SECRET RECIPE CLUB: DULCE DE LECHE CHEESECAKE BARS

Where is 2014 going in such a big hurry?  It acts as if it’s desperately searching for 2015 or something, hard to believe we are in the end of May already!  Still, each month closes with the secretive deliciousness of Reveal Day in the Secret Recipe Club. For those who may not know, it is that super fun event in which bloggers pick are assigned a blog in secret, choose a recipe to cook from it, and blog about it on the exact same day (and time!).  This month I went through several cycles of hyperventilation from the moment I got my assignment. Why, you may ask?  Because I received the blog of our group’s moderator!  Can you imagine that?  It’s like having to present a seminar on the research topic of the Head of your department!   Hummmm, come to think of it, I’ve done that a few times in the past couple of years.  No wonder I hyperventilate so much…  (inside joke, laugh if you get it).

Our moderator, Sarah, is the gorgeous hostess of the blog Fantastical Sharing of Recipes. She is the Mom of two kids, 7-year-old Matthew and 6-year-old Cambria, and also has two kittens, Bella and Muffin. That seems busy enough for me, but she talks about getting a dog to join the fun! Let’s hope she will think twice before getting a Jack Russell Terror…  ;-)  Apart from taking care of two young kids, she also supervises 37 grownup kids in Group D of The Secret Recipe Club. For the most part, I suppose we are well-behaved,  but undoubtedly there’s a lot of responsibilities on her shoulders. I went through her site with desserts and sweets in mind, hoping to bake something to take to our graduate students.  But a lot of savory options tempted me like her Atomic Hashbrowns (with a name like that, they gotta be awesome!), her Tamale BallsPhilly Cheesesteak Egg Rolls (fusion cooking, anyone?), and her Jalapeno Popper Turkey Chili.  After struggling with several options for sweets, I could not decide between her Blueberry Breakfast Braid. and the Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars.  I tossed a coin. Yes, I did.  And here is what the coin told me to do:

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DULCE DE LECHE CHEESECAKE BARS
(from Fantastical Sharing of Recipes)

for the crust:
1 sleeve graham crackers
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. butter, melted

for the filling:
12 oz. dulce de leche
2 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, room temp
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla

for the glaze:
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. corn syrup
1 Tbsp. heavy cream

Prepare an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper and non-stick spray.

Grind crackers with sugar in a food processor. Stir in butter. Cover the bottom of the pan pressing the crumbs well with your fingers. Bake at 325* for 10 minutes and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Pour dulce de leche on the crust and refrigerate.

Make the filling:  beat cream cheese for 3 minutes. Add sugar and beat another 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla; beat just until incorporated. Spread filling on top of dulce de leche layer. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes. Cool for 2 hours.

For glaze: Heat all ingredients in a saucepan or double broiler, stirring until smooth. Cool for 10 minutes and pour over cooled filling. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Let sit at room temp for 10 minutes before cutting.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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 Comments:  This was my first time making a cheesecake type dessert, so I was excited to try it, but a bit worried about my inexperience. My goal was to take these bars to our lab meeting, which happens early on Thursdays.  I laid out a nice schedule to make everything the evening before, taking in account that I had to meet Phil and a guest speaker for dinner at 8pm.  On my way home I stopped at the store to get the ingredients, arrived home and got busy. Each step was planned to the minute,  I was following along flawlessly. Flawlessly? Not so fast, Silly Sally… not so fast.  When making my list for the grocery store, I did not notice the recipe called for TWO cream cheese packages. TWO. I brought home only one.  Can you imagine the shiver up and down my spine? Can you picture my kitchen at that very moment? Can you, really?  Yeap.  Best laid plans.

Considering all my options and how fast the clock was ticking, I rushed back to the grocery store, faced the same cashier with a sheepish smile, and brought the second package of cream cheese home.  Drove like a maniac to the restaurant, joined the gentlemen for dinner, and…  found myself baking way past bedtime.  Best laid plans. Story of my life.

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But, as usual, it all had a happy ending, although I should have remembered to bring a good knife to the lab to cut the squares.  The knife available at the department was definitely not up to the challenge, and my production did not look nearly as good as that from Sarah. I think the best way to cut a cheesecake is a very sharp knife, dipping it in hot water at each cut, and cleaning the blade with a paper towel as you go. Keep that in mind if you make this decadent dessert.   Decadent is a good way to define it, we are talking major caloric intake, but a little piece should satisfy even those with a very sweet tooth…   I wish I had made my own dulce de leche from scratch like Sarah did,  but that will have to wait for another opportunity.

Sarah, I had a blast with my assignment this month, I know it was not a secret for you, but that is part of the life of a moderator, right?  I also want to take this opportunity to thank you for always sending the assignments very early, giving us more than enough time to stalk, cook, and blog. I know that everyone from our group certainly appreciates that… ;-)

If you want to check the labor of love of my fellow Group D members, click on the blue entity smiling at you at the end of the post.

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Penne with Trapanese Pesto

TWO YEARS AGO: Superman

THREE YEARS AGO: Spring Pasta

FOUR YEARS AGO: Ice Cream Melts for Mango

 

SECRET RECIPE CLUB – TURKEY CHILI WITH ALMOND BUTTER

Last Monday of the month, and here I am once more sharing with you the recipe I chose to make from the blog Natural Noshing, which I was thrilled to receive as my assignment in The Secret Recipe Club.  Natural Noshing, as the name implies, is a blog centered on healthy cooking, whole grains, a lot of gluten-free recipes, but as will become clear as you browse Nora’s site, there is no compromise of flavor.  I love the way she describes herself:

I am an active, twenty-something “foodie” with a passion for nutrition and eating natural, real food — nothing too fussy, over-processed or complicated.  Growing up, I was the girl that didn’t read novels or magazines – I read cookbooks and recipes.

This was a super busy month for us for many reasons, including a trip to Arizona and wrapping up experiments to get a big manuscript ready for publication.  To make life easier, I concentrated my search on her poultry recipes, and had three serious contenders fighting for the spotlight in the Bewitching Kitchen:  her Chicken with Pepian Sauce, her Kickin’ Cashew Chicken, and this amazing Turkey Chili that ended up as our dinner.   I am unable to resist anything with almond butter these days.  ;-)

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TURKEY CHILI WITH ALMOND BUTTER
(slightly adapted from Natural Noshing)

1/2 lb ground turkey
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 small shallot, diced
1 zucchini, shredded
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp New Mexico Chile powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
cayenne pepper to taste
2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can Pinto beans, rinsed and drained
3 Tbsp creamy almond butter
salt and pepper to taste
minced fresh cilantro, to taste

In a large skillet, heat coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add turkey and shallots and saute until cooked through and shallots are translucent stirring frequently, about 5-6 minutes. Break up any large chunks of meat while stirring.

Add zucchini and spices and saute for another 2-3 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, beans and almond butter and stir until combined.

Turn heat to low and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, until thickened. Garnish with shredded cheese, sour cream, avocados, or other toppings of your choice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  This chili rocks. I was surprised by how much flavor it packed in such a short cooking time, making it doable on a weeknight. In fact, I stopped at the grocery store on my way home, grabbed the ground turkey and the zucchini (I had everything else at home), and in less than 45 minutes we were enjoying this meal.  The zucchini disappears during cooking, you won’t be able to see it, but it definitely contributes to the complexity of flavor.  And the almond butter, oh, my…  what a great addition to this chili!  Once you add it, you will see that the texture changes and the sauce gets that substance that normally you would get only with a long and slow cooking.   Awesome recipe.  We enjoyed leftovers for a couple of days, it only got better.  By the way, you can use any type of meat for this chili, as well as any type of beans, so go ahead and improvise. Keep the zucchini, and of course, if you skip the almond butter I might have to stop talking to you…  ;-)

Nora, it was great to stalk your blog this month, I hope you had as much fun with your own assignment!

For my readers: if you want to marvel at the productions of other members of my group, go poke a blue frog…  (now that sounds pretty nasty, but she is harmless, and enjoys the attention).

ONE YEAR AGO: Secret Recipe Club: Leek and Cheese Tart

TWO YEARS AGO: Secret Recipe Club; Triple Chocolate Brownies

THREE YEARS AGO: Shaved Asparagus Salad

FOUR YEARS AGO: Indonesian Ginger Chicken

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: CHAI BROWNIES

March 31st. Last day of the month. Last Monday of the month. It can only mean one thing: it’s a food blog party, The Secret Recipe Club Reveal Day!  I knew that March was going to be a particularly busy month, with a trip abroad followed by Spring Break, which for us has little to do with a break, quite the contrary.  We profit from the fact that the students don’t have classes or TA duties to set the accelerator on experiments. So, I jumped on the assignment right away, and that was a good move because my secret blog, Healthy Delicious has been around for a long, long time!  Talk about a veteran food blogger, that is Lauren defined to a T. She is a recipe developer and food photographer, most of her recipes take less than 40 minutes to prepare, and are in perfect tune with her site’s name: healthy and delicious!  ;-)

I was having my share of secret fun bookmarking many options, but then I stumbled on her post on Chai Brownies and noticed the date of its publication. March 11th, 2007.  I know well a person who was born on March 11th.  No, not 2007, but who cares?  A few years here, a few there, compared to the time since the Big Bang, it’s a blink of an eye.  I looked no further.

Still, let me share with  you some of the other recipes I had in mind: Prosciutto and Artichoke Quiche (oh, my!), Baked Chicken and Spinach Flautas (check this recipe out, very nice interpretation of a classic), Lamb Meatballs in Cumin Scented Sauce over Spaghetti Squash (I must make this soon), Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Pecans and Gorgonzola Cream Sauce , Mussels in Saffron Tomato Sauce (simple and irresistible), and her Lemon Chicken Soup with Tortellini.  But there’s a lot more, as you might imagine from a food blog that has been around for seven years!

And, before I move to the recipe, take a look at Dorothy’s site, Shocklingly Delicious, to see which recipe she chose from my blog (one of my favorite cakes ever and the most popular recipe of BK last year). She wrote such a wonderful post about it, I cannot stop smiling…. Thank you, Dorothy!

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CHAI BROWNIES
(slightly modified from Healthy Delicious)
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for spice mixture:
1/4 cup low-fat milk
a dash of cardamom
3 whole allspice
a dash of cinnamon
3 cloves
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for brownie batter:
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter
1 egg
1 + 1/2 cup  flour
3/4  cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder

Heat the oven to 350 F.

Add the ingredients for the spice mixture to a pot and bring to a quick boil. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Strain into a large microwave safe bowl.

To the bowl of chai, add butter and chocolate. Microwave about 30 seconds until melted. Stir until smooth. Let cool for a minute. Add egg.  Sift in remaining dry ingredients and mix until it forms a stiff batter.

Bake in a Pyrex dish sprayed with oil, about 25 minutes until set. Let cool, and cut into pieces.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Language pet-peeve alert! Language pet-peeve alert!  ;-)

In the United States,  chai often describes what should be instead called masala:  a mixture of spices such as cardamon, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, that can be used to brew black tea, creating masala chai. By itself, “chai” is a word that means tea, and has its origins in Chinese. Interestingly enough, it is the same word used in Portuguese – chá –  although the pronunciation is slightly different in both languages.

I love the flavors normally associated with masala chai, and thought that the marriage of a good old-fashioned chocolate brownie with such warm spices would be perfect. And perfect it was!

I did not have whole allspice berries in my pantry, but decided it was worth getting a jar, so now I am the proud owner of two allspice products, one whole, one ground.  Gotta put them to good use before they lose their punch.

These brownies brought a lot of excitement to a cloudy and cold Monday morning in our department.  I loved the delicate flavor of cardamon in the background, and the texture of the cake, with a crackled surface was wonderful too.

Lauren, it was great to get to know your blog better, and I urge my readers to stop by her site and browse through, particularly if you like to see recipes that are lightened up without loss of flavor.

For those interested in joining our virtual monthly party, click on the crazy-looking amphibian smiling at the end of this post.

ONE YEAR AGO:  A Small Tribute to a Big Man

TWO YEARS AGO: Still got stout?

THREE YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

FOUR YEARS AGO: Spring Rolls on a Spring Day

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: BARLEY RISOTTO WITH PEAS

Dear readers, when I got the Secret Recipe Club assignment for this month I went into full-happy-dance mode!   It turns out that I’ve been paying attention to Chocolate and Chillies for a looong time, and hoping I would be paired with it, to stalk it real good. And that is exactly what I did.  Asiya, the hostess of Chocolate and Chillies, has a ton of recipes that entice me.   She was born and raised in Toronto, where she now lives with her husband and two kids, but her family is originally from India. Her blog features recipes with a heavy Indian influence, and to make it even better,  many are her own family recipes.  I love it!  I bookmarked many options, but five were the strongest contenders.  Here they are: Butter Chicken (lower in fat than regular versions),  Mummy’s Tomato Spiced Rice,  Whole Wheat Banana Muffins, and…  Afghani Kebob with Tomato Gravy.  The fifth? It’s the one I ended up making:  Barley Risotto with Peas and Asparagus.  Oh, my….  what an amazing dish this was! I made a slight adaptation because the asparagus looked very sad at the grocery store that day, so I went with carrots.

Barley Risotto with Peas

BARLEY RISOTTO WITH PEAS AND CARROTS
(slightly modified from Chocolate and Chillies)

4-6 cups of vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 leek, chopped
1 cup pearled barley
2 carrots, diced
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp  freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup light cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Boil the vegetable stock.  Reduce heat to medium-low to keep it warm.Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add the minced shallot and leek.  Saute 5-7 minutes until  tender.  Add barley and stir for a minute so that everything is well coated.  Add 1 cup broth and stir until most of it has been absorbed.  Continue to add 1/2 cup hot vegetable broth at a time, stirring until it has been absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup.
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While the barley is being cooked, microwave the pieces of carrots with a little water until almost tender, and reserve. Or you can cook them on top of the stove in a little salted water, and drain them well.
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After 15 minutes of cooking the barley, add carrots and peas.  Stir in salt and pepper.  Continue to add water until barley is cooked through.
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Remove from heat.  Add lemon juice, cream cheese and Parmesan cheese.  Stir until cheese is melted.
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ENJOY!
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                                                                  to print the recipe, click here
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Comments:  This was such a creamy, comforting dish, I love the traditional risotto made with Arborio rice, but this version with barley won my heart!  I definitely want to make it with asparagus to celebrate the arrival of Spring and with it that infusion of life and joy and all things sunny and beautiful and gorgeous and warm into my personal equation.  Can you detect my excitement as February says goodbye?  I bet you can.

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The barley risotto was served with grilled pork tenderloin, but for the next couple of days the risotto all by itself was my lunch.  It tends to dry out a little bit in the fridge, but a little squirt of lemon juice brings it back nicely.  I am not sure this could work for a risotto fritter like a regular rice risotto would, it seems to me that the grains of barley would be hard to keep together, but if anyone tries it and succeeds, let me know.

Asiya, I had a blast stalking your blog and picking a recipe to cook from!

For those interested in following the cooking adventures of the other Secret Recipe members in my group, poke the cute blue frog at the end of the post, and have fun!

ONE YEAR AGO: Oatmeal Fudge Bars

TWO YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Steaks

THREE YEARS AGO: Soft Spot for Chevre

FOUR YEARS AGO: Quick sun-dried Tomato Crostini

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: QUINOA AND SWEET POTATO CAKES

Quinoa Sweet Potato Cakes1
The Secret Recipe Club is a monthly event that pairs food bloggers in secret so that they pick a recipe from their assigned partner, and blog about at the exact same time.  My group always posts on the last Monday of the month, but we had a vacation break in December.  Having barely survived SRC withdrawal syndrome, here I am to report on the outcome of my virtual stalking of Nicole’s site,  Hapa-tite.  I was delighted to learn the rationale behind her blog’s name: Hapa is a Hawaiian word that means “half” and is used to describe a person of mixed race with partial roots in the Asian or Pacific Islander heritage.  Hawaii is one of our favorite spots on earth for a vacation.  We love the atmosphere, the music, the pace of life, the people, and you cannot beat the weather.  Weather?  Sore subject. As I type this on a Sunday morning,  a foot of snow  is laying in our backyard. Simply put: a meteorological tragedy.  But, rather than dwell on the harsh reality of January in Kansas, I will tell you that two other recipes fought very hard to be featured in the Bewitching today: her Chicken-Lime Skewers with Apricot Glaze,  and her Pork Souvlaki.  In the end, the chance to use my black, red & white quinoa made me go for these tasty little fritters.

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QUINOA AND SWEET POTATO CAKES
(from Hapa-tite,  inspired by original recipe from Cannelle & Vanille)

makes 8 cakes

1/2 cup (90 g) quinoa, rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, diced
1 + /2 cups (about 200 g) grated sweet potato
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 eggs
1/3 cup (50 g) Panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
grape seed oil for frying
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Bring 1 cup (250 ml) of water to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Add quinoa and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Stir, reduce heat to medium low, cover with a lid, and cook for 20 minutes until quinoa has absorbed all the water and it’s tender. Set aside to cool.
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Heat a medium saute pan over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and cook the shallot for 3 minutes. Add the grated sweet potato, 1/4 teaspoon salt, coriander, and black pepper, and cook for another 3 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
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In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, and chives. Add the cooled quinoa and sweet potato mixture. Stir to combine.
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Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add enough grape seed oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Spoon 1/4 cup of the mixture and shape it into a round cake. Add enough cakes to the pan without overcrowding it. Cook for 3 minutes on each side or until golden. Finish frying all the cakes. Drain them on paper towels before serving.
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ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: Aren’t these cakes the most colorful thing ever?  I modified the recipe a little bit, adding more sweet potato than called for, and using a mixture of different quinoa colors instead of only white.  They turned out quite festive.  Those who have gluten intolerance can use gluten-free bread crumbs, or I suppose almond flour could go well too.  You could probably get by with only 1/4 cup of almond flour as a binder.   I also think some grated ginger could be fantastic together with the coriander and the herbs.  Fun things to try.

Nicole, it was great to get to know your blog a little better this month, I see that 2014 will bring wonderful things to your life, like moving to a new home and getting married…  Good luck with all your projects, and if you succeed in de-cluttering, tell me your secret!  ;-)

If you want to see what my fellow Secreters were concocting in their kitchens this month, poke the blue frog at the end of the post. I think she might be Hawaiian, who knows?   She sure seems to have that aura of happiness that comes with the islands…

ONE YEAR AGO: Pumpkin Bolo de Fuba’ Cremoso

TWO YEARS AGO: Citrus-crusted Tilapia Filets

THREE YEARS AGO: Bran Muffins, not just for Hippies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Flourless Chocolate Cake

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: POTATO CRUSTED ITALIAN MINI-QUICHE

Spinach Mini Quches
November is waving goodbye,  I try to stay positive and upbeat even though the weather is getting colder and colder.  No matter the temperature outside, the last Monday of the month brings with it a warm feeling: it is Reveal Day for members of The Secret Recipe Club.  After getting an assigned blog in secret, we have about 3 weeks to pick a recipe, cook, compose a blog about it and post at the exact same time as everyone else in the group. This month I was paired with Curious Cuisiniere, a blog hosted by Sarah and Tim, a young couple with a smile as bright as the sun on a summer day in Brazil.  If you don’t believe me, check their beautiful photo…    I love it when a couple has so much fun cooking and exploring different flavors and cuisines, so I was pretty excited to act as a virtual stalker of their site.  Before I go into the recipe, let me share with you a great quote from  their blog:

Life gets rough.  The kitchen gets hot.  But there will hopefully always be something tasty that results, someone to share it with, and lessons learned along the way.

Perfect!  I wish I had written that myself…  ;-)   During the stalking phase, I selected 6 other recipes as strong contenders:  a Sweet Potato African Peanut Soup, a tasty Coconut Fish Curry,  a Sesame Chicken Salad (with an interesting method to coat the chicken pieces), Oriental Burritos.  a Sweet Chicken Tajine, and finally something I’ve been wanting to try for a long time, Pretzel Rolls.  But, with a dinner party approaching, I settled on the cute mini-quiches.

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POTATO CRUSTED ITALIAN MINI-QUICHES
(slightly modified from Curious Cuisiniere)
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for the crust
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
Salt and pepper to taste
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for the filling
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
1 shallot, finely minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon salt
dash of nutmeg
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
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Heat your oven to 350F. Place diced potatoes in a medium saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil potatoes until soft. Drain all but ¼ cup of the cooking liquid. Mash the potatoes with salt and pepper to a very smooth consistency. Spoon roughly 1 teaspoon of mashed potatoes into the bottom of each section of your greased mini muffin tin. Press to the bottom and slightly up the sides to form a ‘crust’. Bake potato crusts for 20 minutes or until they start to get golden.
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In a medium bowl, combine dry spinach with shallot, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. Toss to mix well. Reserve. In a small bowl beat the eggs and milk until well combined. Season with a little salt and a dash of nutmeg.
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When your crusts come out of the oven, immediately measure or pour roughly 1 Tbsp egg mixture into each cup. Add ½ tsp of spinach mixture and ½ tsp mozzarella cheese to each cup as well. Top off with additional egg mixture if needed.  Bake mini-quiche 15-20 minutes at 350F, or until they have set and are firm to the touch.  Let the quiche cool for 5 minutes in the pan on a wire rack before removing the quiche from the pan to cool on the rack.
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ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  I only have one mini-muffin pan that holds 12 muffins, so I had to bake these in two batches. That turned out nicely, because in typical Sally fashion,  I disregarded the instructions to use 1 teaspoon of mashed potato in the first batch, and added more.  That is no bueno, folks.  The layer of potato turned out too thick, never quite crisped up, so the first batch looked sad. Not very brown at the bottom. The photo above shows the correct amount of potato, which interestingly enough is exactly what the recipe called for!  So, do as specified and save yourself some grief.

I also thought it was a good idea to add the spinach to the milk-egg base and mix it. No bueno hits again: the spinach just floats and you are forced to mix it in and do all kinds of tricks and messy maneuvers to get equal amounts of spinach in each mini-muffin. Crass language will be heard. Once you follow the recipe as written, there shall be no problems.

Using mashed potatoes as the base was a nice change to the regular quiche. The use of milk instead of heavy cream also lightened up the recipe compared to the classic.  I can see variations using sautéed mushrooms, my sister in Brazil wants to make it with sautéed zucchini, all sorts of goodies can be incorporated, just like a normal sized concoction.

I had a great time this month, and invite you to check the productions of my fellow Secret Stalkers from Group D.  All you have to do is go poke a blue frog. There is one smiling at the end of this post, waiting for your click…  ;-)

ONE YEAR AGO: Beetroot Sourdough for the Holidays

TWO YEARS AGO: Cod Filet with Mustard Tarragon Crust

THREE YEARS AGO: Soba Noodles: Light and Healthy

FOUR YEARS AGO: Potato-Rosemary Bread

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: MOZZARELLA-STUFFED TURKEY BURGER

October is coming to an end. The last couple of years have been so busy for us! Months go flying by, each one bringing new challenges, but the last Monday of each month is always special: it is reveal day for The Secret Recipe Club, the best group event in the cooking blogosphere.  Food bloggers are paired in secret, stalk each others’ site in search of a recipe, cook it and blog about it at the exact same time.   The group is very popular now, there is a huge waiting list for new members, so if you are interested, send your name in.  Just keep in mind you need to be blogging for a while so that you have enough recipes in your database, and also a recipe index in your site.

This month I got a GREAT site to cook from: Cooking Whims.  Megan is funny, witty, her cooking style similar to ours.  I love this little bit she wrote about herself:

  “I love goat cheese, all things pumpkin, chocolate, and dancing to Sinatra while I experiment in my kitchen”.

Awesome!  Now, back to my assignment. The fact that we were away for 10 days on a trip to California and that our kitchen was still undergoing hellnovation made this month’s participation a bit of a stretch, but by now I am used to cooking stresses of many kinds.  Several recipes called my name during the stalking period.  For instance, her Oatmeal Ricotta Buttermilk Pancakes…  or Fish Tacos with Spicy Tomato-Cucumber Salsa… but I also flirted with her Beet Hummus,  and the Hungarian Paprika Chicken.  So, what did I choose in the end?   A turkey burger.  I could not resist that one, made ultra special by home-made marinara sauce and a stuffing of mozzarella.

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MOZZARELLA-STUFFED TURKEY BURGER
(slightly modified from Cooking Whims)

for the marinara sauce
2 tsp olive oil
1 small shallot, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups plum tomatoes, chopped
6  sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp salt & pepper

for the burgers
1.5 lb ground turkey (50:50 dark and white meat)
1/4 cup chopped scallions
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
2 tbsp minced fresh basil
4 thin slices of mozzarella cheese (optional)

For the marinara sauce: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until translucent, 5-7 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook until the tomatoes have broken down. Pulse a few times in a food processor. Set aside on very low heat to keep warm.

For the turkey burgers: Place the turkey, scallions, Worcestershire sauce, lemon zest, oregano, parsley, pepper and salt in a large bowl. Mix with your hands, then shape into 8 thin patties.

Combine 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and basil. Divide evenly on the center of 4 patties. You may not need all the cheese. Cover each patty with the remaining patties and crimp closed.

Grill the burgers turning once, for a total of 8 to 10 minutes on a medium-high grill. When the burgers are almost cooked through, top with a slice of cheese and allow the cheese to melt before serving with a helping of marinara sauce on top.

We enjoyed our burgers “naked”, but for a real burger experience, have some toasted buns ready…  and

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

ingredients

Comments:  Megan’s description of this recipe started with “This burger belongs on a show called burger wars.”.  Then, she says that another version from her blog would fight for the number one spot, the “Hummus Turkey Burger with Cucumber  & Feta Cheese“. Of course I intend to make that one soon.  Stay tuned.

We loved these burgers!  She is absolutely right, the lemon zest is a key component of the recipe, but everything comes together in perfect harmony, including the simple but tasty marinara, that calls for sun-dried and regular tomatoes.

I slightly modified the recipe by mixing dark and light ground turkey, and using about 50% more meat than she did to end up with 4 stuffed patties. Since we were going to enjoy them without buns, I wanted each to be slightly bigger. I also included fresh Italian parsley because I had some in the fridge and it seemed like a good herb to incorporate in the mix.   Once you have the mixture ready, portion 8 equal amounts over parchment paper, flatten them, add the cheese to half of them, cover with the other portion.

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Pinching the sides seems hard to do, but don’t worry, it will work.  I cooked my burgers on the grill, as it would have been impossible to cook them in our improvised kitchen.

composite2.

Now, as if I did not have enough grievance in my life, when I was getting ready to take the first photo, I could not find the lemon.  Keep in mind that the fridge was still in the garage, to get to it we needed to jump over a few pieces of wood and squeeze through some furniture.  So, I am going crazy searching for my lemon.  The thoughtful man I married suggested that “maybe you think you got it from the fridge but you didn’t“.  His remark caused me to go into a blazing hot monologue that traumatized for life two of our three dogs.  Chief was spared thanks to being deaf.   A second lemon quickly showed up at the scene, and we put the citric incident to rest.  Later that evening,  Phil calls me in the TV room:  cozy inside a dog bed between the sofa and the wall, a lemon was peacefully resting.

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Never a dull moment, folks.  Never a dull moment…

Megan, I loved getting your blog this month, and hope you had fun with your own assignment too!

For those who want to see what Group D cooked up for the final Monday of October, click on the blue frog at the end of the post. She loves a little click!  ;-)

ONE YEAR AGO:  Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

TWO YEARS AGO: Clay-pot Pork Roast

THREE YEARS AGO: Panmarino

FOUR YEARS AGO: A Classic Roast Chicken