Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Quinoa Caprese Salad

I am always trying to come up with quick dishes to add to the dinner meal besides potato, rice, pasta. I love quinoa for many reasons, one of which is that it is quick cooking. What to add with it to give it some flavor though can be a dilemma. Tonight I tried cooking quinoa in the rice cooker while I went for a run after work. Success! I came back to find the cooker in warming mode and the quinoa cooked perfectly. I threw some cherry tomatoes into the cooker with the quinoa while it was still hot so they would cook slightly. Summer tomatoes always belong with fresh basil, olive oil and mozzarella cheese in my opinion, so a quinoa caprese salad was born. It was a great side dish to some broiled salmon and will be a delicious lunch tomorrow. Enjoy!

Quinoa Caprese Salad
Serves 4 as a side dish

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 tbsp olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, finely diced
handful of fresh basil, cut into ribbons
2 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small pieces

1. Add quinoa and broth to the bowl of a rice cooker and cook on the "white rice" setting.  Alternately, add quinoa and broth to a medium pot. Cover, bring to a boil and then decrease heat to low and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes or until broth is absorbed.
2. Once quinoa is cooked, add cherry tomatoes and cover to allow tomatoes to cook and become soft.
3. Drizzle quinoa with olive oil and add garlic, basil and mozzarella. Toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Can be served warm or cold.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

$30 for 30 years

My 30th birthday is less than 2 weeks away. This is kind of a big one for me- leaving my 20s is hard! As I am reaching this ripe, old age (!) I know that I want to spend the next 30+ years focusing on others as much as I can. One organization that I believe in and want to support is charity: water. They help to bring clean water to people around the world. Everyone deserves access to clean water and I want to help! Millions of kids around the world don't live to see their fifth birthday because they don't have access to clean, safe drinking water. We can help change that.
I'm asking for my age in dollars from everyone I know (or whatever you can give). Every penny of the money raised will directly fund clean water projects in developing countries. Even better, charity: water will show us exactly which projects we funded once they've been fully completed (which takes about 18 months). That means we'll know the locations and names of the communities we helped.
Gifts are not important to me this year. Instead, let's help give others the gift of clean water. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tuna Burgers

Summer has arrived- at least for one day. It is in the 90s here today and I can't wait to get outside to enjoy it! Based on the past few weeks the heat will probably last long, but for now I am loving it. For dinner I decided on a budget friendly, healthy summer meal of tuna burgers. Yes, tuna from a can formed into a burger. The flavors are fresh and the burger is moist and almost creamy. I used a product called Lemonaise Light that my mom told me about last year. It tastes must better than plain mayonnaise. It has limited ingredients and cage free eggs and is a perfect substitute.

I served our burgers on thin buns but English muffins would also work great for these. Along side we had crispy kale chips. We are ready for summer! Enjoy!

Tuna Burgers
Serves: 4

2 5oz cans white tuna, caned in water, drained
1 tbsp capers, chopped
handful of fresh, flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 shallot, diced
1/2 cup breadcrumbs or panko
1/4 cup mayonnaise (I used Lemonaise)
dash of soy sauce (1-2 tsp)
2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
4 oz cheddar or other mild cheese, sliced
4 tomato slices
4 buns, thin-buns, English muffins, toasted

1. Combine tuna, capers, parsley, shallot, breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, soy sauce and old bay seasoning. Break up any large pieces of tuna and combine until mixture begins to hold together.
2. Meanwhile, heat a large pan over medium heat. Coat the bottom of the pan with cooking oil (I used grapeseed)
3. Form tuna mixture into 4 burgers and cook until heated through, 2-3 minutes per side
4. Top burgers with cheese and allow to melt.
5. Spread more mayonnaise on bun (if desired). Top with lettuce, tomato and burger

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Brussels Sprouts & Mushroom Saute with Quinoa

I had been thinking about this dish all week before I actually made it. There were some mushrooms  in the refrigerator along with some Brussels sprouts. For some reason the idea of sauteing them together sounded good and the dish evolved from there. It ended up exactly how I imagined- better actually. I love combining different textures, so this dish does not disappoint. There is a base of quinoa, the wilted greens, and some crunch from cashews and a little bacon. When I was done eating I wished I could eat it all over again. This is a very simple, yet satisfying meal. Enjoy!

Brussels Sprouts and Mushroom Saute with Quinoa
Serves 2 (the picture above was amounts for 1 serving)

3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 tbsp oil (I use grapeseed)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth/stock
~1 pound Brussels sprouts, cut into strips as above (~ 4 cups)
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 slices bacon, diced (optional)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup cashews, toasted
splash of white wine (optional or chicken stock)

1. In a pot heat oil and add quinoa and cook until lightly toasted. (This adds more depth of flavor to the quinoa). Once toasted, add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
2. In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp and then remove pieces to a paper towel. Leave enough fat in the pan to cover the bottom. If not using bacon, heat 1 tbsp oil or enough to coat the bottom of the pan.
3. Add Brussels sprouts and mushrooms and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes or until greens are slightly wilted and mushrooms are cooked. Add splash of wine and/ or chicken broth and cook until liquid is gone, 1-2 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Fill bottom of a bowl with cooked quinoa, top with Brussels sprout mixture, garnish with bacon (if using) and cashews.

Nutrition Analysis: Per serving-Calories 390, Total Fat 12g, Saturated Fat 2g, Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol 10mg, Total Carbohydrate 51g, Dietary Fiber 13g, Sugar 7g, Protein 17g
Vitamin A 20%, Vitamin C 330%, Calcium 8%, Iron 20%

Monday, February 18, 2013

Breakfast Smoothies

Probably about 2 years ago I started making smoothies for quick breakfasts. The ingredients have evolved depending on what I was into at the time. The result has always been something fruity and filling- perfect for a breakfast on the run. This one may not have the best coloring, but that is because it is full of nutritious ingredients and will be sure to start your day off right!
You can easily make your own breakfast smoothie with ingredients you have on hand. Currently we are having smoothies with spinach or kale, kefir, almond milk, frozen strawberries, ground flaxseed and vanilla protein powder. That combination might not sound the best to you, so how about frozen banana and a dollop of peanut or almond butter and a drizzle of honey?
The other part of making a smoothie is having some type of drink blender. You can spend hundreds of dollars on various blenders. While I personally would love to own a Vitamix or Blendtec, I use a $15 drink mixer from Target. It works just fine for this task.
The addition of spinach or kale is new for us. I wasn't sure about raw spinach for breakfast,  but it literally blends in and does not add any type of leafy flavor to the smoothie. It is a very tasty and easy way to get in some extra vegetables (even if it does make the color of the smoothie slightly less appealing when combined with fruit). Time to pull out your blender!

Strawberry Breakfast Smoothie
1 serving

1 cup raw spinach or kale
1/2 cup strawberry kefir (or yogurt)
1/2 cup plain almond milk (or any other type of milk)
1/2 scoop vanilla whey protein powder*
3/4 cup frozen strawberries(or any type of frozen fruit)
1 tbsp ground flaxseed

1. In a blender, combine spinach, kefier and almond milk. Blend until spinach is combined with the liquids. Add protein powder, flax and frozen fruit. Blend until smooth.

Nutrition Analysis:
Total Calories-260, Total fat- 7g, Saturated Fat- 3.5g, Cholesterol- 50mg, Sodium-230mg, Total Carbohydrate- 32g, Dietary Fiber- 6g, Sugar- 19g, Protein 19g
Vitamin A 60%, Vitamin C 110%, Calcium 25%, Iron 8%

Almond Butter Banana Smoothie
1 serving

1 cup raw spinach or kale
1 cup plain almond milk (or any type of milk)
1/2 scoop vanilla whey protein powder*
1/2 large banana, frozen
1 tbsp ground chia seed (or flaxseed)
1 tbsp almond butter (or peanut)
1 tsp raw honey

1. In a blender combine spinach and milk. Add protein powder, banana, nut butter, chia, and honey. Blend until smooth and combined. Add ice cubes and blend if a thicker consistency is desired.

Nutrition Analysis: 
Total Calories- 330, Total fat-14g, Saturated fat- 1.5g, Cholesterol-15mg, Sodium- 270mg, Total Carbohydrate- 40g, Dietary Fiber- 7g, Sugar, 23g, Protein 17g
Vitamin A-60%, Vitamin C- 40%, Calcium 15%, Iron 8%

*A full scoop of protein powder could be used for extra protein if desired.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Dill Pickle Dip

Super Bowl Sunday- it is so interesting to me how what an event today has become. Even people who don't watch a minute of regular season NFL football come together and watch the Super Bowl. It really is America's sport and something that seems to bring everyone together- even it is just to see the commercials!
Two years ago we were fortunate to actually go to Super Bowl XLV in Dallas, TX with my dad and brother. For the weeks and days leading up to the game it is a mix of nervousness, unbelief, excitement and anticipation. It was fun to see fellow fans dressed in green and gold all around town in the days before the game. On game day, we arrived early, parked several miles away from the stadium (to avoid the $100 parking fees!), ate a quiet lunch at Panera of all places and then joined the crowds entering the stadium. Aside from it taking 5 hours for my husband and I to actually get in to our seats (yes, 5 hours! We were part of the seating snafu that affected hundreds of fans) it was a very memorable day. It is an extraordinary feeling being at the Super Bowl when your team wins. A mixture of happiness and relief, definitely unlike attending any regular season game. I will always remember turning around to see my dad and brother's faces after the Packers won- pure joy!
Today, when the Packers aren't playing, the outcome is not important to me. We are having some friends over, playing commercial bingo, eating brats and having this dill pickle dip.  Dill pickle dip has been a tradition in my mom's family for at least all of my life (almost 30 years!) and probably longer. I have no idea who started it, but it has been at every Thanksgiving, Christmas and family gathering that I can remember. Aaron now likes it and has started requesting it for our own gatherings. It is typically served with potato chips, but it is also great with carrot and celery sticks. You don't have to be a dill pickle lover (Aaron isn't) to like this dip. The tangyness of the cream cheese mixed with dill, garlic, and Worcestershire just make it a flavorful addition to salty snacks and is somehow different from just biting into a whole dill pickle.

The ingredient list is small, and this is simple and quick to make. I have listed the ingredients and approximate amounts, but taste testing is required to get the flavor just right how you like it. Enjoy!

Dill Pickle Dip

1 block regular or light cream cheese, softened
6+ medium dill pickles, grated
1+ tbsp pickle juice from jar
1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire
1 tsp garlic powder

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix with a fork. Taste with a potato chip and add more pickles, pickle juice, garlic and Worcestershire as desired (I ended up adding 2 more pickles, a little  more juice, 1/2 tsp Worcestershire and another sprinkle of garlic powder). Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours. Serve with potato chips and veggies.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Moong Dal with Spinach

I know this doesn't look like much, but trust me, it is delicious. There is rice on the bottom, creamy lentils, spinach and a unique spice combination that makes the flavor unique and very satisfying. This has been a perfect winter lunch this week.

Last year a friend and I took an Indian spices cooking class through Minneapolis Community Education. The instructor was fantastic- teaching us about different spices, having us complete at least part of a dish, having us eat a complete meal and then discussing how each dish is made and the spices in each one. It was very hands on and I left with a wealth of knowledge.

After this class, I felt confident enough to go to an Indian grocery store and fine the appropriate ingredients to made wonderful dal's and curries. This particular dish uses "panch puran" a  combination of spices that are not meant to be used raw or ground. Their are meant to be heated in oil and allowed to pop and bloom. It is a pretty neat technique and that adds incredible flavor.
I also learned about these "bay leaves" which are larger than my hand. These are really "cassia leaf" which is the leaf of a cinnamon tree. Definitely not to be substituted for the typical American bay leaf!
I only made a couple of changes to this recipe from class. It is easy to make and just requires a couple of Indian spices. It is nutritious and perfect for these cold January days.

Moong Dal with Spinach*
Makes 4-6 cups
Adapted from Chef Gayle

1/2 tsp oil (I used grapeseed oil)
1 medium piece of cassia leaf
1 cup moong dal
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 tsp tumeric
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp oil (canola, vegetable, grapeseed-something light, not olive oil) or ghee
2 tsp panch puran
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
2 cups fresh spinach
fresh lime, cut into wedges
cooked brown rice or naan to serve with the dal

1. Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the 1/2 tsp oil and when headed, add cassia leaf and moong dal. Sautee lightly for about 3 minutes
2. Add water, tumeric and salt to the dal. Cover and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer and allow to cook until dal is soft (~35 minutes). Stir occasionally and add more water if needed.
3. Once the dal is cooked, stir in the coconut milk and allow to simmer for several minutes.
4. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. When heated, add 1 tbsp oil. Once the oil is heated and shimmering, add the panch purah and temper until the mustard seeds pop- be very careful not to allow this to go to far and burn or the flavor will be bitter. This step only should take 60 seconds or so. Remove from heat and add cayenne.
5. Add the panch purah mixture to the dal and stir to combine.
6. Remove the cassia leaf and add the spinach. Cook for several minutes until the spinach is wilted.
7. Serve over cooked brown rice or naan and a wedge of lime.

*This dish can be made in advance and probably tastes better since the flavors are able to develop

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