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We love quinoa here.  It’s a protein-packed powerhouse of a plant, tastes amazing when toasted and cooked in my homemade chicken stock, and is relatively inexpensive.  By “inexpensive,” I don’t mean “as cheap as beans and rice” for supper, but on a relative scale, for something that’s organic, pre-washed, comes from another part of the world, and is as nutritionally dense as it is, it’s inexpensive.  I think our Costco sells a 2 pound bag for about $11.  That’s a lot of storable protein (it’s dry and easy to put in our food storage) for not a lot of money.  :)

Our neighbourhood has an email list that is a bevy of useful information.  Sometimes with swap/share posts, sometimes with local events, and sometimes with recipes.  So when one of the members put out a call for recipes using quinoa, many responded with ideas.  One of those ideas is what I ended up serving for supper tonight.  Truth be told, it was on the docket for last week, but it got shuffled to this week when my husband and I ended up with an unplanned dinner-date.  :)

Brendan isn’t a huge fan of quinoa.  I can’t figure out why, but as I answered questions about what was in the dinner menu for the week, he began to look forward to it.  He wasn’t 100% certain about the marinated artichoke hearts, but truth be told, neither was I.  😉

We ended up scarfing this meal, uncharacteristically so, between a dance lesson and a Scouting meeting.  But the overwhelming response was, “Ohhhhh…. this is GOOD!”  :)

Mediterranean quinoa salad

  • 4 c chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 c quinoa, uncooked
  • 1/4 c raw apple cider vinegar (ACV)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • juice from one lemon
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c kalamata olives, sliced
  • 2/3 c fresh cilantro OR parsley, chopped
  • 1 c cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (I used a large organic heirloom tomato, instead)
  • 1/2 c chopped artichoke hearts (feel free to use more – I wish I had!)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 c crumbled feta cheese

[This first step is optional, but increases the taste-factor of the quinoa by about 100.  So do it anyhow.  It’s worth the effort.  :)  Place the quinoa in a dry skillet over medium heat and gently stir and toast the little seeds until they are a light golden brown colour.  Some of mine got dark brown and “popped” while doing this step – that’s okay.  After the quinoa is toasted, proceed with the rest of the instructions.]

Cook the quinoa in chicken broth in a medium pot.  Bring it to a rolling boil, then turn it down to medium, and put a lid on.  After 20 minutes, turn the heat off and permit the quinoa to continue absorbing liquid, if necessary.  Cool cooked quinoa completely (2 hours in the fridge was sufficient for my batch).

In a large mixing bowl, combine the ACV, garlic cloves, lemon juice (I used a large lemon), and the olive oil.  Whisk vigorously until all is combined.  Add in drained kalamata olive slices, cilantro (or, in case you’re a ‘cilantro-hater’, parsley), tomato dices, artichoke hearts, and feta.  I gave up on the whisk at this point and went straight for a spatula.  I seasoned this mixture first, somewhat heavily, as I knew the quinoa was somewhat bland and brought a less-seasoned taste to the party than I wanted.  So my usual suspect of Redmond Real Salt went in the bowl, as well as multiple grinds of fresh pepper.   Chill completely.

Combine the quinoa and the flavourful bowl of goodies and mix well (but gently, due to the fragile nature of the feta) and serve it up.  Good as a side dish; better as a main dish.  :)

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a close-up of the quinoa salad in question – full of protein and deliciousness!

Καλή όρεξη! target=”_blank” (Kalí óreksi!) [bon appetit in Greek]

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All of my life, I’ve loved soup.  When I say “I love soup,” I mean I would happily eat soup twice a day, every day, for the rest of my life if the weather permitted.  I’ve loved my mom’s chicken noodle soup (although I humbly say my CNS is now better than hers 😉 ), her split-pea soup, her beefy noodle soup.  I could do without her beef-barley soup, but that was mostly due to her preference for undercooked barley.  I called it “tooth soup,” because the texture of the barley reminded me of chewing teeth.  Please don’t ask why I came up with that analogy.  To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never actually chewed on teeth.  What can I say?  I was 11 when I came up with that description.  😉

So fast forward to me as an adult, married, and loving the smell of a pot of soup on the stove, simmering away.  The way the flavours of the independent components blend together?  Bliss.  Except for one tiny thing:  my husband doesn’t like soup.  He doesn’t hate it, but he also doesn’t share my passion for the gloriously delicious stuff.  So most of the time, I’d make a big, beautiful pot of soup, he’d have one or two bowls, and the rest would be mine.  Which was really okay with me.  I’ve made all sorts of soups:  chicken noodle, spicy ham & bean, beefy vegetable (sometimes featuring venison), cheesy hamburger soup, a knock-off of Panera’s cheddar broccoli soup (which will be next week’s recipe here), and most recently, cheesy potato corn chowder.  With the cheesy potato corn chowder, however, I heard these words:  “SADNESS!  There’s a scant cup of soup left!  Not enough for lunch tomorrow!”

WHAT?!  Who are you and what have you done with my husband?!

This recipe was a huge hit with my crew.  :)  The original recipe credit goes to Julie over at OakParkHatesVeggies, tweaked (of course) by yours truly.

Cheesy Potato Corn Chowder

6 decent-sized organic potatoes (I used red potatoes), washed & chunked
4+ c. chicken stock
1 t. (+/-) granulated garlic
1 t. (+/-) granulated onion
1/2 t. cumin
2 c. freeze dried corn (or use fresh or frozen – about 3 c. of those types)
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cook the potatoes and corn until soft; I used my pressure cooker on high for 25 min and then left it on “warm” for several hours).  Gently break up the potatoes with a potato masher.  You’re not looking for mashed potatoes, but something bite-sized for a spoon.

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3 T. butter
3 T. flour
2 c. milk or half-and-half
salt & pepper to taste
2 c. shredded cheese
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Make a roux with the butter and flour, and allow it to cook for about 5 minutes.  Then add in milk or half-and-half and whisk until thoroughly combined.  Add to pot of potatoes, corn, and chicken broth.  Mix well, heat completely through.  Season, add in cheese and stir until melted.  Serve it up before you start sampling from the pot.  Seriously.  *burp*

Serves:  many!

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So I’m kicking off the Recipe Carnival with a cool summer salad – one that is predominantly known to Michiganders.  You see, back in
the day, there was a department store called Hudson’s.  And Hudson’s was a Department Store that enticed people to shop all day long.  It was located in downtown Detroit and people would come in from the outlying areas (we call them “suburbs” now), walk in from different areas of Detroit (like my mom and grandmother), or ride the city transit in.  Multi-floored, many-itemed stores like Hudson’s also conveniently provided a place for people to eat – you know, to keep them in the building, refresh them, and then let them shop some more.  Kind of like IKEA, only few things there had to be assembled.  :)

So Hudson’s had a restaurant and as the tale goes, there was a chef who created a salad that was so unique it ended up bearing his name.  Hence, the Maurice Salad.  Now whether Chef Maurice did everything else right, culinarily-speaking, we don’t know.  What we do know is that his salad quickly became The Item that everyone talked about and the most popular thing on the menu.  Most chef salads (think Caesar’s salad) were ways to use up leftovers in the kitchen and still present something delicious.  I don’t know if Chef Maurice created this at home or in the Hudson’s kitchen, but with a little bit of everything, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was a way to use up what was hanging about in the fridge.

But… it’s a salad, right?  So what’s so great about a salad?  Well, if you live in a hot climate like I do, salads are the quintessential cool meals when the mercury in the thermometer tops 100°F.  And although it is a salad, it’s also a filling salad – one that’s layered with an egg-and-mayo-based dressing, and has turkey, ham, and swiss cheese on it.  So it’s filling.

Unfortunately for us, Hudson’s was imploded in October, 1998.  The landmark that was the face of shopping in Detroit for so many years is no more.  Rumour has it that there are still Macy’s stores in Michigan that present the Maurice Salad at their dining rooms, but I have yet to find anyone who’s had it at Macy’s.  I remember my first Maurice Salad with my mom at Twelve Oaks in Novi, MI, as a 15 year old, and her recipe still stands as my baseline.

The Maurice Dressing
  • 1 egg yolk, hard cooked, smashed in a bowl
  • 2 c. mayonnaise (homemade is, of course, the best; store-bought will also do just fine)
  • 3 T. sweet pickle relish (look for the kind without HFCS – it’s worth the hunt!)
  • 1 t. onion granules
  • 1 T. dried parsley
  • 1/2 t. yellow mustard
  • ice water (for thinning)

Start by combining the egg yolk with the mayo; know that it will be very thick.  I used a whisk with reasonably good results that improved when I added in liquids.  Add in the sweet pickle relish (more to taste, if you’d like), the onion granules,  parsley, mustard, and thin it out with water.  If you allow the dressing to sit in the fridge a bit, the flavours will all come together as well.  My dressing is very yellow – but it is because my mayo is yellow from the farm-fresh eggs I use.  Bright yolks = yellow mayo.  :)

The Maurice Salad
  • Lettuce (a whole head, depending on how many you’re feeding)
  • 1/3 lb. sliced turkey
  • 1/3 lb. sliced ham
  • 1/4 lb. sliced Swiss cheese

Now use your choice of lettuce.  The original salad used iceberg lettuce, but since that has little nutritional value, I say use whatever lettuce makes you happy and gives you the nutritional content you’d like.  After you wash and tear the lettuce, dry it well and put it in a bowl.  Dress the lettuce alone – make sure that all the pieces are coated well.  Plate the dressed lettuce and prepare to build the salad.

I used Boar’s Head deli meats to prepare this salad – I think it really tastes better with real meat.  And since I don’t often have leftover turkey AND leftover ham at the same time, buying it in the deli makes more sense to me.  :)  That being said, cut your meat in to strips – about 3/4″ wide.  Repeat with the cheese (if you don’t like Swiss cheese, try Baby Swiss – it’s much milder!).  Place the meat and cheese strips across the dressed lettuce and serve with a lemon wedge for those who would like to spritz lemon on everything.

It’s both a slightly-sweet and tangy salad, loaded with protein, so it holds us all night long.

Bon apetit!

Don’t forget – if you have a recipe you’d like to see featured or would like to guest-post here, leave a comment.  If you’d like to guest-post, let me know; if you’d like me to make your dish and feature it on a Tasty Tuesday post, post the whole recipe.  :)

I remember when I was a little girl, cereal manufacturers advertised “fortified with vitamins and minerals!” in their wares.  One manufacturer even claimed to have 100% of recommended daily allowance in their flakes. We bought it and ate it because it was Milk and Cerealphoto © 2007 Steven Wilke | more info (via: Wylio)
there; we had very little understanding of nutrition in our family past a straight caloric count.  We didn’t consider things like fibre, protein, whole foods, or anything else that Mark and I now do in our family.  *shrug*  My parents did the best they could with what information they had available.

Now we know about things like bioavailability – your food’s nutrients and their  ability to be absorbed by your body – and how important it is to eat things that have raw nutrients for your body to use.

Enter this little (disgusting) science experiment where we get to see exactly what kind of iron is in fortified cereal.  While this video shows a masked box of Total cereal, it can also be done with any “iron enriched/fortified” cereal.  I’ll have comments below and a bonus recipe to make breakfasts both healthy, tasty, and easy.  :)

Delightful, eh? Yeah.  Blech.  I will still buy an occasional box of organic cereal to munch on, but most often, it doesn’t get eaten much.  I have some tasty flax cereal with raisins hanging about – I’m more likely to make flax muffins with it, but I’m okay with that.

Okay, so now you’re grossed out and a bit wigged out, potentially thinking about checking the boxes in your pantry when you’re done reading blog posts.  What will you feed your family?  Never fear.  I have an easy recipe for you that has whole foods, nutritive oils, and fibre.  No iron filings needed; these breakfast cookies are equivalent to a bowl of oatmeal and I promise you, kids and husbands alike love them.  My son’s eyes POPPED when I asked him if he wanted a cookie for breakfast.  Seriously.  You’d have thought that I offered to buy out FAO Schwartz of all existing LEGO sets.  :)

Breakfast Cookies
  • 1 c. butter, melted (I often use 1/2 c. butter + 1/2 c. coconut oil)
  • ¾ c. honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t. salt (I like Real Salt)
  • 2 t. cinnamon
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. buttermilk (milk or kefir can also be used)
  • 2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 2 c. rolled oats (NOT steel-cut oats)
  • 1 c. raisins
  • 1 c. bittersweet chocolate chips

Mix wet ingredients, add flour in 1/3 c. at a time. then add oats, raisins, and chocolate chips.  Scoop large (really big!) spoonfuls of batter on to baking tray, bake at 350F for 18 minutes.  Cool on a rack and store in a container in the fridge, between waxed paper pieces.  Yields 12-15 cookies per batch.

Way better than iron filings, eh?  :)

 

Okay, so the temperature is climbing here…already.  While my friends back in Michigan are dealing with a late-season snowfall (hopefully their last!), I’m trying to figure out how to keep the electric bill low and still stay cool. What a difference 2000 miles makes!

Mark and Brendan are pretty non-picky eaters – they generally scarf down whatever I make.  Fortunately for them, I don’t blow it very often.  😉  But I’m now on the hunt for cooler recipes that won’t heat up my kitchen in the summer and won’t make us break a sweat while we’re eating.  My favourite food in the entire world is soup, but I’ve never really found a cold soup that I like.  I think I like soup because it’s warm and a comfort food to me, so cold soup is just… meh.  I might try some this summer just to see if my tastes have changed over the years, but it likely won’t be a regular dish.

And salads rock, but I typically go for pasta salads when the weather changes and I need to branch out.  Enter last night’s fare:  a mock-up of Applebee’s Asian Chicken Salad.

Mark declared it delish and nearly licked the plate clean.  We were both satisfied and not hungry later, which was a bonus. Dinner salads are an art, in my opinion, and need to have the correct proportions of protein to roughage to make them filling.  Which makes me think that I need to find my recipe for Maurice Salad, a dish that Michiganders know from the Hudson’s restaurant.  Hmmm….

Anyhow, I cheated a bit because I was crunched for time and used canned chicken.  In the future, I will plan a Newman's Own: Low Fat Sesame Ginger Dressing bit better and pan-sear chicken for this salad.  But this also worked.  The dressing was Newman’s Own Sesame Ginger Dressing, although in the future I will likely fashion something after my mom’s recipe (which is included below).

I also sugar-toasted the almonds for the salad – if you’ve never tried this, it’s a MUST. It’s easy and adds a delightful crunch and slight sweetness to the salad that’s heavy on tangy spice (from the dressing).

I layered the ingredients last night; in the future, I will dress the lettuce and chicken chunks together, plate that, dot with mandarin orange slices, almonds, sesame seeds, and crunchy chow mein noodles.  I think the dressing would be better distributed this way, and the add-ons will add a texture and flavour that’s outside the dressing.

Because there are layers to the salad, the directions are also layered:

Sugar Toasted Almonds
  • ½ c. sliced or slivered almonds
  • 3 T. cane sugar

Use a small skillet and turn the heat to medium.  Place the dry sugar and the almonds in the pan, stirring frequently as they warm.  You’ll eventually see the sugar begin to liquefy from the heat – stir rapidly at this point, covering all the almonds in the sticky sweetness.  If you let this go too long, you will burn the almonds and sugar – and that’s just not tasty.  So watch carefully.  When the almonds are coated and you see a small amount of light brown colouring on them, remove from heat and cool on a plate.  They will crunch-up as they cool.

Asian Ginger  Salad Dressing

If you choose not to use Newman’s Own, this is a very tasty alternative

  • 2 T. soy sauce
  • 2 T. sesame oil (the darker, the better)
  • 2 T. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 T. cane sugar
  • 1/2 t. grated ginger
  • 6 T. bland oil – olive oil is great if you have one that’s nearly flavourless

Shake these ingredients in a cruet or mix with a stick blender for better emulsion – it will separate eventually, though.

Asian Salad, ala Applebee’s
  • your choice of lettuce – I like green or red leaf lettuce
  • 1-2 cans of mandarin oranges (or pineapple also works), chilled
  • 2-3 chicken breasts, pan seared and diced, chilled
  • sugar-toasted almonds
  • crunchy chow mein noodles
  • sesame seeds
  • sesame-ginger dressing

Toss the lettuce (roughly torn) and chicken with the dressing and plate portions.  On top of each salad, dot with your choice of fruit (orange slices or pineapple), sesame seeds, almonds, and chow mein noodles.  Serve cold – simple as that!  :)

I’ll hunt down my Maurice Salad recipe, make it (just to make sure it’s still tasty, because I’m self-sacrificial like that!), and provide photos and the recipe in the future.

Bon appetit!

This recipe originated with my friend Valerie, but has been tweaked by me.

We try to eat meatless at least once a week.  Partly for ease of recipe/cooking, partly for keeping our grocery budget modest, and partly for the health benefit that legumes provide.  This week it might be twice – it depends on what I come up with for tonight’s “brinner” (breakfast dinner) that we’ll scarf down before heading out the door to lead ReKindle.

Regardless, there are only so many times that my family will happily scarf down black beans and rice – or pintos and rice.  I started working lentils in, but I have to figure out a way to “de-gas” them like I do beans.  (Maybe a simple soak would work… I’ve  gotta research that one.)  Enter Valerie’s recipe – it was heavy in Black beansphoto © 2009 Lisa Risager | more info (via: Wylio)
onions (which we cannot digest), but my tweaking has removed the stuff we can’t eat and replaced some of the ingredients with things in my food storage.

The recipe is very unique in that I never expected orange juice in a black bean dish.  It’s delightful and adds a unique flavour that I’ve yet to find anywhere else in vegetarian/Mexican cooking.  We used Trader Joe’s organic blue corn tortilla chips, but if you wanted to use actual tostadas, that would also work beautifully.  We found the chips (crushed) were perfect for kid-friendly eating and less messy for us, too.

Remember to soak your beans and discard the soak-water – or if you use canned beans, to rinse them very well.  I really like the softened texture of soaked and cooked black beans vs. ones that come from a can, but to each her own, right?  This meal is chocker-block full of legume protein, great flavour, and fibre, so you’ll be full quickly and stay full for a long time.  :)

Black Bean Tostadas
  • Crushed blue corn chips (or whole tostadas – your choice)
  • ½ lb of black beans, soaked and cooked to your desired texture (equiv. 2 cans of pre-prepared black beans)
  • 3 T. coconut oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 T. cumin powder (or to taste)
  • 1½ t. ground coriander seeds (check the ethnic aisle in the Indian section for these seeds)
  • hot sauce to taste (green pepper sauce is awesome here!)
  • 1 T. sea salt (I like Real Salt)
  • 1 can of seasoned tomatoes
  • 1 c. orange juice
  • toppings – lettuce, shredded cheese (always good!), diced fresh tomatoes, sour cream, salsa, etc.

Prepare your beans, whatever that looks like.  For me, it’s soaking, pressure-cooking, and draining black beans.  In a large stock pot, heat the coconut oil and toss in your garlic over medium heat, being careful not to burn the garlic.  Add spices (cumin, coriander seeds, hot sauce, salt) and combine well.  Add in canned tomatoes and prepared black beans. Mashing the black beans a bit with a potato masher or the back of a spoon adds a great texture to the final product.  Stir in orange juice, simmering on low and stirring to prevent burning in your pan.  Remove from heat & cover.

Prepare your sides for this dish.  I placed a handful of blue corn chips in each bowl, crushing them with my hands, and then topped that with the black beans, the cheese/lettuce/etc., and served it up with a dollop of sour cream.  If you’d like, you can add avocados to the sides and include that – I have texture issues with avocados, so I leave them out.  Serve with a good wheat beer (if you imbibe) – it’s absolutely delish!

Normally, I put a new recipe up on Tuesdays under this header.  This week, I struggled to come up with something that I’ve already made and have photos of, and although I’ve lots of plans to try new dishes (making tortillas, anyone?), my weekend of travel hasn’t left me with enough energy to try much that’s new.

But I was thinking about tweaking recipes.  This is what makes a recipe “mine” as well as allowing me to be creative with my cooking.  Friends have asked “how I do it,” and professed that they don’t possess that type of creativity, but I honestly just mix flavours and see how it goes.  I really think most people can do it; they might need permission to try, or simply need the encouragement to give it a whirl.

Let’s face it – cooking isn’t like mudding drywall where you have to be extremely precise and any mistakes Cooking in a Panphoto © 2006 Rene Schwietzke | more info (via: Wylio)
you make will be visible in the final product (a smooth wall).  It’s much more like mixing cement – you want your ratios right, but there can be some differences in the final product and still have it work as it should. Maybe construction analogies aren’t the most appealing to take to the kitchen, but they work.  :)

Think about flavours you enjoy – and don’t try this in baking for a while.  Start with regular cooking because baking tends to be a more precision-based art than regular cooking.  If you like Italian flavours, think about substituting some basil for oregano, or including some lemon in a recipe to brighten it. Cheese always goes with Italian cooking – think outside the box and find some cheeses other than mozzarella – provolone (smoked or regular), or including asiago or parmesan in a recipe that doesn’t call for it, but in which the sharp taste of those cheeses would work.  Think about adding salsa or cheese to a “one-pot dish” – one that incorporates pasta, vegetables, and meat.  Sprinkle some cheese on or stir some salsa in to some noodles, chicken, and carrots; it’s delish!

My latest tweak is my granola – it’s an almond-based snack here, and I had about a quarter-cup of almond butter leftover.  I reasoned that there was no reason I couldn’t mix that in with the honey and cinnamon and it would only increase the baking/drying time a smidge.  The result?  Oh. My. Word.  It’s not quite a peanut-buttery taste, but it adds a slightly-salty, slightly almond-y-sweet flavour in some of the clumps of granola.  It totally works (and rocks), but if it hadn’t, we’d likely have eaten it anyhow, just because we like granola.

Another tweak last week was roasting some fresh garlic cloves (until the skins were browned and the garlic sweetened with the heat) and tucking them in to a loaf of bread during the final knead/loaf formation stage.  I had seen it at Sprouts, a local “whole foods”-type store and knew it would work with my bread as well.  The report was that it was delish – we haven’t tried it ourselves but gave it to friends as a treat.  :)

This past weekend when we were away, we had a delightfully light chicken teriyaki salad with romaine leaves to use as a lettuce “wrap.”  Amazing flavours – and it incorporated fresh, blanched asparagus.  I never would’ve thought of adding asparagus to teriyaki, but it was delightful – a refreshing taste in the midst of slightly spicy-sweet-salty goodness.  It’s definitely something I’m going to re-create for our hot summer nights when I need a cold meal.  :)

One of my favourite ways to experiment or tweak is to use soups and stews.  They are always forgiving and easy to adjust – if you need more spice, add it in.  A new veggie?  No problem!  A different kind of meat?  Give it a whirl!

I think the key to putting “oomph” in your recipes is to not be afraid of experimentation.  If you’re cooking at home and feeding your family, it’s bound to be better than what you would get if you ate out.  Nutritionally, it’s going to far exceed fast food.  And you might find that it’s a new family fave – in which case, it will just boost your courage to try it again.

Happy cooking!

 

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