YOU CAN DO IT: Gluten-Free Quinoa Honey Carrot Cake Bars

The other afternoon my 11-year old bakerella made some amazing carrot cake muffins. They were “traditional” carrot cake – the kind that’s moist, sweet, and covered in a rich and creamy cream cheese frosting. But, as with most delicious cakes, all the sugars meant they were definitely a ‘treat’ and not something we’d be eating on a daily basis.

But see, I want to eat carrot cake every day – it’s just the processed flours and sugars that keep me from it. So, with that in mind, I challenged myself to come up with a carrot cake that would still taste like carrot cake, but have NO refined sugars or flours. The result?

This:

Quinoa Honey Carrot Cake Bars with A Honey Yogurt 'Frosting'

Quinoa Honey Carrot Cake Bars with A Honey Yogurt ‘Frosting’

I made a couple batches before I had real success. While the first couple weren’t ‘cakey’ enough, when this batch came out I knew it was spot on. And, what did my expert bakerella say?

   

She said, “YUM.”

Before I tell you all that you need and how to do it, let me fill you in on a couple things:

1) You’ll need ground almonds. This means just take some almonds and grind them in a grinder (or food processor) until you have this:

2) You’ll also need ground oats, which means just take your gluten-free oats and grind them in the same grinder (or food processor) until you have this:

(I rarely have specialty flours on hand, but always have nuts and oats on hand. So, this is a great do it yourself – and you only need to grind what you’ll need for the recipe.)

With that said, here’s the recipe:

Ingredients for cake:
1 1/2 cups ground almonds
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
1 1/4 cup grated carrots
1 cup ground gluten-free oats
1/2 cup raw organic honey
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
1/2 cup greek yogurt

To make ‘frosting’:
1/2 cup greek yogurt + 1 TBSP of raw honey whisked together until smooth.

FOR CAKE:

Place your ground almonds, ground oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to a bowl, and mix by hand with a fork until incorporated.

Add precooked quinoa, carrots, honey, melted coconut oil, cinnamon, and vanilla to the mixture, and mix again. It will look like this when it’s all mixed:

Next, in a separate bowl, whisk three eggs until loose. Add greek yogurt, and whisk again until mixture is creamy.

Add cream mixture to dry mixture and still well until incoporated.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then spread mixture into an even sheet. Do not push into corners of the pan, though.

Bake at 375 for about 18 minutes, or until golden brown and cake springs back in center when you touch it.

Allow to cool on pan, then slide the parchment and cake out of the pan and onto a cooling rack. Slice into small squares for easy storage and snacking.

They’re sweet (but not over-sweet), moist, and have a wonderful texture. Eat the bars plain, or for a little extra sweetness add a little schmear of honey yogurt ‘frosting’, or with a drizzle of maple syrup or warmed honey. (They are a perfect compliment to a cup of coffee or tea.) No matter how you eat them, I know you’ll be saying ‘yum’ just like us.

Let me know if you make them… I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Peachy Quinoa Pancakes

I love farmer’s markets… but I really love u-pick farms. I love the hunt, the abundance, the quiet of the open space. I’m happy to wander… to move from bush to bush, or tree to tree, selecting the best of the bounty.

We usually start with strawberries in mid-late June – and, let me tell you: you’ve never really had a strawberry until you’ve had an Oregon Hood strawberry straight out of the field.

Then, in July we move to the berry varieties: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries… and, once I get picking, you almost have to pull me off the fields before I stop.

But come the last days of July into August, we move to peaches. When we went just a couple of days ago, the peaches were dripping off the trees. We picked, and picked, and picked – and, while we picked, we discussed all the great things we could turn the peaches into: peach smoothies, peach tarts, peach scones.

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For me, though, I was excited to get home with my peaches and make these:

Peachy Quinoa Pancakes

Peachy Quinoa Pancakes

YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 cups precooked quinoa
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 heaping cup of finely diced peaches (or other fresh fruit)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 TBSP organic raw honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder

NOTE: Here are a few other of my favorite variations for these fruity quinoa cakes:

bananas and cinnamon
strawberries and walnuts
blueberries and lemon zest

STEPS:

Crack your eggs into a large mixing bowl, then whisk until smooth.

 

Slice up your peaches and remove as much skin as possible. Finely dice/mash the fruit.

 

Add your quinoa and finely diced peaches to the whisked eggs, then add your flour, baking powder, and vanilla – and stir to incorporate completely.

 

Heat a fry pan and lightly butter the bottom. With pan a little higher than medium heat, use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to make patties in pan. After 3 – 3 1/2 minutes, carefully flip patties.

 

Isn’t that easy? And – DELICIOUS.

Now, seriously – don’t skimp! Use REAL organic maple syrup for these… or, maybe a drizzle of some warm honey.

 

These will become a new favorite around your house… I’m willing to bet on it.

 

Crowd-Pleasing Golden Potato Honey Citrus Quinoa Salad

 

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Last week while we were in California, my man’s little hometown had a pre-Fourth of July potato salad contest.

“I’m going to enter,” I announced the morning of.

“You don’t make potato salad,” he said with a laugh.

He was right. Potato salad isn’t something in my normal repertoire of food. I didn’t grow up with it, I’ve never been a fan of store-bought versions, and I’m not a big user of mayonnaise in many things. None of those facts were going to stop me from trying, though.

“Hey, but I do know quinoa,” I announced with a confident smile. “So I’m just going to make a quinoa salad that’s heavy on the potatoes.” We high fived and I was off to the kitchen.

The key for quinoa (and most any salad, really) is it only tastes as good as the things you put in it. So, I asked my mother in law what’s typically in a potato salad then decided simple and ‘traditional’ ingredients would be the base for my quinoa: potatoes, hardboiled eggs, celery, and green onions. Regardless of the ingredients, though, I knew what mattered most was my dressing – and I needed something that seemed traditional even though I was going against the grain and not using mayo. Hmmmm….

It took a bit for the flavors of the dressing to come together just right. I tasted, amended, tasted again, amended a little more, and then, when I felt it was done, I called in the big guns: my girls. They are my thumbs up, thumbs down critics – and I can always count on the truth and nothing but the truth when it comes to my food.

“What are you making,” Kenna asked with Selah in toe.

“Here, it’s the potato salad I’m taking to enter in the store’s contest,” I said as I maneuvered a bite into her mouth.

Three, four, five seconds passed as she let the flavors fall on her palate. She was looking me in the eye the whole time she chewed.

“Mmmmm, I’ll have another bite,” she said as she grabbed a new spoon and dug into the bowl.

“I want to try it, too,” Selah said, almost as if she was being left out of something spectacular.

Now I had both of them chewing… both of them saying ‘mmmmm’ as they looked at me and each other… and both of them asking for their own little bowl to take out by the pool for lunch. I was pleasantly surprised, to be totally honest – surprised I got them to eat potato salad! But they did – and they loved it – and it was time to get it to the store.

I walked my quinoa potato salad to the back of the market hosting the challenge and threw my proverbial hat in the ring. I was told they were only expecting 5 or 6 entries for the contest, but when I arrived there were close to 30! I didn’t have high expectations. I recognize with food that ‘good’ is subjective… and dressing my quinoa potato salad with a non-mayonaise, non-traditional dressing in this All-American town was a stretch. But, we can’t win if we don’t try, right?

Did I win? …no. And, that’s okay. When they announced the winner it was a gal a little older than me – a local mom that screamed a little when she heard her name then called her daughter with the news. She was so excited for the $500 prize I got a little teary-eyed seeing that blessing fall down on her and make her day. “It was my grandma’s recipe,” she bubbled as I congratulated her – her face was bright and her eyes were beaming. Her joy warmed my heart.

was declared a ‘Crowd Favorite’ made it to the top 5 judge off, though. And you know what else? While I wasn’t the champion of the store’s competition, the fact I got my girls to not only try this salad but ask for more… well, that’s all the win this mama needs to feel like a champion.

So, in case you’re looking to please a crowd tomorrow with your potato salad and you love quinoa and you love going against the grain of ‘traditional’, I highly suggest giving this a try. 🙂

Ingredients for Salad:

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5 pounds gold potatoes, chopped into small cubes and boiled in salted water until soft
3 cups cooked quinoa
5 hardboiled eggs, diced
1 cup finely chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped green onions

Ingredients for Dressing:

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3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2  cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 rice vinegar
2-3 TBSP fresh dill, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, diced and smashed
1 TBSP mustard (yellow or dijon)
1 TBSP honey
1 TBSP lemon zest
1 TBSP + 1 tsp sea salt
1 TBSP + 1 tsp black pepper

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Dice your potatoes in little cubes then place them in a pot of salted water to boil til soft

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While your potatoes boil, whisk all your dressing ingredients together, and set aside.

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When potatoes prick easy with a fork, drain them and put them into a large bowl. Add your diced hardboiled eggs, celery, and green onions.

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Pour your dressing over the mixture.

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Stir the mixture until all ingredients are evenly coated, then add your quinoa and stir again to incorporate.

Then…. ENJOY!

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(NOTE: This recipe will feed 20-25 people.)

Have a wonderful and SAFE Fourth of July! As always, I’m honored you’re here with me…

 

YOU CAN DO IT: Spicy Quinoa Chickpea Patties (aka Quinoa Falafel)

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I don’t know where my love of chickpeas comes from – but it runs deep.

I love them rinsed and raw and tossed in a salad…

I love them sautéed in some olive oil, fresh garlic, herbs, and seasonings for a warm power snack…

I love them baked…

I love them in soups…

I love to mash them up and make homemade hummus.

Chickpeas and all their buttery goodness make this mama happy.

Now, I have to admit something to you: while I’ve eaten more than my share of falafel, I never knew chickpeas were the main ingredient. Seriously. But when I discovered that’s what a falafel is – a chickpea patty – what do you think occurred to me? Yep, you guessed it: I must blend my two loves – quinoa and chickpeas – and whip up my own version of falafel.

You ready to try it? I hope so, because they are little cakes of savory protein goodness.

Here’s what you need:

Special tool: food processor

Gather your ingredients (you’ll end up with 10 3″ diameter patties):

  • 1.5 cups precooked quinoa
  • 1 can organic chickpeas (garbanzo beans) – drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup diced white onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 TBSP gluten-free flour (or any regular flour will do if you’re not gluten free)
  • 2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
  • 1 TBSP  olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder

Get to work:

In the bowl of your food processor, add everything EXCEPT the quinoa and flour…

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Process until mixture is smooth like a paste…

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Add in your precooked quinoa and the 2 TBSP flour (the flour didn’t make it into this picture, sorry)…

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Then, with the best tool around – your hands – mash together all the ingredients until well incorporated…

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(NOTE: I made these without the flour first and they didn’t hold together at all. So, the flour is KEY to getting these to bind properly into patties.)

Heat a flat fry pan and coat the bottom with a little olive oil…

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Form your patties, and then gently lay them into the hot pan…

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Cook them on medium high heat for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until golden brown like this…

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When they’re all done, you can eat them like I did:

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Quinoa falafel on a bed of chopped organic greens tossed in olive oil and lemon juice, served with a handful of cherry tomatoes and topped with a dollop of greek yogurt

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Or, you can just make up a bunch to pop in the fridge and eat them like a finger food when you’re craving a little something.

Just know this: they are super satisfying, have fabulous texture, and are just the thing to keep on hand for your busy mama days.

(SIDE NOTE: These would be fabulous for little eaters! If you’re going to feed them to your little ones that aren’t used to fully seasoned foods yet (5 and under, for example), cut the onion and lemon juice portions in half, and leave out all the dried seasonings except for a dash of the cumin and a little salt. Even a little bland the quinoa and chickpeas together have excellent flavor for training little palates.)

Thanks for being with me… and hey! Please SHARE this post and tell your friends:

MONDAY IS MY FIRST GIVEAWAY DAY!!!

I have a great gathering of goodies featured in my World Market TV segment from earlier this week – and someone has to win!

So, take a moment and “INVITE ME TO YOUR INBOX” on the right so you won’t miss a beat. And, if you have time, connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram for ALL my news.

Much love to you today – and remember: YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, YOU ARE STRONG, YOU ARE LOVED.

 

YOU CAN DO IT: Baked Quinoa Egg Pie

It’s been awhile, sweet friend. I’ve missed you. I don’t know what happened… I don’t know where the days have gone from January 29th to today. I was on a roll. I was writing, and cooking, and savoring every connection with you – and, then, I got quiet.

Quiet.

I feel like three weeks ago I made an unconscious decision to slip out of my tough skin – the skin I wear when I command the troops, run the house, strive to build, and do, do, do, and slip back into the softness of motherhood, and marriage, and friendship. I needed to stop striving. I needed to turn inward, and pay attention, and be still. (And with tough skin on, being still and quiet is the last thing I want to do.)

But then a couple of days ago I was standing in my kitchen after a workout, and I needed to eat.  I wanted something powerful, because I was feeling powerful. I wanted something light, because I was feeling ready to take on the world. And in that moment, I felt something else: I felt the urge of quiet lift, and I wanted something to share with you – I wanted something to empower YOU with, too.

And you know what came from that thought? This:

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A baked quinoa egg pie.

I made it, ate it warm, and then snacked on it cold the next two days. I made another variation for my Friday morning bible study group – and it was devoured. Then, I made another one today after I returned from my morning workout – and it has carried me through the day.

Just a little slice or two, a glass of water or some tea, and a piece of fresh fruit. Can you say PERFECT MEAL?

Clean. Pure. Whole. Easy. DELICIOUS.

Here’s what you need:

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For saute:

  • olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 baby Portobello mushrooms, roughly chopped in quarter sized pieces
  • 2 large handfuls of spinach
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved (this is a great way to use up tomatos that are beginning to wilt)
  • 1 handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp peppr

For egg mixture:

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups of precooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup of crumbled feta

Make sauté:

Heat a large skillet with some olive oil. Add diced shallot and minced garlic; sauté for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly so you don’t burn the garlic.

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Add in mushrooms and parsley and sauté until mushrooms begin to release their moisture (about two minutes).

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Turn off heat and add in spinach, cherry tomatoes, parsley, salt and pepper, and stir to mix thoroughly. Cover so the steam wilts the greens and tomatoes while you prepare the egg mixture.

Make egg mixture:

Butter a glass pie plate. (Yes, buttered. Don’t use chemical cooking spray – use real butter.)

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Whisk 6 eggs in a large bowl until they are loose.

Add in quinoa, feta, and then the warm sauté. Pour entire mixture into a buttered, glass pie plate.

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Bake at 375 for 18-20 minutes. Remove from oven, cover with foil, and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

DONE.

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Now, the possibilities are limitless with this dish. Just like an omelette or quiche, you can add sausage, arugula, other herbs, other greens. You could do it with leftover roasted root vegetables or potatoes. You could use any cheese – from cheddar, to goat cheese, to parmesean. Whatever your heart desires (or whatever is in your fridge) will work. Allow yourself the freedom (and fun!) to get creative.

So there. I’m back. And… I hope you’re inspired. (Because that’s why I’m here, you know? I’m here because I want you to know: YOU CAN DO IT.)

Much love to you.

You Can Do It: Kale Pesto

I love pesto.

Pesto, for me, brings back memories of my junior year in Italy. Of friends and laughs and love and long, lingering dinners where we’d hang our legs over the Arno bridge at sunset and dream of the future.

Pesto is divine.

I don’t often make pesto in the wintertime since basil (the base for traditional italian pesto) isn’t growing like a weed in my garden. So, the other day when a sweet friend told me about making pesto with kale instead of basil, I knew I had to try it… and then: I fell in love.

Here we go:

Special tools:

  • Food processor with the blade attachment
  • microplane (or other fine cheese grater)
Simple ingredients

Simple ingredients

  • 1 bunch of organic kale (remember: kale is one of the ‘dirty dozen‘, so always buy organic)
  • 1 handful organic arugula
  • 1/2 cup parmigiano regianno
  • 1/4 cup of raw walnuts
  • 3 garlic cloves (peeled)
  • olive oil
  • 1 lemon (for zest and juice)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Chop off and discard the bottom two inches of your kale bunch, and then rough chop the rest.

Place half of the chopped kale into the food processor and chop until fine, like this:

DSC09057Then add in the remaining kale and chop until no large pieces of kale remain, like this:

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Add in the arugula, walnuts, whole garlic cloves, and parmesan (and yes, it’s okay if there are some larger hunks of the cheese):

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Re-cover and chop and chop for approximately 8-10 seconds.

Next, add in the zest of the lemon (approximately 1 tsp), juice from 1/2 of the lemon, salt, and pepper.

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Re-cover, and then, with processor ‘on’, slowly drizzle in your olive oil until mixture is smooth and ‘pasty’. And, when you’re all done, it should look like this:

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Now, what do you do with it you ask? I say: what don’t you do with it!

Pesto isn’t just for pasta, even though I think that’s what most people think of when they hear ‘pesto’. To the contrary: think of pesto like a condiment – something to add a punch of flavor to just about anything. (It’s like a cousin to Argentinian chimicurri.)

You can toss potatoes in it or vegetables in it, like I did with these leftover brussels sprouts from last night’s dinner:

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You can toss quinoa in it (which I LOVE to do) and use it as a bed for a perfectly fried egg:

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You can use it as a dip for raw veggies, like I did for my cherry tomatoes today:

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You can slather it on a piece of toasted, rustic bread with a little turkey and brie…

You can add it to soup, or meatballs, or use it as a spread for grilled steak or a hamburger…

You can even mix it with a really yummy yogurt to make a perfect yogurt dipping sauce like this:

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(For the yogurt dipping sauce, use 1 part kale pesto and 1 part yogurt and mix until incorporated. The Straus yogurt is hands down my favorite yogurt to use for this type of mixture because the texture is looser than most, and also because Straus uses real sweet cream buttermilk, which gives a delicious tang to the dip.)

The key is this: just make it. Once you taste it, I promise you’ll invent ways to creatively get it into your mouth.

Be forewarned, though… pesto brings on some serious garlic breath; it’s simply the price we have to pay for the amazing flavor pesto brings. But, no worries! Thanks to visual.ly, you’ll see what garlic is great for our health – but also how to kill the impending garlic breath 🙂

Garlic - Amazing Natural Cure for Your Health

by stedas.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

And, there you have it! You can do it kale pesto.

Thanks for being here – and I hope you’re leaving inspired.

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!

You Can Do It: Mama’s Honey Vanilla Quinoa Granola (“Quinola Crunch”)

Honey Vanilla Quniola

Honey Vanilla “Quinola Crunch”

My mom’s dad was addicted to granola when I was little. He was a military man – very rigid and regimented, and when we stayed with them I knew one thing for certain: granola and milk would be my breakfast.

My grandpa would buy dozens of boxes of granola at a time. He bought the exact same brand and exact same flavor, and I could always count at least six boxes at a time being perfectly stocked side by side in the overflowing pantry. (I chuckle as I think of him standing in front of the dozens and dozens of granola options we have available today… how would he have decided?)

But anyway, with all that said, I guess you could say I have a special spot in my heart for granola… and for the sweet memories of childhood it brings to mind.

While I love granola, though, the problem I have with most commercial options (beyond the mere fact they are flat out expensive!) is they are filled with sugars, preservatives, and other junk. If you read the labels, it’s quite shocking, actually: some granola has even more sugar than the ‘taboo’ cereals like Frosted Flakes. Seriously! So, what’s a girl to do?

Make my own!

Today I’m sharing my Quinola Crunch recipe with you for several reasons:

1) It’s yummier than anything you’ll find on the shelf.

2) It’s made with nothing but amazing God-made ingredients (i.e. no refined grains, flours, or sugars).

3)  Making it yourself will save you a boatload of money.

4) It’s one more exceptional way to get a little more quinoa into your day!

5) I love you and I want you to be healthier by cutting out all the excess refined sugars you can.

So, you ready to wow yourself with your quinola-making abilities? Here we go:

Timing: It will take you about 10 minutes to put together, 20 minutes to bake.

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Tools:

  • baking sheet
  • large bowl
  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • small glass bowl (or glass Pyrex measuring cup)
  • a large airtight container for storage

Ingredients:

DRY mixture:

  • 1 cup dried quinoa
  • 1 cup toasted buckwheat (“kasha”)
  • 1 cup whole oats (if you buy gluten-free oats, this recipe will be 100% gluten-free)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut ribbons
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

WET mixture:

  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup pure coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  1. Preheat oven to bake at 300 degrees on ‘convection’ setting; or, 325 in a regular ‘bake’ setting.
  2. Mix all dry ingredients into a large bowl. Set aside
  3. In a glass bowl, melt coconut oil for approx 45-60 seconds. Add honey and return to microwave for another 30 seconds. Using a hand whisk, whisk thoroughly; then, add in vanilla and salt and whisk again to fully incorporate all ingredients together.
  4. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and mix until all dry ingredients are coated evenly. Spread mixture out on a cookie sheet so that the mixture is about one inch thick.
  5. Bake for approximately 10 minutes. Remove sheet and carefully stir the mixture so that exposed surfaces are turned under. (Pay special attention to disrupt the sides and corners since those tend to toast faster than the center.)
  6. Return sheets to oven and bake for another 10 minutes. (NOTE: The key to cooking time? You’re waiting for the mixture to turn a beautiful LIGHT golden color. So, if the mixture is already looking golden when you pull it out after the first 10 minutes, you’ll want to return it for less time after stirring; and, if you don’t notice much change in color after the first 1o minutes, you’ll be able to leave it for a little longer in the second round.) 
  7. When baking is complete, remove trays from oven and allow quinola to cool completely right on the tray. Once cooled, use a spatula to carefully release the quinola from the pan. (The more gently you work, the more chunky your quinola will be.)
  8. Store in an airtight container.

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That’s it! It is sooo yummy… and an entire tray is sooo inexpensive to make when you consider how much ‘gourmet’ quinoa snacks and granola are going for these days. (I’ve seen granola similar to this selling for close to $20+ a pound!! And this recipe? It will probably cost you about $5 for the whole tray.)

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I love to just nibble on my quinola, or it’s especially yummy as a sprinkle over greek yogurt:

Quinoala Crunch and Greek Yogurt

Quinola Crunch and Greek Yogurt

A few final tips:

  1. You can find all ingredients in most bulk bins.
  2. Buy organic everything if you can… and look for ‘unsulfured’ dried fruits.
  3. The first time you make it keep a close eye on it so you don’t over toast it! Lightly toasted, lightly toasted, lightly toasted!
  4. The quinola continues to cook AFTER you remove it from the oven… keep that in mind! So, it’s better to pull it out a little under toasted than too toasted.

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope you try it… and then come back and let me know what you think!!

Something to Make This Weekend (And Eat with Quinoa): Roasted Roots

I love to roast vegetables.

Cauliflower… brussle sprouts…sweet bell peppers… asparagus.

Now in this depth of winter, however, where locally grown fresh vegetables are hard to find, I’m gravitating towards the abundance of roots: carrots of every color, parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes, colorful potatoes (red, white, purple), rutabagas.

Carrots, Fingerling Potatoes, and Parsnips

Carrots, Fingerling Potatoes, and Parsnips

Roots have taken front and center for many of our weekly meals:

…tossed with fresh chopped parsley as a side for some roasted chicken, and served with a little chimichurri (or ketchup) for dipping

…simmered with a little chicken broth, a can of white beans, diced onions, and fresh parsley and served over quinoa

…eaten alone as hearty snack between meals

…or, like this (what I’m eating as I write this):

Roasted White Sweet Potatoes, Quinoa, Greek Yogurt, & A Drizzle of Warm Honey

Roasted White Sweet Potatoes, Quinoa, Greek Yogurt, & A Drizzle of Warm Honey

Here’s 5 tips for working with roots:

1) Organic or non-organic? According to the EWG (where you’ll find the guide to pesticides in produce), no root vegetables are part of the ‘dirty dozen’, which means buying organic isn’t necessary. (This is helpful considering the weight of these items; buying non-organic is often a significant cost saving.)

2) To peel or not to peel? I don’t peel my roots, but I do recommend giving them a good, vigorous scrub-down with a clean kitchen wash towel and some warm water. (The skins have tons of nutritional benefits, and I think they help the roots maintain a better texture when roasted.)

3) Serving size? Make double the amount you think you’ll need and store them in an airtight container in the fridge. They make for an instant super-meal anytime of day.

4) Chopping tip: You can roast various roots together, just be sure each root piece is similar in size. This will help them roast through evenly.

5) How to roast perfectly every time: Give the roots a good scrub with a clean kitchen rag and warm water. Rough chop (all in an even size) and toss with a little olive oil, a sprinkling of coarse sea salt, and a dash of black pepper. Placed single-layer on a metal cookie sheet, and roast for 15 minutes in a 400 degree oven. 

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Tell me: what your favorite root beyond the basic potato and carrot?