Red Quinoa With Vegetables, Almonds, and Cheese

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile (thank you to those who have!), you’ve already heard me discuss the importance of listening to your body’s cravings and eating with the seasons.  Last night was a perfect example of this.  I had bought all the ingredients to make this recipe for a red quinoa salad for dinner, but when dinnertime rolled around, my body wasn’t craving a salad at all, but instead a hot meal.  This is completely natural to experience as the warmer months transition to the colder Fall and Winter months. Our bodies crave cooling foods in the Spring and Summer (think salads and fresh fruit), and warmer foods in the Fall and Winter (stews, soups, and hearty meals). So I took the red quinoa and scavenged through my fridge to come up with this delicious recipe.  I hope you enjoy it!

 

IMG_5557

 

Ingredients  (2 servings)

-1 cup red quinoa, rinsed thoroughly under cold water.  Use your fingers to lightly rub the grains together.

-3 cups water

-1/2 bouillon cube

-2 carrots, thinly sliced

-6 oz. shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced

-1 large shallot, thinly sliced

-6 asparagus stalks, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

-Garlic powder or 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

-2 handfuls unsalted almonds, chopped

-Ricotta salata cheese to top (or other favorite cheese)

-salt, pepper

 

Instructions

  1. Turn oven to 425 degrees F.  Add the rinsed quinoa to a medium-sized pot with the water, salt, and the bouillion half.  Stir to mix in.  Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer.  Cook for 20 minutes or until water is absorbed.  Drain water in a strainer if necessary at the end of cooking then add the quinoa back to the pot.  Fluff with a fork.
  2. While the quinoa cooks, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add olive oil. When the oil is hot, add all the vegetables to the pan to saute.  Add pepper and the garlic powder, but no salt yet.  Add more oil if necessary.  Cook for about 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until browned and softened. Add salt the last couple minutes of cooking.
  3. Place the chopped almonds on a piece of tin foil and toast in the oven for 2-3 minutes. Remove and turn off the oven.
  4. Combine the quinoa, vegetables, almonds, and top with ricotta salata.  Serve in bowls.  Enjoy!

 

Spaghetti Bolognese

There’s something so comforting about Italian food, especially the way it brings family and friends together. Whenever I cook Italian, I try to channel an old Italian grandmother by using this age-old secret ingredient: love. By putting all my love into the food and preparation, a good meal can become a great meal.

Bolognese is a staple of Italian cooking, though I actually had zero experience making a bolognese sauce before this.  I’m all about easy always, so this recipe is right up my alley. Use the freshest ingredients whenever possible (just another way you can add love to the meal), including fresh tomatoes instead of canned ones if they’re in season. To make this recipe even easier, I recommend having a blender on hand to help with the sauce.

Ingredients

-5 large tomatoes, medium or large diced depending on your blender (my favorite, if you have access to them, are early girl organic dry-farmed tomatoes)

-6 basil leaves

-3 whole garlic cloves, plus 2 chopped garlic cloves (keep separate)

-1lb ground beef (grass-fed, organic)

-1 yellow onion, small diced

-1 lb shitake mushrooms, chopped

-2 tablespoons tomato paste

-extra virgin olive oil

-salt, pepper

-crushed red pepper flakes

-spaghetti

 

Instructions

  1. In a blender, add these ingredients in the following order: 1/2 cup olive oil, chopped tomatoes, 3 whole garlic cloves, basil, salt, and pepper.  Blend until it’s a sauce.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil or enough to almost cover the bottom of the pan.  Add the chopped meat, carrots, onions, mushrooms, and chopped garlic. Break apart the meat using a wooden spatula or another cooking utensil. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, or until meat is browned and vegetables are soft. Add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and tomato paste.  Stir in the tomato paste until it becomes dark in color, then pour the sauce from the blender. Let the sauce simmer for some time (could be as long as an hour) to get a really flavorful sauce.
  3. Heat a large pot of salted water and bring to a rapid boil.  Add spaghetti and cook for about 10 minutes until al dente.  Reserve a 1/2 cup of pasta water.  Strain the spaghetti and return to the pot.
  4. Add the reserved pasta water to the skillet.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the temperature to a simmer for a few minutes.  Add the sauce to the pot of spaghetti and stir in to combine.  Plate and garnish with basil leaves. Enjoy!

 

*Some notes about cooking pasta:

– Never add oil to the pot of water or you’ll get sticky pasta.  Add oil after the pasta cooks to keep it from sticking together.

-Always salt the water.

-Reserve pasta water and add to your sauce to allow the sauce to easily mix and stick to the pasta.

5 Cooking Tips For the Novice Chef

I am a self-proclaimed, self-taught chef. Six years ago there were about three things I could do in the kitchen: pour myself cereal, cook instant mac and cheese, and make a salad. It really wasn’t until I started dating my boyfriend back in college that I decided I needed to add some dishes to my repertoire. It all started one summer, the summer I fell in love, that I started whipping up pesto pasta with spicy sausages. Literally I made this about 10 times in just a couple weeks, eagerly trying to perfect this relatively simple dish. When Ed and I look back at that summer we refer to it as the summer of pesto pasta. I overdid it, but I wanted to teach myself to cook and to cook well.

IMG_4179

Now I can cook other stuff!

For the novice, or possibly even the more experienced chef, I’d like to share some tips I picked up along the last six years that have advanced my cooking and overall attitude towards being in the kitchen. Just remember, cooking takes time and lots of patience, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I’ve certainly messed up my fair share of dishes, but those mistakes were valuable in helping me improve.

1- Know when to salt. Depending on what you’re preparing there is a proper time to salt. For pasta, rice, and meat, salt before cooking to boost flavor. Aka, for the pasta and rice, toss in salt before bringing the water to a boil. Mushrooms and beans should take salt at the end of the cooking process. For onions, it is a matter of preference. If you enjoy your onions browned and caramelized, add salt at the end of cooking. Conversely, if you like your onions soft and translucent, add salt earlier on (Source: Organic Authority).

2- Use the healthiest pans out there. I grew up using teflon pans because they were so easy to clean, however, I’ve since learned that teflon is some of the worst cookware out there. It releases toxic chemicals into the food and air when you cook, especially if you scratch it, so why not avoid that and use better pots and pans?  Avoid teflon, aluminum and copper, and use cast iron, stainless steel, or enamel. I am a huge advocate of cast iron. Not only does it add iron to your diet when you cook with it and heat food faster, but I also personally think it makes food taste exceptionally good. Especially fried eggs (I love eggs!). The best fried eggs can be made in cast iron by frying it with a little oil, then steaming it by adding a tiny bit of water and covering it with a lid for a couple minutes. You’re welcome.

13.25 Inch Cast Iron Skillet

I like cast iron cookware by Lodge

3- Use a variety of cooking methods. Steam, sauté, sear, boil, roast, bake, raw… there are so many ways to enjoy your food. Switch up the way you prepare your meals, because cooking tends to reduce the vitamin content of the food, since some vitamins are sensitive to heat, water and air.Try eating your vegetables raw, especially in the hot, summer months.

4- Use your microwave minimally. Of course using a microwave is convenient, but using a microwave isn’t the healthiest. Not only does the radiation from microwaving change the molecules in our food and substantially reduce the nutrients, it can also release toxins if using plastic to reheat your food. It’s actually been found that cooking vegetables in a microwave reduces the number of nutrients by 97% (source: Natural News). I know, I can be lazy too, but try reheating your meals at a low temperature in the oven or on the stove top, or at least use glass containers or microwave-safe dishes if you need to microwave.

jennifer lawrence fire american hustle microwave

5- Prep all your food when you get home from grocery shopping. This sounds like a pain, but it actually will save you time and effort during the week. I like to salt and pepper my meat before I put it away in the fridge or freezer, wash and chop all my fruits and veggies, and maybe make a pot of whole grains to last me a few days. This way I can reach in the fridge and grab pre-made or pre-prepped items without having to always pull out the cutting board. This also saves on clean up time!lemons

 

Have additional tips for the novice chef?  I’d love to hear them! Want more tips and health info? Subscribe to my newsletters!

Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner: Veggie Frittata All Day

I’m pretty confident that even a novice chef can make a frittata. In fact, I recently made frittatas with a group of about 20 kids under the age of 12 and they were able to make some delicious frittatas. Two of my favorite parts about frittatas is that you can get creative with your ingredients and a frittata is so great to have in the fridge for any meal of the day. Pick up some of your favorite vegetables, chop and sautée them, whisk some eggs, add some cheese (optional), put it all together and put in the oven for 10 minutes. Incredibly simple.

unnamed-1

Ingredients 

-1 handful mushrooms

-1 bunch broccolini (you’ll probably only use about 1/4-1/2 of the bunch)

-1/2 zucchini

-3/4 cup peas (defrost, if frozen)

-6 eggs (preferably organic)

-1 tablespoon milk (goat milk often works great for people with dairy sensitivities)

-goat cheese crumbles

-salt, pepper, red pepper chili flakes

-extra virgin olive oil

Steps

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Defrost peas. Chop the other vegetables into small pieces.
  3. Sautée vegetables all together in oven-safe pan** with olive oil for about 3 minutes. Add a dash of salt and pepper. **(If you don’t have an oven-safe pan than have an 8×8 baking dish/brownie pan available for later and whatever skillet you have).
  4. Meanwhile, whisk eggs with milk in a medium-sized bowl. Add the goat cheese crumbles (as much as you’d prefer) and stir. Add more salt and pepper and add chili flakes.
  5. If you have an oven-safe pan, add eggs to veggies and cook on the stove top for about 30 seconds to brown slightly, then place in the oven for 10 minutes. If you don’t have an oven-safe pan, then transfer the veggies and eggs to the baking dish and place in the oven for 10 minutes. Make sure the vegetables are evenly coated with egg.
  6. After 10 minutes your frittata should be looking ready to eat. If you’d like it brown a little more then leave it in the oven for a few extra minutes.

ENJOY

unnamed