Garlic Parmesan Quinoa

So many of you asked for the recipe for this quinoa, so here it is!

I started making quinoa because I was looking for an accompaniment to one of our favorite fish dishes, and the hubs and I were trying to eat healthier. Plain quinoa is okay, but honestly it’s not my favorite. At some point I wondered, can I make quinoa RISOTTO??? I tried it a few times myself and it was fine, but then I found this original recipe on Pinterest. The recipe uses similar technique to what I was doing, but her recipe was more polished and flavorful. You can check it out for yourself; I was true to the recipe except for these changes:

*I do not stir the garlic in the oil. I just keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn’t burn. I do tilt the pot a little just to get it to cook evenly. I also don’t necessarily MINCE the garlic; I chop or finely chop it.

*When adding liquid is when I deviate most from her recipe:
– First add 1/2 cup white wine to ‘deglaze’ the toasted quinoa. I’ve used a variety of whites, but chardonnay is my favorite for this recipe. I just use a cheap one like Turning Leaf (around $10) because I don’t drink chardonnay much on its own. I always hope for a buttery, rather than oaky, chardonnay. Let the quinoa absorb the wine for at least a minute (and stir!) before adding the rest of the liquid.
– … Then add the rest of the liquid ( 1 1/4 cup). As long as I have it, I use chicken stock for this whole amount (I love Meijer Naturals). A few times (like tonight) I didn’t have enough, so I make up the difference with plain ol’ tap water. (NOTE: please do NOT try to substitute only water for the liquids; even if you use 1/2 c wine plus 1 1/4 cup water, the result will not be nearly as good.)

Then I let it come up to a boil; once it’s boiling I cover and simmer for 15 minutes. I have an electric stove/oven which runs hot, so you may have to adjust this time. After you make it a handful of times you’ll find your timing sweet spot. 🙂

Then I add the freshly grated parmesan cheese. Let’s face it, I likely use more than 1/2 cup because I love cheese. I never actually measure, I just eyeball it. I also have been adding a bit of crumbled goat cheese (probably only a tablespoon or so) for that extra creaminess and light earthy flavor.

At the very end I stir in some chopped green onion that I pull right out of my garden! (Did you know that green onion is SUPER hearty and easy to grow?? I never even planted this; I don’t know how long it’s been in the garden, but I sure do love using it all the time!)

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This quinoa is everything you want a ‘starch’ to be and more! It’s satisfying, it’s nutty, it’s creamy, it’s got a bit of texture still, it’s delicious – and it’s full of protein! Healthy! Plus, it’s easy!! Probably only 20-30 minutes from start to finish.

I make this once a week with our favorite fish dish, Salmon Florentine (which I have also changed up a bit since I originally wrote the recipe). It’s for sure one of my family’s favorite meals! (I won’t lie; at least once a week for lunch, our 2 year old C goes to the fridge and says, “I want salmon Mommy!” Yeah. I’ll take that!)

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Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Casserole

Today I’m going to share with you one of my GO TO meals on the rare occasion I don’t have anything planned for dinner, I’m low on groceries, or short on time. Part of the reason for this? It’s basically made only with OHI. Sometimes I’ll work this into my meal plan too, because it’s so easy and the whole family loves it.

This is a great Second Meal, because you can use leftovers from another chicken dinner for this casserole. When the chicken is leftover from another meal, this one should take only about 45 minutes to prepare. It’s homey comfort food at its best!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
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1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/2 cup  milk
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables – I use carrots & peas, and corn
2 cups cubed cooked chicken (or shredded chicken is good too)
About 2 cups Egg noodles, cooked and drained
1/4 cup  grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon  ground black pepper
1/2 cup shredded Triple Cheddar cheese (or more if you really like cheese!) for topping
*Sometimes I’ll add a little extra shredded cheese into the mix also
I’ve made this enough times that I usually eyeball the ingredients – except for the milk. Too much milk and it’s tasteless and watery.

Preheat your oven to 400º. Start by putting hot water in a medium pot and salting the water. Bring to a boil and cook your egg noodles according to package directions.
In the meantime…Start with the soup, milk, parmesan, and pepper and stir in a casserole dish (I think I use a 2 Quart one). Then I add the veggies (which I usually leave out a bit so they’re not frozen solid) and mix. Add the cooked, drained noodles next.
While the noodles are cooking I chop the chicken into cubes and add it last.
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Remove from oven, stir if noodles on top look hard or browned, then sprinkle cheese to cover top. Bake for another 5 minutes to melt cheese. I usually let it sit for a few minutes, then dig in!! Hope your family enjoys this as much as we do 🙂

First meal ideas for chicken:
Spinach Artichoke Chicken (if you use this, you have the bonus of additional veggies, AND it will be creamier!)
Fresh Take Italian Parmesan chicken
Stuffed Chicken

Quick, flavorful veggies

Growing up, I never ADORED broccoli. It didn’t bother me to eat it, but it wasn’t my favorite either. Some regulars where I work bring their two kids with them all the time, and they would always (wait for it) VOLUNTARILY get broccoli as a side!! I was uber impressed. Which may or may not have been the reason I started cooking broccoli more at home 😉

Turns out it’s a good thing I did, since Aubrey now LOVES broccoli! She will even eat it -gasp- RAW!  The first time this happened I was cutting broccoli to make the way I’m going to show you, and she asked, “Mom, can I have one right now?” (grabbing a piece off the cutting board). I was kind of quietly freaking out in my head. Don’t make a big deal out of it or it will ruin it! I was thinking in a terribly over-excited voice in my head. Very calmly and off-handedly I said, “Sure honey.” I watched out of the corner of my eye because I was certain she was going to spit it in the garbage. But she didn’t! And now broccoli is probably her favorite vegetable, with cauliflower coming in a close second.

So how did I make it the first time I bought fresh broccoli and cut it off the stalk? Sorry to say I didn’t steam it or even blanche it. Nah… I take baby steps. Here’s how I like to cook these now – and they’re usually a hit with everyone in the family (I guess I’m still working on the hubs though).

First, obviously, cut up your vegetables. I try to cut the broccoli and cauliflower into smaller pieces for the kids (remember my definition of kid-friendly?)
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Then melt a generous tablespoon or so of butter in a skillet over low to medium heat. (Yes, sorry, this is not really a healthy dish by today’s standards. Back in the 50s maybe, sure.) You want the melted butter to cover the surface of the pan.
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Once it’s all melted and you’ve tilted the pan to cover the entire surface, evenly sprinkle some Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and paprika. It will form almost like a shortened version of a compound butter, which is going to coat our vegetables very nicely.
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Then place the prepared veggies in the pan – just enough to cover the surface. Now DON’T TOUCH! Let it sit for a minute or so, and sprinkle more seasonings on the top of the veg.
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Then give the pan a good shake to move the veggies around and coat other sides of them. After another minute or so you can do a little flip with the pan to rotate them even more.

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Here’s where you have some options.
1. You can add another pat of butter to the middle (aaaand maybe the sides too) of the pan and sprinkle more seasonings over top of the veg. This is the best way. The seasoned butter sticks so well to the veggies and forms almost like a crust of deliciousness!
2. If you have some chicken stock open in the fridge, or possible using it for your main dish, you can add a splash or two to the pan to hydrate the veggies some more. I must warn you: it will sizzle and probably whatever bits of seasonings are on the bottom of the pan, it will kind of clump them up and form a chewy… substance. haha. But if you like them more moist this is probably the way to go.

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Look at that seasoned yummy-ness!

Now. Yes we use a fair amount of butter here, but what I like about it is it gives the veggies flavor without overcooking them (the more you cook veggies the more nutrients leak out). I should tell you now, this is part of my process of introducing new foods to my kids, particularly vegetables (see QUICK TIP). And although I’m glad Aubrey enjoys raw broccoli, I really don’t enjoy the dry raw florets, so this preparation is a perfect compromise! Hope you enjoy it too.

One Dish Dinner – Chicken, potatoes, and veg

It’s November and everyone is publicly stating what they’re thankful for on social media.
Well today I am thankful for good friends. One in particular who helped me out of a small dinner rut. (I am thankful for her for many more reasons. This just happens to top the list today.) We had scheduled a play date for the kids and as we sat chatting I mentioned that I didn’t really have a plan for dinner, except that I was making chicken thighs and probably a broccoli medley. She said that awhile back she’d made a one-dish meal of chicken thighs, potatoes, and carrots with Italian dressing. My response was, “Good idea! I love one dish meals. I think I will do that. I have some potatoes I want to use anyway.” (The idea sounded better and better the more I thought about it!)

So I sprayed a glass baking dish with non-stick spray and added 5 chicken thighs which I had trimmed some fat off. I chopped 3 baking potatoes and added them around the chicken, along with some thin strips of bell peppers and baby carrots. (Guess what I added the peppers? Yep, they were in my OHI and I wanted to make room for the fresh ones I bought today. Plus peppers are always good with Italian dressing! ) I sprinkled with salt and paprika then drizzled Italian dressing over top.
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Looks good right? It reminded me of beef stew my mom would make in the winter months. Except with chicken, and this would take much less time.
After cooking for 40 mins at 375º, I removed from the oven and switched some things around. I knew it’d be a stretch with the baking potatoes, and I didn’t want them to be dry, so I lifted each thigh, pushed the surrounding potatoes down, and replaced the chicken on top. I added a little more dressing where needed and sprinkled everything with parmesan. (Once I started prepping, my friend Rochelle had said, “oh! And do you have parmesan?” I smiled and responded “always!”)
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After 20 more minutes (an hour total) I removed it from the oven. Chicken was perfect but the potatoes needed more time, so back in they went after I cut a few of the bigger pieces and drizzled a tad bit more dressing.
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Well, I should’ve kept the chicken out when I wanted to cook the potatoes because the chicken got a teensy bit overcooked that last time. But it was REALLY good.

A few notes:
*Take the skin off if you want to skip the fat. Most of the seasoning ends up on the skin so it’s not as delicious if you just eat around it after the fact.
*Next time I will definitely add onions as they would be REALLY good in this.
*I will also cut the potatoes up a little smaller to ensure they cook through without overcooking the chicken.

Sooo.. try it and let me know what you think, our I’d there are any modifications you’d make!