Good Things in Small Packages: Mushroom Quinoa

I’m always on the lookout for healthy ingredients that don’t require refrigeration, or at least have a long shelf life, especially for weeknight dinners. So I was pleasantly surprised to find a $5 bag of dried Maitake mushrooms at the non-frugal Ferry Building and a bag of ready-to-cook red quinoa at a nearby market. Bingo!

First, soak the mushrooms in hot water for 15-30 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the quinoa according to instructions, and prep your ingredients of choice. I sautéed minced garlic with chopped green onions and carrots in olive oil, before stirring the mushrooms in. I added spinach directly to the pot of quinoa, and microwaved frozen peas, before pouring in the sauté mixture. For seasoning, I used a generous sprinkling of salt and a couple shakes of fish sauce.

Basically, use your imagination and enjoy guilt-free!

Pin Record Time: Grilled Cheese in a Waffle Maker

I’m sure you’ve seen food tricks on Pinterest that use basic kitchen appliances and tools to make otherwise mediocre meals look amazing. Well, 18 minutes after I saw this pin, David and I were gobbling up cheddar and mushroom grilled cheese (panini, if you’re feeling fancy).

A speedy brunch was the perfect solution to Saturday morning breakfast procrastination (triggered by last night’s pizza massacre perhaps?).

Just chop mushrooms into small pieces, and layer on top of cheddar cheese slices in between sourdough or your bread of choice, and press as needed while it cooks in the waffle maker. (I didn’t use butter, but if you’re inclined, go wild.) Done and done.

New Year’s Resolution-Worthy Baked Eggs

This morning I embraced resolutions to eat healthy, make more meals at home, and embrace imperfection. Inspired by a baked eggs recipe from Saveur, I made some tweaks; adding mushrooms and onions, swapping cream for almond milk, and leaving out the bacon. Despite some timing adjustments with the eggs, the result was a delicious brunch that’s deceptively healthy.

First, saute sliced mushrooms and chopped onions with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add spinach at the end and remove from heat. Grease two oven-safe bowls or small gratin dishes with butter.

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Next, divide mushroom mixture between two bowls. Make 2 wells in each bowl, and carefully crack 1 egg into each well. Add 4 tomato wedges and 2 spoonfuls of almond milk to each bowl. Sprinkle with parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

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Bake uncovered at 425 degrees or higher if your stoneware can handle it. Remove once the egg whites are opaque, and topping is golden brown.

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Note: It took me much longer than the 5 minutes (under a broiler) that the recipe suggested, to cook the eggs through. In fact, I discovered there was still clear liquid on the bottom layer, so I put them back in until I felt safer about the finished result. In total, I probably cooked them for 20 minutes or so, but it will ultimately depend on your risk tolerance, oven and cookware.

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Delicious when served and scooped with sourdough toast!

Ingredient list:

  • Olive oil, salt and pepper
  • Sliced mushrooms (4-6 buttons)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • Handful of fresh spinach
  • Butter or nonstick spray
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tomato, cut into 8 wedges
  • 4 spoonfuls of almond milk
  • 2 handfuls of shredded parmesan
  • Nutmeg
  • Toast, optional

Goat Cheese Pizza

Why should mozzarella have all the fun? After watching my Christmas hosts make pizza at home, David was determined to try it in our kitchen. I was equally determined to find a shreddable goat cheese.

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Trader Joe’s is where we got the goods. You can pick up the dough, bell peppers, olives, sausage, mushrooms, and marinara sauce for less than the price of delivery. And I found Goat’s Milk Cheddar Cheese, which turned out to be a perfect substitute for mozzarella.

The only tricky part is cooking the pizza long enough to make sure the dough is cooked through. Ours took twice as long as the package suggested, which meant crispier toppings than we would have liked. I’d recommend reducing the heat slightly to help cook evenly.

Accidental Gravy and Other Experiments

Buttery potatoes + leftover chicken + broth = surprise gravy! Tonight I was short on time, but had a random burst of ideas for a “hands-off” meal. First, a fresh delivery from Farm Fresh to You arrived, so I prepared “Herbed New Potatoes” from Ina Garten’s “Barefoot in Paris” cookbook (using red potatoes, even though she calls for white or Yukon Gold).

While the potatoes steamed for 30 minutes or so, I microwaved frozen corn and pulled out the leftover “honey-baked” chicken breast from last night. The potatoes left a nice frothy butter sauce in the pan, so I poured chicken broth in and added the chicken breast. After bringing it to a boil, a delicious aroma started rising. Suddenly David was asking for some of the “sauce” to pour over the chicken – and voila, gravy!

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In our quest to eat healthy in 2010, I thought I’d share some of my other recent experiments:

Honey-Baked Chicken Breast with Sauteed Peas & Baby Bella Mushrooms and Brown Rice

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Leftover Turkey & Butternut Squash Meatballs with Broccoli and Flax Fettuccini

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Recipe Remix – Pappardelle at Fiamma

I had a delightful pappardelle dish at Fiamma in Las Vegas this weekend, which couldn’t be terribly difficult to recreate at home. (Especially considering our affinity for anything involving pappardelle.)

Fiamma’s menu cites “black truffle crema” and wild mushrooms. I detected freshly ground pepper as well. Here are some possible ingredients and similar recipes from around the Web – stay tuned for the results!

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Simplified Stir Fry

On the way home tonight, I had a sudden craving for Panda Express’ chicken and mushrooms, which I used to order when I graced the food court. With rice in the cupboard, I dreamt up my own vegetarian version using zucchini and mushrooms from the corner market. I picked up some Hoisin sauce, which seemed like the right fit without being certain.

It worked! But chicken was definitely missed this time around. Just dice the mushrooms into quarters, slice the zucchini, and stir fry with 2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce until the veggies are tender (10-12 minutes). Serve over rice – which I make in the rice cooker simultaneously.

The best part of the meal was the price – it cost less to purchase the veggies and sauce than my average lunch purchase!

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