A Whirlwind October!

Greetings from St. Paul, MN!

That's right, a lot has changed in the past month and a bit. Vaughn got himself a promotion, which required him to move to the Twin Cities. I followed of course.

October was just way to busy to post anything. Besides, most of my kitchen was packed up in boxes! We are mostly settled into our new place, a spacious Victorian apartment in the quiet St. Anthony Park neighborhood. More posts to come, especially as we start exploring the culinary wonders of the Twin Cities.

On a parting note, some tasty places we've found so far:

Pho 79: huge, steaming bowls of pho

Ngon Vietnamese Bistro: a delicious twist on traditional Vietnamese

Brasa Rotisserie: family style Southern cookin'

The Blue Door Pub: for the MN phenomenon - the Ju(i)cy Lucy


Quiche - Week 2

Sorry for the delay - it's been a busy week! Last week's quiche has been consumed, and I have to say, it wasn't my favorite. There just wasn't enough texture diversity - it was all mush.  And the crust, well, let's just say it never made it to my mouth. I still ate the filling though, and eating breakfast was definitely what I needed to get through my busy mornings. And look! I didn't get discouraged and managed to make another *much tastier* quiche.

This week's quiche features not one, not two, but three farmer's market finds. My friend's uncle is a vendor at my local Saturday market, and he had the most beautiful purple potatoes - something I've never tried before. A few booths down the line was a man selling bite sized crimini mushrooms, about half the size of the ones at the grocery store, and much more flavorful. Lastly, there was an influx of pearl onions this past Saturday and I picked up a pint of little guys. I guess it's that time of the year! Oh, and the cheese in the photo is one of my favorites - a flavorful smoked Gouda.

 I started making the quiche late in the day on Sunday, and quickly realized I didn't have butter or shortening to make a crust. Thinking on my feet, I decided to carefully arrange purple potato slices to create a "crust". I liberally buttered a cast iron skillet with my favorite butter, Freis von Kiel produced by Pine River Dairy in Manitowoc, WI. Starting with the sides of the skillet, I overlapped thin slices of potato, then worked my way to into the middle. To keep the quiche batter from oozing through the spaces between slices, I sprinkled it with a handful of the cheese then placed the skillet in the oven to let all that cheesy goodness melt.

While the potatoes and melted cheese cooled a bit, I tipped and tailed a handful of pearl onions and spread them on a sheet pan.  Into the oven they went until they were soft, which made peeling a whole lot easier. I sliced them thinly and set them aside to cool. In a saute pan, I melted a chunk of that delicious butter, and cooked the sliced mushrooms until they were soft, lightly caramelized, and deliciously fragrant. I added them to the onions and seasoned them simply with salt and pepper.

 I sprinkled the mushrooms, onions, and the rest of the cheese over the potato crust, and topped it all off with quiche batter spiked with sweet smoked paprika from The Spice House.

About half an hour later, the quiche came out of the oven with a beautiful golden brown crust and a crisp, scalloped edge of potatoes. The golden tones looked lovely with the purple potatoes and onions. And it's delicious too!

My mornings have been a little frantic lately, for whatever reason, so I've been taking quiche slices to work. Since I conveniently work in a kitchen, I have pans and an oven at my disposal, making reheating easier. My coworkers have been especially interested in this one, probably because of the colorful crust!


Quiche - Week 1

 This week's quiche is 

- drum roll please - 

Swiss chard, caramelized leek, smoked oyster and Fontina!

I used  a small bunch of Swiss chard that I picked from my garden, a couple of leeks I bought a few days ago just because they looked good, and a can of smoked oysters that I've been kicking around for a few months. I only had to buy Fontina and milk since I don't keep those on hand in my refrigerator.

Swiss chard has such a lovely, earthy flavor which goes well with the sweetness of the caramelized leeks. Fontina also plays well with others because of it's mild flavor. All of these subtle, yet distinct flavors set a nice background for the smoked oysters. If you're not a fan of oysters, I suggest you opt for smoked trout or bacon, which would both make excellent replacements.

Oh, and I used store bought, name brand pie dough - a huge mistake. The pie dough just doesn't look like it should when it is baked. It looks...bizzare. Plus, the darn stuff didn't hold up and sent the quiche batter oozing between the crust and the side of the pie pan. From here on out, I swear to make my own dough. Or if I'm lazy, like I was today, I will use the scrap dough from work.

I'll let you know how it tastes later in the week, it's far too hot to try right now!


Fast, Simple Breakfast

We are all busy people, and many times breakfast gets pushed out of the priorities list. It doesn't have to be elaborate or time consuming. In fact, I believe that breakfast is best when it is simple, yet delicious.

I have never been good about remembering to eat breakfast, despite the constant reminders about it being the most important meal of the day. My job has me getting up at 3am every morning, heading out the door by 3:45. Now, I am not at all a morning person, so waking up that early leaves me in a daze. By the time I realize I need to eat something, I have to dash out the door.

In my efforts to eat better to maintain a healthy ticker (see previous post), I will start by changing my breakfast routine. However, making breakfast every morning is not always feasible as mentioned before. My husband, Vaughn, suggested that I make a quiche every Sunday which I can eat throughout the week. A brilliant idea - why didn't I think of that?!

One of our wedding gifts was a wonderful cookbook called The Good Egg by Marie Simmons. It consists of more than 200 egg recipes, from breakfast to dessert. Vaughn and I love eggs for any meal of the day since they are quick, versatile, delicious and good for you (I choose to ignore the claims that my cholesterol will go through the roof if I consume eggs).

The book has a handy section on quiches and other such baked egg dishes, but I often use cookbooks to find inspiration rather than specific recipes. They must have known that because there is a handy section about improvising quiche from odds and ends in refrigerator. All you need is a great pie crust (which you can make ahead of time and freeze), egg batter, and a cup or two of ingredients. In fact, that's exactly how I make quiche at work. Here are the specifics the book provides:

  • 1 cup milk, half-and-half, or heavy cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup grated, diced, or crumbled cheese
  • 1-2 cups solid ingredients, such as cooked vegetables, shredded or diced meats or seafood

The book suggests that you limit yourself to three basic filling ingredients, plus a compatible cheese and seasonings to tie it all together. This will keep the flavors from becoming too muddled or over powering, plus it will cut down on prep time.

This Sunday I will bake up a quiche with things I have on hand - I already have an idea, but I won't announce it just yet. If the "quiche of the week" plan goes well, I will keep it up and create a new quiche each week. I'll post the recipe and photos of course!

See y'all on Sunday!


Back, and here to stay!

Yikes! I see it has been over a year since my last post! Some of my friends and family have asked about my blog and if I'd ever start posting again. Yes. A thousand times yes!

The past year has been a wee bit rough, mostly on the occupational and health end of the spectrum. In February, however, I started a great job in the kitchen at a natural foods co-op. I started out making sandwiches and salads, but was promoted to the "dough station" in May. The dough station consists of making empanadas, pasties, quiches, etc. Delicious!

Me in the kitchen making Red Curry Tofu Wraps. Yum!

Also in February, actually the same day that I found out I got the new job, my health took a little nose dive. Bear with me as I explain.

When I was little, I would faint from time to time. This mostly happened while standing still for a while, especially on hot days or in church. The fainting more or less stopped as I got older, and only became light headed on occasion. During my junior year of college, the fainting started up again, and I was referred to a cardiologist. After being subjected to a myriad of tests, I was told I have neurocardiogenic syncope, also called vasovagal syncope.

Back to February. My husband and I were at my favorite restaurant celebrating my new job. After finishing our dinner and ordering our desserts, I felt very ill. I was experiencing all the presyncope signs, except I was just sitting in the chair, waiting for my cupcake. We quickly paid the check and got out of the restaurant, and the moment I stepped outside, I fainted.

I had developed a new fainting trigger - eating. Since I eat several times a day, you can see how this new trigger can get a little bothersome. I found a new cardiologist in my area who has done research on the subject, and he has put me on beta blocker called Metoprolol to regulate my heart rate, and a corticosteroid called Fludricortisone to help me retain salt. Although these drugs keep me conscious and upright, they also make me very tired, and mess with my electrolyte levels.

Why am I telling you all this, and how does it tie in with Gwen in the Kitchen? To help alleviate my condition and the side effects of the drugs, I've decided to be more proactive about my health and diet. In addition to the usual food photos and tasty recipes, I will be using Gwen in the Kitchen to keep track of my dietary endeavors and overall health. I encourage any support or insight, especially if you have a particular knowledge of or passion for nutrition.

Thanks for being patient, and check back soon for a new post!


The Garden

With all this unrelenting heat and humidity, I'm taking a break from baking! It is far too hot to turn on the oven, and probably won't until the fall!

Until then, I'll be concentrating on food preservation techniques such as canning, pickling, freezing and drying - mostly with produce from our garden! Here are photos of our two garden plots at the community garden:

June 1
(a few weeks after initial planting)

We used the square foot gardening technique - that's my husband in the background.

A tomato plant! I accidentally dropped my seedlings and now I don't remember which tomato plant is which. So...this is either a Pruden's Purple or a Peacevine cherry...guess I'll find out in a few weeks.

Zucchini blossoms! A couple of male blossoms on my largest zucchini plant.


June 22

Even bigger...and now with zucchinis!

Rattlesnake Pole Beans starting to make their way up 'n up...

I planted a little bed of sassy salad mix in the middle of the pole beans.

Tomatoes grew about 6 inches!

Plot #1 with plot #2 in the background.


July 8 (Today!)

Plot #1! So bushy and starting to creep beyond it's boundaries...

Plot #2! A little slow going...but getting there!

The Rattlesnake Pole Beans ran out of climbing room!

Little tomatoes all in a row...I'm pretty sure these are the Pruden's Purple.

Zucchini, Baby Butternut, and Little Leaf Cucumbers all hanging out together.

My two favorite greens...Rainbow Swiss Chard and Lacinato (Dinosaur) Kale!

I'll keep posting garden updates every couple weeks and once my garden really starts producing, I'll share my food preservation techniques and recipes. Hooray!!



First off...how do you like the new look? Better than pure white, eh?


You know what has fiber and tastes like this background?

Crappy whole-wheat bread!

You know what doesn't taste like this background?

My whole-wheat bread!


So, as promised, I'm posting more regularly (no pun intended) and this time the post is accompanied by photos! Yippee! This afternoon I carried on with my lesson in baking and gave the whole-wheat bread recipe in the CIA text a whirl.

Like before, I only made a fourth of the recipe so I wasn't up to me ears in dough and modified it a little. This time I'll fill you in on the ingredient details. Mind you, like any good baker, I'm using weight instead of the imprecise volumetric measurements....


AP Flour: 3/4 lbs. (12 oz)
WW Flour: 1/2 lbs. (8 oz)
Instant Dry Yeast: 1/6 oz. (.167 oz)
Water: 14 fl. oz.
Salt: 4/9 oz. (.44 oz)
Vital Wheat Gluten: 4 teaspoons (as directed on the box)

The process was similar to the one with the white bread - but just a couple changes. After the ingredients were briefly mixed into a rough mass, the dough was left to sit for about 30 minutes. This step is called autolyse - a hydration rest that is especially useful when making fiber enriched doughs such as this. During the rest, the flour has a chance to absorb the water and aids in gluten formation.

Dough just before autolyse rest.

Dough after autolyse rest. I smoothed it just a little bit...

After a thorough kneading after autolyse, the dough was left to rise (ferment) for 30 minutes. Now here's another change - after the 30 minute rise, the dough is folded (gently kneaded) several times to redistribute the little gas bubbles as well as nutrients for the little yeasties. This step is then repeated, then left to ferment for another 15 minutes. So, that's...30 min, fold, 30 min, fold, 15 min.

After the initial fermentation, the dough is formed into an oblong, just as before, and allowed to rest for about 20 minutes to let the gluten relaaaax.

Then into the pan it goes! The shaped dough is placed in the pan for the second fermentation (proofing).

This is what it looks like when it's ready for the oven!

Okay...now it's ready! The dough is scored and misted with water.

A few blasts of steam and 30 minutes later...

...it's golden brown and delicious! Well...I haven't tasted it yet...but I'm sure it's delicious!

*Please excuse the photo quality. I'm using my iPhone while I search for that stupid camera cable*