Quinoa – – All the Cool Kids Are Doing It

I didn’t figure I would be alone in my choice to use quinoa, and I was glad to see another blog post about it already. Quinoa is one of those things I had in my cupboard because I had been wanting to play around with it, so it was great to have this assignment as an excuse to finally take it out of the cupboard.

The first recipe I tried also allowed me to take some pumpkin out of my (infamous) freezer. Healthy Quinoa Pumpkin Pancakes:


The first pic you see is actually of ground oats and not quinoa. This would-have-could-have-been a gluten free recipe except for the fact that I didn’t have almond flour. I used regular, and it turned out just fine. The pancakes were easy and tasty. One of the serving suggestions is to top with pumpkin butter. I didn’t have or make any on Saturday when I first made the pancakes, but I did find a fun recipe on All Recipes for it and made some (cutting it down by about 3/4). So I look forward to trying it with leftover pancakes tomorrow morning.

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Tangy Pumpkin Butter:


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On Monday, I went with a recipe that I have made a couple times before and really like. Quinoa Chili: http://damndelicious.net/2013/10/16/quinoa-chili/

This is really good for those wanting a vegetarian chili recipe, and it freezes well– which is great, because the recipe makes a TON. I portioned it out for  lunches and will continue to do so until I have a batch that will fit in my freezer. When I make it, I use vegetable broth to cook the quinoa. I don’t add any water later like the recipe calls for. Instead, I use seasoned beans and don’t drain them. For me, it’s a good consistency. I want it to be thick enough that it is chili rather than soup.

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Last, but not least, I tried Parmesan Quinoa Pancakes with Whipped Feta.


I cut the whipped feta spread recipe in half, and there was still plenty. I didn’t use marinara, although it  would be good, because I didn’t have a jar open. I did have some pesto open, so I gave that a shot. It was good, and I’d do it again, but the feta and the marinara are probably better options. This recipe was really easy and turned out well. I will make it again for sure.

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Overall, I was pleased with all the recipes. And  there were others  I wanted to try but haven’t had time to tackle yet. This Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Casserole is on my list for later  this week or weekend:


I didn’t end up making a huge pot of quinoa as the base for my recipes, mainly because I already knew  that I wanted to prep the quinoa for chili in vegetable broth. I did make quinoa ahead of time for the pancakes (both kinds), and I really appreciated what a time saver it was to do that once and have it ready to go for two different recipes.

I plan to continue playing with quinoa, and I need  to invest in a strainer of some sort (regular colanders are too big). For as nice as it is to make ahead and have ready to go, quinoa is a real pain to rinse and strain– especially without proper equipment.

I am going to miss these homework assignments, but I AM looking forward to not having to cook for a while and focusing on using up what is in my fridge and freezer at the end of our four weeks!

Playing with Produce

I was excited for this homework assignment, since I am always interested in ways to incorporate new/more produce into my meal planning. The big question was which produce I wanted to use. After some consultation, I decided on artichokes and squash– both items that I enjoy eating but have little to no experience (aside from the rare stuffed acorn squash) with preparing. I went a little rogue in using “squash” so that I would have some flexibility in types of squash.

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One recipe was for a spaghetti squash dish that included artichokes. Another was for a butternut squash side dish that I served with a main dish including artichokes.

First, I made Crab-Stuffed Artichokes. The recipe can be found here:


I cut the recipe in half and am glad I did. Some things I learned, or was reminded, of in the process of preparing this recipe:

  1. Read the whole recipe. I might not have made it if I had read ahead and realized I had neither a melon-baller nor a Dutch oven in my kitchen. I made do, and it worked out okay, but it added to the already labor-intensive nature of the dish.
  2. Even though I cut the recipe in half, I would use the whole 8 oz. of crab meat if I were to make it again. The stuffing was good, but I thought the crab ratio could have been higher.
  3. Trim the spiky tops off the artichoke leaves. The recipe didn’t specify that, but it would have made the artichoke easier to work with and eat. Googling images turns up lots of stuffed artichoke recipes where the leaves have been trimmed.

I ate one of the stuffed artichokes and tossed the other in the freezer for a future meal.

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That was Friday night. On Saturday, I made Spinach Artichoke Spaghetti Squash Boats with Chicken. (I added mushrooms because I had some on hand to use up.)


Props to my mom, who suggested ahead of time that I ask someone in the produce department to cut the squash for me. Thanks to her and to a nice young man at Lunds & Byerlys, I was spared a huge headache and still have all my fingers.

This recipe had lots of steps but wasn’t necessarily difficult. It made a LOT of food– half of which is still in my refrigerator. The recipe could easily be a filling meal for four people. More if you have sides, salads, or other items. I will probably portion the leftovers accordingly and toss them in my freezer. (Sensing a theme here?)

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On Sunday, I made Butternut Squash Kugel. . .

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to serve as a side dish with Chicken in Artichoke Pan Sauce:


I used fresh squash but went the route of buying some that had already been peeled and cut. It was a huge time saver. I could have used frozen, as was called for in the recipe, but I felt like that would be a little too much corner-cutting. Plus, using fresh left me with some extra squash that can use in another recipe later this week.

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As with the previous meal, I added mushrooms to the chicken dish (saute with garlic and shallot– or, in my case, onion powder– at the beginning of the gravy making process). Also similar to the previous meal, I used jarred artichoke hearts. In looking for recipes, I noticed that most artichoke recipes called for artichokes to already be jarred or canned. Given my experience on Friday night, I can see why. Definitely easier to work with.

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This recipe was my favorite by far– including the kugel side dish. Of all the recipes I prepared over the weekend, it is the meal I will definitely be making again.

The challenge with buying produce in bulk, for me, is figuring out how to use all of it before it goes bad. Sometimes, though, that’s a good challenge. As noted earlier, I am inclined to prepare recipes and freeze them; so that helps. I also like the opportunity to try multiple recipes (like making tacos tomorrow with the leftover squash after having made kugel yesterday). So that can be a fun excuse to experiment and spend time in the kitchen– if you like doing those things. The best outcome of this exercise is that I am more likely to use these produce items again in the future. While I’m not in a huge rush to handle fresh artichokes again anytime soon, I am more likely to use artichokes, spaghetti squash, and butternut squash in my meal planning from now on.

2 Recipes, 1 Assignment

Okay, friends. I have to confess that I felt a bit like a cheater when we got this assignment. Prior to coming to class, I had placed an online grocery order AND confirmed my HelloFresh subscription delivery for the week. Groceries showed up on Wednesday, and HelloFresh arrived Thursday. So I had lots of food on hand and several recipes I was committed to preparing. In general, I think I do a pretty decent job of keeping cupboards stocked. I still fall into the convenience and processed food traps, but not as much as I used to. I like to cook, so that helps.

My cupboards typically have beans, soups, and pastas. I’m not much for canned veggies. Would rather use fresh and prepare them as needed. This works out well with HelloFresh, since most of the veggies they send are fresh. The grocery delivery included bell peppers, avocados, chicken breast, and ground beef (all of which were on sale). So I decided to include one of my HelloFresh adventures in this blog post and also one of the recipes I intended to make from my groceries.

The HelloFresh recipe was Spicy Shrimp Linguine. The photo shows the ingredients that were sent and the finished product. I will confess to adding some garlic bread (the frozen kind that I know is not healthy but have a hard time resisting) to that plate after taking the picture. I was really pleased with the dish overall. I try to always choose a  pescatarian meal if one is offered in the delivery menu, because I like fish but don’t tend to buy it at the grocery unless it’s frozen or on sale. The best thing about this dish, other than the taste, was that it portioned out to three meals. I ate one Friday for dinner and put the other two in the freezer for a future meal.


The next recipe was chicken chili. This one is my own modification of the recipe on the back of the prepared spice mix (pictured). I shred the chicken instead of cutting it up, because I like the consistency better. I also use chicken broth instead of water and use the pot in which the chicken was cooked/shredded. I think it adds to the flavor. I add green chilies and bell pepper (1-1.5). In this case, I even added some celery because I had some on hand that needed to be used up. I also throw in some extra black pepper, garlic, onion, chili powder, and cumin. I’ve tinkered with this recipe for a while to get it the way I like it. The McCormick’s prepared spices are good, but they don’t pack enough of a punch for someone who grew up in Texas.


Overall, I am pretty satisfied with the state of my cupboards and refrigerator. I would say my biggest downfalls are putting things in the freezer and leaving them too long or buying things and not using them quickly enough. Part of this is a result of living alone and not always having people to help me consume what I make. Part of it is the result of buying things to experiment and then having more than I need or deciding I don’t care for it after all. (The meal delivery subscription services are helpful here.) The other thing I wish I was better about is having fresh veggies on hand. I do a better job of this– I’m sure most of us do– in spring and summer. As good as I am with freezing, I’d like to learn how to can. I think that would help me take better advantage of summer veggies. Maybe that should be my next cooking class. . .