Category Archives: breakfast

Spinach, pesto, and mushroom quiche

As part of the requirements for my graduate program I took a game theory class my first year. One of the more memorable problems was titled “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche.” It had something to do with a jock and a nerd signaling their level of manliness to each other by eating quiche and drinking beer,  and while I never managed to solve the problem, it became a joke among my classmates for weeks afterward. All this is a roundabout way of saying that if these supposed “real men” ate quiche like this more often, they might reconsider their ideas of what foods are manly and what foods aren’t.

This quiche is in my rotation of recipes for lunches that I take to campus, since it holds up well even after a couple of days in the refrigerator and still tastes as good as the day you made it. It can also work as a breakfast, though I’d perhaps leave out the pesto. Despite the long list of ingredients it all comes together fairly quickly, even with cooking the mushrooms and spinach (though you can certainly use a box of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained). The basic recipe of cream cheese, eggs, half and half, salt and pepper, and a couple of handfuls of whatever grated cheese you have on hand also makes a good basic quiche recipe that you can customize to your heart’s content. Next time I’m going to swap the spinach with braised leeks and see what happens. I can only expect that it will be delicious.

Spinach, pesto, and mushroom quiche

Adapted from the Smitten Kitchen

  • Half recipe of your favorite pie crust, rolled out and pressed into a pie plate or tart pan
  • 6 oz. fresh mushrooms, cut into approximately 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • 10 oz. fresh spinach
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup half and half
  • 3 eggs
  • 1-2 Tbs. pesto, depending on your preference
  • 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 4-6 green onions, sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender and their liquid has evaporated, about 6 minutes. Place mushrooms in a colander in the sink to drain. In the same pan, add the spinach and toss until it is just wilted, cooking in batches if necessary. Remove the spinach to a cutting board and chop it roughly. Add the spinach to the mushrooms in the colander and allow the ingredients to drain and cool to room temperature while you work on the rest of the recipe.

In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese with a mixer until it is smooth. Gradually beat in the half and half, eggs, and pesto. Mix in mushrooms, spinach, cheeses, green onions, and salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture into the prepared crust. Bake at 425 until the filling is set, about 25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.


Oatmeal pancakes

Even though this is the second pancake recipe in a row that I’ve posted, most mornings I put very little thought into what I eat for breakfast. It’s usually just granola or, if I don’t have any classes or meetings very early in the morning, a bowl of oatmeal cooked with some berries. My breakfast choices are usually very boring. But with the recent holiday weekend, I decided to celebrate by making my favorite oatmeal pancakes.

I grew up on pancakes that my parents made from a Krusteaz mix, but these oatmeal pancakes take only a few minutes longer to make and are infinitely better in terms of taste and texture, and the addition of whole grains makes them healthier. Next time I might throw some lemon zest in with the wet ingredients. With the entire batch, I’m pretty much set for breakfast this week.

Oatmeal Pancakes

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 3/4 cup oat flour (I made this by pulsing a scant 1 cup of rolled oats in my food processor until they were finely ground)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. Kosher or coarse salt
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, melted and cooled slightly (plus extra for the pan)
  • 1 1/4 cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal (cook 1/2 cup rolled oats and a pinch of salt in 1 cup water until the water is absorbed; cool slightly)
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • Syrup, berries, and powdered sugar, if desired, for serving

Whisk the dry ingredients (oat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder and salt) together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (butter, half-and-half, cooked oatmeal, honey and eggs) until thoroughly combined. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, using a very light hand. The batter will be slightly thick.

Heat a 10-inch pan over medium heat until water sizzles when splashed onto the pan, then lower heat to medium-low. Brush the pan generously with butter. Dollop 1/4-cup mounds of batter onto the pan, 2 or 3 at a time. Once bubbles have begun to form and break towards the center of each pancake, flip it over and cook until the bottom is dark golden-brown, another 2 minutes. Continue with the rest of the batter until it is used up. Serve the pancakes hot.

Yield: Smitten Kitchen says 18 pancakes, but I got 15 because I used heaping 1/4 cups of batter.

Homemade ricotta cheese, and a few ways to use it

A few weeks ago after a brunch I hosted for friends I found myself with a gallon of 2% milk left over and a few cups of spare buttermilk. That gave me the opportunity to make my own ricotta cheese, which, though it may seem intimidating, really is easier than it sounds. Armed with a recipe from the Smitten Kitchen and some makeshift cheesecloth, I made a double batch of ricotta cheese that was far tastier than anything I’ve bought at the store.

Of course, this left me with a whole lot of ricotta to use up. The recipes I’ve included below made good use of it. You can also use the ricotta in a classic Italian lasagna or in baked goods like muffins.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Michael Chiarello

  • 2 quarts whole milk (though I subbed 2% milk without any problems)
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

Line a wide sieve or colander with cheesecloth, folded so that it is at least four layers thick (I didn’t have cheesecloth, so I used two layers cut from an old, clean T-shirt; worked like a charm). Place colander in sink.

Pour milk and buttermilk into a wide, heavy-bottomed pot. Add salt and lemon juice. Cook over high heat, stirring frequently; scrape bottom of pot occasionally to prevent scorching. As milk heats, curds will begin to rise and clump on the surface. Once steam starts to rise off the mixture, stop stirring.

When mixture reaches 175 to 180 degrees, curds and whey will separate (whey will look like cloudy water underneath a mass of thick white curds). Immediately turn off the heat and gently ladle curds into the cloth-lined colander. When all curds are in the colander and dripping has slowed (about 5 minutes), gently gather edges of cloth and twist to bring curds together; do not squeeze. Let drain 15 minutes more. Discard the whey.

Untwist the cloth and pack ricotta into airtight containers. Refrigerate and use within one week.

Yield: about two cups. Can be doubled easily.

Roasted Ricotta Roma Tomatoes

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

  • 8 roma tomatoes
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, minced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2-3/4 cup panko
  • Olive oil for drizzling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Halve tomatoes lengthwise. Scoop the insides out of each tomato half and discard. Sprinkle the inside of each tomato half with a bit of kosher salt to help draw out excess moisture and set over a paper towel to drain for 10-15 minutes. Pat dry with a paper towel.

Mix ricotta cheese, herbs, and garlic and season to taste with salt and pepper. Fill each tomato half with a spoonful of the ricotta mixture. Put each tomato half face down in the panko crumbs to coat the cheese and then place face up on a baking sheet. Drizzle each tomato half with a bit of olive oil. Roast in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until the panko is golden-brown on top.

Yield: about 8 appetizer servings.

No-Bake Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

Adapted from the New York Times

  • 8 whole graham crackers, crushed into crumbs
  • 3-4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries

Combine crushed graham crackers with enough melted butter so that the mixture easily presses together between your fingers. Press evenly into bottom of a glass 8- or 9-inch square pan to form a crust about 1/4-inch thick. Refrigerate while you make the cheesecake layer.

Using a standing or hand mixer, or a whisk, combine cream cheese, ricotta, honey, lemon zest and salt, and blend until smooth.  Spread cheese mixture carefully and evenly over crust, smoothing top with a spatula. Cover with fresh blueberries and press them lightly into the cheesecake layer. Chill for at least an hour, or until set. Cut into squares or bars and serve.

Yield: 8 to 12 servings

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

Adapted from Bobby Flay

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • Butter, for griddle
  • Syrup and fresh berries, for serving

Preheat a non-stick griddle. Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk together the cheese, eggs, milk, and lemon zest and juice in a large bowl. Fold the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until just combined, being careful not to overmix. Brush the hot griddle with butter. For each pancake, pour approximately 1/4 cup of the batter on the griddle and cook on both sides until light golden brown. Repeat until no batter remains. Serve with syrup and fresh fruit, such as strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries.

Yield: about 4-6 pancakes