breakfast quinoa

Breakfast Quinoa

So the other day, I wandered into my pantry (which is just a glorified word for the never-ending chaos that is my utility room – it just happens to have shelves and is right next to the kitchen) looking for some crackers… and it became clear to me. I mean, I had to gingerly remove and stack jars of chickpeas and brown rice on the floor. All to get to a box of crackers that was hiding behind a 5 pound bag of flour. In a moment of pure clarity, I knew. I needed a pantry clean out.

(I mean, there was some mild cursing when I almost knocked over a jar of dried currants, but mostly it was a moment of very dignified contemplation.)

One of the things I am drowning in is COPIOUS amounts of quinoa. I think I have like, 2 pounds. Which is basically – since quinoa is not very heavy in the first place – like a barrel of quinoa. Sure, there are about a million recipes for quinoa salads out there, but that just wasn’t what I was feeling.

I had tried breakfast quinoa once before, but I wasn’t thoroughly satisfied. Previously I had used rice milk and it just… didn’t do anything for me. It was pretty darn tasteless, in fact. I used regular milk here, but by all means experiment with almond or soy milk if that’s more your thing, and let me know how it turns out. And of course, this is mostly just a base recipe; you can add whatever you have in your crazy, over-stuffed pantry: nuts of all kinds, dried fruit if you have some, honey or maple syrup drizzled on top… the sky is the limit.

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Breakfast Quinoa

Serves 2, easily halved

Gather: 
1 cup quinoa, rinsed until the water runs clear
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
yogurt, to serve
jam or fresh fruit, to serve
toasted almonds or pecans, to serve
turbinado sugar or honey, to serve

Prepare:
Bring quinoa, milk, water, and vanilla extract to boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to simmer and scrape down sides. Cook at a low simmer for 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Top with yogurt, jam or fresh fruit, nuts, and/or sugar or honey to your heart’s content.

the perfect side: chopped mixed greens with vinaigrette

Confession Wednesday, you guys. I’m having an affair.

I’ve been cheating on the typical winter sides – mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, roasted squash – and fallen in love with the simple green salad.

(I think it’s serious.)

I might be alone in this, since too often I get emails or phone calls or texts asking for a good side dish involving carrots, potatoes, or green beans. Personally, I could have salad every meal. Is there anything more perfect than a simple mixed greens salad with a tangy homemade vinaigrette? (Unless Ryan Gosling is bringing the salad to you, of course. In that case, ignore this post and continue on with your amazing life.)

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People are always fascinated when I say I make my own salad dressing, but hand to God, I cannot figure out why. I tell people to try it themselves – chances are they have most of the ingredients in your fridge and pantry anyways. You certainly don’t need any fancy gadgets to make a vinaigrette. And it can be as simple or as complicated as your skills/time/confidence/imagination allows.

The basic ingredients are: mustard, vinegar, and oil. As for mustard, you can use whatever you’ve got in the pantry (although I would stay away from yellow and brown mustard in the beginning – try a classic dijon or country mustard first). For vinegar, there are so many options: balsamic, white balsamic, red wine, white wine, sherry, champagne, cider, rice wine, brown rice wine… the list goes on and on. And oils! My preference is a good olive oil, but you can always experiment with a nut oil like walnut or hazelnut, or a flavorless oil like canola or grapeseed.

When you’ve been making vinaigrettes for as long as I have (the last store-bought dressing I had expired in 2009, don’t ask me why I remember that) you end up with an impressive vinegar and oil collection. Which means you can whip up any number of crazy vinaigrettes each night. Add some honey if you want, some lemon juice, some crushed red pepper flakes. GET CRAZY.

And as far as the logistics of making a vinaigrette… step away from the bowl and whisk. All you need is a jar with a lid. Go look in your fridge for that one jar of random condiment that you aren’t sure you’ll ever use again or you’re not sure if it’s still safe to eat… go ahead, I’ll wait. Dispose of whatever ill-fated condiment was residing in that jar, give it a good scrubbing, and you’ve got your very own vinaigrette maker.

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Now for the greens. Maybe eventually I’ll get some salad greens from the garden, but for right now I’m perfectly happy with the massive tub you can get from the grocery store. (I prefer organic greens, because then I can rationalize it away when I’m too lazy to wash them.) Now here’s the kicker – I chop my salad greens. EVERY TIME. My sister-in-law turned me onto this — I call her the Salad Whisperer behind her back, because she can make a salad that will bring you to your knees with its deliciousness. I can’t put my finger on it as to exactly why I love chopping the greens up… I guess it really just makes a salad easier to eat. More composed. So you feel like your kitchen is a 4-star restaurant.

I don’t know though. Maybe it’s magic.

So, here’s my favorite two vinaigrettes. The balsamic for if you’re just starting out, and the champagne for when you want to graduate to a lighter flavor. If you’re feeling adventurous, add some golden raisins, dried cherries, or blanched almonds on top.

I’m betting you’ll develop a crush on salad, too.

The Basic Balsamic Vinaigrette

a teaspoon or so of dijon mustard
about two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
about two tablespoons of olive oil
a pinch of kosher salt
a pinch of cracked pepper

Combine all ingredients in an empty jar and shake until combined.

My Favorite Champagne Vinaigrette

a teaspoon of champagne mustard (like Cherchies)
about two tablespoons of champagne vinegar
about two tablespoons of olive oil
a pinch of kosher salt
a pinch of cracked pepper

Combine all ingredients in an empty jar and shake until combined.

Thanksgiving 2010 | Crusty Dinner Rolls and Herbed Butter

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OH MY GOODNESS.

*INSERT CRAZY LAUGHTER HERE*

I AM BREAD MAKER, HEAR ME ROAR.

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Indulge my craziness, friends. A few days ago I accomplished my biggest triumph yet! I made bread, REAL BREAD, from SCRATCH. And I’m not talking pizza dough. I’m not talking quickbreads for monkey bread. I’m talking a real, made from scratch, rises-five-different-times, honest-to-goodness CRUSTY BREAD.

Can I get a HELL YEAH?

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In case you’ve never wandered over there, my about page mentions my fear of baking. I think when I first started this blog, way back in May 2009, I listed learning to bake bread as a major goal. And last Christmas my sister-in-law Amy (of the Uncanny moniker fame) even gave me a bread baker’s newbie kit. I was all set up for success… it just took me 10 months to try it!

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Of course I don’t go with an easy recipe for my first time. This is a Martha Stewart recipe, y’all. And you know Her Holiness of All Things Domestic doesn’t do anything EASILY. No sir. This dough rises, let me count… FIVE TIMES.

FIVE.

That Martha is so hardcore. I will say, I am impressed with this recipe. The dough comes out extra fluffy and chewy on the inside, with a crust that is simply Heaven-sent. I like my bread crusty, so if you’re looking for a soft roll, this recipe isn’t for you. I mean, there is a time and a place for soft rolls, definitely. But a good and hot, crusty roll, straight out of the oven? YES. A THOUSAND TIMES YES.

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Crusty Dinner Rolls

Martha Stewart Living, January 2007
Makes 16 2-inch rolls

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Gather:
For the starter
5-1/4 ounces King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
pinch of active dry yeast
5-1/2 ounces cool water (2/3 cup, 75 degrees to 78 degrees)

For the dough
11 ounces King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour (2-1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon)
1-3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
6 ounces cool water (3/4 cup, 75 degrees to 78 degrees)
1-3/4 teaspoons fine sea salt
vegetable-oil cooking spray
all-purpose flour, for dusting

three mixing bowls (one very deep bowl for rising, or use a bread-rising bucket)
plastic wrap
parchment paper
rim-less cookie sheet
baking stone
lame (bread-slashing blade)

Preparee:
Make the starter. Stir together flour, yeast, and water with a rubber spatula in a medium mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let stand at cool room temperature until it has risen slightly and bubbles cover entire surface, 12 to 15 hours. (This is best done the night before you plan to make the rolls.)

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Bubbles over the surface of the starter

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Make the dough. Whisk together flour and yeast in a large bowl. Add water and starter, and stir with spatula until mixture comes together in a slightly sticky, loosely formed ball of dough. The dough will look a bit shaggy, which is fine. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes. Prepare a deep mixing bowl or bread-rising bucket by spraying the entire inside with vegetable oil cooking spray.

Gently turn dough onto an unfloured work surface. Sprinkle with salt. Knead dough until it is smooth, supple, and elastic 8 to 10 minutes. (The original recipe directions to knead are: “gather dough, lifting it above work surface. Hold one end of dough close to you while you cast the other end in front of you, onto the surface. Pull the end of dough in your hands toward you, stretching it gently, then fold the dough in half on top of itself. Repeat. Lift, cast, stretch, and fold.” I found this very hard to do, since the dough stuck to my hands endlessly. Instead, I opted for a “smear” knead; smear the dough with the ball of your hand away from you, then claw the dough back towards you into a ball, turn a quarter way, and smear again.) Use a dough scraper to clean the surface as needed, adding the scraps to the dough. The dough will be VERY VERY sticky; I referred to it as the “super glue stage.” Do not add more flour, even though the dough will stick to your hands. Right before I started kneading, my dough was quite lumpy, but by the end of 8 minutes, it was quite smooth, although still quite sticky. Form into a ball; dip your hands in flour at the very end, and pat the dough with your floured fingers to help you form it into a ball.

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with oiled plastic wrap (oil plastic wrap by spraying one side with vegetable oil cooking spray). Let rise at cool room temperature for 45 minutes. Gently turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. (Do not punch down; because the bowl is oiled, you should just be able to slide the dough straight onto your floured countertop.) Fold into thirds, as you would a business letter. Then fold it in half crosswise. Spray bowl inside again with cooking spray, and return dough to bowl, cover, and let rise at cool room temperature until it has almost doubled, at least 75 minutes.

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Gently turn dough onto a lightly floured surface (again, it should slide out of the bowl easily). Using a dough scraper or a knife, divide dough into 2 equal portions. Cover with oiled plastic wrap, and let rest for 20 minutes.

Shape the rolls. On a lightly floured surface, spread each portion of dough into a rectangle that’s roughly 10 by 6 inches. Fold dough into thirds lengthwise again, as you would a business letter, pressing seams with your fingers. Working with 1 portion of dough at a time, keeping remaining dough covered, fold dough in half lengthwise to form a tight, narrow log. (So the dough should be folded in thirds like a letter, first, and then folded again lengthwise, second. You will end up with a very skinny log.) Gently press edges with lightly floured fingertips to seal. Using a dough scraper or a knife, cut into 8 pieces. Gather edges of each piece, and gently pull and tuck them underneath the dough to create a round shape, pinching to seal. Place each piece of dough on the work surface. Cup one hand around dough, and rotate it in circles until a smooth, taut ball forms. Place each shaped roll on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise at cool room temperature until rolls have almost doubled and a floured finger pressed into side leaves a slight indentation, 30 to 40 minutes.

Bake rolls. Meanwhile, place an oven-proof skillet on oven rack adjusted to lowest position and a baking stone on middle oven rack. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Just before baking, use a lame or a razor blade to slash the surface of each roll, forming an X. Pour 1/2 cup hot water into skillet in oven. Slide rolls and parchment onto baking stone.

Immediately reduce oven to 450 degrees. Bake until rolls are deep golden brown, sound hollow when bottoms are thumped, and interiors register 205 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool on racks. Rolls are best the day you make them, but they can be wrapped in parchment and then foil, and stored at room temperature overnight (or frozen for up to 1 month; thaw at room temperature before serving).

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Herb Compound Butter

Original recipe from The Kitchenette
Makes 2 6-oz logs

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Gather:
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons minced thyme
1/4 cup minced parsley
1/4 cup minced basil

Prepare:
Stir the herbs into the softened butter until thoroughly combined. Place half of the butter mixture on a large sheet of plastic wrap. Cover the butter with one end of the plastic wrap and use your hands to shape the butter into a log. Carefully roll up the butter, pushing out all the air bubbles and pinching the ends. Repeat with the remaining butter. Freeze logs until ready to use. (Make ahead: Can be made up to 3 months in advance, and frozen until later use. Let come to room temperature for 6 hours before use, and re-whip using a spoon or fork before serving.)

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Thanksgiving Menu 2010:
Autumn Salad with Apples and Spiced Pecans
Steak over Butternut Squash with Caramelized Onions
Glazed Squash and Sweet Potatoes
Broccoli Puree with Parmesan
Crusty Dinner Rolls with Herb Butter

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Thanksgiving Background Music Recommendation of the Day – in our house, we like a constant stream of mellow background music to enjoy along with our holiday festivities. Here is a week of safe-for-childrens’-ears, no-curse-words-to-creep-out-Grandma, soft tunes to accompany your turkey and mashed potatoes. (And not one of my recommendations will be a washed-up-musician’s rendering of Christmas hits, I promise.)

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Mumford & Sons / White Blank Page

I’m sure you’ve heard of these guys, since they seem to be the music industry darlings, at least for the summer anyways. But they’re just so HAPPY. And their songs won’t offend anyone at your Thanksgiving table, which is always a plus. (It can get kind of awkward explaining to Grandma what Lil’ Wayne’s song “Lollipop” is about. Just saying.)

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Espresso-Laced Chewy Granola Bars

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I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect granola bar for the past… five, six months? I like loose granola just fine in my yogurt, but I wanted a chewy, not rock-hard, not-too-sweet granola bar. I wanted it to be full of oats and nuts, but I wasn’t so enamored of the idea of a granola bar full of dried fruit. And I finally found it, through multiple Google searches, which finally led me to 101 Cookbooks’ Big Sur Power Bars. I should have known that Heidi would have exactly what I was looking for, being the harbinger of great, whole-foods-based vegetarian recipes, that she is.

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I made these to take with me to Austin City Limits last weekend, but unfortunately, you’re not supposed to take any food into the festival grounds. (Ugh, stupidest rule ever.) The original recipe calls for twice as much brown rice syrup as below, which yielded a very sticky bar, too sticky for me. For the second batch, I halved the amount of brown rice syrup, but kept everything else the same. The result is a nutty, sweet (but not cloyingly so), chewy-but-not-sticky granola bar. I joked to B about these being the rolled oats-version of a cup of coffee, but unless you’re super sensitive to caffeine, I doubt these will affect you much. The espresso is a great unexpected upgrade on flavor, though, which is all it’s there for in the first place. The brown rice cereal and the oats have great interplaying textures, too, so you get the whole crispiness associated with a Rice Krispy bar, but it’s still chewy and hearty from the oats, coconut, and nuts.

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The recipe definitely introduced some new ingredients for me. I had never used brown rice syrup before, and at first I didn’t know where to look for it (it’s in the baking aisle next to honey, at least at my grocery store). The brown rice cereal was even harder to locate, but I found it in the Whole Foods cereal aisle. If you can’t find the brown rice cereal, then just use Rice Krispies.

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Oh, and just let me point out… for all the hard work we do around Case de Kitchenette… making fresh pasta, canning whole tomatoes, and making butter from scratch… this recipe doesn’t require any cooking at all. Unless you count toasting the coconut and nuts. (Which you could skip if you are suffering from Terrified-of-the-Oven Syndrome.)

Can I get a hell yeah for easy recipes?

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Espresso-Laced Chewy Granola Bars

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
Makes 12 bars

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Gather:
1 tablespoon coconut oil (or butter)
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 cup slivered almonds
2/3 cup (unsweetened) shredded coconut
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup turbinado or light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 tablespoons ground espresso beans
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups rolled oats (not instant oatmeal)
1 1/2 cups unsweetened crisp brown rice cereal

Prepare:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rub a baking sheet with coconut oil or butter. Toss pecans, almonds, and coconut on baking sheet, and cook at 350 degrees for 10 minutes until toasted and fragrant. Keep a good eye on the nuts and coconut, tossing a few times if necessary, to make sure the nuts down burn.

Line a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with parchment paper.

Combine the rice syrup, sugar, salt, espresso, and vanilla in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the toasted nuts and coconut with the rolled oats and rice cereal in a large mixing bowl. Pour the brown rice syrup mixture over the rolled oat mixture, adding in batches, and stirring in between additions of syrup.

Spread the sticky granola mixture into the parchment-lined baking pan. Let sit until cooled and stiff, about 2 hours. Cut into pieces as small or large as you like.

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Surfer Blood / Floating Vibes

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NFMW 2010 Day Four: White Wine-Glazed New Potatoes

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Three times in a row, I’ve written “White WHINE Glazed Potatoes” instead of “wine.” I wonder if that’s some sort of Freudian slip? What do you think that means exactly? Do you think it means I should be drinking a glass of wine tonight instead of not? I still have that bottle in my fridge, you know. Doesn’t some study… somewhere… say that drinking a glass of wine everyday is good for you? I’m pretty sure that it’s by the same scientists that said a square of chocolate everyday is good for you, too.

I mean, really… How much do you bet those scientists were women?

If I was a female scientist, I think the following studies would be at the top of my list… for scientific purposes, of course.

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The Inverse Relationship of Mass Consumption of Nutella and the “Bitch Factor”

The Effects of Red Sangria vs. White Sangria on the Role of “Beer Goggles” in Female Decision Making after 11 pm

The Effects of Continuous Viewings of Vampire Diaries (Starring Often-Shirtless Ian Somerhalder) on the Female Perception of Her Mate

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I think these are all valid studies, in my opinion. Clearly, as a scientist, it would only make sense that I would graciously donate myself as a volunteer specimen for all of these studies. (I’m super generous like that.)

I’ll expect my Nobel Prize in 2018.

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Fortunately, there’s no study needed to determine whether I would want to eat these potatoes. Nor should there be a study or decision on your part. They’re kind of perfect for right now, because you don’t even need to turn on the oven! For those of you living in on the surface of Mars (read: the East Coast), this is a very important factor. And also, because B (my hubs, who hates potatoes) almost had a mouthgasm when he ate these for the first time. That’s like, one in a million (squillion?) in our house. He claims to like everything I make, but He of Few Words (And They’re Mostly About Investment Banking You Know) usually has little to say other than “nom nom,” and these warranted a “Geez, babe. These are delicious!”

This only furthers my belief that we should commission a study aptly titled:

The Effects of Adding White Wine to Recipes in which There Was No Original Need For White Wine.

It’s for the good of mankind, y’all.

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White Wine-Glazed New Potatoes

Original recipe from The Kitchenette
Serves 4

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Gather:
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or other high-temperature cooking oil)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
2 pounds assorted new (or “baby”) potatoes
1/2 cup white wine
salt and pepper to taste

a large heavy skillet with fitted lid

Prepare:
Scrub potatoes under warm water. Let dry on kitchen towel. Leave smaller potatoes whole; cut larger potatoes in halves or quarters. Set aside.

Heat butter and oil in large heavy skillet over medium heat. Once butter has melted, add 2 teaspoons fresh thyme. Cook thyme in butter/oil mixture (it will likely splatter so be careful) for 2 minutes. Add potatoes to pan and toss to coat in butter/oil mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Turn heat to high, and cook 5 minutes, or just until the potatoes start to brown underneath. Cover the pot, and let cook for an additional 10 minutes, or until tender. (Older potatoes will take longer to cook.) Add the white wine to the pan (holy steam cloud, batman!) and toss potatoes to coat in wine. Let cook, uncovered, over high heat, until there is only a thin layer of liquid in the bottom of the pan, about 3 minutes. Turn out potatoes onto serving plate, and drizzle with remaining liquid in pan. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs before serving.

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Panda Bear / Slow Motion I love them. I contemplate asking Noah Lennox to be my second husband on a daily basis, I love him THAT BAD.

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Radish Greens Pesto

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I got two bunches of radishes at the market on Saturday, and I knew that if I left the greens on the radishes, the whole bunch would go bad in a day or two. (Unfortunately, I know this from experience. An experience that involved tough, stringy, squishy radishes that no one should ever have to eat.) I figured that I should at least use the greens pretty quickly, because according to the great and almighty interwebz:

“Save the young thinnings of both summer and winter radishes. They are delicious with tops and bottoms intact. Both summer and winter radishes store well in the refrigerator once the tops have been removed. The radish leaves cause moisture and nutrient loss during storage. Store greens separately for 2-3 days. Refrigerate radishes wrapped in plastic bags for 5 to 7 days. Winter radish varieties can be stored for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.”

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In order to prepare the radish greens, I cut the tops off the radishes and rinsed them under cold water. Then I carefully went through the greens and spread out the usable leaves onto a large kitchen towel, discarding any moldy or wilted radish leaves in the process. I laid out another kitchen towel onto the leaves and then lightly pressed the towel into the leaves in order to dry them.

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Having never had radish greens before, I ended up really really liking this pesto. It doesn’t taste like cheese, or olive oil, or pine nuts – just fresh greens, sweet spring-like flavors with no bitterness. Personally, I like my pesto with not that much oil and not that much cheese… mostly because I like to eat it most on pasta, and who isn’t going to add more cheese to the pasta? Because cheese is awesome. Duh.

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Radish Greens Pesto

From The Kitchenette

Makes 3 cups

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Gather:
2 bunches radishes, leaves separated from radishes and picked over, washed and dried, radishes reserved for later use
1/2 cup pine nuts
extra virgin olive oil
1 cup fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano

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Prepare:
Wash and dry greens.  Add pine nuts to a dry skillet (dry = no oil in the pan). Heat the nuts over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes, or until the nuts become light brown out the outside; do not let them burn.

Add dry radish greens and toasted pine nuts to a food processor. Add olive oil through the chute of the food processor as it runs, until the pesto reaches your preferred consistency. Scrape pesto into a bowl, and add parmiagiano-reggiano. Stir to combine.

In advance: To freeze, scrape pesto in 2 tablespoon-portions into ice cube trays. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until solid. Remove pesto cubes from tray and store in a plastic bag in the freezer for up to a year. Or, store pesto in the refrigerator covered with a thin layer of olive oil (the olive oil layer prevents browning of the pesto during storage).

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Now Playing: Luna is Honey / Who Wouldn’t

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Hummus, Deconstructed

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I know that if I write this post and say that I’m addicted to hummus, you people are going to be all, “Dude, what AREN’T you addicted to?!” I know, I am a food addiction slut. Addicted to mustard, addicted to balsamic vinegar, addicted to pasta… and chocolate (hello, I have boobs, so that one is a given). But although my hummus addiction comes in waves… it is just that. An addiction.

And hey, there are worse addictions than pureed chickpeas. (I’m looking at you, American Idol fans.)

My favorite hummus is a small brand called Asmar’s that I’ve only ever seen in two places – the Richmond, VA Whole Foods and the Charlottesville, VA Whole Foods. Seriously. Best. Hummus. Ever. When I went home to Virginia this past Christmas, I came across it in Whole Foods… and I think I might have screeched. In the middle of the grocery store aisle. Dad will have to confirm this; I may have just gone speechless, the memory is blurred for me; no doubt due to an adrenaline overdose. I bought the party size and a double pack of pita, and I think my brother and I ate our way through that party size container in about 36 hours. (Apparently hummus addiction runs in the family.)

While I’m still perfecting my at home hummus recipe (the perfect proportion of tahini and olive oil is an elusive combination… much like the sparkly silver mary janes I’ve been after for years now), this salad is much easier to throw together. It’s essentially all the ingredients in hummus, with the addition of a bit of red onion and parsley for color and flavor.

Once you’ve mixed the ingredients together, you smoosh (a very technical term) the chickpea salad using whatever you have around – a potato masher, a wooden spoon, your fingers, whatever. I used a wooden spoon and smooshed the salad into the side of the bowl, but I was feeling lazy and so my salad was a bit more chunky than the original recipe calls for. I ate this for lunch for 3 days in a row, and it’s just another one of those perfect lunch recipes – it’s cheap, it’s portable, and it’s filling without sending you into a post-lunch coma.

I made this with canned chickpeas, because I had some old cans to use up. Feel free to make this with dry chickpeas that have been soaked in water overnight. If you’re not familiar with tahini, it’s ground sesame seed paste; you should be able to find it in a Middle Eastern grocery in your area, if it’s not already available in your local grocery store.

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Hummus, De-constructed

Loosely adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Serves 4

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Gather:
2 14-oz cans of chickpeas, or 28 oz of  dry chickpeas soaked overnight
1/4 of a medium-size red onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon tahini
salt and pepper to taste
a dash paprika (optional)

Prepare:
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Smoosh to the consistency you prefer, using whatever means available (potato masher, wooden spoon, fingers, etc.) Serve by itself or on toast.

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Now Playing: The Silver Seas / The Best Things in Life  – love these guys. Their new album is available for purchase here (official release date is June 6th, 2010)

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Cabbage and Apple Slaw

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Ohaithere kids! My bad for neglecting the blog for the past two weeks… I was busy squeeing my pants over getting onto foodgawker for the first time… and then I had to tend to my real-life job, which tends to generally suck all the wit and cheer right out of me, leaving none for craftily weaving quips about Chuck Bass into stories about zucchini.

But, back to real life. I’ve been cooking a lot lately (and taking photos! lots of photos!) and using local produce where possible… because, you know, there just isn’t that much growing here in Colorado until late May, give or take a week. You may remember I made a trip to the Boulder Farmer’s Market a few weekends ago, and low and behold, I still hadn’t used up that head of red cabbage. But one of my clients was having a potluck lunch the other day, and instead of bringing a bag of nacho chips, I chose to contribute a head of 3-week-old cabbage with some sweet apples and mustard dressing (I know, I’m such a pal… I have their health issues in mind). Surprisingly, even though I assumed I would be shunned for bringing vegetables, the slaw was a big hit. I got a lot of requests for the recipe for the dressing… which totes made my day because I really just made that part up.

This is a great make-ahead recipe, and plus, it’s pretty local if you have storage apples and locally-grown cabbage. I’m not such a fan of the mayonnaise-based coleslaw recipes, and so this is its exact opposite – a sweet, crunchy, mustard-y slaw that is just all-around amazing.

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Cabbage and Apple Slaw

From The Kitchenette

Serves 8 as a side

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Gather:
1 medium head cabbage
3 apples, of the tart/sour persuasion
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Prepare:
Halve the head of cabbage, and cut each half into thin strips. If the cabbage pieces are more than a few inches long, cut them in half so that they are easier to eat. Cut the apple into 1/4 to 1/8 inch matchstick pieces.

Whisk the olive oil, dijon, vinegar, and lemon juice in the bottom of a bowl. Add the cabbage and apple, and toss well to coat. Let sit for 20 minutes before serving to allow the cabbage to soften somewhat.

(Do ahead: Up to 24 hours in advance, cut the cabbage and apples as directed. Separate the apples into a plastic bag, add 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and toss to coat. Prepare the dressing as directed, using only the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice. Mix approximately 30 minutes prior to serving.)

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Now Playing: Band of Skulls / Light of the Morning

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(turn down the volume so it doesn’t bust your speakers)

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Simple Dinners: Baked Spinach Manicotti

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The other week, my dear friend Lili expressed to me that she wanted to learn how to cook. She had many of the same concerns that people who don’t cook regularly express: she was intimidated by recipes and she thought it would take too much time, and she already has two kids to take care of plus a full time job.  She asked me where I learned to cook, and how she should learn. My response was what I tell everyone who asks me this question: You just have to try, accept your mistakes, and then try again.

I didn’t learn to cook through cookbooks or through blog posts or through Food Network shows or anything. All of these sources have proven to be useful nowadays, but in the beginning, it was all about following the recipe and hoping that you liked the end result. The first dish I distinctly remember making in my college apartment, sophomore year, was meatballs. It was a pretty simple meatball recipe: mix the 3 meats up with eggs and herbs and breadcrumbs, form into balls, and bake. I don’t even remember what the meatballs tasted like (maybe I lost too many braincells that week drinking beer memorizing Kafka) but I don’t think they were anything special.

So in the interest of anyone who says that they don’t know how to cook, who don’t have the time, who think that they will screw it up… I give you this recipe. It’s one of my favorites, one of the first things I learned to cook at home. There are lots of short cuts you can take with this recipe: use jarred marinara sauce, use pre-frozen chopped spinach from a bag, and you can adjust the herbs to whatever you have at your house.

The recipe does takes a little bit of prep time, probably about 30-45 minutes, and when combined with the hour of baking time, this might be too ambitious of a dinner if you’re getting home from work at 6:30 or 7 pm. However, this is something you could make, bake, and freeze ahead of time, and just toss it in the fridge the morning before you plan to have it for dinner, and then reheat in the oven.

Oh, and another thing – this was originally from Cooking Light, and they used fat-free cottage cheese. Um, fat-free cottage cheese is epic levels of disgusting. It doesn’t even taste like cheese. I use regular cottage cheese, yep, the FULL FAT kind. *gasp* If you like the taste of wet cardboard, please feel free to use fat-free cottage cheese. I won’t tell anyone. But I also put more spinach in that the original recipe calls for, because that’s how I roll.

Unrelated but completely important note: It’s almost Friday, kids! Get excited!

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Baked Spinach Manicotti

Adapted from Cooking Light, May 2005

Serves 8

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Gather:
16 oz frozen chopped spinach
16 oz cottage cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 teaspoon crushed rosemary
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
8 oz package manicotti
26 oz marinara sauce, homemade or store-bought

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Prepare:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a large bowl with either paper towels, cheesecloth, or a dish towel (I’m trying to give up paper towels in our kitchen, so I usually go for the kitchen towel). Put all of the frozen spinach into the dish towel, and microwave the bowl, towel, and spinach until the the spinach has thawed. (Be careful taking the bowl out of the microwave as it will probably be hot.) Gather the towel around the thawed spinach, and squeeze out the excess water into the bowl. Pour the spinach water into a liquid measuring cup. Add drained spinach back to the mixing bowl, and reserve spinach water.

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Add all cottage cheese, half (1 cup) of the mozzarella, the parmesan, oregano, sage, rosemary, salt, and pepper to the mixing bowl already containing the drained spinach. Mix the ingredients until well combined. Stuff each manicotti shell with the spinach mixture using a teaspoon, your fingers, or whatever means necessary. Assemble the shells in a lasagna/baking dish. If you have extra spinach mixture that won’t fit into the shells, then just stick the extra between shells.

Pour the entire 26 oz of marinara sauce over the shells. Measure the spinach water you have from the drained spinach. If you have more than 1 cup of spinach water, then pour 1 cup of it over the marinara. (If you don’t have 1 cup, then top off the spinach water with regular water until you have 1 cup before pouring over the marinara.)

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Top the shells and marinara with the remaining 4 oz of shredded mozzarella, and cover with foil. Bake for one hour, or until the shells are tender. Let stand 10 minutes before serving, if you can wait that long.

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Now Playing: Two Door Cinema Club / I Can Talk - this makes me want to get up and dance, even when I’m stuck in a conference room

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