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Posts Tagged ‘quinoa’

It came on as ferociously as promised and effectively shut down a large portion of the state. What a great metaphor, if you choose to see it that way. The Christmas crazies have taken hold and yet, no matter what your plan, be it a holiday party, a shopping trip, weekly youth group meetings or even dinner out, Mother Nature said ‘Not a chance, bud’ and forced us to stay in, stay warm and just sit, quiet and calmly, during what amounts to some of the nuttiest days of the year. The snow swirled around us, the wind howled and we took a small step away from the frantic pre-holiday race. Honestly, should we be forced to do this every year, I wouldn’t be one to complain.

After a few days of relative inactivity, I bundled myself up to take a chilly hike, ever aware of the need to move, to get the blood flowing and to whittle away not only the pesky excess on the body, but the loud and clamoring voices in my head that I often can’t shut off. I also wanted to see the winter landscape, to find the moments of clarity that come from a fresh snowfall when the hushed silence around us is marked only by the squeak of your boots. I needed the cold, and the cardio output. It helped immensely.

Christmas is having a hard time reaching me this year. Not particularly sure why, but given that the last 12 months have been challenging, it would suffice to say that getting festive may be the last thing on my mind. But a part of me wants to drench myself in the spirit, hauling out the decorations in an attempt to impress my mind with the full blown effects of the holiday. There is still plenty to be happy and excited about this season. We are in high anticipation of a new member imminently joining the already large clan on Mike’s side. This Christmas will be more beautiful when sharing it with someone so brand new and perfect, a simple reminder of the true reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place. Fresh promise. New hope. I should be eagerly awaiting the end of December, the turn of a new calendar page, a fresh start to another 12 month saga. I should, really. And I am. But every year is the same; I fight the despicable commercialism of Christmas, the vapid holiday music that is everywhere, and the rush, rush, rush of everyone thinking that somehow there is perfection wrapped in a package, tied up in a bow. One year when I was in college, my cousin took a trip to Europe over Christmas. I remember thinking she was crazy to go away that time of year, but now, looking back, I almost wish I could do just that. Part of me wants to just jump from here to the 31st.

My kitchen repertoire during this quick cold snap turned towards the warm and comfort angle- thick soups, pastas, a delicious meatloaf. It’s a return to the familiar, like the chill wind outside. I don’t complain about cold. It’s inevitable here in Minnesota. Dress warm, keep moving. You’ll be fine. Filling tummies with comfort and warmth is just another step in the process.

This golden and fragrant Spiced Quinoa made it’s way to our table on a dragging Friday, the end of another long week. With the warming spices of cumin and ginger- easily my favorite duo in the kitchen-  the quinoa was rich in flavor, soothing to look at and warm in the belly. It easily took us from busy day to quiet evening, where all I wanted was my couch, my PJ’s and a good movie to engage my mind. It smelled fabulous. And for those frantic days ahead, this could be the easiest and least demading thing you put your energy towards. I spent more time measuring out the spices than doing anything else.

Spiced Quinoa
from the Taste for Life test kitchens

2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 t. each ground ginger, cumin, coriander and turmeric
1 c. quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 c. boiling water
Fresh cilantro or mint, if desired

In a medium saucepan, warm the oil and brown the spices for several minutes, stirring frequently. Add the quinoa and stir to coat with the spices. Pour in the boiling water, make sure it’s simmering and then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and allow to simmer, undisturbed, until the water is fully absorbed and little holes appear on the top of the quinoa. Gently pull back the grain to check for any remaining liquid but do not stir. When all the liquid is absorbed, turn off the heat and allow the pan to sit, covered, for about 10 minutes. Fluff grain with a fork before serving, and top with fresh cilantro or mint if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

KATE’S NOTES:
It’s imperative NOT to stir quinoa when it is cooking. Like rice, it will get mushy if disturbed in the cooking process. One cup of the grain cooks in about 15 minutes or so at a gentle simmer. Quinoa is a perfect alternative to a rice side dish. We topped this option with chopped pepitas (pumpkin seeds). Soy nuts are also good with it, as are chopped almonds or cashews.

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November has come, and we’ve been treated to a few simply glorious days. The sunshine is most welcome here, since October winds and rain stripped the trees barren before we had our customary chance to oooh and ahhh over the coloful glory. The tone of the land is now that of bleached straw and flat brown; the deer that roam our neighborhood melt into the backdrop like a thief, vanishing in a blink.

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This little guy was quite languid and uninterested in my trespassing on his sun-bathing path. He even let me stroke his leathery skin before he casually twisted his way into the leaves to continue sunning himself.

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Yet even with these brilliant sunshine-y days, Daylight Savings Time and the calendar both make the late afternoons chilly, and those warm cozy meals are even more appealing.

I’m not one to think that feeling under the weather is all that productive -who does?-  but on a recent day, I found myself feeling uncharacteristically blah and lacking energy to do much, which resulted in a long period of time under a blanket on the couch, a cat curled up contentedly on me while I precariously balanced my computer to occupy myself with recipe searches. An hour and a half later, I did manage, with some appropriate groaning and sighing along with the displacement of one unenthusiastic feline, to pull myself to a sitting position, and there was a stack of papers almost an inch thick on the printer that made all that time worthwhile. That’s the kind of down-time productive one can appreciate. And one of those highly anticipated papers, the best kind that float around my kitchen, papers lush with promise and anticipated flavors and not a payment of some type being sought by the outer world, this thick and comforting stew filled that early afternoon darkness with warm and intoxicating smells, a bubbling pot of seductive chunks of squash and flavorful stewed beans that managed to make me feel a lot better, at least in returning some of my energy.

Mike always knows that something wonderful is happening in the kitchen when I haul out this old and beautifully seasoned cast iron stockpot. Just dragging it out of the cupboard is quite the workout. I think if it wasn’t on a upper shelf I might not be so fearful of it.

Andean Bean Stew with Squash and Quinoa6871

This recipe calls for using dried beans, but rarely do I have enough foresight into my dinner preparations to put a bag of beans to soak the night before, so I used canned pinto beans instead. And although I did have to put myself through that most tedious kitchen task of peeling the acorn squash, I approached it calmly and without the usual hair-pulling hysteria that surround the words “Peel and chop one medium hard squash” Can somebody out there give me an amen? Thanks. I know I’m not the only one who despises certain culinary obligations. That probably includes soaking dried beans, since I hardly ever do it.

This recipe, with it’s canned bean option, comes together really fast if you don’t count tackling the squash. A quick saute of onion and garlic, then you stir in the rest and let it simmer until the squash is tender. When the quinoa shows you it’s adorable little curlicue thread, call out the diners to gather and spoon up a thick and fragrant bowl.

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Andean Bean Stew with Winter Squash and Quinoa
from The New York Times, Recipes for Health and Nutrition, Nov. 2008

1 winter squash of choice, peeled and cut into 1/2″ chunks
2 cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 T. sweet paprika
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes, with liquid (use regular if you don’t have these available)
1/2 c. quinoa, rinsed well
1 bay leaf
3 T. chopped basil or parsley

In a sturdy stockpot, brown the onion in oil of choice, about 10 minutes or so. Add the paprika and stir to coat, cooking for a minute. Add in garlic and stir, cook for 30 seconds or until very fragrant. Add in tomatoes and their juice and cook for a few minutes to combine flavors. Stir in the beans and squash. Fill the tomato can with water and empty into the pot. The solids should be only just covered with liquid. This is a thick stew. Add more if necessary and put the bay leaf in the pot. Bring to a boil and then allow to simmer, covered, until the squash is tender, but not thoroughly cooked- 30 minutes or so. Stir in the quinoa and simmer until the grain is translucent and the tiny thread appears- about 10-15 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve topped with basil or parsley.

This stew, like many, becomes more flavorful as it sits. It also thickens substantially. Add a little water when reheating.

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My goodness, I’ve been MIA on the food posts for a week!! What in heaven’s name have I been doing? Playing hooky in the summer sunshine? Ah, sadly no….

Picnics in the gentle July breezes? No again……

Oh yeah….. *sigh*
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Despite it being high summer, where sunshine and warmth and summer vegetables should be in abundance, instead we’ve had copious rainfall (a good thing, according to my crunchy grass) cool temperatures and a totaled Audi, our best and most reliable vehicle.

Thankfully no one was hurt. Both Mike and Griffin were in the car and have some very minor whiplash, both completely treatable, but the poor car was a total wreck. The frame was badly bent, the cargo area crushed, the fender pushed under against the wheels and the entire back end twisted to the right due to an unattentive driver who rear-ended it. Our insurance settlement was fair and very favorable, now it’s on to focusing our intentions to the purchase of a new vehicle. We loved this Audi, the A6 wagon, and fully intend to get another one, a newer model with lower mileage. Already we’ve seen some very promising vehicles. And once again, when faced with something difficult and trying, the outcome could have been so much worse and we’re really so very fortunate and blessed in that regard.

So there’s been my focus for the past week. The Audi was my car primarily, and having to clean it out and leave it at the salvage yard was like saying goodbye forever to a trusted and reliable friend. While it’s only a chunk of metal, I really loved it, and it was as close to a dream car as I’ve ever owned so for a day or two I simply felt heartbroken.

Dinners have been almost an afterthought, and even when effort was made they remained pretty simple; grilled chicken, delicious chicken sausages stuffed with hearty portobella mushroom chunks, some of the first summer sweet corn, grilled eggplant and zucchini and still, lots of hearty summer salads made with tons of fresh vegetables and the nicest greens found from the farmers market. We’ve done BLT’S, making Griffin nearly dance with joy over the prospect of BACON for dinner, but now that he’s off for a week of service with his youth group, Mike and I, once again, declared the house a Meat-Free Zone.

And to celebrate, I made Quinoa, rich with a hearty helping of fresh vegetables.

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This was one of those dishes made out of the odds and ends that accumulate over a short window of time in your fridge from various meals. I couldn’t possibly create it in this same way again, but the idea of it is open to infinite possibilities. All you need is cooked quinoa for the base and the rest is up to your taste, imagination and whatever leftovers you have on hand.

What did go in to this version was about half a chopped red pepper, a clove of thinly sliced garlic, an ear of leftover sweet corn, two slices of grilled eggplant and about four of grilled zucchini (i’ve been crazy for grilled veggies lately- maybe because of my spiffy new grill???) , the remains of two store-bought deli salads left from a party, half an avocado and four slices of tomato. It didn’t need any seasoning but salt and pepper.

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It was a nice dish to enjoy in the company of an attentive and interested cat too….
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This isn’t a whole lot different from what I posted recently….my apologies if repetition annoys you but that post brought forth a few inquiries that were deemed noteworthy to address,  so here’s a few good tips……

Cooking quinoa:
Measure 1-1/2 cups of water into a saucepan with a tight fitting lid and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, in a mesh colander, rinse 1 cup of quinoa well, lifting it with your fingers to make sure it gets saturated. Quinoa is a very dusty grain, and although most commercially available sources have already removed the bitter saponin from the outer husk, a thorough rinse is always recommended. When the water boils, add the washed grain and cover the pan, bring it back to a boil then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. The water should be absorbed and small ‘eyes’ will have appeared in the top of the grain. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes or more to steam. I’ve left the grain for up to half an hour once cooked with no issues. Steaming is necessary to ‘finish’ the process.

Grilling Vegetables:
I’ve had several queries lately about how I grill vegetables, and this will mainly cover eggplant and zucchini as those are my most current obsession.  The key to cooking eggplant is NOT to add too much oil. Eggplant is like a sponge and will absorb an enormous amount of oil which is then released when cooked, turning the vegetable to mush. I cut the eggplant into thick slices and brush one side only with olive oil, usually seasoned with dried basil and garlic. Resist the urge to add more. For zucchini, I cut them into long slices, and as thick as possible. This will vary depending on their size. I brush them with a bit of seasoned oil as well, then sprinkle them all with sea salt and a little pepper and a nice dousing of McCormick’s Parmesan Herb seasoning mix. (this is optional, but it’s pretty darn good)

I use a gas grill, and this is my method:
Heat your grill on high until it’s good and hot, then scrub your grates well with a stiff wire brush. I’m kind of a fanatic when it comes to keeping my grill grates clean, but it keeps them from getting anything gunky or off-tasting on my food. Once they’re scrubbed, using a pair of tongs, dip a wad of paper towel into some cooking oil- I use canola- and wipe the grates well to prepare them. The more you scrub them off, the more you need to season. Turn down the heat to low- remember, it’s already really hot- and then place the vegetables oiled side down on the grates and shut the lid. Let them cook, undisturbed, for about 3-5 minutes but keep an eye on them. The edges should be curling slightly or showing wrinkles, then flip them over and allow to cook on the other side for about five minutes more. They should be soft but not soggy, and have some nice grill marks.

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Anyone remember this?

happychef

Ok, so I’m not trying to compare myself with some crazy looking statue….one that’s squatting, for goodness sakes, but yesterday was a day to make me one utterly happy and excited home chef.

I got a brand new grill!

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Our old grill hung around for nearly seven years, but should have been replaced at least two years ago. The shield over the burners was corroded and crumbling, it didn’t heat or cook evenly and the ignition was busted, requiring a torchiere to light it every time. The burners were not very well protected, and a strong wind would blow out the flames if you weren’t paying attention. I don’t have to tell you how dangerous a running propane tank can be now, do I?

This grill is the same that resides at our lake home. We loved it so much that as soon as we spotted it on sale this year we snatched one for home. It has a huge cooking area.
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The four burners are highly conductive, providing even heat all around. The grates are super sturdy cast iron, and it provides terrific conditions for indirect cooking or smoking methods. It’s also fully protected, and despite strong breezes off the lake it has never been snuffed out by the wind.

There’s also a lip at the edge of the grates so that nothing can roll or slip off.
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This is perfect if you, like we do, regularly grill hot dogs or bratwurst. Nothing like a little crunchy grit on the ol’ dogs, huh?

So, with a bounty of produce from the Farmer’s Market and a kid-free evening, I made this amazing Grilled Vegetable and Quinoa Salad for Mike and I. The summer night wasn’t all that warm, but the salad was perfect; light, flavorful and simple, not to mention just chock full of nutrition. Our tummies were so very happy!

It started with some perfectly roasted gold beets.
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Some delightful grilled zucchini…

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I added in roasted red pepper, cubed fresh mozzarella and half of an avocado.

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Drizzled it with lemon juice and some good olive oil, seasoning with fresh ground pepper and a bit of Penzeys Shallot salt.

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And served it with quinoa, topped with unsalted roasted almonds.

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Variations are endless with this fresh and wonderful salad. I thought some chickpeas might make a nice touch. You could try a more southwestern touch with the seasonings, like cumin, chili powder or chipotle powder, use roasted poblanos or jalapenos,  stir in some black beans and use lime juice instead of lemon. Eggplant would be a nice addition too, as it grills up some beautifully. If you like raw onion, use some minced red. Add some goat cheese or feta instead of the fresh mozzarella. Grilled tomato or sweet onions would also be delightful. Millet, wheatberries or possibly even barley would make a good substitute for the quinoa.

Regardless, it’s a terrific, light and easy summer option for the abundance of summer produce, and those warm and muggy nights.

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Mexican Quinoa with Pepitas and Cilantro
from The New Whole Grains Cookbook by Robin Asbell

1 1/2 c. water
1 c. quinoa
1/2 c. raw pumpkin seeds
1 c. washed cilantro leaves
2 cloves garlic
1 jalapeno chile
1/2 t. salt
1 t. ground cumin
2 T. olive oil
1 t. lime juice
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
2 scallions, chopped

Bring water to a boil in 2-qt saucepan with tight fitting lid. In medium bowl, wash quinoa well, rinsing with warm water. Pour off most of the water and drain in a fine-mesh strainer. When the water boils, add the quinoa, bring to a boil and the reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. The water should be absorbed and small holes will have formed on the top. Let stand, covered for 5 minutes.

In a large skillet, dry-toast pumpkin seeds, shaking pan until they begin to pop. Remove from heat and place in food processor or blender. Add cilantro, garlic, jalapeno, salt, and cumin and process, scraping sides occasionally, until all ingredients are well minced. Gradually add in oil and lime juice and process until smooth. Stir into cilantro, mixing well. Can be served warm, or chilled.

KATE’S NOTES: I followed the recipe faithfully. The only thing I did different was to use roasted and salted pepitas (the seeds) as the store I went to did not carry raw ones. The flavor, at least in my opinion, was highly enhanced by the roasted seeds, which I toasted as per the recipe. You would need to cut back a little on the salt if using a salted seed. I also added lime zest to the sauce. You just can’t lose with that addition.

Roasted Vegetable Wrap
Cut one sweet potato/yam, one red pepper and two small zucchini into 2-inch strips. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and place on baking sheet. Roast in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes; stir and roast until tender.

Stir one cup of drained and rinsed black beans into Mexican Quinoa. Layer quinoa/beans and vegetables on a whole wheat or multi grain wrap and fold over. Cheese is optional, enjoyment is paramount.

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