Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mexican Quinoa

I used to be a quinoa skeptic.

I thought quinoa was a bland excuse for a rice substitute. Sure it was packed with nutrients, but I just couldn't get over the taste.

That was until I had Suzie's quinoa. It was full of complex flavor, worthy of substituting for rice. I had to know her secret.

She used the same method to prepare quinoa as she did risotto. Toasting the grains, adding sautéed onions, replacing water with chicken stock all add layers to the flavor.

That was the beginning of my quinoa journey.

I started trying more and more quinoa recipes, and actually enjoyed them. The real turning point, however, was the discovery of Mexican quinoa.

It's basically a meatless, healthy burrito bowl. And I love it! It's also super easy and quick to prepare, and it keeps well for leftovers.

1 cup quinoa
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chicken broth
3 tbsp taco seasoning
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
Shredded cheese
Plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
1-2 avocados cubed

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Saute the the onions for 2-3 minutes until soft then add the garlic and saute a few more minutes until fragrant. Add the quinoa and toast in the oil until all the oil is absorbed and you can smell the nuttiness of the quinoa, about 3 min.

Pour in the chicken stock, rotel tomatoes, beans and taco seasoning and store to combine. Bring the contents to a boil. Reduces heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 min, or until the liquid is fully absorbed.

Serve in a bowl and top with shredded cheese, avocados, sour cream/Greek yogurt and salsa.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

My Return to Blogging

It's been a little over one year since my last post.

I didn't intend to go a year between postings. I certainly didn't intend to take a hiatus from blogging. But while I wasn't looking, that's what happened.

The last year has been a whirlwind. We added a puppy, a new job, and new responsibilities. It's been a great year, but a busy year.

When 2012 ended I thought that once the crazy of the holidays passed I would be all ready to get back in the blogging swing. I had no idea that the holiday crazy was nothing compared to what early 2013 would have in store.

In January, Robert started a new job in Austin, even though my work kept me in Dallas. How did we manage that? Well, for 6 months Robert woke up and hit the road at 6:30am every Monday morning, not to return until late on Friday evening. Being apart during the work week was hard, but he was having the time of his life. On the weekends, with Robert finally home, blogging about culinary adventures was far from my mind.

Meanwhile, back in Dallas, I was quickly learning that a new puppy is a lot more like a new baby than I ever imagined. Late night wails, frequent feedings, and complete dependence on me took up a lot of my time. I loved it, but Asta  kept me from blogging too.

In June, Robert transitioned back to Dallas, and I thought for sure my return to blogging was just around the corner. It turns out, it's really hard to get back in the swing of things. Not only was I not blogging in the six months Robert was in Austin, but I wasn't really cooking either.

I'm still trying to get back in the habit of cooking regularly. But I thought it was time to return to blogging. In the end, a quote from a fitness blog was what prompted my return. The quote read, "Because waiting for January 1 is so 2012."

It may be a while before my posting is back up to my 2011 standards, but I'm ready to start working at it again.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Poached Pear Pie

Last weekend, I received four beautiful Bartlett pears in my produce share. I love pears, but they always seem to go bad before I get around to eating them. So this time I decided to make them into a pie to avoid such a terrible fate, remembering that my mom made a similar decision last Christmas.

This pie is different in the one my mom made. I stumbled upon one pie online that poached the pears in wine and spices and I decided to try that approach. As you're on the hunt for a pie for your Thanksgiving table you should definitely consider adding this pie to your spread. Beyond the fact that this pie is absolutely delicious, you should make this pie for the wonderful smell that engulfs your kitchen during the poaching process. It smells like the holidays.

Still not convinced? The day after I made this pie a coworker asked for the recipe to use as her entry in a pie bake off contest at work. I thought that would be it for my involvement, until I was asked to be a judge for the bake off. So on my lunch break, I sat on a panel of three judges and tasted 10 pies. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it. :) My coworker put her own spin on the pie and added fresh cranberries and brought home the second place prize. (And no, I didn't rig the contest, the pie was just that good!)

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Poached Pear Pie

1 1/2 cups water
1 cup sweet red wine
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4-5 pears
1 cup fresh cranberries
2 teaspoons cornstarch.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Peel, core and quarter all the pears.

In a large pot, combine the water, wine, sugar, vanilla, and spices and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, place the pears in the liquid and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer for 20 minutes uncovered turning the pears once midway.

After 20 minutes, or when the pears are tender, remove the pears and place in a chilled bowl to cool. Also remove the cinnamon and cloves from the liquid and discard.

Return the liquid to a boil and cook until it has been reduced to about 3/4 cup. At this point whisk in the 2 teaspoons of cornstarch to thicken into a syrup.

Pour into a measuring cup and let cool.

Once the pears are cool enough to handle, cut the quarters into cubes.

Line the pie place with the bottom crust and spread the pear cubes and cranberries out evenly.

Pour the syrup reduction over the pears as evenly as possible and top with pats of butter.

Place the top crust, either whole with slits cut in or latticed like in the picture at the top of this post. (Note: I needed larger slits!)

Bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbly.

Be sure to let cool before cutting into the pie, no matter how delicious it tastes or your pie slice will fall apart, not that I speak from experience!

Source: Adapted from the Queens Notebook

Monday, September 17, 2012

Jalapeno Peach Glazed Chicken

First, let me start with my sincerest apologies for my prolonged absence from writing. The past two months have been busy for Robert and I. In July, Robert diligently studied and then took the Texas Bar Exam. If any of you have taken the Bar, or lived with someone who has, then you know that experience can be life consuming. Although I wasn't the one taking the exam, I still had the long hours and sleepless nights that accompany preparing for such a big exam.

Robert and I at Rombauer Vineyards overlooking Napa Valley
 After the Bar was firmly behind us, Robert and I escaped for a week in Napa to drink some wine, take in beautiful weather and scenery, and just enjoy each other. It was wonderful! The timing of our trip could not have been better planned as the day I got back to work I was in the middle of crunch time for a project at work that continued through the month of August and into the first of September.
Pinot Noir Rose Wine with Pinot Noir grapes right off the vine
While I did not stop cooking during those two months, I did stop writing. Fortunately, during that time I stored up several delicious recipes that I hope to share with you soon! So, enough talk about what my life has been like of late, let's get to the food!

Last weekend, a good friend of ours was in town visiting his parents and invited us over for lunch where he served this jalapeno peach glazed chicken. After back to back meals of hamburgers at our tailgate for the A&M football game the day before, I was excited to have chicken and was delighted by the sweet and spicy flavors married in the glaze. I don't think we were home more than 10 minutes before I asked Robert to send an email asking for the recipe.

As I pulled up the recipe on food network yesterday, I was excited to have most of the ingredients for the glaze ready on hand. Unfortunately, I only had about half the amount of peach preserves the original recipe called for, but I did have some fresh peaches that were on the verge of going past their prime so I decided to go ahead with a little modification. Robert and I were pleased with the results and I really enjoyed the taste of the carmelized peaches on the chicken.

I hope you will enjoy this recipe the next time you grill out.

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Jalapeno Peach Glazed Chicken

3-4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1 cup peach preserves
1 fresh peach, peeled and finely chopped
1 small jalapeno, finely chopped
1.5 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
salt and pepper

Bring a pot of water to boil. Take the fresh peach and cut an x in the bottom with a paring knife.
 Place the peaches in the boiling water for a minute or so until you see the skin start to pull away from the x.
 Place in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Once cooled, peel the peaches and finely chop.
 In a medium bowl, combine the peach, preserves, jalapeno, garlic, soy sauce, mustard, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
 Preheat the grill and season the chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. When the grill is ready, place the chicken on the grill and cook for 5 minutes.
 Flip, coat with a spoonful of the glaze each and cook for 5 more minutes.
 Flip one last time and cook for about 8 minutes more, or until cooked through.
Remove and enjoy!

Source: Adapted from Bobby Flay

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pork Tenderloin with Grilled Peaches and Green Beans

Sorry again for the absence. No excuse. I am just too hot to cook. However, this dish was refreshing during our latest run of 100 plus temperatures! it is supposed to be 100 plus for the next couple of days, I thought I would share this refreshing summery dish! There is something very old fashioned about this recipe to me as well. I cannot put my finger on it, but it just seems like something people would have had in the past for summertime Sunday suppers after sitting on the front porch drinking ice cold lemonade all afternoon. 

Puppies on the back porch.

Enjoy this tasty and rather easy meal in the heat of summer when peaches reach the peak of peachiness!     
Shafer sunbathing!

Cort looking as royal as ever!

This recipe is from Epicurious, and I have made only a few changes, most noteworthy being I use pork tenderloin versus their pork chops, and I cut the oil in half. 

Shafer clearly has this lazy hot Sunday thing down. This is her favorite relaxing pose!

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1/2 cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
Freshly cracked black pepper (to taste)
2-4 teaspoons of Kosher salt (to taste)
1 pork tenderloin
1 pound of fresh haricots verts or green beans
3-4 peaches, cut in half and pitted

1. Gather your ingredients.

2. In a small bowl, combine the mustard, garlic and vinegar.
3. Slowly add the olive oil to the mustard mixture, whisking to combine. Whisk until mixture becomes creamy.

4. Season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Pour about 1/4 cup of the mixture into a small bowl. Cover and place in the fridge.

6. Season the pork loin with the salt and pepper.
7. Pour the remaining olive oil and mustard mixture (the part that you did not place in the fridge) over the pork either in a shallow dish or in a plastic resealable bag. Place in the fridge and let marinate for 4 to 24 hours. I barely got to the 4 hour mark as I did not plan ahead!

8. Meanwhile; cook the bean by boiling them in a large pot of salted boiling water for about 3-5 minutes.

9. Once boiled, immediately strain and place the beans in a large bowl of iced water to stop the cooking.

10. Drain the beans and pat them dry.
11. Place the beans in a large bowl and toss to coat with the reserved olive oil and mustard mixture that you had placed in the fridge. Set aside, as these are ready for the table when the rest of the meal is ready!
12. Prepare your grill or heavy skillet of choice. We used the inside grill for the peaches on our stove top and a heavy skillet for the pork loin. Did I mention it hit 107 degrees Saturday?
13. In your skillet for the pork, add a nice amount of olive oil to prevent sticking, and sear all sides of the loin on a higher temperature. Lower the temperature to medium and cover and cook for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally. I really really really recommend using a meat thermometer to make sure the pork is actually done. All ovens and stove tops are different. You want an internal temperature of 160 degrees. You could also place the pork in the oven to finish cooking after you have seared all of the sides. Discard the marinade that was not cooked with the pork.

14. Place your peach halves in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Toss to coat.

15. On your hot grill, place the peaches cut side down and grill for about 4-6 minutes, until the peaches begin to soften. They will also attain beautiful char markings.

16. Slice both the peaches and the pork and transfer everything to serving platters and enjoy this fresh summer dinner!

I am going to go snuggle with her right now.