You Can Do It: Homemade Fruity Greek Yogurt

One thing that drives me absolutely crazy is flavored yogurt. Why? Because it’s junk masquerading as ‘healthy’ for us.

Yes, I said it: JUNK… because flavored yogurt is filled with sugar and other nonsense we have no need of. (I’m not totally against sugar, but I like to keep it in it’s place.)

Let’s take a mainstream ‘blueberry yogurt’, for example. (By ‘mainstream’ I mean one of those yogurt brands that has 50 different flavors and is often found on special for 5 for $5.) This is what the ingredient label looks like:

Yogurt Ingredient List_Blueberry

Now, when you read a lable, you may not know this, but they are listed by greatest to least. This means the first three ingredients typically make up the bulk of the product; and, in this case, your first three are milk, SUGAR, and blueberries. So, you see what I mean? SUGAR is one of the top 3 ingredients and comes before blueberries, meaning there’s more sugar than blueberries! Yuck… and then you get down to stuff like corn starch, preservatives, flavors, etc. etc.

Now look at the nutritional label:

Yogurt Nutritional_Blueberry

You see that sugar content?? 26g of sugar is the equivalent of 6.5 teaspoons of sugar. 6.5 teaspoons!! And in one INDIVIDUAL serving!! Granted, yogurt and blueberries have their own naturally occurring sugars. However, the fact one of this brand’s top three ingredients IS sugar and the sugar came before the blueberries, I lean towards believing most of it is processed and not natural; and, hence, you will NEVER find it in my kitchen.

(If you have flavored yogurt in your fridge right now, go take a look at the ingredient label and the sugar content. Shocked?)

With all that said, because commercial flavored yogurt is so full of everything I totally REBEL from, I make my own… well, blend my own. Is it as sweet as the commercial stuff? No, not even close – but that’s why I love it! By keeping the hyper-sweetness of commercial brands off my tongue, my palate has been trained to appreciate the subtle, natural sweetness of what I make at home. (And, you know what? If I eat commercially produced flavored yogurt now, the hyper-sweetness is overwhelming.)

Now, don’t be overwhelmed at this idea! It’s very simple… and it’s all about your tools and your ingredients.

Before you begin, you’ll need to find some glass cups with lids, like these:

Ball canning jars and a storage jar and lid

Ball canning jars and a storage jar and lid

(You can buy a flat of Bell canning jars for about 12 bucks.)

Next, assemble your ingredients:

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  • Fage PLAIN greek yogurt (my favorite of all the greek yogurts)
  • Frozen fruit

(Notice I don’t list sugar, beet juice, corn starch, gelatin, or natural flavors… because we don’t need them!!)

Now, porition out about 1/2 cup of frozen fruit into each of the jars, cover/cap the jars, and place them in the fridge to defrost overnight. (I like to do several jars at a time before bed so they’re ready for me the next morning.)

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Once the fruit is defrosted, you’re ready to pulverize it so it will blend nicely into your yogurt. (There are many ways you can do this, but I don’t think I’d do it without an immersion blender. It fits right into each of my cups and clean up is a snap! So, if you don’t have one, I highly recommend spending the $35 to get one; it’s one of the best tools I have in my kitchen.)

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Add in about 3/4 cup of your PLAIN greek yogurt into each cup…

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Stir with a simple spoon…

raspberry/blackberry greek yogurt

raspberry/blackberry greek yogurt

blueberry greek yogurt

blueberry greek yogurt

mango greek yogurt

mango greek yogurt

And that’s it! Your very own homemade fruity yogurt!!

You can make up several jars and store them for the week. I like to pull them out for afternoon snacks and add in some precooked quinoa, or top a cup with some of my quinola crunch.

A few final thoughts that may be stirring up questions in your mind:

1) Which fruits are best? Fruits that mash well, like berries, peaches, mangos, pears, kiwi, pomogranates, bananas. (Apples would require you to cook them first to soften them.)

2) Why frozen fruit? I used frozen for this post because it’s February and not a lot of good fruits are available right now. (In the summertime I’d do all of my yogurt with fresh fruit.) Also, frozen fruit is often fruit picked in it’s prime and flash frozen, so it’s often just as sweet as when it’s in full season.

3) What if I want it sweeter than it is with just the fruit? Use honey. (I’m not an agave fan, but that would be my second suggetion.) I actually use honey quite often… but just a little bit, like a tsp or so. It adds really nice flavor.

4)  What if I don’t want to wait for the fruit to defrost overnight? You can put it into the cups and then put the cups in the microwave for a minute or two. (Just long enough to defrost, though… you don’t want them overwarm.)

5) Why greek yogurt? Because it’s nice and thick, which makes a particularly good base for this recipe. But, most importantly, the protein content is almost double that of regular plain yogurts. (If you choose to use a regular plain yogurt, it may be very watery – more of a drinkable than spoonable.)

If you’re a yogurt fan, I hope you’ll try and do this at home. It’s healthier, it’s cheaper, and, again, cutting out the processed sugars from just one more place is always a good thing… always.

Much love to you today.

 

You Can Do It: Spicy Quinoa Meatballs Simmered in White Wine

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I’ve been wanting to come up with a meatball recipe for some time… and last night I finally did it. No, I didn’t grow up with meatballs; meatballs are not a “Guamanian” sort of thing. They are, however, protein packed powerhouses – and that is why they appeal to me.

(There’s no better snack than one that’s packed with protein and fiber.)

Now, when you think ‘meatballs’, you probably get a visual of the typical: meatballs simmered in a heavy, sweet BBQ sauce, or meatballs served over a carb packed bed of pasta. But, hey, this is the Rebel Grain… and you can bet your bottom dollar that my meatballs are going to be against the grain of what is ‘supposed to be’.

The final result? Spicy Quinoa Meatballs Simmered in Herbed White Wine.

No heavy sugary BBQ sauce. No pasta to weigh you down. Just pure, clean deliciousness to power you up, satisfy your cravings, and keep your healthy habits on track.

NOTE 1: I made these with a large cast iron skillet. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet that can go from the stovetop to the oven, you can use a large fry pan for steps 1-4 and 6; and, for step 5 you’d just transfer everything into a glass baking dish.

NOTE 2: You’ll need about an hour to get these done. Make them when you’re feeling leisurly and inspired and can take your time to taste along the way and appreciate the beauty of what’s happening at your stove. Sip a glass of wine, play some music while you work. The process and delicious smells of every step are part of the fun.

You ready?

Ingredients:

For meatballs (steps 1-4)

  • 1/2 pound spicy italian sausage (if kids will eat these, I’d use regular italian sausage)
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 cups precooked quinoa
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced and smashed with the back of a fork
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano (yes, it’s the good stuff… and worth it)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh curly parsley
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp corse black pepper
  • 2 eggs

For herbed wine simmer sauce (steps 5-6):

  • olive oil to coat pan
  • 2 cups of white wine
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 1″ cubes of parmesean rind
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup water

To deglaze the pan and make the finishing sauce (step 7):

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Here we go:

1) Preheat your oven to bake at 350 degrees.

2) Make the vegetable quinoa saute:

Heat olive oil in a large pan on medium high heat.  When pan is hot, add onions and saute for about three minutes, stirring constantly. Add garlic, grated carrots, peas and carrots. Continue to saute, stirring occasionally, for approximately 3-4 minutes. Add precooked quinoa, salt, pepper, and chopped parsley. Continue to saute, stirring occasionally, for another few minutes. Remove from heat.

3) Make the meatball mix:

Add sausage, ground pork, and saute into a large bowl. Using a large spoon, incorporate the warm saute into the cold meat to temper the mixture. Once the mixture is tempered to a point you can work it with  your hands, use your hands to squeeze the ingredients together so there is no longer any separation of the ingredients.

In a separate bowl, whisk two eggs. Add eggs to meat mixture and, with your hands, squeeze through the ingredients until eggs are well incorporated.

Gather a handful of mixture into your palm and, with both hands, form large balls so they look like this:

meatballs before they're cooked

meatballs before they’re cooked

4) Brown the meatballs on the stove.

Using the same pan you used for the saute, add enough olive oil to create a thin film on the bottom of the pan. Once oil is hot, carefully add the meatballs into the pan with kitchen tongs and brown the meatballs on medium high heat. Carfully turn the meatballs every couple minutes to brown each side of the form. (NOTE: the quinoa makes this a little more crumbly than a typical meatball, so turn them very carefully. If you try to roll them in then pan, they may break apart.) As they brown they should look like this:

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When all sides are brown, carefully remove the meatballs from the pan and onto a plate.

5) Make the wine sauce the meatballs will simmer in.

With the stove still on medium high, place the white wine, the fresh thyme sprigs, 1 tsp of lemon zest*, and the chunks of parmesean rind to the pan, like this:

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The wine will begin to immediately bubble, and you’ll want to use a spatula to deglaze the pan and stir these ingredients together.

*If you don’t yet have a Microplane zester, please go buy one!

6) Put meatballs into the oven to simmer and finish cooking.

While wine sauce is simmering, use your tongs and return the meatballs to the pan. Be careful not to overcrowd them. Turn off heat, remove the pan from the stove, and put pan into the oven where the meatballs will simmer and continue to cook for 35 minutes. (NOTE: After 20 minutes in the oven, add 1/4 cup of water to the pan.)

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7) Make the finishing sauce.

When you remove the meatballs from the oven, they will be GORGEOUS like this:

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Transfer them to a plate with your tongs. Now, see all the goodies left behind in the pan? This is where the magic happens with what’s left behind. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. Place the pan back on the stovetop and put your heat on medium high. Add 1/4 cup olive oil, the fresh squeeze juice of 1 lemon, and a little more sea salt and black pepper to taste. Allow the mixture to boil while you whisk with a fork, being sure to unstick any of the goodies that might be stuck to the bottom of the pan. Turn off heat and pour sauce into a small dish.

And… you are done!

As far as how to eat them, there is no wrong way 🙂 You can drizzle a little spoonfull of your sauce over them and eat them plain, or you can make a meal of them the way I just did like this:

Baby arugula drizzled with white wine sauce and served with Spicy Quinoa Meatballs

Baby arugula drizzled with white wine sauce and served with Spicy Quinoa Meatballs

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Let me just tell you: they are AMAZING and so full of flavor! My man couldn’t keep his fingers off them last night… and, as I write this I’m drooling for another serving.

Anyway, YOU CAN DO IT… and I hope you try.

Have a great weekend – and GO SEAHAWKS!

Hearty Quinoa Minestrone

Today I planned to tell you about my fabulous apple cranberry upside-down cake that has a hint of rosemary and lemon… but I’m going to have to switch gears on you and save that for next week. (I know, I’m sorry – especially because, when I posted the picture on Instagram and Facebook last week, you helped it become one of my most viewed photos of the entire week! (Really… you love the sweets even more than quinoa? LOL) )

Why?

Because the weekend forecast is downright frigid… there’s a little bug going around… and we could all use something to warm us up from the inside out, couldn’t we? That’s why I want to tell you about this:

Gluten-Free Quinoa Minestrone

Gluten-Free Quinoa Minestrone

Literally, minestrone means ‘that which is served’. It’s a soup we all know hails from Italian culture… and I ate plenty of while I lived abroad. Typically it’s made with vegetables, broth, and the addition of pasta or rice… but, in reality, there really isn’t a fixed recipe.

What I love about minestrone is that it’s more about style than following a set of rules; it’s a ‘whatever you have lying around’ kinda soup… and, I know we moms like that syle of dish, don’t we?

There are as many ways to make minestrone as there are cooks; and, depending on the time of year it’s being made, and what ingredients are on hand, this ‘traditional’ soup has unlimited variations.

My variation that I’m sharing with you today is a little bit of all I love:

quinoa (instead of pasta)

quinoa (instead of pasta)

lots of fresh herbs

lots of fresh herbs

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fresh vegetables

…and a couple canned ingredients for the sake of ease

…and a couple canned ingredients for the sake of ease

Here’s what you need:

  • olive oil
  • 2 FRESH rosemary sprigs about 2″ long
  • 3 FRESH sprigs of thyme
  • 1 FRESH sprig of oregano
  • 1 handful of curly parsley
  • 5-6 FRESH sage leaves (or 1 large sage sprig)
  • 1 FRESH sprig of marjoram
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced and crushed
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped into rounds
  • 1 small bunch of kale, rough chopped
  • several small potatoes (I like to use fingerlings)
  • soup stock (I use chicken stock)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans of great northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • precooked quinoa
  1. Heat a large soup pot on the stove top and add olive oil to coat the pan. When hot, add onions and garlic; saute until onions are translucent.
  2. Add diced celery, chopped carrots, and chopped kale. Saute for a few minutes, covered, on medium high heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add canned tomatoes and fresh herbs, stir to incorporate, and continue to saute (uncovered) for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. (NOTE: You don’t need to remove the leaves or chop the herbs before adding to the soup. Just toss them into the mix completely whole, and remove the woody stems before serving.)
  4. Add potatoes, beans, and enough stock to cover the base by two inches. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to medium, cover, and allow the soup to simmer for 10-15 minutes so flavors incorporate and the potatoes to soften.
  5. Serve over a scoop of quinoa, and, if desired, top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

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Not only do the fresh herbs make this the best minestrone soup you’ll ever taste (and YES, you MUST use fresh herbs… MUST), I guarantee the quinoa will satisfy more than pasta ever could.

So, there ya go – a big pot o’ love you need to make this weekend. It’s easy, fragrant, amped up on nutrients, and exactly what this cold weather is calling for.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Quinoa Spring Rolls? You Bet!

I’ve had many a spring roll (aka ‘salad roll’) in my life and, to be honest, they are hit and miss.

Just the other day, for example, I was in the deli of one of our local ‘green’ grocery stores and picked up some spring rolls; I was far from impressed. Wayyyy too many noodles and lettuce, not enough fresh herbs or shrimp, and the sauce that accompanied it was nothing more than gloop I could have done without. The overall package was dry, starchy, and flavorless.

That experience is why I’m sharing this recipe with you today… MY version of the spring roll. It’s a fusion between the traditional Vietnamese style and my Guamanian ‘island-style’ flavors. And, call I tell you something? They are hands-down some of the best spring rolls you’ll eat outside of an authentic Vietnamese restaurant.

First, let’s talk wrapper.

Vietnamese spring rolls are not fried – they are made with a thin, translucent rice wrapper that you basically rehydrate to use. (If you are gluten-free, be careful when you buy your wrappers because there are wheat ones on the market. The rice ones, however, are gluten-free.) They look like this:

find these in the Asian food section of most grocery stores

find these in the Asian food section of most grocery stores

Next, let’s talk fillings.

Make carrot and cucumber ribbons with your vegetable peeler

Make carrot and cucumber ribbons with your vegetable peeler

The beauty of a spring roll is its freshness. Instead of a significant amount of the flavor coming from the wrapper (like with fried egg rolls or lumpia), the rice wrapper is really just a barely there delivery system for all the goodness you fill it with. So, I like to fill mine with fragrant choices that will get my senses tingling:

  • fresh mint and basil leaves
  • diced green onions
  • ribbons of cucumber and carrots
  • lettuce

(Note: I didn’t have any lettuce on hand when we made these last night, so we went sans lettuce… and it wasn’t a big deal at all.)

I also like to get a flavor punch from the addition of marinated, grilled meat or seafood.

Grilled steak, shrimp, chicken... even tofu! Let your preferences be your guide

Grilled steak, shrimp, chicken… even tofu! Let your preferences be your guide

Finally, I have to throw my ‘rebel’ spin on it and, instead of using the traditional bean threads (which are way too starchy for me), I use quinoa. Just plain quinoa cooked in water. (My kids prefer the bean threads, so I do make them for their rolls.)

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Once you prep and gather all the essentials, it’s time for assembly:

1.  Place a wet paper towel flat on a large plate. This will be your wrapping surface.

2.  Next to your wrapping surface, fill a pie plate with warm water (as warm as your fingers can stand it).

3.  Dip a dry wrapper into the water and lightly rub in circular motion for about 8-10 seconds; flip over and repeat. (NOTE: You want it to be a little ‘al dente’ (for lack of a better word) because it will continue to soften on top of the paper towel as you assemble the roll. It should be soft, but not totally limp.)

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4.  Lay the softened wrapper on top of your paper towel, gently massage the entire surface so totally flat, and then begin to layer whatever your heart desires. You’ll want to leave about an inch of space on the left and right sides of the mound.

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My layers: quinoa, cucumber and carrot ribbons, green onions, fresh basil, fresh mint, grilled steak… YUM.

5.  To roll: fold in each side, pull up the bottom over the mound of yumminess, and then grasp the mound and begin to roll upward over the remaining flat portion of the wrapper.

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Beautiful, isn’t it?

Once the spring roll is rolled, the next question is this: what do you serve it with?

Yes, you could eat it without any dipping sauce and, while good, it would honestly taste a little blah – kinda like a bowl of salad without anything dressing it. I’m a big believer that spring rolls need dipping sauce.

There are two sauces I love to use:

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First: Sesame Soy Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 TBSP chili paste
  • 1 TBSP sesame oil
  • 1 TBSP apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 green onion, diced

Whisk all ingredients together and set aside

Second: Coconut Peanut Garlic Sauce

  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 2 heaping TBSPs of natural peanut butter (‘natural’ means it should be nothing more than peanuts and salt)
  • 1 lime – juice and zest
  • 1 TBSP soy sauce
  • 1 TBSP fish sauce
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 clove of garlic, diced and smashed with the back of a fork
  1. Turn your stove onto medium heat and preheat a saucepan.
  2. Add coconut milk, peanut butter, and smashed garlic to hot pan and gently whisk until smooth.
  3. Add lime juice, zest, grated ginger, soy sauce, and fish sauce; whisk until incorporated.
  4. Turn off heat; set aside.

And… tada!

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Spoon a little sauce onto the roll before each bite. (I like spooning better than dipping because you don’t lose any of your filling into the dip.)

Enjoy!

By the way, a final note: these sauces go way beyond the spring rolls. The vinegrette is great for cabbage salad or for marinating cucumbers in… and the peanut sauce is amazing on chicken skewers (think chicken satay), as a dip for grilled prawns, etc.

Happy Thursday everyone!

Quinoa + Chimichurri = LOVE

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Chimichurri, a traditional Argentinian condiment, is one of my obsessions.

When I make it I love how the fragrance fills up my kitchen, coats my skin, and gets my mouth-watering.

If you google how it’s used, you’ll find that it’s traditionally used for meat. But, hey: buck tradition and don’t stop there! I marinate halibut in it… I use it for dipping potatoes in… it’s amazing slathered on eggs in the morning… and, you guessed it: is it pure heaven when added to a bowl of warm quinoa.

Basically, chimichurri is this: herbs, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and some heat (like red pepper flakes or a bit of fresh jalapeno) all mashed up together into a thick paste of sorts. (Traditional recipes also use a little vinegar, but I’ve never added it to mine.) I never measure – but here’s the general proportions I use when making  a batch:

  • 1 handful of cilantro
  • 1 handful of basil leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • about 1/4 cup of olive oil (and add more if necessary to get desired creaminess)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • red pepper flakes to taste

NOTE: You can also use basil + parsley, or basil + oregano, or cilantro + parsley… or you can just do a single herb. The possibilities are unlimited!

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When using chimichurri with quinoa, you’re really ‘dressing’ the salad – so you don’t want to go overboard. My ratio is typically about 2 TBPS (to start) of chimichurri to 1 cup of quinoa. (If your quinoa is pre-cooked (good girl!), warm it just a bit before mixing; warm quinoa helps get the chimichurri to evenly coat the whole bowl.)

Use the quinoa + chimichurri as a simple salad – or make it the base for a more hearty salad! For example, the other day we grilled burgers – and, you know me: I’m not a bun or bread girl. So, in place of my bun, I used my quinoa + chimichurri salad, I added some warm peas and corn, and voilà: check out my ‘rebel burger’:

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Quinoa + Chimichurri Salad with Peas and Corn, Topped with a Hamburger Patty, Goat Cheese, and Arugula

 

I hope my plate of yumminess makes you think outside the box for how you can use your quinoa + chimichurri. And, I hope your big takeaway from today is this: make chimichurri. Your quinoa will love it… and so will you.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

An Herbed Quinoa Fennel Grapefruit Salad to Brighten Your Day

The house is quiet.

Kids are at school learning (thank God!), laundry is turning in the dryer, I hear the hum of a lawnmower out my window, and… I am breathing for the first time in days.

Breathing.

Thinking.

Processing.

Camping on this sweet verse from Isaiah 63:9: In all their distress He too was distressed, and the angel of His presence saved them. In His love and mercy He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

Isn’t that beautiful?

It reminds today I’m not alone in my distress… this natural distress of discomfort I’m feeling as we slowly move into this new land with kids in new schools, new friends, a new home (soon), and new ways of doing things. (Oh, and the distress of thinking “how in the heck am I going to pack up this house?? Agh!)

But truthfully, I am so, so very excited to see how God grows and matures and teaches each one of us through this adventure. Because, if I know anything to be TRUE, it is this: His GOODNESS is present with us every step of the way.

So, with that in mind, I thought I’d share something good with you today – a yummy, ‘brightening’, ‘uplifting’ mama-meal like this:

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Herbed Quinoa Fennel Grapefruit Salad

A mama-brightening salad for sure!

Not only will you feel light and clean and bright after eating it, there is JOY in the journey of making it! The fragrance of the basil and mint on your skin, the feel of grapefruit juice running through your fingers as you section out each little piece, the sight of the warm amber honey drizzling over the bowl of freshness. Talk about a party for your senses! And, hey, – isn’t that what all of us mamas need: joy in our journey?

So – enjoy!!!

Here’s what you need to make enough for you and a friend:

Beautiful and fresh ingredients...

Beautiful and fresh ingredients…

  • 1/2 heaping cup of precooked quinoa
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 3 small grapefruits
  • 6-8 basil leaves, diced
  • 10-12 mint leaves, diced
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 TBSP honey
  • a pinch of salt and black pepper
  1. Slice up your fennel bulb in thin slices like this.
  2. Section out your grapefruit pieces like this.
  3. Add pre-cooked quinoa, diced herbs, a pinch of salt and black pepper; toss lightly.
  4. Drizzle the warm honey over the top and, again, toss lightly.

That’s it!

Final notes:

** The basil and mint will turn brown if left too long in the salad… so this is best enjoyed FRESH. If you are going to eat only half and save the rest for later, add the herbs to your portion only.

** The juice from the grapefruit and the honey are the only ‘dressing’ this salad gets. I section my grapefruit right over the main bowl to capture the juice as I work. If you don’t want too much juice in your salad, you may want to section over a separate bowl so you can control how much juice you ‘dress’ the final product with.

 

 

Coconut Mung (“Mungo”) Beans and Quinoa That Would Make My Nana Proud

What I’m about to share with you goes deep.

It’s not just any recipe – it’s a recipe that has me 8 years old with smoke in my eyes and my nana’s voice in my ears. It’s a dish I remember coming home to after school; I’d get off the bus and my old lady would yell from across the yard and over the chickens, “Come on for mungo beans.” It would be close to 90 degrees out and I’d be dying for a cold shower to rinse off the sticky island sweat. But man, when mungo beans were on the table, her smoky outdoor kitchen was the only place I wanted to be.

I’d sit down and she’d hand me a military-issued spoon and metal bowl filled with mungo beans simmered with coconut milk from the yard and ham from the neighbors pig down the street. I’d wash it down with ice cold rain water from one of her rusty can cups – and, as I ate, she wouldn’t say a word. No questions about school. No small talk about homework or friends or chores. She’d just sit and watch me eat while she used a paper plate to fan away the heavy heat and the flies… and that’s how she loved me.

Dried Mung ("Mungo") Beans

Dried Mung (“Mungo”) Beans

Mung beans – aka”mungo” beans. Small and simple, yet full of flavor – just like my sweet nana.

I used to have to buy them at oriental food stores (they originated in India, but are big in Chinese and Asian cuisine), but now can find them in the bulk section at my local grocery – which thrills me. They are GORGEOUS little things – my favorite green – with a very mild flavor.

Now, my nana’s original recipe used something I don’t have: fresh out-of-the-coconut coconut milk. Thankfully, however, there are good canned versions that get me pretty close to the original taste.

On the other hand, I use something my nana never did: quinoa. The quinoa gives another layer of flavor and better texture… and look how beautiful it sits in your bowl:

Coconut Mung Beans and Quinoa topped with Bacon

Coconut Mung Beans and Quinoa topped with Bacon

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • EVOO to coat the bottom of the pan (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
  • 2 cups whole dried mung beans
  • 6 cups broth
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced and smashed
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 2 TBSP soy sauce
  • Black pepper to taste
  • For garnish: pre-cooked bacon
  1. Heat a soup pot and add enough EVOO to coat the bottom.
  2. With pan on medium high (a 7 out of 10), add onions and garlic and sauté for about a minute or two – just until the onions are translucent.
  3. Add dry mung and broth. Bring to a rapid boil for a few minutes, then turn down heat to medium, cover the pot, and allow to simmer gently for approximately 45 minutes. NOTE: You want the beans tender, but intact.
  4. Once beans are tender, add the coconut milk, soy sauce, and black pepper; and, gently incorporate the ingredients into the beans.
  5. DONE!
  6. Ladle beans into bowls and top with crispy bacon bits… and some chili paste if you like some heat!
  7. NOTE ON BACON: No, you can NOT use bacon bits out of a jar – and, as a matter of fact, you shouldn’t even own bacon bits in a jar! To cook bacon I always do it in the oven – and you can do it while the beans are simmering for this dish. Just preheat the oven to 425, and then cook bacon on a cookie sheet for approximately 12-15 minutes, or until perfectly crisp. No mess, no turning, no babysitting: just perfect bacon to make your bacon bits.

Now, you’ll notice I didn’t have any ham in the recipe like my nana did. (You can definitely simmer a hambone in the beans and you will be thrilled with the flavor. I, however, don’t typically do it that way – mainly because I rarely have a ham bone hanging around.) But, while I don’t cook the ham in the soup, I do top the bowl with the bacon bits – an alternative that adds great presentation and crispy bacon texture.

DSC05939 Beautiful, isn’t it?

Rebel on,

 

Um, More Cauliflower Quinoa Soup, Please

We eat a ton of cauliflower in our house.

Raw. Roasted. Sautéed. Stir fried.

I was just telling a girlfriend yesterday that when I roast it and put it on the counter to cool, I often return to find little fingers have nibbled the entire pan away.

Our favorite way hands down, however, is this:

Cauliflower Quinoa Soup

Cauliflower Quinoa Soup

… the most savory bowl of yumminess ever.

The inspiration for this recipe came a couple years ago from The Pioneer Woman. Of course (because I need to be in control, lol) I made some tweaks that work better for the way we eat in our home (nixed the butter and flour, added garlic, upgraded from milk to cream, and added quinoa).

Don’t worry, though – this recipe is SO SIMPLE. Truly.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, diced and smashed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 celery sticks, chopped
  • 1 head of cauliflower, broken into small florettes and roughly chopped (trim off the stalks from florets as best you can)
  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 2 cups precooked quinoa
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Warm a big soup pot and add the EVOO. Once EVOO is hot and loose in the pan, add onions, garlic, celery, and carrots. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly so garlic doesn’t burn.
  2. Add chopped cauliflower to the pan and continue to sauté for another minute or two. Then, cover pot, reduce heat to just under medium, and allow veggies to soften for about five minutes. (Yes, you’ll want to give them an occasional turn with your spoon during that time.)
  3. Uncover the pot and add the chicken stock, heavy cream (optional), fresh parsley, and precooked quinoa. Bring soup to a gentle boil; then, reduce heat to just under medium again, cover and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes. (Also, if you need more soupiness (we like it a little thick in our house), just add more broth until it reaches the consistency you want).
  4. When it’s done simmering, grab a spoon and give it a taste! This is how you’ll determine how much salt you’ll need. Once you’ve tasted it, add in a little salt and pepper to taste.
  5. To serve, ladle into a beautiful bowl and sprinkle on some crushed chili pepper for those that love a little heat. (You can also add a little extra parsley for presentation.)

NOTE: If you are DIARY FREE, you can make this without the addition of the cream. As I sit here and think about it, I wonder if coconut milk as a substitute would add a little something special to this soup!

Enjoy… and, as always, Rebel On.
Elisha

It’s Valentine’s Day: Eat Sexy Quinoa

Okay, since it’s Valentine’s day and “love is in the air” as my 5-year old proclaimed this morning, I must post a sexy quinoa recipe.

Yes, I said “sexy quinoa”. Did you know it could be so?

Well, when you pair it with some foods touted as “aphrodisiacs”, there is nothing ‘blah’ about this favorite superfood of mine. To the contrary: what you get is a sexy, flavorful, spicy, ‘I want some more’ salad you’ll want to make over and over (whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not).

Lookie lookie:

A Sexy Quinoa Salad with Pomegranates, Basil, Ginger, Banans, Honey, and Crushed Chili Peppers

A Sexy Quinoa Salad with Pomegranates, Basil, Ginger, Banans, Honey, and Crushed Chili Peppers

Here are your ingredients… and, if you click on the links, you’ll learn why each ingredient is prized as a ‘sexy’ food:

  • 2 cups of cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
  • 1 small fresh banana, sliced into quarters and then diced
  • 5 fresh basil leaves, diced
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • a sprinkle of dried chili pepper flakes (how hot can you handle it?)
  • 1 TBS honey and a splash of water
  1. Mix all ingredients into a bowl.
  2. Warm the honey and water in the microwave for about 15 seconds so that it is pourable, and pour it over the salad.
  3. Stir thoroughly so that all ingredients are coated in honey.

It would make a great pre-dinner treat, or a really nice dessert salad to cleanse the palate.

Hey, maybe you just make it because you’re man is on his way home and you need a little pick me up before he walks through the door.

However or whenever you eat it, ENJOY… and love, love, love being with your man.

Happy Love Day, everyone!

Rebel on,
Elisha

Who Couldn’t Use Some Quinoa Love Soup…

There is something about soup that warms your bones – isn’t there? I think that’s why I’ve been on such a soup kick lately – because that’s what we all seem to need these days: warmth.

…and comfort.

…and coziness.

…and rest.

…and simplicity.

…and love.

Life gets so busy and so fast – and then a cold, or a heartache, or our spirit simply says, “Since you won’t choose to slow down, I’ll choose it for you…” and rest is graciously forced upon us.

Well, the other night my sweet Kenna was in her ‘resting’ period. A low grade fever and cough had taken away her basketball practice and her gymnastics class. She was on the couch with a good book and a kitten curled up at her neck… and I filled up her belly with this beautiful “Love Soup”.

Quinoa Love Soup

Why “Quinoa Love Soup”? Because it’s a spin on a traditional italian wedding soup – but without bread crumbs and pasta, and with the addition of quinoa. (I also don’t go through the step of pre-cooking the meatballs or adding egg to the soup. My recipe is quicker and simpler, but doesn’t compromise on flavor.) And, can I just tell you: it’s light, savory, and chalk full of nourishing and healing ingredients. Your bones will love you for it.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 3/4 pound of ground hamburger (NOTE: I buy hamburger with 20% fat because it has better flavor than the lower fat options.)
  • 3/4 pound of seasoned italian sausage
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced and smashed with a fork
  • 8 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 head of escarole, washed and chopped into 1″ strips (NOTE: You’ll have to find this at a local grocery store that offers a greater produce variety)
  • 3 large carrots, washed and peeled
  • 4 cups of pre-cooked quinoa
  • fresh grated parmesan (for garnish) (NOTE: The taste of fresh grated parmesan is totally different that parmesan out of a can. Do yourself a favor and ditch the canned parmesan… your taste buds will thank you)
  1. Make meatballs: Blend together the hamburger and the italian sausage and form into small 1″ balls. Place finished meatballs in a single layer on a plate. Set aside.
  2. Heat a large soup pot and add 1/4 cup EVOO to pan. Sauté your onions and garlic until onions are translucent, stirring constantly so that garlic doesn’t burn.
  3. With your stove on high, add broth to the pot and slowly drop uncooked meatballs in. Once broth comes to a rapid boil, reduce heat, cover pot, and cook for 6-8 minutes.
  4. Add in chopped escarole and, with a large spoon, push all greens down into the broth so they begin to wilt. Then, take your carrots and create carrot ribbons by peeling the carrots directly into the soup. Cover and cook another 3-5 minutes on medium high.
  5. Turn off heat. Add in your cooked quinoa.
  6. (NOTE: If you need more “soupiness”, you can add additional water one cup at a time.)
  7. Ladle finished soup into bowls and top with fresh grated parmesan and black pepper.

Warmth for your bones… and your spirit

It’s an easy winner. I promise…

Rebel on,
Elisha