If I am not careful, I become a very “all or nothing” type of person. I think it is an outlook that is lauded and encouraged in today’s society–unfortunately more for worse than for better. “Perfect” lives are carefully staged on every form of social media and interaction. Because those with the prettiest house, the best relationships, the greatest jobs will automatically gain some mythical, vague status that will actually turn their lives perfect. Alongside perfectionism, we have glorified busy. Stay busy, follow your hobbies, go out, try new things, have adventures, and make sure everyone knows just how much you have achieved on how little sleep. I’ve had my time spent striving for perfectionism and for “busy”, and I’ve found I do better disregarding both. When I try to be “perfect”, in whatever way, I am left scrambling and climbing towards an unreachable peak. When I let go of perfect, I can be happy with what I have achieved already–I can take a break on my little cliff halfway up Perfectionism Mountain, and enjoy the view from where I stand. When I stop romanticizing “busy” as a gloat-worthy state of being, I can finally slow down and rest. I can watch three episodes of Chopped (one of which I have already seen) and not beat myself up about it. I have a clearer head when I do return to the tasks at hand after a break.
I try to remind myself of all this. All to easily, I fall back into the race for perfection and the competition of busyness. In a sense, I am still glorifying both “perfect” and “busy”. I blog here, its own selfish and entitled act to think that what I place on the internet is worth reading. I make endless schedules, down to the half-hour, to fill my days with exercise and creating and cleaning and reading around my work day. All too often, my schedule lies have forgotten with my neglected blog and I’m left with residual guilt that I failed. This guilt and these tasks are both things that I put on myself. No one is making me write or share or cook or read. Just me, and the thought that “I can do better”. Perhaps I can, and
perhaps, probably, I will be bettered by writing, creating, and reading in a clean house with a healthy mind and body. But with the guilt and this all-or-nothing attitude, I am too often overwhelmed. When I am overwhelmed, nothing is achieved. So I try, as often as I can remember, to focus on the baby steps. My mantra has become something I have recently realized that I yearn for: balance. I long to move, to stretch and bend and twist, to combat sitting at a desk for eight hours a day. I actually want to run, to the utter bewilderment of my sophomore-in-high-school, last-semester-of-gym-ever self (whether or not I can run is another question entirely). I want vegetables by the truckload after getting burgers for lunch and then trying that new pizza place for dinner. I want to rewatch this episode, even when I don’t, because the alternative is watching something new and I have been actively engaged all day and I need to shut off my brain. I want sleep, but only eight-to-nine hours after a reasonably active day, because I’ve finally realized that any more just makes me sluggish. I want to neglect the vacuuming and meal prep to instead do nothing, after six days at work. Until the time when I crave something creamy or I choose sleep over yoga and my life leans back the other way again. Balance. Maybe, what I really want is to listen to my body more.
So I’m trying to be gentler with myself. I try to forget about perfect and remember that it is all okay, because perfect is exhausting and disheartening. Balance is better.
Balance, these past weeks has meant making time for make-ahead meals. I know it will be a huge help to my psyche to know that I am prepared to make dinner with minimal thinking at the end of a long day. I am adjusting to a new work schedule, and M is working on a project that has him working late (and, usually, whenever I am not working). Thankfully he knows me well enough to understand that I will fail (if I try at all) to stay up to wait for him. I am not much of a night owl. These past weeks have been a few mumbled sentences in the morning to establish when someone is home to let out the dog, and a lot of notes left on the kitchen counter. Weeks like these are when I pull out my secret weapons: slow cooker recipes, quick handheld foods made in huge batches, and quiche. I’ve been thinking of writing a defense for quiche. It is one of the most under-utilized dishes. With a crust, 3 eggs, about a cup of milk, a handful of toppings–a collection that would hardly feed two for breakfast as individual parts, these magic ingredients mix together to created at least eight slices of creamy, comforting goodness. If that’s not cheap enough for you, its easy enough to thinly slice a potato. Line a greased pie pan with that and you’ve got a pretty solid quiche minus the expense of butter and flour for a traditional crust. It’s a dish that is delicious served cold, hot, or room temperature, and easily portable if you have a lunch box and an ice pack. Quiche is awesome.
This quiche, however, was not one made with “cheap eats” in mind. Instead, I wanted to add some fun to this dish that would be feeding us for the next 3-4 days. Someone mentioned mixing a bit of smoked salmon into scrambled eggs and then the light bulb went off. M and I love bagels with lox: chewy bagels (preferably a tasty Everything Bagel), thick swaths of cream cheese topped with savory smoked salmon, red onions, tomato, capers, and a squeeze of lemon. Why not put all of this in a quiche? I mixed the traditional spices of an everything bagel into my crust, and mixed the traditional toppings into the egg filling. Voila!
This quiche is an interesting way to mix things up. The crust, salty and garlicky, makes this amazing!
Lox & Cream Cheese Quiche with “Everything Bagel” Crust
For the Crust:
Basically a 1/2 batch of my Gluten-Free Pie Crust
- 1/2 c. sweet rice flour
- 1/4 c. tapioca starch
- 1/4 c. cornstarch
- 2 Tbsp. potato starch
- 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt
- 1 + 1/2 tsp. granulated onion
- 1 tsp. granulated garlic
- 2 tsp. sesame seeds
- 1 tsp. poppy seeds
- 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- optional: 1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
- 1/4 c. butter
- 1/4 c. vegetable shortening (I used EarthBalance)
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1-2 Tbsp. cold water
For the Filling:
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 c. milk (whole or 2% is best)
- 1/2 c. cream
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. dill
- 1/4 c. tomato, chopped
- 1/4 small red onion, finely diced
- 4 green onions, finely chopped (green portion only), divided
- 1 Tbsp. capers
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- 3 oz. lox/smoked salmon, roughly chopped
- 3 Tbsp. parmesan cheese
- 2 oz. cream cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix all dry ingredients (sweet rice flour through pepper/caraway seeds) of crust in a medium bowl. Cube or grate the butter and shortening into the dry mix. Mix well, rubbing the fat into the dry mix until the mixture is coarser than corn meal. Mix egg and vinegar together, add to bowl. Stir egg mixture into dry mix. Add 1 tablespoon of water and mix until dough comes together. If still dry and crumbling, add additional tablespoon of water. Press into 9 inch pie pan. Chill for 30 minutes. (Alternately, if your would prefer a “prettier” crust, chill dough for 15 minutes, roll out on wax or parchment paper, and transfer to pie pan. Trim edges. Chill for 20 minutes). Par-bake pie crust for 15 minutes.
Make the filling while the dough chills and par-bakes. Mix eggs, milk, cream, kosher salt, and dill. When crust has par-baked, remove crust from over. Sprinkle tomatoes, then red onion, half of the green onions, capers, and lemon zest into pie shell. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper the vegetables. Sprinkle bits of cream cheese and slivers of salmon over vegetables. Pour egg mixture over fillings. Sprinkle remaining green onions, parmesan cheese, and additional dill on top.
Bake the quiche for about 30 minutes, until the middle ‘jiggles’ but the top is beginning to brown. If the crust starts to burn, gently wrap the crust edges with aluminum foil. Allow to cool completely. Serve slight warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate, wrapped in saran wrap, for up to 5 days.
We are falling quickly into Fall! I am a-okay with that (except for the impending leaf mold–ugh, my allergies are inescapable). Fall is my favorite season and–now that we have hit the first of October–I can start including pumpkin in all of my recipes without shame! Well, truth be told, aside from Dunkin’s pumpkin coffee, I still haven’t been hit with major pumpkin cravings. Tikka masala, on the other hand, I would like to eat for dinner every night for the rest of time. Ahem. I had a life-changing dish of tikka masala when we went out to eat with M’s mum and aunt last week. Seriously, I am still dreaming about it. I may try to adapt Aarti’s recipe for a slow-cooker. My crockpot is my saving grace these days. I have a slightly new schedule that includes two later evenings per week. Though I’m still home within a fairly reasonable time, given M’s unpredictable schedule, its easier for me to set something to cook through the day so he can eat it early if he has an evening call. And with our Saturday classes starting this weekend (Auditions! My favorite day!) our schedules are back to being downright hectic. We will adjust soon enough…I was almost getting bored with normal days.
That reminds me: I have this new schedule, in part, because I–technically–have a new job! Really, its more like an uber-promotion. I’m still with the same companies that I love and adore, but I am officially a salaried employee! Yep, this twenty-something has finally landed the grown-up job! Guys, I’m comparing insurance plans and everything! Whoa. My first ‘day’ is next week, and then I have orientation the following week and we get right on rolling like nothing has changed.
Except that Columbus day will be my first paid holiday ever! Anyways, to say the least, it is super comforting that I don’t have to worry about securing benefits and can really focus on my job full-time. I did have to give up my box office job, which was sadder than I thought. But, chances are, I will probably see more shows now that I am not working at the venue, and I expect I’ll be stopping by to visit and chat. M still works there, so I’ll certainly keep up with everyone. They all love Punc there, too, and I am sure they wouldn’t mind a visit or two from her.
In the meantime, while I can’t yet give you a recipe that will make you fall head-over-heels in love with Tikka Masala…I can maybe do the same for Tomato Basil Soup. I’ve talked about my childhood of picky eating before. When I finally decided I could eat soup (savory liquids were too weird for a while), it was a couple years before I would eat any soup except for Tomato Basil. Thus, I am quite well-versed in all of the variations of Tomato Basil soup: unfussy versions with little-to-no cream where the tomato flavors stands out boldly all the way to the soft, smooth versions where cream and butter soften the brisk tomato edge. This recipe, my favorite, sits somewhere in the middle. The cream and butter make this rich and filling, but using the tomato juice along with the tomatoes and tomato paste prevents that bright tomato flavor from being overwhelmed. A touch of lemon and basil add just enough depth to keep things interesting. The best thing is, this soup comes together in under 30 minutes for a quick, comforting dinner!
Tomato Basil Soup
Serves: 4 | Prep Time: 5 min. | Cook time: 20 min.
- 1 (15 oz) can of high quality crushed or diced tomatoes
- 2 c. tomato juice
- 2 tsp. tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper
- about 10 basil leaves
- 1/2 c. heavy cream
- 4 Tbsp. butter
Add the tomatoes, tomato juice, tomato paste, lemon zest, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes. If using an immersion blender: drop the basil into the soup and blend to desired consistency. I like a slightly chunky soup. If using a blender: please only fill the blender halfway–or less! The heat and steam will expand and you will risk painful splatter if you overfill the blender. Do the soup in multiple portions if needed. Using a blender, I would blend about half of the total soup to get the thick consistency I prefer. Return all soup to the pot, stir in cream and butter. Stir occasionally until butter is melted, then stir briskly to fully incorporate all ingredients. Serve immediately.