Friday, January 31, 2014

Quinoa "Pancakes"

So basically, I'd made a bunch of quinoa for the stuffed squash, since I wanted enough for that and then an equivalent amount for "something else." I had a lot of ideas on what that something else should be, but at the end of the day had to accept that I'm pretty lazy most of the time and so this "something" should be fast and easy. This is what I ended up deciding on and after a few revisions I'm pretty satisfied with it in this form. What I like the best about this is that it's nutritionally diverse in a single package, so you know you're getting good "growing food" served without having to mess with a bunch of stuff, and that has become really important to me since Ilana has effectively transitioned completely over to table food. Because it has both quinoa and eggs in it, it's very high in protein. Watermelon is the dessert of choice for this meal in our house.

3 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 cup each: chopped caramelized onions, chopped dill pickles (or any other vegetables you feel like putting in there; this is what I had that didn't require I mess with it)
1 heaping tablespoon toum (a little goes a long way here)
2 eggs
2-3 tablespoons butter or oil

Combine all ingredients but the butter/oil and stir really well. Heat a large, heavy skillet (I use cast iron for just about everything, but any heavy skillet is fine) and add the butter/oil. When melted and sizzling, drop in table spoon (not 15mL tablespoons for baking, but the large ones you eat with) portions into the skillet an inch or two apart and flatten with the spoon. Fry about 4 minutes, or until the bottom is golden brown, then flip and give another 4-ish minutes (or until that side is also golden brown). Cool to serving temperature. Makes about 2 dozen.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Stuffed Acorn Squash

As you all know, I'm a pretty big fan of stuffed squash. They're relatively easy to make, despite there being a lot of steps, they're very healthful and they're effectively a "one pot" meal which means significantly fewer dishes to wash (this is important to me because dishes are the Death Star of my soul). They're also highly customizable and can be done with pretty much anything you have on hand at the house so long as you have a squash (of any type) to fill. I typically will select a high-protein grain for these because I nearly always make them either vegetarian or vegan, but meat could easily be added if that's your preference. I wanted to make one for Ilana since she'd never had it before, and since I'd found a large and beautiful acorn squash it seemed like a great opportunity. She ate this like it was going out of style, and to my surprise plowed through just under a quarter of the squash. Ross told me he thinks this probably belongs in her regular dinner rotation (and ours again).

1 large acorn squash, 5-7" in diameter

.75 cups quinoa
1.5 cups whey or water (I use whey from making yogurt; it imparts a nice flavor, cuts down on food waste and gets the ever growing mass of whey out of my fridge or freezer)
1 teaspoon iodized salt

1 small carrot, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1/2 small onion, minced
1/4-ish cup pickles, minced (I used Arabic pickles here but any kind you have on hand is going to be just fine)
1 small tomato, diced
1 tablespoon dried currants, soaked for 5-10 minutes in 2 tablespoons warm or hot water
1/2 teaspoon lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon iodized salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup parmesan (optional)

Cut squash in half and scoop out insides (set these aside to do something else with; the seeds will be roasted over here and the "guts" will be put in stock). Place in a cast iron skillet or oven-proof pan, cut-side down, with about a 1/2" of water and roast at 400F for 30-45 minutes (this could take up to an hour but shouldn't), or until a fork can easily pierce the squash.

While the squash is baking, combine the second group of ingredients, bring to a boil and let boil for a minute or two. Then turn the heat to medium low and let cook for 15-ish minutes. Let stand another 5-10 minutes.

As the quinoa cooks, chop up and mix together all the remaining ingredients except the cheese in a large bowl. When the quinoa is done, fold it into the veggie mixture. By now the squash should be done. Invert the halves without draining the water from the bottom of the pan and fill each cavity with half the mixture. You should need to press it down a bit to get it all in there, and it should still form a dome over the top. Feel free to spread the dome out to cover the whole squash top. Turn the oven down to 350-375F (your call) and put your squash back in the oven. Roast another 25-30 minutes, then sprinkle 1/4 cup of the cheese over each squash half. Bake another 5 or so minutes. Let cool to serving temperature and eat! Serves 2 adults and 1 highly messy baby.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Sauteed Watermelon Rind

I picked up a watermelon recently (yes, I know. WAY out of season) because Ilana is a huge fan of them and likes to mash her pieces around, bite off too-big chunks, and try to feed them to me. Since we're a small house I typically buy the person sized melons. It was quite a surprise for me when I cut it open and found a rind thick enough to eat and so I peeled the green part of the melon carefully and then cut off all the white rind before dispensing watermelon chunk treats. This is a really fun recipe, since watermelon rind tastes a lot like cucumber and in the States that's not something we typically cook before eating. It also, of course, cuts down on food waste. Since Ilana (aka the Piggy, so named after the pig-like sounds she used to make) spends a lot of time in the kitchen "helping" me cook I figure starting her out from the very beginning with an aversion to food waste is the way to go rather than trying to instil this concept later in her life. Hope you enjoy!

5 cups watermelon rind, cut into strips about 1/4" wide and 2" long
1 teaspoon ground galangal or ginger
1/2 teaspoon each: onion powder, seasoned salt (I use Konriko)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice

Heat oil in a large saute pan and add all other ingredients except lime. Toss well and cook until slightly softened, then add lime juice. Cook until al dente. Serves 4.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Elderberry Syrup

My body appears to have an understandable bias against the air in Houston. I don't know if it's the pollution or if there is some other kind of weird allergen in the air that bothers me more here than anywhere else I've lived, but the allergies have been hitting me hard in that debilitating, nearly flu-like kind of way. This is probably compounded by the fact that I really do have a bad habit of running myself ragged and only stopping when my body freaks out on me. On account of this I decided I should make some elderberry syrup to take daily, and since the Piggy (this is Ilana's nickname) also appears to have my allergies, for her to take daily as well. Although I make this for medicinal reasons (tablespoon daily for adults, teaspoon for little ones) it also has a lot of fun culinary applications. You can use it in place of maple syrup on waffles or pancakes, it goes well on ice cream and frozen yogurt and can be part of a sauce to top delicious things like lamb chops. The sky is the limit with this simple recipe and you can incorporate immune building yums with just about anything else you like to eat. Hope you enjoy!

1/2 cup dried elderberries (these can be purchased in health food stores, homebrew shops and online)
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups water

Combine all in a small saucepan and put the stove to medium or medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar is melted then turn the stove down to low or medium-low and let simmer 20-30 minutes. Strain, retaining the liquid and tamp the berries down in the strainer with a wooden spoon to get all the syrup out of them as well. Transfer to a container (I use a small sized Maker's Mark bottle for this which is kind of bad because now when the Piggy sees a MM bottle she opens her mouth and is excited for her spoonful of syrup which probably means I'll need to explain about repurposing things a little younger than I intended so she doesn't think all bourbon bottles contain sweet things) and put the lid on once it's cooled to room temperature.