Slowly Simmering Hot & Sour Soup

or crock pot cures for colds and cold days

Well, the slow cooker has become a permanent fixture on our counter top these days.  Between still adjusting to life with baby girl, to lower energy due to the Winter months, to colds and other health issues weighing us down, it has become the essential tool in our kitchen at least twice a week.  There are only so many vegetarian options to make that appeal to all of us, and my system is still not prepared for meat to be a big part of my diet, so it came time to expand my horizons and try something new.  I don't have many Asian inspired dishes in my everyday repertoire so I thought that might be a good place to start.  Now, I do not generally have a well stocked pantry for Asian style dishes.  For the most part I tend to do stir fry or panko breaded variations when exploring this realm and they do not require a whole lot.  Because of this, the cost of this experiment was a bit more than it will be in an ongoing basis.  Now that I have the essentials on hand (sesame oil, seasoned rice vinegar, white pepper, Sriracha and extra soy sauce) I only need to pick up mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts to make this happen on any given weekday.  I generally have chicken/vegetable base on hand already, along with ground ginger.

This can be prepped the night before and just tossed together in the morning so it makes a great dish for busy days.  It is also excellent as a freezer meal, either toss all the ingredients together raw in a large freezer bag so it can be a dump and go meal or cook and freeze in smaller portions (just don't add in noodles until reheating, they do not freeze well).

3 cups stock (chicken or vegetable base)
2 cups water
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 can bamboo shoots
1 can water chestnuts
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
a dash of ground white pepper (if you have it)
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Sriracha and/or soy sauce for finishing

optional add-ins: 1 cup cubed firm tofu, 1 bundle of udon noodles, or 1 bundle of rice noodles

Hardware: slow cooker (crockpot)

1. Rinse and dice up the sliced mushrooms (you can leave them larger if you want, but I prefer them to be even smaller).  Drain the bamboo shoots and slice lengthwise.  Drain the water chestnuts and cut in half.  Add all the vegetables to the slow cooker and stir to combine.  (If you are including tofu, add that in at this time too)

2. Add in the sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and spices.  Pour the stock and water over top.  Stir all the ingredients together so they can begin to get acquainted.   It looks very full at this point in my 5 quart slow cooker but it does cook down as the mushrooms shrink.

3. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

4. If you are using udon or rice noodles, add those in during the last 30 min or so of cook time and make sure to stir well as they soften.  Serve topped with a drizzle of Sriracha for a little more spice or soy sauce to balance the spice.

Sadly I still have not resolved my photo limit issue, but when I do there will be photos.  I apologize for the lack of visual evidence.  


Skinny-ish Spinach Quiche

or pour and go crust-free quiche

I have recently come to love making quiche at home.  I make individual ones for breakfasts on the go and full sized ones for dinner, with leftovers for lunches.  It took me a while to sort out the right combination of ingredients, and even now I still tend to change it up a bit, but I think I have settled on a pretty solid base recipe.  I use egg beaters, or egg substitute, in this recipe for two reasons 1) it is healthier than whole eggs in some respects and 2) it is a lot easier - less mess and faster prep.  I know what you are thinking, is it really that hard to crack and scramble 5 eggs?  The answer to that is yes.  Yes it is.  Particularly when I have a squirmy baby insisting on mommy time during meal prep.  But even without that, it just goes a bit faster overall (and if you use frozen veggies instead of fresh it can be a fantastically fast throw together meal).  If you are a traditionalist or are involved in an anti-egg substitute movement feel free to prep with the 5 whole eggs, I won't judge.  The one adjustment I do make periodically is whether or not to include 2 tbsp of flour in the egg mixture.  I am still not sure how I feel about it and alternate each time I make it, I'm indecisive like that.  Feel free to try tossing it in if you are feeling adventurous.  Here's what I've got:

1 1/2 cups egg beaters (or 5 eggs)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp dried minced onion
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt & pepper
nutmeg - just a dash
2 tbsp Italian bread crumbs
1 bunch fresh spinach
2 tbsp olive oil

Hardware: saute pan, glass pie dish, mixing bowl

Preheat oven to 350 F, spray pie pan with nonstick spray.

1. Saute spinach in olive oil with the dried minced onion until wilted.  (if using frozen spinach - thaw in the fridge in advance and when prepping squeeze out all the water, then stir in the dried minced onion, no saute)

2. In the mixing bowl add the egg beaters and heavy cream, mix until well combined.  Season with garlic, salt, and pepper.  Pour in the spinach mixture and stir again to combine.

3. Add in both of the cheeses and stir well.  Pour into the pie pan.  Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the top.

4. Bake for 30 min.  Then remove and allow to set for 10 min before slicing and serving.

(Sadly, no picture.  Blogger is claiming I maxed out my limit so until I sort out a resolution we are a sans picture blog.  My deepest apologies)