Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cookbook Review: 500 Best Quinoa Recipes

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Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this cookbook from the author. I was not otherwise compensated for this review and all opinions are 100% my own. Recipes reprinted with permission from the author.  
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We all know quinoa is good for us, but what are we supposed to make with it? I've browsed other quinoa books in the past, but they never left me feeling inspired enough to want to add them to my already large cookbook collection. But since I've had so much success with Camilla's recipes in the past, I just knew this one wouldn't let me down, and it certainly did not!

For any of you who NEED tons of photos in your cookbooks, please do not let the fact that there are only a handful in this one dissuade you. These recipes can stand on their own, with or without photographic evidence.

With 500 to choose from, I wasn't quite sure where to start, so I decided to try recipes based mostly on what ingredients I had on hand. I did pick up a few things at the store during a regular shopping trip, but I figured the true test of a cookbook is whether or not I can turn to (almost) any recipe and have it come out great. (I mean if it has pickles in it, I'm not going to like it no matter how well-written or tested it is!) Can I make something with the pile of tomatoes that will only last another day or two? Or the other half of a monster zucchini before it shrivels up? Can I find a recipe in this book that uses those ingredients and tastes great. Well my friends, the answer is a resounding YES.

I have a particular fondness for the Vegetarian Main Dishes chapter, but the book also features many other types of dishes: Breakfasts, Appetizers & Snacks, Soups, Stews, & Chilis, Salads & Sides, Seafood, Poultry, & Lean Meat Main Dishes, Breads, and Desserts. Yes, Desserts. This book has got it ALL.

All the recipes in this book call for either the whole grain form of quinoa or quinoa flour. If you can't find quinoa flour, check if your grocery store has a separate gluten-free section which is where I found it. Also, when you first open the bag of quinoa flour, don't be alarmed if you think it has a very strong scent. That is not what your baked goods are going to taste like. I find that quinoa flour lends just a bit of a pleasant, nutty taste to whatever I'm making.

The first recipe I'd like to share with you (with Camilla's permission of course) is for Quinoa al Pomodoro. This was hands down the most delicious quinoa dish that has ever passed my lips. While it is definitely more of a summer recipe, I was lucky enough to have several tomatoes harvested from the end of my aunt's garden bounty. This dish is so simple, yet so spectacular.

Quinoa al Pomodoro
Print Recipe

Makes 6 servings
1 1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 1/2 cups ready-to-use reduced-sodium vegetable broth (GF, if needed)
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chopped tomaotes
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
fine sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
4 oz ricotta salata or mild feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
2/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)

1. In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa and broth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine garlic, tomatoes, oil and vinegar. Generously season with salt and pepper. Let stand for at least 10 minutes  to blend flavors.

3. Add tomato mixture to the quinoa, tossing to combine. Serve sprinkled with cheese, basil and pine nuts (if using).

I also wanted to give you a sample of what a baking recipe using quinoa flour tastes like, so the second recipe I'm sharing is for Scottish Oat Scones. I was fortunate enough to travel to Scotland earlier this year and since I've long been enamored with all things Scottish, this was a natural pick for me! The dough was a bit stickier than I'm used to for a scone which made it a little difficult to work with, but the flavor was out of this world! They are delicious plain, but Camilla suggests serving them with "ample amounts of jam or marmalade and a mug of tea" and I can't say that's a bad idea!

Scottish Oat Scones
Print Recipe

Makes 8 scones
Preheat oven to 425 F
Large rimmed baking sheet, lined with parchment paper

1 1/3 cups quinoa flour
1 1/4 cups large-flake (old-fashioned) rolled oats (certified GF, if needed)
1/3 cup natural cane sugar or packed light brown sugar
1 tbsp baking powder (GF, if needed)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 large eggs
3/4 buttermilk

1. In a large bowl, whisk together quinoa flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until crumbly. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and buttermilk until well blended.

3. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just blended.

4. Turn dough out onto a work surface lightly floured with quinoa flour. Knead briefly until dough comes together. Gently pat into an 8-inch circle about 3/4 inch thick. Cut into 8 wedges and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 13 minutes or until tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool on pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then transfer to the rack to cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm or cool completely.

Other recipes I've made: Swiss Chard Quinoa with Goat Cheese; Zucchini, Carrot and Butter Bean Quinoa; and Cinnamon Applesauce Bread. (All were fabulous!)

And a few more I can't wait to try: Maple Breakfast Biscotti, Zucchini Quinoa Fritters, Smoky Corn & Quinoa Chowder, Caramelized Onion Quinoa Tart, Pumpkin Spice Scones, Gingerbread Scones with Lemon Drizzle, Sweet Potato Biscuits, Cranberry Orange Tart, and so many more!

Don't forget to check out Camilla's other cookbooks and her blog, Enlightened Cooking, which also has a great collection of recipes. A few of my all-time favorites you can find there are her No-Stir Crock Pot RisottoGnocchi al FornoWhole Grain Buttermilk Biscuits, Roasted Carrot Hummus, & So-Easy Goat Cheese, Pesto, and Tomato Tart.

In fact, all Camilla's recipes work extremely well for the home cook. They are tried & true recipes that I can always count on and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this cookbook. I was not otherwise compensated for this review and all opinions are 100% my own. Recipes reprinted with permission from the author.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Couple of Scones

I've been making a lot of scones lately. I guess I've been missing my days in Scotland! These aren't exactly traditional flavors, but they are really delicious. I'm a big fan of a scone for breakfast or as an afternoon treat with a cup of tea. Sometimes I could swear I was born in the wrong country! I can't tell you how excited I was when travelling in the UK, to see that the hotel rooms are set up for tea drinkers rather than coffee drinkers, as they are here is the US. I was in heaven!

Anyways, back to the scones. For me, a perfect scone has a nice crunch on the outside, but is still tender on the inside. That is usually a pretty easy texture to achieve if you're eating the scones right out of the oven, but it can be difficult to maintain when saving a few for another day. After trying several different recipes, I've come to realize that one way to maintain that crisp exterior is to not skip the step that has you brush half-and-half/buttermilk/cream, etc. on top of the scones and then sprinkle with sanding sugar/turbinado sugar/cinnamon sugar, etc. This really does help keep the outside nice and crunchy and it also adds another layer of flavor.

As for the recipes, first we have Strawberry Lemonade Scones from Munchkin Munchies. I skipped the sanding sugar on this one and it was not my best idea. This recipe makes a delicious, not-too-sweet scone, but I was missing that crunch as I was eating the extras over several days. Luckily, there's a simple solution for that: I won't skip it next time!

Next, we have Whole Grain Cranberry Apple Scones from Susan Reid & Bon Appetit on Epicurious. These were SO good and I will definitely be making them again. I was skeptical about a whole grain scone, but these were incredibly tasty. Which is good because if I didn't want to make them again, I'm not sure what I'd do with the rest of the apple juice concentrate I bought specifically for this recipe! I forgot to take a picture of these ones, but I can tell you that even without a visual aide, the flavor was out of this world!

Peanut Butter Graham Cracker Truffles

I've been meaning to share the link to this recipe forever. I made these several weeks ago and brought a couple for my cousin Jen to try when I visited her. They're really tasty and super easy to make. I like to call them truffles, even though there is no ganache involved and I'm sure that's not technically correct. Whatever you'd like to call them, you can find the recipe here on Baby Gizmo Blog.

I mostly followed the recipe as written, but skipped dipping them in the mini chocolate chips because I couldn't be bothered. I also melted about 2 cups of chocolate chips (one whole bag) which is a little more than the recipe calls for, just to make dipping a little easier. I used half natural peanut butter and half "traditional" peanut butter because I was cleaning out jars to scrape this recipe together, but I'm sure either one would work just fine on its own. I specifically made this recipe to use up a sleeve of graham crackers, but I would happily make it again!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Printable Recipes

I just learned a nifty little trick to make my blog recipes printable! If anyone has any interest in printing out any of the (few) recipes I've shared on this blog to try for yourself, it's now super-easy! Just click on a recipe below to go to the original post. Once there, you'll see a "Print Recipe" link directly under the recipe title that you can click. That's it!

Of course I love them all, but if I had to pick favorites, I'd go with the Cranberry-Raspberry Crumb Cake (Sweet) and the Smoked Caprese Quesadillas (Savory) -- I highly recommend them both!

Cinnamon Rolls
Cranberry-Raspberry Crumb Cake
Cranberry-Orange Tea Loaf
Cherry-Almond Clusters
Homemade Vanilla (or Chocolate) Frosting
Split Second Cookies
Apricot Squares

Smoked Caprese Quesadillas
Tomato-Balsamic Pan Sauce
Spaghetti with Roasted Eggplant
Roasted Broccoli, Carrot, & Barley Salad
Baked Haddock in a Bourbon Marinade

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Top Ten Tuesdays: (Food) Books That Made Me Think

Yesterday, I participated in a book blogger's weekly feature hosted by The Broke & the Bookish on my other blog, Buckling Bookshelves. This week's theme was the Top Ten Books That Made Me Think. The list I came up with consisted of novels and a few non-fiction memoirs. I tend to divide my books in my head and think of them as totally separate: on one side I have my "reading" books and on the other side I have my "food & cooking" books. While I didn't put any food books on my original list, I think they deserve their own list. This list is a bit shorter, so I'm calling it my The Top Five Food Books That Made Me Think + Five More I Hope Will, (but I haven't gotten around to reading yet!)

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle   The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love   French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating For Pleasure
Real Food: What to Eat and Why   The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove

1. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver -- I was working full-time at a really stressful job when I read this one and each day as it neared 5 o'clock, all I wanted to do was rush home and read the next chapter. This book introduced me to the idea of "local food," a concept that I hadn't really considered before then. It drove home the idea that locally grown is the freshest you can find and that there is tremendous value in supporting the people who produce food in and around your own community.

2. The Dirty Life, by Kristin Kimball -- For anyone who ever harbored a secret dream of an idyllic life on a farm, this book drives home just how hard farmers work. If you've ever scoffed at the cost of organic produce at the farmers' market, read this book and you will happily pay these hard-working people and then make extra sure none of your bounty spoils before you make something with it.

3. French Women Don't Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano -- I'm thankful I've never had a weight problem, but there was so much hype around this book when it was first published that I decided to read it anyway. It introduced me to the French culture of food & eating and I found it quite fascinating. Rather than encouraging "dieting" as so many American books do, this book presents a healthy (& deliciously satisfying!) way of life.

4. Real Food, by Nina Planck -- This one was a real eye-opener. Growing up, I was taught the mantra "too much fat is bad for your heart" and with a family history of heart disease, it was good that I learned about nutrition from an early age. However, this book caused a bit of a shift in my thinking. It really solidified my food philosophy that you can really eat anything in moderation as long as it's real food. I'm no dietitian, but I truly believe industrialized fake foods, processed foods, and fat substitutes (trans-fat laden margarine? no thank you!) are a thousand times worse for you than baking or cooking from scratch using butter and fresh ingredients. This book taught me that it's important to seek out quality foods that are raised or grown using traditional methods - dairy products, eggs, and meats from pastured/grass-fed/free-range animals and produce grown without toxic chemicals. They are worth the extra expense, in my opinion, and much of that thinking came from this book.

5. The Art of Eating In, by Cathy Erway -- This was a fun read that made me realize that you really can eat well by cooking at home all the time if you want. Don't get me wrong, I love a good restaurant, but following along on Cathy's journey reinforced the idea that homemade is usually better and that I have unlimited options for experimenting and trying new foods, all in my own kitchen (heaven knows I have enough cookbooks to draw inspiration from!) She also tries a few alternative means to eating out, that aren't really for me, but were interesting to read about.

And the Five on my To-Read List, that I hope will be just as eye-opening and thought-provoking:

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals   French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters   An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace
The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table   American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It)

1. Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan -- I really can't believe I haven't read this one yet!

2. French Kids Eat Everything, by Karen Le Billon -- Similar to my situation with French Women Don't Get Fat, I don't actually have kids, but this idea (and again the French food culture) fascinates me.

3. An Everlasting Meal, Cooking with Economy and Grace, by Tamar Adler -- I've heard very good things about this one. It has been said to be an "elegant testimony to the value of cooking."

4. The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's Farm Fields, and the Dinner Table, by Tracie McMillan -- The title pretty much explains it. I expect this to be an eye-opening, behind-the-scenes look at some sectors of America's food system.

5. American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Half of Its Food and What We Can Do About It), by Jonathan Bloom -- In a time of high levels of both obesity and poverty, I think this is an important topic and I'm hoping this book has a lot of food for thought.

There are many others I'd love to read, but these ones made the top of the list!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Post for My Cousin Jen (with Recipes)

A couple of weeks ago, Nick and I spent the weekend in Connecticut with my cousin Jen, her husband Shaun, and their daughter. We were invited for what was promised to be an "EPIC Sunday Funday." Sunday Funday is something Shaun came up with as a way to do something fun together that doesn't cost a lot of money and that doesn't involve electronics, gadgets, or TV. Not that there is anything wrong with those other activities, but Sunday Funday has become something special for their family that they look forward to all week.

Shaun is super-creative and very handy, so he's been known to build a mini golf courseturn their entire house into a board game (no joke!), and create a home-spun carnival. Not to mention that before Sunday Funday was ever invented, he even built a dinosaur bed for their daughter's room (you have got to see the pictures of it!) This is mainly something they've done during the colder months because summer tends to be fun-filled without hardly trying. Days at the beach and outside activities just seem to happen when the weather is beautiful, but they did want to have one Sunday Funday in the summer so they could invite over some of their friends, their kids, (& us!) and have a barbecue afterward. You knew I'd get to the food eventually! But more about that later.

After helping paint the wooden castles Shaun built and filling more water balloons than I care to count, the group divided into teams and proceeded to run around the yard and work together to launch the water balloons catapult-style at the opposing team's castle, in a truly epic battle. Let me tell you, it was like being a kid again and we had such a blast! Even if you don't think you're that creative, I'm now convinced it's worth trying to think outside the box and make a little extra effort to plan something fun to do with the people you love.

Jen has been chronicling their adventures on her blog, Bored Have Imagination and I do hope she writes a post about this latest Sunday Funday soon. I was too busy enjoying myself to take any pictures!

OK, I know I promised food, so here it is. Baking and desserts are kind of my thing, so I made two different cookies to bring for the barbecue. First, I made this recipe for Apricot Squares, but substituted homemade blueberry jam. Honestly, you can make it with any flavor jam you like. The only one I don't recommend is strawberry. For some reason, the flavor gets very dull and kind of lost in the baking, but raspberry, blackberry, triple berry, peach, apricot, cherry -- any of those work really well.

Second, I made a go-to favorite, Martha Stewart's recipe for Outrageous Chocolate Cookies because chocolate is always popular at a party. There's also a bit of a funny story behind this recipe. One summer during college, I worked as a cashier at a small local grocery store and a photocopy of this recipe was left at my register one day. I held onto it thinking whoever left it might come back looking for it, but they never did. After a while, I decided I might as well give the recipe a try myself! Years later, I figured out where it came from, but I'll never forget the odd way I first discovered this amazing recipe.

So whatever you decide to do and whatever you decide to serve, keep in mind that family, fun, & food are a fabulous combination!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Summer Squash Tart with Goat Cheese

Today's recipe comes from the June/July issue of Fine Cooking Magazine. I made a few changes from the original, mainly due to what ingredients I had or rather didn't have on hand. If you just want to skip to the original recipe, it can be found here: Zucchini Tart with Lemon Thyme Goat Cheese.

On to the changes. First, I used yellow summer squash instead of zucchini, because that's what was available. I honestly don't think it makes much of a difference either way, as they're kind of interchangeable. If you want to get really fancy, you probably could use some of each.

My next change was to use dried thyme instead of fresh lemon-thyme. The recipe recommends also adding lemon zest if you are not using the fresh herb, but I didn't bother. I'd say it's up to you. I find dried thyme very flavorful (assuming it's not 4 years old), so I don't think the dish suffered much from this substitution. Your call.

The final thing I did differently was to reduce all the ingredients by a quarter. Note: I do not recommend this. I only did it out of necessity because I was just a little short on just about every ingredient (butter, squash, & goat cheese). If you make the recipe in full, as I DO recommend, I still don't think it needs the full 8 oz of goat cheese, that's probably a bit overkill. For my bizarre 3/4 tart, I should have used 6 oz, but I only used 4 and I think it came out perfectly. If you make a full recipe, I'd say use 5-6 oz.

OK, there is one more thing I did differently, but it was out of sheer laziness. I so did not roll this tart into a pretty, perfect circle. It was more like a jagged, rectangular-ish shape that would fit on my baking sheet. Whatever floats your boat.

Two more good things to know: 1. It will look like you have too much squash -- don't worry about it. Just make sure all the slices are overlapping and it will cook down in the oven. 2. Even as I just told you to use less cheese, it will look like there isn't enough cheese. Just spread it nice and thin (using your fingers helps a lot) and it should cover the dough.

This tart is so incredibly good, you really need to try it. If you manage to have leftovers, reheat in the oven or toaster oven, not the microwave -- it's worth the extra few minutes to crisp up the crust. Enjoy!

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