Winter Woodland Quiche

Sometimes, I absolutely adore cooking. Creating your own recipes tends to heighten the joy of the being in the kitchen. While I have never completely made up a recipe, I often customize other recipes, cutting them apart and adding a few pieces to another recipe. When I learn a new skill (such as roasting garlic) and succeed, I am over the moon!

I hope you enjoy this fancy-sounding quiche. Breathe your own life into this recipe and own it.
This is the most flavorful quiche EVER. Below you will learn how to caramelize onions and roast your own garlic and make a pie crust that doesn't require a rolling pin! I like to double this recipe so I can eat some for breakfast all week long, but I have to warn you that it is not nearly as good when reheated. Another option is to double the amount of roasted garlic and save the extra in your fridge – you can use it for just about anything.

Winter Woodland Quiche

1 head of garlic
Olive oil
(olive oil is of course much more flavorful AND better for you, but I didn’t have any when I made this, and I got away with using vegetable oil just fine)
2 yellow onions, sliced thin
2 T. butter

1 ½ c. flour
¼ t. salt
½ c. garlic-infused oil
3 T. milk

¾ c. milk, ½ & ½ , or heavy cream (the heavier the milk/cream, the fattier and more decadent your quiche will be; I opt for milk because it’s what I always have on hand)
4 eggs
½ t. salt
¼ t. pepper
Basil and/or parsley for color

1 c. grated cheddar cheese
Two handfuls of spinach, chopped
Any other toppings you prefer

First, you’ll need to roast the garlic and caramelize the onions – simultaneously, for the sake of time. Slice your onions. Break apart the head of garlic and peel the cloves. (I know a full head of garlic sounds like overkill, but roasting it mellows out the flavor quite a bit.) Place the garlic cloves in a small frying pan and just barely cover them with oil. Keep on medium heat until the oil is shimmering/hot. Then turn it way down and gently cook the cloves for about 30 min. You’ll know they are done when they are brown and very soft (a fork test works great).

While the garlic is roasting, melt the butter in a second pan, then add the onions. Cook on low heat for about as long as the garlic. Stir occasionally; you want to avoid burning the onions. They will slowly change color until they are a lovely shade of brown: caramelized.

Set aside the garlic and onions. Save the oil from the garlic!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a pie plate, sift together the flour and salt with a fork, then add the milk and garlic-infused oil (aka the oil you used when roasting the garlic). Stir with fork until mixed, then press into the bottom and sides of the pie plate. Prick with the fork and bake for 10 min.

While the crust is baking, whisk together the milk, eggs, salt, pepper, and parsley. (You could even use a fork to whisk it together and have less dishes to wash!) Set aside.

As for the extras, you can literally use ANYTHING you want – sausage, mozzarella cheese, broccoli, peppers, you name it. For this one I used spinach, cheddar cheese, and the caramelized onions and roasted garlic we just made. I chose to chop the garlic before putting it in the quiche.

When crust is baked, pull it out of the oven and turn down the temperature to 375 degrees. Layer the extra ingredients (onions, garlic, spinach, and/or your choices) in the bottom of the crust, and top with cheese. 
Toppings, sans cheese, right before the egg mixture is poured on.
Pour the egg filling over it all. Return quiche to the oven and bake for 35 min.

You will know it’s done when the eggs are “set” and no longer jiggle when you shake the pan. The edges of the crust will be lightly browned. 

If you’re not certain, you can always make a small cut in the middle to see if there is any raw egg still visible. If it needs to cook longer and you are worried about the top being burnt, you can place a sheet of foil over the top for the rest of the cooking time, though I have never found this to be necessary.

The Life-Sucking Powers of the To-Do List

We've been keeping the heat a little low apparently...
This morning I woke up with a frosty chill creeping around the corners of the bedclothes. Ice crusted the window, and I had to stand on tippy toes to see over it to what I knew would be there: a fresh blanket of snow. My baby girl was restless but not fully awake yet; it was time to get moving before she did.

As I pulled on something warmer, my glance fell on all the undone things in my little house, and immediately I formed a mental "to-do" list. At the top of the list? "Write down to-do list" - so I don't forget anything, of course. This was closely followed by empty dishwasher, do dishes, tidy living room, clean up clothes + trash in the bedroom, make bed...The list grew incredibly fast. Then I started to think of all the things I wanted to do (like working out), and added them to the list. Because it won't get done if it's not on the list, right?

I stopped for a minute and thought about where all of this was headed. Already my day seemed long and repressive. No matter how productive I was today, I would never be able to conquer that list. Worse, I would feel guilty doing anything that was not on the list (taking a nap, playing peek-a-boo with my daughter, reading quietly for a few minutes).

Since I was a old enough to write, I would make lists. I know this because I have boxes of notebooks and loose papers at my childhood home full of these lists. They contain everything, from songs I wanted to listen to, Bible verses I wanted to memorize, things I wanted to be when I grew up. It was a compulsion. I couldn't stop making lists. Soon there were so many lists that I didn't have time to read the previous one before a new one had been made. I used to think the most amazing feeling was being able to cross an item off of my to-do list. I was wrong. The most amazing feeling ever is not having a to-do list at all.
It sounds counter-productive at first. Without a to-do list, aren't you stranded? What will happen to the feeling of accomplishment, the organization of your thoughts, the method to remembering what you have to do?

Nope. The list is not your organization ally; it is a cage. Step out of the list, and you're free.

I am a Master of lists. Every time I think of something to remember for later, I add it to a list. Tiny notepads and the notes on my phone are covered in these things that I need to do...later. I'll be walking around the house and see a lightbulb that needs changing. I whip out my phone and type change lightbulb. "There," I think. "Now my head is cleared and I don't have to worry about it." Except that I do have to worry about it, because making all these lists isn't clearing up my head for more important things. It's actually filling up the back of my mind with an impending cloud of doom. All of these lists are just hanging over my head. Now I have to remember to check all of my lists and I have to actually do the things on the list. And if I don't, I feel constant nagging pressure all the time.

So here is my solution: when you find something that needs doing, get it done immediately. You heard me. Get it done right now. Silence that nagging thought with action.

My normal routine lately has been to wake up right before it's time for the baby to wake, scramble around the house getting breakfast and pulling on socks, then tuck myself, my baby, and the breakfast into the couch and settle into Netflix while we eat. As I watch my favorite show, I'm already typing up the day's list. {Actually, I'm usually adding to yesterday's list of unfinished things and relabeling it for today. Yeah. Horrible.)

Within ten minutes, I am overwhelmed. All I can think about is the stuff I have to do that I don't want to do and it's all more than I can possibly get done, so why not watch another episode? Why not take a nap with the baby and leave the list for tomorrow - I'll get to it eventually?

But this morning, instead of drowning in my own lack of motivation, I dove into something before it even made it to the list! The baby slept for fifteen more minutes, and in those fifteen minutes I cleaned out the dishwasher and took care of the dishes in the sink. wiped the countertops, picked up a few misplaced items in the living room, and moved a small bookshelf into my closet (something that had been on my list for a few days).

Then I woke my baby and cuddled with her in a chair in the bedroom and started writing this blog post while she nursed - instead of falling prey to my de-motivator: that looming television.
We have a small apartment that is impossibly full of things. Day by day, I am whittling away at this forest of stuff.
It's going to take me a long time to break the list habit. And I know that this approach does not apply to everything. Some things, like paying rent, are time-sensitive and therefore must be written down to avoid forgetting them. But the things I need to do will get done in order of importance very naturally, without ever having to write them down. The things that I don't really care about will automatically fall to bottom of the list. And if something is big and pressing and important and I forget about it? It will keep showing up. It's not as though things disappear if I forget to write them down.

The first step to decluttering your house starts with your mind. Declutter a little portion of it today by mentally deleting your list. Start over. Do the thing that is right in front of you. And when you're done? It's okay to take a guilt-free break.

Shredding Our Parenting Image - One Climb At A Time

Red Rocks Open Space, the Quarry
"We are either the coolest parents, or the dumbest parents ever," I declare to my husband, as I'm jiggling the incompetent stroller over tree roots and small boulders, stopping every few seconds to lift it with my foot. 

I'm wearing a climbing harness, a baby carrier sans baby, and a large windbreaker. Clutching a half-frozen Larabar while maintaining my grip on the stroller. Laughing a little in embarrassment. I'm flushed and tired - but in the best way. I just finished my first climb in over a year.

Last Sunday, we decided to get our butts in gear and (attempt) rock climbing. For the first time in a little over a year, my hands and feet were scrabbling on rock and it felt good. Unnerving and difficult and slightly disappointing, but good.

We went to Red Rocks, where there was a light coating of snow on the trails, and everything was a bit wet and icy, and made our way to the Quarry. Also known as: The Worst Place To Take a Stroller.
Oh yes, we were those parents. AdventureDad sporting his Kelty backpack with all of our climbing gear, me pushing the stroller with the baby. My original thought was that most of Red Rocks has wide, easy-to-navigate-a-stroller trails, and I wanted to be able to leave her in something familiar like the carseat so that she would stay warm, calm, and hopefully be able to sleep while we climbed.

Good idea? Nope. Never take a stroller. Just don't. Want to be adventurous? Wear the baby, carry the baby, string up a hammock for the baby...but leave the freaking clumsy stroller in the car, because the only thing it is good for is the sidewalk.
I'm exaggerating here, but seriously. I felt like a dunce pushing and pulling and dragging that thing around. There were narrow paths, tree roots, rocks, and (drumroll) stairs. Which meant that we had to pop out the carseat + baby and then drag/carry the stroller separately.

I'm sure we were a comical sight.

I'm not exactly proud of the fact that the first and only climb I did was a sad low rating. However, I conquered it. And then I climbed it again, because I was mad that it had been so difficult for me the first time.
Obviously just practicing some yoga.
But we planned poorly. We left in the afternoon and climbed on the east-facing side of the rock, so we were cast in shadow from the get-go. This made everything colder. And as it got colder, we of course needed to worry more about the munchkin and ended up trying to belay each other while wearing her on our fronts. Not really an easy (or safe) way to handle things. However, Roxanne held up just fine. She was a bit clingy (probably the cold and unusually long time spent outdoors without being strapped to me). But overall, the trip was successful and amazingly fun.
Any tips for our further forays into climbing with a baby? Hiking with her is easy. Climbing is a bit trickier to figure out. 

I now understand why sometimes parents give up the things they love: doing things with a kid is hard. You move at a snail's pace. You have to pack 10x the amount of stuff than you normally would, because you have to prepare for a million and one scenarios. It takes you forever to get ready, and once you get there, there's a lot of time spent finagling all the stuff you brought into a manageable travel load.

Staying home is a cakewalk in comparison.
This weekend, we decided to make a second attempt. This time we got an earlier start, nixed the stroller, and headed to Garden of the Gods. But we got there too early this time. The day hadn't warmed up enough (it was in the 30s, though the forecast promised a mostly-sunny 50 later in the day). And the approach to the rock we had chosen was covered in snow. We decided that climbing was out.

Crestfallen and frustrated, we hiked around a little, carrying a peacefully sleeping Roxy. We had wasted the morning stressing about and preparing for something that wasn't even going to happen.
As we headed back to the car, more than a little dejected, we saw a small group of people that included a very pregnant woman. Of course she couldn't help but notice that we were carrying a baby around on this cold morning. As we passed them, we heard one of the guys say, "Hey, look at that, you can have a life with a baby."

I was blown away. This morning felt like a massive defeat to us - and yet our being there had given someone else a little hope. That "life after baby" could be more than diapers and sleepless nights. That parents are still people with dreams and goals.

Trying to go climbing? That's not for Roxy. That's for us. We do it to challenge each other. Make memories. Live a life that is startling, like a splash of mountain spring water in the face. To remind ourselves that we are alive. To shred the notion that parents have to fit into a box of preconceived notions.
A huge shout-out to AdventureDad for dealing with my stressed-out morning self, for allowing his climbing passion to be derailed by an emotional hot mess (aka me) and a drooly baby. We love him to death and couldn't be more happy to go on adventures with him - be they successes or utter failures.