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Friday, January 20, 2012

Quinoa for breakfast

Quinoa is a little grain that has a ton of protein, and is very popular among Vegans as a main dish or added to other dishes. I wondered how it would taste for breakfast with nuts and dried tart cherries, so I made a small batch last night. I bought some quinoa bread at the Farmer's Market and liked its nuttiness, so I bought a little at Sprouts here in El Paso. I found a lot of information at Apparently, it tastes better if it is rinsed thoroughly, dried, and toasted. Luckily, I like to make breakfast at night because mornings are so hectic. I often make a pot of steel cut oatmeal on Sunday night, and I put it into 5 bowls for the entire week. In the morning, I reheat, add milk and dried fruit and nuts, and enjoy. I'm glad I did this in the evening because this takes time. After you rinse the quinoa, It has to dry and then you toast it to enhance the flavor. I toasted mine in the oven so I can have it ready for next time as well. At the same time, I toasted some walnuts and pecans for future use. The kitchen smelled toasty and nutty! Breakfast quinoa is cooked like oatmeal, in water or milk. I used water because I like to add milk later. It was so good that I ate a bowl right on the spot, with roasted pecans and raspberry preserves. I put the rest in two bowls for two breakfast. This morning, I added milk, walnuts, and dried sour cherries before heating, and it is like eating a fancy dessert for breakfast!
1/2 cup quinoa, toasted
1 1/2 cups water
Dash sea salt
Cinnamon to taste
Honey or agave sweetener to taste
Bring the quinoa, water, & salt to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Like cereal, if it is getting too thick, add some hot water.
Sprinkle with cinnamon and sweeten with honey or agave.
Serve and add warm milk, fruit and nuts!

Italian-style Butternut Squash Stew

Oh, my gosh, I made this stew on Wednesday, and I cannot stop eating it! In October, I attended a "Taste of Home Cooking Show" here in El Paso, and the chef made a stew called "Groundnut Stew," which smelled so good I have not gotten it out of my mind, so I found the recipe and decided to play with it a bit and put in some Italian stuff & some Mexican heat, and it is so good I have to share. From Mom I learned that soup is just a pot of leftovers mixed with love! We always had soup, or stew, on Thursdays, before meatless Fridays , and sometimes on Saturday, if the fridge was full of bowls. I happened to have a lot of Italian stuff in the fridge. Hope you try it and love it, too.
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 jalapeño, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Dash of red pepper flakes
1 cup Italian sausage, cooked & crumbled
2 cups cubed butternut squash
2 cups warm chicken stock
1 cup marinara sauce
I roasted red pepper, chopped
2 TBS green chile sauce
1/2 tsp. chipotle powder
2 cups red kidney beans, cooked
Salt & pepper to taste
Pinch of pumpkin pie spice
3 tsp peanut butter
In a Dutch oven, soften onions in a bit of olive oil until they are getting brown; add the jalapeño and garlic and stir a few seconds until you smell the garlic; then add the crumbled sausage and stir some more to meld the favors. Now add the hot chicken stock, the marinara, squash cubes, green chile sauce, & kidney beans. Bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer for about 25 minutes or until the squash is tender. Adjust the seasonings. If the stew is too thick, add some hot water: it will thicken with the pasta. Now take a bit of the soup and mix with the peanut butter and add to the soup. Add the cooked pasta and stir to warm the pasta. Bon appetit! Provecho!
I served this stew with homemade potato bread the first time, but it also tastes great with hot corn tortillas warmed & charred over the grill.
Note: I never cook pasta in the soup-- it gets mushy. When I re-heat the soup, I add more pasta each time.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Letting go of Christmas

For me, it has always been hard to let go of Christmas. My kids have been gone for many years now, so there is really no one to chide me about the Christmas decorations which have stayed up some years until February! Years ago, I bought a small artificial tree that I decorate for every season--I think it's a my way of not letting go. I love the lights and the many stuffed snowmen that seem to take on their own personalities and just don't went to go back into their boxes for another 11 months! Last night, as I drove home, I noticed many people in the neighborhood still have their lights on, and it reminded me of a joke someone made on TV last week about lazy people who never take down their Christmas lights. Even society says "Enough already," so I did turn off the outdoor lights and I took them down, but inside is another matter. I like to wait until the Feast of the Three Kings, which was Friday. So, Sunday, while I waited for the new episode of "The Good Wife," I began removing the tree decorations. This means going into the garage and getting all the boxes,(that's where the lazy comes in) and now the living room is strewn with boxes. I didn't finish Sunday, and I was busy yesterday, so now it's Tuesday, and I'm staring at the mess. I bought a new tree this year, a 7 1/2 footer that is so pretty it could stand alone without decorations. Once I get it back to the box, then the living room will look drab for a few weeks until my eyes get used to it without all the sparkle...the magic that is Christmas. I spent my whole Christmas reminiscing about all the wonderful Christmas times I have had, when there were children and noise, and so many things to do and so little time. Back then, I didn't appreciate it all the way I do now. Children and family notwithstanding, it's the spirit of the Christmas season-- that feeling of goodwill toward neighbors, friends, and even strangers that makes us all better people, if only for a month, that is hard to let go. It seems as if we all go back to our insular lives after the Holidays, at least until Valentine's day, but that's another mood. So, as I reluctantly put away all the outer manifestations of the Christmas season, I vow to carry that inner spirit of goodwill toward others with me throughout the New Year. And I still have my little tree, which will be festooned with red valentines soon, and with Easter egg garlands. I'm not alone in this: the Tres Amigos restaurant in town keeps their tree up all year, changing the decorations for every holiday, and at La Posta, in Old Mesilla, it is Christmas all year long! So there!