Simple Super: White Bean-Spinach-Quinoa-Bacon Salad

The other evening suppertime approached and the only ideas I had involved ingredients in my refrigerator. I took those ingredients–bacon, spinach, quinoa, cannelini beans–and went to find a recipe. The result was this delicious hot salad! I used leftover cooked quinoa (cajun spiced!) and the meal came together in a snap. The red wine vinegar added a tasty, unexpected zing. And come on, anything with bacon and asparagus is pretty darn tasty.

WHITE BEAN-SPINACH-QUINOA-BACON SALAD
(slightly adapted from Closet Cooking)
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1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 sweet onion, sliced
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/2 pound of asparagus, woody stems broken off, and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small clove garlic, grated
salt and pepper to taste
1 (6 ounce) package baby spinach
1 (19 ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed

Cook the quinoa as directed on the package.
Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a pan, about 4-6 minutes, and set aside, reserving 1-2 Tablespoons of bacon grease. Caramelize the onions, mushrooms, and asparagus in the remaining bacon grease, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
Add the vinegar to the pan and deglaze it. Mix in the reserved bacon grease, sugar, mustard, garlic, and season with salt and pepper.
Add the spinach and the beans and cook until the spinach wilts, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix in the bacon and veggies. Spoon over the quinoa, or mix it all together in the pan before serving.

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On the Side: Chicken-Apple Sausage

A few months ago I purchased a pound of ground chicken for the purpose of making homemade chicken sausage. But I couldn’t get it made in time, so I froze the meat until an opportune time. An opportune time arrived in the form of a long weekend with my husband and I dug out the recipe I’d planned to make. Served alongside some eggs and asparagus, these sausages were delicious. And since you’re making them yourself and know all the ingredients included, they are certainly healthier than your average sausage.

CHICKEN-APPLE SAUSAGE
(from The Simple Art of EatingWell)
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2 teaspoons oil
1 small onion, diced
1 medium sweet apple, peeled and diced
1 pound ground chicken
1 Tablespoon of finely chopped fresh sage (or 1 tsp dry)
1 Tablespoon light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, chopped (optional)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add apples and cook, stirring, 2 more minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and cool for 5 minutes. Wipe out the pan.

Add chicken, sage, sugar, fennel (if using), salt and pepper to the bowl with the apples and onions. Gently mix to combine.

Generously coat the pan with cooking spray and heat over medium. Using a 1/3-cup measure, scoop 4 portions into the pan, flattening each into a 3-inch patty. Cook until the patties are browned and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side, adjust the heat as necessary to prevent burning. Coat the pan with cooking spray again and repeat with remaining sausage mixture.

Weekend Fare: Meat Piroshki

These tasty meat pies go by many names internationally. In Kazakhstan, you can find them being sold on the street corners and in bakeries – they are nearly always wonderful! These hearken back to bierocks that my husband enjoyed and pierogies that are traditional for our friends. Whatever the name, these are great for travel, for making ahead, and for freezing. I think they would be really good with some cabbage or other vegetables in them as well.

MEAT PIROSHKI
adapted from Cooking for Kaz: Meals for Hope, Volume 2
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 Meat Filling:
1 med. onion, diced
1 T. oil or butter
8 oz. ground beef
salt & pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg
fresh herbs (opt.)
1 egg

Brown the onion and ground beef together with oil or butter if needed. Add seasonings. Allow to cool. Add egg. Stuff in piroshiki dough as described below.

Dough:
1 ½ tsp. dried yeast
pinch of sugar
5 Tb. warm water
5 Tb. butter, softened
1 lb. (about 4 c.) flour
1 tsp. salt
8 T. milk
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Dissolve yeast and a sugar in the warm water. Mix in the softened butter, flour, salt, milk, and eggs. Knead into smooth dough (I let my mixer do the kneading). Leave to rise until it has doubled in volume. Punch down. Roll out dough until quite thin. Cut out in small circles and brush the inner edges with milk. Stuff with filling and fold into semi-circle or canoe shape. Bake for 10 minutes until golden brown.

Market Fresh: Pearl Onions

Generally speaking, I have not been a recent fan of Taste of Home but the March issue had surprising number of recipes I was interested in trying (and so I must give them a little credit!). It featured several onion recipes and I tried the glazed pearl onions with great success. they were very easy, a little high in sugar & fat, and very good. 🙂 They are a wonderful side dish and wold be especially good served with steak.

 

GLAZED PEARL ONIONS – adapted very slightly from Taste of Home, March 2011
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1 package (16 ounces) frozen pearl onions, thawed
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

In a large skillet, saute onions in butter until tender. Add brown sugar and mustard; cook 2 minutes longer. Sprinkle with parsley. 6 servings.

Off the Shelf: January Magazines

Well, it seems January is the month of double issues – many of the magazines are January/February issues. Frankly, after all of the fun and inspiring holiday issues, I found these a little lackluster. Of the many I perused, Food Network and Cooking Light were my favorites.  Are you shocked that Bon Apetit didn’t make the list? Me, too! But I just wasn’t interested in the recipes – I really tried to be and read the issue probably four times. 🙂

FOOD NETWORK (Alaina) – After looking at all the wonderful recipes, I finally settled on the delicious looking homemade pretzels in this issue. The 3 page article, photos, and recipes were so inviting. And (if we are being honest) I love bread and I have wonderful memories of making pretzels with my mom. I had  illusions of making memories with my kids as we twisted pretzels into all kinds of fun shapes. This was a fail.

My oldest son opted to stay in (instead of sledding) to help me. And part way through, he sweetly said, “Mom do you think I’m a little better at this than you?” I had to laugh and agree with him that he was indeed “a little better.” I think it failed because, despite my familiarity with yeast, my dough was a bit dry and I underestimated the time commitment.

Anyway, we made the pepperoni pretzels, the sweet pretzels, and the everything pretzels. They seemed impossible and took forever but they actually tasted pretty good but they were not the great soft pretzel I was going for.

And I would try making pretzels again but I’m going to get my mom’s recipe because I do love homemade pretzels. Here’s the link to the recipe – use at your own risk – it has not gotten very good reviews on the website either, I’m afraid.

COOKING LIGHT (Alaina) – This issue had 25 different ways to cook chicken and so chicken was the natural choice for a recipe. I opted to use an unfamiliar cooking method which was basically pan frying chicken that I had pounded thin. I know many people love this method because it is quick, easy, and tasty and after trying it, I will definitely be incorporating this into my repertoire. The Dijon pan sauce was incredibly good and the whole family declared the chicken delicious. I served it alongside mashed potatoes inspired by a side dish recipe in this issue that had caramelized onions in them – they were really good, also.

CHICKEN CUTLETS with CREAMY DIJON SAUCE (Cooking Light, January 2011)
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4  (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/2  teaspoon  salt
1/4  teaspoon  black pepper
1  tablespoon  olive oil
3  tablespoons  chopped shallots
1/2  cup  fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1  rosemary sprig
3  tablespoons  whipping cream
2  teaspoons  Dijon mustard

Place chicken breast halves between 2 sheets of plastic wrap; pound to 1/2-inch thickness. Sprinkle chicken with salt and black pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to pan. Add chicken; sauté 3 minutes on each side or until done. Transfer to a serving platter. Add shallots to pan; sauté for 2 minutes. Stir in chicken broth and rosemary sprig; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes. Stir in whipping cream; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and discard rosemary. Stir in Dijon mustard. Spoon over chicken.

EVERY DAY WITH RACHAEL RAY (Stephanie) – The past couple months I’ve been disappointed by Rachael Ray, so was pleasantly surprised to find this issue filled with good sounding recipes I’d love to try: Ham, Ricotta and Fig Tart; Mushroom-and-Marsala Pappardelle; Cashew-Pesto Pasta; Peanut Butter Pretzel Tart with Caramel Drizzle. I chose to make Pork with Rosemary Lentils and Braised Onions, both because it sounded good and because I had all the ingredients on hand and no time to go to the grocery. 🙂

Anyway, the recipe went together quickly and in about an hour I had a meal that could be completed with the addition of a green salad or some steamed broccoli. The rosemary and garlic in this really stand out and make for some good eating!

PORK WITH ROSEMARY LENTILS AND BRAISED ONIONS (Every Day With Rachael Ray, February 2011)
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4 1/2-inch bone-in pork loin chops (about 1 2/3 lbs)
7 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
6 Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, halved and sliced
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
1 c. lentils, rinsed
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a resealable plastic bag, rub pork chops with two-thirds of the garlic and 2 Tbsp olive oil; refrigerate. In glass baking dish, combine the onions, vinegar, 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1/2 c. water. Cover and bake until liquid is almost completely reduced, about 50 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine 2 c. water, lentils, rosemary, and remaining garlic. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until lentils are tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes. Stir in 1 Tbsp olive oil, season with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet, heat remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add pork chops and cook, turning once, until golden and just cooked through, about 8 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Serve pork chops on a bed of lentils topped with onions. Serves 4.

Market Fresh: Roasted Root Vegetables

We are entering the season of root vegetables – potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips and more. Roasting vegetables is one of my very favorite ways to enjoy the full flavor and get the benefits of the nutrients in the root varieties. As a side dish with a recent beef roast, I combined white potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, and turnips. I drizzled a olive oil and a little butter (the flavor of the two together is wonderful!) and finished it with fresh ground salt & pepper. It roasted in a 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes until the vegetables were tender.


Such a perfect and easy side dish with little effort. You can combine all kinds of different vegetables and use this same method. You can switch it up with fresh or dried herbs, using only butter or only olive oil. Just remember to keep the size of your vegetables fairly consistent.

Off the Shelf: October Magazines

The weather is cooling and filling the house with good smells is one of the best activities! Our October magazines arrived and fall is officially ushered in – at least in our kitchens. We talked about magazines we would review and we have chosen four but the reality is – you can’t go wrong with any of the fall magazines. I have Bon Apetit and Cooking Light in my menu plan ideas with several recipes marked. All of the magazines have wonderful, seasonal recipes and there is a good chance you will see a few more recipes featured here during October and November.

Everyday with Rachael Ray (Alaina) – This magazine has a great variety of recipes. It was such a tough choice of what to make. The Pear & Goat Cheese Crostini, Spiced Squash with Browned Butter Glaze, Maple-Walnut Chicken Thighs & Cheddar-Apple Rice, and Apple Tart Tatin were all tempting. I think I’m just ready for the fall fruits and vegetables!

Mini Meatloaves Smothered with Onions finally made the cut and they were delicious. The combination of beef, dates, bacon, and onions with worcestshire sauce and balsamic vinegar made for flavorful and moist meatloaves.

MINI MEATLOAVES SMOTHERED with ONIONS
(Everyday with Rachael Ray, October 2010)
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1/2 cup pitted dried dates, chopped
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 1/3 pounds ground beef
3 onions, 2 thinly sliced and 1 finely chopped
3 slices cooked bacon, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons butter, melted

Position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat to 375°. In a bowl, combine the dates and breadcrumbs, working the mixture through your fingers to separate. Mix in the beef. Mix in the chopped onion, bacon, egg, worcestershire and vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Divide into 4 mounds and, on a baking sheet, shape into loaves. Place on the upper rack and bake for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, on another baking sheet, toss the sliced onions with the butter and season with salt; spread out evenly. Bake on the lower rack, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 30 minutes. Serve the meatloaves with the onions.

Food Network Magazine (Alaina) – I love this edition of Food Network. The recipes all look wonderful and again it was such a hard decision. How can you go wrong with a pull-out full of 50 delicious Panini ideas?! And the use of fall ingredients is impressive.

I’m still planning to make the Pumpkin Waffles with Trail Mix Topping and the Slow-Cooker Squash Stew and perhaps a few more!  The Caramel Apple Cake, Pumpkin Pie Parfaits, Honey-Mustard Chicken & Apples, and Portabella Fries all sound so good.

After many requests for more side dish recipes, I decided to try a couple of the recipes included in this magazine. So, we enjoyed Sweet Potato Mash and Sesame Broccoli. We really liked both dishes.

SWEET POTATO MASH
(Food Network, October 2010)
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Pierce 4 sweet potatoes with a fork; microwave 8 minutes. Scoop the flesh into a bowl, then mash. Brown 3 tablespoons butter in a skillet, then add 8 sage leaves and fry until crisp; transfer to a plate. Cook 4 chopped scallions with salt and pepper in the browned butter. Drizzle over the sweet potatoes; top with the sage.


SESAME BROCCOLI
(Food Network Magazine, October 2010)
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Cook 1 bunch broccoli spears in a steamer set over simmering water, 10 minutes. Pulse a 1-inch piece peeled ginger, 1 garlic clove, 2 tablespoons each water and sesame oil, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, and a pinch each of sugar and salt in a mini food processor. Drizzle over the broccoli and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Midwest Living (Heather) — Although Midwest Living is not technically a food magazine, the Sept/Oct issue included a huge spread focused on cranberries. The article was so beautiful and inspiring that I felt it was worth mentioning here.

The cranberry article included things such as cranberry scones, cranberry layer cake, and cranberry apple sweet potatoes. I chose to try the Crimson Slaw and it was delicious. The color, taste, and texture were right on and paired perfectly with my baked ham, roasted sweet potatoes, and steamed green beans.

CRIMSON SLAW
(Sept/Oct Midwest Living 2010)
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1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. dry red wine (optional — but added a great depth)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
4 cups shredded red cabbage (1/2 of a medium head)
1  6-ounce package dried cranberries (I used half this amount)
1/4 to 1/2 of a medium red onion, thinly sliced

For vinaigrette: in screw-top jar, combine oil, sugar, vinegar, wine (if you like), salt, pepper, and mustard. Cover and shake well.

In a large bowl, toss together cabbage, cranberries and onion. Pour the vinaigrette over cabbage mixture; toss gently to coat. Cover and chill for 2 to 24 hours. (I had to serve it immediately and it was great.)

Serves 6.

Victoria (Heather) — Victoria has always been my favorite magazine. The beauty and romance of its pages capture my heart. I enjoyed flipping through this magazine while on our recent “staycation”. Since I am a devoted Anglophile (more precisely a UK-phile), I particularly enjoyed this issue.

Page 38 contains a beautiful photo of an amazing cake: who knew it was gluten-free?! I had to make it. The result was beautiful, but strangely tinny. After some reflection I realized the recipe had been altered in translation and the “tablespoons” should be read as “teaspoons”, especially where baking powder is concerned!!! So, if you’re going to make this cake, be sure to follow the recipe below, or remember the proper translation when you read the magazine!

APPLE AND CINNAMON CAKE
(Victoria Magazine, Sept/Oct 2010)
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1 1/2 cups butter, softened (margarine can be used if you can’t use butter)
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 1/2 cups all-purpose, gluten-free flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill with great results)
4 tsp. gluten-free baking powder
2 tsp. xanthan gum
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
6 large eggs
4 apples, peeled and coarsely grated

garnish: 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped; 1/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease and line two 9-inch cake pans.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment at medium-high speed, beat together butter and sugar until smooth.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, and cinnamon. Add to butter mixture, and mix at low speed until combined and smooth.

In a medium bowl, combine eggs and grated apple; fold into butter mixture.

Divide batter between prepared pan, and bake for 40 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool cakes in pans for 15 minutes. Transfer cakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble cake, place one cake layer on plate and spread half of the icing over top; top with second cake layer, and spread remaining icing over top. Garnish with walnuts and dried cranberries, if desired.

ICING
(Heather’s Recipe)

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups heavy whipping cream

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a mixer and whip (slowly at first) until cheese is thoroughly mixed in and mixture has thickened.

International Cuisine: Sabse Borani

I know, I know,  I said it would be market fresh but a girl can change her mind, right? My boys and I made this yummy dish last week during our study of Afghanistan. I found the recipe online and we all loved it! I served it on naan and as much as I would love to impress you and say that I made the wonderful onion naan, it would be a lie….it was a mix. There, I admitted it. 🙂 It worked out great and since my kiddos were helping, it made the process more age appropriate for them. Perhaps the making of naan from scratch will occur one of these days. In the mean time, this was easy and fabulous.


Sabse Borani

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4 cups fresh spinach leaves, chopped
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup lightly drained plain yogurt (drain about 1 hr – easiest method is to place the yogurt in a coffee filter and let stand)

Place damp spinach in a skillet and cook until wilted (can cover). Drain and squeeze to remove excess water. Heat oil in a large skillet, sauté onion at low heat until golden, add garlic and sauté briefly, then add spinach, and cook for a minute or two more. Let cool. In a bowl, smooth yogurt and add spinach mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

Delicious! We love it on the naan – kind of  like a pizza!

Market Fresh: Irish Colcannon

Today kicks off Irish week – in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day. For this market fresh, we will focus on potatoes with a little cabbage and kale thrown in – it’s Irish Colcannon to be exact. I’m offering two recipes for this traditional Irish potato dish – both are vegetarian and both are gluten free. One would work great for a main dish and the other is better as a side dish.

IRISH COLCANNON – Side Dish Version
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4 lg. potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 c. chopped cabbage
1 med. onion, chopped
1/4 c. milk
2 Tb. butter or stick margarine, divided
salt & pepper to taste

Place potatoes in a large saucepan or Dutch oven; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook over medium heat until potatoes are almost tender. Add cabbage and onion. Cover and simmer for 5-6 minutes or until cabbage is tender. Drain well. Mash with1 Tb. butter, milk, salt and pepper. Place 1 Tb. of butter on top for serving. Serves about 5.

My friend, Jenna, gave me this recipe. I’ve modified it slightly to our taste. We really love the way that the egg yolk breaks into the potatoes. Delicious!

BAKED IRISH COLCANNON – Main Dish Version
(Thanks, Jenna!)
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4-6 med. potatoes, cut into even pieces
1/2 bunch curly kale, shredded (I remove the ribs and chop the leafy part)
1 med. onion, chopped
2 Tb. butter or margarine, to taste
1/4 c. milk
fresh nutmeg, grated
salt and pepper to taste
4 large eggs
1/4-1/3 c. fresh grated paremsan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Boil the potatoes until almost tender, add the kale and onion and cook until kale is just tender. Drain and mash well with butter, milk, and nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon the mixture into a shallow ovenproof dish and make four hollows in the mixture. Crack an egg into each and season well. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the eggs are just set, then serve sprinkled with the parmesan cheese.

Weekend Fare: Oven Stew

My mom often made this oven stew when we were growing up and we loved it! It can be slow-cooked in the oven or layered into a crockpot. It’s great for putting in the oven on Sunday morning before church and coming home to a wonderful and fragrant meal. You can make it stretch your meat or make the meat a star – whatever you prefer. I like it paired with salad and fresh bread. It’s perfect for weekend company and any extra makes delicious leftovers. This stew is one of my favorite comfort foods.

OVEN STEW
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8 potatoes, medium diced
10-12 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 lg. onion, sliced
1 can green beans (drain juice & save)
2 stalks celery, diced (opt.)
1-3 lbs. stew beef
1 8oz. can tomato sauce
2 Tb. cornstarch
Salt & Pepper

Layer in lg. casserole: meat, potatoes, carrots, onions, beans, and celery. Combine tomato sauce, reserved bean liquid, and water to make 2 c. Add 2 Tb. cornstarch and mix together. Sprinkle 1-2 tsp. salt and 1/2-1 1/2 tsp. pepper over layered stew. Pour liquids over all. Cover and bake at 250 degress for 5 hrs. May be assembled and refrigerated to bake later.