Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Toasted Quinoa with Mandarin Oranges

(You are about to enter my thought process. Beware.)

Tonight we're having broiled salmon, sauteed spinach and what? I've brown-riced myself to death the last few days, so maybe some quinoa. But not just plain quinoa. Something jazzier. That everyone will like. Hmmmm. Think I'll sit down with a few cookbooks for inspiration.

What? You need a ride where? Ask Dad. (sorry; thoughts were interrupted. Back to reality.)

1,000 Gluten-Free Recipes, a cookbook I received as a holiday gift from a gluten-free client, provided inspiration for tonight's side dish. I've sneaked a few tastes, and so far, so good... I think everyone will enjoy this, once my husband gets back home.

Toasted Quinoa with Mandarin Oranges

Serves 4 - 6 as a side dish

1 teaspoon canola oil
1 cup uncooked quinoa -- rinsed
1 14 ounce can low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup water
1 11 ounce can mandarin orange -- drained
1/4 cup sliced toasted almonds
1/2 small red bell pepper -- chopped
2 tablespoons green onion -- chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, cilantro or parsley -- chopped
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

In small heavy saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Toast quinoa for 4 minutes, stirring, until seeds are lightly toasted.

Add broth and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook covered for 15 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Remove from heat and let cool at least 10 minutes.

Combine cooled quinoa, oranges, almond, bell pepper, green onions and fresh herbs in a bowl. Toss well.

Combine dressing ingredients in a screw-top jar. Shake well. Pour most of dressing over the salad (I didn't use it all). Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ode to Tofu

I love tofu in any way shape or form, and over the years, I've made desserts, dressings, cheese-less pasta fillings and stir-fries with it. I'm always amazed at how tofu accepts all the flavors around it and becomes something new with each recipe.

Take silken tofu: in dressings and desserts, it adds a creaminess and texture that's missing from most dairy-free products. My all-time favorite use of silken tofu is this Chocolate Mousse.

Firm and extra-firm tofu are my choices for hearty dishes such as stir fries and baked tofu dishes. However, the problem is that tofu is packed in water, and water does not add flavor to anything. In fact, it just makes things, well, watery. Getting rid of the water involves a step called pressing the tofu, which can be messy and involves wads of paper towels, plates and weights and frequently results in puddles of water on the kitchen counter.

Enter the TofuXpress, which presses the water from tofu without all the mess. Fellow Blogger Ellen Allard was singing its praises, so I've decided to throw my toque into the ring in her contest to own my very own Tofu X-Press. Then making dishes like her yummy stir-fry will be even easier!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Maple-Pecan Granola

Having a container of homemade granola around the house is always a good thing. Whether you like to sprinkle it on top of yogurt, put some on your Cheerios for an extra crunch, or eat it out of hand, it never lasts too long. I made a double batch today, planning to give some to the in-laws when I see them on Christmas. I hope it lasts that long!

Maple-Pecan Granola
Makes 4 cups

2 cups old-fashioned or regular (not quick) oats
1/2 cup pecan pieces
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 T. canola oil
pinch of salt
pinch of cinnamon
1/2 cup dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, apricots... whatever you like)
2 T. flaked coconut (optional)
2 T. sunflower seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix the oats, pecans, maple syrup, brown sugar, oil, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl, stirring with a rubber spatula until combined. Pour mixture out onto prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 35 - 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so. Keep a very close eye on this during the last few minutes; it can burn very quickly. It's done when the nuts and oats are deep brown but not burnt. Let cool completely. Stir in dried fruit, coconut and sunflower seeds.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Beef Satay Sticks

All four family members were swooning over this supper, which doesn't happen every day.

I chose this recipe from Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book for a few reasons:
TS (Teenage Son) loves beef; DD (Darling Daughter) will try almost anything; DH (Dear Husband) also loves beef and Asian flavors; and I'm up for anything in the name of pleasing the family and testing out a new recipe.

After bathing the beef in a simple marinade, I seared it on a very hot griddle (flat skillet without sides). I didn't have enough skewers for all the beef, but it didn't matter. DH ended up eating the skewer-less strips with his fingers, right off the serving platter. That's how good it was!

The recipe also includes a peanut dipping sauce. TS and I didn't even use it, though DH thought it added an extra layer of flavor and DD will eat anything with peanuts in it. So it's up to you; skip the sauce if you don't think it will be a big hit with the family. I served the Satay Sticks with white rice and steamed broccoli.

Beef Satay Sticks

Serves 3 - 4

1 pound top round steak, cut against the grain into thin, 1 1/2-in. wide strips
1 1/4 cups teriyaki sauce (I used Soy Veh)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 squirt Sriracha chili sauce (more if you like it spicy)
For the peanut sauce:
1/2 cup apple juice
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
1 cup smooth peanut butter
For the garnish:
1 lime
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 T. sesame seeds

Mix 1 cup of the teriyaki sauce with the smashed garlic cloves and chili sauce in a glass bowl. Add the steak strips and let them hang out while you make the peanut sauce.

In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce, apple juice and piece of ginger. Bring to a boil and then turn off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes. Remove the ginger and discard. Whisk in the peanut butter and a squeeze of lime juice, if you have a lime on hand.

Preheat a flat grill pan or griddle over medium-high heat. Skewer the meat on wooden or bamboo skewers (or not - it will still taste great!) and sear for just a minute or two on each side. Place the meat on a platter and sprinkle the sliced scallions and sesame seeds on top. Squeeze a little lime juice on top, too, if you like. Serve.

Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book, "Lean Mean Spicy Beef Satay Sticks."

Sunday, December 20, 2009


I gave myself this pressure cooker as an early Christmas gift. I've been thinking about investing in one for a year or so, and now that I have a client who adores meals like pot roast, stew, hearty soups and barbecue beef sandwiches, I had a good excuse to buy one. These dishes can take hours to cook (and more time to cool before packaging), making them a major time-suck on a cookdate. With the pressure cooker, I should be able to prepare them in much less time, thus shortening my work day. I'm all for that!

I didn't realize until I read the little booklet that came with my PC that my model can also cook rice, polenta and risotto. That seemed like an easy, cheap entry into pressure cooking, so last night I christened the PC by making risotto.

Risotto is usually a time-consuming dish to prepare, with the cook standing at the stove stirring the liquids into the rice forever and a day. The PC eliminated that business and still produced a creamy, toothsome risotto.

Besides being a tasty side dish, risotto is versatile: different herbs and cheeses can be added to it to change its flavor. It can be prepared ahead of time and then molded into little patties or balls and fried. Or, with the addition of some protein, risotto can be turned into your main dish. I added some cooked shrimp and peas from the freezer and voila, dinner was ready.

Serves 3-4

2 T. olive oil
1/4 cup finely diced shallot
1 cup Arborio rice
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
pinch saffron threads
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 T. chopped parsley

Use the "Brown" setting to saute the shallots and rice in oil until tender, 4 - 5 minutes. Turn off the Brown setting. Add the broth, wine and saffron. Close the lid and turn the knob to "Pressure." Set the timer for 10 minutes at High pressure. When done, release the pressure and open the lid. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and parsley. Serve. (I mixed in about 1/2 box of frozen peas and 1/2 lb. cooked shrimp.)

Adapted from the Fagor Electric Multi-Cooker booklet.