Happy post-Thanksgiving, everyone! Things got away from me in this past week or two. Everything at work and school is starting to gear up. We have three weeks until our performances and I have three/four weeks until my finals for my classes this semester. Both of which include papers, on top of one final exam and one oral presentation. I am desperately trying to make serious headway on both papers during my free time this weekend, but it will also be my only chance to decorate for Christmas and prep my food gifts (no telling what those will be, yet!). I’m planning to make the dough for three different Christmas cookies tomorrow, which I will shape into cookies and pop in the freezer. I know all three freeze beautifully and this will make things so much easier as the month goes on! I might even make up a batch of my Cranberry Chutney, which is the ultimate sign that the Christmas season is here!
We powered through our fundraiser for work last weekend, which went splendidly! However, I felt my throat get a little sore throughout the day and by Monday I was knocked flat with some kind of winter muck. A scratchy, painful throat that made my whole mouth hurt, some crazy body aches, super fatigued. Ugh. Thankfully, an afternoon of sleep, lots of soup, and a few eucalyptus & epsom salt baths got me back up on my feet to finish out this week and still get through my prep for Thanksgiving. I still don’t know what it was, but I am hoping I avoided catching my coworker’s bronchitis and, instead, just picked up a bug off one of our students. My asthma and allergies make me very prone to bronchitis and pneumonia, but this hasn’t really moved down into my chest as bronchitis normally would, so I do think I got lucky and it’s just a bad cold!
Anyways, on to more pleasant topics! Thanksgiving at M’s mum’s house ended up having 18 people and was, all-in-all, stress-free. We had a few sticky moments when politics and other controversies came up (it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it, huh?) and trying to get the massive 21 lb turkey in the oven in time, but otherwise, it was lovely. About half of those 18 people had already sign-up to bring a dish, so I focused on desserts (pumpkin pie, vanilla bean cheesecake, cranberry curd tarts, and a praline sauce) and ended up putting together the green bean casserole since M ran out of prep time. But everything else was taken care of! It was nice to loosen the reins a little bit! Shockingly, with all of those people and all of that food, there wasn’t too much in way of leftover. I managed to snag a few slices of dessert, cranberry sauce, and a solid 3 cups of turkey–some of which went into this quiche and the rest will go into a double batch of Turkey Pot Pie Soup tomorrow night. I’m not too sad about our lack of leftovers. We have a ton of veggies in the fridge from our Produce Delivery box, so I’m planning to do a lot of simple, plant-based meals to reset ourselves after this weekends indulgences. Plus my crisper box is completely overflowing and this is the only way to deal with it!
This quiche is, hands-down, my favorite quiche that I have ever eaten. My mother made it often when we were younger, but I was only reintroduced to it after I graduated and we tried making it gluten-free. I love quiche because it take so few ingredients to make a solid dish with many servings (with just M and I in the house, this will last us a few days worth in lunches, too). But I usually don’t go through the fuss of making pie crust (often, I just thinly slice potatoes, layer them in a greased pan, and cook them until brown and crispy before adding in the quiche filling). So this lovely mix of turkey, cheese, bacon, and broccoli, all wrapped up in a flaky, buttery crust, is extra special. That last bite with more crust from the side as well as the bottom is just total bliss. Every time I make this, I wish I had grabbed even more turkey leftovers, so I could stash them in the freezer. I never seem to remember, so I will just have to do my best to enjoy this quiche now, before waiting another whole year to make it again!
Turkey Broccoli Quiche
- – 1 gluten-free pie crust
- – 3/4 c. chopped broccoli
- – 1 c. chopped, cooked turkey
- – 1/2 c. shredded baby swiss cheese
- – 1/4 of a medium onion, finely chopped
- – 6 strips of bacon, cooked and chopped
- – 1 Tbsp. butter
- – 3 extra-large eggs
- – 1 1/4 c. half-and-half (or: 1/2 c. heavy cream + 3/4 c. milk)
- – 1 tsp groud thyme
- – salt & pepper to taste
Roll out the pie crust and spread into a 9-inch pie pan. Crimp the edges and place the pan in the fridge while you preheat the oven and prep the filling. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat, add the broccoli and onion and sauté until tender, when the broccoli is bright green and the onion has softened. Sprinkle turkey, bacon, and half of the cheese into pie crust. Pour vegetables over top, spread evenly. Top with the remainder of the cheese. Whisk the eggs, half-and-half, and spices in bowl until thoroughly mixed. Pour eggs over other ingredients in pie shell. Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees F and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes, until a knife inserted at the center comes out clean.
Did you vote today? I am typing away while the results roll in (eek! I’ll be distracted soon enough). Today was a student holiday workshop day, since the public schools were closed in order to be used as polling sites. That means I had to be in work two hour earlier than normal. And since I still had the late shift at work as well, and couldn’t be positive that I could get away during the day, my only choice to cast my vote was to wake up and do it before work. I wanted to be sure that I had enough time, in case there were lines (there were), so I aimed to get to my polling place before it opened at 6am. While my mother’s house isn’t that far away (I haven’t actually changed my permanent address yet…), in order to be up and prepared for the day plus the drive over, I had to wake up at 4:45am this morning. Whoof. Good thing I am all about making sure my voice is heard. Plus, there was already a line when I got to the polling site at 5:40am, so I’m glad I was early. I got the last spot inside out of the cold! It was so worth it, but I am definitely beginning to drag! I did manage a twenty minute catnap since I made it to work a little early (bargaining for traffic in this area is always a crapshoot). Thankfully working at a theater company means we have handy items like beanbag chairs to add to my naptime comfort!
In the continuing saga of today, I had to bite the bullet and get a new car battery after my car died (totally knew it was coming) and my phone’s SIM card seems to be dying as well. I can’t catch seem to a break whenever I am running on too little sleep. I’ve tried all the tricks from the internet to try to reset the SIM card, but the best I can do is make my phone recognize the SIM but find no service…so, a dying antenna, most likely. Unfortunately, this is not the best week to try to squeeze in an appointment at the Apple Store, but I may have no choice. Thankfully, while on wifi, I can still have everything function and receive iMessages. Occasionally, I’ll even have a regular text get through. What is it about the holiday season, hmm? Just when the gift and food costs start to add up (even extra, since M’s birthday is in November), everything electronic and/or mechanical in my life suddenly needs repairing, too. Sigh. I suppose that is how that goes!
However, speaking of stressful elections and less money, this recipe can be the answer to both! Cheap eating comfort food at it’s finest! Plus, by trading pie crust for super easy biscuit dough, it becomes quick enough to whip up on a weeknight. (Though if you want the more traditional version, I have that too) Dare I even point out that, since your are putting the chicken into the mix when it is already cooked, it would be so easy to swap this for cooked turkey in order to use up some Thanksgiving leftovers! If your family does roasted potatoes at the Thanksgiving table, you could also swap those leftovers for the fresh potatoes in this recipe, too! (Just cook the raw vegetables until tender and add the potatoes then, just before you add the broth).
Gluten-Free Biscuit-Topped Chicken Pot Pie
- 1 batch gluten-free biscuit dough*
- 1 large chicken breast (or 2 mid-sized chicken thighs), cooked**
- 1 medium russet potato
- 1 small-medium sweet potato
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 large carrot
- 1 c. frozen peas
- 1 clove garlic
- 3 Tbsp. butter, divided
- 3 Tbsp. rice flour
- 3-4 c. chicken broth
- 1 tsp. poultry seasoning mix***
- salt & pepper
* My favorite biscuit recipe is from the Blackbird Bakery cookbook, which, fortunately, was shared on Epicurious!
***Or a heaping 1/4 tsp. each: ground sage, ground thyme, and finely minced rosemary
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a pie pan or an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish.
Dice the potatoes, onion, and carrot into medium, equal-sized pieces. Take a pat from the 3 Tbsp of butter and add the pat of butter to a large saucepan. Melt over medium heat and then add the potato, sweet potato, onion, and carrot pieces. Cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally until all the pieces are softened and tender, about 4-7 minutes A fork should easily pierce the potatoes and the onions should be turning translucent. Chop the chicken into equally-sized pieces and stir into the vegetable mix. Add the rest of the butter to the pan. Once melted, add the rice flour and stir occasionally. Allow the flour and veggie mixture to cook for 3-4 minutes. Finely mince the garlic clove and add to the pan with the spices, including salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, until you have a thick gravy holding all the vegetables. Add in the frozen peas and remove from heat.
Make the biscuits according to directions, stopping after you have cut the raw dough into biscuits (for cut biscuits) OR right before you are instructed to drop the dough onto a baking sheet (for drop biscuits). Spoon the gravy-veggie mixture into your prepared pan, leaving almost a inch of space from the rim of the pan. Top the mixture with a biscuits and bake for 12-15 minutes. Allow the pie to sit for 5-10 minutes before serving (it will be hot!) and enjoy!
In the midst of these last few crazy weeks (2 days until final paper is due, 2 weeks until performance weekend), I wanted to jot down the recipes I’ve made in order to use up our Thanksgiving leftovers. We had a very relaxed Thanksgiving, with most of my family coming over to M’s mum’s house. Naps occurred, and plenty of food was eaten! I brought pecan pie, apple pie, maple custard pie, and a dish of my Gluten Free Knock Off Pepperidge Farm’s Cornbread Stuffing. And the necessary pre-dinner pickles and olives. It’s a family tradition!
We came home with a huge amount of pie (surprise, surprise), a lunch’s worth of vegetables, and enough turkey and stuffing to stretch for a couple of meals. I also made sure to bring home some of the bones from the turkey, so that I could make some broth for this soup! I boiled the bones a second time after making the soup. I’ll make a gravy from that tonight to go with sausages and Yorkshire Pudding and greens. Tomorrow, I’m planning to use up the last of our turkey in Turkey and Broccoli Quiche to give us plenty of leftovers for lunches this week.
The soup is a nice mixture of leftovers and fresh foods (mostly the remaining fresh veg left over from preparing other thanksgiving dishes), and makes a hearty dish from a fairly small amount of food. It has all of the flavors of pot pie, without the fuss. I served my soup with pie crust points. One of the crusts that I made the day before, while prepping desserts, shrank too much during it’s par bake. I made another crust, but I saved the first and finished baking it laid flat. This added the perfect crunchy bite to accompany my soup! This soup is very forgiving. Use whatever meat and vegetables that you have on hand and need to use up: chicken, potatoes, green beans, and peas would all be splendid!
Leftover Turkey Pot Pie Soup
Serves: 4 | Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 20 minutes
- 1 tsp. butter
- 4-5 button mushrooms, diced
- 1 large carrot, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 small sweet potato, diced
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 c. shredded, cooked turkey**
- 3 c. turkey (or chicken) broth*
- 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 c. milk
- 1-2 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 1-2 Tbsp. cold water
- salt & pepper
- fresh thyme, for serving
*To use up more leftovers and save some money, make your broth from the bones of your turkey/chicken! I roasted the bones at 450 degrees F for 20 minutes, placed the bones in a pot with 1 quart of water and boiled, covered, for 20-30 minutes. I then cracked the lid and let the broth reduce by about a quarter, just so that the flavor was more concentrated.
**I used white meat in this recipe, knowing that the dryness of the meat would, obviously, not be a problem in this soup.
Once all of the vegetables are chopped, melt the butter in a soup pot and add the diced sweet potato. Stir to cover the vegetables in the butter and place the lid back on. Allow the vegetables to sweat for a minute. Repeat this process by adding, first, the carrots, then the onion and celery, and finally, the mushrooms and garlic. When the vegetable mixture is soft and the onions are translucent, add the broth. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer, covered with the lid, for 10 minutes. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce and milk. In a small dish, mix the cornstarch and cold water until smooth, then add to the simmering soup. Cook for another minute or two, until the soup has thickened. Taste the soup, and then add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish with fresh thyme leaves.
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.
This has been a crazy couple of weeks, to say the least. I knew it would be, but even I couldn’t prepare myself for the little wave of panic when I looked at my calendar and saw three tech-to-performance weeks in a row. There is a reason that the theater industry calls these “hell weeks”…nah, I’m (mostly) joking. Thankfully, all of these performances are with my children’s company which means: (A) I know those involved, (B) Most of our team has down this before, and (C) We are all awesome enough to make these week run smoothly and simply! This post has been sitting in my drafts, half-written, for almost a week-and-a-half, and this recipe has been waiting even longer!
This lasagna was one of the actual “recreation” dinners I made after going gluten-free, and it was also the first time I’d ever tried making lasagna at home. I was intrigued by the grain-free recipe (one less ingredient to worry about converting to gluten-free–score!) and the extra veggies with zucchini substituting for noodles. I added more vegetables in the form of onions and peppers, but this recipes is incredibly flexible. Sub more vegetables in for some or all of the meat, or any more to the onion-pepper mixture. When I first made this recipe, I sliced the zucchini lengthwise, into long strips like noodles. These had a tendency to slip out when trying to cut a bite’s-worth, so I recommend cutting into circle crosswise, or peeling the zucchini before slicing it.
I wish I had had time to make this Lasagna this week (the recipe and photos are from about a month back). This makes the best leftovers, and we have plenty when I’m only serving dinner to three people. This comforting dish is the perfect bridge between winter and spring (we’ve just had three days of torrential rain–yuck) and would be the best lunch on my hectic performance days. I’ve got one more performance weekend, one more week of wrap-up, and then we’ll be off on our relaxing cruise! I’ll certainly keep you posted before then, and plan to come back with a full review of Royal Caribbean’s gluten-free offerings!
Zucchini Lasagna (Pasta-less Lasagna)
Serves: 8 | Prep time: 30 minutes
- 2 large zucchini
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 1 large bell pepper (any color), finely diced
- 4 cups fresh spinach or kale leaves (kale stems removed), roughly chopped
- 2 Tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 16 oz ricotta cheese*
- 1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese*
- 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese*
- 1 lb italian sausage (can replace with equal amounts of another ground meat or finely diced tofu or mushrooms or veggie mix)
- 2 c. tomato sauce (storebought or homemade), divided
*I’m guessing that you could possibly use cashew ‘cheese’ if you wanted to make this vegan. I’ve never tried it myself, please let me know how it turns out if you give it a try!
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Slice the zucchini into thin slices crosswise (making circles, not long strips). (Optional–peel zucchini before slicing). Lay slices out on papertowels and salt generously. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes–zuchinni will release some of their liquid. Crumble sausage/meat/tofu/veggies into a large sauté pan. Cook completely, then set aside. Drain grease. Cook chopped onions and peppers in a large sauté pan with minimal oil for about 5-7 minutes, until softened. Set aside. Rinse all zucchini well. Cook zuchinni in sauté pan for about 5 minutes, until slices begin to wilt. Spread on papertowels and allow to cool. Cooked spinach/kale in a covered sauté pan until wilted, about 3 minutes. Mix together wilted greens, basil, garlic, parmesan, 1/4 c. mozzarella, and ricotta cheese in medium bowl. In separate bowl, mix together onions, peppers, and meat/veggies with 1/2 c. of tomato sauce. Firmly pat zucchini slices dry
Lightly grease a 9×9″ pan. Spread 1/2 c. of tomato sauce into the bottom of the pan, coating evenly. Layer zucchini in even layer, top with cheese mixture then meat/veggie mixture, spreading evenly for each layer. Top meat/veggie mixture with 1/2 c. of tomato sauce. Continue this pattern (zucchini, cheese, meat, sauce) until ingredients run out–I got three layers. Be sure to end with sauce on topmost layer. Cover with remaining 3/4 c. mozzarella cheese.
Cover pan with aluminum foil. Bake at 375 degree F for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10-15 minutes more, until cheese is browned and bubbling. Allow lasagna to rest for 20 minutes before slicing.
Can be refrigerated in sealed container for up to 4 days.
Today, I wanted to post about stress. About how there are still three laundry baskets of clean, unfolded clothes in our bedroom(by the time we got to packing, it seemed silly to take them out of one container to pack them right into another box) that I haven’t managed to fold, hang, and put away, even though I still do not have a true sense of how much can fit in our closets and dressers. I wanted to talk about how those few last things missing in the house (a mail organizer, a printer, an out-of- the-way place to put my purse) are more irritating than the plates that we were missing for two weeks. I was going to discuss my body’s clock being completely out-of-whack: that waking up at 7am to walk the dog allows me time for a walk, yoga, and a real breakfast before work, but then I am exhausted by 4:30pm only to catch a second wind (with or without additional caffeine) that keeps me up until midnight (or later) and makes me grumpy all evening and sets the cycle to repeat. I wanted to be a little bit selfish, to let out my frustrations, to vent the stress that builds as both of my jobs go into the second busiest month of the year.
Instead, I’m thinking of Boston. Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook. 9/11. Deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq, around the world. Yesterday, I did not hear about the bombing until almost 5:00pm. My father’s side of the family lives in Cape Cod, MA. My cousin lives in Boston. Everyone fine, as I expected, but the slim, slim chance was enough to jumpstart my senses. The overwhelming awareness that comes in the blink of an eye: a new wide view of the whole landscape of life, instead of the trivial sliver that I concern myself with on the day-to-day basis. I have noticed something different with the Boston bombings. Shock and horror and fear are still there, there are still many people who responded with hate, but even more responded with reminders of love and hope. From the moments of the aftermath, these glimmers of humanity, faith, and empathy have been brought to the forefront–paraded on Facebook and Twitter and other social media sites. As they should be.
I am impressed and inspired that so many chose hope, especially on public and social media, where hate and condemnation can escalate so easily.
Today, instead of complaining, I am reminding myself to be grateful. I have a home that I can afford, a boyfriend, family, friends, and a dog (or three) that love me as much as I love them, two jobs I enjoy, access to healthcare, to shelter, to food, to water. I am fortunate to be able to be so trivial, to be annoyed at my staying up late.
Today, especially is about love. Many times, I speak better with food than with words. It is my way of showing people I love them, of showing off, of challenging myself. The cabbage rolls that I promised to share make a comforting dinner. The simple ingredients and slow-simmered, familiar flavors do not make these cabbage rolls revolutionary. They are little more than meatballs wrapped in cabbage. But the succulent cooked cabbage makes the perfect complement to these un-meatballs. We ate them with the ricotta gnudi and pasta for dinner. I made two large pans, enough that we had leftovers with a salad for lunches and reheated for snacks for several days. The flavors continue to meld, and, in some ways, these cabbage rolls are even better the day after.
Italian Sausage Cabbage Rolls
Serves: 4 | Prep time: 15 minutes | Cook time: 40 minutes
- 1 small head of cabbage
- 2/3 lb ground (4 links) of gluten-free italian sausage*
- 4 slices of gluten-free bread, crusts removed ( I used Udi’s–use less if your slices are larger)
- 1/3 c. milk (non-dairy is fine)
- 1/4 c. parmesan cheese (add a non-dairy substitute, or a little extra salt and bread to replace cheese)
- 1 tsp. garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 tsp. rosemary, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp. basil
- 1 tsp. sage, ground
- 1 jar (16 oz) tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup water or broth
- Salt and Pepper
*Chicken or pork, sweet or hot, whatever your meat and spice preference, all work–you could even go veggie. While there are several options for Vegetarian Italian Sausage on the market, I’ve yet to find a brand that is gluten-free. If you are avoiding gluten and animal products, sub in your favorite GF sausage substitute and throw in some additional spices (try fennel, parsley, paprika, red chili flakes, garlic, rosemary, basil, salt, and pepper). Par-cook and finely chop/crumble the sausage substitute and mix with the bread as directed
Tear the bread into small pieces. Add to a large bowl. Add milk, stir, allow to sit and soak up the liquid. Lightly saute the chopped onion until translucent.
Carefully remove the leaves from the head of the cabbage. Remove the tough stem (up to about 1 inch into the leaf). Rinse, pat dry, set aside.
If using sausage links, remove meat from casing. Add sausage, onion, parmesan cheese, garlic and other spices to the bread and milk mixture. Mix well.
In a large saucepan, mix the tomato sauce and water/broth (if your sauce is already thin, you may not need this). Heat over low heat.
Form the sausage mixture into small balls, about 1-2 Tbsp worth. Wrap in the cabbage leaf, secure with a toothpick. Once all meat is formed and wrapped, place into saucepan, ladling sauce over top. Bring cabbage rolls to a boil over medium heat, reduce to low heat and cook for 35-40 minutes more, under the meat is cooked through and cabbage is tender.
Serve topped with more cheese, with pasta, salad, or side of choice.
Next time, I will be sharing something sweet (and simple). I think we all could use a treat.
What are you grateful for today?
Hashes are all over the web and are one of those dishes that don’t really have (or need) a proper recipe. It is a quick, easy, delicious dish(that I favor as breakfast, but could be made for any meal) that uses up copious leftovers. It was a no brainer for me, as I love hash with eggs. And, while I did forget to make the sweet potato souffle for Thanksgiving, I had already separated the six eggs I would need. So I had to use up a lot of eggs on top of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, and the rest. If you still have some bits of dishes hanging around, try a hash for a hearty breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Hash is easy. Choose the ingredients you want to include in your hash. Meat and potatoes are traditional, but from there, the sky is the limit. I choose some brussel sprouts and some sausage stuffing from Thanksgiving, a bit of onion and some tomatoes. Chop all your ingredients into equal-sized pieces (shoot for smaller than bite-sized, so you can have a bit of each ingredient in each bite). Heat some oil or butter in a saute pan, and, when hot, added your ingredients, cooking until heated through and the potatoes have a good crisp crust. If you want to add some spices or cheese, right before removing from heat, feel free.
Scrape hash onto plates or find a new pan to make your eggs in. Make your eggs however you like, and slide on top of the hash. I had some cranberry relish alongside because I can’t get enough of the stuff.
Good luck with the last of your leftovers. M’s mum made turkey pasta salad last night so I think (*crosses fingers*) we’ve almost gotten through all of our leftovers. Last thing left to do is try my hand at homemade stock!
Even with the unexpected guests, our refrigerator is packed with food. We’ll be eating leftovers all week. Friday lunch (after surviving the horror of Black Friday as a retail employee) was potato pancakes, as I still couldn’t quite look at turkey after two full Thanksgiving dinners in two days. Bonus, these pancakes were super quick, meaning I could nap even sooner!
|Potato Pancakes & Eggs with Cranberry Sauce|
Mashed Potato Pancakes
- – 1 c. mashed potatoes
- – 1 egg, lightly beaten
- – 3-4 Tbsp gluten free flour (I used a bit of Pam’s Pancake Baking mix. These pancakes are very forgiving)
- -Optional add-ins of your choice (I added a few tablespoons of parmesan cheese and some chopped chives)
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Lightly grease the hot skillet and spoon in potato mixture, pressing down lightly until the mixture spreads to 4-5 inches across. Allow pancake to cook for about 2 minutes, or until bottom is set (you should be able to feel when you try to put your spatula underneath whether it is set or not). Carefully flip to other side and allow to cook for 1-2 more minutes. Serve hot with eggs, and/or bacon, sausage, or turkey (if you can bear to eat another bite!)
Last night was a leftover meal. With a little over a week and a half home, and my constant cooking, the fridge has been filling up with bits of this and that and Tupperware. I’ve tried to keep using the leftovers for lunch the next day, but a few stubborn containers have been leering at me whenever I open the door. As mentioned yesterday, I’m fairly addicted to our dumplings, despite the flaws, so we continued with the Asian theme.
- 1/2 lb. finely diced Steak (Memorial Day grilling) (*can replace with mushrooms/veggies/tofu/etc, anything on hand)
- 4 stalks chopped Green Onions (Starting to wilt)
- 1/2 c. chopped Sugar Snap Peas (Just about expired)
- 2 minced Garlic cloves (drying out a bit)
- 2 lg chopped Carrots (dry as well)
- 3 c. cooked Brown Rice
- 1 med. chopped Onion
- 2 tsp. Canola Oil
- 1 tsp. Sesame Oil (optional)
- 3 eggs
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp. Ginger (didn’t have fresh root on hand, so I just used the ground spice)
- 1/4 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
- 2 Tbsp. Sesame Seeds
- Salt & Pepper
I really got the hang of fried rice when I accepted what it was–leftovers. Traditionally, the dish is made with day-old rice and whatever bits of veggies and meats are left over from previous meals–ham from breakfast, the veg that didn’t quite get eaten at yesterday’s dinner, the one unused egg. The day-old, cold rice is the trick: fresh rice will stick together and won’t fry up crisply in the oil. Also, don’t overload on the veggies–too many will turn your rice soggy. Even though it means a bit more clean-up, I relay the cooking of the ingredients, removing each after cooking until mixing them all together in the final step. This also helps with overcrowding the pan (especially when you are wok-less, after your brother’s friend used a sharp spatula to mix in it and scraped off the nonstick surface). This dish is especially easy, as you don’t really have to measure any of the ingredients. I’ve made mine by eye and been quite happy every time.
So, last night, I allowed our largest frying pan to heat, added about a teaspoon of oil and added the last chopped quarter of a white onion and two cloves of mince garlic. I sauteed these for about two minutes, until fragrant and the onion had turned translucent, the edges just beginning to turn color. Into the pan, I added a handful of chopped baby carrots, the sliced white parts of 3 green onions (I reserved the green portion for later), and the remains of our sugar snap peas, chopped (a little more than a handful).
I continued to sauté this mix until the veggies were warmed through, but still crisp, and seasoned with the spices (salt, black pepper, ginger, cayenne). Then I cleared the whole mix into another bowl off the heat to wait. I had enough oil remaining in the pan to just throw in my chopped steak. It was maybe about 1/2 lb, all together, leftover from Memorial Day. We served it topped with blue cheese butter, alongside grilled asparagus and shallots, but the steak itself had only been previously seasoned with S&P and cooked to medium. I cooked the steak until browned and warm and added it to the Reserve Bowl with the veggies.
I added a bit more oil to the pan and scrambled 3 eggs (the favorite ingredient in our household) that had be beaten with a touch of soy sauce, sesame oil, and S&P. After those were cooked through, into the bowl they went.
Now comes the tricky part: the rice. As I mentioned, day-old cooked rice is best (jasmine variety), but we only had brown rice and I never, ever remember to cook rice beforehand. Usually this meal is a standby when I’m out of ideas. So, instead, I made the rice that afternoon, and spread it all across a jellyroll pan and put it into a 150 degrees Fahrenheit oven for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. This helped to dry the rice out as it would overnight. I was running out of time, so I popped the whole tray into the freezer for about 20 minutes, until it was nice and cold. If you have more time, just leave the rice in the fridge until dinner, or do it the authentic and easier way: use actual leftover rice!
Anyways, one way or another, I had my rice. I added sesame oil to the pan this time, as I love the flavor, but more canola or vegetable oil would work just fine. I made sure the entire pan had been coated with the oil, gave it a minute to heat up, and then added my rice, stirring quickly to get every grain coated with the oil. Then I let the rice sit for one-two minute intervals, to allow a bit more frying. I did several of these “intervals”, stirring so the rice on top had a chance to fry. Then I added soy sauce (I’ve found La Choy and Target’s store brands to be wheat-free) until it looked about the right color and stirred until all the rice was coated. Another one or two frying “intervals” let the soy sauce caramelize and gave me the chance to season again with the spices (ginger, cayenne, S&P).
My veggies, eggs, and meat were still warm (and I didn’t have anymore room in my pan) so I transfer the rice to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mixed it all up. If you have the room, transfer all ingredients back to the pan, and allow to reheat for a minute or two while you mix everything together. At this point, I stirred in the sliced green portion of the green onions, and a spoonful or two of sesame seeds.
This fried rice was served with a couple of dumplings (pre-made and frozen the day before) and a homemade dipping sauce (soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, cayenne, S&P–all mixed to taste). It was a delicious, easy meal: excluding my rice catch-up-manouver, the whole process took about 30 minutes from chopping to sitting down at the dinner table. The fried rice was lovely, not sticky, but not too dry, and the steak worked especially well with all of the other flavors.
Easy, delicious, and it clears out the leftovers!