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Meatless Mondays: Fancy Grilled Cheese with balsamic caramelized onions, rosemary roasted cauliflower and roasted red peppers

Just short of a year since my last post, it’s about dang time I post something on here. ūüôā

We’ve had a few peeks at Spring around here in Seattle lately, but we all know that it’s not even near time to put away the comfort food recipes. This one is fortunately not THAT bad… after all, it’s all veggies!

When we are short-ish on time or too lazy to come up with a full meal, we like to make fancy grilled cheese sandwiches in our house. Basically that just means sauteing or roasting some veggies or using up some leftover meat from the fridge and putting it into a grilled cheese sandwich. Easy-cheesy!

While this photo really does NOTHING for the sandwich, it really is a fantastic flavor combination – you really gotta try this! ūüôā

We like to get all fancy like with our grilled cheese round here y'all!

We like to get all fancy like with our grilled cheese round here y’all!

Ingredients

Bread – crusty/rustic type is preferred (I used day old Ciabatta bread with fantastic results)
Butter, softened
2 small onions or 1 large one, diced
2 Tb. Balsamic vinegar
1 red bell pepper
Half head of cauliflower, cut into very small florets
Dried rosemary
Celery salt or kosher salt
Garlic powder (not garlic salt)
Sliced mozzarella cheese (or any other melty white cheese)
Feta cheese, crumbled
Olive Oil
Salt and pepper

Hardware
Roasting pan/cookie sheet
Aluminum foil
Spatula
Frying pan
Saute pan
Paper bag

Steps

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil.
  2. Melt a pat (Tb. or so) of butter into a saute pan over Medium Low heat. Throw the diced onions into the melted butter and stir to coat. Cook slowly until caramelized. Once caramelized, pour the balsamic vinegar in and stir to coat. The vinegar will reduce and further caramelize the onions.
  3. Put the small cauliflower florets on one side of the foil lined pan. Drizzle with olive oil, celery salt, garlic powder (or fresh garlic, not garlic salt) dried rosemary and ground pepper.
  4. Rub olive oil all over the red bell pepper and place on the other side of the foil lined fan place. Place pan in oven and check every few minutes. Once the pepper starts to get charred flip it over so the other sides get charred as well.  Flip the cauliflower so it gets a good roast on all sides.
  5. Once the cauliflower and peppers are done pull the pan out of the oven. Place the pepper into a paper bag and fold it shut. Let the pepper sit in the bag for about 5 minutes to sweat – this will loosen the charred skin so you can easily remove it. After you have removed the skin, cut the pepper into thirds.
  6. Slice your bread and cheese (if necessary). Butter the bread and sprinkle with garlic powder. Heat up a frying pan on low heat.
  7. Once your pan is heated place your bread with the buttered side down. Spread on the caramelized onions and then layer with mozzarella cheese, roasted cauliflower, feta, roasted bell pepper, more mozzarella cheese and then top with the other piece of bread with the buttered side facing up.
  8. Press the sandwich down with a spatula and cook on a low temp for a few minutes until the bread is golden brown, then carefully flip the sandwich over and continue cooking until the cheese is ooey-gooey.
  9. ENJOY! ūüôā

Servings: 3 sandwiches

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Irish Soda Bread with a twist! Cranberry Orange Hazelnut Soda Bread

Those aren't burnt spots, their sweet dried cranberries. Yumm!

This week I have been terrible with getting my posts up for the dishes I have created. No real excuses, just life. But I will have a really yummy winter meal coming in one of my next posts – creamy polenta with chicken in a mushroom red wine sauce ūüôā

But first things, first. Today is St. Paddy’s day, and in true St. Patrick’s day style, I have a corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and carrots cooking away in my crock pot right now. My hubby is Irish, so today is sort of a big deal to him. Bigger than any other holiday. He has mandated (rather lovingly) that we listen to the Celtic station on Pandora ALL day. So, as I am typing away my foot is tapping to the tune of an Irish jig. [Oh yeah!]

Since I didn’t really do anything special with the corned beef and cabbage, I felt the need to make the homemade Irish soda bread with a twist. But really, the truth is… I just don’t like following recipes. Perhaps it is a need to make my life more difficult than it needs to be, or maybe it is just that cooking and baking is a creative outlet for me. ūüėČ Yep, that’s it.

I’m not as confident in my baking skills as I am in my cooking, probably because baking is more of a science. As such, I typically start a baking adventure by finding an inspiration recipe to go off of and then make it my own if possible. This recipe is inspired by the recipe for Irish Soda Bread by¬†Barefoot Contessa, I just love her.

I can’t resist orange and cranberry flavors balanced with a little¬†nuttiness. Below is my recipe for Cranberry Orange Hazelnut Irish Soda Bread.

Ingredients

Inspired by Barefoot Contessa’s recipe for Irish Soda Bread

  • 4 cups¬†all-purpose flour, plus extra for¬†dried cranberries
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold¬†unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk, shaken (or buttermilk substitute)
  • 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon grated¬†orange zest
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk, warmed
  • sprinkle of cornmeal for baking dish (or you can use parchment paper)
  • Aluminum foil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Sprinkle a pie pan with cornmeal .

Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.

With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Combine the dried cranberries with 2 teaspoons of flour and mix into the dough. Add the chopped hazelnuts and mix. The dough will be very sticky.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared pie pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife.

Combine the melted butter and warmed buttermilk. Brush the top of the loaf with the melted butter mixture. Continue to brush the mixture on the dough throughout baking process (every 15 minutes or so). Bake for 45 to 55 minutes; keep an eye on the loaf and after it becomes golden brown cover with aluminum foil for rest of baking time. Loaf is done when a toothpick is inserted and comes out clean.

Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Leave me a comment and let me know how you life it!
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Amazing Brunch Recipe! Basil Spinach Quiche Lorraine

Basil Spinach Quiche Lorraine

Mmmm... Basil Spinach Quiche Lorraine full of egg-y custard deliciousness and a flaky buttery pastry crust.

I’ve been meaning to get this post written all week, however, I’ve been rather busy. Oh wells, life goes on.

The other night we were craving some brownies. I typically insist on making them homemade, because I’m a purist like that (and they are JUST as easy to make with less artificial ingredients), but I happened to have a gluten free Bob’s Red Mill brownie mix in my cupboard that could afford to be used. To my horror we were out of eggs though, so I made the trek down to the store to get some more. I was in luck because they had free range vegetarian fed eggs on sale – two cartons for $5. I don’t see that pricing very often around here for non-conventionally raised eggs, so I obliged and picked up two cartons even though there are only two of us who hardly eat our weight through eggs in a typically week. I figured somehow I was going to find a way to use up these eggs even if it required a week of nothing but deviled eggs. Heh. I’m not that evil.

Enter good idea #1: Quiche. I have to say that I haven’t had many affectionate feelings towards quiche, although I have tried my darn hardest. I like the little mini ones that my mom used to make when she owned a tea shop years ago, but the moment you start talking the 9″ pie sized quiches I get a different idea in my head. It isn’t that the idea of buttery pastry and egg-y filling with delicious¬†mix ins¬†are the issue – it is more the texture of said egg-y filling that I haven’t been a fan of. The large ones always seemed to have a “watery” texture, and I wasn’t sure if that was a consequence of not baking properly, not baking long enough, or using fillings that give off too much juice during baking which¬†ensued an undesirable “watery” texture.

That said, my idea of quiche was transformed a few years ago when I was a starved college student held up at Tea Zone in Portland (If you live in the Portland, OR area you MUST check it out – it’s an awesome tea shop/lounge in the Pearl¬†District). I don’t know if my long hours of studying translated into some type of self-induced hallucinations when I must have quite mistakenly ordered a quiche (or perhaps I thought I had ordered a crumpet, or scone). Either way, no harm nor foul was done to me through subsequent bites (ne scarf-age) of decadent buttery pastry and light egg-y goodness. Quite the opposite actually. My delightful experience with Quiche Lorraine from Tea Zone¬†entirely changed my outlook on quiche.

BEWARE: This recipe or a visit to Tea Zone may just change your mind about quiche as well. So, If you are quite happy hating on quiche, then you better be on your way. Shoo!

My husband wasn’t too thrilled at first mention that I wanted to make quiche for dinner. That’s ok, I pushed ahead. Besides, I knew I could change his mind, and I had eggs to use up¬†damn-it! After it came out of the oven and we dug into it, he was whistling a different tune and went back for seconds, or thirds… He just wasn’t thrilled to take it for lunch the next day so all his macho buddies could tease him about eating quiche (apparently it’s a girly meal). So moral of the story… it was pretty much amazing for dinner, as well as leftovers for lunch the next day, and brunch today! The whole time I was eating it – I elicited images of Julia Child, weird. I will definitely be making this meal again and probably serving it at my next brunch gathering with friends.

For my pastry dough purists out there.. I reluctantly have to tell you that I didn’t make my own pastry dough for this. I know, I know… the shock! the horror! I had a leftover pie shell in the freezer from my holiday pumpkin pies, so I used that instead. Plus, I don’t own a pretty quiche pan. But, that one shortcut alone made this an easy meal to throw together for a weeknight meal. I had bacon left from the gluten free/dairy free Potato Leek Soup I made a few days ago, as well as spinach and basil that I wanted to use up in this recipe. So now you see why my Quiche Lorraine was fortified with additional yummy goodness.

And now you have it.. the recipe. Make it, eat it, weep, and change a few people’s minds about quiche.

Servings: 8, but it’s pretty tasty..you might want more.

Tools: Hand mixer or stand mixer, baking sheet, sheet of aluminum foil to tent quiche while baking

Ingredients

Frozen 9″ pre-made pie shell, take out of freezer about¬†20 minutes¬†prior to cooking
1/2 lb. bacon – cooked, drained and crumbled. Reserve about a tsp. of bacon grease.
1 small onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic minced
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
6 whole eggs
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup swiss or gruy√®re¬†cheese (I used a mix of both – it was a bag from Trader Joe’s)
handful of fresh basil, chiffonade cut
pinch kosher salt
ground black pepper

Garnish: Fresh chiffonade basil or sliced green onion

Steps

1. Take pie shell out of freezer. Prep ingredients above. Preheat oven to 375¬į and make sure oven rack is on center position.

2. Cook bacon in skillet until crisp. Take out of pan and place on paper towels. Drain bacon fat, but reserve about a teaspoon in pan (you will cook additional ingredients in this). When cool, crumble or chop up bacon.

Carmelized onion

Now you know I don't have fancy pans, but I can show an onion a good carmelization.

3. Heat pan with reserved bacon grease on medium heat. Add onions and garlic to pan and cook until carmelized, it should be light brown in color.

Caramelized onions meet Spinach. Acquaint yourselves.

4. Add fresh chopped spinach to pan and stir. Add a pinch of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper and stir. The little bit of salt will help draw the moisture out of the mixture so that it doesn’t make the eggs “watery”. Cook until leaves wilt and moisture cooks out. Add the nutmeg and stir.

5. Crack eggs into a medium sized bowl (or stand mixer) and add cream. Blend the eggs and cream together on low speed for about 15 seconds until it is well beaten. Mix in (by hand) the onion/spinach mixture, bacon, cheese, and basil. Add a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper.

6. Place pie shell on baking sheet. Pour egg mixture into pie shell. Tent the foil over quiche, making sure to cover the crust on all sides to keep your crust from burning during the baking process. Carefully place the baking sheet and quiche into oven (My egg mixture sloshed a bit, but at least it was on the baking sheet and not on my floor or oven).

7. Cook for 35 – 45 minutes. Check after 35 minutes. Quiche is done when egg mixture is set and doesn’t jiggle easily.

8. Take quiche out of oven and let sit for a few minutes prior to slicing and serving. You will notice that when it was in the oven the egg was fluffier, it should set a bit for a flatter top once it is cooling. Slice and garnish with chiffonade of basil or sliced green onion. I served this with a spinach salad.

Bon Appetit!

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Mediterranean Pesto Chicken Sausage and Quinoa (Gluten Free)

I don’t eat exclusively gluten free, but I have dabbled for periods in the past and are often subject to these dishes when dining with family and friends with the sensitivity. Most gluten free recipes are pretty healthful in and of themselves, so I try to incorporate gluten free recipes into my¬†repertoire every now and again. This was a good meal for getting some of my half eaten veggies and canned peppers and olives used up in the fridge, not to mention the half used pesto container from the night before’s homemade pizza (but I really would advocate for making some fresh pesto if you have the ingredients and a few extra minutes, as it’s more flavorful and comes together so quickly in a food processor).

I didn’t intend to make this dish gluten free, but it was a nice little afterthought when I started realizing that all of the foods I was pulling out of the fridge were of the sort. I was actually going to make this dish with noodles or pasta, which would have been delicious too, but I am glad that I chose quinoa as it is so yummy and it’s very healthy for you too, full of protein and fiber. I also love that this dish doesn’t ‘taste’ gluten free, so nothing about it makes you think you are missing out. This meal was delicious so I deemed it blog worthy (as did my husband – although he has to say that, right?). Not only is this yummy it’s also pretty healthy (with a few substitutions that I will note, you can cut more calories if you want), it cooks very quickly and even a novice cook can get this right on the first shot.

This is one of those recipes that you can eye-ball (except for cooking the quinoa) so put away your measuring cups and just start cooking ūüėČ

I made this recipe for 4. There was enough for 2 of us for dinner and then enough for leftovers/lunch the next day.

Ingredients

1 cup quinoa (will make about 3 cups cooked quinoa)
1 1/2 cups water or broth
1 cup chopped cauliflower
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1/2 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
2 Tb. of extra virgin olive oil
1 package of fully cooked chicken sausage in casings, sliced into medallions (I used Al Fresco brand sun dried tomato chicken sausage, which is gluten free and has no nitrates)
handful of canned pepperoncinis, stem and seeds removed and sliced
1/2 cup greek pitted kalamata olives, halved
A few Tbs. of homemade or store bought pesto (I used about 1/3 of a 6 oz package)
crumbled feta cheese, enough for garnishing each dish
zest from one lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Optional: dried red chili flakes (I like adding a little spice to my own plate, so I sprinkled a little of this on my own)

Instructions

1. Rinse the quinoa in water and discard rinsing water (A strainer might be helpful here). Add quinoa to saucepan and add in the water or broth. Turn on to high heat. Once it starts boiling put a lid on it and turn it down to a simmer. Keep covered and cook for 15 minutes. Remove quinoa from the heat and allow to sit with the lid on for 5 minutes.

2. While the quinoa is cooking, start preparing the rest of the dish. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan or an enamel coated cast iron pan at medium-high heat. Once pan is hot, add onion, garlic, bell pepper and cauliflower. Cook for a few minutes until it starts to get golden colored.

3. You might want to add another Tb. of olive oil if your veggies sucked up all the oil. Add your fully cooked chicken sausage medallions and cook on medium-high heat for a few minutes to give a good sear to the sausage.

4. Turn off heat and stir in the pepperoncinis, kalamata olives and pesto sauce.

5. Open lid of quinoa and fluff with a fork. Dish the quinoa onto plates first, top with the sausage and veggie mixture.

6. Top with a shake of crumbled feta and some fresh lemon zest

Cutting Calories? Consider omitting the pesto sauce and add some fresh chopped basil leaves at the end.

If you are using this recipe and sensitive or allergic to gluten, please verify each individual product label you use for this dish is free of gluten.

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Let me know how you like it ūüėÄ