Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Quinoa Burgers with Spicy Mayo, Avocado & Arugula

Remember I mentioned I had to do some recipe testing the other day? Well, success was to be had.

This month's Recipe ReDux theme was about using heirloom kitchen tools - things that were passed down to us and that we love to use on a regular basis. I actually don't have any hand-me-downs in my kitchen (a shame, I know), but I do have some favorite tools I grew up with that I've since purchased for myself - pasta maker, wooden spoons (the only kind of spoons I use!), CrockPot, canner...but I have to say the tool I cook with constantly and could never live without, which comes straight from my childhood, is my trusty cast iron skillet. I love it because it cooks at crazy high temperatures, nothing ever sticks to it, it crisps up protein like nobody's business but then also makes nice creamy sauces, and I can sear fish or whatever in it and then finish cooking them in the oven - and they come out perfect every single time. Love, love my cast iron.

I knew I'd be using the cast iron when creating this month's recipe, but I wanted to do something different than my standby seared salmon filet. I have been planning to try making quinoa burgers, AND it was 70 degrees and sunny on Saturday - a perfect day for "burgers" - so that's how the magic started.

Actually it started with cooked quinoa and a whole mess of fresh veggies. The veggies got sautéed in the skillet with some ghee (clarified butter) and seasonings.

Then those veggies were removed from the pan and tossed with cooked quinoa and some other flavorings and then formed into patties. And then those patties were put right back into the same hot cast iron skillet. See, love this pan - I can use the same one for the whole dish. Single dish cleanup! 

Once the patties were cooked, I stored them in a warm oven (in the same pan) to keep warm while Matt and Riker got washed up for dinner. We ate these at the bar with a side of baked carrot fries. It felt like a bar kind of meal.

The patties got topped with a squeeze of fresh lemon, a simple spicy mayo, slices of fresh avocado and a pile of fresh arugula. I didn't use rolls since the quinoa is already a carb, and honestly - with toppings like that, who needs a roll?

The end result was, in Matt's words, "killer." He must've used that word at least three times. I love that kind of kudos at dinner! The burgers were crunchy on the outside but a little soft in the middle, and you could really taste the sweet carrots and red peppers as well as the sharp, salty parmesan cheese. They were perfection. And if the toppings don't strike your fancy, the burgers would be just as good on a bun with a slice of cheese and some ketchup or sriracha sauce.

I will for sure be making them again and again, with all different flavor combos. I think they'd also be fine frozen and then reheated in the toaster oven, so next time I plan to make a big batch and keep extras in the freezer. My new summer jam!

Quinoa Burgers with Spicy Mayo, Avocado & Arugula

Makes about 7 burgers

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water or vegetable broth (if using water, add 1 tsp. salt)
2 tsp. ghee or flavorless oil (like grapeseed)
2 small carrots, minced
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/8 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs
3 Tbsp. almond flour
2 Tbsp. ghee or flavorless oil (like grapeseed)
Lemon, Spicy Mayo (below), avocado and arugula for toppings

Cook quinoa in broth or water according to package directions. Set aside.

Bring a cast iron skillet to medium/low heat and add the 2 tsp. ghee. Sautee the carrots, red pepper, onion, garlic, salt and pepper for a few minutes, until softened. Remove the veggies from the pan and place in a large mixing bowl.

To the cooked veggies, add the cooked quinoa, parmesan cheese, eggs and almond flour. Mix well. 

Bring the cast iron skillet back up to medium heat and add the 2 Tbsp. ghee. Once the ghee is melted, form the quinoa mixture into patties and place immediately in the pan. Cook about 3-4 minutes each side, until golden brown.

Serve immediately, or keep warm in a low temp oven until ready to serve.

Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, a light spread of spicy mayo (below), slices of fresh avocado and a handful of arugula (with additional lemon if desired).

Spicy Mayo
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
1-2 Tbsp. hot sauce, depending on your spice preference

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Healthy Easter Baskets

Happy Easter!

Don't let that picture fool you. When we went to the mall for bunny pics on Friday night, Riker wanted nothing to do with it. Most of the shots are of him screaming and trying to run away, ha! I mean, the bunnies are pretty scary - I don't think I'd want to sit on their laps. :/

This morning my two loves woke up to Easter baskets full of goodies.

Normally our baskets see the usual pastel colored M&M's, jelly beans, Reese's Eggs and my personal favorite, malted Robin's Eggs, but this year I really wanted to make an effort to keep the baskets healthy(er) and not succumb to all the junk in the grocery store Easter aisle. Instead of focusing so much on candy, I filled the baskets with other fun stuff, and then (because sugar is still necessary on Easter) I dotted them with organic, non-GMO sweets.

In Riker's basket:

- Glow in the dark glasses
- Bubble wands
- Sunglasses (he loves wearing Matt's, and finally has his own now)
- A bunny sippy cup
- A potty watch (we need to get serious about potty training...)
- Ballons (another favorite)
- A light up bouncy ball
 - Some other little chotzky toys
- Chocolate covered pretzels, peanut butter discs and a chocolate bunny from a local chocolatier
- Easter eggs filled with Unreal chocolate candies (Target sells these!) - I put just 3 candies in each egg so we can limit his sugar intake and give him one egg, once a day

This was my first time trying Unreal candies, and I was impressed. They contain no GMOs, artificial colors, flavors, sugars or other junk. And they taste really good.

In Matt's basket:

- Organic chocolate covered banana bits (from the natural food store)
- Go Raw Chocolate Super Cookies (these have great health stats - I actually think they'd be a good snack for after a long mountain bike ride)
- Some plastic eggs filled with Unreal candies
- A wine gift certificate (I found a great Groupon where he can choose 4 bottles of good wine for the price of one)
- Homemade raw cacao almond candy crunch (Recipe from Food Babe)

Riker helped me make the almond candy and it was a fun little project. The almonds never really got brittle like I thought they would, but the flavor was really good and raw cacao nibs are filled with healthy antioxidants. I happened to have them in the pantry from a beer Matt brewed a while back, and was glad to finally have a use for them!

Truth be told, it wasn't that hard to find healthier candies and no one missed the traditional stuff this year. I felt good about giving these baskets to my family.

Now we're off to enjoy the sunshine and rest of the day at a family party. Have a great holiday!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Dinners Lately

I feel like a farmer's wife this week. A little like Ree from The Pioneer Woman...a husband doing hard manual labor from dawn till dusk every day and me, the wife, handling all childcare, housework and cooking duties. About a month ago I mentioned to Matt how much I really want a nice big patio out back (our current one barely fits our table & grill), and the amazing guy that he is, he jumped in with both feet and gave up his entire spring break this week to work 14-16 hour days in 40 degree weather to build me one. I love this man! In about two weeks, we went from this...

To this...

I'm loving it! It's going to look so beautiful when it's done. I spent some time outdoors today watching him work and envisioning how I'm going to furnish and decorate the whole thing when it's complete. And chasing after Riker who loves to jump in the sand immediately after Matt gets it perfectly smooth and ready to lay pavers down. And snacking.

With Matt working so hard, I've been wanting to make sure he has something tasty and filling to sink his teeth into when he takes his dinner breaks. Of course on the days I work in the city, that hasn't been possible and we've admittedly ordered pizza and Mexican a few times over the last few weeks when I just didn't have time to cook, but for the most part we've had some good home cooked meals.

On a warm day, we had lox & fried eggs over Food For Life English muffin halves, with a side of salad with homemade dressing. This is a pretty standard staple around here, we usually eat it once every two weeks.

When it got cold (um, why is it 42 degrees in the middle of April?!), I made a pot of vegetable barley soup. Right before serving, I threw in handfuls of fresh spinach and topped it with fresh parmesan cheese. So warm and hearty.

When creativity escaped me, I took to my Pinterest boards and tried out some recipes that I'd pinned a while back. I actually included these on my meals list for the week to make sure I had the ingredients on hand. 

One of my favorites was Grilled Salmon & Pineapple with Avocado Dressing by Giada DeLaurentiis. I made a few adjustments to her original recipe, but for the most part kept it the same. It was SO good - highly recommend! I'd eat that avocado dressing on just about anything. On the side we had some roasted fingerling potatoes and steamed broccoli from my Door to Door Organics box.

My other favorite Pinterest find of the week was Orange Sesame Tofu from In Jennie's Kitchen - one of my favorite food blogs.

I made a fair amount of adjustments to this recipe too, including adding quinoa and kale to turn it into a full stir-fry meal, but I didn't mess with her sauce. The sauce was so fresh and orangey and just felt bright. Loved it!

But tonight I finally did some real cooking. I totally forgot Recipe ReDux is coming up on Tuesday, and thank goodness I remembered today or I never would've had time to come up with something since tomorrow is Easter and weekdays are just too hard for recipe testing.

We had crunchy quinoa burgers with a side of baked carrot fries. In Matt's words, these were killer. I was glad to give him a fun and delicious dinner as a reprieve to all that brick-laying he's been doing today. I'll be posting the recipe on Tuesday!

Alrighty, time to go put together Easter baskets and relax for the evening. G'night!