Go to Home Page

red quinoa, kale & roasted cauliflower

April 7th, 2014 | No Comments »

I have a tendency not to share these dishes we eat, mostly thrown together with ingredients from the fridge that likely need to be used up before they become this years compost material. This ‘Cowboy Cooking’, as Mike calls it, is a strange gift that I have, an ability to see what’s available and be able to make something delicious from it. Plenty of people do it, I’m sure.

I just need to share it more often. Because the results are often pretty spectacular.

On one of my last trips through CostCo, I came across a 4-lb bag of red quinoa for $15.99. At $4 a pound, this gorgeously colored grain was significantly less expensive than any bulk option I’d ever seen anywhere, and I snatched a sack off the shelf as if they might vaporize right in front of my eyes. Cooking off a large pan at a time, I freeze what I don’t use, which then helps the ‘Cowboy Cooking’ at some point down the road. My favorite means of preparing this delicious grain is to use half coconut water and half coconut milk, along with smoked paprika and turmeric, as it creates a flavor bomb that blows off the top of your head in delight, as well as mixing in that beautiful yellow color that turmeric is known for, making the end result even more gorgeous. Pretty food makes everything better, doesn’t it?

red quinoa ~~ kate in the kitchen

I realize that everything about this dish screams of the current love of all things kale and roasted cauliflower and blah, blah blah with the addition of the ubiquitous quinoa, and more blah, blah, blah coconut water, and where is the creativity or uniqueness in any of that?? You’re right. There isn’t any. Maybe you’ve already done this dish; tossed together a pan of burnished cauliflower with your own uniquely cooked quinoa, and a pan of silky, slowly braised kale that’s pungently scented with garlic and thought that you were a million ways brilliant like I did. There’s nothing to it. And that’s part of why I want to share this delicious and superbly easy dish. There IS nothing to it. Which means you don’t need a whole resume of skills to get a fantastic dinner on the table. Or really, a lot of hands-on time.

red quinoa, roasted cauliflower, braised kale ~~ kate in the kitchen

Let’s take that quinoa: it’s one of the simplest grains ever to cook. Forget that whole 2:1 ratio of water to grain, though; with quinoa, it’s wrong, and will result in a mushy, unappetizing food that no one in your house will want to touch. Here’s the deal: one cup of quinoa needs 1-1/4 cups of liquid. That’s it. It needs a simple simmer, and then…. here’s the easiest part; it needs about 15 minutes of you ignoring it on a hot pad when it’s done. Yup. Take it off the heat when the water is absorbed, set it aside, covered, and ignore it. You can ignore it for an hour and it won’t care. In fact, it LOVES to be ignored. You can cook it in the morning and ignore it all day until dinner and it won’t care. Your result, however, will be a toothsome bite to the grain that reveals all of quinoa’s beautiful tastes. Nothing mushy here, folks.

And that kale? Have you ever found curly kale to be tough and chewy? Not to your liking? Try a slow braise of it, on the lowest heat setting your stove will offer, with just a tiny bit of liquid. I promise you this method will render the toughness right out of this nutritional bomb, making it silky, smooth and delicious to eat. Start with a small onion, or shallot, add a few cloves of garlic, then drop the chopped kale in the pan, stir for a few minutes, add enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pan, a pinch of kosher salt, and cover it to cook. You can ignore this one too for a while and it’s ok. Curly kale doesn’t mind. Stir it a few times, and after about 20 minutes or so, the kale will start to show you it’s better side. If it still tastes tough when you sample a leaf, give it more time. Add another pinch of salt, too. It helps break down the cellular walls and tenderize the leaves.

The tender cauliflower, nutty grain and silky kale make for a mouth-awakening dish. And just for fun, I dumped in a bunch of cooked lentils that I had in the fridge to add to all the lip-smacking goodness. This dish…. it’s good when it’s hot; it tastes great at room temperature, and it’s wonderful chilled too. Easy. Endlessly versatile. Colorful. Healthy. It’s got it all. Now YOU need to get it all.

 

Red Quinoa, Braised Kale & Roasted Cauliflower

1 c. red quinoa, washed well and drained (regular white is fine, too)
1-1/4 c. water (or combination of equal liquids such as coconut water & coconut milk)
1 T. ground turmeric
1 T. smoked paprika
1 bunch curly Kale, washed and de-stemmed
1 medium shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 head Cauliflower, washed and broken in to bite sized pieces.
Salt and pepper to taste.

In a small saucepan, bring water or liquids to a boil. Add the quinoa, turmeric and smoke paprika and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and allow to cook until the liquid has been absorbed. Keep covered, remove from heat and set aside for at least 15 minutes, or up to several hours. No need to chill. Fluff the grains before utilizing.

Meanwhile, heat your oven to 400°. Place cauliflower on a baking sheet and drizzle with a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt. Mix well and place in hot oven. Stir occasionally and roast until fork-tender and browned in spots.

In a medium skillet, heat a small amount of oil and sear the shallot and garlic until tender and slightly browned. Add the kale and stir until coated. Pour about 1/3 cup of water in the pan, sprinkle a pinch of kosher salt on the kale and stir to combine. Cover the pan, reduce to the lowest heat setting and allow to cook, stirring once or twice, for 20-25 minutes. Taste a kale leaf; if it still tastes chewy, cook for 5-10 more minutes. The kale should be silky and tender in your teeth. Keep the heat LOW.

Combine the quinoa, cauliflower and kale in a large bowl and taste for seasoning, adding more salt or pepper if desired.

{NOTE: I don’t include cooking times for this recipe, or any of mine really, because your oven and stovetop is not the same as mine. Instinct, as a cook, is a necessity; your browned cauliflower might look different than mine. Your onions could cook quicker, and your Low setting on your stove could be higher than mine and cook that kale faster. Trust. Taste as you go. And trust some more. Your mouth will tell you when it’s done.}

 

black bean & quinoa veggie burgers

May 20th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

I have an embarrassingly high number of veggie burger recipes neatly tucked away in a three-ring binder in the kitchen cupboard where all my cookbooks reside. There are more on my Pinterest site where I stash all the tidbits and delicacies found on the Internet. Every time I come across one on someone’s blog, I’d gaze at it longingly, mouth watering, as I glance over the ingredients.

But up until last week, I had made exactly ZERO of these recipes.

Come in to my kitchen…

andean bean stew with squash and quinoa

November 4th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

This is a perfect stew for right now, for November, for cool nights and for filling your house with warmth. I made this two years ago and we loved it; this being long before we passed on meat in favor of hearty vegetable dishes and grains. So bringing it up again serves more than a purposeful means to introduce you to something I loved, but to reintroduce myself to a great idea, once more.

I’m giving you the Weeknight Version of this hearty and delicious stew, ready in about as much time as it takes for your squash to cook in the pan. If you are so inclined, use dried beans instead, with the proper soaking. As with many soups or stews, this dish tastes better with a day in the fridge, but it also thickens substantially so you’ll want to add more broth or liquid the next day.

Delicious and hearty, with a good healthy twist and terrific for a cool weather meal, what’s NOT to love about this??

 

 

Andean Bean Stew with Winter Squash and Quinoa

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.

from The New York Times, Recipes for Health and Nutrition, Nov. 2008

 

What’s on YOUR plate this month??

the Engine 2 challenge

May 9th, 2011 | 3 Comments »

May is looking a bit different around the kitchen. It’s a lot more green. And red. And purple. Don’t forget orange and yellow.

I was invited by Whole Foods to take part in a 28-day challenge of consuming a plant-based diet, based on the best-selling book The Engine 2 Diet, written by firefighter Rip Esselstyn, who designed the plan to help his fellow firefighters lose weight and combat health issues such as high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease. Whole Foods will be introducing this challenge to it’s customers in June, and four local bloggers will be chronicling their 28 days for the Whole Foods clientele to read about as they move forward with their own 28 day plan.

Rip’s book outlines all the benefits of a plant-based diet, and includes great testimony from people who have successfully used the plan to lose weight, lower their cholesterol and reverse the devastating effects of diabetes and heart problems. The premise of it goes like this; no processed or packaged foods, no added salts, no animal products, and no fats at all, including all oils. What you eat is a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. The book comes with an extensive recipe collection, all simple and straight forward. There’s no need for any special cooking skills, or equipment or tools or anything. Just cut out the junk, and ramp up the intake of the good stuff.

I was intrigued by the idea of it, and enjoyed reading Rip’s book, sent to me free by Whole Foods. He’s got a lot of really bare bones information about the state of our health in the United States, and I don’t need to tell you that it’s really not a pretty picture. And I’m not going to get into any details. We all know how bad it is, even if we make like we don’t notice. My family eats really healthy foods, and I’m pretty diligent about purchasing items that I am comfortable with giving to my guys, but I’m always willing to do more and this challenge is giving me an opportunity to step up our game. As I see it, with what we do already, we’re about halfway there anyway, so taking it to another level won’t be that difficult. I don’t need to lose much weight at all, but we both have a strong desire to be as healthy as we can possibly be, and Mike has had issues with high cholesterol.

One of the nice things about Rip’s approach is that it’s really a very open-minded explanation, and it leaves a lot for each individual to interpret on their own. His suggestion, obviously, is to jump right in and start on the challenge, but he readily acknowledges that it’s often a tough step to take, and offers readers several options for easing in to it, and really, the best advice he gives is that it’s really something you can custom tailor to your own needs. And that’s what I did for us. Mike and I easily can give up almost all of our meat consumption, and so that’s where I’m taking our challenge. With the exception of a few social events for me where I’ve eaten meat, our home meals have all been meat free. With the gift card that Whole Foods provided, I stocked up on grains, brown and wild rice, lots of colorful vegetables and fruits and we’ve been enjoying some pretty amazing meals with our bounty. I’m not on board with Rip’s assessment of cutting out fat consumption, as I am firm in my belief and understanding that good fats are a necessity in good body function, for your brain and your autonomic nervous system. We need fat, and although there are many ways to get good fat through plant-based eating, I’ve kept the olive oil, but cut out the butter. I’m already missing my weekly popcorn fix.

But it’s a good thing though; we can all stand to do something better for our health. This is giving us motivation, and incentive to push to another level. We love vegetables, thank goodness, and it’s coming to the best time of year for vegetable love in Minnesota, as the Farmers Markets open and the bounty starts pouring in. And I made an agreement with my meat-loving son; I won’t mind if he wants to fix himself a piece of chicken, or a small steak if he’s willing to really try some of the new foods that come out of the kitchen. He didn’t even hesitate before he said ‘Yes’.

The first time Griffin tried quinoa he enjoyed it enough, even though he said the texture was ‘a little weird’. This time, when I loaded it with all sorts of grilled vegetables like baby bok choy, portabella mushrooms, red peppers and asparagus, he heaped his bowl full and really got into it. Upon finishing it, he sighed deeply and said to me “You know, that’s surprisingly filling.”

I don’t really have a ‘recipe’ for this. I made a simple balsamic vinaigrette that I brushed on the vegetables, then I grilled them, chopped them up and mixed them with cooked quinoa, salt and pepper. It was really delicious, and yes, it was surprisingly filling. Quinoa cooks in about 15 minutes and it goes with everything. If you haven’t tried this super little grain, I can’t recommend it enough.

Stay tuned for more posts about the E2 challenge!

 

Disclaimer:
Whole Foods provided the book and a gift card free of charge to me for agreeing to participate in the Engine 2 Challenge.
All opinions expressed here are mine.

pushing through

April 25th, 2011 | 4 Comments »

Last Spring at this time, our perennial garden was full of glorious color. The tulips were opened….

The Creeping Phlox was a lovely carpet of purple…….

 

There were Johnny Jump Ups leaping up all around the garden beds.

And I had managed to keep the Prairie Smoke from being devoured by hungry critters.

Which, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do this year. Somebunny devoured all the pink buds and leafy greens on these native plants. Ah well…..

We’re a lot further behind this year on the revival of the earth, it’s flowers and new grass. It’s almost May and the Star Magnolia bush, my harbinger of Spring, has yet to open even one of it’s gorgeous and fragrant flowers, although with current warm temps and sun, it’s reaching it’s fat buds to the sky and starting to come alive. This is possibly the latest in the year that it’s started it’s bloom, according to the garden journal I’ve kept since 2006. I love recording the rhythm of the seasons, the sightings of birds in the yard, when the migrations start and the seasonal visitors like Hummingbirds and Orioles return, the first (and last) snowfall, the last ice-out on the area lakes, the foxes, possums and creatures that roam the night time. It’s a wonderful way to keep track of the ebb and flow of the life outside our windows.

And everyone is impatient for Spring, for warm weather, for shedding the pants, shoes and sleeves to bare their skin to the sun. For me, more this year than any I’ve been really, really eager to see the bounty of the season begin. I’m craving all forms of green; vegetables, tender baby lettuces, spring spinach, asparagus….. you name it. It’s like I can hear my body complaining loudly about the lack of chlorophyll. Even my Teen said that he was craving a salad. So when Mike pulled some items together for dinner recently, he brought home a large amount of lettuces from the store. Since Farmers Market time is still a few weeks away, these greens will have to do. We washed them, and consumed large bowls of salad with our burgers and roasted potatoes. It was the first real meal I’d eaten all week due to my sickness. And it tasted glorious.

Just prior to getting ill, I came across kale at the grocers for $.99 a bunch. I haven’t been that adventurous with kale much, although for the life of me I can’t figure out why. I bought a large, deeply green bunch and it promptly languished in my crisper drawer due to the toxic onslaught I endured. A small handful went into a smoothie I tried to drink, the rest just sat. And kale doesn’t mind sitting too much, as it’s quite hearty. When I finally pulled it out, it looked no worse for the week it spent in my fridge, and it happily blended with scrambled eggs to make an awesome breakfast sandwich, then later, with quinoa and toasted pecans for this nutritiously rich and flavorful salad.

With finally climbing out of the ick and funk that settled on me last week, I really was feeling the need for some healthy options to start restoring my immune system and begin cleansing my body of the after-affects of a sinus/respiratory infection, especially the medications I took. What a perfect recipe for that, and so simple too. Cook quinoa, saute your kale with shallot and garlic, and toss it all together with a little salt and pepper. Add in toasted pecans, or pine nuts or almonds and get out your fork. There just doesn’t need to be anything more complicated than that.

 

Add in the weathered redwood stairs to our patio, and a cat languishing on the sunlit bricks, it made the small bowl I consumed taste a little bit like Spring. It was just what I was craving, for both body and mind.

 

Quinoa with Kale and Toasted Pecans

1 c. quinoa, rinsed and shaken well
4 c. loosely packed kale, chopped
1 small shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. pecans, or nut of choice, lightly toasted

Start by cooking your quinoa. It can sit in the pan for quite some time after it’s done. Heat 1-3/4 c. water or broth of choice on the stove. Add half a teaspoon of sea salt and a thin drizzle of olive oil. When the water boils rapidly, add the rinsed quinoa, stir quickly and reduce the heat, allowing the quinoa to simmer gently. Cover the pan and let cook for 15 minutes, or until the water is mostly absorbed. Keep covered and remove from heat. Allow to stand for at least 10 minutes.

In a large deep skillet (with a cover), saute the shallot and garlic in olive oil until soft and translucent. Add in the kale and toss to coat. Stir and toss the kale until it’s a deep emerald green and starting to look a bit shiny. Add a half cup water to the pan, cover it and reduce the heat to a bare simmer. Steam the kale, stirring occasionally, until it’s slightly wilted but still has some toothy bite, maybe 10 minutes or so.

Add the quinoa to the skillet with the kale and toss until uniform. Taste and season with more sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Add in the toasted nuts and combine. Can be eaten warm, room temperature or chilled. Reheat gently in the microwave.

 

build me up, butternut

November 19th, 2010 | 4 Comments »

(photo from “That’s Yummy”)

We’re woefully into November’s gray and flat winter light. The cloud cover expanse across the sky is leaden and heavy and daylight begins to fade around 4:00pm, yet even in the best of midday light, the ability to take a good photo often is a crapshoot. I don’t really mind the changes that come around this time of year, this first adventure into winter, the shorter days and descent into wool sweaters, layers, warm socks and extra blankets on the bed. The coziness of it is good, it’s necessary, and there’s a lot of it that can be so soothing- like the leaping blue flame under the daily tea-kettle, the ritual of a warm steaming cup to carry me through the late afternoon; there’s the presence of the strands of tiny twinkling lights we’ve used to adorn certain areas of our home- the stairwell for those dark, dark mornings, the top of the cupboard in the kitchen, and the fancy festooned bakers rack in the corner of our kitchen.


The tiny lights are nice in those early mornings before the dawn when Mike is awake; it provides enough light to get the coffee pot going and the cat dishes filled without having that eye-burning glare that we encounter when first out of bed. The stairwell lights guide him safely down in the darkness. We put these lights up many years ago at Christmas time, and they’ve proven to be so useful that we never removed them. In those gloomy November afternoons they add a warm touch to our home, along with the singing tea kettle, and those steaming cups. Add a candle or two and you can chase those dark hours away a lot easier.

A good warm oven and simmering pot on the stove does that too. I recently came across a recipe for Butternut Squash Pasta, in Gourmet magazine’s Best of 65 Years cookbook. It was a simple process of cooking cubed squash then tossing it with garlic and pasta, but I thought to take it one step further and create an awesome squash puree to mix in with pasta, creating a saucy topping that clung to every single bite.

Problem was, as delicious as it tasted, it looked just ghastly. Imagine, brightly colored orange squash mixed with cooked whole wheat pasta. Oh gads…. it was homely as all get out, but tasted glorious and superbly like comfort in my bowl. I do recommend it, even if I can’t show you the result. Roast your halved butternut squash until it’s good and soft. Scrape the flesh into a bowl, add a little broth or milk to help thin it, then mash it smooth. You can whiz it in the food processor too. The resulting puree should be thick, close to the texture of canned pumpkin, and can be used like canned pumpkin, which, after all, is squash right?

Having the use of pureed squash on hand made it a cinch to whip up a batch of muffins too, and after finding a recipe for Whole Wheat Muffins with Pumpkin and Quinoa on Fork, Knife and Spoon, I knew those had to somehow come out of my oven in the near future. With a little trip towards the healthy side of muffins, these little beauties came out bouncy soft, only the slightest bite of sweet and full of chewy nibs of quinoa blended with the sweet taste of roasted squash.

Touched inside and out with toasted coconut, they had a lot going for them. A bite for breakfast, a quick pick me up snack or a nice late night treat before climbing under piles of blankets, they fill in all parts of your day with a compliment for your tummy. Follow the link to Kate’s blog  ( I know! Another Kate! ) for the original recipe. I doctored mine up to utilize what I had on hand for my version.

Whole Wheat Muffins with Quinoa and Squash

2 c. whole wheat flour
1-1/2 c. cooked quinoa
1/2 c. pure maple syrup
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1/4 t. ground allspice
1/2 t. sea salt
1 c. cooked butternut squash
1 egg
3/4 c. buttermilk
3 T. oil
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. shredded coconut, toasted

Preheat oven to 375 and spray muffin pans, or line with paper. You will get approximately 18 muffins.

To cook quinoa- measure one cup of water in a saucepan and place over medium burner. Rinse 1/2 cup of quinoa in a wire strainer under cold running water, shaking to rinse thoroughly. Place quinoa in saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer about 10-15 minutes until all the water is absorbed. Remove pan from heat and let stand for 10 minutes, then scrape cooked quinoa onto a plate and spread out to cool.

When cooled, measure flour and quinoa into a large bowl. With your hands, gently toss together until blended, and quinoa appears the size of tapioca pearls. Add in baking powder, soda, spices and salt and mix thoroughly.

In another bowl, measure buttermilk, then whisk in syrup, egg, squash, oil and vanilla. Whisk together, then add to dry ingredients with coconut. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold ingredients together until incorporated. Do not overmix. Scoop into muffin tins, about 2/3 full and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until tops are browned and spring back when touched. Allow to cool in muffin pans for 15 minutes or so, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

And without even realizing it, I’m more than halfway through NaBloPoMo, or National Blog Posting Month. It’s proven to be way easier than I anticipated, but with 4-1/2 years of archives to wander through and re-introduce, I’m never at a loss for material.

Well, hello there Winter

December 13th, 2009 | 3 Comments »

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.

Andean Bean Stew with Squash and Quinoa

November 13th, 2009 | 4 Comments »

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.

IMG_0099IMG_0095

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.

IMG_0094

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.

Andean Bean Stew with Squash and Quinoa6878Andean Bean Stew with Squash and Quinoa6877

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.

Regrouping….again (with a recipe)

July 28th, 2009 | 4 Comments »

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*
audi 72309 001
audi 72309 003

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.

summer quinoa 003summer quinoa 017

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.

summer quinoa 014

It was a nice dish to enjoy in the company of an attentive and interested cat too….
summer quinoa 019

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.

This girl is a happy chef

July 10th, 2009 | 4 Comments »

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!

quinoa and grilled veg salad 001

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.
quinoa and grilled veg salad 004

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.
quinoa and grilled veg salad 006

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.
quinoa and grilled veg salad 013

Some delightful grilled zucchini…

quinoa and grilled veg salad 007quinoa and grilled veg salad 010

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

quinoa and grilled veg salad 017

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

quinoa and grilled veg salad 015

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

quinoa and grilled veg salad 023quinoa and grilled veg salad 026

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.