Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

I grew up eating stuffed peppers filled with ground beef and cheese. They are a serious comfort food for me.  Though they absolutely delicious and over-filling, I wanted a healthier alternative that also tasted great.  Introducing my favorite new grain – quinoa!  It soaks up the taste of everything around it and is super healthy for you.  Packed full of all sorts of veggies, these are great for a complete meal.

Black Bean and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

(Inspiration found here)

Ingredients:

4 green bell peppers
1 cup quinoa
5-6 tablespoons olive oil
1 can black beans, rinced
1 can corn
1/2 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
2  cups vegetable broth

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Preparation:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Sautee onion in a pan until translucent.  Add corn to pan and heat for about 5 minutes.

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3.  In a saucepan, add the quinoa, tomatoes, and italian seasoning.  Bring to a boil, cover, and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, allowing the quinoa to cook through.  You will know when the quinoa is cooked, as the little kernels will pop and become larger.

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4. While the onion and corn cooks, add the black beans and cook for about 5 minutes until warmed through.

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5. Once the quinoa is ready, add it to the onion mixture in the pan.  Mix all together and then set aside.

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6.  Cut your peppers in half and clean out the seeds from the inside.  Lay the halves down on a covered cookie sheet, inside up.

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7.  Scoop heaping spoonfuls of the quinoa mixture onto the peppers.  It will feel like you have too much – that’s ok.  Keep scooping.

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8.  Bake for about 25 minutes until the pepper is soft.

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9.  Enjoy!

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Results:

Yum!  They’re super filling, so you’ll have plenty for leftovers.  I was surprised we each had one whole pepper.

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Mushroom Melts

Sometimes you just want something and gooey, but you also want to watch your waistline.  Lucky – this meal does both!  It’s also a quick one, so if you just need to whip something together quickly, this is the way to go.

Mushroom Melts

(Inspiration found here)

Ingredients:

Portobello mushroom caps (the big ones)1-2 cans of tuna fish
1 tbsp of mayonnaise
Cheese of your choice, sliced
Olive Oil
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Preparation:

1.  Preheat your toaster oven OR regular oven to Broil.

2.  Scoop out the insides of the mushroom caps.  You can use a spoon to scoop out all the gills.

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3.  Glaze the mushroom caps with olive oil.

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4.  Place the mushroom caps in your oven for a few minutes (while you prepare the tuna salad).  This will strengthen the caps and cause them to break less easily.

4.  Create your tuna salad.  Drain the tuna cans and mix the tuna meat with the mayonnaise until at desired consistency.  The more mixed, the better for this recipe.

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5.  Pull the caps out of the oven for a moment. Pile the tuna salad onto the mushroom caps.

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6.  Place some cheese slices on top of the tuna.

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7.  Pop them back in the broiler for 2-3 minutes, or until cheese melts.  You don’t want to cook it too long for food safety.

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8.  Serve and enjoy!

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Results

These mushrooms were a little on the small side because we’re out of season.  If you can get the big mushroom caps, those work best for this recipe.  Either way, it’s a healthy alternative to a favorite.

Party Meatballs!

I had these meatballs at my friend Emily’s engagement party and I found myself so in love with them, I hovered over the serving dish and kept eating more when no one was looking.  I knew that I had to keep this recipe and use it to wow my own party guests someday.  The opportunity came at my annual holiday shindig last night, where (once again) these meatballs got the party started!

Party Meatballs

(Inspiration found here and also from Emily!)

Ingredients

2 eggs, beaten
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 pounds ground beef

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SAUCE:
2 cups ketchup
1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped onion

Preparation:

1.  In a large bowl, combine the first eight ingredients.
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2.  Mix in ground beef to bowl and knead all ingredients together until well mixed.  Get your hands messy on this one!

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3.   Shape into 1-in. balls. Place in greased baking dishes.

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–At this point, I put them in the refrigerator over night.  I had the luxury of preparing them the day before.  If you don’t have the time, you can continue on directly.  However, the fridge step allows for the meatballs to solidify and stay together a bit more than just cooking them directly.–

4.  Combine the sauce ingredients; pour over meatballs. Bake, uncovered, at 325° for 1 hour or until meat is no longer pink.  Serve and enjoy!

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Results:

A big hit!  The sauce caramelizes while baking, which allows for a great sweet taste.  There are more than enough servings to go around and also provide leftovers.  Yum!

Breaded Tilapia with Honey Balsamic Glaze

I’m a big fish person.  I love serving fish as a main course.  It’s healthy, easy, and a white fish especially can go with anything.  I had a craving to do something new and different with a fish dish rather than just grilling.  Breaded filets are a great alternative and quick and easy to do.

Breaded Tilapia with Honey Balsamic Glaze

(Inspiration found here)

Ingredients:

3-4 frozen tilapia filets
1 cup breadcrumbs [In this case, I used gluten free bread crumbs]
olive oil

Drizzle:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

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Instructions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.
2.  In the baking dish, add the breadcrumbs and lay each filet on top. sprinkle the breadcrumbs all over the top and press down, do not shake off excess. Place each filet, carefully in the baking dish and drizzle with olive oil.

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3.  Bake for 30-35 minutes until fish is cooked throughout.

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4.  In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, honey,and balsamic vinegar until it is blended into a creamy sauce (no clumps).

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5.  Plate the tilapia and drizzle the sauce on top.  Enjoy!

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Results:

This turned out to be interesting but very delicious.  I think I may have overdone it on the breadcrumbs, but they gave a nice crunch to the dish.  I served it with a side of quinoa and some frozen peas.  We had leftover sauce so we put it over the quinoa to jazz that up a little bit as well.

Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto

So, this one is a bit of a doozy. It’s not something I’d make every day or even on a work night. This one is for a good and chilly Sunday where you want something savory and you have a bit of time to dedicate to it.  You’ll also be using a lot of your burners on your stove, so be sure it is ready to go.

Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto
(Inspiration drawn from here and here)

Ingredients
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine [a Chardonnay works really nicely here]
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
A pinch of kosher salt
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup asparagus tips
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan

ingredients

Instructions:
1.  In a medium saucepan with a lid, combine chicken broth and white wine and heat just to simmering. Keep warm.

2.  In a large pot, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and sweat until translucent, about 5 minutes.

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3.  Add the rice and stir. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until the grains are translucent around the edges. Be careful not to allow the grains or the onions to brown.

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4.  In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the mushrooms and asparagus tips until cooked.  Remove from skillet and place in a bowl and cover with tinfoil.

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**Take a look at how full the stovetop will be.  If you have too many things going at once, you’re doing it right!

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5.  Get ready for an upper-body workout!   Reduce the heat of the pot to low, and add enough of the wine and chicken stock just to cover the top of the rice. Stir the rice mixture, until the liquid is completely absorbed into rice. Once absorbed, add another amount of liquid just to cover the rice and continue stirring or moving as before.

risotto  process

Give yourself a good 35-45 minutes of stirring and pouring.  WARNING: If you dump all of it in at once, it will take twice as long and the rice will be too crunchy.  It is worth the wait/bicep improvement, I promise!

6.  At this point, there should be just enough liquid left to make it one more stir.  Add the asparagus and mushrooms back into the pot with the last bit of liquid and stir all together.

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7.  Mix in the Parmesan until melted.

8.  Add a little extra Parmesan for a garnish and enjoy!

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Results:

Like I said above, this is a good one for a chilly day where you have some time to dedicate to it.  The stirring takes forever, but without it, the rice won’t cook through correctly.

It’s a delicious pasta-like dish that is filling and will warm you up!  The mushrooms and asparagus complement each other really nicely in this dish.  If you have other veggies you prefer, anything goes well in risotto.

Ziti with Portobello Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions, and Goat Cheese

I’m a lover of goat cheese.  It’s tangy delicious and it makes me feel grown up and sophisticated when I eat it.  This recipe goes really well with the Fall chill in the air and sometimes you just want some cheesy pasta and to curl up with a good book.

 

Ziti with Portobello Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions, and Goat Cheese
(Inspiration thanks to Food and Wine Magazine)

2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 pound portobello mushrooms, stems removed, caps halved and then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1 pound ziti [I used gluten free rigatoni for this recipe – more on that below]
4 ounces soft goat cheese
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Ziti ingredients 2

(Please forgive me that the onion is pre-chopped – I always force J into chopping onions!)

1.  In a large frying pan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter with 2 tablespoons of the oil over moderate heat. Add the onions, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and the sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are well browned, about 20 minutes. Remove from the pan.

Ziti onions raw

Beginning

Ziti onions brown

Browned

Ziti onions caramel done
Caramelized!

2. In the same pan, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderate heat. Add the mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and brown, about 8 minutes.

Ziti mushrooms

3.  Add the reserved onions,  the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the pepper to the mushrooms and remove from heat.

Ziti onion mushroom

4.  In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the ziti until just done. Reserve 3/4 cup of the pasta water and drain. Toss the ziti and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water with the mushroom mixture, the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, the goat cheese, and the Parmesan in the pasta pot.  After mixing, pour in the reserve water and stir until all goat cheese has melted.

Ziti mixed

5.  Serve with additional Parmesan and enjoy!

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Results:

This worked out really nicely as a fall-tasting tangy recipe.  I think next time I would add asparagus or another vegetable to liven up the color palate.  Think of this as grown up mac-and-cheese.

Something to keep in mind – caramelizing onions takes a deceivingly long amount of time.  On the clock, it takes about 20 minutes, but it seems like it should take less.  Wait for the onions to brown and then keep browning them.  They will get darker but not burn.  This, with the combination of sugar and oil, will make them sweet.  Don’t worry if it feels like it’s taking forever.

Also, on the gluten free note – gluten free pasta is an interesting animal.  Because of its materials (the one featured above is potato based), you have to be mindful of the cooking time.  If you overcook it, it will get sticky and kind of slimy.  For regular pasta, I do a time estimate and hope for the best while checking done-ness of the noodles.  With GF pasta, I always set a timer for 10 minutes and drain it at the buzzer.  Otherwise, it can be a mess.  I will say that taste wise, with a good sauce, you can’t even tell the difference!

Thai Cashew Chicken

One of my favorite things to do is order take out.  Really, restaurants are so much fun and it is so easy to call up delivery after a long day of working.  What’s not so fun is the costs can add up from ordering out every night.  Also, it’s not the healthiest and goodness knows we’re not living on college metabolisms anymore.  Is there a way to find that same deliciousness while also being easy to prepare?  You bet there is!

Thai food is one of my favorites to order.  In DC, there’s not a lot of Chinese take out that isn’t greasy, so Thai food is the next best bet.  Last night, I whipped together a Thai ‘fake-out’ dish that was equally (if not better) than my usual order at the place around the corner.

I present to you…Cashew Chicken

(Original inspiration found here)

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped into pieces

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup mushrooms

1 red pepper, sliced thin

1 green pepper, sliced thin

3 green onions, chopped

1/2 cup shelled edamame [Find in the frozen aisle at the grocery store]

2 cloves garlic, minced [I use the jar kind out of laziness]

1/2 cup unsalted cashews

3 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

Cashew chicken ingredients

1.  Heat a skillet on medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add mushrooms and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Remove from skillet.

Cashew Chicken mushrooms

2.  Season chicken with salt and pepper, then coat each piece in cornstarch.

Cashew chicken in pan

3.  Add the remaining olive oil to the skillet and add chicken. Brown on both sides until cooked, about 5 minutes per side.

Cashew chicken browned

 

4.  Add garlic, red pepper, edamame, green onions and cashews and stir for 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and mix in.  Turn heat to medium low.

Cashew chicken veg in pan

5.  In a small bowl, mix soy sauce and honey. Pour into skillet, coating chicken and vegetables.

6.  Serve over rice.

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Result:

I was surprised at how much I liked the cornstarch-coated chicken.  It absorbed the honey/soy mix really well and left a really sweet taste.  I always like a lot of veggies in my meals so I went a little overboard on this one.  Feel free to use as many or as little fit your needs.  The edamame, red pepper, and mushroom are a must, though.

I used an Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice for this recipe to cut down on time, but you could use whatever rice you want.  This time, I used brown rice, but I bet long grain would also be a good choice.

Also, for those of you who doubt the ‘cozy’ factor of this kitchen, I present the following evidence:

Cashew chicken cozy

Halfway through preparation, and you’ll notice that most of the ingredients are resting on the stove top (turned off – of course!).  You make it work with what you got!