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!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Weekend Highlights 2

Time for another edition of Weekend Highlights! It was a busy but really fun one, especially with all the great weather we've had the last few days. The big item on the agenda was Matt's cousin James & his fiance Ali's wedding in Philly, which meant we spent the whole weekend with family out in PA.

But backing up, on Friday I skipped my usual work-at-home day and went into the city for a Social Change Summit at the United Nations. It was a neat little treat for a work day, and we got to hear case studies from some big guns like Dove and Invisible Children (the org. behind the Kony 2012 video campaign).

They also fed us a really nice lunch in a room overlooking the river. I had vegetables aplenty during the salad and entree course, so took down the chocolate mousse & mango cake with no guilt.

We got to Philly around 8:00 that night and spent the evening catching up with my sister Amanda and her boyfriend Justyn. They live only about a mile from where the wedding was on Saturday night, and were watching Riker for us while we attended, so we figured we'd save the $ on a hotel room and just bunk with them instead. Plus, it gave us a chance to hang out all day Saturday as a family. Amanda found a great spring/Easter event a few minutes from her house (almost everything was free!) which was a perfect way to spend a sunny Saturday.

They had an Easter egg hunt, pony rides, petting zoo, face painting and all kinds of other stuff. We were hungry after all that, so headed into the cute town of Manayunk for an outdoor lunch at the local brewery.

I loved getting to sit outside and soak up all that sunshine! We split zucchini fries for an appetizer, and for my lunch I had a jumbo lump crab cake (I ditched the roll and just ate the crab cake with the salad).
A long uphill walk back to the car and then a cat nap back at home, and then it was time to get ready to watch James & Ali get married!

More on that in an upcoming post - too many details for one weekend roundup. :) It was a fun evening for sure, though.


Sunday started with morning tea at my sister's, followed by lox bagels and killer iced coffee at the cutest little coffee shop in Manayunk.

Lox = love. Bellies full, we met up with Matt's parents at the park where James & Ali got married (it's a huge park where Matt loves to go mountain biking) for a morning hike. This place is so beautiful. I'm not in prime hiking mode right now being over 7 months prego, so had to go fairly slowly, but it was some good exercise and fresh air nonetheless.

We got back home around 2:00, picked up Butters from the kennel and the rest of the afternoon included some digging for the new patio...(okay, actually me laying on a blanket and ordering groceries online while Matt dug)... 

...and takeout sushi (cooked for me) and summer rolls for dinner.

Such a perfect Sunday. Entire weekend, really. And I'll tell you, the taste of warm weather we had made me seriously ready for summer!

How was your weekend? Did you get to spend some time outdoors?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Weekend Highlights

Well we're already halfway to another weekend so this post is a few days overdue, but better late than never. That's the way weekdays go around here - busy busy!  I was so happy to have Matt back home this past weekend. I had some nice mother/son time when he was away in Delaware last weekend, but it's always better when we're all together.

Friday night started things off with a family movie night, which was so much fun. Riker is now old enough to sit through (almost) an entire movie, and while we try to limit his TV viewing time, a rainy Friday night after a long work week seemed the perfect time for a Disney flick. I made a homemade pizza with dough I had in the freezer, popped in Beauty & The Beast and splurged on some ice cream sundaes from our favorite scoop shop down the road. I've been craving ice cream for days (I blame it on this spring tease weather), and finally caved. Perfect night!


Saturday morning started with smoothies and then shopping for pavers for our new patio. We finally picked everything out and ordered it - no turning back!

The rest of the day included some "me time" (a mani/pedi and some shopping), a big fennel/orange salad for lunch (actually the one below was dinner on a different night, but same idea), and then a friends night out.

Matt's sister Missy took Riker for a sleepover so we could go out to dinner with a bunch of our friends at Serenity Cafe. There were 12 of us and it's always a good time with this bunch. I didn't snap any food pics, but I sampled some lobster risotto balls and shrimp cigars for an appetizer, and shrimp & grits for dinner.

We all went back to Heather & Kevin's house after dinner for drinks (water for me ;) and to hang out. Such a great evening!


We had to pick up Riker from Missy & Corey's the next morning, so we all decided to have Sunday breakfast together. Paleo, grain-free pancakes with bananas and Vermont maple syrup, with a side of all natural bacon for the meat eaters, was on the menu.

We split up after that so Matt could go mountain biking and I could do some housework, but then met back up later in the day for a little family outlet-shopping trip. The weather was gorgeous so it was a perfect day to walk around the outlets. Matt and Riker mostly played on the playground and kiddie rides while I stopped into a few different shops - I reeeeally needed some new maternity shirts since I've been rotating the same ones for a while now, and picked up a few other goodies as well. :)

Un-pictured strawberry frozen yogurt rounded out the afternoon, followed by a stop into the Toys 'r Us outlet for a toy for Riker. Side note - the toy outlet has crazy deals! I think I'm going to do all my Christmas shopping there next year.

Neither Matt nor I felt like cooking by the time we got home from shopping, so we caved and went to a local dive that we occasionally go to, Miracle Pub - good food and very kid friendly. I had fully planned on ordering a soup and salad, buttt....

Ah well, whatever. Back to the healthy eating on Monday, right?

Alrighty, time to make a pot of coffee and head up to the office to get started on the work day. Hope your hump day goes quickly!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Foodie Favorites 2

Time for Foodie Favorites round 2! I'm really excited to see that our local ShopRite seems to be carrying more organic foods every time I go in there, and I've come across some great new finds lately. This round is pretty much all about convenience. We try to stay away from packaged foods as much as possible, but being two full-time working parents, it's super helpful to have some stuff on hand for those busy days/nights.

1. First up is tomato soup! 

I picked up a box of Pacific Organic Creamy Tomato Soup at Trader Joe's a while back, and kept it in the pantry for a rainy day - both literal and metaphorical. ;) There are about 4 servings in the box so I got several lunches out of it. I really like this soup; it's creamy and flavorful, and a cup of it goes a long way on the side of an arugula & grilled cheese sandwich on sprouted wheat. There's also only 100 calories per cup.

2. Organic Valley "American" Cheese

We're suckers for American cheese in this house, but I rarely buy it because I feel like I don't really know what it is. Processed definitely, and probably fake colors, maybe fake flavors? A few weeks ago I spotted Organic Valley American Singles "unprocessed" cheese and I was so excited. Now I can make Riker grilled cheese sandwiches with American cheese and no guilt.

3. Mango & Kiwi

Mango was on my list last time too, but it's still a nearly daily favorite, along with kiwi now too. The fruit I'm getting from my Door to Door Organics delivery is insanely good, and with spring finally here I'm loving eating fresh fruit cups for a snack or dessert.

4. Suzie's Saltines

When I'm pregnant, crackers are my nemesis. Every time I need a snack, my mind first goes to crackers & cheese. I really have searched high and low for healthy crackers, and I swear they are so hard to find. Even the crackers at the natural food store have ingredients I can't read. It's my mission to start making my own, but really, who has time for that?

This past weekend I stumbled across these new crackers by Suzie's at ShopRite, and really wish they'd been around when I had that crazy stomach virus last week! They still have one questionable ingredient (sodium citrate) so they aren't perfect, but for a cracker they're about as good as you can get.

5. Hilary's Veggie Burgers

And last but definitely not least is Hilary's Veggie Burgers. Similar to the cracker situation, and the jam situation, it is really hard to find a good store bought veggie burger. I used to love Morningstar Farms, but then realized they are filled with GMOs and other crap. Then I switched to Lightlife, which contain non-GMO soy, but not non-GMO vegetables. Gah! I thought I'd never find a good one. And believe my I've tried making my own, and the texture just never is as good. 

A few weeks ago Food Babe, who's my go-to resource for what's healthy and what's not, posted that these burgers were on her "approved" list - no GMOs, all organic ingredients, and sustainable farming practices - and I couldn't wait to try them. Luckily Door to Door Organics carries them so I was able to get a packet right away, and have to say, they are awesome! The texture is crispy on the outside, they hold together well while cooking, and they have a nice flavor. They're a bit on the pricier side (only 2 in a packet!) but they're well worth it in my opinion.

And with that, I'm about to take a homemade pizza out of the oven and curl up with the family for a Friday night Disney movie. Enjoy your Friday evening!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hello April

April 1. What? How is it already April and I only have 2 months left until our little family of three becomes a family of four? Crazy! I'll tell you what, though. I am more than happy to leave the bi-polar March weather behind and welcome spring into my life. How about you?

March was a whirlwind month. It was jam-packed from start to finish. Although it was busy, looking back, it was actually a really nice month.

Bridal and baby showers were to be had galore (5 to be exact!), ranging from family to friends to coworkers. That's a lot of showers squeezed into one month, but as I've said before, I really love going to them. Especially when the themes are super cute. I'm a sucker for themed parties.

In baby showers, there was a ladybug one, followed by a "Baby on Board" one (my coworker loves to snowboard).

How cute is that logo? I made a hot chocolate bar for this shower, with homemade chocolate dipped spoons. It was a hit, and perfect for the occasion since the shower happened to take place on a snowy day.

There was also a nautical themed one my friend Heather helped throw, which I adored. It was a brunch complete with a yogurt parfait bar (um, love!) and mimosas in mason jars (even virgin ones for us prego ladies), and everything was color coordinated to match the invitations.

In bridal showers, I had to miss my friend Sarah's shower due to sickness unfortunately, but Matt's cousin Ali's shower was a cute nature themed party. Everything was a "woodsy" decor, and the favors were homemade green tea & lemon sugar scrub in mason jars. Totes right up my alley. The scrub smells amazing and I find myself taking baths at night just so I can use it.

We also had a surprise 50th birthday party for my cousin up in North Jersey, and of course our little babymoon weekend away.

Last weekend Matt also had a bachelor party, so was away in Delaware golfing for three days. Riker and I were left to our own devices, and we had a nice mother-son weekend of playing at the park, going out to dinner just the two of us (no meltdowns for either of us - success!), and making lots of play-dough pies.

In between all that fun, a stomach bug ripped through our house like wildfire....not so fun.

We painted the nursery and got new furniture for baby girl. <3

We came up with a plan for rearranging our entire downstairs (bye-bye fancy dining room, hello Amish farm table and new rustic, family friendly furniture), and we picked out pavers for the new patio Matt's going to start building me next weekend.

I have a sudden urge to do a million house projects and they all MUST be completed like right.now. Nesting, much? ;) 

After all that, I'm looking forward to a nice relaxing weekend at home in a few days. All we have planned is a dinner out with friends on Saturday night, and other than that, it's rest time for this girl. Hello, April!

What are you looking forward to this spring?