spread potato mixture in bottom of prepared crust, and top with spinach. Combine milk, eggs, and cheese; pour the milk mixture over the spinach. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until set, shielding crust with foil after 50 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Crab Pasta in a Garlic White Wine Sauce

So, word on the street is that when you're pregnant, you can eat anything you want. I'm so game.
This is just what I've heard. I've never been pregnant. Surprise!
But though I've never been pregnant, last week, I imagine, I had pregnant woman hunger. Every day. That growling empty pit-like feeling never left. Maybe a better analogy is a garbage disposal.
Whatever. I stood somewhere between a pregnant woman and a garbage disposal, and I couldn't be stopped.
I know perfectly well why I was hungry. It was the last week before my half marathon, and between the high mileage and long days I was left ravenous at all points. And my race was yesterday, which means today was for replenishing... in a major way.

I usually never eat cream sauces. They just aren't my bag. But today, because I was feeling adventurous and well deserving, I whipped up a fantastic pasta dish that I will definitely keep on hand.

Crab Pasta in a Garlic White Wine Sauce
1 lb linguine
1 tbsp butter, divided
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
1 cup dry white wine
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1/4 cup flour
1 cup milk (more to thin out sauce)
1 lb crab meat
Old Bay

1. Prepare linguine as directed on box.
2. Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a medium skillet. Add garlic and onion and cook until onion is tender. Add wine and turn heat up to high until liquid reduces by half. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Meanwhile in another skillet, melt butter and add flour. Cook until smooth, about 5 minutes. Add the milk slowly, just a few tbsp at a time. It will look like some sort of dough but keep adding milk and stirring and it will smooth out.
4. Once smooth, add onion mixture into flour mixture and stir. Add crab meat. Serve over cooked pasta and top with old bay seasoning.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Tomorrow marks the first day of spring. We all know that right? The pansies are poking their heads out of garden pots all over and the days are getting just a little bit longer. We all remember when the winter was just beginning and now we can finally breathe a sigh of relief in that it is almost over.
I reserve most pumpkin recipes for the fall and winter. Last fall, I went through whoopie pies, lattes, pies inside cupcakes, biscotti and muffins through my pumpkin kick. Okay... maybe I am a bit of a pumpkin junkie.
So when my friend Lily asked me to devise up a pumpkin cake for her friend, I leaped at the opportunity to dust off the old can of Libby's and hop to it.
Oh-me-oh-my. Twas not disappointed! Unfortunately, I only have pictures of the full cake instead of a slice, but it got rave reviews and I will be making it again when the leaves turn back to brown.

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
2 cups white sugar
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups canned pumpkin
4 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 12x18 inch pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl combine sugar and oil. Blend in vanilla and pumpkin, then beat in eggs one at a time. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Spread batter into prepared 10 inch bundt pan.
3. Bake in the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.

For the Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
3 cups powdered sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth with no visible lumps. Add the cream cheese an beat until combined.
2. Add the powdered sugar, maple syrup and vanilla and beat until smooth. Be careful no to overbeat the filling, or it will lose structure. Drizzle or spread frosting on cake and enjoy!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Cookies and Cream Brownies

Patience is a virtue, they say.
I'd like to think I have it. I can easily tolerate both children and the elderly. I can listen to my Dad's long stories where he repeats the same thing over and over again. I can bite my tongue when I'm angry at someone to avoid saying something I regret.
Patience, I suppose, might be my strong point. I cannot wait for something to cool before I eat it. I have tried. I have failed. And even if I had set my mind to it, this dessert would make me fail. Because when it was oozing last night when I cut into it, it did not even stop me for one second. It was like seven layers of delicious. It was a dream come true but not for the faint at heart. And I cannot believe how easy it was (or how completely homemade you could make it... if you had the patience.)
Alex found this recipe from a blog called With Sprinkles on Top and it really is a gem. Amie and I made it last night and, wow. Honestly I need to get it out of my house because it is that good. I'm going on a diet... Monday.
We also might have definitely messed up the recipe just a bit by adding water when we weren't supposed to but we ended up with chocolate molten lava cakes and I mean, I will never complain about wonderful melty chocolate. I will list the recipe as I found it, but leave my helpful additions at the bottom.

1 box brownie mix*
Eggs and Oil as directed on box
1/4 cup hot fudge topping*
Heaping 1/2 cup cookies and cream ice cream*
Double Stuf Oreos

1. Preheat oven according to box directions and spray an 8×8 baking dish generously with cooking spray.
2. Combine brownie mix, eggs, and oil as directed on the back of the box, but do not add the water.
3. Add ice cream and hot fudge to the brownie batter and stir to combine.
4. Pour half of the brownie batter into the baking dish, layer with Oreos, then top with remaining batter. Sprinkle with crushed Oreos and bake for 40-50 minutes or as directed on the back of the box. Be sure to let these COOL for a while before you cut into them or else you will experience a mess... a delicious one, but a mess none-the-less. You can store in the fridge for faster firming!

To make this recipe as easy as possible and without overstocking my dessert stash, I used some short cuts:
*Ghirardelli Ultimate Fudge (and omitted the hot fudge topping),
**Snack size cup of Edy's Slow Churn Cookies and Cream,  

To make this recipe as difficult as possible, make the brownies from scratch and add your own homemade "sandwich cookies." And send me your result, because I bet people would go to jail for making something so amazing!