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::summer love:: Southwest Keen Wah Salad

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This past year has been the year of changes. Now that I have a deck, someday we’ll get deck furniture, and then I will have a place to eat outside. For now, I’ll drag a kitchen stool out there on the occasional evening, enjoy a margarita, and watch the sun go down. If I did have deck furniture, this is a perfect dish for a Summer dinner on the deck.

I’ve never really been one for pasta salads. Just in the past few years have I even been willing to try non-creamy looking ones. I’m not really sure why I still hesitate on them. Beyond burgers, I have always shied away from most picnic foods. Last year, I decided it was time to experiment with quinoa (pronounced keen wah) in the kitchen. The most appealing things I found turned out to be fancied up “pasta” salads. Go figure. But quinoa is a “super grain”, so I had to try it! My first quinoa salad scared everyone I served it to. No one had ever seen or heard of it before. But it was delicious. I never wrote down the recipe, but I know there was edamame, garlic, lemon, roasted red peppers and scallions involved (I took pictures). It looked like this:

I’m going to have to recreate it at some point this summer, because it was good. I just made way too much of it. It may have been about 2 gallons of Quinoa Edamame Salad… This one was a bit smaller, but not by much, and still seemed to last us forever. It can be served as a side on it’s own, or if you want it as a main course, add to the top of a bed of greens, and for a finishing touch, some slices of avocado on top do the trick quite nicely. Best part: we got to use some cilantro from our garden 🙂

What You Need
Step One

1 cup quinoa
1 3/4 cups water
Step Two
lime, zested and juiced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Agave syrup
1 tsp chili powder
salt & pepper
Step Three
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 med red onion, chopped (~1/2 cup)
handful of cilantro, chopped
Step Four
Salad Greens
Avocado

Always rinse your quinoa first! Then just like rice, combine the quinoa and water in a pan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cover. Let the quinoa simmer for 15 minutes, then take it off the heat and sit for 5 more minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together all step two ingredients. In a large bowl, mix together all step three ingredients.  Add the cooled quinoa to the large bowl and mix in. Once combined, stir in your dressing.

Done!

Make your presentation fancy. Serve on top of a bed of greens. I would not recommend an herb salad! The extra cilantro can take the flavor balance overboard a bit.

The slices of avocado add exactly what this salad needs to round it out. Be careful with your portions, this can be quickly filling!

::vegan:: Bulgur Stuffed Peppers

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I’ve been craving stuffed peppers recently. What I haven’t been craving is meaty meals. I’ve also been wanting to find fun summery things to make with my deck garden harvest. This recipe has a dual function. You can either just make the bulgur stuffing and serve room temp, or you can fill some peppers and have a sweet, citrus-y, mint-y meal. I may make the bulgur salad for the next picnic we go to. It was so bright and refreshing.

When I put the plate in front of PTB and he asked what was in it, the first response I got was “no meat or cheese?”. Oh well, I can’t please everyone all the time. Next time around, I will give him some cheese. Some fresh goat cheese mixed into the filling would work well. It just wasn’t a cheese kind of night for me.

What You Need
Bulgur Salad

Step One
1 cup raw bulgar
1 1/2 cups boiling water
Step Two
1/2 cup walnuts
Step Three
1/4 cup parsley
1/4 cup fresh mint
3 Tbsp dried currants
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Stuffed Peppers
4 Bell Peppers, your choice of color

400F oven

This was my first experience using bulgur. I’m pretty satisfied. I had no idea it was the grain in tabbouleh, but I guess I never really questioned what that grain was. Based on how easy it is to make, I’m going to have to experiment more. To make the bulgur, pour the boiling water over the grain and cover the bowl with a plate or plastic wrap. After about 20-25 minutes, drain off any extra water and fluff. Yeah, it’s that easy.

While the bulgur is cooking, chop up and toast the walnuts. Once the bulgur is ready, stir in the walnuts and all step three ingredients.

Chop off the tops of your peppers, and if necessary to have them stand, slice off a bit of the bottom. Be sure to remove the ribs and seeds. Arrange the peppers in a baking dish and fill with your bulgur mix. Drizzle with olive oil and add about 1/2″ of hot water to the pan. Place in 400F oven for approx. 40 minutes.

Serves: 4     Cost: $2/serving

::super snack:: Red Pepper Hummus

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Beans and I were good buddies throughout my pregnancy. With my love of starch, most specifically noodles, a variety of beans helped me get through the first couple months without starving myself of any and all nutrition. And there are so many things to do with beans. Once things were back to normal with my eating, we had a go at a new snack.

This recipe was inspired by Cooking Light’s Cooking Through the Seasons, but I didn’t follow theirs exactly. I just did what I wanted. In my opinion, Eden Organics has the BEST canned beans. It is a bonus that they are one of the only companies of canned foods that has stated that all of their cans are BPA-free. Yes, BPA is from plastic, not tin cans… but modern tin cans are lined, and sometimes with bad stuff. Just one more tiny effort to keep us and our little Bean safe from bad stuff.

What You Need
1 can garbanzo beans/chickpeas
1 lemon
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp tahini
~1/2 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
1/4 tsp cumin
drizzle of olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

What you do: Drain & rinse those beans! Chop up the peppers. Zest and Juice your lemon.

Put all of your ingredients in a food processor.

Serve with pita chips, veggies, or a spoon  🙂 However you like your hummus.


::spicy nights:: Chicken Paprikash

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I’m starting to get back in the kitchen finally. My first attempt at cooking resulted in PTB learning how to make Gumbo. My second official attempt was much more successful. The little man is settling down a little bit and I am learning to take shortcuts a little more.

I made Chicken Paprikash once before and my only complaint was that it was too incredibly hot (it has officially taken me 6 months to write this post). It was so spicy that I couldn’t eat any of the leftovers. Which made me so sad since it tasted so good. This time around, I had to make it faster and I learned to adjust the spice a bit to be more reasonable. And, sadly, you don’t get too many photos when I am rushing through making dinner.

What You Need
400F oven
Step One
1-1.5 lbs chicken, cut into 1″ chunks
salt & pepper
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Step Two
medium yellow onion, chopped
1 Tbsp double concentrate tomato paste
Step Three
1 cup chicken broth
Step Four
Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Roasted Garlic
3 Tbsp Hungarian Paprika
1 Tsp Smoked Spanish Paprika (more if you want it spicy)
Step Five
8oz sour cream (room temp)
1lb egg noodles

I typically use chicken tenderloins to make this dish. When I trim my chicken breasts to freeze, I package the tenderloins in 1-2lb batches so that I can quickly make dishes that require any chopped up chicken.

Cut the chicken into 1″ pieces, pat dry and salt and pepper. In a large oven-proof skillet or a dutch oven, heat the oil over a medium high heat until smoking. Add the chicken, cooking until browned on all sides. Remove form the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

If necessary, add a bit more oil to the pan and add the onions cooking 5-7 minutes until they begin to brown. Once they are browning, stir in tomato paste and cook for approx. 1 minute.

Using the chicken broth, deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom. Add step four ingredients and bring to a simmer.

Add the chicken (and any juices accumulated in the bowl) back to the pan and transfer the entire thing to the hot oven. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes. When your timer has about 5 minutes left, start your egg noodles.

Once you remove the pan from the oven, allow it to sit for about 3 minutes, then stir in the sour cream. Serve hot over the egg noodles.

Mmmm…now that I have typed this up I want to make it again  🙂

::too easy:: Pasta with Spinach + Beans

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There might not be anything better right now than a meal that is fast, cheap, and delicious. I would say healthy for the most part, but I decided to modify the original version of this dish and used butter instead of olive oil.

Moving to the far, far away suburbs means a much longer commute for PTB. It also means that instead of walking home from the train, I am going to pick him up. This has probably hurt our dinners more than I want to admit. Our longer dinners mean we have sometimes pushed eating to past 10pm. That just isn’t going to work. Especially when I am falling asleep by 10:30…

What You Need
Step One
6 oz fusilli pasta
Step Two
8 cups coarsely chopped spinach (approx 4-5oz)
3 Tbsp butter
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup Asiago cheese (approx 2oz)
15oz can white beans, rinsed and drained (any white beans will do, I used Navy Beans)
salt
Step Three
Fresh Ground  Pepper

Really, this recipe could not be any easier. While your pasta is cooking, get together the rest of your ingredients. I tossed them all into one big bowl to have ready.

Since my bowl wasn’t quite big enough, once the pasta is cooked and drained, combine with all step two ingredients in the pot. The leftover heat from the pan will help melt the butter and wilt the spinach as well.

Serve topped with fresh ground pepper.

Serves: 4   Cost: >$2/serving