Autumn in NC, Spinach Quiche, and a New Spider Friend

Fall is most certainly upon us.  
This past weekend we were at the Science Center and the Carolina Cup for its 40th annual bicycle race.  The weather has been beautiful – high 70s during the day and into the mid to low 50s at night.  I could not ask for more beautiful days.  These days are advertisements for why this region of the south is so lovely.  The long autumn stretches into a brief winter, and a long spring.  
The return of the black and yellow argiope (Argiope aurantia) is another tell-tale sign of autumn.  These beauties show up every fall in bushes, hostas, and sides of houses.  The ones this size are female and will grow up to an inch and half long.  These spiders are harmless to humans, in fact they eat many insects and actually are quite helpful in ridding gardens of pests.  
Our friend has also laid a large egg sac. This egg sac contains 1,000s of eggs that have already hatched.  However, the young spiders will remain inside this egg sac until spring.  Our spider friend will eventually die, since she has laid her eggs.  Until then, we will enjoy seeing her sitting head down, waiting for insects.  Check out more information and photos here.  
I made the first quiche in a while, this past week.  Quiche is a fantastic meal – it can be breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, or snack.  It is simple and easily mixed up with a variety of fillers.  
To start a quiche, you need a pastry for a single-crust pie.  Using a pastry blender, cut in 1/3 cup butter into 1-1/4 cups flour.  Pieces should be pea-sized.  
Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the ice cold water (or vodka) over part of the flour mixture; toss with a fork.  Push moistened flour to one side of the bowl.  Repeat, using 1 tablespoon of the liquid at a time until all the flour is moistened.  Form dough into a ball. 

On a lightly floured board, use hands to slightly flatten dough.  Do not leave it in the sun as it is here in this photo.  The dough will become too warm.  If the dough does get too warm, place it in the refrigerator until it is cold again.  

Roll dough from center to edges into a circle about 12 inches in diameter.  

To transfer pastry, wrap dough around a rolling pin.  Unroll into a 9-inch pie plate.  Do not stretch the dough, as this will cause shrinking.  Trim excess dough and fold over.  Do not prick dough. 

Line with double thickness of aluminum foil.  Bake in a 450 degree oven for 8 minutes.  

Remove foil, bake in a 325 degree oven for 4 to 5 more minutes or until pastry is set and dry.  Set pastry aside and start filling.  

Whisk six eggs in a large bowl. 

Whisk in 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt.  I use almond milk in all my recipes. 

Mix in 2-3 cups chopped fresh spinach.  I also used about 1/3 cup frozen spinach, because I was short on fresh spinach.  

Add 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved.  Mix in 1 cup soy beef crumbles.   

Pour filling into prepared pie crust.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. 

If necessary, cover edges with foil to prevent over-browning.  This always ends up being a lovely green quiche.  
Quiche doesn’t last long enough in our household. 
 I served this quiche warm with sliced, aged cheddar on top.  Cheddar is great cheese due to its natural lack of lactose.
Single Crust Pie Pastry from Better Homes & Gardens
1.  Using a pastry blender, cut in 1/3 cup butter into 1-1/4 cups flour.  Pieces should be pea-sized.  
Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the ice cold water (or vodka) over part of the flour mixture; toss with a fork.  Push moistened flour to one side of the bowl.  Repeat, using 1 tablespoon of the liquid at a time until all the flour is moistened.  Form dough into a ball. 
2. On a lightly floured board, use hands to slightly flatten dough.  Roll dough from center to edges into a circle about 12 inches in diameter.  
3. To transfer pastry, wrap dough around a rolling pin.  Unroll into a 9-inch pie plate.  Do not stretch the dough, as this will cause shrinking.  Trim excess dough and fold over.  Do not prick dough. 
4. Line with double thickness of aluminum foil.  Bake in a 450 degree oven for 8 minutes.  Remove foil, bake in a 325 degree oven for 4 to 5 more minutes or until pastry is set and dry.  
Spinach Quiche

1. Whisk six eggs in a large bowl.  Whisk in 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt with the eggs. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and salt. 
2. Mix in 2-3 cups chopped fresh spinach.  Add 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved.  Mix in 1 cup soy beef crumbles.  
3.  Pour filling into prepared pie crust.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. If necessary, cover edges with foil to prevent over-browning.  This always ends up being a lovely green quiche.  
4.  Serve warm with sliced cheddar cheese on top. 

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