Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cool Summer Quinoa Salad {Gluten Free}

Summer is here and it's hot this week! I really don't feel like cooking at all in the heat but especially not anything heavy, hot or that requires me to heat up the kitchen by using the oven. This was my solution and the family enjoyed the crunchy texture and bright lemony dressing. You can make the quinoa ahead of time and allow it to chill in the fridge or do like my last minute self and spread the steaming cooked quinoa on a rimmed baking sheet and pop it in the freezer for 5-10 minutes. I wish I could pop myself in the freezer on hot days like today. This salad makes a great side dish for some barbequed chicken or works great as a meatless entree too since the quinoa is packed with protein. Enjoy!

Recipe: (serves 6)
2 cups quinoa
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium zucchini, cubed
2 medium carrots, cubed
1/2 english cucumber, cubed (~3/4 cup)
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 medium vine ripe tomato, diced
handful of toasted sunflower seeds (~1/2 cup) or substitute your favorite nuts

Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon (~2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

2 scallions, thinly sliced (greens and white parts)
1/4 cup fresh basil, julienned (sliced thinly)

1. Prepare quinoa first, it's similar to cooking couscous or rice if you aren't familiar with it. Add chicken broth and quinoa to a pot over medium high heat until it comes to a gentle boil then immediatly reduce the heat to low to maintain a simmer. Simmer 10-15 minutes until the liquid is absorbed then fluff quinoa with a fork and chill.
You can either make the quinoa in the morning for dinner tonight and let it chill in the fridge or spread the quinoa thinly on a rimmed baking sheet and chill in the freezer quickly for 5-10 minutes. *You don't want to add the cool crunchy ingredients until the quinoa is chilled.
2. In a medium sauce pan over medium high heat, add olive oil, zucchini and carrots and saute until crisp-tender, about 5-7 minutes. Set aside.
3. In a bowl, prepare the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
4. Assemble your salad. In a large bowl combine the chilled quinoa, crisp-tender carrots and zucchini, cucumber, bell pepper, tomato and sunflower seeds.  Next drizzle the dressing over and stir to combine. Garnish with scallions and fresh basil.  Try substiting any veggies you like or have on hand. here for the recipe!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Summer Vegetables with Polenta

We had a wonderful Saturday morning at our local farmer's market this weekend.  I just love the variety and freshness of food you can find there.  We picked up Japanese eggplant, summer squash, Shiitake mushrooms, Beech mushrooms, green beans, corn, cilantro, tomatoes, lettuce and fresh local honey.  Tonight I made this summer vegetable ragout with our finds and of course added some zucchini from our own garden since we have so much of it.  The veggies were flavorful and fresh and so yummy on top of some Parmesan polenta.  yum!

Vegetable Ragout Recipe: (serves 4)
1/2 small white onion, diced
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large zucchini, chopped into 1 inch cubes
2 yellow summer squash, chopped
2 large carrots, sliced thickly at an angle
2 cups mushrooms of your choice, sliced in half
1 Japanese eggplant, peeled and cubed
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves)

1. Add onions, garlic and olive oil to a skillet over medium-high heat, saute until translucent, ~1-2 minutes. Add carrot, zucchini, summer squash and a pinch of salt and pepper, stirring, cook about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, eggplant and thyme leaves, reduce heat to medium let sauté about 10-15 minutes until cooked through but still crisp-tender.
Polenta Recipe (serves 4) *as published previously on Wholesome Dinner Tonight
5 cups water
extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup yellow polenta (cornmeal)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon butter

1. Bring 5 cups of water to a boil, add a drizzle of olive oil and pinch of salt
2. To the boiling water, SLOWLY add the polenta, whisking constantly to avoid any lumps. Add Parmesan cheese and butter and lower the heat. Cook, stirring nearly constantly until the polenta gets thick and pulls away from the sides of the pan, usually about 20 minutes.
** Don't go too far from the stove, you'll need to stir the polenta often to avoid sticking/burning.
3. Serve hot polenta in soup bowls topped with vegetable ragout.

**Note: a fun alternate way to prepare your polenta is to prepare it as through steps 1-2 above and pour hot polenta into a pie pan or casserole dish, cover and allow to cool (~1 hour).  As it cools it will firm up. 
1. Once it's cooled and firm, slice the polenta into triangles or use a cookie cutter or large ring for circles. 
2. Place the firm polenta on a baking sheet in a 350'F oven and bake for ~15 minutes until heated through and crisp on the edges
3. or grill the firm polenta on a grill pan until heated through and golden brown.  Great technique for a different texture of polenta. here for the recipe!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Grilled Zucchini with Lemon and Thyme

Our little backyard vegetable garden is starting to produce and like every other year the zucchini is thriving! Time to get creative with more ways to cook it. Tonight I marinated it along with some red bell pepper wedges in a zesty lemon-garlic and fresh thyme sauce. The lemon paired so well with the mild zucchini it was delicious! We had ours along side some chicken sausages and quinoa, which I flavored with garlic and thyme as well. Enjoy!

Recipe: (Serves 4-6)
5-6 large zucchini squash (or one the size of your forearm like we used), thickly sliced in rounds or strips (~1/4 inch thick)
1 red bell pepper, cut into 5 large wedges
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 1 lemon (~2 tablespoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
3-4 tablespoons olive oil

1. Whisk vinegar, garlic, lemon juice, thyme and olive oil in the bottom of a large glass baking dish with sides.
2. Add the sliced zucchini and peppers and toss to coat in the marinade using tongs.
3. Place marinaded veggies on a hot grill or grill pan (dredge each one again in the marinade before placing on the grill).  Grill approximately 7-9 minutes, flipping once 1/2 way through or until crisp tender.  Every grill is different so watch your veggies.  Once they have nice grill marks they are ready to flip.
4. Serve hot along side your favorite summer entree.  We served ours with some garlic thyme quinoa.  Simply prepare quinoa using low-sodium chicken broth as a substitute for the water and add 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme and 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder.  Cook per package instructions, fluff with a fork and serve hot. here for the recipe!

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