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Peanut Butter Quinoa

Shortly after my husband and I got married, we put together a picnic dinner. I was so excited to make a delicious quinoa salad. We started eating, and I noticed my husband wasn’t eating any of my salad. I asked him, and he said he doesn’t care for salads like that. I had just bought a big package of quinoa, and I needed a new way to fix it. I found lots of recipes for casseroles or soups, but not many regular side dishes.

So, I finally took a salad recipe to make this side dish. And it turned out great. This is great with fish or chicken. Or stir in some chicken and make a meal out of it. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Quinoa (Serves 6-8)

Peanut Butter Quinoa

1 cup uncooked quinoa or 2 cups cooked quinoa
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 rib celery, sliced thin
2 carrots, sliced thin
½ medium onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
¼ cup peanut butter
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
dash sriracha
½ teaspoon ground ginger

1. If not already cooked, cook quinoa according to package directions.

2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or saute pan. Add celery, carrots, onion, and bell pepper. Saute 5-7 minutes, until vegetables begin to be tender.

3. Mix together remaining ingredients in a small bowl. It is not essential that they combine perfectly. You can heat it in the microwave for 15-30 seconds and they will combine better.

4. Add quinoa and peanut butter mixture to vegetables. Stir and cook until well combined and all is heated through. Serve.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 172
Protein: 6 gm
Fat: 8 gm
Saturated Fat: 1 gm
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrates: 21 gm
Fiber: 3 gm
Sodium: 253 mg

Recipe notes: You could substitute any vegetables you like. The “sauce” is pretty thick. You could add in some water or more soy sauce to thin it out more, if you like a saucier side. I liked mine fairly thick, almost like a fried rice.

Source: adapted from Ambitious Kitchen

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Fresh versus Canned Pumpkin

Over the last few years, I’ve met several people who SWEAR by fresh pumpkin. They tell me I should never use canned pumpkin because you can really tell the difference between fresh roasted pumpkin and canned pumpkin. Well, this year, I decided to test it out.

First, I used a “pie pumpkin”. This is a much smaller pumpkin. Prior to roasting it, I used it as a table centerpiece. I have heard mixed responses in person and online as to whether you have to use a pie pumpkin or can just use a regular jack-o-latern pumpkin. From my experiences with my baked pumpkin dinner, I think you’d be safer using a pie pumpkin. Jack-o-lantern pumpkins sometimes have smooth, creamy interiors and sometimes are more stringy like a spaghetti squash. You wouldn’t want the stringy texture.

Here is a comparison of the purees. I roasted my pie pumpkin at 400 for about 45 minutes-1 hour, until it was fork tender. (I cut it in half and seeded it first). Fresh is on the right, canned on the left.

Fresh vs Canned Pumpkin Puree

You can see the canned is a much deeper orange color. And a slightly more watery, smoother texture. I could have added some water to mine to puree it to a similar consistency. I didn’t think it was necessary.

Here is the cookie dough. This is flipped from above – canned on the right, fresh on the left.

Fresh vs Canned Pumpkin Cookie Dough

This one is harder to tell a difference. The dough is a bit darker with the canned, but not too much. The doughs mixed up and baked pretty much the same.

And of course, the final product. Back to fresh on the right, canned on the left.

Fresh vs Canned Pumpkin Cookies

Any difference you see is in the lighting. There was not visible difference in the two cookies.

Taste? Well, I tried out both cookies on 18 people, not telling them what the difference was, asking if they had a preference. Most said they really couldn’t taste much of a difference. If they HAD to choose, maybe they liked canned better (although they didn’t know it was the canned one).

So my verdict: I’ll be buying canned pumpkin. To me, there wasn’t a big enough difference to justify the work and money of making my own.

But I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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Gingerbread Pancakes

Breakfast is a nutritionally important meal of the day. But I also find it to be an emotionally important meal. When I wake up on the wrong side of the bed, I need a good breakfast to help me turn my day around. And it really works. No bowls of cold cereal. I need warm food that makes me feel happy. I love easy ways to make breakfast seem special, since I usually don’t have much time on those days.

These gingerbread pancakes fit that bill. If you tried my gingerbread pancakes last year, these are even better.  Lighter and more fluffy.  Still great gingerbread flavor without being overpowering.  And no sugar in the batter besides molasses!  Hooray!

Gingerbread Pancakes (Makes 10-15 pancakes)

Gingerbread Pancakes

1 large egg
1 ½ cups skim milk
5 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ⅓ cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg, milk, molasses, oil, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.

2. Heat a griddle or non-stick pan to medium-high heat (350 if electric). Lightly spray pan with cooking spray. Pour about ¼-⅓ cup batter onto griddle for each cake. Cook until they start to bubble and bottom looks set. Flip and cook until browned.

Nutritional Information (Amount per pancake):

Calories: 110
Protein: 3 g
Fat: 3 g
Saturated Fat: less than 1 g
Cholesterol: 16 mg
Carbohydrates: 18 g
Fiber: 2 gm
Sodium: 138 mg

Notes: I prefer white whole wheat flour, but “regular” whole wheat flour also works here. As with all pancake batters, I find the amount of liquid is a little bit tricky. You can add more milk if you need a thinner batter.

Source: Children’s Museum Denver

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Easy Meatballs

Sometimes, certain food really speaks to you. Maybe you had a craving and when you eat that food, it hits that spot just right. Or maybe you just make a meal that tastes extra delicious that day. It doesn’t have to be something special or fancy.

These meatballs were that meal for me. I felt like a complete master chef. For some reason, my last several attempts at meatballs have failed. These were easy and delicious, which is a huge win. Make these soon and have a great dinner soon.

Easy Meatballs (Serves 6-8)

Easy Meatballs

1 pound ground lean turkey (93/7)
½ cup panko bread crumbs
⅓ cup water
½ cup packed shredded spinach leaves or 1 cup loose
2 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
2 ounces finely chopped provolone cheese
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 large eggs
2 garlic cloves, minced

Sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 (14 ounce) cans no salt added diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon salt

1. Place meat, breadcrumbs, water, spinach, parsley, provolone, pepper, eggs, and garlic in a large bowl. Mix together with a fork, spoon, or your fingers.

2. Using a scoop or spoons, form into 1 ½ – 2 tablespoon meatballs. Set in the fridge or freezer while you make the sauce to help set the shape.

3. In a large pot or pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic; saute 3-5 minutes until onion is tender and golden. Stir frequently so garlic doesn’t burn. Add red pepper; saute 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and salt. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low (or as low as you can to maintain a simmer) and cook for 15-20 minutes, until slightly thickened. Stir occasionally while cooking.

4. Gently add meatballs one by one to the sauce. Cover with a lid. Cook for another 20-25 minutes at a simmer. Do not stir. After about 20 minute, you can flip the meatballs if you want. Serve.

Optional: (requires additional provolone cheese)

Place meatballs and sauce in oven safe dish (if not already in one). Turn on broiler. Place slices of provolone cheese over the top. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 248
Protein: 21 g
Fat: 13 g
Saturated Fat: 4 g
Cholesterol: 124 mg
Carbohydrates: 12 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 333 mg

Recipe notes: You could use any ground meat, just go for lean. I mostly changed up the sauce recipe. I can’t leave a sauce alone. I like lots of seasoning. I also usually put in diced or shredded carrot in the sauce, because I like to sneak vegetables into my daughter’s diet whenever possible. These are great with spaghetti, though I prefer slightly smaller meatballs with spaghetti. With the optional step, I like to serve this with crusty garlic bread. So yummy. For scooping, I use my cookie scoop to keep the meatballs all the same size.

Source: adapted from Smitten Kitchen

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Guest Post – Quick Vegetable Stock

I’m very excited to share a guest post from The Kitchen Professor today. Check out his awesome site here! It’s a great source of recipes, product reviews, and information about cast iron cookware.

There are three main reasons that I like to make my own vegetable stock:

1. I never seem to have vegetable stock when I need it.
2. You can use your vegetable scraps to make homemade stock.
3. You can avoid high sodium broths and stocks.

The great thing about vegetable stock is that you can get complex flavors out in short order – as opposed to chicken, beef, or fish stock where you need to simmer the stock for a while. You can get a lot of flavor in 15 minutes or so.

pot-full-of-veggies-foodforthoughtrd

Ingredients

1 medium yellow onion
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 – 2 carrots, no need to peel
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon of paprika (I like the smoked variety.)
¼ teaspoon of ground black pepper
1.5 quarts of cool water
Optional: Kosher Salt to flavor
Optional: Other vegetable scraps if you have them.*

*You can save all sorts of other vegetable cuttings to use like: red, green, yellow bell peppers, mushrooms, celery, fennel, fresh herbs of all types especially thyme, parsley, rosemary, and sage. You can save your cuttings in the freezer over the week and make your stock weekly.

You will need the following:

Large cutting board
A Sharp Chef’s knife (see a selection of my favorite chef’s knives here)
Large stock pot (3 to 5 quarts will work)

Here is what you do:

1. Coarsely chopped the onion, carrot, and garlic.

2. Add the onion, carrot, garlic, bay leaf, paprika, and black pepper to a large stock pot.

3. Add 1.5 quarts of cool water to a large stock pot and cover the pot.

4. Turn the heat to high until it reaches a boil.

5. Reduce the heat to a simmer.

6. Allow the veggies to simmer for 15 minutes and up to an hour if you have the time.

7. Strain the stock through a strainer. You can just ladle the liquid through the strainer, while holding the strainer over the pot.

8. Use the stock immediately, if desired.

9. Or, you can allow the pot to cool off the heat, uncovered for about an hour. Cover, then move to the refrigerator until cooled completely.

10. I like to move the stock over to a mason jar or other airtight container. The stock will keep for a week in the refrigerator.

As you can see, making your own stock is super simple and only takes a few minutes. You can get fancy by adding different vegetables, too. Like if you were making a mushroom risotto, then you may want to add a handful of mushrooms to add to the overall complexity of the dish.

Bio
Doug isn’t really a professor, but he geeks out in the kitchen. He can barely follow a recipe and just uses them as guidelines. Doug blogs about everything from knives and sharpeners to cutting boards to cast iron, with some recipes thrown in just for fun. Check out more at The Kitchen Professor!

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Kale and Butternut Pasta Bake

Christmas is coming. I hope you don’t feel like you are getting as fat as the proverbial goose. Treats and snacks and parties abound this time of year, which often leads to weight gain. While I don’t think you should go on a “diet” right now or work hard to lose eight, avoiding weight gain is a great goal. Trying to stay balanced is important. I posted last year about some great tips for eating at parties.

The holidays are full of family and friends being together. Food is usually an important part of these get togethers. I remember my mom always trying to avoid meals that required her to spend excessive time in the kitchen for cooking and for clean-up. This dish does require a bit of prep, but it can all be done well ahead of time. It isn’t difficult and will fill up any cold, hungry crowd. Enjoy!

Kale and Butternut Pasta Bake (Serves 6-8)

Kale and Butternut Pasta Bake

5 cups peeled, cubed butternut squash (about 1 small squash)
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon black pepper
12 ounces uncooked whole wheat short pasta (penne or ziti work well)
4 cups chopped kale
2 bacon slices
2 cups thinly sliced onion
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups lower-sodium chicken broth, divided
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 ounces fat free cream cheese
½ cup shredded smoked Gruyere cheese, divided

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Combine squash, oil, and black pepper in a large bowl; toss well. Arrange squash mixture in a single layer on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 20-30 minutes or until squash is tender.

3. Cook pasta one minute short of al dente directions on package. Add kale during last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain pasta mixture.

4. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble.

5. Add onion to drippings in pan; cook 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally.

6. Bring 1¾ cups broth to a boil in a small saucepan. Combine remaining ¼ cup broth and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture and red pepper to broth. Cook 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat; stir in cream cheese and ¼ cup Gruyere until melted and sauce is well combined.

7. Combine squash, pasta mixture, bacon, onion mixture, and sauce in a large bowl; toss gently. Place pasta mixture in a 13×9 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with remaining Gruyere cheese. Bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until bubbly and slightly browned.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 311
Protein: 14 g
Fat: 9 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 14 mg
Carbohydrates: 49 g
Fiber: 7 g
Sodium: 222 mg

Recipe Notes: You can use any pasta shape or dark leafy green you want. Regular Gruyere works, but I like how the smoky Gruyere accents the flavor of the bacon. If you can’t find Gruyere, you could substitute another type of Swiss cheese.

Source: adapted from Cooking Light

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Gingerbread Pancakes

Christmas is coming. Gingerbread is an integral part of most families’ traditions, although rarely for eating. Most of us make gingerbread houses, but do we make gingerbread to eat? Not generally.

I’ve been experimenting with different gingerbreads for breakfast, and my family has been loving it. It’s such a flavor boost. I’m hooked. Enjoy!

Gingerbread Pancakes (Makes about 10 pancakes)

Gingerbread pancakes

1 ¾ cups + 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour (9.4 ounces)
½ tablespoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
3 tablespoons molasses
1 ½ cups skim milk or nonfat buttermilk

1. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Add wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Add milk gradually, adding just until it reaches the right consistency.

2. Heat a griddle to 350 degrees or a skillet over medium high heat. Spray with cooking spray. Cook pancakes about 3 minutes per side, until lightly browned. Serve warm.

Nutritional Information (Amount per pancake):

Calories: 144
Protein: 6 g
Fat: 2 g
Saturated Fat: .5 g
Cholesterol: 38 mg
Carbohydrates: 29 g
Fiber: 3 g
Sodium: 318 mg

Recipe Notes: I find most pancake recipes underestimate the amount of liquid needed. Add milk to the consistency you like for pancakes. I prefer thin pancake batter. These pancakes are kind of “hefty” as it is, so I don’t need the batter to be thicker than necessary.

Source: adapted from Williams-Sonoma

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