On to 2017! // Feta and Onion Phyllo Pie

Feta and Onion Phyllo Pie {Katie at the Kitchen Door}

I’m glad I reread last year’s New Year’s recap before writing this one, because otherwise I think it might have ended up sounding eerily similar. There was travel. There was stress, largely related to the travel. We made progress on the house, bit by bit. I probably took on a bit too much for my own good. When I wrote last year I said I knew that 2016 was going to be another busy one, and it was. I also wrote that I wanted 2016 to be calmer, less stressful, more balanced; a little more relaxed, a little more joyful. I’m not totally sure I succeeded in that, but I want this post to focus on the positives of this year. What did I accomplish? How was it different – bigger, better – than the year before? And if you bear with me (or skip ahead), there’s a lovely recipe for Feta and Onion Phyllo Pie at the end of the post. It’s the perfect make-ahead dish for festive winter brunches.

All the good things.

It can be hard to recognize accomplishments as they happen, but when I look back, there they are – big and notable. I got promoted, and more importantly, I’m much better at my job than I was a year ago. I learned Portuguese! Enough to have a reasonable conversation with another person and to read children’s books. I went to three new countries, and three I’d been to before. We finished our first major house renovation, and we have a shiny new basement to show for it. And then there are things that are not so much accomplishments, but just… good. I have a job that I love. It’s engaging, I work with wonderful people all over the world, and I earn a good living doing it. My family lives nearby (except you, Rynie!) and I have great relationships with them. I have Trevor – we’ve been in a happy, stable relationship for almost 9 years and I still look forward to seeing him every single day. Everyone is happy and healthy. My social life is just what I want – good friends that I see frequently, with common interests and values. I no longer worry about not being fun enough or social enough; I just spend time with people that I like and don’t worry about people that I don’t. We live in a safe, warm house that I love being in, despite its quirks and flaws. And although money was more stressful this year than in past years (weddings and houses will do that), we are lucky to have the resources to live a very comfortable life, with travel and celebrations and stability. I am very fortunate, and very grateful.

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A Weekend with Friends // Zucchini-Pesto Mini Quiches in Phyllo Cups

Zucchini-Pesto Mini Quiches in Phyllo Cups {Katie at the Kitchen Door} #brunch #recipe

This past weekend was a much-needed break from winter. The sun came out, the temperatures rose above frigid-levels, and my three best girlfriends from Duke flew/bussed/trained in for a weekend of gossiping, giggling, lots of walking, and really good food. Now that it’s Tuesday and 20° again, it seems like the good vibes from this weekend are going to have to get me through the next 11 days before we leave for Ecuador (!!!). Good thing 11 days is not that long, and last weekend was really good.

Having people that love you the way you are is a wonderful thing, whether those people are your parents, your boyfriend, or childhood friends. But there’s something about a group of great girlfriends that’s just awesome, and sometimes hard to find. When the four of us get together, we laugh, a lot, both about shared memories and stories that we’re telling each other for the first time. We talk about our feelings in this intense, introspective way that I don’t have the opportunity to do very often, and sometimes it makes us cry. We make fun of each other and support each other at the same time, something that only comes from really knowing someone, not just from what they say about themselves but from how you’ve seen them act and grow and change. We tell boy stories. A lot of boy stories. More than Trevor would like. And we love each other, and it’s the best.

Girlfriend Brunch

Zucchini-Pesto Mini Quiches in Phyllo Cups {Katie at the Kitchen Door} #brunch #recipe

Friday and Saturday we ate (and ate and ate – it’s also good to have friends who like food as much as you do, and who are willing to walk it off for miles and miles afterward) at several Boston restaurants – dinner at West Bridge was a highlight, perhaps the best meal I’ve ever eaten – but on Sunday we had a cozy little brunch at my house. I was a little over-zealous with the menu: green smoothies! mimosas! lattes! lox on homemade bread! quiche! and waffles with cinnamon-berry sauce! My friends gave me a little reality check when they arrived and we cut out the smoothies and the lox (although I know Phoebe wanted that lox – next time, love, I promise), sticking with the mimosas, lattes, mini quiches, and waffles. The waffles are my mom’s recipe, that she used to make me every year for my birthday, and I served them with a quick sauce made from frozen mixed berries, sugar, and a cinnamon stick. The quiches are from Lindsay and Taylor’s book Breakfast for Dinner, which was the first book I turned to when I wanted a breakfast-for-breakfast recipe. The phyllo cups are easily baked in a muffin tin (or Lindsay says you can buy them pre-made, although I’m guessing they might be tricky to find), then filled with grated zucchini and a pesto-and-egg-custard mixture. Not exactly health food, but at least there’s a little bit of green in there. We all devoured them, along with the waffles and mimosas, and afterwards it was pretty hard to resist falling into bed for a three-hour nap. It was the best kind of Sunday. And the best kind of weekend.

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Zucchini-Pesto Mini Quiches in Phyllo Cups {Katie at the Kitchen Door} #brunch #recipe

Zucchini-Pesto Mini Quiches in Phyllo Cups

Adapted from Breakfast for Dinner. Serves 4-6.

  • 1/4 lb. packaged phyllo, thawed in the fridge
  • 4 TBS butter, melted
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 small zucchini, washed and roughly grated
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 3/4 c. pesto, store-bought or homemade
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Brush regular muffin tin cups with some melted butter. Carefully unroll phyllo dough and cut sheets into 4-inch squares, keeping the sheets stacked together. Gently place one square into each muffin tin, pressing down to line the tin. Do this carefully, but don’t worry if some squares rip – the other layers will cover them up. Brush these squares with more melted butter, then layer another square of phyllo on top, again pressing down. Repeat one or two times more, until tins are fully covered. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until bottoms of cups are slightly puffed and dough is golden. Remove from oven and let cool at least 5 minutes before filling (leaving them in the muffin tins).
  2. Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and saute for 1 minute, then add the grated zucchini and saute for 2-3 minutes longer, until the pan is mostly dry. Remove from heat.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat together eggs and heavy cream. Stir in the pesto. Season with salt and black pepper.
  4. Place a small spoonful of zucchini in each phyllo cup. Spoon 2-3 TBS of the egg-pesto mixture on top of the zucchini. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until egg mixture is set and slightly puffed. Carefully remove from muffin tins and serve.

Vermont and a Maple-Apple & Brie Quiche

I’m currently supposed to be at work, working, but I’m shirking a little bit and sitting outside in the freshly manicured garden to write to you about our trip to Vermont, because amazingly beautiful spring Sundays don’t come around all that often, and when they do, I’m pretty sure they shouldn’t be spent inside at the desk where you’re going to spend the upcoming week.  There’s plenty of time for work, but not so much time lately for just enjoying life, and sometimes you have to make executive decisions about your own happiness.  Like, “I’ll go to work later.”

Trevor and I spent last weekend in Arlington, VT, down on the Southwestern border just a few miles from NY, smack dab in the middle of the Green Mountains.  We went to celebrate his birthday, as well as just to get away, which we haven’t done in a while.  It was lovely.  We stayed at the West Mountain Inn, thanks to a really good Groupon deal that included dinner, two breakfasts, and two nights at the inn.  The inn is a huge old place sitting on the top of a hill, surrounded by 150 acres of land filled with well-kept trails, quiet streams, and forest.  The inn was nice, the food was good, but it was the land that really got me.  Sunday morning we went for a run along the trails that was so refreshing and peaceful – it’s been ages since I’ve run in the woods, with no other people, soft dirt trails, and just the sound of your own breath and the morning birds.  I wish I could run like that every day.

We also spent a surprising amount of time just hanging out at the on-site alpaca barn, watching the alpacas (what funny creatures!) and the den of baby fox kits living under the barn.  The tiny kits were very active in the early evening, and we spent a few hours watching them roll and tumble on top of one another, prance and pounce, and catch a surprising number of small mice and voles in the adjacent field.  They were fairly used to people being around, although still quite cautious, which allowed us to sit and watch their whole evening ritual.  One of my favorite things to do (obviously) is take pictures – it’s part of vacation for me, and an afternoon spent alone in a beautiful landscape with just my camera is my idea of heaven – and having the foxes, as well as alpacas, chipmunks, frogs, and salamanders, to chase around with my lens was such a treat.

Since Sunday was such a beautiful day, we decided to spend as much of it as possible outside, hiking.  We took a 4 mile hike to Lye Brook Falls, which was fairly easy (but not boring-easy) climb to a gorgeous fall.  We chose a big flat rock at the bottom of the fall that jutted out into the sun and took a nap there, with mist from the falls blowing over our faces and the sun just warm enough that we didn’t get chilled.  The water was ice cold, but we stuck our toes in anyways.  Our first hike of the season!  Hopefully one of many.

The afternoon we spent relaxing over sandwiches, pickles, and cream sodas from Graze in downtown Manchester, the cute-if-yuppy nearby outlet town.  We ate in a park and continued to enjoy the sun, before heading back to the inn for the always-available coffee and brownies, and a shower (plus a nap, if you were Trevor).  Each night before dinner the inn put out a lovely tray of cheeses, crackers, and berries (including the sweetest blackberries I’ve ever had), which was half our dinner – the other half was popcorn at the tiny two-screen movie theater in Manchester, where we saw The Avengers.  (It was Trevor’s birthday, we had to do something he wanted to do…).  The theater was independently owned, meaning their advertisements were all local-local, like, “come to blah-blah farm to celebrate your birthday, only 5 minutes away!” and “join the VT skateboarders club!”  I got a kick out of it.  And Avengers was good, even if Scarlett Johansson’s Russian accent was really bad, I totally loved the Hulk character.

On the drive back Monday I had plenty of time to muse over what I could make to share with you that would represent our weekend.  Maple syrup was a given, because one of my favorite things about breakfast in Vermont is that real maple syrup is always available in the quantities that I like.  I will never, ever eat fake maple syrup, and one of those tiny little cups of “real maple syrup” they give you in Massachusetts restaurants is about 1/4 the amount I need.  The West Mountain Inn, though, served maple syrup in pitchers.  Just right.  From that starting point, my mind wandered until it settled on this quiche, which I knew would be perfect – apples caramelized in maple syrup, brie and aged gouda, sopressatta for just a little spice.  And it was perfect.  I didn’t get around to making it until last night, when, along with a fresh pea and radish salad I’ll share with you later this week, it made a filling and comforting dinner after a lovely day working in the garden.

And now I’ll do a little actual work.  But I’m not going inside just yet.  Last weekend was sort of a kickstart to summer, and now that it’s around, I plan on enjoying it every chance that I get.

Maple-Apple Quiche with Brie and Sopressatta

A Katie at the Kitchen Door original.  Serves 6.

  • 1 1/4 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick butter, cut into small cubes, then placed in freezer
  • 3-6 TBS ice cold water
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 3/4 c. milk
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 4 oz. aged gouda, grated
  • 4 oz. fresh brie, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium apples, cored and sliced
  • 1/4 c. maple syrup
  • small pat of butter
  • 1/4 c. diced sopressatta
  1. Make the crust: In a large bowl, mix together flour and salt.  Add in frozen butter cubes, and use a pastry cutter to blend until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, with pea-sized chunks.  Add the ice water 1 TBS at a time, stirring with a fork between additions to moisten dough.  Use as little water as possible to get the dough to come together – I’ve never been able to accomplish this with less than 6 TBS, but some people can do it with only 1 or 2 TBS.  Shape dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap, then refrigerate for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 375°F.  In a large frying pan, place pat of butter, and melt over medium heat.  Add maple syrup and apple slices, and cook, stirring occasionally, until apples are soft, about 5-10 minutes depending on the thickness of your slices.  Add diced sopressatta and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.  Remove all from heat.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, milk, nutmeg, and gouda, until fully combined.  Set aside
  4. Flour your counter and a rolling pin, and roll out the chilled dough into a 11-inch circle.  Place dough circle over 9 inch quiche or pie pan, and press gently into the sides.  You can either trim off the extra that hangs over the edge, or leave it, as we did.  Poke a handful of holes in the bottom of the crust (this is to prevent the crust from bubbling – you can also use pie weights instead) and place in preheated oven for 15 minutes, checking part way through to make sure the bottom isn’t bubbling up (if it is, poke gently with a knife to allow the air to escape).  Crust should be beginning to brown.  Remove from oven, and layer apples, sopressatta, and brie on the bottom.  Pour egg mixture over the top.  Carefully place in oven, and bake for 30-35 minutes, until top of quiche is golden brown, and the egg mixture is cooked all the way through.  Enjoy hot, warm, or cold!