The final week: Quin-Whaaaa?

The Whole Grain: Quinoa!

I had never cooked quinoa before, but I knew we had a bag of it in the pantry. Turns out you can just cook it in a rice cooker, which we also had in the pantry. The pantry really delivered for me this week. In looking up recipes this week I discovered you can basically just add quinoa to anything. Salad? Add quinoa. Oatmeal? Add quinoa. Burger? Add quinoa. So after learning just how versatile this little grain is and how easy it is to cook, I decided to play this week like I wasn’t completing an assignment. Next week when the class ends, what am I really likely to do with a bowl full of quinoa. Let’s find out!

Starting with Breakfast:

Mediterranean Breakfast Quinoa:

Based on this.

4447 Well… We didn’t have almonds… or dried apricots… or milk. We did have pecans, dried figs and cranberries, and almond milk! I also started with cooked quinoa, so it didn’t really need much milk. I added some oats to fill it out. I should have cut back on the salt. I liked the saltiness, but I think a half teaspoon would have been plenty.

Overall, this was a good hearty breakfast! I normally eat oatmeal because it is easy and keeps me full until lunch. Quinoa seems like it would be an equally good option if I want a little variety in my morning grains.

Now on to… Second Breakfast?

Apple Banana Quinoa Breakfast Cups:

Based on thisKIMG0030

Sam and I are driving to Indianapolis to visit our new born niece! (which is also why I will not be able to attend the last class on Tuesday 😦 But yay baby!) The drive is about 9 to 10 hours so car food is a must if you don’t want to eat fast food for every meal. These little cups are perfect for bringing along and they are a good hearty snack. I will absolutely be making these again!

And finally, the laziest one of all…

Quinoa on Any Salad You Are Eating:

Based on… Having salad and Quinoa.4462

This feels a bit like cheating, but it is probably the most useful thing I learned about quinoa and what I will be doing many times in the future.

Is that salad looking a little meager? Just throw a scoop of quinoa on there and you will not be hungry in a hour. This was a car-kale salad that I slapped the quinoa on and it got me through Wisconsin. Solid.

 

I definitely felt the difference of having a prepped grain on hand. Especially one that you can seemingly add to anything! I still have a bunch of it left and I don’t think it will be hard to squeeze in. Cooking up a batch of quinoa may become a semi-regular weekend activity for me. Which also means I will be eating more salads. All glory to the Quinoa!

Assignment 2: Trying Something New

For the “something new” challenge I went to one of my favorite places to find new eats: United Noodle. I love this grocery store! I went to the produce section and grabbed the first two things I had never seen before. These ended up being:

Chinese Okra:

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According to my research, they are not always this long…

Lotus Root:

lotus-root

I forgot to take a picture of the uncut lotus root, so here is one from the internet

I was hoping I would get lucky and simply by happenstance grab some in-season produce, but this was not the case. Both Chinese Okra and Lotus Root are fall vegetables (but given our current weather, maybe they would be doing just fine about now). Since I had no idea what these things were I turned to the internet. From what I have gathered, Chinese Okra is somewhere between a cucumber and okra. It is also known as luffa and when dried out can be used as a scrubbing sponge! The Lotus Root is more potato like, but crisper and a bit more starchy.

Dish #1: Breakfast

KIMG0046This was a pretty simple dish, but I can’t say I would recommend it. I sauteed the peeled and sliced Chinese Okra with garlic. I then made some quick scrambled eggs and steamed them together for a couple minutes.

It came out okay, and watching the scrambled eggs get all inflated during the steaming process was fun, but the flavor was weak and the eggs just tasted… soggy. Maybe with a bit of spice this would be better.

Based on this Chinese Okra and Egg Stir Fry.

 

Dish #2: State Fair Approved!

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Some assembly required

This one definitely missed the “for wellness” mark, but just sounded too good to pass up. I had some spicy pulled pork in the good ol’ deep freeze, which made the process go much quicker (I love when past-me is generous and does extra work so that I don’t have to do it now).

The frying was rough going at first since the lotus root slices hold water pretty well, preventing the thin beer

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Glamour shot courtesy of Sam learning how to use her fancy camera. Don’t get used to this.    

batter from sticking. A quick flour bath did the trick, as did letting them fry a bit longer. I actually double fried the first ones since the first go round went so poorly. It was a lot of work but the results were delicious! Don’t be surprised if you see my Deep Fried Lotus Root Sandwich stand at the Fair this year!

 

Based on this Stuffed Lotus Root with Pork.

 

Dish #3: By Your Powers Combined!

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I couldn’t find any recipes that included both Chinese Okra and Lotus Root, so I just added the Chinese Okra to this Curry. I actually didn’t add enough either. It cooked down so much that it kind of got lost.

The curry flavor was really good and the Lotus Root adds a nice crunch, but not much else in terms of flavor. I added some lemon juice to brighten it up, which helped some. My real failing was using canned tomato sauce. Such a mistake. It would have been fine if I just added a bit less or even used a can of diced tomatoes instead. Even though the flavors were all good, I couldn’t stop tasting just a hint of spaghetti-o’s.

Based on this Lotus Root Curry with Gravy

Home Assignment 1: Stuff in Pans

I am lucky enough to have a wonderful partner that actually enjoys cooking! Part of the reason I am taking this class is to start pulling my weight in the cooking department. Generally, Sam (the cooking extraordinaire) makes a meal plan for the week and then constructs a corresponding shopping list. I will chip in and cook a couple nights of the week, but my repertoire is fairly limited, so it usually ends up being one of four things I can confidently construct. This week I was set to make pan fried fish, potatoes, and  asparagus. However, our usually trusty deep freeze came up empty on the fish front.

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No fish in there?!

So I had to think on my feet and only use what we had available in the house (you know, like the whole point of this assignment). When I find myself in these situations I tend to take the “What needs to get eaten?” approach. The first think I noticed was that we had 3 dozen eggs (thanks to my mom, who dropped  by last weekend and brought some of the fruits of her hens’ labor). That is way too many eggs for us so let’s grab some of those. next I noticed the smoked salmon that has been hanging out near the back of the cheese drawer. Hey! Fish after all! That’s how I landed on the smoked salmon scramble . I decided to stick with the originally planned pan fried potatoes and asparagus on the side. The finished product below shows my minor adjustments to the recipes.

kimg0043I used hot smoked salmon as opposed to the cold smoked salmon from the recipe and instead of chives I used scallions. I also threw some Munster cheese in there since it was on top of the salmon in the cheese drawer and it looked like they wanted to stay together. I also added some dry dill, as advised by my home cooking coach (she was right, it needed the dill). I also used scallions instead of the onion in the potatoes.

Even though Sam keeps a very well stocked kitchen, I actually found it somewhat difficult to pull a meal together. I have a hard time seeing the potential finished product when just looking at the building blocks. I’m hoping to develop some of those skills over the next couple weeks.