Quick summer quinoa salad

I feel like this week flew by. I haven’t had time to stop and think about anything, including meals. It is weeks like these where it seems it would be easier to just pick up the phone and order take-out or pop a frozen pizza in the oven. However, I know that doing either of those things probably wouldn’t make me feel any more awake or aware and I would feel crappy about what I ate.

It is weeks like these that I tend to get creative with what is in my pantry. That would be where this meal came from.

bowl of summer happy

Quick Summer Quinoa Salad

1 cup uncooked quinoa (3 cups cooked quinoa)

1 ½ cup water

12 oz. fruit salsa

½ cup roasted unsalted nuts

¼ cup crumbled feta cheese

ingredients

Place the water and dry quinoa in a pot on high. Bring to a boil, then reduce the head, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Once the water is absorbed, remove from the heat and set aside.

While the quinoa is cooking, place the fruit salsa including any juices into a large bowl. Chop the nuts (we used roasted almonds) and add to bowl. Crumble in the cheese.

Add the quinoa to the dish and toss.

Serve with pita, naan, or top with chicken or other protein.

quinoa salad

4 servings                                                                ENJOY!!!!!

Note: I used mango fruit salsa from Lunds & Byerlys, which is made on site. I recommend a salsa made by your local grocery store or a store bought one that is low in sugar and salts. Or it is super easy to make your own and store for later use.

Teachers and lemon raspberry muffins

I have always loved learning and school and I hope we can instill the same passion in Olivia. As much as I love learning in general, it always helps to have a great teacher. We should celebrate these teachers year round, but especially this week. We should recognize their hard work, long hours, patience, and unwavering support.

Hopefully, we have all had at least one teacher that sparked something in us. Someone who could make you dig deeper than you thought possible, believe in your own talents, or just make you realize that you are not alone.

For me, there was Mrs. Gaither, who made me believe in myself again. Mr. Williams, who encouraged my love of reading and writing (and look where I am today). Mrs. Lane, who made science a passion and proved it could be entertaining. Mr. Paternoster, who made me proud to be one of the “smart kids” and reminded us that teachers are pretty cool people. Really the list could go on and on because I was blessed with a collection of amazing teachers and still am to this day.

Olivia has already had a handful of teachers in her young life and if they are an example of what is to come then I know she will be in good hands. To honor them and share a little of our love with them we made them some beautiful Lemon Raspberry muffins. Just a nice way to kick off their week . . . we hope they enjoyed them and we hope you do too.

Be sure to thank the teachers in your life and let them know their work is appreciated and making a difference.

Lemon Raspberry Muffins – from Eating Well 

ingredients

Ingredients

1 lemon

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup nonfat buttermilk

1/3 cup canola oil

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 cup fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest from the lemon, trying not to get the pith (white layer). Combine the zest and the sugar in a food processor and pulse until the zest chopped into the sugar.

lemon sugar

Add the wet ingredients: buttermilk, oil, egg, and vanilla. Pulse until blended.

In a separate bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the buttermilk mixture and mix just until almost blended. Gently fold in the raspberries, trying not to break them.

raspberries

Coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray and evenly divide the batter between the cups.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes until the edges and tops are golden. Let cool slightly before turning out of the pan.

muffins

Pistachio muffins for a little comfort

**spoiler alert for Grey’s Anatomy fans who’ve been living under a rock this past week**

I am not an emotional eater, but every once in a while you need something special in your belly to feed your happiness.

If you are a Grey’s Anatomy fan you might be looking for some comfort food just like me. I know it has been almost a week, but we all still haven’t gotten over the death of Derek Shepherd (aka Dr. McDreamy). Some people turn to ice cream or cheesy lasagna, but my go-to is muffins. There is something soothing about starting your day with a moist slightly sweet muffin.

So hopefully these pistachio muffins will soothe whatever is bothering you . . .

Pistachio muffinsPistachio Muffins – adapted from Food Pleasure and Health
Makes 6 jumbo muffins (I mean who eats one little muffin anyway)

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup skim milk
1 Tbsp lemon juice
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp all spice
¼ cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg, at room temperature
¼ cup shelled, roasted salted pistachios, roughly chopped

Preheat your oven to 375F.

Measure your milk and add the lemon juice. Allow to sit until needed – the milk will thicken like buttermilk.

In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients – flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and all spice.

In a separate bowl combine the wet ingredients and gently whisk – milk, oil, vanilla extract, and egg.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until combined.

Spray a six jumbo muffin pan with cooking spray. Spoon the batter into the cups and sprinkle evenly with the chopped pistachios.

Bake the muffins for 15-17 minutes until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let set in the pan a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy!

Easter traditions and lemon poppyseed rolls

Happy Easter

Growing up Easter Sunday meant it was one of the few times we were forced to sit though church service dressed in our best. It also meant bright colored baskets, lots of candy, and a toy or two. We would bounce out of bed like it was Christmas in spring and start eating the Reese’s and Hershey kisses.

Little hands help with breakfast

Little hands help with family breakfast – Lemon Poppyseed Breakfast Buns via Half Baked Harvest

Lemon poppy seed breakfast bunsAfter a special family breakfast and church it was off to grandma and grandpa’s to be with the extended family. Usually, the day entailed sidewalk chalk, an Easter egg hunt, and a game of tag or even Wiffle ball. I can still remember my dad and my uncles out there running the bases with my teenage cousins. Of course, there weren’t any sore knees and backs that another good meal couldn’t heal. Chow time

So the ham, potatoes, casseroles, homemade bread, and those weird Jell-o molded eggs cluttered the table until everyone got more than their fill. Easter for us now isn’t high profile enough to cross state lines for a large group gathering. It has become a chance to slow down and sign off from the rest of life.

Of course, the Easters of year’s past are another one of those things you never realize you are going to miss until it is gone. We’ve all grown-up and moved around. My aunts and uncles are grandparents themselves, my cousins have started families, and, like us, begun their own traditions. I hope they all look back with fondness at those spring days and maybe even work in a little sidewalk chalk and Wiffle ball themselves.

Apple spice cake

Apple spice cake with Two Gingers whiskey glaze; recipe coming soon 🙂

As for us, we are still trying to find the right Easter tradition, but chances are it won’t be until years after Olivia is grown that we look back and realize what that special thing was.

Note on lemon poppyseed rolls: We couldn’t find passionfruit and I didn’t want to make a blueberry syrup (I’m just lazy!) so we substituted a simple powder sugar glaze made with pomegranate juice. Still beautiful color yummy flavor!

A love affair with quinoa: Caprese quinoa bake recipe

It has been nearly 12 years since my love affair with quinoa started. I can still remember my food science class in college, learning about ancient grains and how we couldn’t figure out how to say quinoa (keen-wah).

Imagine trying to explain it to my friends who were mostly architecture majors. These were the kids puling all-nighters and living off of cheap pizza, Mountain Dew, Red Bull, and loud music. Actually, looking back on it they were probably the normal ones for college students. Not like the nutrition majors and athletes I sat in class with. But I digress.

The relationship has endured, with quinoa finding its way into hot, cold and room temperature dishes. Breakfast, snacks, and dinners have been known to feature the tiny grain. As an active person who isn’t much of a meat eater, this grain has been a big player in my healthy eating. For a grain, it is higher than average in protein, high in essential amino acids, full of vitamins and minerals, and even has some calcium in it.

Even though I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say I’ve made over 50 different quinoa dishes this one is my favorite.

Caprese quinoa bake

Caprese Quinoa Bake

Adapted from Tieghan at Half Baked Harvest

Serves 4-6 (great for lunch the next day!)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup of jarred pasta sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • ½ cup baby spinach, chopped
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • ½ cup fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large bunch fresh basil, cut into ribbons
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

1. Heat tomato sauce and tomato paste over low heat in a large saucepan until the tomato paste has incorporated.

2. Once incorporated, stir in almond milk, parmesan, chopped spinach, salt and pepper.

3. Remove from the heat and stir in the quinoa. Fold in the shredded mozzarella and half of the tomatoes, and half of the chopped fresh basil.

4. Spray an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish with non-stick spray and pour the quinoa mixture in. Top with fresh mozzarella rounds and the remaining tomatoes.

5. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes and then turn the broiler on and broil for 1 to 2 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbly.

6. Remove from the oven and top with fresh basil ribbons. Let sit five minutes before serving.

Enoy!

Quick Minestrone soup

When I started my MBA, and working outside the home full-time, and motherhood all back-to-back I envisioned plenty of time for extracurricular activities. Prior to these major life changes I worked out twice a day most days, made homemade granola weekly, and read for fun. I guess in my head I lived in a world with more than 24 hours in a day.

Unfortunately, I don’t live on whatever planet I thought I did so it is one workout a day, store bought granola, and a growing list of unread fun books piling up by the bed. One thing I hate to give in on though is a healthy meal for my family. That would be why this soup is a great addition to our recipe box (even Nick can throw it together in a pinch).

Quick Minestrone

-1 large yellow onion, diced

-2 carrots, diced

-3 stalks of celery, diced

– 1 Tbsp olive oil

-14.5 oz can dice tomatoes

-14.5oz can tomato sauce

-3 cups chicken broth

-2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed

– 2 tsp dried Italian seasoning (mixture of oregano, basil, thyme)

– ¼ cup fresh basil, minced

-2 cloves garlic, minced

-1/3 cup frozen corn

-1 cup frozen peas

-salt and pepper to taste

-extra water as desired

  1. Dice your onion, carrots and celery. Mince your garlic (or use jarred like I do)
  2. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large stock pot
  3. Add your diced vegetables and sauté until onions are translucent
  4. Add the broth through the frozen peas to the pot and simmer for 15 minutes
  5. Add water and salt and pepper to desired consistency and taste

Quick minestrone soupServe with crusty bread and save the leftovers for a quick lunch or dinner to go.

Of course on the other planet I imagined only having spring and summer, but I live in Minnesota where winter trumps all.

So even after seven years of frozen tundra when I should be buying this . . .

MN winter

I am instead buying this . . .

Toms

So I guess I will curl up inside with my pretty bright shoes on and eat my soup to stay warm 🙂

Roasted butternut squash and quinoa salad

I can remember Christmas day at my grand parents house with all four of my dad’s siblings there with their families. More than a dozen of us crammed into a little farmhouse, but having a great time.

The meal was the main event – okay, besides the presents. We would have turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, broccoli rice bake, rolls, and much more. The drinks and conversation would flow and there seemed to be a glow coming from the house.

I still remember the cookies, pies, and homemade chex mix being pulled out; as if we needed more food to sustain the long evening ahead of us. My brother and I use to sit under the large wooden table and listen to the stories and laughter as the adults reminisced about days long past.

Recently I had a holiday potluck at my new office and there was something about that table full of varied foods, the stories and the laughter that took me back to the farm. I am thankful I have had both those opportunities and grateful that I have a new group of people to get close to. And this time I don’t have to sit under the table.

The recipe that follows ended up being the perfect dish for our holiday potluck. Easy to share, colorful, a little crunchy and a little surprising – reminds me of my extended family and all their stories.

Roasted butternut squash and quinoa salad

Butternut Squash salad

Serves 4-6 as main course or 8-12 as side dish

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries (I prefer the low sugar version)
  • 3/4 cup baby spinach
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp honey or agave
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups quinoa, cooked
  • 1 8oz microwave package of farro, cooked

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Toss diced squash with 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt. Spread on a greased baking sheet.

Roast the squash for 15-20 minutes or until tender and golden brown.

While the squash is in the oven, heat 1/2 Tbsp olive oil in a small saute pan over medium/high heat. Saute the onion slices for 2 minutes then reduce the heat to medium and continue to saute for another 5-6 minutes, until onion is caramelized.

Once the squash is done place the lemon juice, honey, 1 Tbsp olive oil, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl and whisk.

Add the butternut squash, onions, quinoa, farro, spinach, and cranberries to the bowl. Toss with the dressing until well coated.

We added feta and some chopped almonds when enjoying it as the main dish, but it also goes well as a side dish with fish and other simply prepared meats.

Enjoy with good friends and family 🙂

 

Minnesota fall bounty

Fall is one of those seasons in Minnesota that if you blink you might miss it. But if you do catch it, it is a beautiful time of year. A time of bright reds, oranges, and yellows. Friends around the fire. Sweaters and boots. Pumpkins, cider, and apple picking.

Fall foliage MN

So before the snow invaded the fall bliss we headed out to a few orchards and pumpkin patches near the Twin Cities and ended up with a delicious meal from our local bounty.

The first stop was Country Sun Farms in Stillwater, MN. This fun location was a little dead on a weekday, but it offers so much – pumpkins, fall décor, corn maze, hayrides, silly string tag (think laser tag with silly string), and lots of animals to pet. Here we nabbed some goat saliva, pumpkins for Halloween, and a beautiful acorn squash. After riding the mini carousel and lots of hand sanitizer we headed to our next stop.

Aamodt’s Apple Farm is a beautiful orchard, shop, and tasting room. Unfortunately, we were there when the tasting room wasn’t open, but it will make a perfect date day next spring. Even without the tasting room the farm is a charming experience and full of great products to enjoy. We tried a new apple, Pazazz, which to me tasted like a mix between a Pink Lady and a McIntosh – loved them! And everyone in the house loved them too because my five apples only lasted two days. Honeycrisp apple salsa

While we were browsing the local products we also walked away with apple oatmeal cookies and some amazing Honeycrisp Apple Salsa. In fact, this salsa is what gave me the inspiration to rework one of my favorite recipes for a delicious fall meal.

Stuffed Acorn Squash
6 servings

3 acorn squash ( ¾ – 1 pound each)
1 small red onion, chopped
½ medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (15oz) can black beans, rinsed
1 cup Honeyscrisp Apple Salsa
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (I used Red Barn 3 year aged cheddar)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Cut the acorn squash in half horizontally. Scoop out the seeds and place the squash cut side down on the cookie sheet. Bake until tender, about 45 minutes.

While the squash is cooking, toss the onion, bell pepper, garlic, beans, and salsa in a large bowl. Set aside until ready to use.

When the squash is tender remove from the oven and reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. On your cookie sheet carefully flip the squash over so you have a edible bowl to fill. Fill eat squash half with some of the filling mixture. Top each with cheese as desired.

Return to the oven and bake until the filling is heated through and the cheese is melted – 8 to 10 minutes.

Stuffed acorn squashEnjoy!

P.S. I will tell you all about the Red Barn cheese in a future blog post . . . some of the best cheese I have EVER had!

Summer Watermelon Salad

Between class, a toddler, work, and a trip to Illinois to watch my baby sister graduate high school you would think that I would be feeling quite occupied.

But summer makes me restless.

Maybe it is all those years in childhood when the summers were about freedom, adventure, and personal interests. The weather turns warm and I have a constant desire to be outdoors with my eyes wide open looking for something new to explore (even if it is a porch swing to nap on).

Now in adulthood I find myself in a grey cube with no sunlight and an obligation to stay put. Since moving past this phase in my professional life is a whole other process I focus instead on my desire to taste summer and escape for even a moment.

That is where this watermelon salad came in. I needed something that screamed summer to me and watermelon does just that. It is so juicy and hydrating on a hot day. The colors make me happy and remind me of popsicles and flowers. Don’t ask me why I don’t understand it myself.

Once I started making this simple and refreshing salad it did much more than I expected. It was more than a colorful and cool reminder of summer. It actually took me away to two special places. Watermelon isn’t something we have in our house very often, but when i was growing up every summer get together at my Aunt Margaret’s included at least one huge watermelon.

As I cut up my smaller version I was taken back to that picnic table and front yard swing in central Illinois. All of us gathered around with sticky fingers and pink stains on our shirts.

The fresh green mint added more than a little color to the salad too. As I chopped the leaves and tossed them in my senses went farther from home. A Caribbean cruise we took in college and the mojitoes we drank as we set sail from Miami . . .

Life might not allow me to hop a flight or wander in the sun right now, but my bowl will take me far away for at least my lunch hour. watermelon start

Summer Watermelon Salad – serves 2 to 4 people (we ate it as a main dish)

1/2 medium watermelon, diced 1x1in

1/2 medium red onion, sliced thin

1/2 cup good feta, crumbled

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

2 Tbsp good olive oil

juice of 1/2 lime

1 tsp lime zest

pinch of salt

1. In a large bowl toss the watermelon, onion, mint, and feta.

2. In a small bowl whisk the olive oil, lime juice, zest, and salt.

3. Pour the lime dressing over the salad. Toss and enjoy!

watermelon finish