The Art of Delegating . . . some things, anyway – Curried Butternut Squash & Green Beans over Quinoa

I feel like that little cartoon saying that you see pinned up in middle management offices sometimes – “The faster I go, the behinder I get”.  The reality of my everyday real life makes it so that I just can’t write as fast as I can cook.

I literally have recipes, creations, and pictures backing up like baby clothes in a laundry hamper.  And I know you mama readers can relate to that little analogy.  For those of you who have gracefully left the baby stage of parenthood, just take a moment and reflect on those days when you easily tallied in FOUR dirty outfits for one tiny creature.  You remember now, don’t you?  An endless parade of bibs, burp cloths, and buntings (what is a bunting really anyway?).  And everything so tiny that folding was like origami practice.  So much so that sometimes it was easier to just leave the mass of tininess in a big pile rather than even trying to fold and put away.

Well that’s how I’m feeling with my cooking these days.  I’m pumping out the meals and chronicling each creation in photos as I go,  but there they all sit in digital nowhereland on my laptop.

I manage to keep up with other stuff around the house by delegating to my troops.  Everyone pitches in and that’s what makes it all work.  I recently found a little gem called My Job Chart which I use to help keep everyone on track.  They LOVE it and clamor to the computer to log their helpfulness in exchange for points which they can spend, save or share.  It’s really an amazing motivator – I mean after all, it’s got technology AND money involved.  But there are some things, like this blog, that just can’t be delegated.  Teeth brushing would be another one of those “un-delegatable” items.  Is it really just me, or can anyone else relate to those days when you fall into bed at night after a trying day and just wish someone could take your head off, go brush your teeth for you, and then return your head?  OK, definitely just me, but now it’s out there and now you know the true level of my weirdness . . .  not to mention the extent of my fatigue on “certain” days.

So before I get any more “behinder”, I have decided to take a few days and give you the recipes, just the recipes (to be spoken in your best Joe Friday imitation), without any of my superfluous spiel.   Here’s the first one to get us started, and it’s an ORIGINAL creation (read – no recipe) that I just can’t wait to share.

To get started with making Curried Butternut Squash and Green Beans over Quinoa, I first peeled and cubed one medium butternut squash.

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I tossed the squash with a little olive oil and then roasted for about 30 minutes at 425 degrees.  While that was roasting, I sliced up some green pepper and a little lemon grass.

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I melted a little butter in a skillet and then added the green pepper and finely chopped lemongrass along with some red pepper flakes and curry powder.

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I sauteed everything until the pepper was just tender.  Then I added in a little coconut milk and some Thai fish sauce.  At the same time, I had brought a pot of salt water to a boil and cooked up some green beans until they were just tender.  I added the green beans to the curry mixture and also tossed in the roasted squash.

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I let things simmer just until everything was heated through.  I served it around a bed of quinoa and garnished with chopped cashews and some chopped fresh cilantro.

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Quite a satisfying little dinner.  It also got approval all around the table – which isn’t always the case when I go free-wheeling and recipe-less.

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Here’s the complete recipe for Curried Butternut Squash and Green Beans over Quinoa.

Looking for more curry recipes?  Give these a gander.

Make Mom Happy – Eat Your Brussels Sprouts

done brussels

I have a few poignant food memories going back to my childhood.  One involved liver and onions and requesting it as my birthday dinner just because I knew my sisters hated it and would HAVE to eat it because it was my birthday request.  Another involved my grandmother ALWAYS giving me a snack to eat in the car on my way home from her house.  After one particular visit, she had nothing to offer in the snack arena except for a couple of cold brussels sprouts.  Rather than break tradition, I opted to take her up on the brussels sprouts offer and proceeded to nibble on them all the way home.

Admittedly, brussels sprouts have a certain, shall we say, reputation. But I assure you that any childhood traumas caused by this poor veggie can be obliterated with one simple recipe – Maple Bacon Braised Brussels Sprouts. We discovered these one year around Thanksgiving time, and haven’t looked at brussels sprouts in the same light since.

But before we get to the sprouts recipe, let’s talk quinoa again.  Because quinoa burgers were the main course to which the brussels sprouts served as a side.  Super simple burgers.  Tasty. Moist and yet hold together well.

Start by cooking 1 cup of dry quinoa as directed on the package.  After cooked and somewhat cooled, add cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, grated zucchini, eggs, flour, green onions, sugar, pepper, cumin, salt and garlic powder.  Your mixture will look something like this.

I actually made this ahead of time and left it chilling in the fridge all afternoon until dinner time.

Heat olive oil in large skillet.  Once oil is hot, reduce heat to medium or medium-low and drop the quinoa mixture by 1/4 cupfuls into oil.  Cooking longer on a lower temp will give them longer to have a good consistency without getting too brown.  I fry these about 4 minutes per side until they are golden brown.  It’s kind of the “pancake concept”  where your first batch won’t be as good as later ones until you get your frying temp just right.  For this reason, you may want to start out with just one patty and then when you have your heat regulated, you can do 4 – 5 at a time.

So now for the brussels sprouts . . . rinse your sprouts well and trim them.

raw brussels

Chop 8 – 10 slices of thick cut bacon into pieces and cook bacon until crisped and brown.  Remove your bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Put your brussels sprouts into your bacon drippings and cook, stirring frequently until they begin to brown.  Continue cooking until tender.  Add bacon back into skillet and add maple syrup.  Heat until syrup coats the sprout and they appear caramelized.

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I love serving this great quinoa burger and brussels sprouts combo with sweet potato fries.  You can ues a chipotle mayo to accent the burger AND dip your fries.

quinoa burgers

For the Quinoa Burger Recipe, click here.

For the Brussels Sprouts Recipe, click here.

Winging It With What You’ve Got – Stuffed Peppers

Let me first start with a little tip of my hat to one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks – Vegetarian Suppers by Deborah Madison.  I love this book and I think I’m pretty close to having made every recipe in the book.  So recipes are great, but sometimes you just need to let your cupboards and refrigerator do the talking. In other words, interpret your recipe LOOSELY.

Last night I had planned to make this great recipe that Madison has for Yellow Peppers Stuffed with Quinoa, Corn, and Feta Cheese.  I decided to go that route because I had 4 lovely orange peppers sitting in the fridge.  I hadn’t really inventoried the other ingredients I would need, but let’s just say that the substitution of orange peppers for yellow ones wasn’t the only recipe tweak I ended up performing.

  • red onions got replaced by half red and half yellow, just because that’s what I had
  • the pan got deglazed with a little sherry because we had killed our only bottle of white wine the night before
  • quinoa seemed like a hassle so I opted for the precooked tub of organic brown rice that I always keep on hand for moments of laziness just like these
  • the jalapeno just got ditched and not really replaced by anything
  • frozen corn gave way to a good old can of corn
  • kale beat the spinach to the skillet because there wasn’t a leaf of spinachto be found in the house
  • and finally, the feta cheese got replaced with some good old Mexican blend because I didn’t want to listen to kid #2 whine about not liking feta cheese

Believe me when I say that people who review recipes and then proceed to tell you that they changed every living detail about the recipe really annoy me.  But sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do just to get dinner on the table (side note to those recipe reviewers – – – it’s simple, improvise however you need to, but just skip the whole reviewing thing as a favor to us all).

So here’s the recap of how this meal came together.  I’ll give you the real recipe at the close of the post.

Start by cutting the peppers in half, removing stems and seeds, and then putting them in a pot of simmering salt water.  Let them cook 5 – 8 minutes until they are tender to the touch of a knife, but not too soft.

Slice the onions into thin rounds. In a skillet, warm 1 Tbsp. of olive oil.   Add the onions and saute until they start to brown. Deglaze the pan with wine (or sherry as I did) and stir the onions as you do. Season with salt and pepper, and then spread the onions in the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish.

Place the peppers on top of the onions.

In another skillet, warm 1 1/2 Tbsp. of olive oil.  Add the scallions and Jalapeno (if you have it).  Cook for about 2 min. and then add garlic, cumin, corn, and spinach (or kale), and 2 Tbsp. water.  When the greens are wilted (kale will take longer than spinach), add cilantro, quinoa (or rice), and cheese.  Toss everything until well blended, and season with salt and pepper.

Fill the peppers with the mixture. Drizzle 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil over them.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 – 30 minutes until they are heated through.  Switch to broil for the last couple of minutes to brown the tops.

And here’s a picture from another meal, when I actually followed the recipe as written.

My personal preference includes the feta cheese, just because I am such a fan, but I have to admit that the absence of whining was a definite upside to last night’s version.

So now here are the actual quantities and ingredients as given by Deborah Madison:

sea salt & freshly ground pepper

1 cup cooked quinoa

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced into rounds

2 jalapenos, seeded & finely diced

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp. cumin

2 c. frozen corn kernels

1 bunch spinach

1/2 c. chopped cilantro

1/4 lb. feta cheese

2 red onions, thinly sliced into rounds

1/2 c. white wine

4 yellow bell peppers

Wondering about the nutritional value of bell peppers?  Definitely a winner for vitamin c and vitamin A.

Nutrient%Daily Value in 1 c. Raw Bell Pepper

vitamin C 195.8

vitamin A 57.6%

vitamin B6 13.5%

folate 10.5%

fiber 7.4%

vitamin E 7.2%

molybdenum 6.1%

vitamin K 5.6%

potassium 5.5%

manganese 5%

vitamin B2 4.7%

vitamin B3 4.5%

vitamin B1 3.3%

tryptophan 3.1%

vitamin B5 2.8%

magnesium 2.7%

Cheesy Quinoa Bake

I have to admit, I wasn’t a quinoa fan at first sight. I found it bland and a bit texture odd, and I’m all about the texture of food.  But I had heard about and read about (http://www.livestrong.com/article/346908-what-are-the-benefits-of-eating-quinoa/) its great health benefits and so I didn’t give up on my quest for a palatable version of this great protein source.  Well, I think we finally found it when I happened upon this inspiration recipe for a Crispy Quinoa Bake.

To start with, you take the quinoa and rinse it thoroughly for 2 minutes. I’m not sure exactly how the rinsing ordeal affects the final texture outcome, but I’m convinced that it does have some impact on giving this dish a better texture.

After rinsing it, you heat a couple of teaspoons of olive oil in a pan and then add the quinoa, stir a couple of minutes until it begins to dry and pop, and then add the veggie broth. Cover it and simmer until all of the liquid is absorbed – about 20 minutes.

While the quinoa is cooking, sautée one chopped onion and half of a chopped red pepper for about ten minutes.  Then add in a clove of garlic chopped and a couple of medium zucchinis diced. Sautée for another couple of minutes.

Fluff the quinoa with a fork and then combine the quinoa and onion mixture.  To this, add black beans, diced tomatoes, frozen corn, green chiles, cumin, chili powder, and lime juice.

Once everything is well blended, place in a 9×13 casserole dish sprayed with oil.  Bake the whole deal at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Then sprinkle the top with grated Mexican blend cheese and bake for another 10 minutes until the top is golden brown.

I think it’s great served with a little sour cream and accompanied by some corn bread and a simple green salad.

This dish is also great because you can basically clear out the fridge with odds and ends and put them in the bake.  I have added shredded carrots, kale, chard, brussel sprouts, and scallions to name a few.

For those who like precision, here are the actual quantities:1 cup quinoa, uncooked
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups veggie broth

1 cup onion, diced (about 1 medium)
1//2 red pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup zucchini, cubed (about 2 small)
1 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 4 ounce can diced green chiles
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup canned corn, drained
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 lime, juiced
Salt
2 cups shredded mexican cheese blend