Monday, March 30, 2009

Quinoa Soup, Miracle Food?

If you know me, and know my blog, I do love my sweet stuff, but I’m also a bit of a health stickler. I love a meal full of color that packs a healthy punch. I found this soup recipe that seemed simple and healthy. After looking at too many combinations of sugar, flour, & butter lately (preparing for a bridal shower), I wanted to look at and taste FOOD, glorious food!

Before I share the recipe with you, let me tell you all the wonders of quinoa. Pronounced KEEN-WAH, quinoa is natively South American and often compared to grains, as it is similar to them, but it’s actually a seed closely related to spinach & swiss chard. When cooked it becomes fluffy with a soft crunch. It’s a “supergrain” because it’s high in protein; and is a complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids (the building blocks for muscles). Besides providing all nine amino acids, it also provides enzymes, vitamins and minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients, making it one of the most complete foods in nature. It’s gluten-free; acts as a prebiotic that feeds the microflora (good bacteria) in your intestines; a great source of fiber and is easily digested for optimal absorption of nutrients. Also, if you are prone to migraines, try adding quinoa to your diet. Quinoa is a good source of magnesium, a mineral that helps relax blood vessels, preventing the constriction and rebound dilation characteristic of migraines. Increased intake of magnesium has been shown to be related to a reduced frequency of headache episodes reported by migraine sufferers. Quinoa is also a good source of riboflavin, which is necessary for proper energy production within cells. Riboflavin (also called vitamin B2) has been shown to help reduce the frequency of attacks in migraine sufferers, most likely by improving the energy metabolism within their brain and muscle cells. (Sources: WHFoods, BodyEcology)

Now, do you see why I said it’s a miracle food? With all these health benefits, one might assume something so good for you won’t taste good. But quite the opposite! I really enjoy the taste & texture of quinoa. I look forward to cooking with it more often. For some reason my “soup” was not very soupy. Almost every bit of the liquid got absorbed! Also, I adapted this recipe a bit. I saw that it called for corn, but I wanted to sub hominy. I really like the taste & texture of hominy in soups, and I also added in some black beans, because I had them on hand and thought they would taste good in it. Also I used 2/3 cup salsa, instead of 1/3. This recipe came from quite a chain of sources. I believe in giving credit where credit is due, so here goes:


Quinoa Soup with Avocado & Hominy

adapted from It's All Happening, as seen on Cheap Healthy Good, as seen on The Seattle Times, originally from the cookbook Whole Grains for Busy People


4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup quinoa
1 cup hominy (or corn)
2/3 cup chunky salsa, to taste
1 ripe but firm Hass avocado, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (not a fan, omitted)
Lime wedges, for serving (optional)


In a large saucepan over high heat, bring the broth to a boil. Stir in the quinoa, reduce heat to medium-high, and continue boiling, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

Stir in the corn and salsa, then return to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the avocado. Season with salt and stir in the cilantro. Ladle into large bowls, accompanied with lime wedges.

You can easily reheat the leftovers, but I also enjoyed it cold one night/morning when leaving work at 2:30am.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Cocoa Brownies with Peanut Butter Chips

As I mentioned in my meatloaf post, one of my good friends was coming down to visit me. One thing I love about this girl is SHE EATS. Calories schmalories. First thing she did when she walked in my apartment was grab some Peeps and chow down. Not long after she got there we opened some wine and started to prepare dinner. We ate dinner and settled in to watch some NCAA basketball. After watching our Hilltoppers lose to Gonzaga in the last seconds of the game, we needed chocolate to recover. I asked her what she wanted for dessert, and she gave her “typical” response, a shrug of her shoulders and said “I don’t know, whatever you think is good.” I had some peanut butter chips in my cabinet that had been calling my name for a while, so I googled “Brownies & Peanut Butter Chips”. I think there’s a reason this was the second link that came up. These were gooooood. Mmmm… fudgy & gooey, rich & delicious. Wow. I definitely recommend these. It’s hard to eat just one. They were the perfect accompaniment to the girly movie we watched when the games were over.

Now, I know I’ve just subjected you to food porn at it’s finest, if you’re watching your calories, or trying to eat healthier, consider trying these Fantastic Fudgy Brownies from Cooking Light I’ve made in the past. They will DEFINITELY hit your chocolate spot without breaking the calorie bank. But if you are in the mood to indulge (and I was, I had a good workout that morning!), then go ahead and make these!


Cocoa Brownies with Peanut Butter Chips


1 1/4 sticks of unsalted butter
1 1/3 cup of white sugar
3/4 cup PLUS 2 tbsp of cocoa powder (I used about 1/2 Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa, and 1/2 regular cocoa, to intensify the chocolate flavor)
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour
1 cup of peanut butter chips


Preheat oven to 325 degrees and make sure rack is in the lower third of the oven. Coat an 8 inch baking pan with cooking spray or line it with parchment paper.

In a large heat proof bowl, combine the butter, sugar, cocoa and salt. Set the bowl in a large skillet of water and simmer over medium low heat. Stir occasionally until the butter is melted and mixture is hot to the touch. The mixture will look slightly grainy. Remove from heat and cool until warm. Add vanilla and stir with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time mixing thoroughly after each one. When the batter looks well blended, smooth and shiny, slowly add the flour and stir until it's combined thoroughly, then stir vigorously for 30 strokes. Stir in the peanut butter chips. Pour into the baking pan and place a few more peanut butter chips on top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely then lift up ends of the parchment paper (if used) and transfer brownies to a cutting board where you cut into bite sized pieces. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Turkey Meatloaf

One of my good friends was coming over for a visit, and I knew I needed to make something for dinner that would serve more than two people (I often make things with 2 fish filets or 2 chicken breasts). I still had 1lb of ground turkey in the freezer from when I caught a sale. I wanted to do something different with it, and I had never made a meatloaf completely from scratch (I always use a seasoning packet). I found this recipe on Cooking Light’s website and was happy to discover I had all the ingredients, except the fresh parsley, for which I just subbed dried. I served it with roasted sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli, because that’s what I had on hand. I halved the recipe for the three of us. It came together really fast, and once cooked, was VERY tasty! No more seasoning packets for this girl!


Turkey Meatloaf


2 pounds ground turkey breast
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Cooking spray
1/4 cup ketchup


Preheat oven to 400°. Combine the first 10 ingredients in a large bowl.

Place the turkey mixture in a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Top with 1/4 cup ketchup. Bake at 400° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until done. Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.

Nutritional Information
Calories: 272; Fat: 3.5g; Protein: 39.1g; Carbohydrate: 20.4g; Fiber: 2.1g; Cholesterol: 97mg; Iron: 3.3mg; Sodium: 728mg; Calcium: 114mg

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Homemade Peeps

There are two types of Peeps-lovers. Those like them only when their fresh out of the package, soft & stretchy. And those that like them once they are a little stale and stiff. I’m strictly in category 1, and my mom is in category 2. But I think I’ve found a sub-category, those like their Peeps homemade!

After eyeing this recipe for over a year, I’ve developed my marshmallow making skills enough to have the guts to try it. I don’t own a piping bag, so I just used a large Ziploc freezer bag. I think these would of been a little cuter with the correct bag and tip. Whatever you do, DON’T use your regular marshmallow recipe. I didn’t pay enough attention the first time I attempted this, and they did NOT turn out. Be sure to use the marshmallow recipe for piping. I followed Martha’s tips exactly for making these, except for the eyes. I had planned on doing what theKitchn suggested, and just mix cocoa powder and water and apply with a toothpick, but I was so excited I forgot! (Update, I decided it was cruel and unusual punishment to create peeps but not give them eyes, so I did it and had another photoshoot the following day) I’m proud that some of them came out pretty cute! They didn’t all turn out this cute, some were definitely not photogenic. I would like to try this again, as I got better at it the further I went along.

While making these, about halfway through, I needed to pop the marshmallow in the microwave for a little softening up. Don’t leave it in there long, just a couple seconds is fine. I made these on a cookie sheet with 1 inch tall edges to catch all the stray sugar. I had a hard time coating them completely in the sugar. I found though, these were pretty easy to pick up and just dip the uncoated parts in leftover sugar granules once they had dried for a little while. If you need help forming the shape after piping, keep a small bowl of water nearby and dip your fingers in it, then smooth the marshmallow to the shape you want. It’s pretty easy I swear! This marshmallow recipe is nowhere near as sticky as regular marshmallow recipes.

I had a lot of fun making these, and they weren’t nearly as hard as I imagined they would be when I first saw the post. I definitely recommend you giving it a try!


Homemade Marshmallow Peeps


1 packet unflavored gelatin (2 1/2 teaspoons)
1/3 cup cold water, for gelatin, plus 1/4 cup for syrup
1 cup sugar


In the bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/3 cup cold water. Allow gelatin to soften, about 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup water and sugar, and stir over medium-high heat until sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring, and place a candy thermometer into sugar water; wipe sides of pan with a wet brush if sugar crystals have splattered up. Boil sugar until temperature reaches the soft-ball stage (238 degrees).

Remove syrup from heat; add to softened gelatin. Using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer, hand-stir the mixture a few minutes to cool; place bowl on the mixer stand. Beat on medium high with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form and the marshmallow mixture holds shape, 8 to 10 minutes.

Transfer marshmallow mixture to a large (14-inch) pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch (No. 11 Ateco) tip, and use immediately.

Chick How-To
1. Pipe an oval shape onto sugar, about 1 inch wide, tapering the end and pulling upward to finish with the tail.

2. For the head, pipe a mound on the end opposite the tail, about the width of the body, pushing toward the tail and up. Pull away from the head to form the beak.

3. Immediately sprinkle sugar over the entire surface of the chick. Allow a few minutes for the shape to set.

4. Make eyes with either royal icing, or cocoa powder mixed with water.

Which type of Peeps lover are you??