Saturday, April 24, 2010

Simple Saturdays Quinoa Salad

Simple Saturdays will feature easy to make, easy to eat recipes. For the first Simple Saturday post, get ready to whip up a tasty vegetarian dish.

For dinner last night, I served this delicious quinoa salad alongside some roasted sweet potatoes. They are SO good they deserve their own post, so look for that later.

While working on the quinoa salad and sweet potatoes, I added the vegetable peelings to my compost bin. We transfer this bin into the larger one outside where we make our own dirt! How cool is that??

This is what the compost bin looks like when you bump it off the counter. See all the items you can compost! I spy: coffee grounds and filter, eggshells, and sweet potato peelings. Makes great dirt and an even better mess on your kitchen floor!

I spent last week visiting my home state of Texas and enjoying all the pork products and salt the Lone Star State has to offer! Cream gravy atop a fluffy biscuit beside crisp, thick bacon is enjoyed by cowboys and cowgirls alike.

After a week of indulgence and conservative politics, nothing restores your sense of virtue and liberal self-righteousness better than a hearty vegetarian meal. To enhance the granola vibe, turn on some Jack Johnson, slide into your Birkenstocks, and embrace your inner dirty hippie.

Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
2 small bell peppers, diced
2-3 oz. goat cheese
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 a lemon
2 tbsp chives, chopped finely
salt & pepper to taste

In a fine mesh strainer, rinse the quinoa thoroughly. Combine quinoa and water in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a rolling boil. Then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook 15-20 minutes until the water is absorbed.

While quinoa is cooking, dice up the bell peppers and crumble the goat cheese in a bowl. Once the quinoa is done, put it on top of the bell pepper and goat cheese. Drizzle the quinoa with olive and squeeze the lemon juice on top. Add in chives and toss to combine. The heat of the quinoa will melt the goat cheese and create a creamy dressing for the quinoa and peppers. Season with salt and pepper to taste. You won't need much as the goat cheese, olive oil, and lemon juice add lots of flavor.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pineapple Oops

It's not that I haven't been baking.

It's just that I haven't been baking successfully.

First there was the mini-jam tart incident. Beautiful, buttery tarts forever encased in my mini-muffin pan for all eternity, or at least until I soaked them in water for an hour.

Moral of that story: Grease your pans.

Then there was the Betty vs. Mixer Contest of 2010.

Guess who won?

The mixer, to add insult to many a creamy injury, decided to turn itself back on once it hit the floor. I bow down to your power, Betty Crocker mixer. I will never balance you precariously on the edge of my counter again.

Moral of this story: Never trust machines.

Today was the worst of all.

I baked a cake.

A cake that will forever be known as the Pineapple Oops.

Allegedly this cake would have been a Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

A delicious disaster.

The cake itself is lovely. The hint of sweet pineapple enveloped in a tender butter cake dotted with maraschino cherries.

On paper, it works.

In practice, well, it looks like that. Again, however, let me reiterate- it's a tasty, if ugly, treat!

Apparently, according to recipes I read AFTER I made this cake, the pineapple is supposed to be laid in a brown sugar butter caramel on the bottom.

I just floured and buttered and assembled.

Clearly, you should NOT do as I do.

I adapted a Paula Deen recipe for this cake catastrophe. I give it here only so that others may do right where I've done so, so wrong.

Pineapple Oops

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 cups self-rising flour (I don't buy this, so you can add 1 1/4 tsp baking powder & 1/4 tsp salt for EACH cup of all-purpose flour- I found that out here)
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp butter flavor
1 cup pineapple preserves
pineapple rings and cherries, if you're gonna go down that tricky road

Preheat oven to 350.

Butter and flour OR oil and flour a 9x13 Pyrex baking dish AND an 8x8 Pyrex baking dish. This makes a WHOLE LOT OF CAKE.

Cream butter and sugar until super fluffy. You want to really whip some air in there.

Add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the sides after each egg to make sure it's all fully incorporated.

Add pineapple preserves, vanilla, and butter extract and mix thoroughly. Scrape down the sides and mix again to make sure it's all well-combined.

Add the flour and the milk, alternating. You'll begin and end with flour. If you do this right, you'll add the flour in three parts and the milk in two. Mix until just combined.

Pour 4 cups of batter into the 9x13 pan and 2-2/12 (the rest) of the batter into the 8x8. This batter rises quite a bit so try not to fill to close to the top.

Bake 45 minutes. Dump out onto a platter and stare at your ruined, but tasty, cake. Eat.

Note: I'm actually going to freeze the majority of this cake and make a trifle later- stay tuned!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Salsa Chicken & Sweet-Sour Peppers

While I gravitate to multiple step, complicated recipes, sometimes it's nice to throw dinner in the oven and sit down while it cooks. Adventures in the kitchen are good for lazy days, but sometimes you need to get food on the table RIGHT NOW.

Three ingredients, thirty minutes, 1 pan.

Ready? Of course you're ready.

Salsa Chicken

1 1/2 cups of your favorite salsa (I used Roasted Garlic Salsa from Trader Joe's)
2 defrosted, trimmed chicken breasts
1 cup shredded light cheese (I used a mexican blend)

Preheat oven to 350. Get out an 8x8 Pyrex baking dish. Don't grease it! You don't need to. I said this was easy!

Add the chicken. Here's a helpful tip- just defrost the chicken in this pan. That way you have even less to clean up.

Top the chicken with the salsa. Layer with cheese. Make sure the chicken is fully covered- any exposed parts may burn.

Bake for 30 minutes or until juices run clear and the top is golden brown.

I serve this alongside Sweet-Sour peppers. Again, this couldn't be simpler and requires minimal supervision.

Sweet-Sour Peppers

2 medium bell peppers, sliced into strips
1 medium red or white onion, sliced into strips
*Note: Try to keep all strips the same size so they'll have a similar cooking time.
Vinegar- I used white balsamic, but you could use regular balsamic, apple cider vinegar- plain white vinegar would work fine, too.

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a saute pan (the one with sides). Chop up 2 bell peppers and 1 medium onion. Toss them into the pan and season with a three-fingered pinch of salt ~1/4 tsp. Saute until soft and a bit brown. Add in roughly two tablespoons of vinegar- twice around the pan in Rachael Ray measuring. Let it bubble and reduce to fully coat the veggies. Cook another 2-3 minutes and serve hot.

This meal feels like cheating because it's so easy, but it always satisfies. Get creative and swap the salsa for pizza sauce for Pizza Chicken or chutney for Indian Chicken. This recipe practically begs for improvisation- enjoy!