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.

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.

Moroccan Marathon

Picking recipes is something of a hobby of mine, but sometimes I spend too much time thinking of all the things I could make and have trouble actually picking what’s for dinner so I asked my husband to pick a recipe for us to try. He definitely spend a lot less time deciding on a recipe than I do, but that is in large part because he does not actually read the recipe at all. This is how we ended up spending 3 days working on a single dish, Moroccan Stew we found through Gojee. For someone cooking without an infant in the house, or with a fully stocked kitchen, this probably won’t take as long. Fortunately the results were delicious and tasted unlike anything we’d made before. The chickpeas added some nice texture and the figs melted into the sauce, giving it an unexpectedly nice fruitiness.

One of the first steps of the recipe is to make the spice mixture used to marinate the meat. The spice mixture is called Ras el Hanout. Our local grocery store doesn’t stock the spice mixture, but we discovered weeks later that you can purchase it inexpensively at Cost Plus. This recipe seems like one that could be adapted pretty easily to go in the crockpot (follow the recipe through step 3, then dump everything in the slow cooker and let it work its magic).

Ras El Hanout

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons ground coriander
3 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons allspice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne

Combine all the spices together. Store in a cool, dark place.

The original recipe called for 2 teaspoons of turmeric as well, but even after making a grocery run, we didn’t have any and made do without. The recipe can be halved. Even after halving the recipe, you won’t use all of the mixture and will have some to store for future recipes.

Hearty Lamb Stew with Chickpeas and Figs.

Moroccan Stew - packed up for lunch with cilantro and quinoa.

Moroccan Lamb Stew

Ingredients:

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground paprika
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 – 3 pounds lamb shoulder or leg, cut in 2 inch chunks
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 – 14 ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
2 cups chicken stock
12 dried Calimyrna or Turkish figs, halved
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons ras el hanout
1 – 14 ounce can chickpeas, drained
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Harissa or red chili paste
Fresh cilantro sprigs

Directions:

1. Combine 1/4 cup olive oil, coriander, cumin, paprika, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl. Mix to form a paste. Place lamb in a large bowl. Rub paste all over lamb. Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours or refrigerate covered up to 24 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 325 F. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven or oven proof pot with lid over medium-high heat. Add lamb in batches and brown on all sides, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Transfer lamb to a plate or bowl.

3. Add onion and carrot to the same pot. Saute, stirring up the brown bits, for 2 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and continue to saute 1 minute. Add tomatoes, chicken stock, figs, cinnamon stick, ras el hanout, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper.

4. Return lamb and any collected juices to the pot, submerging it in the stock. Add additional chicken stock to cover, if necessary.

5. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover pot. Transfer to oven and bake until lamb is falling apart tender, (about 2 hours).

6. Transfer pot to stove. Remove lamb and vegetables with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Bring stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil uncovered until sauce is reduced by about half and thickened, skimming fat.  Stir in chickpeas. Taste to check for seasoning. If necessary add a tablespoon of brown sugar to the stock. Return lamb and vegetables to pot.

Recipe may be prepared up to 24 hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate. To serve, skim any collected fat from surface. Rewarm over medium-low heat or in a 325 F. oven. Serve with prepared quinoa or couscous. Pass bowls of harissa and fresh cilantro around the table as condiments.

We made a quick pot of quinoa in our rice cooker as we finished up the recipe and it was delicious! Be prepared for your entire house to smell of the rich, spiced aroma of the dish.

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!

Black Bean & Quinoa Salad

Summer has finally arrived!  With it comes enough free time to resume cooking and an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs matched with a desire to get back to healthy eating. Perfect time to test out one of the so-called “super-foods” I haven’t tried before: quinoa. During our recent visit to Costco, we came across a 4 lb. bag of quinoa at a price under my splurge point for random foods.  Since I’ve heard so much about this amazing grain, I thought it was worth a try and picked up a bag without any clue how to cook it or what it really was. Turns out, quinoa is actually a seed, not a grain, but the rest of the rumors were correct: it is indeed a super food. Gluten free, it is high in protein, fiber, iron, and more!

With all the healthy hype, I was prepared for it to not taste great. It sort of made me think of oatmeal; I know it’s good for me, but I have to force myself to eat it in its unadulterated, healthy form (I like it when it’s mixed with brown sugar, honey, syrup, or piles of cinnamon and sugar, but then it’s not so healthy anymore). I was willing to give quinoa a fair chance though and hunted online for well-reviewed recipes to try.  Attempt #1, an adaptation of several recipes I encountered, was a hit with both Monkey and I. Monkey said he loved how fresh and light it tasted and even went back for seconds.  This was a perfect light summer meal, but would be equally nice as a side dish.

Black Bean & Quinoa Salad:

Black Bean & Quinoa Salad

Look at all the colors!

Black Bean & Quinoa Salad Recipe:

Ingredients:

1/3 cup Quinoa

1 cup Water (add more for higher elevations, less for extremely low elevations)

1 tablespoon Olive oil

4-5 teaspoons Lime juice
 (depending on taste)

1/4 heaping teaspoon Cumin

1/4 heaping teaspoon Ground coriander

1 tablespoon Fresh cilantro; finely chopped (double it if you like cilantro)

2 tablespoons Scallions; minced

1 can (15 oz size) Black beans; drained

2 cups fresh tomatoes; diced
 or 1 can diced tomatoes; well draineds

1 cup red, orange, or yellow bell peppers; diced

2 teaspoons Fresh green chiles; minced or 2 heaping tablespoons; canned

1 dash each salt and pepper; to taste

Directions:

  1. Rinse the quinoa well in a fine sieve under cool running water. Be careful, because the seeds are small! Our normal colander’s holes were too large.
  2. Put rinsed quinoa and 1 cup water in rice cooker and set to cook. If you have additional settings on your rice cooker, set it to cook just like white rice.
  3. While the quinoa cooks, stir oil, lime juice, cumin, coriander, cilantro and scallions in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, combine beans, tomatoes, peppers and chiles.
  4. Add cooled quinoa, and salt and pepper. Then pour the cilantro sauce and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with lemon slices, lime wedges, or whole cilantro leaves.

Serves 3-4.

Note: We didn’t wait for the quinoa to cool and ate immediately. It was delicious! If you have access to fresh tomatoes and green chiles, by all means use them. We used the canned for this first go round and it was delicious. I’ll be testing out more quinoa recipes as we work our way through the 4 lb. bag. I was especially happy to use some of our home grown cilantro in this recipe!