Perfect Summer Salad (or, Why We Listen to Oprah)

Oy vey. It’s been quite an eventful three weeks! During that time, I moved. That’s really all that’s happened, but I truly hate moving, especially considering that the last time I moved was a mere three months ago. My new apartment is quite lovely, though now I have a galley kitchen and an oven that may or may not be the devil. I have named him Archibald. (I thought about Beelzebub, but that seemed like I was asking for trouble, so I went with Cary Grant’s real first name.)

Anyhow.

Listen to Oprah. Or rather, listen to the people Oprah tells you to listen to, namely Toni Bark. A friendship with this MD/aerial silk-doing wonder woman might be difficult since you’d probably die of jealousy. Nevertheless, the woman is intimidatingly brilliant and kickass. I was first introduced to Ms. Barks and her healthy body tips through this absolutely delicious salad recipe from O magazine. I’ve adapted it very little due to its perfection, so I’m still going to call it Toni Bark’s Perfect Summer Salad for the sake of fairness.

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Toni Bark’s Perfect Summer Salad

  • Raw beets
  • Organic greens
  • Blueberries
  • Avocado
  • Walnuts (or pecans if you can’t find any contamination-free walnuts)

Dressing (full recipe serves 4-6)

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. spicy brown mustard
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely minced
  • Juice of ½ lemon

1. Peel the beets using a sharp vegetable peeler. (If possible, by the beets with stems and roots still attached – that way you can hold on to that long, tail-like end of the beet while you peel.) Slice thin with a mandolin or sharp knife. Peel and slice the avocado. Combine sliced beets and avocado with remaining salad ingredients in a large bowl.

2. Combine dressing ingredients. I like to use a mason jar for easy shaking, or you can use a blender if you prefer not to mince your garlic ahead of time. If serving one, toss salad  with 2-3 tablespoons of dressing and serve immediately.

Tip: Preparing this for work? Wait until just before eating to peel and slice the avocado. Make sure to bring a knife from home if your office kitchen isn’t well-equipped or if you’re worried about cross contamination. (Disclaimer: I do not advocate work violence. Keep that knife in yo’ lunchbox.)  Also, tiny bottles from the mini-bar make great, non-leaky containers for salad dressing.

Bon appétit!

Tips from a Gluten-Free Newbie

Navigating the gluten-free world is not an easy task, at least not initially. Though I’m still learning, here are some very basic tips from my first few months of living gluten-free:

1) Eat fresh, whole foods, and cook for yourself. Ditch all that processed jazz, and eat mostly plants, fresh dairy, and meats. Farmer’s markets are the ideal place to shop for this kind of food.  Additionally, gluten-free processed food can often be expensive and surprisingly caloric, so ease up, cowboy.

2) Learn to read labels. Since it isn’t always possible to eat fresh foods, you’ll need to become well-versed in the many names for gluten. It’s easiest to stick to the gluten-free aisle at the grocery store, though be sure to look for that pesky phrase “manufactured in a facility that processes wheat.” (I used to be able to eat this stuff; now I’ve gotten way more sensitive.) Eventually, though, you’ll want to venture beyond that tiny aisle, which should be no problem if you’re armed with knowledge and the right resources. Jane Anderson’s about.com articles are extraordinarily helpful, as are the lists of gluten ingredients in Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s The G-Free Diet (though all that damn bread on the cover just keeps mocking me).

3) Buy the white truffle oil. This tip comes from the Gluten-Free Girl. Giving yourself permission to use higher-quality, more expensive items from time to time  will help make your cooking experiences more joyful.

4) Talk to your friends. I was worried I would feel isolated after my diagnosis, but my friends very quickly embraced it. Explain to them what celiac is, and they’ll become your champions. At a BBQ right after my diagnosis, one friend informed me that he had double-checked all the ingredients he’d used to marinate his chicken kebabs, just to make sure I would be able to enjoy them. Another good friend always makes me a gluten-free snack when I visit her house. When my boyfriend makes breakfast, he makes sure to cook my eggs first before heating up his flour tortillas so that my eggs won’t be contaminated. The list of small but incredibly meaningful acts of awareness goes on and on. Even at restaurants, my friends will help me explain celiac to waiters, which brings us to our next tip…

5) Talk to strangers. If you explain your condition clearly and calmly, most waiters will go out of their way to make sure you have a fantastic gluten-free dining experience. And talking to new acquaintances about celiac isn’t a terrible idea either, though sometimes I do feel a bit like I’m drawing attention to myself. You don’t have to start off every conversation with, “Hi! I have celiac disease! How about you?” but when it does come up (and it will, since food is, like, life), most people have a friend or a family member who eats g-free, and they’re usually happy to share experiences and recipes. You can also seek out new friends with celiac through websites like Meetup.com in order to find others in your area with advice.

Most of all, remember that, usually, you will just plain feel better. It’s rough, but that’s a reward all its own.

Boozy Bourbon Peaches and Raspberries

Hi, parents. You should probably skip this recipe. K thanks.

The scene: A classy(ish) Fourth of July barbecue.

The problem: A lack of grain-free summer desserts to console me while others stuff their faces with angel food cakes and berry pie.

The heroine: Me. And also bourbon.

But let’s backtrack a little. I’ll be honest, folks. I’ve been suffering from a bit of bread-envy lately. My boyfriend and I decided to make hot dogs a few weekends ago, and for some idiot reason I took his buns out of the package for him. (That is not a euphemism.) REAL BREAD IS SO SOFT AND SQUISHY, YOU GUYS. (Also not a euphemism.) So when the time came to find the perfect gluten-free Fourth of July dessert, I was feeling a little melancholic. Additionally, all grains and flours have been rather unkind to my stomach lately, so I didn’t want to just make a pie with gluten-free crust. Instead, I wanted pure, unadulterated gluten-free dessert-y-ness, preferably the kind that is also filled with booze so that I’d feel less sad about everyone else’s glutenous treats.

My recipe search led me to bourbon peaches. However, most recipes recommended cooking off the alcohol. I take issue with wasting the waste-making powers of a good bourbon. Therefore, I ignored the recipes, decided to add some raspberries, and holy bourbon Batman, I think we can now call me a genius.

Behold, the splendor of my dessert!

[I keep forgetting to take pictures of my foods. I just like eating them too much, I guess. Sorry dudes.]

Boozy Bourbon Peaches and Raspberries

Inspired by Martha Stewart, mostly. I don’t remember the other recipes I referenced. Probably ’cause of the booze.

Serves 6-8

6 ripe, medium sized peaches – peeled and diced
1 package (5-6 oz) raspberries
1 cup-ish of good bourbon (or not that good – I used Jack Daniels. ‘Cause it was there.)
1-2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Vanilla ice cream (optional)

1. Combine all of these wonderful things. Allow to marinate for 2-3 hours. Or possibly 2-3 days when you have leftovers. And you will. Because they are that strong. And they keep getting stronger.
2. If serving with ice cream, warm the peaches and raspberries in the microwave. Or don’t. Everyone will be too drunk to notice, anyway.

Cautionary Tale: Don’t eat more than 1/4 cup of this at a time. Like seriously. Face-planting might ensue.

Cautionary Tale Part 2: I hear tell of people who react to liquors made from distilled gluten-grains. I personally do not react to them, thank goodness, but if you’re uncertain, you should probably test your tummy’s tolerance before making this recipe.

Have a happy, drunk-face dessert day!

Pear with Ricotta and Cinnamon Sugar

No pictures for this post. I devoured this much too quickly. This ridiculously simple dessert tastes like pie filling, and the lack of crust is a complete blessing if you’re gluten-free like me. Is a recipe this short really even a recipe? Hell to the yes.

Deliciousness awaits you.

Pear with Ricotta and Cinnamon Sugar

1 pear, halved and cored
1/4 cup ricotta
Cinnamon, to taste
Sugar, to taste

1. Broil pear for 5-7 minutes on a foil-lined baking sheet. Top with ricotta and dashes of cinnamon and sugar. Consume with gusto, and pat yourself on the back for being so simply brilliant.

It should probably be noted that I did burn my hand when I made this. You’d think I’d know by now that baking sheets right out of the oven are quite toasty.

Quinoa with Radish Leaf-Pistachio Pesto

Here we go.

This recipe was my first attempt at a composed gluten-free dish. Like most recipes I end up loving, I was really just trying to use up the random leftover ingredients in my fridge. Radish leaves are as much of revelation as roasted red radishes. This recipe is also vegan-friendly — the flavors are rich enough that Parmesan is unnecessary. Personally, I prefer the flavor of couscous and pesto, but quinoa packs more of a protein-punch.

Quinoa

Radish Leaf and Pistachio Pesto with Quinoa and Roasted radishes
Serves 1
Time: 20-25 minutes

Ingredients:
1 bunch red radishes (leaves intact)
1-3 tbsp good olive oil
1-3 crushed garlic cloves
Lemon juice
2 palmfuls of pistachios
1/2 cup quinoa or 1/3 cup gluten-free couscous (see my couscous post for separate cooking instructions.)
salt

1. Preheat the oven to 450. Twist the leaves off of 1 bunch of radishes. Rinse. Set aside leaves and bring water to boil in small saucepan while halving the radishes.
2. Blanch the radish leaves (about 30 seconds). Drain and pat dry, chop roughly.
3. Bring 1 cup of water to boil. Rinse quinoa in a small strainer. Add to water, cover, and reduce to simmer for about 15 minutes.
4. Mix the radishes with 1 tbsp of olive oil and dashes of salt and thyme. Spread out on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes.
5. While the quinoa and radishes are cooking, add radish leaves, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and pistachios to a food processor and puree until smooth. Add more or less of various ingredients until the pesto is to your taste.
6. Once the quinoa and radishes are cooked, allow to cool. Stir in pesto and serve!

This dish would work just as well with non-gluten free ingredients. Another idea is to use spaghetti squash as a completely grain-free substitute for quinoa or couscous.

Happy gluten-free eating!

Where I’ve Been: Celiac and the Switch to Gluten-Free

When I wrote my last post in January of 2012, I had no idea what was coming. It seems a little coincidental that I wrote about bread back then. I can’t eat that anymore, or at least not in the same way that most people can.

In Florence, Italy

In Florence, Italy

The last year has been hard — wonderful in some ways (I visited Italy for an amazing six weeks last summer, started interning at Texas Monthly, became Co-Editor-in-Chief of a literary journal, started a new relationship, and will be graduating from UT in May) but trying in others  (realized that I want to make enough money to travel, started interning at Texas Monthly, became Co-Editor-in-Chief of a literary journal, started a new relationship, and will be graduating from UT in May).

And then, I was officially diagnosed with celiac disease about a month ago.

This post was hard for me to write. I hope that reading this is helpful for someone else with celiac, as the stories I’ve found on others’ blogs have been for me. At the very least, I hope it explains some of the things that, in my frustration and fear, I may not have adequately explained to my friends in the past couple of months.

My symptoms started last July, when I got back from Italy. For years, I’ve been told I have a “nervous stomach,” so I chalked up the nausea and cramps to jet lag, then to anxiety about living alone for the first time, then to anxiety about the future, and so on. I really recognized something was wrong at an outdoor performance of The Sound of Music in Zilker Park. While nibbling on sandwiches from Panera with several friends who I hadn’t seen in a while, I started to feel a little dizzy. By the end of the performance, my stomach was clenching horribly. I passed out on my bed as soon as we got home, even though I very much wanted to join the excited reunion between my high school friends in the next room. The following morning, I was convinced it had just been the heat, but my friends convinced me to see a doctor.

The lovely results of the doctor’s various tests? I’d picked up some sort of mild, waterborne parasite in Italy. Fantastic. Not exactly the kind of travel adventure story I was hoping for — “Do you have tapeworm?!”  (No.) “Are you contagious?!” (Also no.) “Oh my god I’m never going to Italy!!” (Buck up, darling, you should.)

I still felt wrong after a course of antibiotics, and I noticed that I mostly felt sick after eating. Where I had once loved creating new recipes and trying new restaurants, I started to fear food. I couldn’t figure out what would make me sick and what wouldn’t. By November, I had started to feel so unwell that I could barely concentrate. I couldn’t go to class and work regularly because of the pain in my stomach. At one point my work hours actually got cut, because I kept missing and couldn’t make up the time quickly enough. On the days when my stomach didn’t hurt, which were few, I still felt like I was in a haze and had no energy. I wondered if I had ADHD. At one point, my symptoms were severe enough that I thought I had cancer.

A conversation with a professor who had recently been diagnosed with celiac left me relieved and terrified. Her symptoms matched mine. I got blood tests over Christmas break that showed a gluten intolerance, and last month’s endoscopy results confirmed that I have celiac disease.

So what does having celiac mean? This autoimmune disease has been a lot more prevalent in the news lately, so most people now understand that gluten means wheat, barley, and rye. No normal bread or pasta, no cake, no highly-processed foods (many preservatives are actually gluten). On the most basic level, when a person with celiac eats gluten, the villi in her stomach are damaged, blocking the absorption of vital nutrients. This leads to malnutrition, and, if left untreated, celiac can cause chronic pain, IBS, myriad autoimmune disorders and sometimes even cancer. Gluten intolerance is different from celiac, but can be just as severe.

Celiac is genetic, and I’m fairly certain that my grandmother had undiagnosed celiac, along with lupus and many other unexplained health problems. At the end of her life, I remember her telling me that the only thing she felt like eating was maple-flavored yogurt. It grieves me to think that she suffered simply because she lived in a different time. When she was diagnosed with lupus, doctors had even less of an understanding of celiac, and I doubt any would have thought to recommend a gluten-free diet. And the only way to treat celiac is by following a strict, gluten-free diet for the rest of your life.

For the rest of my life.

Ay, there’s the rub.

I’m lucky, really. I’ve been told that many people aren’t diagnosed with celiac until 12 to 15 years after the onset of more serious symptoms. In my case, I had mild, almost unrecognizable stomach problems for most of my life, up until the parasite triggered the full-on fury of the disease. Though my GI doctor says that my intestines show evidence of chronic damage, I only felt non-functional for about six months before I was diagnosed.

I’m also lucky because if there was ever a “good time” to have celiac, it’s now. Celiac awareness is growing, the gluten-free diet is actually pretty trendy, and I’m in the best city in the world for g-free — Austin, TX. I’ve got an entire Central Market aisle dedicated to my diet, g-free labels at Wheatsville Co-op, god-sent g-free red velvet cupcakes at Delish, and the entirely g-free restaurant/mecca Wild Wood Bakehouse only fifteen minutes from my apartment.

But for the rest of my life.

From my senior photo shoot this month. Courtesy of Amanda Martin Photography.

From my senior photo shoot this month. Courtesy of Amanda Martin Photography.

It’s only been about  three months of g-free, and usually, I look and feel much better. But I’d kill for a can of Pringles. I could cheat, I suppose. I probably will, at some point. But I accidentally ate two bites of a gluten-containing side at Trudy’s a few weeks ago, and I was out for a full day. So maybe I won’t.

I’m saddest about how the way I travel will need to change. No pain au chocolat à Paris for me, unless it’s specially made. Most of my favorite travel and family memories are food-related — those moments of pure joy when you discover a completely unexpected favorite or find a famous restaurant and spend the afternoon trying new things with loved ones. Spinach and ricotta pizza at Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. Pasta primavera with a shaved fennel salad in New York City. Thick, crusty slices of white bread sopping up the best balsamic and olive oil in Tuscany.

Now I think about those meals, and instead my brain says, “Spinach and ricotta gluten. Gluten primavera. Thick, crusty slices of gluten.”

And I know — I know – that I can still find joy in food. My first gluten-free meal in Austin was at ASTI. I wolfed down the entire bowl of butternut squash risotto before my boyfriend was even halfway through his meal (and if you know me, you’ll know that I’m the slowest eater on the planet.) That was most definitely a joyful meal. And I’ve certainly become more grateful for my food, and the chefs and friends who have done their best to ensure that what I eat won’t make me sick. But I feel like that spontaneity I used to love is lost. If I ever want to travel outside of the US again, I’ll have to rigorously plan an eating itinerary, pack some of my own food, and learn how to say “do you have gluten-free options?” in many different languages. On a weekly or even daily basis, all of this attention and talking can be a bit of a nightmare, especially for someone liked me who is a learned and not a natural extrovert. I have to call new restaurants ahead to make sure they understand the risks of cross-contamination. I have to be that person who asks the waiter a million questions. I have to be extremely careful about restaurants that serve ethnic dishes, because the waitstaff can’t necessarily read the non-English label on authentic food items to tell me if their food is really gluten-free. I have to be the deciding vote on where we go to dinner, because my friends are too sweet to let me go anywhere that doesn’t have a designated gluten-free menu.

That’s been the blessing out of all of this, really — I’ve seen such love from my friends, and even strangers (specifically the waiters who put up with my twenty-questions game and send me complimentary gluten-free appetizers when I can’t join in on the bread basket.) All of them have tried their hardest to accommodate my new needs. Sometimes I feel a huge sense of shame. I’m not the type who wants to be the center of attention, but maybe all of this will finally help me grow comfortable with being in the spotlight and standing up for myself and what I need. Everything happens for a reason.

Right?

It may still be a little while before I post new recipes here. I’m still trying to figure out how to get adequate nutrients in my diet since I can’t eat enriched grains anymore. Plus, the very notion that I’m limited has made me apprehensive about cooking for myself, even though I know it’s probably the safest way to avoid gluten. When I do post new recipes, I may delete the old recipes, or at least label them clearly as gluten-containing so that readers aren’t confused.

So for now, bear with me. I’ll find the joy again. I’ll just need some time.

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Homemade Croutons

**Update: Ingredients have been changed to gluten-free. Pictures are not of gluten-free items.**

These croutons are like crack.

My mother and brother are now addicted to them since I made them several times over the break. These were pretty much the only thing I made over break except for an overly sweet butternut squash soup and a delicious green bean salad that is not technically in season right now, so the recipe for that will come later.

These slice are thicker than they should be. But it’s still a pretty picture.

During the semester, I ate these over a salad (read: crouton vehicle) of arugula, carrots, and goat cheese with balsamic dressing. Or sometimes I would just eat them by themselves. They’re that yummy.

Homemade Croutons
(Inspired by A Sweet Pea Chef)
Good stored in the pantry for up to 2 weeks

Approximately 1/2 loaf of good, day-old gluten-free bread (sourdough, Tuscan, etc.)
4-6 tablespoons olive oil
1/3-1/2 cup freshly grated grated Parmesan
fresh or gluten-free dried parsley to taste
gluten-free garlic powder to taste
salt and pepper if desired

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large-ish baking sheet with aluminum foil. Slice the bread into roughly 1/2 inch thick slices, then cut into 1/2 inch cubes. If the bread is too dry, you can wrap it in a damp paper towel and microwave it for 1-2 minutes. Sounds weird but does the trick.

2. In a large bowl, toss the cubes with olive oil. You can do this with a spoon or with clean hands. (Using your hands gives you a better idea of whether or not each cube is coated with olive oil.)

3. Stir in Parmesan, parsley, and garlic, or substitute other herbs/cheeses. (I don’t measure out my herbs, but add them slowly and taste the cubes as I go.)

4. Evenly distribute the cubes on the baking sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes, checking every ten minutes or so and rotating the pan as necessary. Croutons are finished when they are golden brown. Allow to cool. Prepare yourself for crunchy deliciousness, and enjoy.

Roasted Radish and Carrot Couscous with Goat Cheese 2

Variations on a Theme: Couscous

**Update 3/13: Ingredients have been changed to gluten-free**

Hello hello! My goodness, it was a strange semester. I won’t go into the sordid-ish details here, but suffice it to say that 2011 was thoroughly exhausting but also thoroughly fun. I actually feel like a grown-up now instead of like a fourteen-year-old masquerading as a college student. I still look about fourteen, though.

Amidst studying for finals and pretending to write a NaNoWriMo novel (read a slightly misquoted interview with my lovely novel-writing friend and me here), the number of posts around here dwindled quite a bit, as you probably noticed. Or maybe you didn’t notice. That’s okay. I never liked you, anyway.

The amount of cooking I did dwindled, too. In fact, I’m not really sure what I ate during most of November. I mostly remember drinking lots of Starbucks chai and occasionally hiding Chik-fil-A bags behind me as I walked through the Union so that people wouldn’t think I was anti-gay or something. I waffle when it comes to waffle fries.

When I did get around to cooking, though, I made couscous.

Couscous is far easier to cook than rice or pasta. The most involved of today’s recipes takes 30-40 minutes, tops.

Couscous hails from Morocco and other cool African places,  and my take on it is not exactly traditional. Usually served as an accompaniment to meaty things like lamb, I prefer to eat couscous as a main course. I eat sides as main courses a lot since I’m cooking for one, and we all know that the sides are usually better, anyway. Couscous is wildly versatile, too, and sometimes it’s even better cold, which makes it great for on-campus lunches when I’m not near a microwave. Below is basic couscous recipe, then three couscous variations. Add, adjust and subtract ingredients as you like, and send me your own variations. The final recipe for Roasted Radish and Carrot Couscous with Goat Cheese (oy, that’s a delicious mouthful) is my favorite. It’s lovely and warm in these winter months. Luckily, you can find gluten-free brands of couscous, or you can substitute quinoa if you prefer. I personally find the nuttiness of quinoa too strong for any of these recipes.

Basic Couscous Recipe
Makes 1-2 servings

3/4 cup water or gluten-free chicken broth
2/3 cup dry gluten-free couscous
Approximately 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon olive oil

In a small saucepan, bring liquid and olive oil to a boil over medium heat. Quickly stir in couscous, then cover and remove from heat. Allow couscous to sit for five minutes. Then, return to low heat, add Parmesan, and stir until the Parmesan melts. Eat alone, or add some of the other stuff that follows.

Fluorescent lighting is weird, you guys.

Lemon Parsley Couscous
(adapted from Southern Living)
Makes 1-2 servings

1 Basic couscous recipe
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 tablespoon parsley
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup feta cheese

Make the couscous. Stir in the other stuff. Not even kidding. It’s that easy. Serve cold (my favorite) or warm. This recipe was originally intended as a side for a shrimp dish.

Pesto and Pine Nut Couscous
Makes 1-2 servings

1 Basic couscous recipe
1/3 cup (or more) of gluten-free pesto
1 tablespoon of pine nuts
1/3 cup feta cheese
1 handful of cherry tomatoes, halved or whole

Make the couscous. Stir in as much or as little pesto as you’d like. If desired, toast the pinenuts in a dry skillet over medium heat. Shake the skillet as you go to prevent burning. Toss pine nuts, feta, and tomatoes with the couscous. Serve warm or cold.

Roasted Radish and Carrot Couscous with Goat Cheese
(kudos to Food Network Magazine for roasting tips)
Makes 1-2 servings

You guys, radishes are a revelation. I was working my way through a list of root vegetables in the Food Network magazine, and I actually stopped with radishes since they’re so delicious. I suspect I don’t hear people rhapsodizing about radishes more often because they’ve never had a radish roasted. The roasting takes out the bitterness usually associated with radishes. I’m particularly proud of this recipe for some reason. It’s not complicated, but I first made it just trying to use up the random things in my fridge, and it turned out astoundingly well. We’ll actually need sort-of steps for this one.

1 Basic couscous recipe
12-15 small red radishes, quartered
2-3 carrots, chopped into coins
1 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 teaspoons gluten-free dried thyme
1/2 cup (or way, way more) of goat cheese

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Toss radishes and carrots with oil and thyme. Spread radishes and carrots onto the baking sheet. Don’t crowd the veggies! Cook for 20-30 minutes, checking every five minutes or so to prevent burning.

2. Make basic couscous recipe. Combine all the roasted goodness with the couscous and as much goat cheese as you’d like. Serve to warm your soul on a winter’s day.

Up next: You know? I really have no idea. Cheers!

Goat Cheese and Pea Quiche

The Scottish Pie: Or, Pea and Goat Cheese Quiche

**Update 3/13: Crust recipe is not gluten-free. Substitute store-bought g-free pie crust. Filling is g-free**

Quiche is the new Macbeth.

Every time I make a quiche, disaster inevitably follows. Or precedes. Or something. The first time I made a quiche, I burned olive oil in a non-stick skillet, and then for some reason put a hot metal spoon in my mouth and burned my tongue. The second time, the heavily-adapted recipe that I used made way too much filling which overflowed out of the pie pan. Thank goodness I had put my pie pan on top of a baking sheet. Still, scraping burned egg mixture off of a baking sheet is no fun. The third time, I decided to get up early to blind-bake my crust before class, and I dropped my glass pie pan. Actually it was my roommate’s glass pie pan, so that was even more special.


If the results weren’t always so delicious, I would probably give up on quiche altogether. So, to avoid future crises, I will no longer use the word “quiche” in my kitchen, and, as this blog is an extension of my kitchen, the word will disappear from usage here, too. Farewell, quiche. Hello egg-pie, egg-thingy, or The Scottish Pie.

This egg-thingy won “Grandma’s Favorite” at a recent pie contest. Though the results may have been skewed by the fact that this was the only savory dish in the competition, I’m still pretty proud of it. I first had a pea and goat cheese egg-thingy at an absolutely adorable tea room called Tea At The Gallery in Knoxville, Tennessee. This is a combination I would have never thought of on my own. I used to think of peas as boring, but this egg pie is anything but.

(God, this new terminology is going to take some getting used to.)

I will admit that this recipe is not perfect. Currently, the recipe yields one 9-inch egg pie and three crustless minis. I had a hard time finding a recipe that I liked, so I synthesized this recipe from many sources. Normally, I’d wait until I had the proportions exactly right before posting, but hey, ending up with extra egg pie is not such a bad problem to have. I’ve also included a super easy crust recipe that can work for any savory tart.

The Frakking Easiest Tart Crust in the Entire World (not gluten-free)
(from Food.com)
Makes 1 9-inch crust

1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil or 1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup refrigerated or ice water

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix flour and salt with fork. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil and water. Pour the oil and water mixture in to the dry mixture. Mix with fork until thickened.

2. Form crust into a ball, then roll out into a rough circle. No need to flour your cutting board or rolling pin – the olive oil keeps it from sticking. (You can try simply pressing the crust into the pan without rolling it out, but the crust is pretty elastic and hard to stretch out by hand.)

3. Press the dough into a 9-inch glass pie pan. Decorate the edge with your favorite scalloped or forked design.

4. Blind-bake the crust (meaning, bake the crust empty of any filling) for 10-15 minutes. Remove the crust from the oven when it is properly crusty instead of elastic, but before it starts to brown. Tip: Blind-baking ensures that the bottom of your crust finishes cooking. Be sure to protect the edges of the crust with a pie shield or foil. The crust also has a tendency to bubble, so you can use rice or beans to weight down the center. I simply poked holes in the bottom of the crust with a fork and it didn’t get too bubbly.

5. Do not drop your roommate’s glass pie pan. Allow crust to cool. You are now ready to add all manner of savory fillings!

Pea and Goat Cheese [Egg Pie]
(synthesized from Tasty Yummies, Peas.org, Emeril Lagasse, and my last [egg-pie] recipe)
Yields 1 9-inch egg pie and 3 crustless mini egg pies

1 Frakking Easy Tart Crust
2 1/2 cups frozen peas
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups half-and-half
2 tablespoons gluten-free dried chives
1 tablespoon gluten-free dried parsley
8 oz goat cheese, divided into 6 oz and 2 oz chunks
3/4 cup grated Gruyère cheese (optional)
Salt
Pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bring 2 cups of salted water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add 2 1/2 cups of frozen peas and cook for 3-4 minutes. Be careful not to overcook them. Drain peas and allow to cool.

2. Whisk together eggs, egg yolks, and half-and-half. Allow peas to cool and then purée 1 cup of peas in a food processor. Add pureed peas and 1 cup of whole peas to the egg mixture and beat together. Add chives and parsley; stir. (Yes, you should still have 1/2 cup of peas left over.These are for the mini quiches. Gravity makes all the peas end up in the larger crust if you don’t set some aside.)

3. Place your already prepared crust on top of a baking sheet. Pour the mixture into the already-prepared crust. Be careful not to overfill! You will have some egg mixture left over. Leave about 1/3 inch at the top. Then, crumble 6 oz of goat cheese and distribute evenly on top of the mixture. Sprinkle Gruyère over the top if using.

4. Protect the edges of the crust with a pie shield or aluminum foil. Cook the quiche for 35-45 minutes, until the goat cheese turns golden brown and the center is set.

5. Meanwhile, spray 3 cups of a muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. Fill each halfway full. Divide 1/2 cup of peas between the three cups. Crumble the remaining 2 oz of goat cheese and add to each. Refrigerate until the 9-inch egg pie is done. Cook the minis at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and the centers are set.

6. Allow 9-inch egg pie to cool for about 30 minutes and serve while still warm. This can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Minis can be frozen and kept in the freezer for several months. To reheat, place on a foil-covered baking sheet for 10-15 minutes.

May your Scottish Pie-making experience be disaster-free!

Up Next: Variations on a Theme: Couscous

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The Lazy Gourmet: White Cheddar Grilled Cheese

**Update 3/13: Modified for gluten-free. Pictures are not of gluten-free items**

This post will be interspersed with some random flower and pumpkin pictures, because it is fall, and I like flowers and pumpkins. But this recipe has nothing to do with flowers. Or pumpkins.

Some days, when I am wading through the mire of midterms, melodrama, and stress-induced migraines, cooking seems impossible. Some days, I look at the word “skillet” in a recipe and forget what it means. Some days, I walk into my kitchen and the thought of julienne-ing zucchini or figuring out how to dice butternut squash without dying is excruciatingly painful.  Some days, I am too lazy to even type up the recipe for the Pea and Goat Cheese Quiche I made like two weeks ago now.

And on those days, my friends,  do we resort to ramen noodles? Do we get takeout from Subway? Do we unwrap a frozen meal and toss it in the microwave?

(Actually, sometimes we do the last one. Amy’s Vegetable Pot Pie is delicious. And organic. So I feel less guilty about it.)

Nay! Never! We are far too food savvy for that! Far too superior! Far too snobbish!

Instead of selling our souls to the fast food gods, we make grilled cheese.

Not just any grilled cheese, mind you. None of that bastardization called “American cheese.” This grilled cheese got class. Made from sharp white cheddar and Parmesan-encrusted slices of sourdough, this sandwich will have you licking your fingers in the happiest of ways.  How gourmet.

White Cheddar Grilled Cheese
Serves one lazy gourmet

2 slices of fresh gluten-free sourdough or white bread
Approximately 1 tablespoon butter
1-2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated ( use fresh, not pre-shredded)
Dash of gluten-free herbs like herbes de provence, rosemary, or oregano

For the salad (optional):
A handful of spring mix
5-6 halved cherry tomatoes
Your favorite salad dressing (I used Garlic Expressions)

1. Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spread one side of each slice of bread liberally with butter. Then, sprinkle Parmesan cheese and smear it into the butter.

2. Place one slice in the skillet butter-side down. Add slices of white cheddar and sprinkle with herbs. Place the second slice on top, butter-side up. As the bread fries, press down on top of the sandwich with a spatula. After 1-2 minutes, when the cheese has started to melt and binds the two pieces of bread together, flip the sandwich. Continue pressing and flipping until both sides are crispy and golden brown.

3. Allow to cool and then slice in half. Assemble the salad, and enjoy.

Up Next: I said Pea and Goat Cheese would be next in the last post. I’m remaking it for a pie contest on Wednesday, so maybe that will motivate me to type up the recipe. Maybe.