Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers

June 11, 2012

If you’ve been wondering if I was ever going to post another recipe, rest assured that I have not forgotten about my blog! It’s just that I was away on vacation for two weeks and returned less than a week ago, and it has taken a few days to settle back into “normal” life with three young children. I wish I could tell you that I had a relaxing holiday, however most of you already know from first-hand experience that there is no such thing as a “vacation” when you are a parent!

Now, don’t get me wrong – we had a lovely time in PEI, where we rented a cottage (really, it was more like a house) near Cavendish (where there is a wonderful beach where my children had great fun playing in the red-tinted sand) and we were blessed to have our good friends from Nova Scotia come visit us for a few days. It’s just that being away from home means your children are in even more need of your constant attention, and that just gets to be E-X-H-A-U-S-T-I-N-G!

I know this may sound strange to some of you, but cooking and baking have the opposite effect on me. The kitchen is where I “recharge”, so to speak. That is why it was important for us to have accommodations with a decent kitchen – and the kitchen at this cottage was pretty amazing, actually. The first day our dear friends from Nova Scotia stayed with us we had a BBQ dinner: pork souvlaki for the adults, sausages for the children, and today’s featured recipe post – Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers.

My mother introduced me to these D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S peppers, which I have since made many times. Each time I use slightly different ingredients so they are never the same. My mother heard about the original recipe while watching the Dr. Oz show, and subsequently found it on his website. The original recipe is made with ground turkey and can be served as a complete meal.

Now, I did not actually take the time to photograph the stuffed peppers I made that evening in PEI, but I did make and photograph them shortly before we went on vacation and so will use those photos and ingredients below. Here, I made a vegetarian version, which can be used as a complete vegetarian meal, or as a side to grilled meats.

Ingredients & Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash 4 red peppers (any colour will work, really – I prefer red though) and cut lengthwise, including the stem. Leaving the stem in place makes possible an impressive presentation. Spray with olive oil (or rub on the olive oil if you haven’t got any spray). Place on baking sheet or in casserole dish and bake for at least 20 minutes, until they begin to soften.

2. Meanwhile, saute 1 shredded carrot, 1 shredded zucchini, 1/2 finely chopped onion, 1 finely minced garlic clove. (I also like to add some fresh baby spinach if I have some on hand.)

3. Add left-over grilled eggplant (or add some sautéed mushrooms, preferably coarsely chopped) and cooked quinoa (approximately 1 cup). Sometimes I reduce the amount of quinoa and replace it with cooked brown rice. (If you don’t have any left-over eggplant or mushrooms from last night’s dinner, just saute some for a while BEFORE you add the shredded carrot, zucchini, etc. in step 2 above!)

4. Add cumin and chilli powder to taste. Add salsa (approximately 1/4 cup).

5. Spoon quinoa mixture into red peppers, cover with foil and bake for approximately 20 minutes.

6. Remove foil, sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Continue baking uncovered for approximately 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

7. Serve with plain greek yogurt and a side salad. I sometimes add 1/4 of an avocado on top of the yogurt. ENJOY!

Here is a picture from our vacation on PEI. I would add more, but I seem to be having issues uploading photos without it taking what seems like an eternity!

Have you ever been to PEI? What was your favourite part of the island and/or vacation?!

Quinoa-Veggie Burgers

May 4, 2012

If you’ve been following my blog since its inception just over two weeks ago(!), you already know that I adore quinoa. Well, today I finally had a chance to try out the Quinoa-Veggie Burger recipe that I discovered while flipping through an issue of Chatelaine during one of my many visits to the walk-in clinic (when you have three young children, you go there A LOT!). These tasty “burgers” are surprisingly quick and easy to make.

Chatelaine gives the preparation and cooking time as 20 minutes each (for a total of 40 minutes), but really the preparation (peeling and chopping vegetables) can be done in about 5 minutes, and if you use left-over quinoa instead of cooking a fresh batch, the cooking time can also be reduced to 15 minutes – meaning you can have lunch or dinner ready in about 20 minutes!

You can view the Chatelaine version of this recipe here, or you can follow along below to view how I made my burgers.

Ingredients:

1 and 1/4 cup cooked quinoa (I usually cook 1 cup quinoa – which turns into approximately 3 cups once cooked) at the beginning of each week so I have some readily available throughout the week for recipes like these Quinoa-Veggie Burgers, Quinoa Carrot Muffins, Greek Yogurt Delight, etc.)

1 egg, scrambled – EDITOR’S NOTE: by scrambled, I mean whisked & uncooked!

2 Tbsp cornstarch and 1 Tbsp brown rice flour (because I ran out of cornstarch, though you could use 3 Tbsp of either ingredient – I purchase my brown rice flour at the Bulk Barn)

2 Tbsp ground flaxseed (optional)

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cumin (because I didn’t have any cayenne pepper, which the Chatelaine recipe calls for and I thought cumin would taste good – it did!)

1 tsp canola oil

approximately 115 g cremini and portobello mushrooms, cleaned and chopped

1 coarsely grated medium zucchini

1 coarsely grated medium peeled carrot

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Directions:

1. Transfer quinoa into a large bowl. Stir in egg, cornstarch (and/or brown rice flour), ground flaxseed, salt and cumin.

2. Heat a large, wide non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add oil, then mushrooms, zucchini, carrot, onion and garlic. Cook until soft, about 5 min.

3. Add cooked veggies to quinoa and egg mixture and stir.

4. Heat the same non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Firmly press quinoa mixture into a 1/3-cup measuring cup. If the burgers are not sticking together well, add some more cornstarch or brown rice flour to the mixture.

5. Turn and release into pan. Gently press to shape into a patty. cook until golden and warmed through, about 4 minutes per side. Repeat until quinoa-veggie mixture is “all gone” (picture my almost-two-year old here shrugging her shoulders and holding out the palms of her hands upwards as she says “all gone”- too cute!).

I THOROUGHLY enjoyed my quinoa-veggie burgers along with some romaine lettuce, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and avocado, topped with a generous dollop of hummus. Of course, I drizzled the raw veggies with my Honey Mustard Salad Dressing! [Though I have made my own hummus in the past, I prefer the one from Costco (brand name: “fontaine sante”) because let’s face it, I don’t really have time to make EVERYTHING from scratch, and the listed ingredients are “normal”: chickpeas, tahini (sesame butter) canola oil, lemon juice concentrate, sea salt, vinegar, garlic juice (garlic juice, salt).]

Chatelaine suggests topping the burgers with tahini sauce and roasted plum tomatoes. Their photo of the cooked burgers shows them served on top of a grilled portobello mushroom and arugula. It looks soooo yummy, I think I’ll try this next time!

Will you give this recipe a try? Are you interested in more “meatless” meals?

Whole Grain Pancakes

May 3, 2012

For a time, my kids were slightly addicted to Cheerios for breakfast. And when there isn’t much time available in the mornings before having to rush out the door to catch the school bus, I certainly rely on this cereal for a quickly prepared breakfast the kids will eat without complaining. But now that I make my own pancake mix and store it in my pantry, we have pancakes for breakfast more frequently – even on weekdays! These pancakes are packed with flavour (especially if you follow my modifications) and texture and you’ll never want to buy another box of prepared pancake mix again (not that I have ever even considered doing so)!

I found this recipe in “Whole Grains for Busy People” by Lorna Sass. (I include my modifications in brackets.)

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour (I used 1 cup spelt flour, 1 cup kamut flour, 1/2 cup quinoa flour, 1/4 cup ground flaxseed

Editor’s Note: 1 cup oatmeal (large flakes) was originally (accidentally) omitted from this post – be sure you add them!

1/4 sugar (you can omit this if you’re trying to cut back on your sugar consumption, as I am)

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt (I usually omit salt from all my baking)

Directions:

In a large zipper-top bag or storage container, combine all ingredients. Seal and shake gently until thoroughly mixed. Label and date. Refrigerate for up to 3 months. Shake gently to aerate the mix before each use. (I doubled the recipe and am storing it in my pantry.)

To make the pancakes, you will need:

1 large egg

1 cup well-shaken buttermilk, plus more if needed (I have also used kefir instead, with equally tasty results)

2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted (I use 1 Tbsp canola oil instead)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups Whole Grain Pancake Mix (see above; stir before measuring)

1 to 2 tsp grated zest of a lemon or orange (optional)

Directions:

In a large bowl, lightly beat the egg. blend in the buttermilk (or kefir), butter (or oil), vanilla, and lemon or orange rind (if using). Fold in the pancake mix just until the flour is absorbed. Avoid overmixing.

Heat a large griddle or skillet over medium heat. Lightly coat the surface with oil (my griddle doesn’t require any greasing). When a drop of water thrown on the griddle immediately sizzles, pour on 2 Tbsp batter per pancake, allowing space for the batter to spread. When the pancakes are dry around the edges and the bottoms are nicely browned, 2 to 3 minutes, flip them. Cook until browned on the second side, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Lower the heat if the pancakes are browning too quickly, leaving the centre uncooked. Serve each batch as soon as it’s done, arranging the pancakes slightly overlapped. Do not stack the pancakes – this causes them to steam and become soggy. If you prefer to bake and serve all of the pancakes at once, set them in a single layer on a baking pan and place in a warm oven.

Please let me know what you think of these pancakes if/when you try these!

Broccoli Leek Soup

May 2, 2012

Soups are a great way to incorporate vegetables into your diet, and most soups can be prepared quickly. Here is one of my favourite vegetable soup recipes, which can be found on page 66 of “The Oprah Magazine Cookbook”. Personally, I think the best way to enjoy this soup is alongside a grilled cheese sandwich. Today, however, I decided to add some left-over quinoa to make it extra healthy!

Ingredients:

1 large bunch broccoli

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced

1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (I have omitted this on occasion and it tastes just as good!)

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

3/4 tsp salt

Pinch of freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup half-and-half (optional)

1/4 cup snipped chives (optional) – I used green onion because I didn’t have any chives!

Directions:

Separate broccoli stems from florets. Using a vegetable peeler, peel stems to remove tough outer layer, then slice into 1/4-inch-thick “coins”. Break or cut the florets into small pieces. Reserve stems and florets separately.

In a medium saucepan, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring often, until softened and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add broccoli stems, potato, and garlic, and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add 3 cups water, broth, salt, and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover partially and simmer until broccoli and potato are tender, about 12 minutes.

Add florets; bring to a boil and then simmer 5 minutes.

Transfer soup in batches to a blender or food processor, and puree until smooth. (I use an immersion hand blender directly in the saucepan instead, so there is no need to transfer the soup!) Return soup to saucepan; add half-and-half and chives (if using) and reheat briefly.

Makes 4 servings.

What’s your favourite vegetable soup?

If you have ever wondered how to incorporate cabbage into your diet other than through cole slaw and cabbage rolls (and it’s not likely you’re eating these on a regular basis!), then this is THE recipe for you! The best thing about this recipe is that it requires only one pot (well, really a large frying pan or wok) and it can be seasoned using different spices to suit your taste! A very good friend of mine recently came up with the recipe when she wanted a quick, tasty way to incorporate cabbage into her diet. I have since made this dish several times, and though the kids turn their noses (tonight I served them chicken enchilada “pie” instead – recipe to follow soon!), my husband eagerly helps himself to seconds (and sometimes thirds)!

Ingredients:

1 pound ground turkey (ground chicken or beef will also taste great)

1 onion, sliced or diced

1 – 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/4 cabbage, shredded (I use a mandolin to do this)

1 – 2 carrots, coarsely shredded

1 – 2 Tbsp curry powder (or, you can leave this out entirely!)

1 – 2 cups tomato sauce (my favourite for this recipe is from Costco and is called, “All Natural Marinara Sauce” by “White Linen Collection – Gourmet Pasta Sauce” – I highly recommend using this over the PC Blue Menu version for this recipe unless you’re in a pinch)

1 and 1/2 cups water

Directions:

Cook the meat (I used ground beef tonight, though I actually prefer it with ground turkey) in a large frying pan or wok, over high heat.

Once no longer pink, add onion and garlic. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes.

Add cabbage and cook for approximately 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add carrots and cook for approximately 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the curry powder (if using) and stir.

Add 1 – 2 cups tomato sauce (depends entirely on how “saucy” you want it to be).

Add water and reduce temperature to medium. Continue cooking for approximately 25 minutes, or until cabbage is tender and sauce thickened.

Serve with “Cucumber Salad” (see my recipe on a prior post) or garden salad using “Honey Mustard Dressing” (see my recipe on a prior post). And if you haven’t banished carbs from your dinner menu as I have (in an effort to finally lose the remaining pregnancy weight), serve with brown rice or quinoa! Oh, and a dollop of plain greek yogurt or drizzle of kefir would taste great, too!

Will you be giving this recipe a try? Please post a picture and give your verdict once you’ve done so!

I made these on the weekend and they were a huge hit with my family! You can experiment with a mixture of quinoa flour, whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour to adjust this recipe to your taste. I thought they were fabulous just as they were as per the recipe below, which is from “Quinoa 365 – The Everyday Superfood” by Patricia Green & Carolyn Hemming.

2 1/2 cups quinoa flour

1/4 cup white or cane sugar (I used only 1 Tbsp)

2 Tbsp baking powder (use gluten-free if you are gluten intolerant)

1 tsp salt (I generally omit salt from my baking)

2 1/2 cups milk or soy milk (I used 2 3/4 buttermilk)

2 large eggs

2 Tbsp vegetable oil (I generally use canola oil for baking)

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Combine dry ingredients. In a separate, medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Add to the flour mixture and whisk together until smooth. Then prepare as you normally prepare your pancakes. (For Christmas my mother gave me a griddle and now that is my favourite way to cook pancakes. First, I can fit more on the griddle than even my biggest frying pan. Second, I don’t need to use any oil or butter for greasing purposes.)

I usually prefer to eat my pancakes with pure maple syrup, however sometimes I use agave nectar instead since it is lower on the Glycemic Index. And when I’m trying to be REALLY good, then I eat them with plain greek yogurt, grated lemon rind and fresh berries! YUMMY!

Since our family LOVES to eat pancakes, I’ll be posting many more pancake recipes, so stay tuned!

What’s your favourite pancake topping?

I just adore quinoa. Although it is referred to as a whole grain, it is actually a tiny seed, and it can also be ground into flour. Cooked whole quinoa has a slightly nutty flavour and a lovely crunchy texture. But what I love most about quinoa is that it cooks in just 15 minutes and is a complete protein! Oh, and it’s gluten free! I use it often instead of rice and prefer it over couscous, but it is even more versatile than that – you can add it to virtually any meal or snack. When I cook quinoa, I make sure to cook enough to last several days in an airtight container in the fridge. Please refer to a previous link for more information about quinoa.

Here are a couple of ideas for using cooked quinoa: Add 1/4 cup of cooked quinoa to the Greek Yogurt Delight recipe to boost it’s nutritional value and satiety. Or, you can add any array of roasted/grilled vegetables to some quinoa and drizzle it with some Honey Mustard Dressing and sprinkle some feta cheese over top (and some sliced almonds or chopped pecans are also a nice addition).

This afternoon, however, I decided to add some cooked quinoa to the “Carrot Spice Muffins” in Patricia Green & Carolyn Hemming’s national bestselling cookbook, entitled “Quinoa 365 – The Everyday Superfood” . These muffins are kid-friendly, gluten-free, and of course, contain vegetables! And as an added bonus, they contain no oil or butter! Rather, they are moistened by the addition of plain yogurt. Serve these for breakfast, lunch or snack time!

Here is the recipe with some slight modifications.

Ingredients:

2 1/3 cups quinoa flour (can be purchased at the “Bulk Barn”)

2 tbsp ground flaxseed (can also be purchased at the “Bulk Barn”)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt (I usually omit salt from my recipes)

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/3 cup raisins

1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (or omit these and replace them with an additional 1/3 cup raisins)

2 large eggs

1/2 cup brown sugar – NOT packed (I always try to reduce the amount of sugar in a recipe!)

2/3 cup plain yogurt (I used PC’s Greek Yogurt, of course!)

2 1/4 cups finely grated carrots (you could reduce the amount of carrots and add grated zucchini instead to add more vegetable variety!)

1/2 cup cooked quinoa (I buy mine from Costco as it’s organic and pre-washed. The brand name is “truRoots”)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Lightly spray a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking oil. Combine the first eight ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Stir until well blended. Mix in the raisins and nuts (if using) and set aside. Whisk the eggs, sugar and yogurt in a large bowl. Stir in the grated carrots.

Using a spatula, gently stir the flour mixture into the carrot mixture until just blended. Scoop the batter evenly into the muffin cups. Bake on the centre oven rack for 20 – 24 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the oven and allow them to cool completely before removing them from the pan. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month, but I doubt they’ll last very long – the batch I made this afternoon is already devoured!