Tomato Cheddar Quiche

When tomatoes are in season and you need yet another recipe, this quiche is gorgeous and delicious.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a recipe I wanted to try, but when I went back and re-read it, it was too fussy. Too many steps, and sounded overly finicky. I decided to use my usual method instead, and I was really happy with the result. Apparently my Facebook friends were as well, since it got lots of positive comments. So here’s the recipe:

Turn the oven to 400F.

Start the filling:

2 large tomatoes

One medium onion

15 ml olive oil

Dice the tomatoes roughly, and the onion more finely, and place on a cookie sheet with parchment or a silicone liner. Drizzle with the oil and put in the oven (don’t worry if it isn’t up to heat yet).

Now make the crust:

280 ml whole wheat flour

15 ml dried oregano

90 ml cold salted butter, diced

30-40 ml ice water

Mix the oregano into the flour. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives, or pulse in the food processor until the butter is the size of peas. Then mix in the water with a fork, or pulse in, 15 ml at a time, until the dough is just starting to clump together. Squeeze it together into a disc and wrap in foil or plastic wrap or a beeswax wrapper, and put in the fridge for 15 minutes to half an hour.

When you put the dough in the fridge, check your tomatoes. They should have released their juice and start to look a bit caramelized. If not, give them a few minutes longer. You want them to not be wet, but sort of jammy.

Then take them out of the oven, and set them aside while you roll out the crust. (Leave the oven on at 400!)

Roll out the pastry and place in a tart tin (or a pie plate will work; it may take a little longer to cook).

For the rest of the filling:

30 ml Dijon mustard (I used Kozlik’s Bordeaux)

120g of sharp, old cheddar, grated

5 eggs

60 ml milk or cream

60 ml chopped parsley

Ground black pepper to taste

Brush the bottom of the pastry with the mustard. Then sprinkle with the cheese.

Next, put in the tomatoes.

Beat the eggs with the cream, parsley and pepper. (I don’t usually have cream, but I bought it for another recipe, and it does add a certain richness). Pour it over.

Bake in your 400F oven for 45-55 minutes (a knife inserted in the centre should come out wet but not eggy).

Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Something spicy – curry in a hurry

Easy food is the best food. Yes, you can order in. And it can be delicious. Or it can be cold, overly salted, too fatty, and full of things you know you shouldn’t eat. So if you arm yourself with a few quick options, you can rustle up a meal whenever you’re hungry. Here’s one I like to make – you can make a lot, or a little, depending on what you have. The proportions are not exact…adjust to your taste!

In a saucepan over medium heat, heat some cooking oil, about a tablespoon. 1/4 cup of vegetable or other broth will also work. Dice an onion and throw it in to get started. Turn it down if it is browning, you want it to just start to become translucent. Meanwhile, what other veg do you have? For two people, plan on around 2 to 2-1/2 cups of chopped vegetables. You can use frozen if you don’t have fresh. Don’t worry! Add these to the pot and stir, as you chop them. Here’s what we used yesterday:

1 onion (as above)

1/2 zucchini

1 spicy red pepper

6 cremini mushrooms, halved

4 green beans from our garden

There isn’t a vegetable we haven’t tried in this. Once they are all in the pot, add curry powder or paste to taste. Powder is easy to keep, adds a lot of colour and flavour, and is CHEAP. I used about 2 tablespoons or 30ml.

Once you’ve stirred this in, add about a cup of cooked chickpeas (half a jar of frozen, or half a can, with liquid). Add another half cup of water, and stir in 2T/30ml of coconut milk powder, OR add half a cup of coconut milk, OR half a cup of soy or nut milk, and some shredded coconut – sweetened or not, it won’t matter.

Simmer it for about 20 minutes. This means dinner in less than 30 minutes, start to finish. I served mine on leftover brown rice. Alternately, you can start the rice about half an hour ahead, but honestly, just cook a big pot once a week and keep it in the fridge to use as needed. Another option is to add a diced large potato or six or so baby potatoes, halved, or a small sweet potato, diced, to the other veg and simmer along. Let it thicken a bit with the lid off if you prefer it thicker.

If you have some basil leaves, they are lovely stirred in. A dollop of yogurt (vegan or dairy) adds a nice touch. Or a few coconut flakes on top are also good. Enjoy! Delightful with lemonade, fizzy water, a beer, or a glass of white wine.

Manifesto for a Good Life

This meatless burger isn’t vegan, because I’m more of a flexatarian – I mostly eat plant-based foods, but I do eat some animal products and a small amount of meat and fish. By small, I mean often only a single serving of meat and one of fish in a week.

I’m not doing this for ethical reasons, although there are many good ethical reasons to adopt a plant-based diet. (You could check out Louise Spiteri‘s blog for more on that). For me it is more about health, and economics. A healthy diet can be had relatively inexpensively when we take meat out of the equation. I try to keep it healthy, local, and budget-friendly. I am zero-waste inclined (so is Anne Marie Bonneau). And I know that everyone can learn to cook, so homemade takes precedence over store-bought, for the most part.

I have also learned that taking care of our bodies in simple ways – moving, stretching, and walking, make a big difference in our whole health – physical and mental. That’s why I start most days with a walk. And getting around the village, town, or city where you live on foot, lets you slow down, get to know your community on a whole different level, appreciate your surroundings, meet your neighbours, and feed your soul.

That’s it in a nutshell. My manifesto: Walk. Eat. Live.

Sweet…and sour. Like me.

Some say, I’d rather be someone’s shot of whiskey, than everyone’s cup of tea. Here’s today’s frugal kitchen meal. Sweet and sour…something. Remember, in these times, use what you have. There are no rules. Substitute as necessary.

That’s true in your work, your food, or whatever else you have “should” rules about. All you need to be true to, is your lighthouse, your code, what keeps you and those around you safe, healthy, and whole.

What to eat when you’re avoiding the world…

Vegetable cheese strata

Lovely layers.

If you’re looking for a simple dinner that uses up vegetables, I can’t think of anything better than this vegetable strata, with the exception, perhaps, of soup. Whenever I make it, I start with potato – but you could use turnip, beets, pretty much anything that’s round and can be sliced. Potato will be the easiest on your budget, and they’ll last for ages in a cool dark cupboard. You may need longer than the recipe says to bake – if I make this in a big casserole for four (or two, with leftovers for tomorrow), I’ll bake it for an hour.

Cooking for one or two people? Sometimes the big bags of veg aren’t a bargain, because you can’t use them all. If you’ve got foods that seemed like a bargain, but now you don’t know how to use them up, let me know. I can help. I’ve got a recipe for pretty well anything. I’m not vegetarian or vegan, but I do have lots of plant-based recipes, and I’m happy to adapt if I can. And if you’re not shopping because you’re trying to stay home and stay safe, I get it. If you’ve got foods in your cupboard but don’t know how to use them up, let me know.

Soup, glorious soup!

Vegetable soup
What’s hiding under the broth? All these vegetables!

It doesn’t take much to make a quick pot of soup for lunch. I already had a cup of cooked beans (white beans with rosemary and garlic) in the fridge. I made those at an earlier time and froze part of the batch for future use. I like to do several kinds of beans on the same day, especially if I also have a batch of bread rising in the kitchen. That lets me use the energy of my oven as efficiently as possible. I know there are many Instant Pot fans out there; for me, an afternoon of cooking a variety of foods while the oven is hot is very soothing.

Here’s what I did:

I started with a jar (500ml/2 cups) of vegetable broth I had in the freezer, and thawed it quickly in the microwave. Failing that, it’s perfectly fine to just use water, some herbs, and salt if you like it. We tend to go very easy on salt in our house, so do that to your taste. Hot sauce or soy sauce are also nice additives for flavour. Or reconstitute some dried mushrooms and use the soaking water as your broth.

Next I chopped up some veg. In this case, you can see carrot, onion, potato, and green pepper. I used one each, except for the pepper – there was half of one left from yesterday’s homemade pizza. I brought those to the boil in the broth, and simmered til tender. Then I stirred in the beans, including the liquid they were cooked in. If they had been canned beans from the store, which would also work just fine, I would have drained and rinsed them.

That’s it! In the photo, they’re without broth so you can see how fresh and delicious the veggies look. This lunch is faster than fast food, and easy to make at home, where many of us are hanging out these days.

If you’re a front line worker in a grocery store, emergency services, healthcare or elsewhere, thank you for all you do. Everyone please stay safe out there!

Our grandparents knew how to make the most of a little

Apples, nuts and ginger at the ready.

One of our favourite Sunday breakfasts? Pancakes. Especially in these lean times, when we’re working hard to use food that’s in the cupboard, they are a go-to. Hearty, satisfying, and delicious. Here’s the recipe I use. My grandmother wasn’t above using a biscuit mix, but she was just as adept at doing it this way. Keep a few key provisions like herbs, spices, baking powder, baking soda, flour, sugar, and cornstarch, and you’ll be able to make all sorts of foods. Apples will store for a long time without refrigeration, if you have a cool, dark spot.

The burner I like to use on our stove is going wonky, so the temperature control isn’t working. It’s one of the things Steve was going to fix, before the world turned topsy-turvy. But it’s okay – it just means I prepare things on that place first, and then set them aside, since it only cooks at one speed: ultra fast. I browned the apples above in a little butter. For two of us, this is a single large apple, sliced, a few sliced almonds (maybe 2T/30ml) in a tablespoon or 15ml of butter. I also chopped up a couple of tablespoons (30ml) of fresh ginger instead of my usual cinnamon because I have it on hand at the moment. Dried (1t/5ml) would also work. Once they look like above, take off the heat and cover the pan while you make the pancakes.

Almost ready to turn. The bubbles are breaking through the top. As soon as the edges start to look slightly dry or less glossy than this, it’s time.

Serve with a couple of tablespoons of syrup or honey. If you don’t have that, you can use jam, or add sugar to the apple mix while it sits, or if you don’t eat sweeteners or can’t have them, simply use the apples. They’ll still taste delicious.

Pancakes with apples and almonds

How is your pantry holding up? If you’re trying to figure out how to use ingredients you have in a new way, or you’re missing something and don’t know what to substitute, give me a shout. I’ll help if I can.

No baking powder? For every teaspoon, substitute 1/2tsp (2ml) baking soda and 1/4tsp (1ml) cream of tartar. Or use 1T baking soda and add 1t (5ml) vinegar or lemon to the milk. Or use half-and-half yogurt and milk, if you have plain yogurt, plus the baking soda. Two more tricks: if you have no soda, you can whip your egg white until fluffy before folding it in (mix the yolk in with the rest in the usual way), or if you have club soda or gingerale or something similar, you can sub half and half with the milk.

Your Creativity will Carry You Through

We’ve been conditioned to shop. Programmed, really. Even with food. We live in one of the most abundant countries in the world, and the minute someone tells us we can’t have something, we run after it like desperate lemmings. Or at least that’s how it appears.

Today is March 28th. I’ve been in my little castle in the sky for more than a week without venturing outside, with the exception of the balcony, or the garbage chute. We can do this. You all know I like to save a dollar (even a dime!) wherever I can. I also hate waste. And I like to cook, and eat. So how is a food-lover like me managing these days?

Creativity is my secret weapon. And improvisation. And being able to set frustration aside. I also learned to cook from some women who were even more frugal than I. They had no choice. I do miss my vegetable garden right now. I know as we spend more time inside, I will REALLY miss it. But the cupboards, fridge and freezer will have to do.

Some things that have been my kitchen salvation during this:

  1. Rice and beans (including lentils and chickpeas). I always have lots on hand. I buy dried, not canned, because a much larger volume fits in the same space. Then I cook up batches and refrigerate or freeze some portions for quicker use, if I am so inclined. Right now I have white and pink beans in the freezer, already cooked, in mason jars. Lots of kidney beans and black beans in the cupboard.
  2. Canned tuna and nuts. Both sources of protein. If you’re vegan, the nuts will do nicely, but they are much more expensive.
  3. Eggs and cheese.
  4. Rolled oats and cornmeal. Porridge. Polenta. Granola. Muffins. Bread.
  5. Pasta, shapes and long.
  6. Frozen fruit and vegetables. They often go on sale. They don’t go bad as easily and take less space to store than fresh.
  7. Potatoes and onions. They store well in a dark cupboard or in a box on your balcony when it is consistently above freezing but not hot outside.
  8. Canned tomatoes. You can eat them plain, with eggs, in a soup, make delicious marinara or a casserole, without all heavy doses of sugar, salt and additives found in many canned varieties.
  9. Soy or nut milk in tetra packs, or UHT (shelf stable) milk or canned evaporated milk. Again, coming from a place where there are frequent storms and power outages, I learned to keep things on hand that can survive without a fridge.
  10. Many dried herbs and spices. Many.

Basically, it is cheaper and easier to keep the base ingredients for things you like to eat, and learn to cook them from scratch. Keep a supply on hand. Learn to use them. If you want tips, let me know. (Oh, and that vegetable chowder up top? Put a diced potato, onion, carrot, and about a cup of corn niblets (half a can, if canned, or use frozen) in a pot. Add cold water that covers them by about an inch (or the depth from your thumb-tip to the first knuckle). Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer 10-12 minutes until the carrot is soft. Add a cup of milk (canned, plant, whatever you have). Add herbs or a grind of pepper (or both). Enjoy. Next time, switch up the veg. Or use tomatoes instead of milk.

Please care for each other. Stay in. Stay safe. Venture out only when you must. You’ve got this.

What are you eating?

Image by Ray Shrewsberry from Pixabay

Our grandmothers or great grandmothers (or for some of us, our mothers), used to keep stores of food that looked like this. It was preserved to survive without refrigeration. They worked like fiends during the summer heat, boiling and salting and preserving in a myriad of ways, to ensure that they would be prepared for the times when food was unaccessible. Even in urban centres, food storage was considered to be vital to a safe, secure home. Now many people don’t even know how to cook.

I’ve been cooking since I was a kid. I was raised to be careful with a dollar, and to not waste food. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” is just one of the mantras I grew up reciting.

Over the past week or so, I’ve watched people leaving the big drugstore and grocery stores near me. They’re carrying lots of food that I might consider non-essential. A lot of it I would think of this way, because it is highly processed and prepared. This means it is also expensive, and takes up more space to store. I’ve got cupboards stocked with lots of dried beans, rice, oatmeal, flour, dried pasta, and the like. I know I could eat well for at least two weeks, if not longer. It might not always be gourmet, but it would be nourishing and tasty.

If you’ve got things you are wondering how to cook , leave me a message or connect with me on Twitter @walkeatlive. I’ll try and come up with some easy ideas for you. Check out some of the recipes here in the EAT section, too!

Bean, Corn and Mushroom Burgers

It seems all the fast food places have been on the fake meat train lately, but as usual I’m not thrilled with food that’s made in a plant. (Better to eat mostly food that you make from plants). On that note, last night’s burgers. Not vegan, although they could easily be. Instead, try this.

Per burger:

60ml or 1/4 cup cooked beans (chickpeas, kidney, I used pink beans in this one), mostly mashed with a few left whole

2 finely chopped mushrooms

1 T corn niblets (fresh, frozen or canned)

1 T breadcrumbs

Pinch of smoky paprika and cumin

You can add an egg if they are dry, or a bit of the aquafaba (bean water).

Shape into patties. Put in the fridge for 15 or 20 minutes to firm up a bit

Serve with cheese, vegan or regular, sliced tomato, dill pickle, and your favourite toppings, on a whole wheat bun.