Day 2 Cooking Challenge report: the quiche that ruined my day

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Today is Day 3 of Offbeat Home’s Cooking Challenge, wherein we see if Offbeat Bride’s Managing Editor Megan, a complete non-cook who lives off of cereal and frozen meals, can go an entire week preparing her own meals.

Each day, Megan will recount how yesterday’s cooking went, and we’ll share the next day’s recipes prepared by Cat Rocketship (who SWEARS you can afford better food!). Feel free to cook along with Megan, if you’d like!

The quiche that killed my spirit

Homies, I have to be honest here and say, I let y’all down, I let Cat down, I let myself down, I let The Empire down… I only cooked ONE meal on my own yesterday. But I did manage to stay away from all packaged foods! I made breakfast, then had a big home-made lunch with friends on their last day in the country, and then, by the time I returned from dropping them off at the airport, it was past 9pm and I was too exhausted to make dinner or even eat.
BUT! I do have reports from Day 1’s dinner and Day 2’s breakfast.

This is how nerds cook -- keeping an eye on the sauce AND Twitter at the same time. Photo by 2people1life

Dinner Day 1: Spaghetti with red sauce and parmesan-roasted broccoli

I’d heard that onions “make you cry,” BUT NO: they sting the very core of your eye ball sockets until your eyes submit to its stingy superiority and leak salty offerings to appease the onion god and make the pain stop.

My friend Alex (previously mentioned during my shopping expedition) told me to hold piece of bread on the roof of my mouth. It kind of helped, in that I stopped wanting to die and went on to be barely comfortable.

Seriously, fuck onions.

Anywhoo, the rest of spaghetti time was a success! I made my first NOT-from-a-can red sauce and it was delicious! I even liked the whole wheat spagetti that Cat made me purchase. When I first picked up the package I thought “Aw man, this is gonna taste like cardboard.” But no! Barilla’s whole wheat spagetti noodles are actually tasty.

My first spagetti with red sauce and broccoli

And my husband, whose diet is even WORSE than mine, even liked it. I felt accomplished after last night.

The next morning was different story…

Breakfast Day 2: Breakfast quiche

I woke up feeling hungry and wanting so badly to just pop in a few pieces of toast and be done with it. But no, I had to make a quiche. I was even excited! I freaking LOVE quiche (quiches?), but not-so-much excited when I realized the first thing I had to do was tango with Mr Onion again. Seriously, fuck onions.

The rest of it went something like this:

After 40 minutes I opened to oven to find this:

Oh no! I don't think it's supposed to rise up out of the crust like that!! #obhfoodI tweeted “Oh no! I don’t think it’s supposed to rise up out of the crust like that!” And immediately was assured that it was normal and it would settle down.

When it finally settles down and was cool enough for me to it… it was BAD! I was starving enough to originally think, “it’s got great, but it doesn’t suck.” Then two more bites into it I realized, nope, it sucks. Cat suggested maybe it wasn’t salty enough — that was true. I thought that it was because I used Swiss cheese, which I normally like, but I feel it didn’t taste right in a quiche. Looking back on it later today, I relized, I like fluffy light quiches and this one was DENSE. Anyone have any reason why that was? What I could do to make it fluffier? Less cheese perhaps? More half and half?

By the time I admitted defeat on my quiche from hell, it was time for lunch. Lunch today was a special date I made with my friends Lisa and Alex who made roast beef and yorkshire pudding with green beans and carrots. YUM! And I didn’t technically cheat as it wasn’t a pre-packaged meal! Still eating healthier here, people. And that’s the whole point (aside from Cat trying to mentally break me down).

I’m ready to kick ass on Day 3! Did anyone else cook along with me yesterday? Did anyone else have quiche troubles?

While Megan will do full posts each day, you can see photos and follow her Offbeat Home cooking challenge adventures real-time, too: @meganfinley #obhfood

Comments on Day 2 Cooking Challenge report: the quiche that ruined my day

  1. I too love me some quiche. I actually have three of them prepared and uncooked in my freezer. I don’t usually do this, but I’ve heard that separating the egg whites and giving them a little beat will fluff-ify your quiche. And while I love swiss in a quiche, I sometimes put in some sharp cheddar (or another stronger cheese) along with it for some added flavor. I also find the spinach is an ingredient that lends a lot of flavor…for some reason. OH and if you’re making your own crust, don’t forget to add a pinch of sugar into it or it’ll be blaaaand. Don’t give up on that homemade quiche, Megan!

    • I agree on don’t give up! Quiche is one of my favorite weeknight meals, because it’s quick and easy (once you get the knack), and you can pretty much put anything in it. Leftover chicken? Sure! Shred it up and throw it in! Those last few veggies hanging out in the freezer? Welcome to the party, veggies!

    • Also, you don’t even need a crust. I think it’s called a fritatta then, but basically it’s a crustless quiche and is the easiest thing EVER. Beat eggs, add leftovers, bake. Voila!

      • Although fritatta is often called a “crustless quiche”, they are NOT technically the same thing! Though they are both awesome! To make a fritatta, you sautee your vegetables in a skillet, pour eggs over top, let the bottom set on the stove, scatter cheese on it, and finish it off under the broiler. To make a crustless quiche (AND I DID THAT LAST NIGHT AND I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW ABOUT MEGAN’S QUICHE YET) you make quiche filling, pour it over veggies in a pan, and then stick the whole thing in the oven and bake it like a quiche and it makes this yummy browned crusty thing around the top. Fritatta doesn’t have the fluffiness of a quiche because you don’t put milk in it/beat egg whites (if you are obsessed with beaten egg whites, as I am. Because they make everything better.)
        Fritattas are faster and easier. Quiches take longer and are more fiddly. But they are both grooooood.

    • You know, I forgot to mention this in the post, but I DID end up using spinach instead of broccoli because I ran out of broccoli at dinner. And now I’m just bummed that I used all my spinach up. 🙁

  2. I also hate dense quiches. As I understand it, the trick is all in how much you beat the eggs. The longer you beat them, the airier they get. I usually beat them until I am too bored/my arm is too tired to do it anymore. Then I rest for a second, beat them a little more, and call it done.

  3. Awww…sorry about your quiche fail. It might have been that you overbeat the eggs, or maybe too much cheese/half & half. Again I think Cat threw you under the bus here. Quiche is not a simple thing, imo. It isn’t as hard as souffle but it isn’t as easy as scrambled eggs and salad (which is an awesome dinner!) Or a western scramble (which makes a great breakfast)

    • It’s not called a cooking CHALLENGE for nuthin’! If Megan can build the confidence to make a quiche, then scrambling eggs feels like an easy gimme.

      • I just believe in taking baby steps when somebody has so little experience. If slicing an apple melts you down a little, making a quiche is for day 7! Sometimes you gotta start at the beginning, ya know? But trial by fire can be good too, if it doesn’t break the subject down so far that when you start to build them back up, they HATE you.

      • I would consider myself a pretty skilled cook, but I am not making quiche for breakfast! Nor egg salad (mostly bc 1. Boiling eggs and peeling them and 2. Don’t like egg salad ;)) I think there should be a difference between “learn how to cook” and “cooking challenge” — challenging a person who doesn’t COOK seems like the surest was to discourage them??

    • Yeah, I’m totally okay with being “thrown under a bus” in this challenge because part of the entertainment value is failing. I’m doing an easy day today and I don’t have much to write about yet. So bring on the busses!

  4. You succeeded at spaghetti sauce! This is excellent. Spaghetti sauce looks easy, but getting a result that one actually likes is significant.

    For the quiche, I’d probably use an electric hand-mixer and work the eggs/h&h into a froth. Lots of air should make it lighter. You can do this with just a whisk, but it takes more time and muscle.

    BUT — big, big but, I cannot lie — the broccoli is a heavy ingredient. In a light, fluffy quiche, it’s likely to sink like a green brick unless you cut it very small and toss it with a light coating of flour before adding it. Even then, it might still sink.

  5. Wait…so not beating the eggs enough can make the quiche dense, but over-beating the eggs can make the quiche dense? How do I know what the right amount of time is?! :-/

      • YES! Which is why quiche isn’t necessarily and easy peasy thing. It’s not hard to make it edible, but it is easy to make it less than stellar.

      • Hells yes! Yay for it still being food. (Although one time while making some coconut pecan frosting for a german chocolate cake, I didn’t temper the eggs well and wound up with cocunut pecan scrambled eggs. It took 3 times to figure it out. SRSLY! Coconut Pecan frosting is hard. Totally put me off german chocolate cake.)

          • Who was it who said that the only way to ruin food is to burn it or oversalt it? Julia Child? Anyway, those are the only things you really can’t recover from.

            thirded on the cake with scrambled eggs inside.

    • This is actually a very good suggestion. As dootsiebug pointed out, your delicate eyeballs and nasal passages suffer the most from onion gas. So anything that blocks them from contact works the best.

      When I was in college I had a lab mask that covered my eyes and nose and it was AWESOME for chopping onions. After years and years of chopping onions, my eyeballs have toughened up and I don’t use one anymore. But when I have to chop a lot of onions, my trick is this : just cry. Don’t wipe away the tears. Let me them flow because they will both rinse and protect your eyes.

      I think your quiche looks awesome! And I bet I would have wolfed it down if I were there.. maybe with a little sprinkle of salt.

    • Swim goggles. You’ll look ridiculous, but it’ll keep the gasses away. But the most important thing is to use a very, very, very sharp knife. The gasses are released when their little cell walls are punctured, and the sharper the knife you use, the fewer cell walls release their noxious burdens. Dull knives = cell wall mush = much crying.

      • Also, sharp knives cut tomatoes better, and your fingers less. You put less pressure on the knife if it cuts neater, and are less likely to slip and cut yourself.

          • I will admit to having only scars from sharp knives, but that’s because I used to do dumb stuff like dropping the knife and trying to catch it, or not realizing I had my little finger wrapped around the blade when I was using my left hand to press down in the blade.

            Protip: don’t do that!

            I’ll agree OH SO MUCH with the comment upthread about sharpening the knife before cutting onions! I had that demonstrated to me last night, when I grabbed the sharpest knife we have to cut an onion instead of the one I usually cut with and my eyes had no irritation.

        • And since you’re a fellow glasses-wearer, take your glasses off while chopping onions! The lenses trap the tear-producing nastiness next to your undefended eyeball. I realize the hazards of taking off the equipment that enables you to see BETTER while handling KNIVES.. part of the challenge, man. 🙂 Happy cooking!

        • The gases react with the water in your eyes (essentially), causing the burn. If you can get the onion to react with *other* water first….no crying! Try cutting the onion in half then soaking or at least rinsing in cold water.

      • YES. GOGGLES.

        I’m highly sensitive to raw onions (I get a bad reaction if I eat more than a few of them, even) and swim goggles are the ONLY thing that works for me!

    • I wear contact lenses and onions don’t bother me! (unless I’m not wearing them). This is probably no use to anyone but it’s one of the great unsung benefits of contact lenses so I like to share.

    • Holding your breath works too! Because the onion acid gets in your mucous membranes, and actually most of it gets there by breathing. So if you want to be TOTALLY safe, you have to wear goggles and a mask. Or you could wear sunglasses and a bandana over your face and pretend to be a burglar/cowboy.

  6. My comment went away! Wah wah.

    Anyway, as everyone is saying: More beating = fluffier eggs, in every egg format. There is no overbeating of whole eggs. More beating = more air mixed in with the eggs = fluffier, more voluminous egg food.

    However (COOKING 201 ALERT), beating egg WHITES alone can quickly go wrong. Heavy beating of egg whites = meringue.

    Adding more egg whites could also increase the fluffiness of your quiche, actually. Separating egg yolks from egg whites is cooking 201 (at least!) but you can totally buy whites only in a carton.

    • To separate egg whites from yolks, just hold one hand over the bowl and crack the egg into that hand. Let the white run through your fingers into the bowl while the yolk rests in your palm.

      I was terrified to separate eggs until I learned this trick from some professional chef-type site.

  7. Onion science: when you cut them, they emit an enzyme that reacts with the flesh of the onion to create a gas, which reacts with water to create ACID. That’s why your eyes burn.
    1.) Put the onion in the freezer for 10 minutes before you intend to chop.
    2.) Use a SHARP knife
    3.) Breathe through your mouth, which keeps the gas in your mouth where it’s mostly harmless instead of all up on your delicate nose and eye nerves.

  8. Put your onions in the freezer for a few minutes before you cut them. The liquids/vapors that escape and sting your eyes as part of cutting will be frozen in the flesh of the onion and not be able to hurt you any more.

  9. I have previously resisted buying whole wheat pasta on the same “cardboard” premise but if YOU tried it and liked it, then I’ll give it a whirl.

    • Whole wheat pasta is boss…or some other less-dated positive slang. Definitely give it a try!

      The only difference is the color, at least for me. Texture-wise, it’s almost identical-to-just-a-little-firmer-than-normal. Love, love, love it.

      • I’m actually that much more fond of whole-wheat pasta BECAUSE it’s a little firmer than normal. It’s so much harder to overcook it! (You know . . . in case you get distracted by twitter.)

  10. More onion help! Cut the root end off last.

    As far as salting food goes, you should still use salt even if you use something that’s already a bit salty like swiss cheese. When you salt food you actually make it taste more like itself. So eggs taste eggier, steak tastes beefier, watermelon tastes more watermelonier. (Salt basically makes your taste buds superconductive.) So if something tastes a little “bleh” then add a bit of salt.

    Now for a story that will make you feel better:

    Many moons ago, my aunt asked my mother for her Quiche Lorraine recipe and my mother happily provided it. A week later my aunt accused my mom of sabotaging her because the quiche turned out absolutely disgusting. My aunt only made a few tiny substitutions:
    Dried onion flakes instead of fresh onion
    Kraft slices instead of swiss cheese
    and BacoBits instead of bacon.

    So you really aren’t that far behind the power curve Megan. 🙂

  11. I saw Alton Brown suggest lighting the eye on a gas stove while you chop onions nearby. The flame burns off the nasty gasses before they can get around to their attempted eyeball murder. But yeah, be careful near an open flame…

  12. love your video!
    there are many onion-chopping devices in the world, and many tricks to avoid stinging eyes – my fav is burning a big vanilla candle close by (be sure to tie long hair back)
    for fluffier quiche, beat your egg whites separately until peaks form (use a whisk or electric mixer), mix other ingredients separately, then fold in egg whites.
    – your spaghetti sauce sounds wonderful!

  13. I too have f’d up quiche. For me it was remembering the pie dough recipe but forgetting that it made enough for top and bottom crusts. Eggs with half cooked pie crust anyone? Also, chopping onions makes you cry but sticking your face over a food processor full of chopped onions leads to shrieking and then swearing nonstop for the rest of the meal preparation. Just thought I’d share.

  14. My mum can cut onions for love nor money, and she’s tried EVERYTHING! But she’s found a solution – pre chopped onions! You can get them frozen too! Sometimes you just have to.
    I’m good with onion but I buy frozen chilli cubes because we never use chillies quickly enough to warrant buying them.
    Well done for all the effort so far *applause* :o)

  15. This could be considered to be cheating but I usually use dehydrated minced onion or onion powder in place of real onions. It gets the onion flavour in there but without having to deal with a whole onion.

  16. hmmm, my mum used to make quiche when I was little and I can’t remember whether I liked it or not (I have a lot of food/texture issues)
    maybe I’ll have to try your recipe – but no brocoli, broccoli is yucky in my mouth.

    my onion tip is that I chop them in a mini food processsor (one that attaches on the end of my hand whisk) so it’s all sealed inside and reduces the effort of chopping and my tears.
    I also chop more than I need so I can freeze it and then have days when no onion chopping is needed!

    keep up the good work!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Onions are the devil. They make most people tea up, yes, but for me they actually shut down my tear production, especially if they are being sauteed. It is not pleasant. Also, I hate their texture, so I just sort of avoid them or use onion powder/minced dried onions instead.

    But if you do have to chop them, burn a candle nearby, it will help burn off the gasses before they hit your eyeballs.

  18. Onions are the devil. They make most people tear up, yes, but for me they actually shut down my tear production, especially if they are being sauteed. It is not pleasant. Also, I hate their texture, so I just sort of avoid them or use onion powder/minced dried onions instead.
    But if you do have to chop them, burn a candle nearby, it will help burn off the gasses before they hit your eyeballs.

  19. Yay Megan!! It’s super impressive to attempt so many new things in a week. I love to cook and am pretty good at it and I only attempt one new dish in a day. I still mess up quiche too.

  20. Oh, another weird onion-y tip: if you wear contacts, were ’em while you chop. I always thought I was just immune to onion-tears until I tried to chop one with my glasses on instead — OWOWOWOWOW! Contacts are like little eyeball condoms, keeping nasty stuff out.

  21. The open flame tactic is your best bet for onion chopping. I always do this and I never tear up. If you have an open flame gas stove, put your cutting board on an unlit burner or the counter beside of a burner with a flame and chop, keep your head near enough to the heat that it is warm, but not burning. If not, like myself, burn a candle in a glass jar with a tapered opening. The smaller the opening the more concentrated the heat will be. Just keep your head near it. You don’t have to burn your face and hair off, just get close enough to feel warmth.

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