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(Cooking) The many faces of quinoa

I honestly have made this recipe for so long I can't remember where I found it - and it changes every time I make it. Quinoa is one of those grains you can cook SO many different ways. Quinoa can be coloured and cooked in so many different liquids: chicken stock, beef stock, orange juice, pomegranate juice, beet juice (for spectacular colouring results) and the list goes on. To read more about quinoa - check this page out. A favorite way to make it is to cook it in 1 cup of orange juice and 1 cup of pomegranate juice. (it turns it this really cool shade of pink!) - and then tossing the quinoa with fruit and yogurt for a breakfast side or main course. I'm not a heavy eater first thing so many times before heading out on a bike ride I'll make "breakfast quinoa" to make sure I get my protein to fuel my riding adventures. One of my favorite year around side dishes is a balsamic quinoa salad. I cook the quinoa in chicken stock - then toss it with marinated tomatoes and english cucumber in a balsamic vinaigrette. Talking about it is making me hungry - so I guess I'll share that recipe as well, making this post a two-fer! BREAKFAST QUINOA 1 cup prepared quinoa, cooked in equal parts orange juice and pomegranate juice 1/4 cup diced strawberries 1/4 cup raspberries 1/4 cup banana, sliced 1/4 blueberries 1/4 granola of your choice a leaf or two of finely diced fresh mint leaves 1/3 greek yogurt Dice up your fruit and toss in granola and yogurt, then add the cooled, prepared quinoa. Super easy - and can be made the night before for easy eating!
QUINOA BALSAMIC SALAD 1 cup prepared quinoa, cooked in chicken stock 1 english cucumber, diced fine 1 pound plum tomatoes, quartered 1/4 cup balsamic of your choice 2 tablespoons dried lavendar 1/4 cup slivered almonds 1/4 cup crumbled feta a splash of olive oil salt and pepper Dice your cucumber and tomatoes and put in a bowl with balsamic, lavender, almonds and olive oil. Toss to coat and refrigerate. Prepare your quinoa - set aside to cool. Just before serving mix the one cup of cold quinoa into the vegetables and balsamic, sprinkle with Feta cheese and serve.  
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(Cooking) Oaxacan Chocolate Coffee

mexican hot chocolate

 

With the pumpkin spice craze poised to take over the culinary imagination of our coffee shops from now until November 1st, I'd like to present an alternative. My go to beverage is Oaxacan Chocolate Coffee.

Mexico is one of the largest coffee-producing countries in the world, and the largest producer of organic coffee, accounting for 60% of world production. The vast majority of Mexican coffee, and particularly organic coffee, is grown by small farmers in the southern-most states of Chiapas and Oaxaca. The Oaxaca region is also known for seriously dark chocolates and earthy chiles like Ancho and Chipotle. Many of their recipes combine the coffee, chocolate and chiles - or get ground into all kinds of mole powder and sauce.

What I like about this recipe is that it makes a lot - then you have a sealed container to use for several weeks. When I first made this up I was a bit hesitant to use ancho chile powder in my coffee, but a little goes a long way - and it gives the recipe that 'hint of heat' and it partners with the cinnamon to make a delicious cup of coffee. I make batches of this all winter long, often gifting it to coworkers or neighbors. The ingredients are simple -

  • 3 tablespoons chopped Mexican chocolate (such as Abuelita or Ibarra)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup dark cocoa
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla powder
  • ⅜ teaspoon (or a pinch) ancho pepper powder, or more to taste

Put all these ingredients into a small jar, and shake to combine. Keep refrigerated. To make a spicy cup of coffee, make your morning coffee, and add two heaping tablespoons of this mixture to your coffee and stir.      

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This is one of my favorite quick weeknight meals. Some foodie friends turned me on to Fig Balsamic Vinegar - and if you are a fan of balsamics, fig balsamic is a whole different level. It's a regular visitor to my shopping cart at the store. This recipe mixes the good stuff with Herbs D'Provence, fresh garlic and a little olive oil for a dressing on our gnocchi. Gnocchi are one of those pastas that freak people out, mostly because of overdramatic Gordon Ramsey cooking competitions on TV. With patience and practice, making gnocchi at home is easy and a great pleasure. (here is my favorite recipe) but sometimes on the weeknight, there isn't time, so picking up some store bought gnocchi is perfectly fine. They key to perfect gnochhi is to be very careful not to overcook them. As SOON as they start floating to the top, they should come out of the water and be strained. Overcooked gnochhi are sad little drenched pillows; and not nearly as fun.
  • 1 cup Spinach Greens or Spicy Mix pre-washed salad
  • 2 cups store bought gnochhi
  • 4 tablespoons Fig Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 clove garlic, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon Herbs D'Provence (traditionally a mix of dried savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, oregano and lavendar leaves)
  • fresh ground parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a saucepan add the olive oil and garlic, cook for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add to the pan the balsamic and water and cook until it reduces about half. It should start to become almost a syrup but a little lighter. Remove from heat. Bring the water to a boil in your pasta pot, then turn the heat down to medium high. Gnocchi don't like being boiled, but rather just warmed up. When the gnochhi float to the top, put them in a collander and drain the excess water away. Grind fresh salt and pepper on the hot gnocchi and toss. Add the Herbs D'Provence and Balsamic Reduction and toss only to coat. Serve the piping hot gnocchi over spicy greens with a dusting of fresh parmesan cheese, and additional salt and pepper to taste. The hot gnochhi will wilt the greens a little, making them stick to the pasta. Easy to make, and absolutely delicious to eat!  
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(Cooking) Homemade Fish Sandwich with Slaw

One of my favorite experiments in the kitchen is making something at home that feels like a treat when I go out to eat. I love fish and chips! (way more than I probably should) On a recent vacation, I had basically a "fish and chips sandwich" - and thought, when I get home -- I totally need to make this. I discovered my friends over at serious eats (my favorite foody site: http://www.seriouseats.com) had already done research into a the best methods for making a fish sandwich at home. I added a bit of cayenne to the breading - and diced a chipolte pepper with some adobe sauce (from the canned variety) and added it to the slaw. With a beer, this is a close to perfect meal. You can serve this with french fries, some good old fashioned ruffle potato chips, or as is with the amazing slaw. It really is a "you can't go wrong" kind of food situation! Recipe and photo from seriouseats.com
  • For the Slaw:
  • 1 small head cabbage, finely shredded (about 1 1/2 quarts)
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • For the Tartar Sauce:
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained, and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • For the Fish:
  • 1 1/2 to 2 quarts peanut oil
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 12 ounces cod filet, cut into four 3-ounce portions
  • 1 cup light beer
  • 4 soft toasted burger buns
 
  1. For the Slaw: Toss cabbage and onion with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and lots of black pepper and set aside. Meanwhile, combine vinegar, mustard, mayonnaise, and sugar in a medium bowl and set aside for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, Make the Tartar Sauce: Combine mayonnaise, relish, capers, sugar, and dijon mustard. Set aside.
  3. To finish slaw, pick up salted cabbage and onions in batches with your bare hands and squeeze out excess moisture. Transfer to bowl with dressing. Discard excess liquid. Toss slaw to combine and season to taste with more salt and pepper if desired.
  4. For the Fish: Preheat oil to 350°F in a large wok, Dutch oven, or deep fryer. Combine 1 cup of flour, cornstarch, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, baking powder, and paprika in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Place remaining flour in a large bowl. Add fish and toss to coat.
  5. Add beer to flour/cornstarch mixture and whisk until a batter is just formed. A few small lumps of dry flour are ok. Transfer fish to batter and turn to coat. Working one piece at a time, pick up the fish and allow excess batter to drip back into the bowl. Return it to the bowl with dry flour and quickly coat it on both sides. Pick up the fish with your hands, tossing it gently in your open finger to get rid of excess flour. Carefully lower it into the hot oil. Repeat with remaining fish.
  6. Cook, shaking the pan gently and agitating the oil with a wire mesh spider or tongs constantly, turning the fish until it is golden brown and crisp on all sides, about 8 minutes total. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and season immediately with salt.
  7. To serve, place a small pile of slaw on the bottom half of each bun. Top with a piece of fish and a dollop of tartar sauce. Close buns. Serve with extra slaw and sauce on the side.
 
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Slow cookers are the perfect Friday dinner choice. You can heavily spice a beautiful cut of meat and let it slow cook and roll around in it's juices. In this case, we take a pork shoulder, dice it up, brown it in the skillet, then slow cook it for five hours. The result is a seriously flavorful tomato curry sauce and perfectly tender pork. I serve it over pasta. ------------------------------------------
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of much excess fat, then cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 medium carrot, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoon curry powder preferably Madras, or more to taste (see headnote)
  • 1/2 cup no-salt-added beef broth
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato puree
  • Salt and Black Pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Use paper towels to pat the pork dry. Working in batches, add to the skillet and cook until the pieces are lightly browned on all sides, transferring them to the (unheated) slow cooker as you go; this will take about 20 minutes total. Spoon off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the skillet. Add the onion and carrot to the skillet; stir to coat, then cook for about 10 minutes, stirring a few times, until the onion is golden. Stir in the garlic and curry powder; cook for 2 minutes, then stir in the broth, using a wooden spoon to dislodge any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Pour this mixture over the pork in the slow cooker. Stir in the tomato puree and season lightly with salt. Place the lid on the slow-cooker and cook on LOW for 5 to 6 hours or until the pork is tender; about an hour before it is done, taste the pork and adjust the seasoning as needed. I like the curry to be very strong so will often add extra an hour before. Serve hot.
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