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:

photo-2

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.

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.

Breakfast: Double-Cupping at the Deli (Sshhh…)

I wonder how much overhead at the large, bustling delis of Midtown go phototowards hot and cold cups, plasticware, those little shitty tri-fold napkins, salt and pepper packets, coffee and tea accouterments and other condiment packets? And what sort of hit do the delis take because of people like me who are constantly pocketing a little extra to stash away in office desk drawers?

One of my moves is to double-cup my hot tea. I have to sneak it past the ladies who would rather I just have a single cup and put the cup of hot liquid in a small paper bag — a ridiculous idea  to begin with. Plus, in turn, I use those two cups to make about a week’s worth of tea in the office. (I don’t add milk, that would be gross.) It’s $1.50 well spent.

At the end of the day I don’t feel so bad … I’ll be back soon enough to pay $1 for a 12 oz. soda, $1 for what is ordinarily a $0.50-cent bag of Wise chips, and then some.

Breakfast: $2 Gordita Discovery Post (aka “the Las Poblanitas for Breakfast!” Post)

I never realized that there was an the original thing that Taco Bell was mimicking when it introduced the gordita to its menu however many years ago (speculation: greater than three years, less than 10).

photoIn fact, I never knew that the gordita wasn’t entirely a Taco Bell invention until, famished at 11 a.m. and needing a break from the usual neighborhood suspects, a tiny thought popped into my head: I wonder if Las Poblanitas does breakfast?

Hmmm …

The answer: Yes, yes they do. And, like the majority of the lunch options I’ve tried here, it’s damn cheap and good.

However tempted I was by the $1 breakfast burrito ($1!!), I had to have a gordita, just to put this whole Taco Bell inventing-the-gordita fallacy to rest. (For the record, Taco Bell’s gordita is basically a taco, wrapped in a second, thicker, soft pita-taco shell.)

photo-1photo-2 So, what does a $2 gordita consist of? As Las Poblanitas does it, a gordita begins with a lightly-fried pita pocket made out of corn masa — think, the softness of the masa part of a tamale, but pita-thin, with browned exterior, plus warm tortilla chip smell. The shell is then stuffed with chicken or pork, warmed, and further stuffed with some cojita cheese, lettuce, the diced onion, cilantro and tomato mix.

All in all, a really satisfying savory snack. Toward the bottom, as the fillings taper off, I topped off the rest of it with a good shake from my desk-size Cholula hot sauce (yes, really).

Breakfast: Living Vicariously Through Granola (aka “The Expedition Granola Mix” Post)

Diving deeper into the many wonderous food offerings at Agata & Valentina: The latest discovery, Expedition Granola Mix ($5.99, 10 oz.).

photoExploratory metaphors aside,  this is some serious granola. It begins with clusters of rolled oats, bound together by a sweet cinnamon-y coating — the exact kind of clusters that are coveted (and sparse) in boxed, supermarket cereals like Honey Bunches of Oats. Whole walnuts and almonds get the same treatment, which results in a candied crunch to the nuts, which is a real treat.

… which doesn’t mean that this granola shouldn’t be taken seriously as a breakfast option — or as a snack option, either. All the ingredients are natural, no additives, and essentially you’re getting whole oats, nuts (an excellent source of protein) and dried fruit (dried tart cherries, crasins and rasins, and coconut flakes).

Might have something to do with the name, but this granola immediately inspired visions of walking along trails in the woods, taking the road less traveled sort of thing, and I’ve been itching to get out of the city since. Sigh …