Summer Salad: Nancy’s Niçoise

What to have for dinner? It was not quite so swelteringly hot as a few days ago and our pantry and freezer are full. We have a neighbor who has given us beautiful tomatoes and a dinner salad came to mind. I perused a variety of cookbooks, mostly French, to see what comprises a Salad Niçoise. Here is my version. With salads the amounts are not critical as it depends on how many folks are to be served.

For two servings I used the following:

  • one heart of romaine
  • one large tomato
  • 12 or so kalamata olives
  • 2 hard boiled eggs
  • 3 snack peppers, one red, two orange
  • 2 small potatoes, steamed
  • about 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • one can albacore tuna

Divide ingredients and place pleasingly on the plates. I mixed up a simple Dijon vinaigrette for the dressing finishing with a bit of freshly ground pepper and salt.

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Custard

A while back I made custard. I read recipes in my newsfeed and I am not sure where this one originated. The writer talked about adding salt to prevent chewy custard and insure creamy. I’m not sure what chewy custard is like. But what struck me most was that the ratio of cream to eggs is what I have always used to make quiche that Hubby raves about. Taking that into account I was inspired to make custard.

  • 2 cups half-and-half or cow’s milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground nutmeg

Basically it is milk and eggs and sugar. For quiche omit sugar and add vegetables and meat, and cheese if desired. No need for a crust actually. Preheat the oven with a cookie sheet pan to 350 degrees F.

Beat eggs slightly with the salt then whisk in the milk, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Pour into four custard cups/Pyrex/ramekins. Sprinkle with generous amounts of freshly grated nutmeg. Bake in the oven on the cookie sheet pan for 30-35 minutes. It may be slightly wobbly but that’s okay. No need for a bain marie. I was thinking I don’t bake custard pies in a bain marie so let’s see about custard. We ate the custard before I remembered to take a photo.

Crème Caramel

The above picture is the second batch of custard made. This recipe is very easy to halve. For this I made the quick caramel by melting 1/4 cup sugar in a small sauce pan and pouring a bit into each of the four cups before adding the custard mixture. I reduced the vanilla and omitted the nutmeg. A full recipe of the custard would have more depth. But this was a lovely bite of dessert.

quiche

So I was going to have some friends over for lunch. I picked the day of the week that was supposed to be sunny and reasonably warm so we could sit and visit and eat outdoors. Outdoors is more Covid-safe than indoors. As 2020 would have it though, the day was rainy, rainy, and rainy! So the lunch visit did not come together which is probably just as well. Indoor eating venues are not particularly the smartest choice these days. So it worked out that two friends weren’t feeling well (Covid negative, no worries!), another one was having a crisis in her work environment, so we cancelled.

I had already made a pumpkin cake to which I had added chocolate chips, walnuts, candied ginger, and dried cranberries. I was planning a crust-less quiche for lunch and decided to go ahead and make this.

My quiche “recipe” is two cups milk/cream and 4 eggs. Everything else is up to the cook. This was made with evaporated milk as I did not have “real” milk and am not certain “fake” non-dairy milk sets well in custards. I fried up some bacon for this and added the red pepper since only Hubby and I would be eating this.

  • 4 eggs
  • 12 ounce can of evaporated milk, topped up to two cups with plain unsweetened almond milk
  • about 6 ounces frozen spinach
  • one smallest red pepper, chopped
  • about four inches of bacon, diced; I hacked off a section of frozen bacon.
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Start oven to 350 degrees F.

Fry up the bacon. Drain the fat and put the bacon bits in the bottom of the 8-inch square baking dish. Add the onion, red pepper and spinach to the pan and sauté until the onion is softened. Add this mixture to the pan with the bacon and stir together. Meanwhile beat the four eggs with a fork and add the milk and stir until combined. Pour this over the veg and bacon mix in the dish. Oh, before that sprinkle the cheese over the veg. Bake for 35 minutes until nicely set. Let cool in pan about 10-15 minutes and then cut and serve. Yum! The leftovers made a nice breakfast the following day.

Simple Custard with a little Extra

Way back when I had children in my house I made the Baked Custard recipe from my 1978 Betty Crocker’s Cookbook. This became the go to custard to make, although years have gone by without me making it. I was wanting to make a light dessert because we had been overeating and feeling too full and lethargic. I also had many, many eggs in the house and had been asked by my son to have the ingredients necessary for Creme Brulee for when he visits soon. He’s bringing a friend along!

This recipe for custard is nice because it can be cut by 1/3 super simply. Why, might you ask? The recipe makes six custard cups. For some reason I only wanted to make four, most likely because I only had 4 Pyrex custard cups!

Here are the ingredients for 4 custards:

  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • dash of salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 2/3 cups milk, scalded

Don’t be scared away by scalded milk. I put the milk (you can use half-and half also) in a glass measuring cup/bowl and nuked it in the microwave for one minute. That’s scalded enough for me.

In medium bowl whisk together the first four ingredients. Stir or whisk in the milk gradually. Pour into the custard cups. Being in the autumn mood, I put a tablespoon of pumpkin flavored chips in the bottom of each cup before pouring. I am not sure what outcome I was expecting but I was pleasantly surprised. I forgot to sprinkle nutmeg on the tops but this worked out well too.

The custard is baked in a bain marie. I find that my four larger custard cups fit nicely in a 9 x  13 inch baking pan. Pour boiling water into the pan to within an inch of the top of the custard cups. Bake for 45 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

(Silly me, I had the weirdest notion that I could bake the dessert while supper was cooking, entirely forgetting that pizza was to be baked for supper! Supper was a little later than planned that evening.)

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The pumpkin-flavored chips floated to the top and made a nice little crust. They also made a bit of goo on the bottom. Very tasty and pleasing textures in every bite.

My summer kitchen…

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Hoping that spring had finally arrived we had a camping weekend. As usual, it rained the Friday we arrived at the campground. We have set up camp, even in tents, in worse. We set up a screen house three times inside out one time in a major rain storm in the dark at a new to us State Park a few years back! And then just ask my kids about “the flat top tent adventure!” On Saturday the sun came out and it was a perfect day to sit outside and read and walk around a bit. I took very few pictures and we just enjoyed the moments.

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Here is our end of camping weekend breakfast. It is cooked in a cast iron skillet. We fry up the leftover onion, the leftover potatoes, a few peppers, the remaining breakfast sausage, add a few eggs and a handful of cheese. Serve with a slice of bread toasted on the grill. Usually we cook our breakfast outside on the grill also. But not this time. The big bad wolf of the wind huffed and puffed and tried its best to blow down our house which is vinyl sided and on wheels but the wolf was not successful and we came home safely in one piece!

Down on the Farm

After a weekend away visiting my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter we were at home and supper time was coming. What to have?

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My daughter does not live on a farm, but the town she lives in is more rural than where I live. There was a wild turkey walking through her backyard Saturday morning. Son wondered out loud if anyone was wanting turkey for dinner? Son is home and he came along to visit his sister before heading off to The Last Frontier for his next job! Truth be told though a few years ago a wild turkey was walking up our street and at first glance I wondered what type of tall dog was that?

For the weekend we were in the presence of some farm markets. And there was a booth set up at the town park. And granddaughter LOVES the park! She swung on the swing with Grandpop while I checked out the booth. I came away with farm fresh eggs (the hen lays 5 eggs every two days so it takes three days to get a dozen) and a small jar of honey; they have bees, too.

I have not mastered the art of biscuit making.The Elusive Biscuit. I read all sorts of recipes and the best I can figure is that one needs to use self-rising flour, and to not twist the biscuit cutter when cutting the dough. Well, biscuits would be a nice way to taste the honey but I do not have self-rising flour. Son and Hubby think breakfast for dinner would be fine. We had just bought a bunch of uncooked, fresh (now frozen) breakfast sausage links and they will be easy enough to cook without hours of thawing.

I have sourdough starter. I think that this may be the answer to the biscuits if I can use unfed starter. I have old, yellowed, newspaper clippings that my Mom put together for me when I first (eons ago) wanted to bake with sourdough. If we had an idea, Mom was there! For example, I was going to make my wedding dress out of muslin with my bridesmaids naturally dying their dresses of muslin as well. Mom bought 10 (TEN!) yards of muslin for me AND I had not even met the groom yet! What a Mom!

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I gather the ingredients (I use butter even though I have lard on hand) and while putting it all together realize that I only have 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar. I ask Son who is on his computer to look up a substitute. He says to use two teaspoons vinegar. Okay. That I do.

Now while these are baking, the sausages get cooked on the cast iron griddle and the eggs are cooked by Hubby in the cast iron skillet.

Serve all this up on a plate and let us see what the taste testers say.

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The biscuits are a hit. This recipe made 8 biscuits; the sourdough gave them a nice flavor and the texture was good. All three of us noted the difference in the taste of the eggs from the regular supermarket ones, and the honey was wonderful. Definitely not the taste of the honey that comes out of a plastic bear!

 

Salad Supper

 

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Trying to be healthy I found a fascinating bag of produce at the Walmart. Yes, I did my little bit of grocery shopping at the Walmart. I am not always impressed with the produce section but looking carefully, there are some good choices. I call this “prepared” and not “processed” food.

This is cool. I also buy this brand’s broccoli slaw mix to add to salads. Hubby is not a fan of broccoli so I have to sneak it into the meals. This blend is probably for making smoothies but I prefer to eat my vegetables instead of drinking them. I figure this can go in a soup, chili, or just throw on top of a salad. There was a mix of butternut squash but I only bought this one this time. Hubby calls and says he is rather full so don’t fix a lot for dinner. Okay, well a big salad will do. I’ll use the opportunity to try out the making hard boiled eggs in the oven recipe.

I bake/boil 6 eggs in a muffin tin, whole, for 30 minutes in a 320 F degree oven. Plunge them in a bowl of cold water and cool. Then peel. I found the recipe on Alton Brown, and allrecipes, and one of you lovely bloggers. It  works. And what was wonderful was that Hubby came home in time to shell the eggs.

Here’s the vegetables:

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And now for the protein parts:

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I make a batch of whole wheat popovers:

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Hubby makes the dressing and we put it all together:

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Quinoa 1

sewing 007My sewing room has been feeling neglected so I spent time in there instead of browsing recipe books. But dinner is needed and I was thinking of something simple like bacon and eggs when I took a break and looked through my “recipes of interest” notebook. And there I found a recipe for a quinoa and green bean salad. In fact I found two variations. I say to myself “Self, there are green beans in need of fixing! And there is quinoa in the pantry.” Although salads can be nice for lunch and can work for suppers, I think hubby would like more substance. How about adding the bacon and eggs? And serving it warm?

sewing 008I put together what I want to use. Servings for two. (You can double the quinoa and the beans if you want to serve four.)

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • olive oil for the skillet
  • 1/4 pound bacon, diced
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 pound green beans
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley, plus sprinkle for garnish
  • 3-4 eggs, poached

sewing 009First make the dressing: whisk together the vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, and parsley.

Put a bit of olive oil in a skillet to saute the garlic and onion. I then added the diced up bacon. Oh boy does this make the kitchen smell good! When the bacon is cooked I added the quinoa and stirred it for one minute. I am adding the amount of water per the quinoa package directions, so this is 1 cup. This is then brought to a boil, the skillet is covered, the heat lowered and let simmer for 15 minutes or per the quinoa package directions.

Meanwhile blanch the green beans just for a few minutes until bright green. (Do these look brighter green?) They should be al dente.

After the quinoa has been cooked per package instructions and let sit for 5-10 minutes to finish absorbing the liquid, stir in the green beans and the dressing. Keep this warm.

Now to poach the eggs. I have not really studied how best to do poached eggs. I think I read somewhere to put a little vinegar in the water but I am not sure. I bring about a half inch of water to a boil in a skillet. Then I slowly pour each egg into the water. I cover the pan and wait for the whites to solidify. How did I do?

Scoop the quinoa mixture into serving bowls and carefully place an egg or two on top.

Quinoa is one of those super foods that is being touted as something we all should eat. It provides protein. fiber, and essential vitamins and other nutrients. I have some other recipes I plan to try out in hopes to put this in our diet. Stay tuned.

 

 

Bacon and Egg Spaghetti

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Sometimes it is difficult to know what to cook for dinner. I am trying to cook what is in the house to avoid a grocery shopping trip until another week goes by. I like having food in the house so when I go to the store I tend to buy lots! Everyone chooses how to spend their money; some spend it on dining out, entertainment, cars, travel. Me, I tend to spend it on food! And of course reading my fellow bloggers recipes and seeing the photographs of delicious food always inspires me to have enough variety of food in the house so I can cook up an experimental dish on a whim!

The inspiration for this dish is threefold. First and foremost is this blog that I just recently was reading: https://mioshotfood.wordpress.com/2015/12/10/original-italian-carbonara/. This sounded fabulous and I wanted to make this. While thinking about this I remember my brother-in-law talking about making a bacon and egg spaghetti and also in one of the many food magazines I have read over the years there was a page on a quick weeknight dinner featuring a bacon and egg spaghetti. I describe this to hubby and he says it sounds appealing so up from the sofa we get and go into the kitchen.

Here’s what I used:

  • 1/2 pound spaghetti noodles
  • a little bit of olive oil for the skillet
  • 1/4 pound bacon cut into small dice (I use uncured bacon that I keep frozen and just chop from the end what is needed)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • freshly ground pepper
  • dried parsley for garnish

Boil the water for the spaghetti. This is what takes the longest time for this dish. While waiting for the water to boil and/or the spaghetti to cook, dice up the bacon, onion, and garlic. Hubby kindly took care of the bacon while I did the other. Saute these together in the skillet with a little bit of oil. Add the oregano and basil when the bacon is starting to brown and the onion is caramelizing. I read somewhere that fat distributes the flavors so I am thinking this is the time to add the seasonings. This concoction will have your kitchen smelling wonderful!

In a bowl beat the three eggs with a fork and add the Romano cheese. Drain the spaghetti and add it to the skillet with the bacon and onion. Pour on the egg mixture. Cook this over medium heat stirring with tongs to coat the spaghetti. It will start to look like scrambled egg on the spaghetti. We added the cottage cheese here for extra creaminess. Season with pepper. Put in serving bowls and sprinkle with the dried parsley and more pepper to taste.

It served the two of us. This would be nice served with a green salad and crusty bread neither of which I had in the house at the time. I figure the onion is our vegetable, the eggs and bacon are our protein, the cheese is the dairy, and the pasta is the grain. That covers the major food groups and makes this a square meal!