What a busy month December has been! I think that a lot of us can say those exact words, accompanied by a deep sigh of relief, now that the month is closing to an end. I have let the busyness of the season allow for excuses to not write or exercise or take care of myself, as well as I know I should. A couple of nights ago, over a glass of wine, my boyfriend and I were discussing how we would celebrate Christmas this year. Both of us had recently assumed new roles within our profession, and with the promotions, came more responsibility and demands upon our time. The common thread within our conversation was the quest for peace, avoiding stress, and following our own timing for imposed holiday deadlines.
And what exactly do I mean by “following our own timing for holiday deadlines”? Well, as of today, I do not have any of my presents completely assembled and ready to give to my friends and family. In fact, I am taking a break from making candles for gifts, in order to write this post, while waiting for the soy wax to melt! I have already let my family members know that they will be receiving their handmade goodies in the new year. After all, the attributes of Christmas that I most cherish are not dependent upon their cost or their exact timing.
We did not get a tree or light up the exterior of the house this year. Because our living room and dining room renovations are inchoate, we decided to use our spare time to sand the floors, add several coats of polyurethane, and get ready for painting. Although it didn’t seem very “holiday-ish” here at our house, we took the time to create some new traditions that honored our need for peace and togetherness. Christmas Day brunch has become one of those traditions. This year, we popped some vintage Champagne and complemented it with a spinach and mushroom quiche, house-made sage breakfast sausage, and wholegrain pecan pancakes. A nap was required shortly after! We found that most quiche recipes are very forgiving and can be an assemblage of whatever is already in your crisper or what is seasonably available at the store.
Ingredients for Spinach and Mushroom Quiche:
- 2 bunches fresh spinach, julienned or coarsely chopped
- 5 crimini mushrooms, de-stemmed and cubed
- 1 small white onion, chopped
- 2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 jalapeno pepper, de-seeded and chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup half and half
- 5 ounces Gruyère, shredded
- 3 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano, shredded
- 2 ounces feta, crumbled
- Italian herbs to taste, fresh or dried (we used about 3 tablespoons of our garden herb blend)
- 6 eggs
- salt and pepper to taste
- 9″ pie crust, either homemade (recipe below) or refrigerated store-bought
Steps for preparing the Quiche:
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Get your chopping and slicing completed and set aside in prep bowls. Slice or “julienne” the spinach, removing the stems. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and slice into 1/2″ cubes. Coarsely chop the onion into 1/2″ pieces. Peel the garlic cloves and finely chop. De-seed and chop the jalapeno. If you are using fresh herbs, chop to your desired width.
- In a medium saute pan, over medium heat, saute the onions and mushrooms in the olive oil. After about five minutes, add the garlic and jalapeno pepper and saute for another three minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine the eggs and half and half. Whisk together until frothy. Season with salt, pepper, and herbs. I used a dried herb blend from my garden, but using an Italian seasoning will work quite nicely. More on prepping your own dried herb blend here.
- Line a 9″ pie pan with the uncooked crust and fill the crust with the vegetables and cheeses. I chose to layer mine, beginning with some spinach, some of the sauteed mixture, and then some cheese. Repeat this layering, finishing with cheese. You can also choose to simply mix these ingredients together.
- Pour the egg and half and half mixture over the pie and top with more herbs. The more herbaceous, the better!
- Bake for 45 minutes or until the egg mixture has fully set, and the top of the quiche has browned to your desired level of crispness. Be careful not to overcook.
Ingredients for Pie Crust:
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup butter, cold and cubed
- 2 egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons milk
Steps for preparing the Pie Crust:
- Combine flour and salt in a small mixing bowl.
- Empty into a food processor.
- Add the cubed butter and “pulse” the processor, until 1/4″ sized lumps of butter are visible.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and milk. Add to the flour mixture and pulse just until incorporated.
- Remove dough from the processor and form into a ball. Divide into two balls; this recipe yields two crusts. Bonus!
- Store in refrigerator until needed, or you may safely freeze the other ball of pie crust until your next project.
- When ready to roll out the dough, set out a large sheet of waxed paper and lightly flour the surface.
- Set the ball of dough on the floured waxed paper and layer on top with another piece of waxed paper.
- Roll out the dough to fit the 9″ pie plate, rolling out a little extra, so that you may crimp the edges of the crust.
- Carefully remove the top waxed paper layer.
- Using your hand or a flat spatula, slide under the waxed paper and lift
- Flip the dough-side down onto the pie plate.
- Carefully remove the waxed paper, which is now on top of the crust. Easily transferred!
This was our first adventure in quiche-making, and our recipe turned out nicely! It is not impossible to make the crust without having waxed paper on hand, but it does make the transfer process so much easier. As you can see in the photo above, my countless fingerprints on the unbaked crust betray my lack of waxed paper! It was messy, and the crust yielded a very rustic look, once baked.
Ah, yes, vegetable reincarnation! All of the leftover spinach stems, garlic clove exteriors, onion wrappings, cheese rinds (sans any wax), and mushroom stems are the perfect ingredients for giving your vegetables a second life as vegetable stock. If you do not have time or enough vegetable matter to make stock, when you are making quiche (or any recipe, for that matter), simply place the veggie scraps into a freezer bag, remove the air, seal, and label. When you have enough veggie scraps ready to make a stock, simply visit your freezer and pull out your bags. I will write about stock-making in an upcoming post. It is simple, cost efficient, delicious, and rewarding.
I still do not own a vacuum sealer device, but a straw works wonderfully to remove as much air as possible, in order to avoid freezer burn. I hope that you all have a wonderful holiday season and take the time to enjoy the simple things with both yourself and your loved ones: creating something from scratch, learning a new skill, breaking out the “good” plates and glasses, and slowing it all down.