Cheap, Fast, Good for You and Pretty? (aka the “Upside Down Fruit-on-the-Bottom Yogurt” Post)

If you ask, I’ll tell you that I don’t like breakfast. That given the opportunity, I will choose lunch over breakfast eight times out of 10.

But what I actually mean is: I mostly just don’t like breakfast’s attributes, like the bad (early) timing of the meal, the general shovel-rush involved and breakfast’s propensity for empty, sugar-laden calories that are quick to spike — and quick to plummet. I need protein, I need dairy, I need fiber that doesn’t come in a nasty, powdered mix or meal supplement like Muscle Milk. It’s early and I’m cranky and yes, the food has also gotta look good.

Thankfully, there exists the fool-proof combination of fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt plus granola:

When you turn the yogurt upside down into a bowl, the fruit-on-the-bottom becomes the fruit on the top, a pink, strawberry-flecked glaze. Add to that a couple of shakes of granola, dotted with nuts and dried fruit, and, instant success.

Beautiful, and, more importantly, good for you: A Liberté Méditerranée strawberry yogurt and a serving of Bear Naked‘s fruit and nut granola collectively pack 2g fiber, 9g protein and 20% calcium  into just 490 calories. Now that’s breakfast.

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KP: So Yeah, I Know How To Make Really Good Quiche (Here’s How)

Quiche and I, we just get each other. It’s a natural evolution from one of my earliest cooking comfort zones, eggs, which are one of my Dad’s specialties — and so they’re one of mine, too.

But it goes deeper than that: Quiche is not just about eggs. This dish as I’ve interpreted it (and probably bastardized it) lies at the nexus of eggs, the utilitarian meal (could be breakfast/lunch/dinner or all of the above) (I have a tough time with the strictly breakfast-for-breakfast-only foods), and the kitchen sink dish — really, so long as your mix-ins are not rotten and play nicely together, and you chop them up small enough, you can probably stick them in a quiche and it’ll turn out just fine.

In this case, I had a ton of meat from a lovely rotisserie chicken that needed a home. I had plenty of orphaned eggs, left over from different six-count or 12-count packages. I had a fat zucchini that was asking to be utilized, and a pair of red bell peppers that were about to give their death gasp. (I ended up using about half of one. The remainder was too far gone.)

Quiche doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s why:

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Fail -Safe Kitchen Sink Quiche

4 eggs
1. c. milk (of your choice)
1c 1/2 meat of your choice, diced small (if you use something really salty, like bacon or smoked salmon, adjust significantly)
1c 1/2 shredded cheese (your choice)
1c minimum, preferably 1c 1/2 fresh vegetables, diced or thinly sliced. Can be anything: baby broccoli florets, zucchini, bell peppers, onion, … get creative, but keep it basic.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Key no. 1: Prep all vegetables and protein first. This is the longest bit. Mix eggs and milk in a bowl, set aside. Layer dry quiche ingredients into the frozen (slightly thawed is better) pie crust. Pour egg mixture evenly over ingredients.

Key no. 2: Gently, ever so gently, stir/mix ingredients and egg mixture within pie crust so you get a little bit of everything spread out — if you chose a good combination, it might start to look festive, little dots of color, like sprinkled confetti.

Manage to slide liquidy quiche into the oven — whew. You’re almost there. Now all it has to do is bake for 45-60 minutes.

Key no. 3: Do not, absolutely resist, taking the quiche out just because it’s puffed up in the center, it looks like it’s baked, it’s been in the oven for more than 45 minutes and it smells damn good. You’re so wrong.

Let it be … The quiche will continue to puff and continue to brown a deep, golden color around the edges and the whole apartment will continue to smell tantalizing — deal with it.

The point at which the quiche should be taken out and left to rest/cool for at least 10-15 minutes before cutting into it is when it starts to look so golden brown you’re on the verge of worrying it’s going to burn/be overdone. (And, the toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.)

Sprinkle with salt and pepper to your liking, and that’s Fail-Safe Kitchen Sink Quiche.

Monday: Whoopie Pie in the Sky

My first whoopie pie. An Isamax Snacks “original”-style Wicked Whoopie Pie, which means two chocolate cake discs stuffed with enough cream filling to set off a classroom of children like firecrackers, let alone one bleary-eyed girl, 28,000 feet high in the sky, at 7 o’clock in the morning. (Is that what makes it “wicked”?)

photo-11Mine is slightly smooshed from the transport, which means I’ve lost some of the cream filling to the crevices of its crinkled plastic wrapper forever. I’m not worried, just patient. I cat-nap until the beverage service comes around, because nothing cuts through that cloying-ly sweet frosting — you know, the kind that sends sharp, little tingles up into your bones — like stoic, acidic, citrus juice. Think about it: Why else does lemonade go down so well at birthday parties?

The verdict: It was so messy. It was processed cake-y, registering only slightly more homemade than a Hostess Ding-Dong or a Hoho. And on frosting steriods — an instant sugar high, tingly bone sensations and all.

… Although I’m fairly certain I caught the man reviewing his Powerpoint presentation next to me sneaking a glance. This is not normal Monday morning flight behavior. Was his look one of jealousy, or disgust? I was too absorbed in my own Wicked Whoopie world to tell.

The Portland, ME Edition: Rosemont Market & Bakery, Can I Please Take You Home Now?

It’s probably fair, Rosemont Market & Bakery, to say that you had me at hello.

photo-3photo-1First (chance) encounter: You were pointed out to me by my friend and host, who is also an infinitely knowledgeable all-things-Portland guide, as we walked past on our way to brunch up the street at The Front Room. We stopped; I had to go inside. I made a quick circle, noting the cheese case, the crates of local blueberries and the New England beer selection. I knew I would be back.

photo-4Second (intentional) encounter: Sure enough, I found my way back, all by myself, later that day. I came with the intention (guise?) of picking up a few some things to make a light crab salad with my prized Harbor Fish Market purchase — that sweet, sweet crabmeat from Wood’s Seafood (Bucksport, ME) — while my friend/host/infinitely knowledgeable guide went training for her triathlon. Instead, I fell head-over-heels for the price point and the boutique-ness of the wine nook, fawned some more over the fresh, locally-grown (and so cheap!) produce, and end up accidentally buying dinner:

photo-5$6, qt. of homemade gazpacho
$2 French baguette, baked in house
$1.49 head of locally-grown bibb lettuce
$0.99 bunch of fresh chives

+
$12.99 giant bottle of La Vieille Ferme Cotes du Luberon Blanc (nothing fancy, a blend of Rhône varietals, but I’ve seen a 750 ml costs this much in New York, so on principle I had to buy the magnum)

It’s not really cooking, but my friend/guide /host’s exuberant roommate asked me what I did, so here’s the recipe: Doctor up the gazpacho with chopped green onion, fresh crab, a healthy drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice and pepper. Ditto for the salad, except that I substituted a little Goddess Dressing (Kraft) for the olive oil. Serve with sliced, buttered and oven-toasted baguette points that make the kitchen smell oh-so-good. Pour wine heavily.

photo-7Third (spontaneous) encounter: Sure, I was thinking about you. But little did I know that I’d be back so soon. And then the roommate said, “Let’s walk up and get pastries from Rosemont!”It was said exuberantly.

Um, twist my arm. And this is how I discovered the Sandwich of Sunshine. Yes, literally, that’s what it’s called. The description on the (hand-written) index card goes on to read: “Local sun dried tomato goat cheese, Black Kettle Farm romaine, orange melon and a fruit salad of white peaches, watermelon, mango, basil and lemon yogurt” ($5.50). What? (Befuddlement.) No way. (Denial.) Wait a second … (Illumination breaking). Yes, yes, yes! (Discovery.)

photo-2Fourth (missed) encounter: I intended to stop by one last time on Sunday afternoon to pick up a souvenir, one of the large, plastic Rosemont-labeled spices (which are actually from some spice place in New Hampshire — the pickled fiddleheads would have meant having to check a bag).

I had been vacillating between the mulling spices, the pickling spices and the multi-colored rainbow sprinkles, because how long would it take me to get through 6 oz. of dried dill? (Which begs the question, why would it take me any less time to get through that giant container of sprinkles?)

Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it back before Rosemont shuttered for the night. Sigh. This is not the first or the last time that I’ve wished I could pack something large and immoveable into my carry-on.

Friday: Milk, Banana, Peanut Butter Smoothie (The “Make This at Home!” Post)

What do I remember about my first peanut butter in a smoothie?

Scene: UCLA food court, Arthur Ashe building, central campus. Small, non-Jamba Juice smoothie franchise. Have no idea what it was called, but “rise and shine” or “breakfast boost” (or something like that) was in there somewhere. As was frozen yogurt, fruit, granola, honey and peanut butter, and who knows what else.

All I know is sucking that thing down, from its giant, styrofoam cup with with dancing fruit pieces on it, on my way to my Friday morning class … it was bliss.

photo-1photo-2…Fast-forward to where I rediscover my love of peanut butter in smoothies, while standing in my tiny kitchen in the Upper East Side and trying to make the most of a ripe banana. Staring into my tiny fridge for inspiration, I remembered the peanut butter-enhanced smoothie of college years.

Here’s my go at my own, simpler version:

photo-36-10 ice cubes (depending on size and desired iciness)
1 banana, broken into chunks
2 Tlbs. (hearty scoop) of crunchy peanut butter, Whole Foods’ 365 brand
3/4 c. (just more than a hearty splash) of milk (I found this organic, grass-fed, nonfat milk at a nearby natural foods store for just $3.99 / half-gallon!)

Into blender … and blend. So icy-cool, so frothy, so sweetly banana-y, with that underlying peanut butter reassurance that this smoothie also packs some serious sustenance.

TIP: Jamba Juice’s Peanut Butter Moo’d smoothie, which is more milkshake than smoothie, in both ingredients and calories, is a poser. If you go for it, go in eyes wide open.

BLD Minnesota Edition: Colombian-Style Corn Pancakes in the Most Unlikely of Places

photo-8When someone takes you to one of their favorite breakfast spots and says, “I get the pancakes every time” — get the pancakes.

Or a pancake, as the case may be, if the pancakes are anything like the giant, larger-than-your-face-sized pancakes at Maria’s Cafe in the Franklin neighborhood of Minneapolis, which are stuffed with seasonal fresh fruit or local and Colombian favorites, like wild rice, plantains and corn. At $2.95 per pancake, it’s a hellofa breakfast, and cheap, too. (Throw in a side of bacon or a fried egg, $1 ea., for good measure).

photo-11photo-12The traditional corn pancake, sprinkled with cotija cheese ($1.50), is about as savory and actually nourishing as any pancake I’ve ever had. The sweet corn taste, plus I think they use a little bit of cornmeal in the batter, strikes the same sweet/savory balance as a corn tamale … and the sticky, scoopable corn mash served at Acapulco‘s weekend brunch buffet. Oh, yes. (Which, I never realized, is a distinctly Southern California restaurant chain.)

One of the friends we were eating with “always” gets the fresh raspberry pancake. And so what do I order? Eggs. (cue cricket noises/silence.)

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Yep, eggs. Maria’s Colombian huevos pericos, to be exact: “Three scrambled eggs with diced tomatoes, white and green onions, special seasoning and chopped with cheddar cheese. Served with tortilla, homemade salsa.” ($7.50)

The eggs were decent, if a little bland (looking and tasting). The best thing about the eggs is that they were improved upon with the fresh salsa and two types of cheese (I added some cotija cheese, as well).

Luckily, my dining companions were as interested in my eggs, as they’d never deviated so far from the menu and wanted to try them, as I was in their pancakes, and we shared and ate amicably.

I’m generally terrified of pancakes and their great potential for dryness and lack of character. The fact that I’ve had pancakes two weeks in a row, well, that probably hasn’t happened since I was under the age of 10 and my Dad was in the habit of making Mickey Mouse-shaped pancakes for us on the weekends.

I think the key to these two successful pancake endeavors is the adding in of stuffs, fruit and otherwise. In fact, I’m on the lookout now, for more …

TIP: Maria’s Cafe serves breakfast all day. Sweet.