Quinoa in the crockpot?

As much as I’ve enjoyed the quinoa recipes I’ve tried so far, they all fit the same pattern: rinse and cook the quinoa in the rice cooker, chop and mix remaining ingredients, mix in the quinoa. I’ve tried some that required baking, but it was still pretty much the same process, just with an additional step of dumping the mixture into a new pot and sliding it into the oven (yay, more dishes).

What if quinoa could be cooked in the crockpot? One dirty pot after prepping a complete meal and a whole lot more freedom in terms of timing. Dinner can be hot and ready whenever I want, without needing me to start cooking in that 20-30 minute window before everyone is hungry. This particular recipe is especially easy since it doesn’t even require much chopping. With the short (for a slow cooker) cooking time, this also makes for a delicious lunch; just toss it together after breakfast and it’ll be ready for you by mid-day.

Recipe: Tex Mex Quinoa

Adapted from Chelsea’s Messy Apron

Yield: Serves 6-8

Cook Time:

active prep: 15 minutes

hands-off cooking time: 3-4 hours

Ingredients:

1.5 cups uncooked quinoa, well rinsed

1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained

1 can green chiles (mild or spicy)

1 cup frozen corn, unthawed

1-2 bell peppers

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 onion, chopped

2 T chili powder

1.5 t ground cumin

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth (or water)

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1-2 T lime juice

2-4 T taco seasoning 

1.5 cups shredded cheddar

Optional toppings/additions: diced green onions, sour cream, diced tomatoes, avocado or guacamole

Directions:

  1. Rinse the quinoa well.
  2. Place the washed quinoa, drained and rinsed black beans, undrained diced tomatoes, frozen corn, and diced green chiles in the slow cooker.
  3. Chop the bell peppers. Add the chopped peppers, minced garlic, and chopped onion to the slow cooker. Stir everything together. Add in the chili powder, ground cumin, taco seasoning, and broth (or water). It should look soupy; see picture below. Stir again and cook for 3-4 hours on high or until the water is completely absorbed and the quinoa is cooked through. All slow cookers cook a little differently so make sure to occasionally check the dish to make sure the quinoa isn’t burning or sticking all to the sides.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped cilantro, fresh lime juice, and green onions if desired. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Stir in the cheddar cheese and enjoy immediately.

Note: The leftovers taste great wrapped in tortillas for burritos or mixed with greens. We’ve also made delicious nachos with the mixture by adding cheese, salsa, the optional toppings, and chips.

This is what it looks like when the ingredients first go in; it should look a little soupy.

This is what it looks like when the ingredients first go in; it should look a little soupy.

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Mango + Quinoa = Magic

While I haven’t posted anything on here in a while, I have still been cooking. A lot has changed since my last post – we moved to a new house (with amazing sun for a vegetable garden!), have a new housemate staying with us sporadically, and we’re learning to cook with the help of our toddler. Some things haven’t changed though – I’m still looking for somewhat easy to prepare recipes. Another thing that hasn’t changed is that I’m still cooking  a lot of quinoa.

The following recipe is one I made first for a potluck at work. I made 2 or 3 different salads, figuring that the leftovers would be nice to have with dinner that evening. None of this delicious mango quinoa salad made it to evening, let alone through the entire lunch period. Who knew sweet fruit would work so well with the rest of the ingredients?

Since that first time, this recipe has been requested multiple times and not just by my coworkers. Our housemate has an aversion to tomatoes, to the point of asking for them to be left off her tacos and creating BLTs with no actual tomatoes in the finished sandwich. After trying this for the first time, she’s taken to “accidentally” purchasing the ingredients for this salad whenever she hits the grocery store and always includes the tomatoes.

If you’re looking for something healthy but delicious, light but filling, easy to make but fully flavored- this is the recipe for you. Most of the effort for the recipe is just going to be the chopping up of the ingredients. Since the recipe tastes great after chilling and even better the second day, you could easily make this ahead of time for picnics or summer BBQs.

 

Recipe: Quinoa Salad with Mango, Avocado, and Tomatoes

Adapted from two peas & their pod

Yield: Serves 4-6

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups water

1-2 large mangoes, diced (make sure to get ripe, sweet mangoes)
2 large tomatoes, diced or a couple handfuls of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
4-5 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (or more if you’re a big cilantro fan)
2 medium avocados, diced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper, to taste

Lime wedges for serving (optional)

Directions:

1. Rinse the quinoa under cold water. Cook the quinoa in your rice cooker and then fluff with a fork. Let quinoa cool to room temperature (we’ve skipped this step sometimes when really craving the dish and everything turned out fine).

2. While the quinoa cooks, wash and prep all the other ingredients. Toss the mangoes, tomatoes, green onions, and avocados in a large bowl.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, and cumin.

4. When the quinoa has cooled (as much as you plan on letting it cool), dump it into the bowl. Pour the dressing over the quinoa and gently stir everything until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature or chilled. The salad tastes great fresh, but even better on the second day.

Notes: Pouring the dressing over the quinoa while it is still slightly warm usually ends up with the quinoa absorbing almost all of the dressing, which we prefer. Then we mix the whole salad up to ensure the flavored quinoa is well mixed into the salad so it flavors every bite. The salad tastes great fresh, but even better on the second day. Just be sure to mix it up well before eating.

Cheese Bake

After an afternoon of baking cookies, I was hyped up on sugar and in no mood to cook. Thankfully, hubby was ready to step in and make dinner adapted from a recipe he found online calling for 5 types of cheese in a baked macaroni dish (Original recipe: Wisconsin Five Cheese Bake found on allrecipes.com). Since we wanted to reduce the amount of ingredients we had to buy to make the meal, we adapted it to what we had in the fridge. You could easily sub in your favorite mixture of cheeses and whatever medium size pasta you have in your pantry.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16 ounce) package bow tie noodles
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese mixture
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup grated cheddar
  • 1/2 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add bow tie noodles, and cook until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the shredded cheeses. Remove about 1/2 cup for topping and set aside. In a separate bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, Greek yogurt and heavy cream. Season with parsley, Italian seasoning.
  3. Pour the ricotta cheese mixture and drained pasta into the bowl with the shredded cheeses and toss lightly. Don’t worry about mixing it too thoroughly, it will melt. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the reserved cheese over the top.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven until cheese is melted, about 10 minutes, then turn the oven to broil. Broil for about 5 minutes to brown the top.

Final Results: Totally decadent, even with the minor fat reducing adaptations we tested. It did need some salt, so adding in garlic salt as the original recipe suggested to the cheese mixture would have been nice. It also could have used a little kick of something – perhaps a dash of tabasco to add some heat or a shake or two of cayenne or crushed red peppers flakes. I loved the crunchy bits on top, but if you don’t like a crunchy top to your baked pasta, don’t broil it at the end. The cheese will still be plenty gooey and creamy.

Here’s what the leftovers looked like packed up for hubby’s lunch the next day (I added some cherry tomatoes and cucumber slices to round it out).

Continued Adventures with Quinoa: Lemon & Herb Quinoa

I’ve made the Black Bean & Quinoa salad a couple times now since we liked it so much. It packs well in lunches, tastes good cold or warm, and was pretty easy to make. When planning the menu for today’s lunch however, I wanted to try something new since we had a guinea pig, I mean guest, coming over so I decided to play around with a Giada de Laurentiis recipe for Herbed Quinoa. After reading the reviews, I made some alterations to the recipe and came up with something everyone at the table agreed was a perfect summer luncheon dish (and would be ideal for a picnic or packed lunch). By swapping the chicken stock for vegetable, it’s a vegan or vegetarian dish. Here’s my version:

Lemon & Herb Quinoa

Lemon & Herb Quinoa

Ingredients:

Quinoa:

  • 2 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken (or vegetable) stock
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • ¾ – 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • ¼  cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • zest from one lemon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

For the quinoa: Put all quinoa ingredients in your rice cooker and cook as you would white rice. When the rice cooker switches off or to the warming function, dump the quinoa into a large bowl and fluff with a fork (as you would couscous).

For the dressing: In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, basil, parsley, thyme, and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Pour the dressing over the quinoa and toss until all the ingredients are coated. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and serve.

Note: I made this dish the night before and kept it covered in the refrigerator. I tasted it right after mixing everything together and it was good, but the garlic (I was a bit generous in the serving since we love garlic) overwhelmed the herbs and lemon. By lunchtime the next day though, the garlic had mellowed and the herbs and lemon played stronger roles. It was delicious! We served it with Zucchini and Tomatoes (recipe will be posted later this week), green salads, grilled rosemary chicken, and white sangria (recipe will be posted later this week). We ate so much, we didn’t leave any room for the planned dessert (angel food cake with homemade berry sauce). I’m definitely looking forward to our dinner tonight of leftovers and the dessert!

Dueling Elephants Bento

This is the first bento I made with the rice molds I won from Rachel’s giveaway.  They’re so cute, and a perfect size for bento boxes – not too large to fit in traditional bento boxes with shallow layers but not so small that they leave you hungry.  Thanks, Rachel!  I look forward to experimenting more with the molds.

The cranberry eyes make them look a little scary.

From top to bottom:

The sky is made from pieces of bell pepper with some catsup hiding in the corners.

The mountains are grilled vegan burgers (Boca brand).

Elephants are vinegared rice with dried cranberries for eyes.

Grass is edamame pods.

I used one of our large, shallow tupperwares for the container.  It holds 1000 mL, which is why I traditionally only use it for my husband’s meals since that’s an appropriate size for him.  Since I need much fewer calories for my own lunches, I made sure to leave a good portion of the box empty.  Even with that, it was too much food and I brought home a lot more leftovers than I usually do.  Overall, it tasted great but definitely benefited from reheating before eating.

Spinach Veggie Bake

In the ongoing quest for filling, healthy, kosher-for-Passover meals, I remembered that I had a file of Passover recipes lurking on my computer that I had located years ago and never actually tried.  This is one I adapted from the pile.  It didn’t look anything like I imagined, but has a lot of flavor and tastes great reheated in packed lunches.  I thought it would look and taste quiche-like, and I bet it would if I upped the egg count, but I liked the heavier focus on the vegetables.  I’m not normally a fan of cooked spinach, preferring raw, but the baked spinach here does not resemble the mushy, globby cooked spinach of my memory.  I packed slices of the Spinach Veggie Bake for lunch for both my husband and I along with some matzah and Muenster cheese on the side.  It proved tasty and very filling.  Since it was so yummy and easy to make, I plan to continue making it after Passover for bento lunches.

Making this meal a little lighter, we substituted egg beaters (fat-free, cholesterol free egg white mixture) for the eggs.  We had a little trouble smashing the bouillon cube to powder, so mixed it with a very small amount of water and then smashed it.  Monkey chopped the vegetables while I sautéed the onions, which cut down on the time it took to get the dish into the oven.  You could easily add in your own favorite vegetables to this dish.

  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 5 carrots, sliced
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 20 oz fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1/2 Cup Matzah Meal
  • 6 to 9 eggs (you decide the consistency you’d like best)
  • salt
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube, smashed to powder
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 Heat oven to 325 — Prepare 9 x 13 pan — grease well.

2. Saute onions in 1 T oil.

3. Combine all ingredients together in a big bowl (you can add the sautéed onions right to the mixture without cooling).

4. Mix thoroughly. The egg will pretty much disappear into the mixture, but make sure you mix it up so all the spinach and veggies appear coated and so the onions and carrots look pretty evenly spread out.

5. Put into prepared pan. Bake 45 mins to 1 hour. Should be firm and set. This also freezes really well.

Egg Hunt Lunch

We’ve been enjoying a streak of absolutely beautiful weather lately.  The trees are in bloom, my plants are growing, and I don’t have to wear a jacket to stay warm anymore.  I love Spring!  I tend to feel more creative during the Spring and Summer months.

This is a lunch I packed for my husband, so it not only includes foods I can’t eat, but also a lot more food than I would want to eat.  Instead of stopping for lunch, he sometimes snacks throughout the day, so I sometimes try to pack lunches that match his eating style while still ensuring he’s eating healthily.  We had just dyed eggs together for the first time, so it inspired me to make his lunch a mini-egg hunt.

Clockwise from the top left: Three silicone cups of fruit salad with dried cranberries, broccoli and grape tomatoes, wasabi dipping sauce hiding some hard candies, stacks of crab California rolls, dried mango wrapped around a hardboiled egg, chocolate and cadbury eggs hiding in broccoli, more mango with another hardboiled egg, and some baby carrots.

I liked the little tomatoes hiding in the broccoli with the candy and chocolates; they seem to be a bit egg-shaped themselves.