Red Pepper, Spinach & Feta Quiche

I have a large extended family and holidays have always meant traveling to parts of Chicago or Wisconsin. The one exception was always Easter. My family would host a small gathering, typically just my mother's side of the family, and I have fond memories full of sunshine and good food.

This year will be different. A beloved aunt passed away last summer. All of the Schwab cousins have moved away. My brother recently moved to Seattle. And I need to be on my way back to school by early Sunday morning.  We've decided it doesn't make sense to plan a party this year. I'm in agreement, but there is still something sad about a tradition ending. Perhaps next year...


That said, there is a lot to look forward to this weekend. I am attending the eChicago Conference for the second time. Last year I had been accepted to my LIS school, but I was keeping it a secret from co-workers. It will feel good to be able to more fully engage in the library & information science side of the conference this year.

My mother has her first official Chicago Architecture Foundation tours scheduled for next week. On Saturday we are going to meet for her last trial run. It's pretty awesome to get preview tours all the time now. She is a smart lady. I don't think I would be able to remember all the details she shares on her two-hour tour.


For those of you celebrating Easter this weekend, or those of you simply looking for a weekend brunch dish, this is my favorite quiche recipe. It is simple, but full of flavor.The bright colors makes me think of sunny spring days, even though we haven't had too many of those yet this year.

Red Pepper, Spinach and Feta Quiche Adapted from Gourmet Magazine


1 pie crust
1 Tbl olive oil
2 C packed fresh spinach, washed and trimmed
1/3 C sliced red bell pepper
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
3 eggs
1/2 C heavy cream
6 oz feta cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper
Fresh chives for garnish - optional

Method Preheat oven to 425F, place a baking sheet on the middle rack.

Place prepared pie crust in a deep dish pie pan.

Over medium heat, sauté bell pepper in oil for one minute.  Add spinach and sauté until wilted.  Season pepper and spinach mixture with salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, thyme, and cream together.

Arrange feta over bottom of pie shell, place pepper and spinach mixture on top.  Pour egg and cream mixture over the other ingredients.

Bake on the baking sheet for 15 min.

Reduce heat to 350F and bake another 30 minutes, until set and the center is slightly puffed up.  Watch carefully so that crust does not burn.*

Serve warm or cool. Garnish with chives if desired.

*I find that baking times for this dish tend to vary quite a bit depending on the oven. If you are trying to time this dish for serving, I'd recommend leaving an hour for baking. Watch the crust and cover the edges with tin foil if you are worried it might burn.

Carrot Cake Recipe & Six Years of Pro Bono Baker

Six years ago today, I searched the internet for a recipe while making dinner in Hyde Park, Chicago and discovered the world of food blogs. My first few dozen posts were nothing to write home about, but I quickly became hooked on this worldwide community of food lovers -- and this website as a place to catalogue my favorite recipes. 

Christmas Carrot Cake

Thank you dear readers, commenters, rss subscribers, flickr photo viewers, and twitter followers. I am continually honored to share this part of my life with you, and grateful that many of you do the same. This community grows rapidly each year, and while I have to admit to missing some of the intimacy and the earnestness of the early years, I am grateful for the inspiration and friendship that each new year brings. 

Christmas Carrot Cake

Best wishes to you all. I look forward to cooking with you in this new year!  I am off to New York for a long weekend and I leave you with this wonderful, classic carrot cake recipe. 

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Bon Appetit


For the cake:

2 C flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
¾ tsp ground ginger
1 ½ C sugar
1 C vegetable oil
4 large eggs
½ C unsweetened applesauce
3 C finely grated peeled carrots

For the frosting:

16 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
½ C unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 ¼ C powdered sugar, or to taste
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon juice


Preheat oven to 325°F.

Lightly grease three 9-inch round pans with butter. Line the bottom of the pans with lightly greased parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. 

In a large bowl, beat the sugar and oil until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well to incorporate after each addition, followed by the applesauce. Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients and beat to incorporate. Add the carrots and gently combine.

Divide the batter evenly between the pans. Bake, rotating the cakes once or twice during baking, until they begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool the cakes in their pans for 15 minutes before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely.

For the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl until smooth.  Sift in the powdered sugar and beat to incorporate. Add the vanilla and lemon juice and beat to combine. 

Place one cake layer on a cake stand and spread with ¾ cup frosting. Place another layer on top and repeat. Finally, add the third layer and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides. Serve the cake at room temperature.

Nick and I decided to make this cake for Christmas and we knew oven space would be scarce. We made the cake layers on Christmas Eve and wrapped them tightly in plastic wrap once they were cooled completely.  The cake kept well overnight. 

Maple Cookie Recipe

As I biked home tonight on the last day of November through high winds and snow flurries, it suddenly seemed appropriate to start thinking about holiday cookie baking. These maple syrup butter cookies are the perfect treat as the temperature dips. It's always a bit sad to notice the last of the leaves have fallen from the trees, but I look forward to winter for clear skies, gorgeous sunsets, clementines, and time with family and friends. 

Thanksgiving Sunset

For the first time in years, I had a full week of vacation for Thanksgiving. I spent a few days in Chicago seeing off friends who are moving away, I joined my mother and my brother for a tour of our family's old neighborhood on the southside, and I spent some quality time in Logan Square.

Barges on the Illinois River

Our Thanksgiving was small and cozy. Nick made his Chile Glazed Sweet Potatoes and I made my Molasses Pumpkin Pie with fresh pumpkin puree from our neighbor. After the holiday, my parents and I traveled a few hours south to Starved Rock State Park where we hiked through the canyons, watched hawks over the Illinois River, and read by the fireplace in the old lodge. It was a great way to relax before returning to finals, presentations, and research papers as I finish my first semester of library school.

Maple Cookies

Cookies adapted from Gourmet

Icing adapted from Homegrown Happy

Makes 5 dozen



1 C unsalted butter, softened
1 C sugar
1/2 C Grade B maple syrup
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp salt
3 C all-purpose flour


2 C powdered sugar
1 Tbl butter, softened
4 Tbl Grade B maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 Tbl milk (or a dash more, if necessary)


In a medium bowl, mix together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add maple syrup and egg yolk, stirring well. Sift flour and salt over batter and combine thoroughly. Roll dough into a log one-foot long and wrap dough in plastic wrap. Chill until firm, at least two hours (can be made ahead).

Preheat oven to 350F

Cut dough into 1/8 inch pieces and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Bake cookies until the edges are golden, about 12 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool. Cookies will keep in an airtight container for one week. 

For the icing, sift powdered sugar into a medium bowl. Mix in butter until smooth. Stir in maple syrup and vanilla. Add milk a bit at a time until the icing is the desired consistency. Spread a bit of icing on to each cookie and allow to set. 

Molasses Pumpkin Pie

One of the things I love most about Thanksgiving, besides family and friends of course, is the opportunity to try new recipes. Each year, I bookmark new ideas for Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, and dinner rolls. Though, there is undeniably some comfort in tradition. My mother always makes the turkey and I always make this Molasses Pumpkin Pie. The molasses works perfectly with the pumpkin and spices, giving it a subtle spin on the average pie. 


Molasses Pumpkin Pie


1 pie crust, rolled out and chilled in a pie dish
2/3 C brown sugar
1/2 C white sugar
2 Tbl flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp each of: allspice, cloves and ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 C canned pumpkin
2 Tbl molasses
1 tsp vanilla
3 large eggs
1 C whipping cream


Place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 450F.  Combine sugars, flour, spices and salt in a large bowl.  Add the pumpkin, molasses, vanilla and eggs and incorporate the cream last.

Pour batter into chilled pie crust and bake for ten minutes.

Reduce oven heat to 325F and bake for another 40 to 45 minutes.  The middle should be set and the sides of the pie should puff up a bit.

Allow pie to cool and serve at room temperature or chilled. 

I usually whip any excess cream with a touch of vanilla to serve along with each slice.   This pie can be made up to a day ahead, making it easy for large holiday dinners.

Happy Thanksgiving to my U.S. readers!