A Curried Quinoa with Roasted Calabaza Squash and Raisins

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I’ll admit it – I’ve always been a bit intimidated by large gourds – calabazas, pumpkins, butternuts.  I think it’s mostly because of the squash’s size, though reasons extend to its tough outer peel,  tangled innards and mess of seeds.  And, though I do immensely enjoy a smooth and creamy calabaza or butternut soup, after a long day, sometimes I’m simply too lazy for that extra step of plugging in the immersion blender.  Heck, sometimes even too lazy to turn on the stove.

Today's afternoon market... big calabazas!

But alas, with a just sharpened knife and new veggie peeler, my fears have been replaced by a newfound  adoration – the oven roasted squash.  I could imagine roasted calabaza being delicious just on its own, however, I decided to combine the squash with some hearty quinoa to add a bit of heft to the meal.  The use of both white and red onions was a vain attempt to bring in some color, but after a long roast, it was mostly the color brown.  Finally, the addition of warm spices – like cumin, cinnamon, and nutmeg – made the cold wintery evening simply melt away.

So simple!

Curried Quinoa with Roasted Calabaza and Raisins

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • ~0.5 kg or 1 lb of calabaza (butternut or pumpkin also works) squash, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 white onion, finely sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 cup (measured uncooked) quinoa
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 heaping tablespoon curry madras
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3-4 tablespoons good olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 200 deg C (~390 deg F).  Line a large baking tray with foil.  Toss cubed calabaza and sliced onions with spices (curry, cinammon, nutmeg), a few pinches of salt/pepper, and oil; spread onto the baking tray in an even single layer.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until calabaza just begins to brown.  While the squash is roasting, cook quinoa as directed.  Additionally, to plump the raisins, place raisins into a small bowl and cover with hot water.

Once everything has finished cooking, in a large serving bowl, combine together the squash, onions, and quinoa.  Add the lemon zest.  Also drain and add raisins.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Breathe in and serve warm….

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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This little lovely buttercream and vanilla cake made for an early Valentine’s a few days ago.  KJ and I spotted the cute dessert from Horno Helvetico during our weekend jaunt into the big city and simply couldn’t resist.  With hubby arriving home shortly thereafter, the three of us enjoyed a sweet Sunday afternoon of coffee and cake while, just like the rest of our sleepy village, taking cozy shelter from the wintery world outside.

To Sandra & Lolo, family and friends, fellow bloggers and readers alike – Happy V-day!!

Stir Fried Eggs and Tomatoes

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Sandra’s ‘Scrambled Eggs with Shrimp’ had me craving one of my favorite rustic Chinese dishes – stir fried eggs with tomatoes.  I remember as a kid during vacay trips to either set of grandparents, each on opposite coasts, both my grandmothers would often make this easy scramble on the fly.  I loved it – the sweetness of slightly caramelized tomatoes alongside a creamy egg scramble.  My sister, apparently, loved it more as it nowadays most often makes an appearance during her home cooked meals (note to self, overdue for a visit and one of these said meals).  But today, it would be my turn to eat and reminisce.

Mince green onions, garlic, and ginger; halve tomatoes.

Stir Fried Eggs and Tomatoes

Ingredients (serves two):

  • 3 free range eggs
  • half dozen cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4-5 stalks of green onion, finely chopped (both green and white parts)
  • 1 tablespoon of finely minced ginger
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • salt
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a saute pan over medium high temperature.  In a bowl, whisk together eggs, a pinch of salt, and sesame oil.  Scramble eggs until the eggs are just beginning to set.  Remove and set aside.

Scrape the pan clean of any egg remnants and heat remaining oil over high temperature.  Add green onions, garlic, and ginger;  cook for a few minutes, constantly stirring, until fragrant.  Next, add tomatoes.  Once the tomatoes are just heated through, sprinkle sugar and combine.  Allow the mixture to cook for an additional 4-5 minutes, stirring  occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to slightly brown.  Finally, add the eggs back in and combine.  Season with additional salt to taste.

It made for a delicious lunch, and an even better dinner – with the addition of some imitation crab meat (I forgot the shrimp on my shopping list, Sandra!).  In each instance, I accompanied the scramble with a scoop of bulgur (my rice substitute these days) seasoned with a tiny bit of salt and a squeeze of sriracha.

As an added note, I stumbled upon a cool trick courtesy of The Kitchn… save a few green onion bulbs and place in a mason jar with a bit of water.  They will grow again!

.... make sure to change/replace water every once in a while.

Scrambled Eggs with Shrimp

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Eggs and shrimp are two of my many favorite foods!  There’s something about the creaminess of soft-scrambled eggs paired with a firm crunchy bite of shrimp that makes it an all-time comforting dish.  When I want a quick and light meal, this is so easy to whip up.  I usually serve this up with a side of steamed rice.  This dish is very popular in Cantonese-style Chinese restaurants – Note this dish can be quite greasy in restaurants.

Ingredients:

Shrimp:
7 whole medium-sized shrimp, shelled and deveined
Salt, pinch
White pepper, dash
1/2 teaspoon corn starch
Sugar, pinch
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon oil + 1 tablespoon oil for cooking
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

Eggs:
6 eggs
1-2 green onion stalks, thinly chopped
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon salt

Preparation:

Remove shell and devein shrimp.  Rinse and dry shrimp well with a paper towel.  Cut each shrimp into 3-4 bite sized pieces.  Marinate with seasonings noted in shrimp section.  Set aside.

Thinly slice green onions.  Set aside.

Scramble eggs and season with salt.  Set aside.

The whole dish cooks up in about 2-3 minutes, tops for soft scrambled eggs; otherwise cook for 5-7 secs longer for firmer eggs.  The green onions can also be added while sautéing the shrimp. 

I will let the pictures do all the talking! I’m not sure why the gas flame didn’t show up in the pics while cooking…???

 
Enjoy!

Spiced Turkey Wings

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With the exception of Thanksgiving and the occasional turkey sandwich throughout the year, turkey is not a protein I have often.  I approached the meat counter at Whole Foods, and scanned the case from end to end.  As soon as I locked eyes on the turkey wings, I knew what I wanted.

Lately I’ve been eating tebasaki-style fried chicken wings every chance I get.  I just can’t get enough of these little guys.  If you haven’t had them, give them a try.  I could have settled on chicken wings – but oh… SUPERSIZED wings were way more exciting!  It seems the craving has NOT weaned itself out of my system – please let it happen soon, it definitely rings havoc on the waistline.  I quickly had the butcher wrap up two of the biggest turkey wings he had before I changed my mind.

I wanted umami deliciousness to dance in my mouth, so the wings were immersed in a rich soy based marinate.

Since frying was out of the question, I decided to bake them to a nice crisp.  I should have had an ice cold beer to go with the them… next time.

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

2 whole turkey wings (2 lbs)
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1 teaspoon togarashi chili pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons oyster sauce

Preparations:

Rinse and dry turkey wings well.  Fold them and lock the tip behind the big joint.  Set aside.

In a mixing bowl or Ziploc bag, combine all seasoning and marinate turkey for 35-40 minutes.  Be sure to occasionally turn meat in marinade to coat.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place turkey in a shallow glass large baking dish large enough to lay wings flat.  Add ¼ cup water to dish to provide added moisture.  Reserve marinate.  Spoon a bit of marinade over top of turkey and bake uncovered.  After 20 minutes, turn wing over in dish, spoon a bit more marinade all over.  Bake another 20 minutes, turn one last time to until cooked through.  Bake 60-70 minutes.

Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Gluten Free Cranberry & Clementine Upside Down Cakes

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Since the arrival of our new more-functions-than-I-can-imagine food processor, hubby has been churning out gluten free, Paleo approved muffins like a madman.  Yes, he fancies the new heavy machinery.  He also fancies the muffins.  And the muffins hubby bakes are GOOD.  He experiments with ingredient combinations – coconut flour, almond flour, nuts, berries, bananas, apricots, cranberries, strawberries, and even an avocado thrown in; always moist, delicious, the perfect breakfast or afternoon treat alongside a cafe con leche.

It’s been wonderful to be spoiled by someone else baking.  However, it’s also meant that I need to step up my game.

Roost’s beautiful “Cranberry & Almond Upside Down Cakes” seemed like the perfect contest entry into our unspoken “bake-off”.  I could glean some dried cranberries (in place of the fresh ones the recipe calls for) from my husband’s stash, gather a lemon off the tree, and zest an orange off another (our orange tree yields beautiful smelling yet awful tasting fruit).  As another deviation from the original, I added clementine slices to the fruit topping for an additional zing of flavor and also to replace moisture lost with the dried cranberry substitution.

Cranberry & Clementine Upside Down Cakes (adapted from Roost’s “Cranberry & Almond Upside Down Cakes”)

Ingredients (makes 1 dozen):

Muffin ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1/2 cup honey

For the fruit topping:

  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 12 clementine wedges
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon freshley grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (170 degrees C).

Combine and whisk the dry ingredients for the muffin (flour, salt, baking soda, and spices).  In a separate bowl, whisk together wet ingredients (eggs, almond butter, and honey).  Next, combine wet and dry ingredients, set aside.

Combine and toss all ingredients (except for the clementine wedges) for the fruit topping.  Lightly grease muffin tins; place one clementine wedge in the center of each tin.  Next, spoon a bit of the cranberry mixture into each tin, dividing the mixture equally.  Top each tin with muffin batter, smoothing out the mixture and covering evenly.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are a golden brown.

Yeah, hubby – bring it on!

Mushroom Soup

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The whispers of mushroom soup were calling to me. Indeed, a hot bowl of soup sounded good as a starter. I was envisioning a thick puréed soup. Since I’m not a fan of potato laden soups, the heartiness from the mushrooms and onion were going to give me the satisfaction without the addition of any other filler.

Mushrooms are great to have on hand. Each month, mushrooms always seem to make their way into my grocery cart. I usually pick up three to four different types varying from shiitake, maitake, bunashimeji, enoki, king oyster or oyster – mostly the commonplace Asian varieties rather than the familiarly cultivated brown or white. I stow them away in the fridge in deli meat drawer to be used for quick and easy dishes. I think they are a fantastic substitute for meat.

In the pantry, I also keep dried porcini and shiitake in air tight containers to be used on a whim. I so love these little fungi in soups – they are packed full with flavor! I’m all about flavor and enticing the palate.

For this recipe, I decided to keep it simple – crimini, porcini, and onion.

Serves: 2

Ingredients:
3/4 pounds crimini cleaned and sliced
1 oz. dried porcini, reconstituted
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups beef broth
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil + 2 tablespoons if needed
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon pepper paste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons sherry
10 whole peppercorns
Salt and pepper to taste
Dollop creme fraiche, optional

Preparation:
Soak porcini mushrooms in just enough hot water to cover, about 15 minutes until soft. Reserve liquid and add to soup. Strain liquid through a coffee filter in case of sediment on the bottom of bowl.

Clean and slice mushrooms and chop onions. Set aside.

In a sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil until hot on medium-high heat. Add crimini and porcini mushrooms and allow moisture to evaporate and brown, about 5-7 minutes. Add sherry, stir to allow for sherry to evaporate, then season lightly with salt and add garlic powder. Add onions and additional oil to pan if needed and continue to cook until they become light and translucent, about 5-7 more minutes. Take off heat and set aside.

In a medium sauce pan, add broth, water, mushroom liquid, bay leaf, peppercorns, pepper paste, tomato paste, and mushroom and onion mixture. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer on low for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.

Discard peppercorns and bay leaf. With an immersion blender, puree soup until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

Happy New Year! Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps

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Happy belated Lunar New Year!

It’s been a bit of a quiet start into the Year of the Dragon for us.  Well, allow me to rephrase: it was a busy start into 2012 – school runs, work all-nighters, and a laundry list of to-do’s that continues to grow despite combined efforts.  Thus, our Lunar New Year celebration was a bit delayed and diluted.  On the night of the 23rd, hubby and KJ rang in the New Year with some brief but enthusiastic firecracker lighting and noise in front yard – probably much to the confusion of our Spanish neighbors.  We then dined on French style provencal chicken because, well… I was just too darn lazy.  This past Friday evening, we made plans for a Chinese dinner in Portals Nous, but immediately swayed towards the restaurant’s neighboring Italian joint after deeply inhaling the wafting aroma of oven baked pizza (carbs, mmmmmm).

Our cultural deficit and culinary over-indulgence called for some mediation.  Thus, last night a decision was made for a Chinese influenced, healthy and carb-free dinner – thereby relieving *some* of our guilt from the previous evening and ringing in the Year of the Dragon with an inspired meal.

Our recipe came from a fabulous book, given to us by my aunt and uncle, “Feeding the Dragon: A Culinary Travelogue Through China with Recipes” by travel bloggers Mary-Kate Tate and Nate Tate.  The book details the adventures of the brother and sister duo through beautiful photos, narratives, and recipes, during a 9700 mile trek through China’s countryside and cityscape with nothing more than their backpacks, a tarp, and a camera.  KJ browsed through and bookmarked recipes she found interesting;  she handed the book back to me littered with post-it notes on almost every single page.

Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps (adapted from “Chicken Lettuce Cups,” Feeding the Dragonby Mary-Kate Tate & Nate Tate)

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 8-10 leaves of iceberg lettuce
  • 1 lb boneless chicken breasts, minced
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1 small/medium red onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 head of ginger, finely minced
  • handful of fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • sriracha hot sauce

sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of hoisin sauce or preserves
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon agave syrup or sugar
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch

The original recipe calls for a few ingredients that we were unable to find and either omitted or made a quick substitution.  We left out the water chestnuts, which would have added a nice extra element of crunch;  we substituted a kumquat preserve (homemade by KJ) for the hoisin sauce to retain a hint of sweet/sour.

Combine and mix ingredients for the sauce and set aside.  In a large wok, heat one tablespoon of the olive oil over high heat.  Stir fry garlic and ginger until fragrant (~1 minute).  Next, add mushrooms and onions; stir fry for ~5-6 minutes until onions soften and mushrooms begin to brown.  Remove the contents of the wok and set aside.

Heat the remaining oil over high heat and add the chicken; cook for 1-2 minutes until the meat is just browned.  Add the vegetable mixture back in, combine with the chicken, and pour in sauce.  Reduce heat to medium and cook the mixture, stirring constantly, for another few minutes until chicken is fully cooked and sauce is heated and thickened.

To plate, spoon the filling in equal amounts onto the lettuce leaves.  Top with a sprinkle of cilantro, chopped nuts, and a swirl of sriracha if extra heat is desired.

May your Year of the Dragon be filled with happiness, health, and prosperity!

Enchiladas Especiales Tacuba Style

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On most weeknights, I am left to make the executive decision as to what we warm our bellies with.  Since I was craving chicken enchiladas – that’s what we were having, especially since I had some tortillas at home waiting to be consumed. 

I was visualizing something comforting and soothing to the soul – with lots of sauce and cheese melted all over the top.  Darting between a red vs. a green sauce, I opted for a white sauce with some green mixed in.  That was easy enough.  

This particular recipe was different from others that I’ve had or come across.  It was a take on the bechamel sauce – how can you go wrong with one of the “mother sauces” of French cuisine?  What I didn’t want was a dish that left us feeling heavy, the recipe sounded perfect.  I lightened the recipe a tad more and my expectations were met.  I did decide on butter to give the dish a hint of richness…    

Serves 3-4

(Adapted from Rick Bayless’ Enchiladas Especiales Tacuba Style)

Ingredients:
1 bone-in chicken breast (1 – 1.25 lb.), steamed and shredded
1 fresh Pasilla chile, roasted
1 fresh Anaheim chile, roasted
1 cup (lightly packed) spinach leaves
2 cups milk
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1/3 cup flour
8 corn tortillas
1 cup Mexican melting cheese (Chihuahua, quesadilla, asadero or the like) or  Monterey Jack, brick or mild cheddar
Salt
1 avocado, sliced
Cilantro for garnish

Preparations:

Sauce:
Roast the chiles directly over a gas flame or on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler, turning regularly, until the skins have blistered and blackened on all side, about 5 minutes for an open flame, about 10 minutes under the broiler.

Place in a bowl, cover with a wrap.  Let rest until cool enough to handle.  Remove blackened skin, cut open and pull out the seed pod and stem.  Put chiles and spinach leaves into blender and blend until smooth.

In a small saucepan, combine the milk and broth, set over medium-low heat to warm.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter (or heat the oil) over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook for a minute to release its aroma, then add the flour and stir the mixture for a minute.  I reduced heat to low, and continued to stir and cook flour mixture until browned to give more flavor to flour mixture, about 5 minutes.  Then raise the heat to medium-high.  Pour in half the warm broth mixture and whisk until smooth, then pour in rest of the liquid, stir and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Pour the blended chiles and spinach into the hot sauce, and stir.  Season to taste with salt, about 2 teaspoons.  

Chicken:
Bring water to a boil in a steamer.  Put chicken onto a plate and lightly salt and place in steamer.  Steam for 25 minutes on a low simmer until lightly pink.  Remove from heat.  I usually transfer chicken to a clean plate to prevent further cooking.  Once cool enough to handle, shred chicken about 1/3 inch thick and discard skin and rib bones.  Set aside.

Assembling Enchiladas:
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Pour about 1/4 cup of the sauce into the bottom of each of three to four 9-inch individual ovenproof baking/serving dishes or pour about 1 cup of the sauce on the bottom of a 13×9-inch baking dish.  Stir 1 cup of the sauce into the chicken.

Bake tortillas just to warm through and soften, about 2-3 minutes in oven.  Stack the tortillas and cover with a towel to keep warm.  

Working quickly so that the tortillas stay hot and pliable, roll a portion of the chicken up in each tortilla, then line them all up in the baking dish(es).  Set the edge side down on baking dish to prevent them from unraveling.  Evenly pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas and sprinkle with the cheese. 

Bake until the enchiladas are hot through and cheese is bubbling, about 15-20 minutes.  Garnish with the cilantro and avocado.

Enjoy!

Tomato-Occoli Orzo Salad

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I’ve grown bored of Chinese vegetables and enjoy few vegetables from winter’s bounty.  I do however love salads and never seem to tire of them.  Many times, the best salads have evolved from rummaging through the veggie drawer and throwing together my finds.  I’m always looking for new and different ways to prepare a salad.

I decided on an orzo side salad for dinner.  Although I don’t make pasta often, orzo is the one most frequently used in my pantry – I just bought another bag today.  It is lighter and less filling than most other pastas.

For this dish, I did not want the grain to dominate, but rather showcase the vegetables and have their beautiful bright colors dance on the dish.

I served this side dish with a grilled rib eye steak, tossed green salad with avocado, and toasted baguette.

Serves: 2

Ingredients:
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 broccoli stalk, chopped into bit size pieces
1 scallion, green part only thinly sliced
1/4 cup orzo
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1/8 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparations:

Grate cheese in a bowl.  Set aside.

Fill a small saucepan with water.  Salt water and bring to a boil.  Add broccoli and bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium.  Cook broccoli for 5 minutes.  Drain and put veggies into an ice bath to stop cooking process.  Once chilled, remove and drain.

Quarter tomatoes and thinly slice scallion.  Set aside.

Fill a small saucepan ¾ full with water.  Salt water heavily and bring to a boil.  Add orzo and stir.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium.  Cook orzo about 9 minutes until al dente.  Drain – do not rinse.  Immediately pour orzo into the cheese and mix to incorporate.  Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil and balsamic vinegar mix well.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Prior to serving, add remaining lemon juice and olive oil to broccoli and tomatoes, lightly toss.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Combine orzo, broccoli, tomatoes, scallions, shaved cheese lightly toss together.  And there you have it.

Enjoy!

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