Thursday, April 12, 2012

Quinoa: Day 2 with Yellow and Red

Yet another successful quinoa recipe today. Actually two, but the first one was just thrown together with random foods I had in the fridge. 

It did not get photographed but had quinoa (of course, duh), sweet potato (leftover from yesterday), black beans, cilantro, tomato paste, smoked paprika, cayenne and s + p. Admittedly, I was a little embarrassed to eat it in front of my coworkers today because it kinda looked like a mess. Regardless though, it was tasty, for sure, just not the most photogenic food ever made. 

The quinoa dish for dinner, though, was (semi) photogenic, and tasty. WIN.

Quinoa Caprese Salad
((serves 1))

1/2 C bocconcini or fresh mozzarella
1 medium tomato
1/2 C cooked quinoa
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 T olive oil
1 T basil
S + P

1. Prepare the fresh mozzarella like this.  And if you're using the cheese in the large ball, cut into bite size pieces.
2. Chop tomatoes into bite size pieces and toss with tomatoes, olive oil and season to taste with s + p.
3. Pour the balsamic vinegar into a saute pan over medium high heat and reduce until thick, about 5 minutes.
4. Mix mozzarella with tomatoes and quinoa and drizzle with balsamic glaze. 
5. Enjoy!

I was lucky enough to find some great looking tomatoes at the market earlier this week. Usually tomatoes don't taste like anything until the summer. The ones I found were labeled "heirloom" so I knew they had to be excellent. Fortunately, I was right, this time. 


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Quinoa: Day 1 with Green and Orange

Everyone knows about how great quinoa is...ancient grain eaten by the Incans (not actually cause it's a seed), lots of protein, fiber-rich, gluten-free, bla bla bla. 

My opinion is that it's just okay. Millet actually tastes way better, if you ask me. 

Anyway, I made a huge batch of quinoa on Monday to eat from all week. So far it's worked out well but today's creation was exceptionally delicious. And I wanted to share because I am so generous. 

So many colors here it hurst my eyes. So many textures and flavors going on. Sweet and chewy cranberries, creamy sweet potatoes, crisp, green broccoli and asparagus, quinoa pop, slightly spicy black pepper. If only I had been thinking. Chopped almonds would have been the finishing amazingness. Yep. That's a word. I was missing that crunch from nuts. Bummerrr.

Sweet Potato and Vegetable Quinoa
((serves 1))

1/2 C cooked quinoa
1-2 T orange juice
1 small sweet potato
handful of asparagus
handful of broccoli
1-2 T dried cranberries

garnish: chopped fresh parsley, chopped almond, parmesan cheese

1. Heat water and set up steamer basket.*
2. Peel and cut sweet potato into 1 inch cubes. Cut asparagus and broccoli into small pieces, too. 
3. Toss the sweet potatoes in the basket, sprinkle with salt and steam for ~8 minutes, covered. Remove. 
4. Toss in the broccoli and asparagus with the cranberries, sprinkle with salt and steam for ~4 minutes, covered.**
5. While the broccoli and asparagus cook, toss the quinoa with the orange juice and mash about half the sweet potato into the quinoa, leaving some chunks whole. 
6. When veggies are done, toss with quinoa + sweet potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish if desired. 
7. Plate up and chomp!

*I recently bought a steamer basket. Go buy one. It was the BEST PURCHASE EVER. Well, with the exception of my Cuisinart food processor, of course. 

**The cooking times here are a sliiightly estimated since I rarely time anything or measure anything, either. I'll just say, cook potatoes until tender and the green veggies until tender-crisp. OR to your liking. I won't (I WILL) judge you if you overcook your greens until they're not really green anymore, instead they're mushy and gray...... that is your choice. 

This makes a perfect side dish or you could add some more protein and make it a meal. Diced cooked chicken, white beans, poached egg even???? Go for it. 

And of course adjust the recipe to feed more. Double, triple, quadruple, quintuple, sextuple, septuple, octuple, noncuple, decuple....uhhhh, you get the idea.

Enjoy color!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Honey + Peanuts

How fun is it to make  someone a gift?? Way better than purchasing one, if you ask me. I have a friend that likes honey roasted peanuts and loves crunchy peanut butter. 

Why not combine the two?!?! I can think of no reason not to. 

Chunky Honey Roasted Peanut Butter

2 lbs of roasted UNsalted peanuts
2 T honey
3/4 t fine salt

1. Process 1.5 pounds of the peanuts in the food processor. 
2. Once smooth, add salt and honey. Process and taste. Adjust honey and salt to taste. 
3. Pour in the remaining half pound of peanuts and pulse until chunkiness is to your liking. 
4. Scrape the food processor cleaning making sure to get every last drop. 

After pouring into jar I may have licked the blade. 
Risky? Yes. 
Worth it? Absolutely. 

Only part I would change was the color of this peanut butter. It's too pale. Maybe I'll try roasting the peanuts myself next time to get a deeper color.

close up. 

The perfection that was this peanut butter really has me thinking about starting a food business one day...........

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spicy Mango

I just love a good spicy meal. This weekend I ventured to the huge Asian market looking for some good foods to try. I walked into the chili sauce aisle and was in heaven. There must have been about twenty different ones to choose from. I settled on chile habanero. I also picked up some mature coconuts, researched how to crack them open and went to work. This was fun and I shredded the meat in my food processor to try making coconut butter but this did not work. It's bugging me I can't figure out why. 

While I was out shopping I had yogurt working in the warm oven. I was so pleased when I got home and it had worked! Tastes great too!

Homemade Yogurt

1/2 gallon of organic milk
1/4 C organic plain Greek yogurt

1. Heat the milk slowly in a large heavy saucepan to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. 
2. Remove from heat and cool to 100-110 F.
3. In a seperate bowl, thin the yogurt with some of the warm milk.
4. Pour thinned yogurt into the milk and whisk to combine thoroughly.
5. Transfer this mixture to a contianer, cover and wrap in a towel to insulate. 
6. Place in a warm over set to about 110-115 F so that the fermenting yogurt can maintain a temperature of about 100-110 F. 
7. Have a thermometer hanging in the oven so you can periodically check the temperature. Leave alone for 8 hours.*
8. Remove from oven and refrigerate!**

*I read that if you jiggle or disturb the yogurt while it's fermenting, it won't allow the bacteria to grow and turn the milk into yogurt.

**You have the option of straining the whey (liquid) from the solid yogurt portion through cheesecloth if you want a thicker consistency. 

Also at the store I picked up my first mango since last summer. Mango is my FAVorite fruit! For dinner I decided to make a mango salsa to put on my chicken tacos. 

Mango Salsa

1 mango, cubed
Tomato, chopped
garlic clove, minced
shot of chile habanero sauce
lime juice
s + p

Combine all and let mingle for 20 minutes before serving!

I layered two corn tortillas, refried beans, pulled chicken breast and topped it with the salsa. Simple and delicious dinner that was so quick!

A little something I learned-- 
At first these last two pictures look the same. If you look more closely, at the cilantro leaves in particular, the top ones are much lighter and have less shadowing. This is because I used something called a light bounce to reflect the light coming from the window, back onto the food. In this picture, sunlight is coming from the right side, and the light bounce (just a white foam board) was placed on the left to reflect the light back. Pretty neat, huh??


Friday, March 16, 2012

Stuffed Food > Unstuffed Food

Think for a minute. Name one food that tastes awful when stuffed with another food. . . . . . . .

I'm waiting . . . . . .

Okay time is up. I knew you couldn't think of one.
Because there are none.

Let's take a moment now to reflect:

  1. Justin's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup (or a Reece's Cup for you who have yet to meet the amazingness that is the line of Justin's products). Chocolate stuffed with peanut butter. THE single most tasty combo humanly possible. Maybe I'm just a little biased though, but no matter.
  2. What about a steak? Stuffed with crab meat?? YES please. 
  3. Meatballs? With a melty cheesy center?? Mmhmmm.
  4. And I suppose I won't neglect to mention turkey, stuffed with...stuffing??!? Winner. 

Four examples are enough, and I also can't think of anymore ATM.

Today it's all about a stuffed pepper. Oozing with cheese.

The recipe that follows is from memory. When I get going in the kitchen, I just throw stuff together, and definitely don't write down amounts. Below I have approximated.

Also, everything is better with spice. And lots of it. If you're a wimp, omit the cayenne and substitute the habanero pepper cheese for a plain, boring cheese with no character.

Spicy Stuffed Pepper
((serves 1))

2 T dry millet (or other grain: rice, quinoa, bulgar)
1 large garlic clove
1/4 c kidney beans*
1/2 T tomato paste
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/4 t chipotle chili powder
1/2 t smoked paprika
S+P to taste 
1 ounce of habanero pepper cheese (YUMMM)
1/3 c frozen yellow corn
1/4 c green pepper, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, whole
Pepitas for garnish (and crunch!)

1. Soak, rinse and cook millet. I added the minced garlic to the millet while it was cooking along with S+P.
2. While millet is cooking: drain kidney beans, reserving the liquid. Mash half with the tomato paste and seasonings until smooth-ish. Add some of the bean liquid if needed to loosen.
3. Grate the cheese and mix most of it (reserve some for topping) with the corn, green pepper, kidney bean mash and whole kidney beans and cooked millet. Mix only until combined so you don't lose the integrity of the vegetable's shape. We're going for texture here!
4. Cut and trim the red pepper into a bowl shape for filling and STUFF it.
5. Bake on tin foil (can get messy) in a 350 F oven for about 20 minutes.
6. During the last 5 or so minutes, sprinkle with cheese and pepitas. Pop back into oven until cheese it melted and pepitas are toasted.
7. Plate up and devour!

*I cooked my own from dry, in the crockpot and added crushed garlic clove, bay leaves and S + P to the cooking water.

You could CERtainly serve this up with a salad, but lets be honest, that's unlikely. And this is plenty filling alone. Actually, I would suggest serving alongside ice cream. heheh. But only after you have recovered from the stuffed pepper induce coma.

What have I said about texture in the past?!! IT IS EVERYTHING. This was so perfect. The pepper cooked slightly, still with some firmness, the sweet bite of the corn, creaminess of the kidney beans, the melty and crunchy topping of the cheese and pepitas. Couldn't have been better. Can beat the color combo either. Red + green +yellow. Yep!

Speaking of ice cream, I've had my eye on some So Delicious coconut ice cream for the last several months (feels like eternity). I leave on the hunt for this deliciousness, no pun intended.

(insert witty remark here like Jennifer does)


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Culinary Marriage

Man, its been a while. I've been super "busy" or should I say, I've been super lethargic lately. It's a combination of that and the fact that I haven't made much lately that was worthy of posting. But this. Oh, this is a marriage between chipotle and sweet potato. Both of which are on the top of my favorite foods (or ingredient) list. I'm serious about this. The sweetness of the potato and the smoky heat of the pepper is to die. Doesn't hurt the colors also look lovely together as well! Hummus is SUCH an easy food to make, it's hard to imagine buying it. The flavor combinations for homemade hummus are like, infinity plus 1. 

Sweet Potato Chipotle Hummus
((makes about 1.5 cups)

3 cloves garlic
2 cup chickpea
1 sweet potato (about 3/4 cup mashed)
2 T cashew butter (or tahini)*
2.5 chipotle peppers
1/4 t cinnamon
1/2 t smoked paprika
1 t salt

1. First, make sure you've cooked both the chickpeas and sweet potato.**
2. Get out your food processor and toss in the garlic and pulse to chop. 
3. Add remaining ingredients to food processor and buzz until all is combined. You may need to add a bit of water to loosen hummus.
4. Store in airtight container after you've dished yourself out a hefty serving!

Note: I approximated the amount of sweet potato above because the batch I made was exceptionally sweet. Adjust to your taste. 

*I made cashew butter from raw cashew. Add cashews to food processor and buzz until butterized. I do not particularly care for tahini and also don't know how I'd use an entire container of the stuff. 
**I buy dry beans and soak them overnight then cook them on low in a crockpot for 8 hours on low. Bake sweet potatoes in a 400 F oven for about 45 minutes until tender. 

And what better to dip into your hummus than chips? What about homemade chips?? Or are they crackers? I don't know..and I don't care. These were ever so slightly sweetened and earthy tasting, in a good way. Aaaaand they're a cracker-chip you can feel good about eating. 

Whole Wheat Flax Cracker Chips

60 gram flax seed
120 gram whole wheat flour
1/2 t salt
1 T honey
1.5 T coconut oil (melted)
~1/3 C water

1. Heat oven to 300 F. 
2. Pulse seeds in food processor.*
3. Melt coconut oil and honey together in microwave.
4. Pulse all ingredients except water in food processor until combined.
5. In a slow stream, add water just until dough comes together.**
6. Turn dough onto floured surface and roll very thin. 
7. Transfer dough to a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, turing once halfway through so you achieve even browning. 
8. Allow to cool and break into regular cracker size pieces. 
9. Dip into your favorite hummus!

*Nutrition from broken flax seeds or milled flax seed is more easily absorbed. They're packed full of good compounds but aren't accessed when whole. 
**Do NOT over mix the dough. When water and wheat flour are combined, it starts to active the formation of a gluten matrix. This is good in breads because it gives breads chew, but who wants that in a cracker?!? Not me. 

Because cooking consumes approximately 127% of my thoughts, I've been thinking about other hummus combinations. Lemon + thyme. Apple + peanut butter. Can't wait to experiment. As far as I'm concerned, hummus must have: chickpea, fat (tahini, cashew butter, olive oil), salt, spices/herbs and flavorings. 

Actually, I lied. Cooking has NOT been consuming my mind lately, this has:
Oh and this:

This too:

Cruzin and boozin in two dayzzzzz. OH.MY.GOD.

HOORAYYYYYYYY!!! Now to sleep soundly and dream of the Caribbean. :D


Friends Who Actually Eat

Let me begin by saying that people who don't like food and eating are weird. However, it's equally as weird to find someone that is AS obsessed with food and cooking as myself. Sarah, my fellow blogger, definitely matches my level of food love. Mary, a new friend from Boston, is definitely approaching foodie status. We recently went to Hola!, a tapas style restaurant in Marshfield, for dinner. 

Check out the menu and visit immediately! 

Hola is loud, but that is to expected in a fun, energetic restaurant with family style seating. Mary and I ordered the following DE-LISH tapas and flatbreads.

Sangria (5 bucks a glass!)
Stuffed Swordfish 
Eggplant/roasted red peppers/fried garlic/queso fresco Flatbread
Figs/prosciutto/gorgonzola Flatbread (see below and begin drooling)

I started to take pictures - WITH a flash - and embarrassed Mary. :-) As a result, I only have one good photo. This is THE best meal I've had out since moving to Boston 8 months ago. Yuuuumm!

Lesson of the night: Life is fleeting; eat and drink with friends often. As always, be productive; do good things!