Fiesta Quinoa

Fiesta QuinoaAh, the plans I make and the menus I create….only to be dashed to pieces the first night!  Grocery day can be crazy in our household, with stops at several stores, since no single one of them carries everything with which I cook.  Today (actually, several months ago, since I found this post hiding in my draft folder) was no different ~ except a couple of extra errands were tossed in for good measure.  This meant I didn’t have the needed time to make the do-ahead items on my menu for the week.  Which also meant that when I got home late, there was no instant supper to put on the table. Continue reading

Italian Quinoa

There has been a long dry spell for my creativity in the kitchen.  I’m sure it’s been caused in part by my busy life and in part by my mental focus on creating a dessert for the up-coming Virtual Vegan Potluck (more on that soon.)  Overall, the family has been receiving old stand-bys on the table and some lazy versions of home cooked meals!

No wonder, then, my family just about licked the pan clean last night when I served this.  I was a bit surprised, because most of them aren’t big fans of sun-dried tomatoes and usually pick them out to toss onto my plate (which means I get tons more – yay!)  However, last night I didn’t get any extras on my plate!  None!  If I had known that, I would have put more in the recipe than I did.  I was informed it is a texture issue and these sun-dried tomatoes were soft enough for their palates this time.  Who knew?  Therefore, I wrote a scope of choice below for how many tomatoes you use.  The picture shows the quinoa with about 4 oz. of sun-dried tomatoes (approximately).  It would have been tastier with the larger amount and that is what I will do next time.

Italian QuinoaYou can switch a few things around in this recipe depending on what you have in your cupboards and refrigerator.  I didn’t have any fresh mushrooms, so I used canned, but either works.  If you prefer a stronger tasting olive such as Kalamata, then by all means, try those.  I’m the only one in this house who likes cooked bell peppers – of any color, so I didn’t toss any in, but those would be great here, too – either fresh or frozen.  (I figured I was pushing it by using the sun-dried tomatoes, let alone making it “worse” in their minds by adding peppers.)

Addendum:  You will need a large frying pan with lid or dutch oven.  Mine is 4-5 quarts!

Italian Quinoa

  • 1 lg. onion, chopped
  • 2 Tofurkey Italian “sausage” links, diced (optional, or reduce)
  • 6-8 oz. frozen artichoke hearts (half a bag)
  • olive oil (may use oil from sun-dried tomatoes)
  • 4-8 oz. sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 4 oz. can of chopped portabella mushrooms
  • 1 can black olives, sliced or quartered
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 4 c. water
  • 2 T. chicken-style seasoning
  • 2 c. quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • soy parmesan “cheese”

Saute the onion, Tofurkey links, and artichoke hearts in just enough olive oil to keep them from sticking or burning.  As the artichokes thaw, they will put off some liquid that will help.  Once the onion is softening some and the artichokes can be mushed with the back of a spoon to break them up and distribute them a bit, add remaining ingredients, excluding parmesan “cheese.”  (Include some or all of the oil from the tomatoes for the best overall flavor.)  Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Sprinkle soy parmesan over the whole dish and stir in.  Serve with extra parmesan at the table.

Best served with cooked greens or a salad.

Cauliflower Butternut Squash Soup

Standing in front of the cupboards in my kitchen and peering into the depths of the refrigerator, I wonder what to make for supper.  (Never mind that I have a weekly menu I usually follow ~ it has already gotten so messed up that it is unrecognizable by this point.)  Although it would seem unlikely that I should make soup this close to the end of March, the fact that we are expecting a significant snow storm tonight belies that thought.  But what kind of soup?

Taking another mental glance at the refrigerator’s contents, I realize that I have a head of cauliflower that needs to be used before it gets all spotted.  Since I have no desire to waste a perfectly good organic cauliflower I get it out and plunk it onto the counter.  What else to go with it…?

Every great once in a while some wild combination pops into my head.  Keep in mind that I am not typically a wild-idea person culinarily speaking, and certainly my family is not adventurous when it comes to eating. I notice a languishing butternut squash on a corner counter.  Ping!  A weird idea comes into my head.  Wondering if anybody else has ever thought of such a soup, I contact my good friend Google to see.  (What did we do before such luxuries?)  Sure enough, many entries are listed.  Back to the kitchen I go to start the creation process comforted by the fact that this shouldn’t come out totally warped.

Here I simply must give a warning note.  If you have never peeled and cut up an uncooked butternut squash, I have to say that it is not for the faint of heart nor the dull of knife!  Yikes.  I had never tried this before, but I have seen plenty of recipes that tell you to do it, so I assume that people have had success peeling squash.  First off I broke one of my vegetable peelers (thankfully, not my favorite one.)  I messed around and fiddled with different processes until I settled on the best way for me.  I got out my large serrated knife and cut

off a relatively thin slice of the blossom end.  Standing it on this now-flat end, I started at the squash’s “waist” and dug the knife in and cut/sawed down toward the bottom, curving slightly around the “hips.”  This actually worked pretty well, but again, it is not an easy process.  You’ll need to hitch up your britches for this one!  My forearm and hand are going to complain tomorrow.  I lay the squash on it’s side to do the top half of it with sideways slices.  Good luck.  (I suppose you could buy it already cut up….)

I have a terrible tendency to make enormous soups.  I have cut this one down for you since I would guess most of you don’t want to make 1 1/2-2 gallons of soup at a time!  But if you want to use an entire head of cauliflower and all of a medium butternut squash like I did, triple the recipe.  🙂

Cauliflower Butternut Squash Soup

Cauliflower Butternut Squash Soup

  • 2 c. chopped cauliflower (small pieces, randomly hacked up)
  • 2 c. diced butternut squash (1/2-1″ pieces)
  • 2/3 c. chopped onion
  • 1/2 c. sliced celery
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 c. water
  • 2 1/2 T. chicken-style seasoning
  • 1/3 of a bag of chopped frozen spinach
  • 2 tsp. Trader Joe’s South African Smoke Seasoning Blend **
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. dillweed
  • 1/4 tsp. basil
  • 1/3 c. quinoa, well rinsed and drained

Toss everything except the quinoa into a large pot and bring to a boil.  Gently boil for 10-15 minutes or until the cauliflower and squash are tender.  (The onions might not be yet.)  Stir in the rinsed quinoa and simmer for another 10-15 minutes, or until the quinoa’s little curls release and it becomes soft.

**Trader Joe’s South African Smoke Seasoning Blend contains smoked paprika flakes, sea salt, garlic, and basil.  The label states that it “adds that wonderful Umami flavor, which can be elusive and difficult to achieve.”  I’ve never had any Umami flavored anything before, but I think you could probably modified this soup with some hickory smoke drops and some Spike seasoning blend if you don’t have access to a Trader Joe’s.

Quinoa Pilaf

Another night of staring into the cupboards trying to decide what to fix because what was on my planned weekly menu just wasn’t happening tonight (this seems to happen for various reasons way too often.)  Another episode with nothing jumping around in the pantry or freezer when I stared into them saying, “Fix me!  Fix me!”  😀

The great thing about this dish that I finally created is that it is super filling, fairly fast with little hands-on during the actual cooking time, and it is versatile.  If you like peppers, toss some in.  If you dislike mushrooms, leave them out.  If you have fresh mushrooms or frozen chopped onions, use them.  If you like ginger, try adding some of that with the onions.  Quinoa PilafAnd those cooked greens pictured on the plate next to the pilaf?  Well, right after the picture was snapped and I took a bite, they ended up tossed together with the quinoa ~ and they were spectacular together!  If you don’t feel like dirtying a second pan, you could just throw a bag or two of frozen spinach right into the quinoa while it is cooking along with a little extra salt.  Ta-da!  One-dish meal.

Quinoa Pilaf

  • 2 ribs of celery (I used celery hearts), split lengthwise and diced
  • 1 small-medium onion, diced
  • 2-3 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 small can mushroom pieces, or 4 oz. of fresh ones, diced
  • 4 c. water
  • 2 c. quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 3 T. chicken-style seasoning
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp. dillweed
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

In a large frying pan, saute the celery and onions in the olive oil while you dice up the carrots.  Toss the carrots in when you are finished, as well as the mushrooms.  When veggies are softened, pour in the water, quinoa, chicken seasoning and lemon juice; stir.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Turn heat down to medium and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  When the quinoa begins to show tiny little curls popping out, then sprinkle the lemon juice and dill over it all and stir.  Add the garbanzo beans.  Leave the lid off and simmer, stirring occasionally, until water is absorbed and the quinoa is fairly fluffy.

Serve with cooked greens and perhaps a slice of lemon to squeeze over it all.

Quick Quinoa

You come home from ________ which took longer than you anticipated and are exhausted ~ only you remember that you still need to make supper.  No problem…you have a plan…until you open the cupboard/frig/freezer and discover a) somebody’s eaten a crucial ingredient to your plan, b) formerly mentioned crucial ingredient has spoiled, or c) you are actually missing said ingredient that you thought you picked up at the grocery store last week.  Now what?

This recipe is what ~ at least for me two nights ago!  Quinoa (pronounced keenwa) is a super fast “grain” to cook up.  (It’s actually a seed, but it’s texture and behavior is more grain-like.  It has no gluten and loads of protein.)  It adds plenty of substance to a dish for the hungry hordes who can’t subsist on haute cuisine’s small portions.

Even as I made this as a substitute for what I was supposed to make, I found out I still had an ingredient problem.  When I opened the new salsa/picante sauce jar and poured it into the measuring cup, lo and behold, it wasn’t enough!!  (I was doubling this recipe.)  I already had some of the ingredients cooking.  What was I going to do?  Then I remembered I had some cans of Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilis.  Perfect.  I was so excited that I opened the can and tossed the whole thing into the frying pan…without measuring it.  Rats.  Did I mention that I was exhausted out of my mind?  Mmm.

Well, now I figured I would have a slightly soupy mix.  I could either take the lid off and cook it all down, taking more time than I was willing to give, OR I could get some soycurls out of the freezer, snap them into small pieces, and throw them into the mix to soak up the excess.  (What are soycurls?  Read this.)  I went with the soycurls ~ just 1 c. for the doubled recipe.  Perfect!  Hubby announced that the dish needed more soycurls…go figure.  I could have left them out if I hadn’t dumped so much liquid in!

This dish can be as mild or spicy as you like, depending on the salsa, picante sauce, or canned diced tomato/green chilis you have on hand.  Serve it with soy sour cream, diced avocado, and/or shredded vegan cheese.  Add a veggie and your are set to go ~ all in about 20-30 minutes.

Quick Quinoa

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1-2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 c. quinoa, rinsed well and drained
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1-1 1/2 c. salsa or picante sauce, your choice of mild to hot **
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 c. soycurls, optional (use full measure of salsa/picante sauce if adding these.)

Saute the chopped onion in olive oil until a few pieces are beginning to brown on the edges and the rest are softened.  Add remaining ingredients.  Stir and cover, simmering for 15-20 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Taste quinoa to test if it is fully cooked (tiny “tails” or curls will loosen from the kernels as they reach preparedness.)  Add extra salsa or water as needed to keep from sticking if extra cooking time is required.  If it seems too soupy, take the lid off and continue simmering.

** Use 1 c. if you want a drier end result.  You can always add more salsa as the dish simmers if it seems like the quinoa isn’t soft yet, but things are getting dry.  If you want to add 1/2 c. of soycurls, use the full 1 1/2 c.