Southwestern Quinoa Pilaf

I don’t know about you, but I am definitely a fan of quinoa. It’s just a great canvas for making great dishes – sort of like rice, but counts as a “superfood” and is just a little better for you. I hadn’t made quinoa in a while, and had about a cup left in a container in the pantry. Thankfully, I spotted this recipe over at Annie’s Eats several weeks ago, and it’s one of those recipes that you just can’t seem to get out of your head after you read about it.

It was a great side dish to accompany some chicken habanero patties that I had stashed away in the deep freeze. Dinner was delicious and filling, and there was enough quinoa leftover for lunch the next day.

Southwestern Quinoa Pilaf

adapted from Annie’s Eats 

  • 1cup quinoa, rinsed (you have to do this or else your quinoa will be bitter!)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1¾ cups water
  • ½ cup crumbled queso fresco or cojita cheese
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • juice of 1 lime
  1. Heat a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add the quinoa and toast it stirring frequently, until it starts to sizzle a bit. Remove from heat & transfer the quinoa to a bowl.
  2. Put the pan back onto the burner and increase heat to medium.  Melt the butter and olive oil together.  Add the diced onion, chili powder, cumin and salt.  Cook until the onion begins to soften – stir occasionally.
  3. Once the onions are nice soft, turn the heat up to medium-high.  Add the quinoa back to the pan and add the water, bringing the mixture to a simmer.  Cover and reduce the heat to low, creating a simmer. Cook for 18-20 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Mix in the corn and remove the pan from the heat and let sit, still covered, for 10 more minutes.  Remove the lid and fluff the quinoa with a fork.  Add the cheese, scallions and lime juice; toss to combine.

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I could not find queso fresco at the store – they were out – so I had to substitute in cojita cheese. The saltiness of the cheese really complimented the dish, so it is a nice replacement if you can’t find the fresco. Corn was not in the original recipe either, but I think it really worked well in the pilaf. If you want to spice it up even more, add some crushed red pepper in with the spices. You won’t be disappointed 😉

I have a feeling I’ll be making this a few times this coming spring/summer, once the grill is officially fired up for the season. Or, I may make it on a random Saturday; it could easily become a meal on its own. It’s quick, easy, and very flavorful!

Polenta Tamale Pie & The Freezer

For the past month or so, I’ve had this tube of polenta sitting in my pantry. I like polenta a lot – and have seen quite a few recipes that include it – but just never got around to it. I really liked the idea of using it with a Mexican-flavored dish, so off to the internet I went.

I came back with polenta tamale pie. Mike is a huge fan of tamales, so I figured this would be a great dish to try. There are so many recipes out there for this, so I ended up reading through a few and just going for it, so to speak – the two links I’ve linked to gave me the best directions based on what I had sitting in my pantry & freezer.

Polenta Tamale Pie

Inspired by Bon Appetit & Eat, Live, Run

  • 1 tube polenta – sliced into 1/4″-thick rounds
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2/3 lb ground beef
  • 1 can refried beans with green chiles
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • a dash of cayenne pepper
  • salsa
  • 4 oz shredded Mexican-blend or sharp cheddar cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion; cook for a few minutes until the onions start to get a little soft.
  3. Add the garlic and the ground beef at the same time – keep an eye on the garlic so that it doesn’t burn. Once the ground beef has been cooked through, turn off the heat and drain the mixture in a colander in the sink.
  4. In a bowl, mix the ground beef with the refried beans. Add the spcies and salsa, and mix to combine.
  5. In a baking dish, layer about half of the polenta rounds to cover the bottom. Then pour your beef & bean mixture on top of that. Lay the second half of the polenta rounds over the mixture, and cover with cheese.
  6. Cover and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the cover, and bake for 15 more minutes (a total of 30 minutes total). Serve with sour cream and cilantro, and a side of yellow rice, if desired.

Sadly, I don’t have a picture of my tamale pie, because my husband someone had dug right into the pie before I could snap a picture…and this is one of those dishes that doesn’t look very appetizing once someone has started digging into it. But, you’re going to have to trust me on this one. It’s delicious!

You can easily, easily make this a vegetarian (or maybe even vegan if you omit the cheese?) dish by making your mixture with corn, tomatoes, and pinto or black beans, instead of ground beef and refried beans. More than likely, this is what I’m going to do next time I make this dish. You really wouldn’t “miss” the meat, persay. You could even do ground turkey instead of beef, to lighten it up – I used beef because I have some in my freezer, and wanted to use some up before transferring it to the new chest freezer!!!

I’ve had my chest freezer for 24 hours and I’m already in love. The freezer in our kitchen refrigerator is terrible – it defrosts ice cubes – and the freezer in the garage is even worse, especially with the frigid weather we’ve been having. It was an affordable necessity. I also purchased a small FoodSaver to see if that will help me freeze extra meat and vegetables better, especially when CSA season starts and I want to preserve vegetables. So far, the 2 lbs of ground beef I vacuum-packed & froze have held up well. I’m sold 😉

So, in a nutshell, that’s what’s been up over here in my kitchen. Tamale pie, and a new freezer. All while it’s freezing cold outside.

Shallot, Spinach and Goat Cheese Pasta

Greetings! I have to say, thank you to all of you who have come visited the blog while I’ve been a little, um, preoccupied with work. Granted, we had two snow days last week (one of which was on my birthday so it was the best day ever), but I definitely hit the ground running when I came back from Christmas break with pep band and exam preparations. Mike was in charge of cooking a few times as my ETA from school was after 8:00pm. It’s so nice to not have to worry about cooking dinner some nights – as much as I love to do it!

You know it’s an awesome recipe when your husband texts you that the dinner he made (and the recipe that I picked) was “really good”. 😉 It was a nice change from all the visits to restaurant dining, epic grilled cheese, fantastic family dinners, and alcohol consumed during our visit to Cleveland. Even better, it’s a meatless meal.

Shallot, Spinach & Goat Cheese Pasta

adapted from How Sweet It Is

  • 8 oz pasta (we used fusilli)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • salt & crushed red pepper, to taste
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 12 oz (1 package) fresh spinach
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 log (~4 oz) goat cheese, crumbled
  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over low heat and add the oil. Add the shallots & salt. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Try not to let the shallots get too dark.
  3. Add the brown sugar and cook for about 5 more minutes. By this time, the water should be boiling and the pasta should go in.
  4. Add the spinach to the skillet and stir constantly until the spinach wilts down.
  5. In a small saucepan (we’re using 3 burners, what?), over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk constantly until the butter starts to brown. As soon as you see brown bits start to appear, turn off the heat and remove the saucepan from the stove. Whisk for another 15-20 seconds. Whisk in the minced garlic and keep mixing for another 30 seconds.
  6. Drain the pasta and add it to the large skillet – where the spinach & shallots are. Toss to combine, then add the garlic brown butter and toss to coat. Add the goat cheese and stir; sprinkle pasta with crushed red pepper and serve immediately.
Like my plastic fork? Classy teacher right here.

Like my plastic fork? Classy teacher right here.

I absolutely loved this dish. Granted, I didn’t get to eat it right away since I was at school, but the leftovers were fantastic. The original recipe says that it should take about 30 minutes to make, but I can’t vouch for it since I didn’t make it, and I doubt that my husband kept track 😉 One of the ingredients that surprised me the most was the brown sugar; it added just enough sweetness without it being too sweet. It really complimented the shallots and the brown butter nicely. Again, this is a meatless dish – but truthfully, it didn’t need any whatsoever. There are so many flavors going on that the dish kept my attention from first to last bite.

This is an absolutely wonderful dish with which to kick off 2014.

Shared at Frugal by Choice, Cheap By Necessity’s “Homemade Mondays”

Reader Request: Pumpkin Enchiladas

Good things happen to those who finally have time to cook, and end up cooking something awesome!

I took a day off on Friday and lo & behold, did nothing work-related the entire day. Thus I now feel recharged, refreshed, and ready to get some major work done this week for our holiday concerts coming up on December 11 & 12. It’s amazing what a day off can do for the soul.

With the turn of the weather heading towards winter (and who would believe that, as it was storming at 60* out today), I’m finding myself getting anxious about vegetarian meals again, so the making of this recipe is accidentally perfect timing. Since I finally had some major free time to myself on Friday, I decided to finally tackle a reader’s request that I had been sitting on for a few weeks. A friend of mine from our community garden “nominated” me to try a recipe out and “report back” how it went, and if it was any good. 

PUMPKIN ENCHILADAS.

At first I was like, “ew, what?!” All I could immediately think of was Mexican flavor fused with pumpkin pie spice – bleh. But then, I clicked on the link & saw that it was a) a crockpot recipe, and b) did not use pumpkin pie spice at all. Challenge accepted, Cyndi 🙂

Pumpkin Enchiladas

adapted from Eat Local Grown

Into your crockpot/slow cooker, add the following & stir:

  • 1 can black beans, rinsed & drained
  • 2 cups pureed pumpkin
  • 1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 16-oz bag frozen corn
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 dashes of cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, diced (optional)
  • 1/2 cup water or broth

Cook on low for 6-8 hours (the original recipe says high, but my slow cooker is kinda evil & will burn if left on high that long). When you get home or start getting a rumbly in your tumbly, move on to the next part of the recipe.

Preheat the oven to 375*. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray – depending on the number you want to make, use either 8×8 or 9×13.

To make the enchiladas, fill a tortilla with some filling, plus a sprinkle of cheese if you so wish (in my house, that is a necessity). If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, try some salsa-flavored cream cheese in there (we had it lying around so I figured why not?!) Wrap up the enchilada and place it seam-side-down in the pan. Repeat until the pan is full. Top the enchiladas with enchilada sauce. I had a taste for tomatillos so I used the green chile sauce made by Frontera. Sprinkle with some cheese (if you’d like) and bake until the sauce is nice and bubbly, and the cheese is melted.

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I honestly don’t know what excited me more as I dug into these enchiladas – that I now had another use for the stash of pumpkins in my dining room, I had a new vegetarian recipe that didn’t suck, that someone requested a post for my blog and it actually worked – maybe a bit of all of those.

I topped my enchiladas with sour cream & some habanero hot sauce – because I’m awesome like that and love the heat. You could easily add chicken or beef to these enchiladas if you really want some, but truthfully, the meat wasn’t missed. These had great flavor and were very filling. Since we’re big fans of leftovers in our house (for use in lunches), I made a big pan of them and so far they’ve reheated quite well.

So, thank you, Cyndi, for the challenge! I hope you enjoy the results and that you’ll enjoy making/eating these enchiladas as much as I did.

P.S. If any of my lovely readers out there have a recipe for me to try out on here, let me know anytime!

Rice and Bean Enchiladas

This dish was a great ‘teamwork’ dish. I had Open House at one of my schools this week, and wouldn’t be getting back home til about 7:30/8:00. Getting dinner started at that point in the evening doesn’t work very well for my husband who needs to get to bed around 9:30.  Since I knew what I wanted to eat (enchiladas), I decided to prep the dinner halfway so that he could finish making it once he was home from work and done biking. He wasn’t stuck waiting for me to finish dinner, and there was something ready for me to eat when I got home.

Rice & Bean Enchiladas

As prepared by The Spicy Simmer

  • 1 can black beans
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • cilantro (fresh or dried, whatever you have in the fridge)
  • paprika
  • salt & pepper
  • optional: cayenne powder
  • optional: shredded Mexican blend cheese (or whatever you have in the fridge )
  • tortillas
  • Enchilada Sauce
  • optional: green onions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375* and spray a large baking pan (9×13 is best) with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the rice, beans & corn together. Add the spices and about 1/4 cup of the cheese, if you’d like. Mix well so that all the ingredients are well-distributed.
  3. Assemble the enchiladas – spoon some of the filling into the tortilla & roll up. Place each one seam-side down into the pan.
  4. Coat the enchiladas with the enchilada sauce.  Optional: Top with a few sprinkles of cheese & some green onions.
  5. Cover with foil and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly (and the cheese is melted).

For prepping this dish the night before, I made the filling & stored it in the refrigerator, with the enchilada sauce in a seperate container, ready to go. Once Mike got home from work, he got everything out of the fridge and finished cooking. I rolled into the driveway around 8:00 that night and very hungry – everything was done, Mike was relaxing with a game of Madden, and all was well.

I love teamwork 🙂

Chicken & Waffles – The Quick, Unauthentic Version

Last week my husband mentioned that he wanted some sort of breakfast for dinner. I wasn’t too keen on the idea; I had some chicken breast in the refrigerator that I knew needed to be cooked up soon. After going back & forth for a few minutes, the idea of Chicken & Waffles came up. We had this combination for the first time on our vacation this summer, and since then have told many friends & family about how much we enjoyed it. I figured that making it for dinner would be the best way to combine the flavors that Mike & I both wanted for dinner that night.

It’s not like the original – hell, it’s pretty unauthentic – but it was thrown together at the last minute and really hit the spot!

Chicken & Waffles – The Quick, Unauthentic Version

What You’ll Need:

– frozen waffles – then again, if you have a good waffle recipe and a nice waffle iron, feel free to make your own

– pieces of chicken – whatever cut you want; they can be bone-in or boneless

– flour, a beaten egg, & breadcrumbs for breading

  1. Heat a large skillet with some canola oil.
  2. Dip the chicken in flour, then the egg, then into some bread crumbs. Set into the hot pan to fry (boneless chicken breast took us about 5 min/side).
  3. Meanwhile, toast or make your waffles.
  4. Once everything is ready, serve the chicken atop of the waffle. From here, you can add some butter, as well as some maple syrup if you want. You can even put a dash or two of hot sauce on your chicken.
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The most unauthentic version of chicken & waffles ever.

We had some lacinato kale in the fridge that needed to be cooked up, so we made our own version of “greens”. Cooked with bacon 🙂

To the left is my husband’s plate: He has butter on one waffle, locally made maple cream on the other, with the chicken on top. My plate is on the right; you can see that I didn’t want to put my chicken combined with the maple – I also have some hot sauce on my chicken.

It’s such a weird combination, but I love it because of the combination of sweet & savory. It’s truly a unique dish that is great to have when you want something a little out of the “ordinary”. I’d love to try making my own waffles for this dish, but we haven’t been able to successfully make good waffles in our waffle iron. Someday, though…

Grilled Cilantro Lime Shrimp Kebabs

I have to admit that it’s very rare that I make two new dishes at the same time. If it’s a new main dish, I make a ‘typical’ side dish. If it’s a new side dish, I make a ‘typical’ main course. While perusing my usual motherload of blogs  I came across this recipe on Skinnytaste. Through reading through the comments section, I saw that others had recommended making the fiesta bean salad to go with this.

It was band camp week, we had limes & CSA cilantro to use up, we had shrimp in the freezer,  and I wanted to use my new grilling skewers. All signs were pointing to “make this recipe!” (as cheesy as that sounds, but then again we all know I like cheese so it’s quite apropos). It was a no-brainer, easy, and delicious!

Grilled Cilantro Lime Shrimp Kebabs

adapted from Skinnytaste

  • cooking spray
  • 1 bag large raw shrimp (15-20 per lb), peeled & deveined
  • 3 gloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 limes, sliced thinly
  • a dash of salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • skewers (I’ll explain my new ones after the recipe)
  1. Heat up the grill on medium and spray the grates with the oil.
  2. In a bowl, season the shrimp with the garlic, cumin, salt, and half of the cilantro. Toss so that the shrimp gets coated with everything.
  3. On your skewers, thread the shrimp & lime slices, alternating so that you start with shrimp & end with shrimp.
  4. Grill the shrimp, turning occasionally, until they are cooked (they’ll be pink!) – usually this is takes anywhere from 1-3 minutes a side.
  5. Remove from heat & serve hot!
Yum!

Yum!

I have never grilled limes before, let alone any type of fruit (though I think Mike has grilled peaches or pineapple once; two fruits I don’t like). I was amazed by how the lime flavor was infused into the shrimp, simply by grilling it on the skewers.

Speaking of skewers, thanks to a great review over at the Ranting Chef, I decided to purchase these skewers. I never had liked using the bamboo, and both my husband and I have burned ourselves before on the long metal ones. These were easy to turn both because of their shape (they form a loop), and because there was also a small loop to grab onto with your tongs, if you wanted. They also cooled relatively quickly. I agree that I don’t think I can ever go back to regular skewers again; since they only came in a package of two, I need to order another set in case we decide to do kabobs for company.

These kebabs, served with the Fiesta Bean Salad, are a great meal for the dog days of summer where you really don’t want to use your oven. It tastes great, it’s fast, and hey, it’s even healthy, too 🙂