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Lemony Quinoa

5 Jan

I’d planned to mess around with this recipe today and post it for y’all tomorrow, but I just finished wolfing down a bowl of its deliciousness and couldn’t wait to share. If you were here (live and in person), I’d be shoving spoonfuls at your face and demanding that you try it. Because it is that good and so very healthy.

Quinoa is a grain that’s gluten-free and a pretty darned perfect source of protein, which makes it an allergy sufferer’s dream. I don’t fall into that category; I eat it because it’s super easy to cook, very versatile, and fills me up for a long time.

You can use it just like rice if you want to, but I like it as a main dish. This recipe was my lunch today. Turn it into a more substantial lunch or dinner entree with some cooked shrimp, chicken, tofu, or even smoked salmon stirred in at the end. Asparagus would also be a lovely addition, but any veggie you have in the house would probably work beautifully in this dish. That said, this would be a really good side dish alongside grilled chicken or fish.

I found the idea for this online, but the original called for raw red onions, cumin, and red pepper. And I’m sure that’s all good, but I have to talk to people in the afternoon, so raw red onion isn’t going to work for me (it’s super potent stuff), and I wanted more fresh and light than smoky this time around. I substituted cooked regular onion (you could use dried onion flakes too), swapped out the seasoning, and cooked it in broth instead of water to give it a little more flavor.

You’ll see lemon juice in this recipe. If you like lemon–like, really like it–go ahead and zest your fruit, and stir the zest in at the end. It’s really lemony that way. I happen to like lemony, but you might want to give this a try without that step the first time around and see if you think you need more citrus. I’m betting you could also use orange for a different flavor.

You’ll also see sliced almonds. I like them for their crunch, but you can leave them out and use more celery or chuck in some raw carrot for the same kind of mouth feel without nuts.

This is one of my favorite new healthy recipes, and I can’t wait for leftovers tomorrow. You need:

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed well (gets rid of the bitterness) and drained

The juice of one lemon

A dash of salt

About a cup and a quarter of chicken or vegetable broth

About 2 tbsp of sweet onion, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1/4 cup sliced almonds (or a crunchy vegetable if you don’t want nuts in the dish)

About 3 tbsp chopped fresh basil

About 2 tbsp shredded or grated parmesan cheese

Heat a small/medium saucepan over medium heat. Spray it with something nonstick and saute the onions until they’re soft and translucent.

In the meantime, juice your lemon into a 2-cup measuring cup. To the juice, add broth until you have 1 1/2 cups of liquid. Once the onions are cooked, pour that mixture into the pan and stir in your rinsed quinoa grains and salt. Bring that to a boil, clamp a lid on it, and cook it over medium-low heat until most of the liquid is gone (just like rice).

Remove the quinoa from the heat and stir in the basil, celery, almonds (or substitute), and, if you want a lotta lemon, the zest from your lemon. Stir everything together and let it sit about 5 minutes. Spoon it into bowls (2 for entrees, 4 for side dishes) and sprinkle it with the parmesan.

Parchment Paper Means No Clean Up!

16 Nov

Hey gang! Please join me in welcoming cookbook author and food blogger Brette Sember to the blog today! Brette is one of my foodie heroes because of her commitment to yummy food that’s easy, and her new The Parchment Paper Cookbook is all about that. Thanks for visiting with us and for this fantastic recipe, Brette!

By Brette Sember

I love cooking, but sometimes the clean up gets to me. I set out to find a way to make dinner without having to do a sink full of dishes—and I found it in parchment paper! Parchment paper packet cooking is a wonderful, revolutionary method that decreases the amount of fat needed for cooking and locks in flavor and nutrients. Best of all, with parchment paper cooking, there is no mess to clean up– no pots and pans to scrub. The food cooks in a parchment paper packet in the oven, making this perfect for busy moms, people with small kitchens, and anyone tired of doing a sink full of dishes after dinner.

Parchment paper is recyclable and compostable. Cooking with parchment also means you can cook your entire meal in one oven without turning any burners or using lots of hot water to scrub pots and pans.

You can buy parchment paper in your grocery store next to the foil and plastic wrap, or online from sellers like Amazon. Wilton and Reynolds both make parchment. The secret of parchment paper is that it is coated with silicone, which keeps moisture and flavors in, and keeps food from sticking. You layer your food onto the paper (no pots, pans, or big mixing bowls needed), fold it and bake. It’s that simple!

Parchment paper packets are a snap to cook with. Cut off an 18-20 inch piece of parchment and place your food in the center. Leave at least 4 inches on the sides. Now, grab the long ends of the paper and have them meet in the air in the middle, then just fold them down until you get to the food. You’ll end up with a long package. Now all you have to do is simply twist each end. (You can see illustrations at: http://nopotcooking.com/index.php/technique/). Place the packets on a baking sheet or toaster oven tray for ease in moving them around.

Easy Greek Chicken

Each packet serves 1

1/2 cup cooked couscous
1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1/4 cup packed fresh baby spinach leaves
2 slices tomato
Salt and pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon Greek seasoning (substitute oregano if you don’t have this mix)
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 cup feta cheese

Preheat oven to 400 and prepare parchment paper. Place the couscous on the paper in roughly the shape of the chicken breast. Place the breast on top and place the spinach over that, then the tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper, Greek seasoning and onion powder and crumble the feta cheese over it. Fold the parchment and bake for about 35 minutes.

You can also add 1/8 cup sliced black olives to this or substitute one canned whole tomato, chopped, for the tomato slices.

Brette Sember is the author of The Parchment Paper Cookbook, published by Adams Media. She blogs about parchment paper cooking at www.NoPotCooking.com.

Roast Chicken, Party of One

3 Nov

I figured out the roast chicken thing, and I am a happy camper today.

I’ve told you before that my family is not a fan of roast chicken. Bunch of freaks. I mean really–ask any professional chef what their last meal on earth would be if they could choose, and chances are the answer will be roast chicken (somebody actually did that, by the way, and that really was the answer. I think there’s a book about it.). Cooked properly, a whole chicken is divine. It is simple and delicious and comforting and relatively simple, and my husband and my children complain about it as if I’ve snuck cyanide beneath its wings every time I pull one out of the oven.

It’s been a significant bone of contention around here, to be honest. I continue cooking meatballs and pizza quesadillas and all sorts of things they love (I love them too, but still), and I avoid the beautiful roasters at the grocery store just so I don’t have to listen to the moaning over a bird.

A BIRD. Honestly. It’s ridiculous.

So last night, DH was out at some work event and I grilled up a piece of beef for the kids, and I pulled a chicken breast out of the fridge and wondered what would happen if I roasted it just like a chicken–just that one piece. And I tried that.

What happened was what common sense says: I had a wonderful roast chicken dinner, just for me, and it was a thing of beauty.

The best part of this is that it is a one-dish meal, and it’s a dice-and-dump to boot. Chop chop, dump it in the pan, throw it in the oven, wait a bit, and voila. Dinner. Dinner worthy of a last meal, in fact, if we’re going to go there. I admit that I hummed to myself as I ate it, because the simple act of roasting a bit of a bird all for myself was a true delight.

I know some of you have the same chicken issue as I, and I highly recommend making yourself a lovely dinner once in awhile. It’s simple and easy and inexpensive, and there’s really no reason on earth not to do it. Head for your ovens, ladies. You need:

1 chicken breast, bone-in and skin-on

1/2 an onion (I use sweet onions) roughly chopped

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

1 orange or 1 lemon (I used orange, but either will be yummy), sliced into three slices

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole

A sliver of butter (maybe 1/8 or 1/4 of a tablespoon)

Olive oil

Heat your oven to 400 degrees and spray a small casserole dish or baking dish (a bread pan would be great, but line it with foil so your next loaf isn’t savory) with olive oil or cooking spray.

In the dish, stir together your butter, onions, and sweet potatoes and give them a little dose of salt and pepper. Top the veggies with two citrus slices, and balance one clove of garlic on top of that. Add about a tablespoon of water to the dish:

Take your chicken breast and loosen the skin with your fingers to form a pocket. Into that pocket, slide your last fruit slice and the other clove of garlic. Spray that baby with olive oil, and gently lay it on top of the fruit and garlic in the pan.

Slide it into the oven and roast it until it’s done (160 degrees internally), which was about 40 minutes for me. Let the chicken sit for at least five minutes before you cut into it, to let its juices resettle, and then enjoy your perfect dinner for one.

Barbecue Turkey Meatloaf

27 Oct

(pssst! Lookie up there in the upper right-hand corner of the screen–see the shiny new badge? I’m so excited that Playing With My Dinner was named one of 2011’s top 50 blogs written by women! What an honor! Thank you, Work At Home Woman!)

I shared a tiny tip about this with you yesterday. Today, though, I’m going to break down the whole recipe, starting with a single pound of ground turkey. That should be a relief from the original recipe, which started with three pounds (or the original-original Barefoot deal that started with five!).

Here’s the thing that sparked this recipe: I love barbecue sauce. I love it more than ketchup, more than mustard, and more than any other condiment I can think of. Barbecued chicken is among my favorite meals of all time, and nothing makes me happier than getting all sticky and sloppy-full at Red Hot & Blue, which I happen to think has the best barbecue sauce of all time.

I also love meatloaf but rarely make it because I am the only person in my house who feels that way.

You heard me. The same people who don’t like roasted chicken also don’t like meatloaf. Who doesn’t like meatloaf? Right? Un-American. It’s just not right.

So because DH was away this week, I made myself a meatloaf and converted it to barbecue-style at the same time I simplified the original recipe to get rid of a dirty pan and about four steps. And this delivered such joy to my meatloaf-deprived palate that I made it again a second night. I DIDN’T EAT BOTH. Sheesh. I made the second so I could measure what I was doing to tell you guys about it, and then I sliced it up and froze it for future lunches and dinners. Just for the record.

This is yummy and a fun new twist on an old dish that marries comfort food with a little southern lovin.’ Tell me that doesn’t sound good. You need:

1 pound ground turkcy (beef would work too)

1 egg

1/2 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs (or 1/2 cup plain crumbs with a tsp of Italian seasoning)

1/4 cup chopped onion or dried onion flakes

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 tbsp barbecue sauce, plus more to top the loaf

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Cover a rimmed sheet pan with aluminum foil and spray it with oil or cooking spray.

In a large bowl, blend all of the above ingredients together with your hands. Don’t squeeze! Just mix lightly with your fingers until you don’t see any identifiable lumps of breadcrumbs.

Put the meat mixture onto the sheet pan and form it into a loaf, about the size of a regular loaf pan (9″ x 5″ if you need a measurement–I eyeballed it). Spread extra barbecue sauce on the top and sides with the back of a spoon. Bake it until the internal temperature registers 160 degrees–it took about 25 minutes in my oven. Let it sit 10 minutes and slice and enjoy. Yee-ha.

Autumn Veggie and Sausage Soup

4 Oct

We’re a month or so into the school year and the whole lunch thing is dragging me down.

Not the kids’ lunches. We’re set there. It’s my lunch that’s the issue. I am sandwiched and salad-ed out, completely over frozen entrees, and too busy (and cheap) to run out to eat every day or cook myself something new at 11 each morning.

Yesterday was rainy and cold and generally disgusting around here (again! paging Noah…), and it felt like a great day to break out the soup pot for a simple recipe that would last all week.

I started thinking I’d make a bean and sausage soup recipe I found online, but reviews of it said it needed more ingredients and was pretty blah as written. I went to the grocery store and started picking out things that looked good, and before I knew it, the original recipe was right out the window and a new one was born, filled with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Which is really the ideal way to cook and eat, saving yourself from older produce that’s been hauled cross-country, maximizing flavor, and keeping a little cash in your pocket.

This calls for a parmesan rind. I always keep a hunk of fresh parmesan in the house for grating over pasta and veggies. It seems expensive, I know, but you only use a little bit at a time and it’ll last almost forever wrapped tightly in plastic and stored in the fridge. For this recipe, you cut off the (inedible) rind and toss it into the pot, and then fish it out at the end. It adds a wonderful, subtle nutty flavor to the soup and is well worth the step. If you don’t have one, no worries. Go ahead without it.

I used smoked turkey sausage in this because that’s what I like. You can use whatever you enjoy, or substitute ham or bacon for a similar smoky flavor in the soup. Non-meat eaters can add extra beans to beef up the soup and toss in a little liquid smoke (a LITTLE–that stuff is potent) or smoked chipotle Tabasco for a similar effect.

This was warm and creamy (from the beans–neat trick, eh?) and smoky and comforting, and perfectly perfect for yet another cold, rainy day. I’m looking forward to my second bowl today and would love to hear what you think if you try it. You need:

Olive oil

4 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth

1/2 a sweet onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 a butternut squash, peeled and diced (about a cup and a half of diced squash)

7 oz smoked sausage (I used turkey; mine comes in 14 oz packages, so I used half and froze the other half for another time), chopped into bites

1 15-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed well

1 zucchini, diced

The rind of a hunk of Parmesan cheese (I always have a hunk around. Add a little salt if you don’t have this)

A dried bay leaf

About 2 cups of chopped fresh kale (use spinach if you can’t find kale)

Salt

Pepper

About 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

Half a lemon

Heat your soup pot over medium heat. Coat the bottom of the pot with olive oil. Saute the onion and sausage until the sausage just starts to brown a bit. Stir in the garlic and keep it moving for about a minute.

Pour in the chicken broth and add all of the rest of the ingredients except the kale and lemon. Stir, cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the butternut squash softens, stirring every so often.

Stir in the kale, cook 10 more minutes, and fish out the Parmesan rind and the bay leaf. Squeeze the lemon over the pot, stir in the juice, and enjoy. Makes about four servings.

Barbecue Chicken Chopped Salad

24 Aug

A couple of you asked me to explain this salad yesterday when I mentioned it in a post about roasting canned or frozen corn to freshen it up. Your wish is my command, loves.

First up, I’ll admit–that photo above isn’t mine. That’s the chopped barbecue salad at Panera Bread, which inspired me to roast some corn in the first place. I took a photo of my salad yesterday, but the chicken didn’t look so much like chicken (we’ve established that I am not a photographer) and that didn’t seem right.

On to the good stuff. This works equally well with pulled chicken already mixed with barbecue sauce, or plain sliced chicken (poached, roasted, or rotisserie) onto which you pour a little BBQ. I’ve seen it done both ways. I prefer pulled only because I am a barbecue sauce fiend and enjoy a lot of it on my greens, but you do what makes you happy.

My only solid recommendation for this salad is that you stick with romaine lettuce. It’s crunchy and crisp and mild, so it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the salad. You can still taste everything else. I’ve tried other lettuces and they’re either too watery (iceberg), too limp (butter) or too strong in flavor (everything else).

This is a layered salad. I usually layer all the ingredients except the chicken and dressing in a big bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and keep it in the fridge for a few days, scooping out what I want at any moment, adding chicken and dressing to that, and returning the rest of the naked greens and veggies to the icebox for the next day.

Be creative with this. If you don’t like beans, leave them out or change them up. Ditto for cheese, onion, or anything else. This is a very flexible plan for a yummy salad. My only other bit of advice is to go easy on the dressing–you really just want a drizzle to perk up the barbecue sauce a bit. Too much, and your sauce will be overwhelmed and the whole thing will taste a bit off.

So. On with the party! In a big bowl, layer all or some of the following according to your taste:

Romaine lettuce

Corn kernels (roasted as we chatted about yesterday, or plain)

Black or pinto beans, rinsed well and drained

Tomato, either cherry/grape or big and chopped

Onion. I prefer red and chopped small, but caramelized sweet onion is also delicious.

Cucumber, peeled and chopped.

Cheddar cheese or queso fresco

All of the above will store in the fridge for several days. When you’re ready to eat some, scoop it into a bowl and add:

Chopped avocado

A drizzle of ranch dressing

Pulled chicken (or rotisserie/roasted/poached chicken with bbq sauce on top)

 

Mix together and enjoy!

 

Don’t forget my giveaway!! It’s super easy!

1) “Like” Playing With My Dinner on Facebook and post a note on the wall saying hi so I know you’re new in town, or

2) Convince a friend to “like” the blog and post a note telling me you referred them, and…

You can win a $30 giftcard to Williams-Sonoma! Buy yourself a super fun present to have even more fun by the stove! Like the blog or refer a friend by September 1 to enter!

 

Super Simple Take-Along Asparagus

25 Jul

We spent the weekend at our favorite vacation spot and, as luck would have it, got a call from some very good friends about dinner; they also happened to be in town. Fun! They invited us to dinner and we quite happily accepted, and then I offered to bring a dish and was asked for a side.

No problem, right? Except that, being on vacation, I didn’t have my usual arsenal of pots and pans and Yummy Things in Jars and Bottles. Also, being a working girl, I didn’t want to run out and buy $30 worth of condiments and spices and such for one dinner party, and then haul it all back home where it would sit for awhile (being duplicates of what I already have) until I didn’t want to use it anymore. So I hopped in the car and visited the local market to see what was fresh and in season, and would avoid both one person’s soy allergy and another’s gluten sensitivity.

This was perfect. In-season asparagus, a lemon, a little cheese, and a sprinkling of oil, and I had the perfect side–allergy-friendly, truly delicious, and perfect at room temperature, so there was no pressure to make room in her oven when we got there. It was gobbled up, and I’ll definitely do it again.

You need:

A bunch or two of asparagus (I used a bunch and a half for four adults)

One lemon

A little shaved or shredded Parmesan cheese (ask the deli for a sample, or just buy a hunk and know it’ll last forever)

Olive oil spray

Heat the oven to 425 degrees and spray a baking sheet with the oil.

Snap off the woody ends from the asparagus and lay it in a single layer on the baking sheet. Give it a scant shot of oil on its top side.

Cut the lemon in half, and sprinkle the asparagus with the juice of half  of it.

Put it in the oven and let it roast until it starts to caramelize and is crisp-tender. That was about 10 minutes in my oven, but keep an eye on it.

Pull it out of the oven, sprinkle it with the juice of the rest of the lemon, and sprinkle the cheese on top (it’ll melt just enough to stick to the spears…mmmmm). Let cool, package up, take along, and enjoy.

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