A whole lotta quinoa

I chose quinoa for my whole grain this week and made it in three recipes. The first was a curried quinoa. This was a very simple dish with just a few ingredients. Unfortunately, the curry powder and the chili powder really overwhelmed the dish – definitely not one of my favorites.

For the second recipe, I tried to find a way to incorporate quinoa into breakfast. There are tons of tasty looking recipes out there, but I didn’t have most of the ingredients so I was more limited in what I could make. I found a quinoa-style oatmeal with maple syrup and cinnamon. It was pretty good and very quick since you just pop the quinoa in the microwave.

For my third recipe, I had tons of the leftover curry quinoa so I had to do something to salvage it. I added black beans, avocado, cilantro, and scallions to the dish and those additions really toned down the flavor. This one was a keeper!

IMG_5163This week, I definitely had more whole grains than I would normally have had and it made me think about how I could add more whole grains to my regular diet. I liked the breakfast option I made the most and would like to try that again with bananas and strawberries. Quinoa is very versatile, so there are quite a few dishes to try in the future.

I just really wanted a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner…

The title of this post pretty much sums it up. I just really wanted a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner, so for my assignment #2, meal #2 recipe, I decided to try to add some different veggies to grilled cheese. I found a recipe online for a beet apple grilled cheese, which sounded pretty good and I’d never made anything with beets before. This recipe was very straightforward; add sliced apple and beets to your usual grilled cheese. It also recommended mustard on each side of the bread, but I substituted Bandar Mint Cilantro Sauce. Have you had Bandar Sauce?  It’s spicy and delicious and goes with everything. I often eat rice with Bandar Sauce for dinner – it’s that good.

I’ll be honest, this recipe was kinda strange so I don’t think I’ll be making it again. However, it was good to think about how I could take a cheese-and-carb dinner and at least try to add some veggies to it!

Basically all veggies are new to me when it comes to cooking…

This week’s challenge was to try to cook with veggies you’ve never had before or to try using produce in a new way. I went with the latter option since I have only ever made maybe a dozen different dishes in my life. I’d like to learn how to cook my favorite veggies in new ways before I dive into eating winter melon, buddha’s hand, or some other exotic one.

For the first meal, I chose kale (which we already had in the fridge – I didn’t go shopping this week). I’ve never cooked at home with kale before, but it seems like quite a versatile veggie and I especially like that it lasts quite a long time in the fridge since I don’t shop that often. I like the idea of going shopping each week and buying the same ingredients but using them in different recipes throughout the week (I get easily overwhelming in the supermarket – so many choices!)

Because I really liked the kale and potato soup from class, I wanted to try to make a soup, but something hardier that could serve as a one-pot meal. I didn’t have any potatoes, which seem like a key ingredient for thickening soups, so I searched online and found a recipe for Lentil, Kale, and Quinoa stew. This recipe also used coconut oil, which we also had in the pantry, but I probably couldn’t have told you what it was supposed to be used for before making this. It actually added a nice sweetness to the stew. The spices included were another added bonus. The stew was hardy and it made a ton, so we had leftovers for lunch. This definitely increased my veggie intake this week and the recipe is a winner, so I hope to make it again in the future. Check back for meal #2.

Plenty of ingredients, short on time

I don’t typically cook at home at all, so having to prepare two recipes was a good way to jump in. My husband does all of the cooking in our house and is practically a gourmet chef, so that means we have a fully stocked fridge and pantry nearly all the time and every kitchen gadget available. That also means I don’t do any meal planning myself on a regular basis. I had tons of ingredients to choose from, almost all of which I’d never actually cooked before. The challenge for me, then, was figuring out what would be easy and quick to make since I’m always running short on time. I am a big fan of America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) since they make everything seem so straightforward and intuitive, so I pulled out their cookbook to get started.

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I turned to the veggie side dish section, since part of the reason I’m taking this class is to add more veggies to my diet. I chose to try to make brussels sprouts since I have never prepared them. ATK is great because they tell you how to prepare roasted brussels sprouts in the most basic way, but then they give you ideas for variations on the recipe to (literally) spice things up. I chose a roasted brussels sprouts dish with oil, garlic, red chili pepper flakes, and Parmesan cheese. I assembled my mise en place, as Bill taught us and got to put those knife skills to good use preparing the brussels sprouts. We’ve had the 8″ Wustoff knife that was mentioned in class for about 15 years…yesterday was the first time I’d used it! I’d always thought that I would be very likely to cut myself with it, but it turns out that Bill was right – if you keep the tip down on the cutting board and you hold the handle so you have control of the blade, it’s much easier (and faster) than using a tiny paring knife (which is what I would normally use).

This recipe was easy to follow and the sprouts were in the oven in no time. While they were in the oven, I prepared the spice/oil/garlic mixture on the stove top.

We didn’t have Parmesan, so I substituted pecorino romano. ATK suggested a different way of roasting (covering with foil for the first 10 minutes) that my husband does not usually do. We both thought the brussels sprouts tasted better this way.

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I had been planning to also make a pizza since we had some dough from Trader Joe’s, but I didn’t get started on the second dish until after I’d finished the sprouts and had gotten hungry in the meantime…so I started flipping through the cookbook for something quicker. Ta-da! I came upon a recipe for avocado toast. We do eat avocado smooshed on toast for breakfast sometimes, but this recipe added a few other ingredients so I thought I’d try it to see if it was any better. I got the ingredients together and I was on my way.

This was a super easy dish – right up my alley – and it took only a few minutes to make. I realized part way in that I should assemble the kitchen tools while I’m gathering the ingredients so that everything is ready to go before I get started. I also could have used a smaller bowl here:

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The avocado toast turned out well, was very lemony with the lemon zest, and was done in no time. I am always looking for recipes that I can prepare quickly and that will add more greens to my diet, so these are definitely both keepers.

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