Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ham and Mixed Greens Quiche with Cheddar and Parmesan

Quiche is a great way to use an excess of eggs, but we're picky quiche eaters.  We like quiche that is more filling than egg, so that the eggs hold everything together nicely, but the flavors of the other ingredients are much more prevalent in each bite.  We enjoy Breakfast Pie, but we also like it when there are other veggies involved.  

Nothing says spring to me like quiche.  If you have chickens of your own, undoubtedly you are getting more eggs each day this time of year.  The market is also loaded with tender greens of all varieties, and with Easter next weekend, you may find yourself with some leftover ham.  If so, make this pie.  

It is full-flavored with greens sauteed in garlic and onion and bits of chopped ham throughout.  It's a great way to use leftovers.  You can use any greens you have on hand.  The ones I have been getting at the farmer's market are mixed baby greens with Swiss chard, kale, arugula, and beet greens, but any variety or mix of varieties will do nicely. Alternately, if you have access to asparagus right now, it would be lovely in this pie in place of the greens.  Saute or roast it until crisp tender, and chop it up before adding it to the filling.  

Ham and Greens Quiche with Cheddar and Parmesan- makes 1 (9 in) pie 

Use any variety of greens you like for this quiche.  I use a blend of Swiss Chard, kale, arugula, and beet greens, but a single variety will work well.  If using baby greens, leave whole.  If the leaves are more mature, chop them into bite size pieces before cooking. 

2 Tbsp neutral flavored oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 packed cups of chopped greens- see note above 
1 cup baked ham, chopped 
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded and divided

Pie Crust:
4 cups of all-purpose flour 
1 Tbsp sugar 
2 tsp salt 
1 1/2 cups lard, chilled 
1 Tbsp vinegar 
1 egg 
1/2 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

For the crust:  Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse several times to mix.  Place the lard in the food processor and pulse again until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Beat the vinegar, egg, and water together in a small bowl and slowly add the mixture to the food processor until the mixture comes together.  Divide the dough into 5 equal portioned disks (or 4 if making 10 inch pies).  Reserve one disk for the pie and wrap and freeze the remaining disks.  

Roll the disk for the pie into a 10 inch circle on a lightly floured surface.  Place the crust in a pie pan and crimp the edges.  Chill the crust while making the filling.  

For the filling:  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook 5 minutes until tender and translucent.  Add the garlic and cook 1 minute.  Add the greens to skillet, and stir to coat with the oil mixture.  Cook the greens, stirring occasionally, over medium heat 3-4 minutes until wilted down and becoming tender.  If using more mature greens, increase the time as needed.  Add the ham and cook 1 minute to warm through.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Place skillet ingredients in a bowl.  Add cheddar, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and eggs and stir to combine thoroughly.  Pour the filling into the prepared crust.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan over the top of the filling.  Bake quiche at 375 degrees for 25-35 minutes until the center is just set.  Remove from the oven and cool slightly before serving or cool completely and serve at room temperature.     

Printable Version


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Black Bean Soup and Cornbread

It's been very busy around here lately.  I rarely have a free minute which is why I have not been blogging as much.  The beginning of spring has brought lots of activities in the forms of yard work, house hunting (we are looking to move somewhere with a little more land), raising chicks (we currently have eight in the brooder), and trying to keep up with the usual activities of regular work.  With all of this, there haven't been many new meals coming from the kitchen.  We've just been eating the things we know and love.  

The weather here has also been a little crazy.  Warm and spring-like one day and freezing the next, you never know what to make for dinner.  On one of the cold days a week or so back, I was rummaging through the freezer to see what we had on hand and came across a pack of pork backbones I had bought a while back.  I had also picked up some black beans from the farmers market and had some fabulous coarse cornmeal from Anson Mills.  The resulting meal was satisfying and delicious and provided several dinners for us that week.  

This soup has a deep, underlying pork flavor from the meat and bones, nice spiciness, and a great hybrid texture (part broth, part creaminess from the beans).  It is even better a day or two after it is made.  Served with a sprinkling of sharp cheddar and cilantro and a dollop of sour cream, it makes a hearty meal. Dip or crumble the cornbread into the soup to soak up the yummy broth, and by all means, have a small slice for dessert drizzled with local honey or sorghum syrup.  

Black Bean Soup with Pork Backbones- serves 6

If you want a creamier soup, crush some of the beans with a potato masher once they are tender.  

1 pound pork backbone (or neckbones)
2 tsp olive oil
1 carrot, diced
1 celery rib, diced
1 onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound black beans, soaked overnight or quick soaked (bring to a boil for 2 minutes, cover and let stand 1 hour, drain and proceed with recipe)
2 pints chicken stock
1 pint crushed tomatoes
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ancho chile powder
½ tsp ground coriander
1 bay leaf
1-1 ½ tsp kosher salt to taste
½ tsp ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Roast backbones for 1 hour while beans soak. After 1 hour, remove backbones to a plate.

In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium heat.  Add the carrot, celery, and onion, and sauté until tender and onion is translucent.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add cumin, coriander, bay leaf, and chile powder and cook 1 minute.  Add stock to spice vegetable mixture, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Place the backbones in the pot along with the drained beans. Add more water if needed to cover beans completely.  Bring beans to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook 1 to 1 ½ hours until beans are creamy in center but still intact.

Remove backbones from the pot and allow to cool enough to handle.  While backbones are cooling, add tomatoes to beans along with salt and pepper to taste, and cook gently to blend flavors.  Once the meat is cool enough to handle, separate the meat from the fat and bones (use fat and bones to make stock later).  Add the shredded meat back to the beans.  Taste, adjust seasoning, and serve with cilantro on top. 

Black Skillet Cornbread- makes 1 9-inch skillet of cornbread

This recipe is slightly adapted from Anson Mills and should be made with high quality coarse cornmeal.  This cornbread has pure corn flavor since there is no flour or sugar in the recipe.  

12 oz (2½ cups) coarse cornmeal (I used Anson Mills Antebellum Coarse Yellow Cornmeal)
1½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp kosher salt
2 oz (4 Tbsp) unsalted butter
1 large egg, beaten
1½ cups milk (do not use skim)
2 tsp cold butter, for the skillet

Adjust the oven racks to the lower-middle and upper-middle positions and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Heat an empty well-seasoned 8- to 9-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for 10 minutes. 

While the skillet heats, turn the cornmeal, baking powder, and salt into a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan or in the microwave. Add the butter and milk to the cornmeal mixture and whisk to combine.  Add the egg and whisk again. The batter will be fairly thin. 

Add the remaining cold butter to the hot skillet and tilt to distribute. Scrape the batter into the skillet with a rubber spatula—it should sizzle. Immediately place the skillet on the lower oven rack and bake for 15 minutes. Then, transfer the skillet to the upper rack and continue baking until the cornbread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 5 to 10 minutes longer. Invert the cornbread onto a cutting board so that the crackling side is facing up or leave the bread in the skillet for serving. Cut into wedges and serve with butter, honey, apple butter, or sorghum.

Printable Version of Black Bean Soup

Printable Version of Black Skillet Cornbread


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Anytime Breakfast Pie

I've been taking a series of pork classes from the owners of a local farm.  The classes have been awesome, not only because of the content being taught (think cured meats, sausage making, and butchering) but also because of the food served.  Everything is focused on the most local and freshest ingredients possible, and classes have started with cheese trays, charcuterie tastings, and homemade hummus and pickles.  They were all delicious, but the tastiest of all was a breakfast pie filled with fresh breakfast sausage, cubes of potato, onion, and cheese held together with eggs and baked in a flaky and flavorful pie crust made with home-rendered lard.  You can purchase this pie from the business/farm offering the class, but I decided I would try to recreate it at home.  We have made this several times, and it is great.  

The breakfast pie I ate at the class was actually made with homemade pimiento cheese mixed into the filling, but since that's not something I normally have on hand, and I want this pie to be something I can put together using what I have (and without having to go through too much fuss), I use either sharp cheddar or a mixture of cheddar and habanero cheddarCheddar and pepper jack would work as would just about any other combination of semi-hard cheeses you have on hand.

This pie is delicious for breakfast, but it also makes for a fabulous supper.  We like to serve it with a green salad of whatever is in season.  Right now, that means a salad of mixed baby greens including kale, beet greens, and arugula tossed in an apple cider/honey vinaigrette.  It also reheats really well making it perfect for leftovers.  Yum!

Breakfast Pie- makes one 9-inch pie

The recipe for the pie crust comes from Grateful Growers Farm. It makes 5 pie crusts, but they freeze beautifully. The crust is exceptionally flaky because of the lard.   

1 russet potato, peeled and diced (other varieties of potato will work also)
1 onion, diced
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 pound bulk breakfast sausage
1 cup cheddar cheese (or a mixture of cheddar and pepper jack)
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 pie crust (recipe follows)

Pie Crust:
4 cups of all-purpose flour 
1 TBSP sugar 
2 tsp salt 
1 1/2 cups lard, chilled 
1 TBSP vinegar 
1 egg 
1/2 cup cold water

For the crust:  Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse several times to mix.  Place the lard in the food processor and pulse again until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Beat the vinegar, egg, and water together in a small bowl and slowly add the mixture to the food processor until the mixture comes together.  Divide the dough into 5 equal portioned disks (or 4 if making 10 inch pies).  Reserve one disk for the pie and wrap and freeze the remaining disks.  

Roll the disk for the pie into a 10 inch circle on a lightly floured surface.  Place the crust in a pie pan and crimp the edges.  Chill the crust while making the filling.  

For the filling:  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a skillet, heat oil on medium heat.  Add potato and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until potato is almost tender, 10-15 minutes.  Move potato and onion mixture to the edges of the skillet.  Add sausage in the middle and cook, crumbling, until browned.  Add the garlic cloves and cook 1 minute more.  Place the cooked sausage and potato mixture in a bowl.  Add the cheese, beaten eggs, salt, and pepper, and mix well.  Pour the filling into the chilled crust.  Bake 20-30 minutes until filling is just set and crust is brown (it should jiggle a little in the center). Remove from the oven and allow to cool 10-15 minutes before slicing.    

Printable Version



Saturday, February 15, 2014

Quick and Easy Last Minute Pizza

Homemade pizza is usually something you have to think about in advance.  You need to make the dough and have the toppings cooked and available.  But homemade pizza doesn't have to take a lot of prep.  By putting foods up all through the summer and having Five Minute Bread dough on hand in the fridge, homemade pizza is a snap to make.  

I had a batch of dough in my container in the refrigerator, and I needed to use the rest of it. I've also been trying to use as much out of the freezer as possible, in part because there's not much at the market right now.  As I dug through the freezer I pulled out a jar of pesto, some roasted tomatoes, a little frozen sausage, and a container of Roasted Garlic and Herb pasta sauce.  I sliced up a ball of fresh mozzarella and started throwing everything together.  

I made two small pizza crusts by rolling the Five Minute dough into a round and then stretching it until it was fairly thin.  On one pizza, I put a couple of spoonfuls of pesto and spread it around to make a thin layer.  Some chopped artichoke hearts and roasted tomatoes were sprinkled over the pesto, and it was topped with sliced mozzarella and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The other pizza was topped with some Roasted Garlic and Herb pasta sauce that I boiled down until it was thick (almost like a paste) with a sprinkle of sugar.  I then topped it with browned crumbles of locally made sausage and slices of mozzarella.  

Both pizzas were baked on a preheated pizza stone in a 450 degree oven until they were bubbly, brown, and the crusts were crisp.  

The combinations for pizzas are endless, and having this dough on hand makes homemade pizza possible in less than 30 minutes making it a winner for weeknights when time is short.  

The recipes below are approximations.  Use your best judgement when it comes to how much sauce, toppings, etc. to put on our pizza, and when determining if your pizza is finished baking. I use ingredients I have preserved over summer (except the artichokes), so unless you have these same ingredients on hand, you will need to find the equivalent in your market or grocery.  Sun dried tomatoes can stand in for the roasted tomatoes, store-bought pesto will work fine, and your favorite pasta or pizza sauce will work.   

Artichoke and Roasted Tomato Pizza- makes one 9-inch pizza

1 ball of Five Minute Bread dough about the size of your fist
Additional flour for rolling and stretching dough
2 Tbsp pesto plus more as needed 
1/2 can artichoke hearts, drained well and chopped
6 roasted tomato halves, drained and chopped
4 thin slices fresh mozzarella, about 4 oz. 
1-2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Cornmeal for dusting

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place a pizza stone inside the oven to heat while you make the pizza.  Roll the dough into a ball and then into a circle using a floured rolling pin.  Using your hands, stretch the dough into a 9 inch circle by gently pulling and stretching it from the center outward.  Place the dough on a pizza peel that has been dusted with cornmeal.  Spread pesto on dough almost to the edge.  Layer the artichokes and tomatoes over the pesto.  Top with the cheeses. Slide the pizza off the peel and onto the hot stone.  Bake until crust is crisp and pizza is bubbly, approximately 15 minutes.  

Sausage and Mozzarella Pizza- makes one 9-inch pizza

1 ball of Five Minute Bread dough about the size of your fist
Additional flour for rolling and stretching dough
2 Tbsp Roasted Garlic and Herb Pasta sauce that has been boiled down until thick with a sprinkling of sugar, or your favorite pasta or pizza sauce
2-3 Tbsp cooked, crumbled sausage, about 2 oz. 
4 thin slices fresh mozzarella, about 4 oz. 
Cornmeal for dusting

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place a pizza stone inside the oven to heat while you make the pizza.  Roll the dough into a ball and then into a circle using a floured rolling pin.  Using your hands, stretch the dough into a 9 inch circle by gently pulling and stretching it from the center outward.  Place the dough on a pizza peel that has been dusted with cornmeal.  Spread pasta sauce on dough almost to the edge.  Sprinkle the cooked sausage over the sauce.  Top with the slices of cheese.  Slide the pizza off the peel and onto the hot stone.  Bake until crust is crisp and pizza is bubbly, approximately 15 minutes.  

Printable Version of Artichoke and Roasted Tomato Pizza
Printable Version of Sausage and Mozzarella Pizza

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Productive Weekend of Real Food

Cold weather means being inside, and being inside can quickly lead to boredom if one doesn't find productive projects to undertake.  On typical weekends, my routine is pretty consistent.  I get up on Saturday morning, go to the farmer's market to get the week's produce and meat supply, and then I go home to clean and do things around the house.  Sundays mean cleaning the chicken coop, messing around in the yard if needed and weather permitting, and doing anything leisurely we decide to do together.  I used to want to be on the go all weekend and got very bored being at home, but the older I get the more I love being home with a list of projects to complete before the work week takes back over and robs me of all freedom and time. 

Last weekend was a very productive weekend for me, and the snow brought in last night has proven to be helpful as well.  Since blogging last, here are some of the projects I have completed.  Of course, since I have been working on these things, there have been no new things to post on, so I will link each project to previous posts and pictures about it.  I was a little slack in taking pictures this time around.   

Friday night I thawed a quart of frozen strawberries from last spring to make a batch of fruit leather.  Strawberry fruit leather is one of our favorites, and during the winter when there are no fresh local fruits available it is one of the things we eat.  When my workplace started a weight loss program pushing increased fruit consumption, I did actually start buying bananas and grapes from the grocery since not many local fruits were available, but I just couldn't continue.  Not only does it go against my goal of eating as locally as possible, I also don't visit the grocery often enough to consistently have these things on hand.  Our grocery visits are usually about three weeks apart since most of the things we purchase from the store are staples like flour, sugar, grains, and beans (things that can be bought in bulk and keep well).  It was one of those personal decisions that I had to make for myself.  I would rather eat less fruit and know where that fruit came from rather than purchase something from South America or Mexico for the sake of so-called "health".  So, dried and frozen fruit are important to us in winter.  I don't mean to sound preachy here.  Each person must do what seems right for their particular situation and set of circumstances.  

Strawberry fruit leather being wrapped in wax paper and tied with baker's twine

Even though we have tried to eat local meals at home in most cases for several years now, one thing I have just recently started buying locally in its entirety and on a regular basis is meat.  I had always purchased some meat at the farmer's market, but for the past several months, we have not purchased any meat at the grocery store.  All of our meat is sourced locally at this point, and it feels great to know that what we are eating was raised humanely and responsibly.  If you are wondering what made me change, it was a combination of things including several books I have been reading (Food Matters by Mark Bittman and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver) along with my connections to people at the farmer's market and the increased availability of local, pastured meats in my community.  Also, even though I have obviously known how animals in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) were raised, I (like so many others out there) tended to push it to the back of my mind when planning meals to save money.  I have now made the conscious decision to bring that knowledge to the forefront of my mind each time I eat which can really make things seem less appetizing.  I'm not saying it's always possible to eat local meat.  Sometimes you are in situations where that is not feasible, but making the effort to do it as much as possible can make a big difference in your personal health and attitude about food.  Also, even though it is more expensive, that just leads us to eat less meat which is also healthful in itself.  Again, I'm not intending to sound preachy, but I think it's important that we know where our food comes from and how it was produced, and I think it's important to keep as many of our food dollars in the local economy as possible rather than spending them to support big industry.  

Our meat/cheese comes from a combination of the following farms/sources: 

Beef/Chicken from Baucom's Best 
Beef from Martins' Charolais Farm
Pork from Grateful Growers
Cheese from Ashe County 
Cheese from Goat Lady Dairy

With that being said, I am trying my hand at producing some of my own cured meats.  I currently have a pork loin curing in the refrigerator which will be similar to Canadian bacon.  When it is finished, I will take pictures and share the results.  

I also used the last of my frozen lard (rendered months ago) to make two batches of pie crusts using this recipe.  The all lard crust was exceptionally flaky, but we did miss some of the buttery flavor of my regular crust.  From now on I will use a combination of lard and butter which I have done in the past and really is the best of both worlds.  Either works well and all freeze beautifully.  One crust went into making a quiche with local breakfast sausage, local cheddar cheese, potatoes from storage, and backyard eggs.  You can't get much better than that.  

Pie crusts ready for the freezer (these are all-butter crusts)

Since I used the rest of the previously rendered lard, I purchased and rendered another 2 pounds in the slow cooker resulting in 2 pint jars for the freezer. 

We were also down to one jar of pickled beets from the year before last, so when I saw beets at the market on Saturday, I purchased enough for a small batch to tide us over until we can grow some.  I cut these into wedges rather than slices, but I used my usual pickled beet recipe.  We got two jars of red pickled beets and two jars of golden pickled beets (which we are excited to try).  

Last but not least, I organized the chest freezer and took an inventory of what remained so I can make sure to use what we have when planning menus for the upcoming weeks.  We still have several bags of lima beans, field peas, green beans (although our stock is low), corn on the cob, corn kernels (only a few bags left), pesto, and roasted tomatoes.  We also have four bags of frozen peaches and one quart of strawberries which will most likely go to make more fruit leather in the very near future. 

All in all, productivity can be very rewarding and in this case will go into making it easier to produce wholesome weeknight meals with real food. 



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Parmesan Popovers

If you have chickens or purchase from farmer's markets, you know how wonderful fresh eggs from well-raised hens taste.  For most people with hens the number of eggs increases drastically in spring and summer and drops significantly in the cooler months when the days are shorter.  We are no exception to this truth of nature.  However, our girls are very prolific layers, laying almost every day in the warm months, and every other day through the winter.  They really haven't slowed down much at all.  This is fantastic as I never have to worry about being without fresh eggs, but sometimes I find myself with so many eggs, I don't know what to do.  

Recently, I have been working on finding ways to use eggs, preferably recipes that use more than a couple at once.  I use them for all of the more obvious recipes such as those for cakes and pies and egg dishes, but I want something a little different.  Something that showcases the eggs without being overtly eggy.  Enter popovers.  

These popovers are puffy, hollow on the inside, and brown and crusty on the outside.  They have been made ever-so-slightly cheesy with the addition of a little grated Parmesan, but this can easily be omitted if you want rolls to eat with jam or jelly.  They are delicious on their own, can be eaten like any other bread for breakfast or with a meal, and would be delicious used to sop up gravy or sauce.  More lovely than that, they are super easy and quick to make and use ingredients you probably already have lying around (and in the case of eggs, really want to use).  

Parmesan Popovers-  makes 8-10 popovers 

This recipe is adapted from The Fresh Egg Cookbook by Jennifer Trainer Thompson.   A couple of pointers for popovers...don't overfill the popover tin (I almost used too much batter in each one of these), make sure you beat your batter for a sufficient amount of time, and don't open the oven door during baking no matter how tempting it may be.  

3 Tbsp butter, cold
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup Parmesan (you can use slightly more for a cheesier popover)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray or butter a popover pan.  Add 1/2 tablespoon chilled butter to each popover cup.  Place popover tin the in oven while making batter.  

Using a stand or handheld mixer, beat the eggs until foamy.  Beat in the milk and melted butter.  Reduce speed to low, and mix in the flour, salt, and cheese.  Mix 3-4 minutes until smooth and air is incorporated into the batter.  

Fill each popover cup three-fourths full.  Bake 30-40 minutes until popovers are puffed and golden brown all over.  Serve immediately. 

Printable Version 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Keeping Track of Eggs

Ever since the girls started laying eggs back in the summer, we have been recording the number we collect each day.  Keeping track of the eggs helps us determine how many we are getting throughout the year as well as how the girls' production changes with the seasons.  One great thing about our chickens is that even though they are all Buff Orpingtons their eggs are decidedly different.  

One chicken lays eggs that are light in color, almost pink, and pointy at the tip, another lays eggs that are smaller than the others and more rounded, and the third lays eggs which are browner in color.  Marking the eggs on some type of chart really helps me determine how long it has been since each has laid.  This is easy for us since we only have three chickens.  If you have more, it may be more difficult to keep track of an individual chicken's laying habits.    

Up to this point, I have been marking the egg count on a standard calendar hung on the side of the fridge, changing the page each time a new month begins.  However, I have yet to purchase a calendar for 2014, and to be honest, it takes up a lot of space when all it is really used for is counting eggs.  So, when I saw this chart on I thought it was a great idea.  I decided to create my own with less text to make a cleaner looking chart for my fridge, and the chart below is what I came up with.  I think it will be simpler to use than the calendar since I will be able to see the entire year at a glance.  I also love that it has a line for totals each month.  With my old calendar, I had to count the tally marks each day which took too much time if I wanted to know how many eggs the girls had laid in all.  

I also look forward to being able to quickly compare the girls' production from month to month simply by looking at the chart.