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Monday, January 05, 2009

to say that life has been busy...

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...for the past few weeks would actually be an understatement.

I've got two guest rooms and they've both been occupied more often than not in the last little bit...which is why you haven't heard anything from me.

Between that and Lil Z, life has kept me hopping.

So um...first things first, merry Christmas from Lil Z and I:

I will update about the big potluck party a bit later (it was awesome) as well as all about Christmas dinner...because in the meantime, I have a few more resolution-worthy recipes to share.

As I've mentioned before, I don't run ads on this blog - first, I'm way too incompetent to figure it all out in HTML (I'm a click and hope kind of gal, when it comes to website coding), second, I steal too many recipes and don't want people to think I'm making money off their creativity, and last, the piddly income I would get from ads would probably only serve to screw up my taxes, make me hire an accountant and essentially negate any financial benefit.

Plus, ads are annoying.

BUT, that said, blogging will occasionally have its perks, and sometimes, I do get the odd freebie in the mail.

Lately, I've received a couple of cookbooks and while I will not mindlessly whore my name out to enrich others, I am pretty happy with some of the recipes I've sampled. This particular cookbook seems fitting for this time of year, given that most of us are probably resolving to eat healthier (BAHAHAHA!), eat out less and all that jazz, I think it's worth considering.

Whole Grains for Busy People, written by Lorna Sass is pretty much exactly what the title describes - quick recipes using whole grains. I'll admit I actually found the book a little off-putting at first...almost TOO healthy looking. I guess I like people to make food appealing by extolling its TASTE virtues, not so much the health virtues. I go for taste, first and foremost, with health being a very good side benefit...kwim? Anyway, Sass, who is pretty much THE person for whole grains, does a good job of explaining a few of the less common grains (farro, millet, etc.) and I'm most definitely looking forward to trying a few more recipes (like squash bisque topped with curried popcorn, or oat-crusted turkey cutlets....she also has recipes coating meat in ground-up popcorn, which sounds intriguing).

The recipes I tried are actually on facing pages, using my latest most fave ingredient - quinoa. Can I tell you how much I love this stuff? It's got a nice chewiness, doesn't taste obnoxiously-in-your-face-good-for-you and just goes so well in so many different things.

I modified the recipes lightly due to ingredient availability (and, let's face it, proximity, as I was too lazy to brave the cold to grocery shop), and because I like bolder, stronger seasonings.

These recipes are relatively quick, though they do require a higher than average amount of attention (i.e., lots of do this, wait 3 minutes, then do this, etc.).

Here are two yummy sample recipes for ya:

Provençal Salmon Stew with Quinoa
from Whole Grains for Busy People
Serves 4 (generously)
My modifications are in parentheses

1 T olive oil
1 c. diced onion
3/4 t thyme *I thought using only thyme would be a bit plain, so added some other typical provençal herbs
(1/4 t lavender)
(1/4 t marjoram)
(1/2 t basil)
(1/2 t rosemary)
1/2 t minced garlic (I used 3 cloves)
1/2 t anchovy paste
1/2 c dry white wine or vermouth (I used vermouth, to keep me from opening and drinking the bottle of white wine, hehe)
2 bottles (13 ounces each) clam juice (here, I subbed 900mL chicken broth as I had no CJ on hand)
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes with liquid
1/4 c small black olives (I omitted - not a big fan and didn't have any anyway)
1 pound boneless, skinless salmon fillets, cut into 1 inch chunks - I used one of my fave christmas prezzies to cut this bad boy up....
3 T fresh parsley (omitted because I didn't have any)
grated zest of 1 large lemon
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. In a heavy 12-inch sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, thyme (and other spices, if using), garlic and cook, stirring frequently until the onion is lightly browned, 3-4 minutes. Stir in the anchovy paste and cook 30 seconds more. You can actually see the lavender and other spices here:

2. Stir in the wine/vermouth and cook until it evaporates, about 2 minutes. Add the clam juice (or broth) and bring to a boil. Stir in the quinoa, cover, and cook over medium heat for 8 minutes.

3. Stir in the tomatoes and olives. Return to a boil. Cover and continue cooking until the quinoa is almost done, about 5 minutes longer (if the quinoa has a substantial white dot of starch in the centre, continue cooking until the dot is tiny).

4. Add a little water if the mixture is no longer loose and soupy. Gently stir in the salmon. Cover and cook over medium heat until the salmon is cooked through to the centre and the quinoa is tender, 2-3 minutes.

5. Gently stir in the parsley, lemon zest and juice and season (salt/pepper) to taste, if needed.

Both hubs and I really enjoyed this stew. Sure, I made some changes, but it's a very nice, fresh, healthy tasting something you might find in a health spa. I noticed, actually, that hubs enjoyed it so much he also ate it for brekkie. Fish for brekkie should tell you something about how tasty this is. Two thumbs up.

Now, on the facing page to the salmon quinoa recipe was another quinoa stew recipe. And while I was making last night's dinner, I couldn't help but read through this other stew recipe and think...hmmm...I freaking love quinoa and I think I have all/most of the ingredients for this. SOLD.

So here's another one for you. I followed the recipe for the most part, but I added a LOT more spices, due to personal preference. I suspect the original might have been a little timid in flavour. Not so much mine.

Southwestern Quinoa Stew with Squash, Black Beans and Corn
serves 4-6
stolen from Whole Grains for Busy People
(again, my mods are in parentheses)

1 T olive oil
2 t minced dried onion (wtf is this? I used 1 small whole regular onion)
1/2 t dried oregano
1/4 t granulated garlic (again, wtf....I used 3 cloves of regular garlic)
1 container low-sodium chicken/veggie broth
(1 T chili powder, 1 t cumin, dash cinnamon, 1/2 T cocoa powder)
1 cup quinoa
1 t chipotle in adobo, minced (didn't have any - subbed 1 T chipotle hot sauce, and then oomphed it with a few dashes of sri racha)
1 10-oz package frozen cooked squash
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
1/3 c fire-roasted red peppers (ummmm....witness what happened to my peppers...EW. I may have cured cancer here, but I opted to toss that jar and just use a fresh green pepper along with the onion....GROSS)
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro
pepper to taste
(crumbled aged cheddar)

1. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Stir in the onion, oregano and garlic, cook for 10 seconds (because I used fresh onion, garlic and added a green pepper, I actually cooked for about 5 mins).

2. Add the broth and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the quinoa and boil uncovered over medium-high heat for 10 minutes. I added my extra spices at the same time as the quinoa. While the quinoa is cooking, you can assemble the other ingredients.

3. Stir in the chipotle in adobo, and add the block of squash (I partially defrosted mine in the fridge overnight). Otherwise, cover, turn the heat to high and continue cooking until you can break up the squash and stir it in (3-4 mins).

4. Stir in the beans and reduce heat to medium. Continue cooking until here is no solid white dot of starch at the centre of the quinoa (1-3 minutes). I added my squash/beans at the same time because I am lazy.

5. Stir in the corn, red pepper, cilantro and salt/pepper to taste. When I tasted it, I added some sri racha and the juice of half a lime (it needed more bite). Cook, uncovered, until the corn is defrosted.

I garnished mine with some 3-year-aged balderson heritage cheddar. OMG. YUMMY. The stew was delicious - I never would have thought to put these ingredients together, but it works wonderfully....I just thought it needed some kick, and I'm happy with the way my mods turned out.


Overall, I think this is a pretty good cookbook if you're trying to eat healthy, or for example, if you need to eliminate gluten, etc (it's NOT a gluten-free cookbook, but uses a lot of gluten-free grains). THere is a nice variety of recipes and I like how it gently introduces you to a large variety of whole grains.

Critiques? It would be nice if there were nutritional info. I know these recipes are healthy, and were I feeling motivated, I could enter the ingredients and find out the exact info myself...but it would have been nice if this book had already done that. And I also find the recipes can overemphasize the salt and underemphasize other herbs and seasonings.

That said, I would recommend this book to any of you who are trying to eat healthy and are trying to look beyond steamed veggies and rice for your healthy fare. Keep your eyes peeled, as I'm sure I'll have more to say about this book in coming weeks. I've got a beach with my name on it and only a few short weeks to get beach-ready!


Anonymous said...

Hey! Your recipe looks great! Where do you buy your quinoa? Don't think I've ever seen them in grocery stores...?

Oh and do you have your pumpkin wonton recipe posted? Would love to try it! :)


Anonymous said...

i must check that book out! love love love quinoa, esp now that i've discovered the non-red stuff is a million miles better than the red stuff (which is a bit prettier but looks are overrated). i am definitely on a grain-kick. wheatberries, bulgar, various forms of rice and its wilder cousins are on my plate quite regularly.

Anonymous said...

Just wondering how much chicken stock you used? I'm interested in trying some quinoa recipes.

Anonymous said...

This looks delicious. I love finding recipes using quinoa, for it is so good for you!

Anonymous said...

I too am a giant quinoa fan. Not just the food, but also the word :) . Nice to see some interesting recipes for it!

Anonymous said...

That looks wonderful! Do you think I can sub Bulgar for Quinoa? My local grocery store never seems to stock Quinoa...

Jenny said...

Your daughter is a cutie!
Nice knife too, btw, I think that's the same one I have. Or at least close.

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Brittany said...

She is SO cute!!

I love quinoa- the salmon recipe especially is calling to me

Dharm said...

Isnt LilZ just a darling!! Lovely recipe and I love the pic of the Salmon although i must say I love that kitchen knife even better!!

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