Monday, November 30, 2009

Quinoa Curiosity

I knew exactly who to go to when I wanted to talk about the superfood I have been hearing so much about. I asked my brother in law if he as ever eaten quinoa and of course being the healthfood fanatic that he is, he knew all about the hearty grain. This is the guy whose two year old daughter asks for salad when she is hungry for a snack. He told me that it is the hottest celebrity healthfood since pomegranate (which I found very funny coming from him). I asked how he cooked it and he told me that he hasn't used it in too many unique recipes to date. Quinoa is rich in protein, with only a few carbohydrates and a bit of healthy fats, and is nutritionally superior to rice, corn, and wheat. Any food with this much going for it was worth a try. I was expecting not to like it, because unlike my two year old niece I never crave salad. In fact, I rarely enjoy the flavor and textures of anything super duper healthy. I was pleasantly surprised. Quinoa had a great texture and flavor and was the perfect anchor to this kicked up recipe.

Quinoa-Stuffed Bell Peppers
Adapted from Cooking Light July 1997

  • 4 small green bell peppers
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced seeded jalapeño pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup minced green onions
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh or 1 teaspoon dried cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 can of enchilada sauce
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350°.
Cut pepper in half lengthwise; remove seeds. Set aside. Combine water and quinoa in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil.

Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 13 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Set aside.

Spray a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; place over medium-high heat until hot. Add bell peppers, onion, jalapeño pepper, and garlic; sauté 4 minutes.

Remove from heat; stir in green onions, cilantro, soy sauce, and lime juice.

Stir in 3 tablespoons of enchilada sauce and quinoa.

Spoon 1/2 cup quinoa mixture into each pepper half.

Pour the rest of the can of enchilada sauce into a 9 x 9-inch baking dish; place stuffed peppers in dish.

Cover and bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Sprinkle cheese over chiles;

bake, uncovered, an additional 10 minutes or until cheese melts and chiles are thoroughly heated. Spoon enchilada sauce over chiles.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Win Tin Tin

As a Christmas gift, have you ever received one of those gigantic popcorn tins with the three different flavored popcorns? Although it is always nice to be thought of during the holiday season, those aren't the most delicious holiday treats around. No human wants that much popcorn and of course it turns stale before you even make your way half way through the bathtub sized tin.

This recipe is a much more interesting and insanely more delicious twist on the caramel corn found in one third section of those tins. I can imagine these in clear cellophane bags tied with gorgeous ribbons finished off with homemade gift tags or in metallic tins lined with festive tissue paper. This is a thoughtful and satisfying take on a somewhat common and unoriginal holiday gift.

Popcorn Brittle
Adapted from Cooking Light December 2009

Yield: 12 servings (serving size: about 1 1/2 ounces)

  • Cooking spray
  • 5 1/2 cups popcorn, popped without salt or fat (this is about one large bag of microwaveable popcorn)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 6 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Line a baking sheet with foil; coat foil with cooking spray. Alternately, line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

Place popcorn in a large zip-top plastic bag; seal. Crush popcorn using a meat mallet or rolling pin; set aside.

Combine sugar, syrup, and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

Cook 1 minute or until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Cook, without stirring, until candy thermometer registers 270° (about 8 minutes). Stir in molasses

and butter (sugar mixture will bubble up and gurgle);

cook until thermometer registers 290° (about 5 minutes).

Stir in baking soda, vanilla, and salt.

Stir popcorn into boiling syrup mixture.

Working quickly, pour popcorn mixture onto prepared pan; spread to 1/4-inch thickness using a wooden spoon coated with cooking spray (make sure to head this warning - you will not be able to spread the mixture if you don't coat the spoon with cooking spray).

Cool completely; break into large pieces.

Note: Store brittle in an airtight container at room temperature for up to four days.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pistachio Penchant

I have been on a bit of a pistachio kick since I received my care package from Oh Nuts. I thought this healthy breakfast muffin sounded interesting. The pistachios added a great crunch to the muffin and the honey served as the perfect extra touch of sweetness.

Honey and Toasted Pistachio Muffins
Adapted from Cooking Light April 2007

Yield: 12 servings (serving size: 1 muffin)


  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour (about 4 3/4 ounces)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (about 4 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped pistachios
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 350°.

Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups level with a knife. Combine flours and next 3 ingredients (through nutmeg) in a medium bowl,

and stir well with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine buttermilk, sugar, canola oil, and eggs;

add to flour mixture,

stirring just until moist. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray.

Sprinkle evenly with pistachios.

Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove muffins from pans immediately; cool on a wire rack. Drizzle honey evenly over tops of the muffins.

Serve for breakfast, brunch or snack.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sometimes you feel like a Nut!

I was contacted by a representative from Oh Oh Nuts is a Premium Quality Nuts, Dried Fruit, Candy & Chocolate company. They asked if I would like to sample their products and I happily agreed. I was instructed to pick out a few items I would like to try. I asked Forrest for his opinion and we chose a few items without any particular recipes in mind. The package of goodies arrived promptly with four 1 pound bags of each of the products I chose.

I found the recipe below and decided to make some granola for snacking. This weekend we went with a group of friends to New Haven, CT for the Harvard vs. Yale football game. I knew that a ziploc bag of this yummy granola would be the perfect snack for the long car ride. All of our travel buddies were please with the results - thank you, Oh Nuts!

Pistachio Granola
Adapted from Cooking Light November 2004

Yield: 5 cups (serving size: 1/2 cup)

  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • 2 cups regular oats
  • 2/3 cup whole shelled pistachios
  • 2/3 cup nutlike cereal nuggets (such as Grape-Nuts)
  • 2/3 cup dried sweet cherries
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine sugar and cider in a large nonstick skillet; cook over medium-high heat 3 minutes or until sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. (The sugar to liquid ration may seem incorrect when you first measure it out, but the sugar does eventually dissolve into the cider.)

Stir in oats and remaining ingredients; cook 5 minutes or until granola is lightly browned, stirring frequently.

Cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to a week.

Serve over yogurt, as a snack in handfuls or in a bowl of milk like a breakfast cereal.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Seasonal Salad Switchup

This isn't the most seasonally appropriate dish. I think this meal would be perfect for the warmer weather. But when looking for a salad to prepare for my husband this week, I thought this sounded yummy. He loves fruit and I liked the idea of the different citrus elements of this salad. Even though this salad seems a little out of place in sea of fall recipes, it was still a treat to enjoy no matter what the weather was like outside.

Citrus-Shrimp Salad
Adapted from Cooking Light November 1996

  • 2 1/2 quarts water
  • 2 pounds medium shrimp
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 cup fat-free Italian salad dressing
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons plain fat-free yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 cups sliced romaine lettuce
  • 2 cups pink grapefruit sections (about 4 large grapefruit)
  • 2 cups orange sections (about 5 oranges)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

Peel and devein shrimp; cook in a saute pan in 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Salt and pepper the shrimp and add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne to the shrimp.

Combine salad dressing and next 7 ingredients (salad dressing through pepper) in a large bowl,

and stir well. Add shrimp, and stir.

Line a large platter with sliced lettuce. Spoon shrimp mixture into center of platter; arrange grapefruit sections and orange sections around salad. Sprinkle salad with chives and fresh ground black pepper.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


What has 22 legs and can't run?

The New Orleans Saints!

According to Forrest's Grandpa, this is a joke he used to tell when he was 3 years old. And that joke was probably still relevant for most of Forrest's life. That is - until this year. The Saints are good, really really good. We both grew up New Orleans Saints fans and if you are a true Saints fan you understand what a difficult journey it must have been. But this year is different. The Saints are 9 and 0 for the first time in the franchise's history. So needless to say, it is a fun year to be a fan. No need for brown paper grocery bags this year!

Now, if you are a Saints fan in Washington, D.C. it is a little more difficult. The Saints are actually good and fun to watch, but watching them in D.C. isn't always an option. At first, Forrest and I found a sports bar to go to that had the non-locally-aired games on satellite. Well that got expensive, so we purchased the NFL radio plan for $19.99 and now we listen to the un-televised games on our laptop. That can be a little onerous and not nearly as exciting, but our love for the Black and Gold keeps us committed.

I wanted to make something to snack on during the game this Sunday that would help round out the experience. Since we didn't have a visual connection to the team I decided we would let our taste buds bring us back home as we listened to the commentary of Hokie Gajan. Bless you Boys!

Andouille Corn Popper
Adapted from Southern Living March 2008

  • 1 (8 1/2-oz.) package corn muffin mix
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
  • 1 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1-inch slices and casings removed
  • Peanut oil
  • Creole mustard

1. Whisk together corn muffin mix and next 2 ingredients.

Mix in Creole Seasoning.

Dip sausages slices in batter, coating lightly since the corn muffing mix will puff when in the oil.

2. Pour oil to depth of 1 inch into a Dutch oven; heat over medium-high heat to 375°. Fry sausages, in small batches, 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Drain on paper towels. Keep warm on a wire rack in an aluminum foil-lined jelly-roll pan in a 200° oven. Serve with mustard.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pressure Put-Off

When hosting a holiday feast, the chef responsible for the majority of the dishes can have a tendency to get overwhelmed. I know I always do. No amount of pre-planning, organization and prep work can completely eliminate the pressure. One tip that I always try to follow is to have no fuss appetizers that can be made days ahead so that they only have to be placed out on platters for enjoyment and I can focus on the dishes that will be served at the main meal. This particular appetizer can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated. I also like the fact that this isn't a very filling appetizer and would be the perfect starter before a huge meal.

Prosciutto and Marinated Artichoke Involtini
Adapted from Food and Wine October 2003

  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped blanched almonds
  • One 6.5-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup 1/3 less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 18 thin slices of prosciutto (about 7 ounces)

1. Heat the oil in a small skillet. Add the almonds and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes.

Transfer to a plate and let cool.

2. In a mini food processor, pulse the artichoke hearts with the almonds

until finely chopped. Add the cream cheese, Parmesan and lemon zest and process to a paste.

Season with salt and pepper.

3. Lay 3 prosciutto slices on a work surface, overlapping them slightly along the sides. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the artichoke filling onto the short end

and roll into a tight cylinder.

Repeat with the remaining prosciutto and filling.

Trim the ends, cut into quarters

and serve.