Organic Fried Quinoa with Veggies and Egg (Like Fried Rice, but Better!)

Like a lot of people, I’m trying to incorporate healthier options into my diet. I was really craving fried rice last week, so, instead, I decided to give fried quinoa a whirl. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s now one of my new favorite not-so-guilty pleasures. It was a cinch to make, and it tastes way naughtier than it actually is!

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups organic quinoa (you choose the color), cooked (about one cup uncooked prepared with a 1:1 ratio of water should give you this quantity)
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, quartered
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 egg (skip this if you choose)
  • 2 tablespoons tamari
  • Black Pepper
  • Sea Salt
  • Canola Oil

Method:

In a large, nonstick skillet, heat one tablespoon canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, and sauté for one to two minutes until they start browning and give off some of their liquid.

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Add the onions and a pinch of sea salt, stir, and cook for two minutes.

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Now add the garlic.

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Scootch the sautéed veggies over to one side of your skillet to allow room for the cooked quinoa. Also add the thawed peas.

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Now is a good time to add a bit more canola (or peanut, if you prefer) oil to the pan to really get a good fry. You could go without it, though, if you’d like. Also add the tamari (you can sub soy sauce if you’re not keeping this wheat-free). Turn the heat up to high, and cook the quinoa and veggies for two to three minutes. Keep it moving to prevent burning. Now make a well in the middle for the egg. You’ll want to have a bare spot in the bottom of the skillet for this.

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Scramble with something that won’t ruin your nice, non-stick pan. Don’t be lazy and grab the first utensil you see!

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Once the egg is good and scrambled, incorporate it into the rest of the quinoa.

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See how easy that was? And you’ve only dirtied one pan! I served this quinoa with ginger tamari shrimp. It was delectable and cured my craving. Happy eating, everyone!

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Pho Saigon Vietnamese Restaurant is an Unexpected Hidden Gem

Blink at the wrong time and you just may miss Pho Saigon. It’s tucked away just off of International Speedway Boulevard and practically hidden behind a coin shop. But, keep your eyes open, park your car, and venture in.

Inside of this larger-than-it-looks building is friendly and knowledgable staff, a clean environment, and fresh, flavorful, authentic Vietnamese food. I’ve eaten here more than ten times, and, every time, I’m pleased as punch. I ate there with a group of girlfriends this week and got the Pho Hoac Mi Hoang Thanh (egg noodles, wontons, and vegetables in chicken broth). As you can see from the photo, the soup is packed with goodies. This is one of my very favorite dishes at Pho Saigon. The veggies are crisp and beautiful, and the broth is absolutely drinkable!

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They even serve it with the traditional accouterments: tons of fresh bean sprouts, Vietnamese basil, hot pepper rings, and lime. By the way, they even grow the herbs outside!

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And even though their name has “Pho” in it, the menu doesn’t stop there. My boyfriend loves the clay pot meals. Essentially, it’s perfectly fried jasmine rice with any number of additions cooked in a clay pot (duh!). He loves the Com Tay Com Ga (chicken and vegetables with crispy rice) and gets it with curry spice and plenty of heat. The rice that sticks to the bottom of the pot is the best part! I act like I’ve never tried it and ask to “try it” every single time. He’s on to me.

If you’re in the area or I’ve made you hungry enough to fly into our local airport to get some Vietnamese food, you can check out Pho Saigon’s website for their menu.

Today’s Impromptu Lunch: The “Not in Public” Turkey Burger

After a morning of running around, I got home, opened the fridge, and realized I had an abnormal amount of leftovers. This could only mean one thing: I wasn’t going to be making anything new until I cleaned out some of the weekend’s goodies. (side note: My grandmother never said “leftovers.” She called them “pre-cooked meals.)

I was in the mood for some sort of sandwich. After all, my honey made delicious Italian herb bread. But I wasn’t in the mood for ham or tuna. Then I spotted the turkey burgers. But I didn’t have buns. Could I? Could I possibly? Could I possibly put the burger patty on bread? I’m a lover of good buns (haha), so eating a patty on bread is nearly sacrilege. But I decided to give it a whirl. I toasted the bread, slathered both sides with full fat Hellmann’s mayo, added the patty, got out the leftover salad, used the lettuce, tomato, and onion, put on some pickled jalapeños, added some ketchup and mustard, and voila! Look, I’m aware this was a sloppy sandwich with maybe far too many condiments, but since i was already using bread, I figured wild accoutrement abandon was in order. And this is why I’ve named this beast the “not in public” turkey burger. If you saw my face after just one bite, the name would make perfect sense. 🙂

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Thai Chicken Panang Curry with Veggies and Jasmine Rice

Thai food is magical, and I am certainly no magician. Eating it is fantastic, but cooking it always feels so intimidating. Even thinking of cooking it instills in me a fear of failure. It’s the one food that I religiously eat out because I’ve always convinced myself that I won’t do it justice. Well, friends, I was wrong. This is one time when being wrong is so freaking awesome! I won’t say it was light on ingredients, but it was sooooo worth it.

From the Delicious Daydreams kitchen, I proudly present (drumroll, please) Thai Chicken Panang Curry! Follow me on this fantastic exotic food voyage…it’ll be fun!

For this dish, you’ll need:

1 pound organic chicken thighs, cut into thin strips
3 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
5 kaffir lime leaves
1 garlic clove, sliced
3 teaspoons tamarind paste
1 1/2 tablespoons panang curry paste
1 cup organic yellow onion, julienned
1 cup organic bell pepper, julienned
3 sprigs organic Thai basil
8 ounces button mushrooms, quartered
8 ounces bamboo shoots, sliced
Sea salt
Jasmine rice

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Method (and, by the way, you can use just one big non-stick skillet for this whole thing!):

To begin, and I know this isn’t traditional, but season the chicken with a bit of sea salt, and brown it in a pan over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes. Use a bit of canola oil for this. Move the chicken around to avoid burning and to ensure it’s browned evenly. After it’s done, set it aside.

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Again, using canola oil and a bit of sea salt, sautée the mushrooms.

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The depth of flavor that comes from sautéing is excellent and well worth the time. When those are done, put them with the cooked chicken.

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Without worrying about wiping out the pan, add 1/2 cup of the coconut milk to the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the curry paste, garlic, and lime leaves to the pan.

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Whisk for about 3 minutes until the curry paste is completely dissolved and the mixture has thickened slightly.

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Next, add the rest of the coconut milk, onion, bell pepper, and basil. Bring this mixture to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes. Then reduce the heat to low-medium.

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Finally, add the bamboo shoots, tamarind paste, basil, sugar, 2 teaspoons of sea salt, and the sautéed chicken and mushrooms.

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Mix all the ingredients through and let simmer for 3-4 minutes until all of the flavors are incorporated. Please feel free to taste and adjust your spice and seasonings as necessary.

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Serve this over steamed jasmine rice. Then throw out your Thai takeout menus. 😉

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Organic Beef Chili Over Baked Oven Fries

When I was a little kid, my dad and I used to have friday night daddy-daughter bowling dates at our local Don Carter’s bowling alley. We used to laugh, bowl, and, best of all, eat chili cheese fries. I have fond memories of crispy deep fried french fries buried underneath gooey liquid cheese and (most likely) canned chili. I loved it. I really did. You see, growing up and becoming electively conscious of the food choices I make and, more importantly, where my food comes from is a double-edged sword. I can’t eat that that stuff anymore. But…I can make all of the naughty treats I loved as a kid in a more healthful way.

You can do this, too. Trust me. To mimic our chili cheese fries, you need to make chili. Whether you go full on cow or totally vegetarian, the secret is lots of spices and slow cooking for a very long time.

For the chili:

I like to use grass-fed organic ground beef. I prefer a 90-10 fat to meat ratio. I brown It in a Dutch oven, drain it, and set it aside. I then put a small amount of canola oil in the skillet and brown one cup diced onion one cup diced bell pepper over medium-high heat. (If you’re like me and like it spicy, add some fresh or pickled jalapeños, too.) When the veggies are nice and brown, but not mushy, add four large cloves of minced garlic. Cook for about a minute and then add the meat back to the pan. Add two tablespoons of chili powder, one tablespoon of cumin, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper to taste, and mix well. Then add two 14 ounce cans of your favorite organic diced tomatoes with all the liquid. Add two tablespoons of tomato paste and mix again. Bring to a simmer. You should have enough liquid to cover about half of the ingredients. If you don’t, add a bit of water. Let this cook in a your covered dutch oven or other heavy lidded cooking vessel for about a half hour at a low simmer. Then add one can of black beans and a small package of frozen sweet corn. Continue to simmer for at least another hour. Taste and adjust the spice and salt levels to taste.

For the fries:

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Cut your favorite potatoes into thick planks and soak them in cold water to draw out some of the starch and prevent from browning. Next, dry them on a clean kitchen towel. Toss them with a bit of canola oil and a pinch of salt. Put on a non-stick cookie sheet and bake on the center rack for about 20 minutes (or until brown on the edges). Remove from the oven and toss again with your favorite spices. I like to use garlic powder, salt, and pepper, but get creative if you want! Potatoes are a great blank canvas. (Feel free to ask me for suggestions!) Once you’ve seasoned your fries, put them back in your 425 oven until the fries are crispy and brown.

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Now for the best part:

Put a heaping pile of fries on a plate, top with a massive helping of your healthful and protein-laden chili, and shred some of your favorite cheese over the top. I love sharp Vermont cheddar, but you could use pepper jack, Colby, or whatever you prefer. Pop in the microwave just long enough to melt the cheese, grab a fork, and dive in. You will be so very happy you did.

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Fancy Spring Chicken

Springtime recipes are a lot of fun. It’s the time where what I harvest goes into the skillet. I try to rely on my own homegrown produce as much as possible. Fancy Spring Chicken is a perfect example of this. I had Brussels sprouts and contender buff valentine beans, but not enough to use them on their own for a side dish. I also had a lovely chicken breast, some local baby bella mushrooms, sweet onion and, of course, lots and lots of pasta.

I started by boiling my farfalle (bowtie) pasta in salted water. I then blanched the Brussels sprouts and beans for two minutes in salted, boiling water. By the way, after you blanch, you must drop the veggies immediately in an ice bath to set the color and stop the cooking process.

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I then cut up the chicken in 1″ cubes and tossed with a small amount of olive oil, sea salt, garlic powder, and dried basil. I heated a skillet to medium-high and seared the chicken on all sides. Then I added a splash of good Chardonnay to the mix. Let the alcohol cook off. The concentrated flavor that’s left is oaky and amazing.

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Once the pasta is done to al dente, drain and set aside.

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Wipe out the chicken skillet, add a bit of olive oil, heat the pan to medium-high heat, and toss in the sliced mushrooms. Once those are about halfway done, add a bit of chopped onion, fresh garlic, and a generous pinch of salt and fresh ground black pepper. Wait about a minute and add back the blanched beans and Brussels sprouts. Make sure to drain the veggies well before doing this. Sautée for a couple of minutes and then add the cooked chicken back to the skillet.

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Once everything is filling your house with wonderful smells and is warmed all the way through, add the pasta. I drizzled more olive oil over the top and tossed in more basil and sea salt.

Crushed chili flakes and freshly grated parmesan cheese are also nice finishing touches.

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And, if you want to get really fancy (as if the bowtie pasta wasn’t enough), you can drizzle some balsamic vinegar syrup over the top.

Happy Spring, everyone!