Foodie in the Forest

Sharing my passion for good food, family and the great outdoors

Quinoa and Veggie Skillet February 13, 2013

Filed under: Recipe — hahrdy @ 9:38 PM
Tags: , , , ,

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If a grain product can be trendy, then quinoa is the skinny jean of the whole grain world. Well, actually quinoa is technically a seed, but you eat it like a grain. I think because it has a weird name and is not pronounced the way it looks  (KEEN-WA, not KEE-NO-AH as I referred to it for probably a year), this nutrient packed super-food took a while making its way into everyday cooking. It is as versatile as rice and just as easy to cook. AND when someone asks you what you had for supper last night, and you ever so casually say, “Oh… just some quinoa”, you feel SO healthy that next thing you know you will be joining hot yoga and sipping green tea in your organic cotton tunic. Well, maybe not. But you will feel good about your food choice! Quinoa is packed with protein, fiber and even calcium so dig in!

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This idea for a quinoa skillet with veggies came to me via another blog posting I saw on “Iowa Girl Eats”  so feel free to check it out.

http://iowagirleats.com

The beauty of a recipe like this is that it gives you a chance to use up those random veggies sitting in your refrigerator. You can use any veggies you want for this, and any cheese or even no cheese. It will still taste delicious. You could add some chick peas or lentils to make it even more protein rich, or just serve it as a side dish. The possibilities are endless and it is up to you how you put your own personal spin on it!

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Quinoa and Veggie Skillet

Click here for a printable version of the recipe: Quinoa and Veggie Skillet

You will Need:

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed in cold water and drained.
  • 2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you want to make this dish vegetarian)
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 small zucchini, rough chop
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 ears of corn, cleaned and kernels chopped off the cob (or one can of corn)
  • 3 green onions, chopped quite small
  • 1 small can of diced tomatoes, drained (or use fresh if you have them)
  • 1 tbsp. Dried basil
  • 1 tbsp. Dried oregano
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • ½ cup grated sharp cheddar (or any other cheese you enjoy)
  • 2 – 3 tbsp. Chopped fresh parsley (optional)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

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What to do:

  • In a medium saucepan, bring quinoa and stock to a gentle boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
  • In a large skillet or frying pan, sauté garlic, peppers, basil and oregano for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add corn and zucchini and continue cooking for 2-3 more minutes.
  • Add diced tomatoes, green onions, parsley and cooked quinoa. Cook until just heated through.
  • Add feta and all but a couple teaspoons of the cheddar cheese. Stir.
  • Sprinkle remaining cheddar on top to serve.

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Spinach Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette February 12, 2013

Filed under: Recipe — hahrdy @ 1:01 PM

Here’s a lunchtime quickie for you… who doesn’t like a lunchtime quickie?

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But seriously, people I talk to seem to be under the impression that salads and homemade salad dressings are tedious to make, much too difficult for a busy day. I can tell you honestly that this salad AND dressing took about FIVE minutes from start to finish… for real. And I had a baby in one arm for about two of those minutes. So no excuses for buying crappy old ranchers choice dressing anymore people!

For the salad, use what you have on hand. For this one I used:

  • Baby spinach
  • Grapefruit segments
  • Strawberries
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrot shavings
  • Feta Cheese
  • Sunflower and pumpkin seeds

For the Citrus Vinaigrette:

  • Juice from half a grapefruit
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • white wine vinegar
  • olive oil
  • Dijon mustard
  • honey
  • salt and pepper to taste.

You will notice I did not include exact measurements. That is because the basic ratio for any vinaigrette is usually 3:1 . Three parts oil to one part vineagar, or in this case vinegar and citrus juice.  So, if you squeeze your grapefruit and lemon and end up with about 1/4 Cup, you will want about 3/4 cup of oil. If you had 2 Tbsp. of juice, you would want 6 Tsp. of oil. You get the idea.

I like the splash of vinegar because citrus just isn’t quite acidic enough for my taste. I add a small squirt of mustard to almost every dressing I make, to act as an emulsifier. (It holds the oil and vinegar together and keeps it from separating). The squirt of honey is to taste: You like it really sweet? Be generous. Not into sweet? Omit it. The honey could quite easily be replaced with maple syrup too. The white wine vinegar could easily be white balsamic, plain old white vinegar or whatever you have on hand. I use a white vinegar in this recipe to keep it clear and light in appearance.

I add my oil last, whisking pretty vigorously as I pour it in. This will ensure everything is combined nicely. If your dressing sits for a bit it is no big deal, but be sure to whisk it again before pouring it over your salad.

Store any leftover vinaigrette in the refrigerator for a week or so.

The moral of this story is that salad dressings from scratch are SOOOO easy, much better for you, and quite limitless in terms of flavor combinations! This was one tasty lunch!

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Little Fruit Muffins…. for Little Hands!

Filed under: Recipe — hahrdy @ 12:20 PM

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Lately it feels like I close my eyes to blink, and a month has gone by. My daughter is saying new things, doing new things and best of all… eating new things. I love introducing new and exciting foods to my little one! Mind you, my culinary adventures in baby cuisine have not always been met with rave reviews, but even if once and a while her face lights up as new flavors entertain her taste buds, it makes my efforts all worth while. Sometimes I think how amazing it must be for a child, trying new flavors and new textures in food for the very first time! For a foodie mom, this is an experience I seldom get anymore and hence maybe why I am so fascinated by my daughter’s new food experiences. I hope my ever-expanding palate for new and exciting food gets passed along to her, along with my love of cooking of course.

On this particular day I made some Strawberry- Banana mini muffins for her to try. After a few odd facial expressions, most likely due to the new texture of soft baked goods, she swallowed, smiled and produced a satisfied “mmmmmmm… numie numie!”. This was paired with a big, messy-faced grin. If only we as adults could react the way our basic instincts told us when we tried new food and it was REALLY tasty! Although, I suppose people would look at us oddly if we were to yell out “numie, numie!” in the middle of a restaurant.

Strawberry Banana Mini Muffins

Click for printable version of recipe: Strawberry Banana Mini Muffins

  • ¼  Cup melted butter (or vegetable oil)
  • ¼ Cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • ¼ Cup yogurt (I used strawberry banana flavored)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 Tsp. vanilla
  • 2 Medium sized bananas, mashed
  • 1 Cup fresh (or thawed from frozen) strawberries
  • 1 ¼ Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ Cup light brown sugar
  • 1 ½ Tsp. Baking powder
  • ¼ Tsp. Baking soda
  • ¼ Tsp. Salt

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Directions:

 – Preheat Oven to 350°f. Line muffin tins with paper liners, or grease well. This recipe makes approximately 12 large or 36 mini muffins.

 – Melt butter and allow to cool slightly.

 – Combine all liquid ingredients in one bowl. Combine all dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Whisk dry ingredients well to distribute everything evenly.

 – Combine wet and dry ingredients by folding gently. Stir only until everything is JUST combines. Do not over mix.

 – Fill muffin tins almost to the top, but not quite.

 – Bake for 20-25 minutes (the smaller muffins only took about 18-20 minutes). Use the old cake-testing method to check for doneness if you want. (Stick a toothpick in the center, if it comes out clean you are good to go!).

 – Let muffins cool in a wire rack. These last for about 3 days in a container, or you can do what I did and freeze half for later!

Enjoy 🙂

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How to Get Your Husband ( or Anyone Else for That Matter…) to Eat Spinach! November 21, 2012

Spinach and Butternut Squash Risotto

I’m sure everyone has heard that old adage that food if the way to a man’s heart? Well, it is true. When I met my husband he was sustaining himself with innumerable cups of coffee a day, pizza, maybe the occasional chicken finger dinner and sometimes greasy spoon breakfast from a local breakfast spot. Oh, and did I mention that none of this food was consumed before three or four o’clock in the afternoon? I thought to myself, “Horror of horrors! This guy doesn’t know what he is missing!” Now, some people may think I started cooking for him as a sneaky way to weasel my way into his heart… but it actually started out as an act of genuine concern and desire to rescue him from the monstrosity that was his diet, but coincidentally helped me find my way into his heart at the same time.

It hasn’t been an easy road to get my husband to eat a lot of foods.. in fact it has been a lot like introducing my 8 month old to her new foods: I give her some and if she doesn’t like it we try again the next day… and the next day. And if all else fails I just mix it in with something that she likes so she doesn’t really notice it is there. Eventually she likes it. And this is exactly the technique I used in this recipe for Butternut Squash and Spinach Risotto! Masked with a delicious spice blend, white wine, cream and cheese the spinach was really the last thing on anyone’s mind!

Risotto seams to be a dish that many people are afraid to try and cook… I think Chef Gordon Ramsay may be partially to blame for this irrational fear due to his incessant temper tantrums aimed at poor wannabe chefs who can’t seem to get their risotto right on television, then dumping it in the garbage and mocking them. Well, I’m no expert, and maybe the texture of my rice isn’t perfect, but it tastes good… so who cares. All you need to remember are a few simple tips and I guarantee you will have a delicious side dish that is easy to make any night of the week. The squash and spinach combo in risotto is an idea I got from good ol’ Martha Stewart at one point… so props to Martha. The rest of the recipe is my own twist!

Butternut Squash and Spinach Risotto

Click for Printable Recipe: Butternut Squash and Spinach Risotto

I first roasted my squash in a 400°F Oven, until just barely fork tender. The squash will cook more when you incorporate it into the risotto, so it is important not to overcook it.

Next I heated up my olive oil and butter, and ground up some cumin, fennel and coriander seeds. I added these spices, along with some nutmeg, salt & pepper, onion, garlic and red pepper to my pan.

After the spices were fragrant…. (and OH MAN… the smell was amazing) and the veggies were softened, I added the rice to the pan.

After the grains of rice are slightly softened, and coated in the oil, spice and veggie mixture I started adding my liquids, in 3 main additions. First… the wine! I think I used about ½ Cup dry white wine, but you could omit this step and just use broth. It is a really good idea to warm the broth you want to use for your risotto… simply because adding cold broth drastically lowers the cooking temperature each time. Warm broth keeps your dish cooking along nicely.

After all the broth was incorporated, and the rice was almost the texture I wanted (each grain still had a bit of bite to it, not too mushy!) I added my squash, spinach, cream and cheese. Then I cut the heat, stirred everything gently. You can see the squash keeps its shape nicely!

I served my risotto with a pan roasted pork tenderloin.

And so, dinner was served, my husband ate spinach and squash, and we all lived happily ever after.

Have fun in the kitchen!

 

Chicken Calzones… with a twist! October 29, 2012

Filed under: Recipe,Uncategorized — hahrdy @ 12:32 PM

It is definitely the season for comfort foods: Rich, warm and hearty stews or soups… delightfully fluffy breads and muffins, and satisfying roasted meats with fall root veggies. I had a strange craving for pizza a few days ago, not your typical comfort food but delicious none the less. On the rare occasion I indulge in some pizza from a take-out restaurant, I am usually left feeling disappointed afterwards, and come on… nothing beats a homemade pizza! On this particular day I decided to take a departure from the usual tomato sauce and toppings, and go for some slowly braised BBQ chicken, caramelized onion and sharp cheddar cheese to adorn my pizza… And lets face it: The best part of the pizza is the dough, so I decided to turn my pizza into some calzones for double the crust yumminess!


My go-to pizza dough recipe is from my old “Joy of Cooking” book. It is classic, and always turns out. The great thing about this recipe is that it is versatile enough to be played with. You can easily replace some of the flour with multigrain or whole wheat and add any herbs, spices, seeds or grains you would like. Today I decided to add some fragrant rosemary into the dough, along with some basil.

Kneading dough is therapy people!! Having a bad day? No problem: knead some dough. Once you get in the groove, the rhythmic punching and stretching of that dough in your fingers just sort of transports you to a relaxing place… at least it does for me. And I NEVER get tired of lifting the tea towel of my bowl of dough after it has risen, and peeking in to see how it has swelled to massive proportions!

You can click here for a printable copy of the pizza dough recipe:Pizza Dough

While the dough was rising, tucked away in the oven that I had turned on momentarily earlier on, I placed some onions in a pan with a pat of butter, and slowly let them brown up, caramelizing and bringing out their natural sweet flavors. Into the same pan, I added some boneless, skinless chicken pieces. I let them sear on both sides for some color, then covered everything in a sweet BBQ sauce, turned down the heat, put a cover on and slowly let the chicken braise until it was fall-apart tender.

When the dough had risen, I separated it into 6 pieces, (You could make any number you want… 6 makes large meal-sized calzones) let it rest for about 15 minutes, then rolled each ball out on a lightly floured surface.

After filling each with delicious chicken and grated cheese…..

I folded over the dough and sealed it shut by rubbing a bit of olive oil along the dough, then pressing it together with a fork. I lightly brush the tops of the calzones with oil and dust them with a tiny bit of garlic powder, but you don’t have to. Its also important to poke a couple small air holes in the tops of your calzones before baking them… unless you want a calzone explosion in your oven.

Now, you might be thinking, “This meal is too labour intensive, totally not worth it!” But when your house starts to fill with the smell of baking bread and rosemary and your mouth is watering, it will all be worth it. You will have a delicious supper AND have the satisfaction of knowing you made it from scratch!

You can freeze any leftover dough, which is great. Just bring it to room temperature on the counter when you want to use it! Fill your calzones and flavor your dough with anything you want.. let your imagination go wild! The combinations are endless. I served my calzones with a simple green salad, splashed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. And let me tell you… my pizza craving was more than satisfied! Have fun in the kitchen!

 

Fall Harvest Muffins October 19, 2012

Filed under: Recipe — hahrdy @ 11:52 AM

I don’t know about you… but at the end of every single meal, I have to have something sweet! Even a piece of dark chocolate, a graham cracker, a few spoonfuls of yogurt…anything!! (Don’t judge me, but I think I may have had a spoonful of maple syrup once in sweet desperation…) So today was no different. I had just finished a healthy and satisfying lunch: a harvest inspired salad chalked full of apples, pears, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, pecans, carrots and tomatoes with a splash of my maple vinaigrette… (mmmmm… I KNOW, right?). You would think that would suffice, but alas.. the sweet tooth got the best of me once again. I looked frantically around my kitchen only to discover I had nothing sweet anywhere!! What I did see, however, were some fabulous fall ingredients just begging to be transformed into a delicious afternoon treat. My inspiration:

Some carrots, apples and a pumpkin could easily become some muffins!

Now, I’m no expert… but after making muffins as many times as I have, it becomes increasingly easier to just tweak a basic recipe and make it your own. I am constantly changing up my liquid ingredients, spices, switching some of the flour with some oats, some bran or some ground flax. I used an actual fresh pumpkin, that I cut up and cooked the night before so I could feed some to my daughter. Of course, canned pumpkin would work just fine as well. I always like to use buttermilk in my muffins… if you don’t have any you can sour your own milk by just adding a teaspoon or two of plain vinegar or lemon juice to regular milk, letting it stand for about five minutes, then giving it a stir. Voila! Homemade buttermilk.

♥♥♥Fall Harvest Muffins♥♥

What You Need:

         1 Cup Buttermilk or Soured Milk

         1 egg, beaten

         1 Cup Brown Sugar

         1\2 Cup Pureed Pumpkin (fresh or canned)

         A Generous Dollop of Sour Cream (about 1\4 Cup)

         1 Large Carrot Grated

         1 Apple Grated and all juices squeezed out

         1\2 Cup Vegetable Oil

         Small splash each of maple extract and vanilla extract

         1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour

         3\4 Cup White Flour

         1 and 1\2 Cups Wheat Bran

         1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon would do)

         1 Tsp. each of baking powder and baking soda

         1\2 Tsp. Salt

         1 Cup raisins (or dried cranberries would be excellent too!)

 

What to Do:

 

          Preheat oven to 375°f (190°c) and line muffin tins with liners (or lightly grease if you don’t have liners)

          Combine the first nine ingredients and mix well.

          Combine flour, bran, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl.

          Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir only until everything is JUST combined.

           Stir in raisins.

           Fill muffin cups until level with the top. (I like big muffins!)

           Bake for 20-22 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean

           Remove muffins from the tins and allow them to cool on a rack.

 

Recipe should yield about 12 – 16 regular sized muffins. Enjoy!!

 

 

 

 

Welcome October 18, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — hahrdy @ 3:54 PM

The leaves are slowly meandering off the branches and dusting our yard with the beautiful colors of fall. The crisp autumn air awakes my senses. In the distance a rooster crows, the wind rustles in the trees and a faint smell of wood burning reminds me how much I LOVE fall, and also how incredibly lucky I am to live in my beautiful country home, surrounded by forest, nestled in the hills on beautiful Prince Edward Island. I guess I am what people refer to as “an old soul”: someone who values the simplicity of country living, home-cooked meals, getting one’s hands dirty in a garden, a picnic down a country lane, freshly made bread rising on the counter and a good pot of tea. There is something satisfying about creating good wholesome food for your family and being surrounded by the beauty of nature certainly helps to get the creative cooking juices flowing. I have always wanted to share my approach to cooking and living with others and now I finally have. I hope I can inspire you to get your hands dirty in the kitchen, or outside, with my recipes and maybe with a story or two along the way. Happy cooking…

HeartDeeDee

 

 
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