YOU CAN DO IT: Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Walnut Balsamic Salad

DSC04842 (1) I’m a big believer that we women need to feed ourselves well if we expect to have the stamina to do all life calls on us to do. And, the better we feed ourselves, the better those we’ve been entrusted with will be fed and loved.

Today I want to share with you one of my favorite things to prepare and keep on hand: roasted brussels sprouts. Roasted veggies, in general, are divine… and,if you have them on hand, they make a perfect foundational ingredient for numerous less-than-5-minute power meals. I’m always roasting sliced sweet bell peppers, cauliflower, root vegetables. The process is the same for every veggie (although the time in the oven may vary depending on the nature and size of what is being roasted).

Okay – so back to the brussels sprouts.

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Next,to prepare the brussels sprouts, trim off the stem end, cut them in half, and peel off the outer layer of skin. (Since I peel off the outer layer, I rarely wash them before using them.) Then, place them in a bowl.

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Drizzle about 1/4 cup of good quality olive oil* per pound of brussels sprouts. (*TIP: different varieties of olive oil really do affect the taste of your finished dish. So, keep that in mind when shopping for ingredients.)

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Sprinkle 1 tsp of sea salt per pound of brussels sprouts…

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And about 1 tsp of black pepper per pound.

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Stir to coat all the brussels sprouts evenly and then pour out into a single layer on sheet trays.

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Roast in your preheated oven for 10-14 minutes. (NOTE: I’ve seen recipes that say roast brussels sprouts at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes. For the love – no, no,no! If you roast for that long at that high of heat, you will burn the brussels sprouts and they’ll start to stink of hydrogen sulfide since heat-activated enzymes go to work on the sprouts’ nutritious sulfur compounds. Yuck. (I think overcooking is why many people are completely adverse to brussels sprouts.) It’s very important to roast only long enough to brown and soften.)

They’re done when they look like this:

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Transfer all the roasted brussels sprouts into a large bowl.

Now… on to turning these roasted beauties into a salad!

Using one of the sheet trays you roasted on, pour 1/2 cup of whole walnuts. Using a flat-bottomed glass, crush the walnuts like this:
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…so you end up with pieces like this:

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Put the tray back into the oven and toast the walnut pieces for about three minutes. Take the pan out, give ’em a quick stir, and return them to the oven for another three minutes.

Pour the toasted walnuts into the bowl with the roasted sprouts and then here is where you do something very simple: drizzle some really, really good balsamic over the whole bowl. Now, here’s another tip: just like different olive oils offer a unique flavor, the balsamic you use will also offer a unique flavor.  Really good aged balsamic should be thick – almost like syrup, and it should have a tangy sweet taste, not a vinegar taste. So, for this recipe (or any recipe where the balsamic is used as a stand-alone ingredient (versus blended into a dressing), I’m using the good stuff.

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Stir all the ingredients together and viola! You have a salad: roasted brussels sprouts & walnut balsamic salad.

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Pair a cup of salad with a cup of quinoa… or, add a couple hardboiled eggs and call it good. No matter how you eat this up, I promise: you’ll be satisfied and ready to keep on keepin’ on.

So, tell me: how’s your Advent coming along? You ready for Christmas yet?

Thankful you’re here 🙂

Royal Quinoa Pasta: The Perfect Friend For Your Leftovers

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Whew, big week in my heart. Lots going on… lots of hope, creativity, and EATING.

Yes, we are always eating in our house, which means I’m always cooking and loving on my babies and my man through my food. What happens a lot, though, is we end up with lots of odds-and-ends in our leftovers.

Whenever I take stock of our leftovers I pretend I’m playing “Chopped”. (If only they’d put me on the show already… you hear that Food Network? PUT ME ON CHOPPED!) I look at the foundational ingredients, think up some unique way to add another flavor layer or texture and then – boom! – a brand new meal.

Today I want to share how I used leftover salmon and sautéed broccoli to make a delicious, bright quinoa salad. The twist? Instead of using quinoa grains like I typically do… I used this:

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The Green Quinoa Royal Quinoa fusilli pasta has become a favorite of mine. I’ve been using it in place of regular pasta in COLD pasta salads (they are very tender noodles, so hot applications tend to make them disintegrate)… and, not only do I appreciate the nuttier flavor of quinoa pasta, I really appreciate how it doesn’t leave me feeling ‘stuffed’ (like regular pasta often does).

Now, before I share the recipe with you, here are SPECIFIC TIPS for using Royal Quinoa pasta:
  1. Bring the water to boil, add 1 TBSP of olive oil, and 1 tbs of salt before adding the noodles.
  2. Cook the noodles for about 5 minutes – you want them al dente.
  3. They are very, very tender – just like egg noodles. So, don’t overcook them or let them sit in the hot water after cooking.
  4. Immediately drain and rinse noodles under cold water to stop them from cooking any further.
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Once my noodles were cooked, I put them in a big bowl with my leftover salmon and leftover sautéed broccoli….

 

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Then I chopped up some sweet cherry tomatoes and a little red onion…

 

I used my favorite tool in the kitchen - my Microplane Zester - to add the zest of one lemon...

I used my favorite tool in the kitchen – my Microplane Zester – to add the zest of one lemon – and YES, YOU MUST ZEST!!…

Then I squeezed the juice from the zested lemon, drizzled some olive oil, sprinkled some black pepper and sea salt, threw in a big handful of baby spinach and some chopped fresh parsley and – BOOM – this:

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I bet your mouth is drooling, isn’t it. Y.U. M. Seriously. On days like this I have no problem being the “Queen of Leftovers and Lasts“… especially when I see the delicious beauty that can come from a little playfulness.

So, if you’re looking for a new way to mix up your leftovers, think of these Green Quinoa Royal Quinoa fusilli noodles… and let the creativity flow!

Have a great, relaxing, NOURISHING weekend everybody… and come back on Monday for some BIG NEWS on a BIG GIVEAWAY.

(This post was sponsored by Green Quinoa – but, you know me and my love for quinoa… and you can trust this recipe and opinions are all my own. 🙂 )

BTW: once you have your delicious salad to sit down and enjoy, I hope you'll join me on the 31 day challenge I started yesterday - just click here or here to keep up with the daily posts.

BTW: once you have your delicious salad to sit down and enjoy, I hope you’ll join me on the 31 day challenge I started yesterday – just click here or here to keep up with the daily posts.

YOU CAN DO IT: Tangy Roasted Beet & Quinoa Spring Salad

We’ve owned the house for about a week now, but nothing major has started just yet. We had every intention of taking possession, starting demo and getting to work… but, there’s something different about this place. There’s something deep and solid and weighty that’s drawn us in and asked us to just – listen.

Several of our friends have even said to us, “Don’t rush – you gotta live in it first to really know what to do.” While that goes totally against how we usually tackle things, we see the wisdom in it for this home and this season of our life. Stillness. Quietness. Patience. LISTEN.

So, listening is what we’ve done for the last seven days.

We lit fires in the early morning coolness and listened to the crackle of wood that came from trees in the yard. We’ve sat on the hardwood floors in the mid-day sun and drank iced tea while listening to the house adjust its bones and welcome the warmth of the afternoon. We’ve listened to the kids squeal and laugh as they had water-balloon fights on the deck. We’ve looked down into the yard and listened to the birds, the squirrels, the frogs, the ducks. We’ve walked the rooms over and over listening to the beautiful quiet the empty house holds…and, in the quiet, we’ve listened to God’s kind, sweet voice saying, “You’re welcome” to the thanksgiving prayers our hearts constantly utter.

Listening has been good – really good… and, now as we begin the work, we feel we’re doing it in connection with all this house holds.

With all that said, staring today (and for the next few posts) I want to share some of the things I learned “in the dark”. (When I say “in the dark”, by the way, I’m referring to the pit of uncertainty (i.e. darkness) stressful situations often thrust us into. The four weeks leading up to the closing of our house I was “in darkness”: scattered, unsure, and depending wholeheartedly for my Father to work everything out as I woke each day and simply did the next right thing. The paperwork requests, the documents to sign, questions, the stress of three families behind us waiting for US to close. I was not myself, to say the least. But, as Jesus said, “What you hear in the dark, proclaim in the light.” So – here I am: out of the dark, back in the light, and excited about some really cool things the dark taught me.)

The first lesson I learned in the dark:

Beets are really good things.

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I’ll be 42 in just a couple of months and, with all seriousness, I have never in my life eaten a beet. EVER. (I’m pretty sure I was traumatized after having a salad bar beet forced upon me as a child and I’ve never allowed them to touch my lips again.)

As we were going through the last four weeks, however, my homemaking duties were falling short – waaayyyy short. Not a day went by where the kids weren’t saying, “Mom, we’re out of…”… and, we honestly ate burritos probably four out of the seven nights a week for four weeks in a row. I grabbed take out more than I’ve ever grabbed take out in all our years of marriage – and, just like I had to grab take out for the family dinners, in the middle of the day I was so short on food I found myself gravitating to the Whole Foods salad bar for my personal sustenance. (I know, I know – quinoa saves the day! So, you know if I didn’t even have quinoa on hand – I was in a bad state of affairs.)

Enter, the beet salad.

There was something about the particular day I choose the beets: it was sunny outside, I had just finished a workout, the salad title said, “tangy beet salad”… and yes, I was dying for a little ‘tang’ to give me a pick-me-up. While the color and the title caught my eye, I did have to ‘amp it up’ a little. So, with the beet salad I added a couple other salads off the bar: a tricolor quinoa salad and some arugula and greens from another.

I LOVED IT.

Beets. Who would have known? They were amazing! So amazing, as a matter of fact, I went in and bought an entire bunch of them just so I could recreate my own version at home… and that’s where this salad comes from.

You ready? This recipe will make two meal servings of the salad…

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First, here’s what you need:

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1.5 cups quinoa (any quinoa will do, but I did like how the tricolor helped the presentation of this recipe)
2 medium beets, rough chopped into chunks and roasted with salt and olive oil for about 20 minutes at 375 degrees
1 large handful of baby arugula
1 large handful of baby spinach
1/4 cup of thinly sliced red onions
1 TBSP of fresh diced jalapeño (or, more or less depending on your preference)

Then, for the dressing:

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1/3 cup olive oil
1/8 cup of rice wine vinegar
1/8 cup of balsamic vinegar
1 tsp of honey
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper

First, make the dressing by putting all the ingredients in a jar with a lid, and SHAKE VIGOROUSLY for about 20 seconds. Done.

Then, assemble the salad:

First, put the beets, onions, and jalapeños in your bowl, then pour the dressing over the ingredients to soak them:

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Next, add the spinach and the arugula, and toss everything together until evenly coated by the dressing:

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Finally, add in your quinoa:

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(NOTE: when dressing with a vinegar based dressing, I ALWAYS add quinoa last and never dress the quinoa directly… you don’t want the quinoa to be overtaken by the vinegar.)

Toss everything together until evenly coated… and serve: DSC04000 Isn’t this a gorgeous salad?

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The funny part is that, had I not been ‘in the dark’ and forced out of my box to eat something new, I don’t know if I ever would have discovered my love for beets… or this amazing salad.

Conclusion? Thanks to the darkness I learned beets are really good things.

What ‘good’ has come from a darkness you’ve worked through? I’d love to hear…

(FINAL NOTE (and maybe TMI): Beets CAN turn your pee red. Just saying. So, when you eat way too much of this salad like I did, don’t call your doctor and tell her you think you’re dying because your pee is red and you have no other symptoms of anything. She’ll just ask you if you’ve eaten anything out of the ordinary and, when you tell her ‘beets’, she’ll tell you have “beeturia” and then you’ll both have a good laugh and you’ll hang up and feel like a four-year old. Oh, then you’ll read this article and you’ll learn you have low stomach acid… and you’ll start eating more yogurt, drinking lemon water, and eating a tablespoon of pure coconut oil every day. 🙂 )

Up next: The second lesson I learned in the dark: Coffee is not my friend.

Thanks for being here…

Guamanian Steak & BBQ Potato Quinoa Salad

Nana in the smoke of her outdoor wood stove

Nana in the smoke of her outdoor wood stove

Nothing takes me back to the islands and the days in my nana’s kitchen then the smell of BBQ. The blend of smoke, fire, and food is pure comfort to me. (Now, if every BBQ was only accompanied by rain falling on a tin roof and roosters in the yard, I’d be in heaven.)

With that said, I BBQ steak every chance I get. I don’t do BBQ steak the way most people do, though. No BBQ sauce or fancy rubs. No, for me, I keep it simple – I keep it Guam-style, ‘nana-style’: lemon juice, soy sauce, garlic, and black pepper. It’s deliciously aromatic – and the taste of the finished product… um, divine.

What I love most about this simple steak marinade is that steak leftovers are so versatile. You can use the leftover steak in eggs in the morning, you can warm it in a tortilla with some beans and cheese and make steak quesadillas, or you can use it this – the most amazing grilled steak salad you’ll EVER eat: The beauty of this salad is not only that it uses thin strips of Guamanian-style steak, it also uses roasted potatoes and veggies you roast up on the same grill. It’s all done outside – it all takes on a nice smokey flavor – and, it’s the perfect dish for these last days of summer. So, go grab your favorite cut of beef, gather up some red potatoes and veggies, and MAKE THIS.  Once you do I have a feeling it will become a favorite you BBQ year-round.

NOTE: Before I give you the recipes for each item, here’s rundown on how timing this out should work: the potatoes will take longest, so get those on the grill first. About 15 minutes into roasting the potatoes, throw the steaks on the grill. Potatoes and steaks will come off at about the same time; and, while your steaks are resting, roast up your veggies.

First step: Turn your grill on to preheat and prepare the ‘potato pillows’ for grilling: Turn your grill on to medium high to start preheating. Close cover. Chop your red potatoes into small, even squares and place them into a large bowl. Add the parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, and lemon zest. Pour olive oil over the mixture and stir to coat all potatoes evenly. DSC01897

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Tear off a tin foil square and fill the center with potatoes. (NOTE: Keep the potatoes in a single layer on the tin foil as best as possible for ideal roasting.) Fold the foil around the potatoes into a little pouch – being sure to seal all the sides and keep steam inside. DSC01903

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Once all potato pouches are filled, lay them on hot grill. Turn burners down to medium, cover lid, and grill on direct medium heat (approx 450 degrees) for 25-30 minutes. And look what you’ll get:

Step 2: Marinate and grill the steak. Simply take your choice of steak cut (chicken works, too), and lay it single layer in a dish like this: DSC01883

Sprinkle each side of the meat with garlic powder and black pepper, then pour equal parts of lemon juice and soy sauce over the cuts. Allow meat to marinate for at least 15 minutes prior to grilling. DSC01885

Move your potato pillows to one side of the grill and grill your steaks on the other side; all burners should remain on medium. Grill the steaks on medium direct heat for 6-8 minutes per side (flipping ONCE) for medium doneness. Once you pull the steaks off the grill, cover with tin foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Guamanian Style Marinated Steaks

Step 3: Get your veggies on the grill. Drizzle some olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper over your washed, dried, and trimmed veggies (I used asparagus for this particular recipe, but I also love using sweet bell peppers, too). DSC01914

DSC01918 Grill until slightly charred.

Step 4: Assemble the Salad {4 servings… which means you’ll have a lot of steak and potatoes left over for breakfast – or more salad!)

  • 2 cups of precooked Andean Naturals True Bolivian Quinoa
  • 2 cups of roasted potatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped steak (sliced into thin strips for easy eating)
  • 1 oversized handful of fresh arugula

Place all ingredients in a bowl. Drizzle with 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 1 large lemon) – then stir to incorporate everything evenly. Taste – and add sea salt and black pepper to taste. You can also add crushed red pepper (or fresh jalapeño) for heat. Beautiful, isn’t it?

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(Want to learn more about quinoa? Check out my brand partner, Andean Naturals – importers of the best quinoa in the world 🙂 )

Happy back to school days, everyone. By the way, here’s a pic of my babies this morning. I told them to hold the signs… they said they would, but they still had to do it their way. LOL back to school

A Warm and Savory White Bean & Carrot Quinoa Salad

Where has the summer gone? Do you feel that, too? Just yesterday I saw this quote by John Burroughs: “I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.” Yep – I couldn’t put it any better than that.

Not only have I been feeling the days are too short, I’ve been feeling my days are way too filled with the ‘tedious things’. The laundry. The organizing. The grocery shopping. The laundry. The cooking. The cleaning. The laundry. (Do you do that much laundry, too?) On more than one occasion I’ve looked at the floor waiting to be swept and the dishes needing washing, and, for a split second, it’s crossed my mind to run out the door with The Kitchen House and hide in the shade of a tree instead of doing my chores. Ha! Maybe after the kids go back to school that will be my ‘free day’: shade, a good book, no chores for mommy.

Anyway, because of all the business of these last days before school starts, there’s been no real ‘plan’ for our days… which is why we ended up eating this last night:

I was staring at my pantry, my overabundance of carrots, and a nice selection of my staples: white beans, lemons, spinach, and arugula. As I started to cook, it didn’t even occur to me I was throwing together a recipe I’d be sharing with you – hence, my lack of ‘how to’ photos in this post. But you know what? It was so yummy… so fast… and so perfect for a quick meal on a summer night – I have to share it.

Here’s what I used:

1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced and smashed with the back of a fork
1 1/2 cups of carrots, peeled and grated (I chopped mine with my mini food processor)
1/4 cup fresh diced parsley
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
2 cans of white beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup of water
2 handfuls raw baby spinach
1 cup cooked Andean Naturals quinoa
1 handful of arugula
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon

In a large fry pan, sauté your onions and garlic in a little olive oil on medium high. Once onions are translucent, add in your shredded carrots, parsley, dried seasonings; stir and continue to sauté for another couple minutes. Add in your white beans and water; stir again, and allow beans to warm through for a couple minutes. Add in baby spinach, stir to incorporate, cover, and turn off heat while spinach wilts.

Place your quinoa in a large bowl. Add in one cup of your hot bean/carrot sauté, a handful of fresh arugula, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Stir to incorporate. Serve the salad and, before eating, freshly zest lemon zest over the top for garnish.

Now, here’s the truth: After I pulled out the cup of sauté for this salad – my salad, I actually mixed the remainder together with some noodles for my man and kids. So, if you have family that wants pasta – serve them pasta! But, if you want quinoa like me, do it up; and, if you have leftover saute, just mix it with more quinoa and save it for lunch tomorrow.

Before I go, please know I intend to spend more time here once our house is back on a school / work schedule. Thank you for sticking it out with me, encouraging me, and being here! I appreciate you… I hope you know that.

(Want to learn more about quinoa? Check out my brand partner, Andean Naturals. They’re raising the power of goodness and sharing quinoa with the world.)

Spicy Black Bean & Lime Quinoa Salad

I went to a BBQ this past weekend and, of course, was asked to bring a ‘quinoa salad of some sort’.

Now, when you ask me to bring a quinoa salad, I get really excited. Why? Well, because I love quinoa, of course. But, more importantly I get excited because it’s a chance to introduce people to how flavorful, fragrant, and wonderful a quinoa dish can be. I get excited to show everyone that quinoa is a true crowd pleaser… I get excited to have people say, “Wow, can I get the recipe?” (And for my ladies that asked for the recipe, this post is dedicated to you 😉 )

Hence, I brought this – THE salad my family and I can’t seem to get enough of right now:

Ingredients:

For salad:

  • 2 cups precooked quinoa
  • 2 cans organic black beans, drained and rinsed (always buy canned beans with nothing but beans, water, and salt on the ingredient label)
  • 2 large sweet bell peppers, diced
  • 2 cups of baby arugula
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, washed and rough chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1 medium jalapeño, diced (remove HALF the seeds for less spice)

For dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 2-3 small garlic cloves, diced and smashed with the back of a fork
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp cumin
  1. Put your quinoa and beans into a large bowl.
  2. Add your argula, chopped cilantro, diced bell peppers, red onion, and diced jalapeño.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together your dressing ingredients and pour dressing evenly over the top of the salad.
  4. Stir to evenly coat all ingredients, taste for flavor, and (if necessary), add more salt and pepper to taste.

Here’s what it’ll look like:

 


And then look at the bowl of beauty you end up with:

(NOTE: this recipe makes about 4-5 full bowl servings. But, here’s the good news: it gets better as it sits! So, even if you don’t have a BBQ or a big crowd to serve, make the full batch and save the rest for the next day or two. You won’t regret it.)

Happy Monday, everyone – I’m so glad you’re here with me. (If you’re on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, connect with me there, too!)

 

Pepper Boats Filled With Lemony Quinoa Tuna Salad

Growing up, my mom didn’t cook often.  She could cook – and when she did she filled our house with delicious Puerto Rican inspired food – my favorite being her famed tostones with a sprinkle of sea salt. But, since my nana lived with us and my nana lived to cook, over time I think my mom just leaned into nana’s love and was happy to let the responsiblity of cooking regular meals out of her hands.

With that said, my mom was our snack queen. It was my mama that took our armfuls of just harvested avocados and whipped together the guacamole we’d devour by the spoonful; it was my mama that mixed our over-ripe papayas, bananas, and mangos into cold cottage cheese; it was my mama that would take our just-picked calamansi lemons and squeeze warm juice over green pepper boats filled tuna. Yep, it was my mama that welcomed us in from the mid-day, sticky island heat and made in-between meal snacking something of refreshing delight.

So yesterday, as I retreated inside from the 90 degree weather craving something light and refreshing for mid-afternoon sustenance, I spied these two things…

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and, as a vision of my mama flashed through my mind, I knew what I had to make: pepper boats filled with lemony quinoa tuna salad.

All you need is 5 minutes and:

  • 1/2 cup of pre-cooked quinoa
  • a can of tuna (I like the tuna in olive oil because it’s less dry)
  • 1 sweet bell pepper
  • 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 TBS of soy sauce (or liquid amines which taste almost identical)
  • 1 TBS of olive oil
  • 1 tsp of black pepper

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Put the quinoa, tuna, and black pepper into a bowl, then drizzle with olive oil...

Put the quinoa, tuna, and black pepper into a bowl, then drizzle with olive oil…

drizzle with soy sauce...

drizzle with soy sauce…

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squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the mixture.

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Next, slice the cheeks off the pepper so you end up with pieces like this…

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and, after you’ve mixed your tuna salad really well, fill the cheeks like this.

Since there’s no mayo or sticky binder in the salad, yes – the filling might be a little loose as you eat. But hey – it’s summertime! Make up a plate, head outside in the shade, and don’t let a little mess get to you. The kids with popsciles dripping down their arms don’t seem to care… 🙂

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…

 

Bring the Wow: Quinoa Stuffed Portobellos and Simple Arugula Salad

I’m sure many of you have calendars that are filling up fast for the holidays. Either you’re going somewhere… or people are coming to you. Either way, you + food are a given.

That’s why you need to know this little number:

Quinoa Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Now, If you google ‘quinoa stuffed portobellos”, you’ll find lots of options. But, it’s not just my stuffing that makes these so special (although, if I say so myself, my stuffing is better than all the others I found)… it’s what you serve these little beauties with that makes them spectacular – both to the eyes and the taste buds:

…served on a bed of a simple arugula salad

…served on a bed of a simple arugula salad

The colors, the layers of flavors, the textures of the different ingredients, the brightness of the lemon zest in the salad against the depth savories and the goat cheese in the filling… this is one of those things, ladies, the gets people talking about your cooking skills. So, if you’re asked to bring a side dish, or even a salad, THIS is it.

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You in?

Here’s what you need for mushrooms:

  • 1 cup precooked quinoa
  • 4 portobello mushrooms – washed, dried, and stems carefully removed
  • 1 yellow bell pepper – diced
  • 1 red bell pepper – diced
  • 1 shallot – diced
  • 1 large clove of garlic – diced and smashed with the back of a fork
  • 1 handful of curly parsley – rough chopped
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • goat cheese
  • Panko bread crumbs

Here’s what you’ll need for salad:

  • baby arugula
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  1. Preheat your oven to bake at 350 degrees.
  2. PRE-BAKE MUSHROOMS: Place washed and dried mushrooms on a cookie sheet. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on each side and rub gently to coat. With top sides facing down on the cookie sheet, place mushrooms in oven for 10 minutes. Then, remove from oven and flip mushroom over on cookie sheet so the built up liquid drains out. Set aside.
  3. PREPARE FILLING: Using a large skillet (cast iron is best if you have one) on medium high heat, add 2 TBSP of olive oil into the hot pan. Add shallots and garlic; saute. After a couple of minutes, add all your diced peppers into the pan. Continue to saute, stirring occassionally, until peppers are softened. Add chopped parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Finally, add cooked quinoa and saute, uncovered, for 3-5 minutes; stir occassionally.
  4. BUILD THE MUSHROOM: Take 1/4 cup of quinoa filling and, with mushroom laying top-side down, heap the quinoa on top. Sprinkle a little goat cheese on top of the filling, and then evenly sprinkle panko to coat the filling.
  5. BAKE: Return mushrooms to the oven for 15-18 minutes, or until panko begins to slighly brown. Remove and set aside.
  6. PREPARE SALAD: Place 2 large handfuls of arugula in a large bowl. Drizzle approx 1 TBSP olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle 1 tsp of lemon zest over the arugula, add two generous pinches of sea salt, and 1/4 tsp of lemon juice.

There are a couple ways to serve this:

If you are serving these on individual plates, you’ll want to divide the arugula salad evenly on four plates, and then lay the stuffed portobello right in the center.

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If you are preparing this and taking them to a dinner party, cover the base of your plate/platter with the arugula salad, and then evenly place the mushrooms atop.

However you choose, here’s the result:

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Be sure to come back and tell me if you make them, okay? I’ll be excited to hear about all the ‘ooohhhhs’ and ‘aaahhhs’ they brought your way…

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.