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Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Most of our family loves quiche. Anna hates it, but that is another story. David drew the breakfast category in our cook off and has always wanted to learn to make quiche. This was the perfect opportunity.

Most of what I know about making quiche I learned from my Betty Crocker Entertaining cook book and my next-door neighbor, Cory. BC has a great basic recipe; Cory enlightened us to understand that you can customize quiche to your heart's desire. For example, David loves chives, so we put some chives in the mix. I love finely diced green peppers with eggs, so we added some of those, too. And since we had both Swiss and cheddar cheeses, we made the quiche a cheese festival and added generous amounts of both. We had some diced ham and thought about either adding it to the bacon or replacing the bacon with it, but the bacon won out in the end.

I'll include the recipe's super simple crust recipe, which you don't have to roll and transfer. We simply used a Great Values brand pre-made crust from WalMart, which was truly delicious.

Basic Betty Crocker Quiche

Pat-in-the-Pan pastry (below)
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 small onion, finely diced
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese (4 ounces)
4 eggs
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Move the oven rack to its lowest position. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Make the Pat-in-the-Pan pastry (see recipe below).

Sprinkle bacon, cheese and onion in pastry-lined pie or quiche pan. Beat the eggs slightly in a large bowl with a wire whisk or hand beater. Beat in the whipping cream, salt, pepper and cayenne. Carefully pour the egg filling into the pie pan. Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. Bake about 25 minutes longer or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Place the pan on a wire cooling rack. Let stand ten minutes before cutting.

Pat-in-the-Pan Pastry
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cold water

Mix the flour, oil and salt with a fork in a medium bowl until all flour is moistened. Sprnkle with cold water, one tablespoon at a time, tossing with a fork until all the water is absorbed. Shape the pastry into a ball, using your hands. Press the pastry in the bottom and up the sides of the pan.

The First Annual Family Cook Off

We recently completed our first annual family cook off. We believe it's important for our kids to leave home knowing how to cook. They haven't always been thrilled about our formal cooking lessons; we thought this might be a more fun way to make sure that each of them had prepared a complete meal on their own.

We aren't completely insane; we only included the five kids who are twelve or older. We started by choosing five types of food and had each of them draw a category. The person who got sandwiches was thrilled; the person who chose Asian food was a little overwhelmed. They got to choose the menu within those constraints. We gave them five or six criteria against which to be judged (presentation, flavor, difficulty, cost, etc.) and asked them to use a five point rating scale--five is good, one is not good. The whole family voted on each person's meal each night. We posted the menu and a running total of the scores to date on the fridge.

The cost was something that obviously couldn't be judged objectively by the kids; having them judge difficulty of a meal was a stretch. We added a cost score in later by calculating the out-of-pocket expenses for that meal (we didn't include the cost of items we already had on hand). Katie, the winner, got to go to lunch with Mom and Dad.

We think the activity was a success. All of the kids did well, and even those who aren't all that interested in cooking took it seriously. The point spread between the high scorer and the low scorer was only five. Most of them agreed to participate again next summer.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Last Sunday we decided to make a sort of feast. Bob grilled kabobs and I made focaccia.

I was first introduced to focaccia when I lived in Italy almost 30 years ago. Italians think of it as a sort of pizza; you buy it by weight at the panificio or bread store (which is a specific kind of bakery, distinguished from a pasticeria or pastery bakery). In the Puglia region where I was living it was usually topped with olives and sometimes thinly sliced tomatoes. We usually ate it for breakfast on the run.

In the US, focaccia is usually understood to be a flat bread that can be eaten plain or used for a lovely sandwich. We found our recipe on the back of a 50-pound flour sack; of course we have improvised somewhat to make it our own.

Note: Most Americans pronounce the word focaccia with an -sh sound in the third syllable--focashia. The proper Italian pronunciation is a harder sound, as in focachia.


3 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons instant active dried yeast (if it isn't instant, be sure to activate it by whisking it in the warm water and the tablespoon of sugar)
1 1/3 cups warm water
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons dried rosemary leaves
3 Tablespoons thinly sliced white or yellow onions

Mix flour, salt, sugar, yeast and 3 tablespoons of oil. Mix dough until pliable; I use a stand mixer (Bosch) and knead it for 5-7 minutes. Place dough in oiled bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Roll the dough into a flat circle, about 1/2 inch to one-inch thick. You can raise it on a baking sheet, or I prefer to raise it on a pizza peel. Where you raise it depends on how you plan to bake it. I prefer to bake the bread on a pizza stone because it leaves it with a crispy crust. If you don't have a stone, you can bake it on the same oiled baking sheet that you raise it on. I find that covering the pizza peel with corn meal helps keep it from sticking to the pizza peel, and also gives the crust a nice grainy finish.

Make dimples by gently pushing your finger into the dough. Brush the dough with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle on the onions, rosemary, and cheese (the order of these ingredients is important if you want to avoid burning the onions). We sometimes put thinly sliced Roma tomatoes on top as well, especially in the summer when they are in season. Here is what the pre-baked product looks like:

Let the dough rise until doubled, about 35-40 minutes. If you're baking the bread on a pizza stone, heat the oven with the stone inside it to 500 degrees. As soon as you put the bread in the oven, turn it down to 375 degrees. Bake for 15-20 minutes. If you are using a baking sheet, heat the oven to 375 degrees and bake for about 25 minutes. Here's what it looks like when it comes out of the oven.