Monday, November 11, 2013

Mama Chin's Live Forever Casserole-Conda V. Douglas

Hi, Conda here. I'm the author of the Starke Dead mystery series, the first of which, Starke Naked Dead, will be published by Muse It Up in spring 2014. I figured I'd let a couple of my characters give you a "taste" of my series, with a short story and a (real) recipe. Enjoy! Oh, and to find out more about me and my writing (and more recipes!) visit my blog Conda's Creative Center


Mad Maddie Starke stared down at her menu and frowned in her signature facial expression of pure fury. She stared up at Mama Chin, who's calm gaze didn't waver a micro inch. Mama Chin knew all about Maddie's blow and bluster.
            Maddie pointed at a word on the daily special on Mama Chin's Save On Café's menu. "What the heck is that?"
            "It's quinoa," Mama Chin said, resisting the overwhelming urge to sigh. She couldn't resist a shift from aching foot to aching foot. She needed new wait staff. It didn't work anymore for only her and Paul to try to run the café all on their own. Not with the ski resort successful.
"Keenwah? How do you get that from quinoa? Why isn't it qwe-noah? Like it's spelled?"
"I agree totally."
Maddie's eyebrows raised high at Mama Chin's agreeing with her, which almost never happened.
"But, we've got to update our menu to sell to our new customer base, you know, the health-nutty skiers?"
Maddie's eyebrows remained halfway up her forehead. "Do I look like a health nut?"
Mama Chin regarded her slightly overweight—plump—okay, fat friend. "Not really."
"Don't you have a real food daily special? You know, meatloaf with gravy? Chicken pot pie? Stuffed pork chops? Bacon and eggs?"
Now Mama Chin sighed. "No. You can, however, order any of those at the regular price."
Maddie reared back in her chair. "How many generations have our families known each other? Have the Starkes ever ordered off the regular menu? It's a matter of pride—"
Mama Chin leaned forward to stop Maddie's word flood. "And have any of you ever had a bad meal at the Save On Café?"
Maddie wrinkled her brow. "Well, once Great-Grandpa—"
"I can toss any customer out of here, you know."
Maddie glared. "Okay, okay, I'll have the quinoa casserole."
            Maddie patted her mouth and then her tummy.
            "Well, how was it?" Mama Chin asked.
            "I'm so glad I'm always open to new experiences, especially in the realm of good food." Maddie gave her mouth another prim and somehow smug pat. "And that I've decided to eat more healthy."
            Mama Chin crossed her arms over her chest. "First time for everything. So does that mean you'll tip for the first time?'
            Maddie's shocked expression was her answer.

Since the quinoa in this recipe gets baked in the oven, it doesn't need to be precooked. Instead, it settles into the bottom of the pan and creates the casseroles' crust.

1 teaspoon butter or margarine
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa 
8 eggs 
1 1/4 cup milk or soy, almond or coconut milk (the coconut milk is good with curry spice, instead of the other spices, for an "Indian" Egg Bake)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic 
1 teaspoon chopped thyme (optional)
1 teaspoon sage (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon pepper (or more if you love pepper)
 2 cups packed baby spinach, roughly chopped (or you can use frozen spinach as well)
Or/and 2 cups of the vegetables of your choice, green beans, corn, peas, cooked carrots, or a combo all work well.
1 cup finely shredded Romano or Parmesan cheese or any hard cheese of your choice.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch x 8-inch glass or metal baking dish with butter; set aside.
Put quinoa into a fine mesh strainer and rinse until cold running water until water runs clear; drain well.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, the spices you've chosen, and quinoa. Stir in spinach or other vegetables then pour mixture into prepared dish. Cover tightly with foil then jiggle dish gently from side to side so that quinoa settles on the bottom in an even layer. Bake until just set, about 45 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle top evenly with cheese. Return to oven and bake, uncovered, until golden brown and crisp, 10 to 15 minutes more. Set aside to let cool briefly, then slice and serve.

Note: this is a forgiving recipe, but the texture will be a little too chewy if you leave out the vegetables. Try different combos of spices and see what you like the best. Me, I always splash in a little hot sauce because I love hot sauce!



J.Q. Rose said...

Love your characters and their back and forth with each other. What a connection. I haven't tried quinoa yet, but your recipe sounds like a good starting point. Best wishes on your new series in 2014!

Cellophane Queen said...

This sounds like a fun one, Conda. A little departure from fairy godmothers, but nothing wrong with that.

I tried to cook quinoa once. It came out horribly gooey and gritty. Anybody want the cup of quinoa sitting in my cupboard? I'll never use it.

Conda Douglas said...

Marva, there's a secret to quinoa: rinse well before cooking! (Some people leave this part out, important, important!) And when you rinse it, check for pieces of grit, ick. The rinsing also removes a bitter substance from the seeds, which should be nice and fluffy, like rice, when cooked.

Or skip the step and I'll take your quinoa!