In the Kitchen with Nicole!
You may remember Nicole from my post about the egg nog cookie disaster of 2013. She is also a close friend and was our wedding coordinator!
She’s also the mother of a sweet Little Elfin Princess (who acts as her sous chef).
I have been looking forward to watching Nicole do her thing in the kitchen as I have long admired her culinary skills and tasty treats. When the time came she suggested doing brunch as it is her habit of making a nice hot breakfast/brunch on the weekends.
And can we talk about this kitchen island for a minute?
How would you describe your cooking style? I think my cooking style depends on the time of year for me. I enjoy using fresh ingredients when I can. During the spring and summer there is so much more variety of fresh produce in season that I tend to prepare meals that consist of more whole foods during those two seasons. When late fall and winter is here I prepare more comfort meals that bring warmth and relaxation to my dining room. Overall, I would say my style is simple and elegant as I not only want what I cook or bake to taste good, but I want the appearance to be appealing as well.
Who are your cooking influences? I was fortunate enough to have both my grandmothers and my mother as an influence. Though growing up I was resistive to being in the kitchen and I dug my heels in every holiday when I was asked to help prepare one of the dishes. Now, that I have my own space and can cook my way I have much more enjoyment from it. In fact, I really enjoy playing soft music, drinking a glass of wine (when I’m not pregnant), and preparing dinner. My kitchen is one of my happy places and somewhere I can retreat to at the end of the day to find some peace and sanity.
Tell me about your eating habits. Have they changed over the years? My eating habits have changed drastically over the years. I use a lot more fresh and whole ingredients when I am cooking compared to five years ago. I rarely use salt when I cook and recipes that call for a lot of salt I won’t usually prepare. With my daughter having food sensitivities it has resulted in a decrease in dairy products. For dairy alternatives I use almond milk, coconut milk yogurt, and though I still use cheese it is significantly less. I also prepare more gluten free recipes which I have found to be more challenging to satisfy all three sets of taste buds in my household.
What would have for your last meal? Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy (lots of it), sweet potatoes, homemade rolls, fudge pecan pie, and wine.
Nicole got started right away on the quiche by pouring about ¼ cup of olive oil into a large pan on the stove set to medium heat.
Then she added 2 minced garlic cloves, cooked them for a couple of minutes, added ½ cup of minced onions and cooked them together for about 5 minutes.
Next she threw ½ cup of mushrooms into the pan and sautéed until tender.
Meanwhile she boiled up a small head of broccoli, cut into florets, until it was soft enough to stick a fork straight through, at which point she put it under cold water to stop the cooking process.
It was at about this time that the little ankle biter in the family showed up to get in on the cooking action.
Nicole returned to the pan and added a handful of spinach (1 cup) and continually stirred as it cooked down.
The pan was then removed from heat and ½ cup of feta was added.
Nicole finely chopped the broccoli and Little E acted as a taste tester to make sure the broccoli passed muster.
The broccoli was added to the pan and left to cool while Nicole preheated the oven to 375˚ and produced a premade pie crust, which she then baked for 6 minutes to keep from getting soggy over the next several steps.
The egg mixture for the quiche consisted of 1 cup of almond milk and 4 eggs (well to be precise it was 3 egg whites and 2 whole eggs because that’s what she had on hand – but she assures me that normally 4 eggs gets the job done). She also added a little pepper to the eggs to taste.
She filled the pie crust with the veggie mix.
Sprinkled ¼ cup of grated cheese over the vegetables and added the eggs.
More cheese was sprinkled on top.
The quiche was put it in the oven and Nicole got poked in the rear.
That sous chef is sassy!
Up to this point Little E had been observing and asking questions as well as posing and using improved toys to take pictures of the process and of me.
But she finally started to earn her keep as she and Nicole got started on the muffins (you can find the recipe they are based are here).
Together they added 1/3 cup of almond milk, 1 egg and ½ tsp of vanilla bean paste, and a stick of softened butter into the mixer.
In a new bowl they added ¾ cup of flour, ½ cup sugar and 3 ¼ tsp baking powder.
Little E stirred that together nicely and it was added to the wet ingredients in the mixer.
Nicole brought out some delicious-looking blueberries and dusted them with flour so they wouldn’t sink to the bottom of the muffins.
Then she gently added them to the muffin batter.
And then added a little more milk because the batter was really thick.
At this point the quiche had been baking for 15 minutes. Nicole sprinkled a little more cheese over it and put it back in the oven to keep on baking for another 35 minutes.
And we’re back to the muffins! For the muffin crumb topping she used a different recipe (which is the topping for cheesecake cupcakes you can find here).
The crumb topping consists of dry ingredients including ½ cup of flour, ½ cup of brown sugar and ½ tsp cinnamon which were stirred together.
3 tbsp of softened butter was added and stirred with a fork.
The muffin batter was poured into cups and then the crumble was added on top and given a soft pat down.
In the oven the muffins went side by side with the quiche and perfectly timed with 20 minutes remaining.
Once time was up, the muffins were taken out of the tin and placed on a cooking rack to cool.
The quiche came out looking (and smelling!) amazing.
Nicole had prepared some mixed berries and tangelo juice prior to my arrival to compliment the quiche and muffins.
I eagerly prepared a plate.
So here is what I didn’t tell Nicole that day: I don’t really like broccoli. I may have told her a little white lie and said I did because I wanted her to cook authentically for her family. The amazing part? It actually tasted pretty good in that quiche! I won’t lie now when I tell ya that I was surprised I liked it. Happily so!
And I could have eaten about 10 of those muffins. YUM.
Thanks so much for inviting me into your kitchen Nicole – your baking improvisation and modifications were impressive and inspirational. I had a blast with you and the Little Elfin Princess!