Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Baked Salmon & Quinoa Yumminess

Our standard salmon has just about reached perfection, and that happy moment when a recipe or way you make something becomes second nature - no double checking instructions.

I've purchased salmon at three places recently - our regular grocery store, a dedicated butcher/seafood market and a gourmet grocery store that brings in fresh fish daily.  My husband preferred the third, but I liked the butcher's salmon best.

I've been lining my baking dish with parchment paper, but last night tried a combo of foil on the bottom (to protect the dish from blackening and make cleanup easy).  It worked, but I didn't like the amount of waste.  I think parchment will remain the standard because by the time the fish is done, it is practically decomposing before my eyes, so I don't feel so badly about throwing it away.

I simply lay the salmon on the parchment and douse it with the combo above (all of it) and put it in the oven for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees.  You can't mess this up - just bake until the salmon flakes nicely.  In our house, we like very well done salmon with a bit of browning, so I usually turn it up to broil for the last 10 minutes while prepping some quinoa and warming some sourdough bread.  Delightful.  It makes the garlic cloves brown up nicely and deepens the flavor of the salmon.

A note on the quinoa - it's such a great item and so underused.  I grabbed a box and pulled some of last summer's diced bell peppers, onion and yellow squash out of the freezer (I flash froze them to cut down on retained liquid/frost).  I quick sautéed these in a bit of olive oil and then added about 1.25 cups of quinoa to a can of vegetarian broth plus water.  It was yummy and snuck our veggies into dinner.  Served it all up with a basic Barefoot riesling - it was surprisingly perfect on a cold night!  Kind of like craving ice cream in winter, I guess.  Enjoy!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Bending the Rules, Loving the Results (and Crawfish Po' Boys)

It's so easy to assume that a food lover should follow all the rules: wielding a knife like a Culinary Institute graduate, perfecting sublime desserts, using the fanciest gear and gadgets and the freshest local ingredients.  Rather, I would argue, we all aspire to that, but everyday cooking is an adventure best tackled with zest and a willingness to fail miserably (and pick up takeout or make a PB&J when the situation demands it).

One of tonight's dinner guests prior to walking the plank

To wit, I submit tonight's dinner: crawfish po'boys in January.  Crawfish are neither in season nor easy to find, but one's cravings do not always align with practicality.  So, tonight we picked up three pounds of whole, seasoned, frozen (gasp!) crawfish from a local gourmet outpost along with crusty, cheesy (also a broken rule) La Brea bread and a remoulade sauce.  We bent other rules with abandon: the market didn't happen to have shredded lettuce or an appetizing-looking head of iceberg, so we subbed in some lovely spinach leaves already at the house.  Tomatoes aren't at their best right now, so we skipped them.  Home fries would have been delightful on the side, but we were starving, so a bag of sea salted, lower salt Ruffles accompanied us home.

We thawed and steamed (about 5 minutes) the crawfish and peeled them with visions of mid-April crawfish boils dancing in our heads, split and toasted the bread lightly, slathered it with remoulade and arranged the crawfish and greens.  The chips finished out the plate along with a frosty Negra Modelo apiece.  Hey - Abita Purple Haze and all the right touches would have been brilliant, but guess what?  The meal was absolutely fantastic because it satisfied a craving, scratched an itch, came together speedily and met all our (fairly low) expectations.  Isn't that what time in the kitchen is all about?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Asian Peanut Noodles with Tofu


Olive Oil, 2 tbsp
Garlic, 2 tbsp
Red Pepper, 1 large, julienned
Carrot Strips, 1/2 cup
Sugar Snap Peas, about 30 (1 cup or so)
Firm Tofu, 8 oz, cubed
Egg Noodles, 6 - 12 oz package
Peanut Butter, 2 tbsp
Rice Vinegar, 4 tbsp
Brown Sugar, 4 tbsp
Lime Juice, 3 tbsp or juice of 1 lime
Sesame Oil or Olive Oil, 2 tbsp
Red Pepper Flakes
Green Onions, fresh, chopped
Asian sweet chili sauce to taste (like Mae Ploy, available in Asian food stores)


Sauté garlic in olive or sesame oil in a wok or pan
Add pepper, carrots & peas and cook for 5 - 10 mins
Add tofu - cook 5 - 10 mins

Start water boiling for egg noodles, then cook 4 - 6 mins
Mix remaining ingredients (except red pepper flakes, green onion and chili sauce) with a fork or whisk in a small bowl and add just as noodles finish cooking for 1 - 2 mins on low heat

Drain egg noodles thoroughly and add to vegetables and sauce, toss to coat and heat
Serve Add 1 cup barley, broth and 3 cups water
Simmer approx 20 mins
Whisk together flour and milk thoroughly, add to soup
Simmer 5 - 10 more mins


This recipe was modified (vegetarian) from the recipe featured in Fitness Magazine - January 2011.

The Nitty Gritty

Nutritional info per serving obtained via SparkPeople Recipes:
  • Servings Per Recipe: 4
  • Calories: 450
  • Total Fat: 19.0 g
  • Cholesterol: 54.2 mg
  • Sodium: 323.8 mg
  • Total Carbs: 64.3 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 5.9 g
  • Protein: 21.2 g 



I'd been craving an Asian style noodle dish with peanut sauce, and I've been trying to amp up my protein intake.  At a glance, this recipe looked perfect, but then I found it was a cold salad-style meal.  No good.  I wanted a hot dish for dinner.  So, with a few tweaks - replacing shrimp with tofu for a change, using egg instead of cellophane noodles (purely based on pantry contents) and thickening up the dressing to serve as a sauce, we were all set.

Added benefit - this dish was an enormous hit with my family, including the seven year old - she devoured it.  I think it was just sweet enough for her, and the vegetables were non-threatening, crunchy and a little sweet as well.  Nutritional information is without any toppings.  The grown-ups each added the chili sauce and green onions to our servings, and it was great.  Healthy and tasty.

Best of all, this meal took literally 20 minutes from walking into the kitchen to putting it on the table.  You can't beat that!


Mushroom Barley Soup


Olive Oil, 1 tbsp
Onions, raw, 1 cup, chopped
Garlic, 1 tsp
Mushrooms, fresh, 16 medium, sliced or torn in chunks
Balsamic Vinegar, 3 tbsp
Worcestershire Sauce, 5 tsp
Vegetarian Vegetable Broth, 1 can (approx. 14 oz)
Whole Wheat Flour, 1/4 cup
Milk, 2%, 1 cup


Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil
Add mushrooms and cook for 5 - 10 mins
Add balsamic and worcestershire - cook 2 mins
Add 1 cup barley, broth and 3 cups water
Simmer approx 20 mins
Whisk together flour and milk thoroughly, add to soup
Simmer 5 - 10 more mins


This recipe was modified (vegetarian) from the recipe featured in Fitness Magazine - January 2011.

The Nitty Gritty

Nutritional info per serving obtained via SparkPeople Recipes:
  • Servings Per Recipe: 5
  • Calories: 110.0
  • Total Fat: 4.0 g
  • Cholesterol: 3.9 mg
  • Sodium: 464.4 mg
  • Total Carbs: 15.0 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 12.0 g
  • Protein: 4.7 g



There are so few soup recipes or restaurant offerings that are truly vegetarian.  I'm amazed at the number of restaurants that make vegetable soup... with chicken or beef broth.  I crave warm, comforting soups in the winter and typically have to count on making them myself to fit the vegetarian bill.  As a side note - I'm not a wimpy soup lover.  Watery French onion soup and the like don't make the cut in our test kitchen.  I'll typically amp up a soup with pasta, rice, barley etc. to give it more heft as a meal.

I usually serve this (and most other soups) with a round of whole wheat sandwich thins/rounds (recently popular and easy to find in most grocery stores) with provolone or parmesan cheese on top - no butter needed.  About 5 minutes at 350 - 400 degrees to melt the cheese plus 2 - 3 minutes on broil to give it that cheesy toasty goodness fits the bill at our house.  Enjoy!

A few disclaimers & general rules


I'm most appreciative of your interest in this blog.  However, if you're going to read it, let's set a few ground rules, shall we?  Here's what you can expect:

1.  I'm a vegetarian, and the vast majority of my recipes are the same.  However, I cook a number of items for meat eaters, so those can be found here on occasion as well.  And by "vegetarian" I mean the following: I eat dairy, eggs, fish and shellfish - you'll find those in my recipes.

2.  I'm a fan of 2% milk.  Use what you'd like and you'll often be pleasantly surprised to find that it works just fine.

3.  Whole wheat flour is my preference.  Again, substituting white flour or some mixture of the two will typically have very little effect, unless we're baking.

4.  I'm quite terrible at following directions - that's why this is essentially a blog about taking recipes and having my way with them.  The irony is not lost on me that I'm posting supposed recipes on this blog myself.  But, to my utter disbelief, a number of people seem to want my "recipes," and telling them the honest truth (that I throw a bunch of things in a pot and see how it turns out) was no longer holding the mongrels off.  To wit, my best effort at recording my concoctions and (mis)adventures.

5.  Perhaps most importantly: I'm not a chef, nutritionist, qualified medical professional, cookbook editor, culinary school graduate or anything else impressive.  I'm a mom and a wife and a working professional.  I like my meals tasty, interesting, not terribly difficult to prepare or lofty and even fairly quick to prepare.

6.  I can't stand behind any nutritional information, facts or details.  I just read cookbooks and magazines, try my hand at things and post the results here.  If you're looking for someone to sue or otherwise hold accountable for much of anything, I'm not your gal.  I do use SparkPeople Recipes to check nutritional information for my own benefit, and that is what I post on this site for nutritional information on any recipes.

7.  I believe wholeheartedly that cooking is a pretty good time.  I like to experiment.  I enjoy chopping vegetables.  I'm interested in new ingredients.  I care about fitness, health, not raising picky eaters, trying new things and enjoying decadent desserts.  I encourage a feeling of fun and freedom in the kitchen.  You are not bound to rules and cookbooks any more than I am, and I can assure you that after more than fifteen years of cooking random things for my family, I have not killed one of them yet.  (However, we will no longer serve pumpkin soup in this household, tragically).  The point is that this is fun stuff.  Don't be bound by recipes and master chefs - be inspired by them, and give it your own influence!

I believe that is all.  You may now proceed with abandon.  At ease, and happy eating!