Spinach Artichoke Quinoa Casserole

Who says eating healthy can’t taste good? This week’s recipe includes quinoa, a superfood that is both high in fiber and high-quality protein. Quinoa (KEEN-wah) is 100% whole grain, but is technically the ancient seed of a leafy plant related to spinach. It’s also gluten-free!

Without further ado, I would like to introduce you to Artichoke Spinach Dip’s healthy cousin, Spinach Artichoke Quinoa Casserole:
spinach artichoke quinoa casserole

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Peanut Butter Cookies… with Sriracha?

Remember when I told you I was in a food rut? Well, my quest for recipes to break out of this cycle led me to a strange little cookie that had me intrigued. With a raised eyebrow, I read through the ingredients; I admit that I was skeptical. Finally, I dug out my mixing bowl and set to work, I had to see what a peanut butter cookie with Sriracha tasted like.

sriracha peanut butter cookies

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Healthy No-Bake Brownies

For those of you trying to reduce the refined sugar in your diets, this is the recipe for you! Straight from the test kitchen of the Best-Good Friend, she whipped up a batch of these No-Bake Brownies last weekend and gave them two thumbs up.  Not only are these little bites gluten-free and vegan – and they’re also ready in 10 minutes!
no-bake brownie bits

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A Grand Evening at Everest

Sometimes despite my best efforts, my photos are an epic fail. Despite the bad photos, I hope that you will make a stop at Everest on Grand in St. Paul because the food will knock your socks off.

I had a real itch this week for non-American fare, so we headed out for Everest’s delicious Nepali, Tibetan and Indian options. We started with the Veggie Momos. Momos are steamed dumplings made with a mixture of vegetables and served with a house sauce of cilantro, tomato and spices – I would love to take this sauce home with me.

momo

Veggie Momos: Cabbage, spinach & onion mix.

The Husband went for the curry. The Chicken Tikka Masala is marinated boneless chicken breast roasted and then cooked in house tikka sauce. He ordered it “hot” and lived to tell the tale.

chicken curry

Tikka sauce is specialty spices blended in heavy cream with herbs

chau chau

Eek!! BLURRY! #drat

I opted for the Tofu Chau-Chau “medium+” spicy and it was perfect. What isn’t to like about sautéed wheat noodles with veggies?

Not only does Everest on Grand have tons of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, they also do takeout and catering. They can feed every appetite, stop in today!

Lotta Lentils Soup

I love making soup. It’s a great way to use up odds and ends in the refrigerator or pantry, and warm you up on cool evenings. And since I rarely follow a recipe, each one is always different.

This batch of lentil soup was ready in less than an hour and has fed me for a week:
lentil soup

Here’s how I did it:

3 TBS olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 stalks of celery, sliced
3 carrots, sliced
5 Swiss chard leaves, chopped
2 cups green lentils, rinsed
8 cups of water

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium flame. Add the onion and cook until soft. Add the garlic and remaining vegetables, cook for a few minutes to brighten their color. Add water and lentils along with 1-2 bay leaves and some branches of fresh thyme, cover and cook for 45 minutes or until lentils are tender. Remove bay leaves and thyme stems, salt and pepper to taste.

This makes a large batch of soup that freezes well and reheats beautifully.

Mexican Casserole

When the weather gets cold, I get hungry for comfort food. This Mexican Casserole recipe from Pinch of Yum is quick, easy, satisfying and makes great leftovers.

mexican casserole

I cut the recipe in half, used hot enchilada sauce, and topped it with fresh tomatoes and avocado – it was delish!

Click here for the recipe.

*Note: On her site, Pinch of Yum says that someone commented that this recipe ruined her pan. I did not have any problems cleaning my pan after following her instructions for roasting.

Fast Vietnamese Noodle Salad

Some weeks there is less healthy cooking in my life than I like to admit, this was one of those weeks. Fortunately, the one meal that I made was worth sharing! Vietnamese Noodle Salad with Chickpeas and Rainbow Carrots from Vegetarian Times:
vietnamese noodles

This gluten-free, vegan recipe is a cold noodle salad. After the cold blast of fall air we’d just had, I wanted something hot, hot, hot for dinner! I’d like to say that’s why I used chile garlic sauce instead of sweet chile sauce but I’d be lying. I didn’t have any sweet chile sauce, so I opted to go for a spicy substitution instead. The ruling? I really liked it. It was quick and simple, ready in less than 30 minutes and my spicy version was warming even though the dish was cool.

Here’s the recipe from Vegetarian Times (October 2013 p.29):

  • 4 oz. thin rice noodles
  • 6 Tbs. sweet chile sauce (I used red chile garlic sauce)
  • 2 Tbs. lime juice
  • 3 cups thinly sliced napa cabbage
  • 2 rainbow carrots, sliced into thin coins (1 cup) (I used regular carrots)
  • ¾ cup cooked chickpeas
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh mint
  • ¼ cup toasted unsalted cashews, chopped (I was so hungry, I didn’t chop the cashews)

1. Prepare rice noodles according to package directions. Drain in colander, and rinse under cold water until completely cooled.

2. Stir together sweet chile sauce and lime juice in measuring cup or small bowl.

3. Combine noodles, cabbage, carrots, chickpeas, cilantro, and mint in large bowl. Add chile sauce mixture, and toss to coat. Garnish with toasted cashews.

Serves 4, ready in less than 30 minutes.

Breakfast at Birchwood

Located in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis, The Birchwood Cafe was recently renovated and we finally got there to to see how it had shaped up. I’m happy to report that it was a success and the food was just as good as ever!

We stopped in for breakfast on a busy Saturday morning and I couldn’t wait to dig into the Beans & Rice. The cumin lime black bean puree, tomato cilantro brown rice, poached egg, heirloom tomato, avocado puree, grilled corn tortillas, scallion curls and salsa roja was a gluten free dream. I’m not exaggerating either, the man at the table next to me asked what I was eating and said he’d have to get it on his next visit:beans and rice

The Husband went for the classic Bacon & Egg Sandwich. The Birchwood’s features an open-faced housemade English muffin with sunny-side up egg, bacon, dijon aioli, cheddar and mustard greens:
egg sandwich

With generous pots of tea on the side, The Birchwood Cafe started our Saturday off on the right foot. I can’t wait for seconds.

The Recipes for a Great Weekend

Start with some people you love. Add some good food:

bbq

Gingery Quinoa Salad with Apples, Peas and Coconut; Jerk Pork Loin; Three Bean Salad

And don’t forget dessert:

strawberries

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

Here are the recipes to get you started on your own great weekend:
Gingery Quinoa Salad with Apples, Peas and Coconut (vegan, gluten-free)
Jerk Pork Loin
Three Bean Salad (vegan, gluten-free)
Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries (vegetarian, gluten-free)

Dinner Detox

The one thing that I really miss while traveling is home cooked meals. After a week of rich food, I needed something nutritious to get me back on track. The challenge? No groceries in the house and a worn out cook.

I always tell people that the secret to quick and healthy eating is a well-stocked pantry and this recipe is proof of that. After digging through the cupboards, I was able to put together a satisfying lentil “soup” using red lentils, garlic, shallots and carrots:
Image

Here’s how I did it:

1-1/2 cup red lentils
4 carrots
2 giant cloves of garlic
1 shallot
1 tsp salt
Black pepper

Put the lentils* in a saucepan and cover with 2 inches of water (about 6 cups) and salt. While that’s coming to a boil, peel the carrots and chop into a 1/2 inch pieces – add to the cooking lentils. Peel and slice or chop the garlic, add to the pan. I had a shallot on hand so I sliced that up and added it to the pot. If you are without shallots, add more garlic or some onion. When the water comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover for 25 minutes. The lentils break down into a stew that is filling and tasty.

This would be great with some flatbread and a green salad on the side. If you need more zip, add a squirt of Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce. Enjoy!

* Lentils often need rinsing before being used.