Kicking Ketchup

When I was little I was told the corniest joke but it cracked me up and I still remember it.  A mama tomato and a baby tomato were walking along but baby tomato kept lagging behind.  So mama tomato stomped on baby tomato and yelled “Ketchup!”  Told you it was corny.  🙂

It was high time I tried making my own ketchup.  Given that we are currently being overwhelmed with fresh tomatoes we had enough to make some.  With the experiment using the Epsom salt for the tomatoes this year I have some results.  We have a crazy amount of tomatoes this year and very little cracking which has been an issue in the previous years.  On the flip side the fruit are ripening in a weird way.  Not sure if it’s because the season is cooler than normal.  They fall off before they are ripe and then they are going off a lot faster so we are struggling to keep up with it.  I will try this again next year to see what is what.

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I did a bit of research on ketchup recipes and figured I could come up with my own recipe without too much trouble.  I estimate we had about 6-7 pounds of tomatoes which we chopped and added it to a large pot.

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In addition chop 1 large red onion, 1 medium white onion, a jalapeno, 2 Ring O Fire peppers, and 2 cloves of garlic.

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Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, 2-3 tsps of sea salt, 1-2 tsps of pepper, and a handful of celery leaves.  Bring to a simmer stirring well.

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Simmer until the sauce reduces by about a third.

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Let it cool and then use a hand blender to process the ingredients.  Press the sauce through a sieve to remove the remaining solids into a clean pot.

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Bring back up to a simmer.  Add a cup of red wine vinegar and 3/4 cup of brown sugar.  Simmer until the ketchup is reduce by another 1/3 and is the consistency you want.  I like it on the thicker side so it reduced a bit more than a 1/3.  If you want it thicker add a bit more brown sugar.

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Can in sterilised jars and process for 10 minutes.

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I am really pleased how this came out.  Certainly makes me want to whip up some burgers and fries!  Maybe some onion rings.  🙂  This has a lovely heat finish to it.

Ooh, as I write this I got a little trophy thing saying it’s my two year anniversary!  Woot!  🙂

Pear Frangipane and Getting In My Own Way…

This was three days in the making.  Yes, three days.  Not because this an elaborate recipe, there are several steps, but because I was my own worse enemy this weekend.  Normally this is a few hours of work but I started it on Friday and finally finished it yesterday afternoon.

My husband and I were struggling with a summer cold on Friday.  So we were dragging.  But I figured I’d be ambitious and bake a frangipane.  My sister had made this a few times before and it’s delicious.  I finally remembered to buy pears and they were ripe and ready to go.  I got the butter and the flour in the freezer then went to get out the food processor and dropped a pasta attachment on my toe.  Fortunately it only dropped a few inches because that solid steel really hurt!  So off I went to elevate it and ice it. That day was done.

Saturday just got away from us.  We were finding storage solutions for our son’s room so he can organise the crazy amount of Lego he has acquired.  Shopping takes a lot out of you so that day was shot!  Yesterday was the day to make this happen.

This is the recipe I used.

For the pastry you will need:  9T butter, 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/3 cup of water.  Cut the butter in 1/2″ slices and place in the freezer for 1/2 an hour.  Chill the water in the fridge.

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In a food processor pulse the butter, flour, and salt together until the flour and butter are incorporated in a crumbly mixture.

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Slowly add the water while pulsing the food processor.  Stop pulsing when all the water has been added.  You want the pastry to feel dry still.  Tip it onto the counter.

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Press the pastry in a kneading fashion to bring the pastry together.  This will take a few minutes.

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Roll out the pastry until it is about 1/2″ thick and cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.  It can be chilled for up to 24 hours.

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For the Frangipane you will need: 1 cup of almonds, 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 T of flour, 1 egg, 5 T butter, 1 tsp of vanilla extract, 1/2 tsp of almond extract, pinch of salt.

In the food processor pulse the almonds and sugar together until you get a fine meal.

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Add in the rest of the ingredients and pulse until blended.  I put in the butter in one lump and it took awhile to blend so I recommend cutting the butter first into small pieces.

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For the pears you will need: 3-4 Bartlett pears, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 T flour, pinch of salt, zest of one lemon, 1T of lemon juice.

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As my pears were really ripe this part was very messy.  But peel and slice the pears.  In a bowl add the sugar, salt, flour, and lemon zest.  Mix well then add the pears and lemon juice.  Set aside.

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Pre heat the oven to 425F/220C.

Roll out the pastry to about 16″.  If the pastry is too hard let it warm up a bit.  In the centre add the frangipane.

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Layer the pears over the frangipane and fold the pastry over the top.

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Beat one egg and add about a tablespoon of water to the egg.  Brush this over the pastry and sprinkle with sugar.

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Lower the temp to 400F/205C.  Bake for 40 minutes.

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Let it cool before serving.  Serve it with whipped cream.

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It was a long weekend but this was a great treat to end it.  My husband made a fabulous cheese souffle for dinner so we had an excellent meal all round!

I noticed halfway of writing this post that I was back to the new style but it gave me the chance to go back to classic.  Luckily I copied what I wrote before I switched back because when you do that it erases any work you have done.  I’d like it to stick to classic!

 

Ale Chutney

One of the things I have on my list when we go home to England is getting a ploughman’s lunch at the Red Lion in Swanage.  It’s a pub that is still an English pub with the old beams, back garden, and amazing ciders on tap.  And they are willing to do their best at making a black velvet for me.  They also do a fabulous ploughman’s with ale chutney.  It’s one of my favourites.

As we’re getting into the season to make chutneys I thought I’d give it a go.  There really isn’t a lot of choice for ale chutney recipes but I figured I could make up my own.  It didn’t come out like the Red Lion’s but it came out really well with a bit more heat to mine.

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Chop about 350 grams of onion and 300 grams of apples.  This equals about 3 apples.

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Next chop 3 cloves of garlic, 60 g of dates, and 60 g of dried apricots.  In a large pot add the chopped ingredients with a 1/3-1/2 cup of malt vinegar and bring to a simmer.  As it begins to simmer add 1 heaped tbsp of mustard powder, 3 tsp of ground nutmeg, 1-2 tsp of sea salt, and pepper to taste.  Add 350-400g of demerara sugar or brown sugar and stir well.

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As it simmers add the zest of one lemon as well as the juice.  For me I found it to be a bit sweet so I added 2 tsp of red pepper flakes to balance the sweetness.

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Simmer until the apples have broken down and the chutney starts to thicken.  Remove from the heat and add 12 oz of ale or stout.  I used our oatmeal stout.  Bring it back up to a simmer to thicken. I found it wouldn’t thicken as much as I wanted so I added pectin rather than sugar which would make it sweeter.  The next time I make it I’ll back off a bit on the sugar and add more pectin.

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The great things about chutneys is you make it your own.  Adjust as needed to your tastes.  Perfect!  Now I just need to make a ploughman’s.  🙂

PS, there must have been enough people disgruntled with the new wordpress site when writing posts as they are now giving people a choice to revert.  Excellent!  🙂

A Raspberry Twist

Does the Easter bunny exist or not?  That is the question! And I think our 9 year old son has been hedging his bets just like Santa Claus.  Every child goes through the transition wondering what the scoop is.  Going from absolute belief to the realisation that the school yard gossip is right.  And if you are the eldest like our daughter you have to go along with it all.  To have some fun with the kids my husband suggested a scavenger hunt with the plastic eggs the kids have.  We did up clues and placed the eggs round the house with them all leading to the chocolates.  It was fun for all of us!

In addition to the chocolates I wanted to make an after dinner treat and thought cupcakes would do the trick.  I had some raspberries and lemons so I knew I wanted to make some lemon curd and use the raspberries but I didn’t have buttermilk to make the lemon meringue cupcakes.  I went through my cupcake pins to see what I could use as a substitute.  Turned out to be harder than I thought it would be.  Several required buttermilk and I was surprised at how many recipes called for box cake mix!  I mean really, I don’t get that.  That step is more expensive and it’s just as quick to make it from scratch.

I found this recipe to use for the cupcakes and I only made a small change here and there.  Which is bold for me when it comes to baking.  I generally don’t mess with the recipes as there is a definite science to baking.  But the cupcakes came out just fine.

I did up the lemon curd several hours ahead of time so it had time to cool and set.

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.  Line the muffin tins and this recipe makes 12 cupcakes.

In the mixing bowl cream together 1/2 cup of butter and 3/4 cup of sugar.

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Add two eggs and 1 teaspoon of vanilla and mix well.

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Add 1/2 tsp of salt and 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder.  The recipe calls for 1 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of milk.  These two ingredients need to be added a 1/3 at a time, mixing well each time while scraping the sides of the bowl.

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Fill the liners 2/3 thirds full and bake for 20-25 minutes.

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Once they are cooled scoop out the top.  Cut the pointy end off of the top so you can place it on top of the curd.  Before filling with curd put a fresh raspberry into the cupcake.

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Fill in with the curd, put the top back on and dollop some fresh whipped cream on top.

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It’s simple, it looks pretty, and raspberry and lemon make a great pair.  And it leaves room for chocolate!  🙂

 

Roasted Mushroom Tarragon Soup

It has been a gorgeous weekend.  The weather is perfect and we’re getting loads of fresh air.  Though it was on the nippy side yesterday morning it was just warm enough with our winter coats and hats to have breakfast outside downtown.  We enjoy walking the dogs down and grabbing a bagel and do some people watching.

Yesterday afternoon I started tackling the garden.  Today we’ll be bold and plant a few things.  We need to thin out the jungle in the house and the brussel sprouts should be fine outside now.

Friday was chilly and I needed to use up some mushrooms so I came up with a mushroom tarragon soup.  It’s that time of year where you never know what the temperature will be so we can’t shake off the comfort food just yet.  This soup has a lot of flavour but isn’t heavy.

I find taking the step to roast the mushrooms really elevates the flavour of this soup.  I made enough for two people with a little leftover for one lunch.  I sliced about 1 1/2 cups of mushrooms and tossed in olive oil with salt and pepper.

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Roast at 400F/200C for about 20 minutes stirring occasionally.

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In a sauce pan saute 1/2 a cup of chopped onions and a couple of chopped cloves of garlic for a few minutes.  Add the mushrooms and saute for a few more minutes.

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Add 2 cups of veg bouillon and 1/2 a cup of marsala wine.  Bring to a simmer and then add a few teaspoons of fresh chopped tarragon.

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When it is time to serve add about 3/4 cup of cream and heat through.  Don’t let it boil!  Just simmer until it’s hot.  At this point add salt and pepper to taste.  While you are doing this do up some cheesy toast with parmesan cheese.  The pairing of the parmesan with the soup was very good.

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We both liked this a lot.  It’s a shame our son doesn’t like mushrooms as I’d like to make this for the kids.

Now on to a day of making cupcakes and gardening!  It’s gorgeous out so enjoy the day!

Stuffed Cucumbers and If It Looks Like a Duck and Walks Like a Duck…

I’m not a conspiracy theorist by any stretch of the imagination but there are times when the military or government are so blatant it beggars belief.  About 2pm on Wednesday afternoon there was a massive boom that shook all the homes over several towns and it lasted just a second or so.  Because it snowed the night before a lot of us thought snow was falling off our roofs but as we only got an inch and most of it melted by then we were very quickly puzzled about what the hell just happened.  It felt like a truck hit the house.

So of course a lot of people were circling their homes and businesses looking for damage.  What was it?  A sonic boom.  Which is illegal over populated areas.  So the MA National Guard are saying it was just normal jet noise.  The only ones that seem to believe that are the people at the MA National Guard.  It isn’t the fact it was a sonic boom that bothers me, though given how it freaked out our dogs I’m ok without the booms, it’s the fact they are lying about it.  I mean, give over people.  Guinness was very needy for about 24 hours.  Murphy was just fine in his armchair of choice.

Fortunately this past Sunday was much quieter.  We got the family together to celebrate a few birthdays and we did a sort of tapas lunch.  Loads of flavours but not a ton of cooking required.  My mum loves peaches so we did up some peach bellinis which was fun and went down very easily!

I came across a recipe for cucumber feta rolls that looked interesting and I did a variation of those for Sunday.

I decided not to make them into rolls as it would be less messy and I wouldn’t have to worry about toothpicks making their way to the floor then into the dogs.  So I sliced the cucumber into 3/4″ or so slices then hollowed out the top.

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My husband found some locally made feta cheese that was quite nice.  Crumble about 4oz and add a few dollops of plain greek yoghurt.

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Slice up a few pieces of sun dried tomatoes.  It’s on my list this summer to try to make some with the tomatoes from our garden.  Should be an interesting experiment!

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Mix with the cheese and yoghurt, add some chopped oregano and salt and pepper.  Squeeze a splash or so of lemon juice and stir it together.  My husband and son don’t like olives so instead of chopping the kalamata olives and mixing them in I just topped most of these with a slice of olive.

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Very easy to make for a dinner party or for a healthy snack.  And I do love the pairing of sun dried tomatoes and olives.

 

This Is Not Popeye’s Spinach….

My husband and I were grateful to crawl into bed last night and zone for awhile after a busy several days of holiday and whooping it up for his birthday.   The recovery time is not what it used to be!  We did enjoy watching Guy’s Grocery Games on the Food Network last night as a friend of ours, Luca, who is a wonderful local chef won the game.  So that was pretty cool.  But that was the extent of the excitement we could take.  🙂  As many of you know Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday but we had it on Friday this year as it wasn’t our turn to have the kids for the holiday.  My parents and aunt joined us but my sister couldn’t come as we’ve synced up the holidays so when it’s our Christmas they come too and same for Thanksgiving.  That way all the kids have a chance to be together.

We got our turkey at a local farm and we were late ordering it so I was worried how big it was going to be.  Fortunately they still had a relatively small one at 13.9lbs.  So it fit in the fridge!  We did do the traditional mac-n-cheese, gravy, and roasted veg but I wanted to mix it up a bit with other dishes this year.  To keep us sane we did a lot of food prep the day before.  We were still very busy the morning of though.  I was a bit surprised at that since we planned ahead!

When I was a kid the only two ways I would eat cooked spinach was my mum’s spinach quiche and my Grammy’s spinach balls.  Because I really don’t like cooked spinach.  I mean, why would you take a lovely green and kill it that way?  When I had a sense of smell I couldn’t stomach the smell of cooked spinach and the texture threw me.  But mix it with wonderful ingredients and bake it and I’m good to go.  I’m not sure where Grammy got the recipe and if she was the first in our family to put it on the table but it has been passed on to be made for parties and special occasions.  Of course I changed it a bit because I wouldn’t be my mother’s daughter.  I like to think mum got the habit from her mum.  I also made these for Halloween and I was surprised to see one of our friends who doesn’t really care for veg enjoy these.

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C

Cook 20oz of spinach and drain.  Melt 3/4 cup of butter.  Set this aside to cool a bit.  While the spinach is cooking beat 6 eggs together, chop a medium sized shallot and 2-3 cloves of garlic, and grate at least a cup of fresh parmesan.

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When the spinach is ready add the spinach and butter and mix well.

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It was at this point I realised I should have made sure I had all the ingredients.  This recipe needs 2 cups of stuffing you cook on the stove.  I had about a 1/4 cup.  So there was a mad dash to the store and a mad dash back.  A bit of a rookie mistake! Mix in the 2 cups of stuffing.

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Form into balls and place onto a cookie sheet.  These do spread when baking so treat them like cookies.  The original recipe calls for 20-25 minutes to bake, my Grammy had written 30-35 minutes.  If I bake on regular then it takes about a half an hour.  I chose to do convection and it was about 15 minutes.  Good thing I checked.  It depends on your oven.

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If you can serve right away.  We had to do these about an hour beforehand because our bottom oven needed to be in constant use while the turkey roasted in the top oven.  We put them on an oven safe plate and popped them back in for a couple of minutes to warm through.

The Crown Jewels of the Fruit World – Pomegranates

Pomegranates are funny things.  There is a bit of prep to enjoy but it is worth it.  I don’t know how far south I would have to move in order to grow them but it is certainly too cold up here to have the trees.  We can easily get the juice in stores up here, even the liquor flavoured with pomegranate but the actual fruit is a rare sight indeed.  So it was very exciting to see some in our local co-op and it was organic to boot!  Score!

I brought a couple home with me because once they are prepped they are a great snack.  A few years ago I saw a way on the internet which I’ve used to get the little pearls out.  I can’t for the life of me remember where on the internet though.

I start by cutting the top off and scoring round the skin.

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I tear the fruit into sections.  It is such a pretty fruit.

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Here’s the bit I read about.  Take a large bowl of cold water and gently release the pearls from the pith.  Because it’s hard to get all the pith the water helps with the separation.  The pith will float and the pearls will sink.  You will still need to peel some stragglers from the pearls but it helps to cut down on the removal of the pith.

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Once it is done all that’s left to do is to enjoy the fruit.  It took me about 15 minutes to do two fruit.

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I love the burst of juice when you eat these.  Just wish the seeds tasted a bit better!  Ah well.  🙂

Buttery Mushrooms and Other Yummy Tapas

It will come as no surprise when I say I love food.  It’s part of our life experience.  Something to be enjoyed and to add to our memories.  I could not wait to try all the amazing food I was sure we’d come across on our holiday.  Equally I could not wait to share it with our kids.  I think tapas is an amazing way of eating.  You can order many different flavours and be able to walk away from the table at the end of the meal as opposed to rolling away.  Only once did we get too much food because while they called it tapas it wasn’t.  The portions were too big.  Delicious but huge.

So this past Saturday we decided to share with the kids our version of a tapas night.  It was fun and we got to talk about some of the food we sampled as we traveled.

Our favourite tapas dish was a mushroom dish we had in Barcelona.  It was fabulous and the start of my planning of the meal.  Super easy to do which is good as we’ll be having this again.

Chop up regular mushrooms, some fresh thyme, and a few cloves of garlic.

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Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter.   They aren’t buttery for nothing!  Perhaps this isn’t the healthiest but I threw caution to the wind!  Saute the ingredients together in the melted butter.  After a couple of minutes add a couple of tablespoons of chicken stock.  Salt and pepper to taste.   Saute until the mushrooms are cooked through and they are ready to serve.

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My son also requested I make up some zucchini flan.  I did as what we didn’t eat we saved for their school lunches.

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I bought some Manchego cheese, prosciutto, salami, and olives for one of the tapas.  Aside from the mushrooms on our trip this type of platter was up there in terms of favourites.  Add fresh baguettes to the mix and we were very happy.

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I also thought it would be fun to introduce caviar to my daughter.  At the Champagne Bar on the ship they would often serve some smoked salmon with a bit of caviar on top.  I loved it.  Unfortunately the caviar I found at the store tasted a bit muddled.  So it didn’t wow her like I’d hoped.  I’ll have to try another brand.

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Overall though it was a delicious meal to share with the kids.  I think we’ll be doing this again with different dishes.  After all if you can’t have fun with the flavours why bother!  🙂

Goat Cheese and Leek Quiche

I don’t know what my expectations were for the food on the ship.  I don’t think they were high or low but maybe just hopeful.  We enjoy good food and it’s part of our experience when we travel or just live.  Overall it was fair to middling but I did get some inspiration here and there to try at home.  One starter my husband ordered was a goat cheese and leek tart. I had a small bite and thought I could come up with something that we’d all like.

We got back home late Tuesday night after a nearly 20 hour day of traveling.  Now you would think that would mean we needed a good long sleep.  Oh no.  Bright eyed at 4am.  Why?  The only good thing was we managed to get a ton of stuff done before 7am.  Unpacked, laundry started and all!  Picking up the dogs is always an adventure after a trip.  They love the kennel and get excited when we pack their things but they are equally excited to come home.  They barrel down the hallway leaping about like idiots.  Trying to get the harnesses and leashes back on them is like wrestling an octopus!

Then the day dragged as we had to wait until school was over to get the kids.  We missed them so much!  I wanted to do a home cooked meal for them but I needed something simple as I knew by the time dinner needed to be made I would be struggling to keep my eyes open.  This quiche would do the trick.

Preheat the oven to 425F/220C

I prepped the veg first.  I chopped several mushrooms, couple cloves of garlic,  and a small leek from our garden.  And sauteed them in some olive oil.  As they soften I added just a smidge of veg bouillon and a few splashes of water to the mix.

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In a small bowl I prepared the rest of the mixture.  Mix together 4 eggs and two cups of milk.  We use 2% milk and that works just fine.

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I crumbled up 4 oz of soft goat cheese and added it to the egg mixture.  To season salt and pepper to taste and add a few teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce.

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Set this aside and make the pastry dough for the pie shell.  Spoon in the leek mixture and spread along the bottom.

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Pour in the egg mixture on top and bake for 15 minutes.

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Reduce the heat to 350F/175C and bake for another 30 minutes or so.  Until the toothpick test comes out clean.

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If you are not jetlagged, hungry, and wanting a pillow let it set for 5-10 minutes.  I barely made it 5 before I was ready to serve so it was a bit soft but the flavour was there.

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This was perfect comfort food after a very long day.  But it was wonderful to have a sit down dinner with the kids again listening to how their day went.  I missed that.