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Quinoa – Making the “nasty” taste good

If you have read my blog, you might notice that I like to eat, and eat meat.  I’m not a vegetarian and really don’t want to be. I also like to have a three piece meal.  I like a meat, vegetable and, a starch, pasta or, grain.  We’re trying to watch our carb intake and grains and potatoes can be a little “carby.”  So we were looking for a grain or pasta that has a good amount of fiber and protein to counter act those carbs.  Sometimes those grains can be hard to find.  My wife had read an article on quinoa somewhere and did a little research.  It sounded good so when we found that Costco was selling, we bought.  So shortly there after, I was in class (I’m a teacher, if you haven’t figured that out yet) and was talking to my students.  I had mentioned that we were trying this new grain, quinoa.   One of my students made a twisted up look on her face and said “My mom is making me eat that stuff!  Nasty.”  Well, that got me thinking a bit, how do I make it taste good?  Balance.  Balance those flavors.  Take what the quinoa is and counter it.  This is what I did, and it’s far from “nasty.”

1 cup quinoa (try to find pre-washed, it makes things much easier)

1 3/4 cup water

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup dried sweetened cherries

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

2 tsp dried basil

2 tsp dried parsely

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

In a medium sauce pan, add the water, lemon juice, quinoa, cherries and, spices.  Bring to a rolling boil.  Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.  After the 25 minutes, fluff with a fork and mix in the cheeses, cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve.


What is nice about this is that the balance of the sweet of the cherries, the tartness of the lemon juice, and the saltiness of the cheeses makes a great combination of flavors.  They mix so well.  You can taste them, yet  none overpower the other.  It goes so well with most chicken dishes, like my wife’s Parmesan chicken (shown above).  It’s a healthy dish that still tastes good.  Quinoa is very different.  It has a very unique texture.  I have a relative that has lost his taste.  He goes by the texture of the food and he loved it!  Give it a try instead of rice, cous cous, or any other pasta type side dish.  You will be converted just like we were.

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Gooooooooouda – A Lesson In Making the Traditional Not So

Well Thanksgiving has come and gone and it’s time for one of the recipes that I used over the holiday: smoked gouda mashed potatoes.  The idea isn’t mine, at least not all mine.  Over the summer, we went on a family vacation to my beloved Lake Michigan.  We stayed at the Great Wolf Lodge with the kids in Traverse City and was really trying to keep a small budget.  We made sandwiches for lunch and bought pizza for dinner (made a nice lunch the next day as well).  We did a great job so the last night we splurged and went out to eat at a local restaurant.  We didn’t want a chain so we choose The North Peak Brewery to eat.  Nice choice on our part.  Wifey got pan fried walleye, the oldest got a burger and I got a nice steak and porter brew.  With the steak came . . . gouda mashed potatoes.  Very good.  So when I got home, I did a search and found a recipe from Emeril.  It used smoked gouda, but I tried them anyway.  My extended family loved them (they ate ’em all up).  Hopefully yours will too.

5 lbs red skin potatoes

1 1/2 cup cream

1 stick butter cut into 2 tbs pats

1 lbs smoked gouda shredded or cut into small cubes.

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Peel the potatoes so there is about 1/4 of the skins left and boil until the potatoes can be fork split.  Drain the potatoes and return to the pan.  Add butter and the cheeses and mash with a masher.  The heat of the potatoes will melt the cheeses and butter.  When they are melted, add 1 cup of cream and mash until everything is mixed.  I like my mashed potatoes thick so you may want to add more cream.  Serve hot.  I’ve added garlic to the recipe as well.  Just boil the garlic cloves right along with the potatoes and mash.

These are great to have with any meal: steak, turkey, chicken etc.  The smoked gouda meshes nicely with the traditional mashed potatoes, but isn’t overpowering.  They are also good to freeze and reheat.  Just leave in the refrigerator to thaw overnight and heat.  You may have to add more milk or cream when reheating, if you like.


Rockin’ the Risotto . . . Almond Style

Well, here goes.  My first true food update.  Last Friday (July 2nd), we did our weekly grocery shopping.  Low and behold, when I went to buy meat, the only steak they had was ribeye.  Apparently, everyone had beat me to the strip steaks for their 4th of July BBQ’s.  I’ve never actually grilled a ribeye steak before, but there’s always a first for everything.  Anyway, when we went to make dinner tonight, I had a hankering for some risotto to go with those ribeyes.  Since the lovely and talented other half likes that dish, she was all for it.  I was in an experimenting mood, so I decided to make a change to the normal recipe, a sweet almond flavor.  I did so by adding a 1/4 cup of Amaretto (Disaranno if you must know).  The recipe as follows:

1 cup basmatti rice

2 turns of olive oil (about 2 tbs)

2 tbs of butter

1/2 cup dry white wine (Sauvigon Blanc)

1/4 cup Amaretto

1 small white onion

3 cloves garlic

32 oz of chicken broth

Hot tap water if needed

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken broth under low heat.  It makes the absorption of the liquid much faster.  In a medium saucepan, heat (medium) your two turns of olive oil and butter until butter is melted.  Saute the onions until partially transparent (about 4 minutes) and then add the garlic and saute for another 4 minutes.  Add the rice and cook for about 2 minutes.  The oil and butter will soak into the rice giving it a shiny appearance.  After 2 minutes, add the wine, amaretto and 1/2 cup of chicken broth.

Allow the mixture to come to a slow boil and turn down to medium low (3 on my stove).  Stir often until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid.   Add a cup of chicken broth and repeat.  After the third addition of liquid is reduced and absorbed, taste the rice.  If it’s nice and soft, it’s ready.  Usually it takes me 4 additions to make it the way I like it.  It you run out of broth, add the hot water instead.  If you add too much broth, the taste of the broth will overpower everything else.

I paired the risotto with the ribeye and grilled asparagus.  The amaretto gave a nice sweet flavor that blended well with the wine and rice.  The bitterness of the asparagus balanced the sweetness of the risotto.  We had a Marquis Phillips 2008 Shiraz I picked up at Costco for around $10.  Very good wine for the price.  Nice pepper spice on front and back of the tongue with a cranberry/vanilla/chocolate middle.  I highly recommend it!