Italian Sausage & Quinoa Stuffed Summer Squash

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If you are trying to eat the rainbow in fruits and vegetables (as they say you should, every day, to get the nutritents and vitamins you need), yellow is a tough color to find. There’s corn, but that’s basically a carb and probably doesn’t count. There are yellow peppers, but they’re usually more expensive than green peppers (and really, do they taste any different?) so I’m usually unlikely to buy them unless they’re on sale (enough so to be cheaper than green peppers). There are a few yellow fruit to choose from – pineapple, bananas, lemons – but if you’re looking for a yellow vegetable, you’re pretty much stuck with summer squash. They probably didn’t take this into consideration when they decided to encourage eating the rainbow.

I’ve always thought of summer squash as the lesser relative of zucchini. Zucchini is green, which, in my book quates to a higher status in the vegetable hierarchy. Summer squash has a high water content (apparently right up there with cucumbers) meaning it gets mushy fast. It also has a waxy consistency (has anyone else noticed that?). So, whenever faced with an option to use summer squash or zucchini, I choose zucchini. It’s not that I don’t like summer squash, I just feel like zucchini is better.

However, “Oh, I’m sorry, I prefer zucchini” was not an option last week, when I received five (yes, five) whole summer squash in my box. Enter this stuffed summer squash recipe. Summer squash, I’ll give you another chance.

Italian Sausage & Quinoa Stuffed Summer Squash

4 servings. Serving size: 1 whole squash. Per Serving: $3.11, 284 calories, 13g fat, 30g carbs, 16g protein.

Cook 1/2 cup quinoa according to package direction. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Put 4 medium sized squash in a sauce pan and fill halfway with water. Bring to a simmer and boil for 6 minutes, then set aside to cool.

Saute 1/2 diced onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add 2 Italian sausage without the casing and cook until browned. Add 3 diced roma tomatoes and 2 cloves minced garlic. Cook until tomatoes are soft and remove from heat. Add quinoa, salt, and pepper.

Cut squash in half lengthwise and spoon out seeds, then place upside down on a paper towel to drain. Fill with stuffing and top with 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese. Bake in oven for 25 minutes.

If you like this recipe and feel adventourous, you could use the same stuffing in different vegetables – try green peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, or mushrooms. All you need to do is adjust the cooking time based on the density of the vegetable. For example, tomatoes are more delicate and require less time to cook (so don’t par cook them to begin with) and keep an eye on them as they bake in the oven.

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Orange Chicken with Roasted Bok Choy

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Greg must have been 10, meaning I was about 12, and we were all crammed around our circular kitchen table in what seemed to be a who-could-eat-the-most-the-fastest competition. Mom and Dad had ordered take-out from our favorite Chinese place. My face buried in a bowl of pork fried rice and chicken fingers, I was hardly paying attention to Greg – until he starting screaming.

“Something’s happening in my mouth!” he yelled in panic, his eyes wide with fear. He had mistaken a hot chili pepper for an orange peel in his favorite dish – orange chicken.

You’d think our response would be concern – and initially it was. My mom went to his rescue, giving him a glass of milk to counteract the heat. But once we learned what was going on, we all started laughing. Something’s happening in my mouth? He couldn’t have come up with something more specific to say? Maybe, “I ate something too spicy!”

To this day, every time my family orders Chinese (which is often) the “something’s happening in my mouth” story comes up. Although we laugh at how funny it was and tease Greg for his over-reaction, we all take extra care to examine our plates and avoid those hot chili peppers. None of us want to be the family joke for the next 15 years (notice I skipped the peppers in this recipe!).

Orange Chicken with Roasted Bok Choy
Yield: 2 servings. Per Serving: $3.28, 477 calories, 18g fat, 60g carbs, 24g protein

Cook ½ cup quinoa according to package directions and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine 2 tablespoons flour with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Cut 2 chicken breasts into bite sized pieces and toss in the flour mixture. Cook the chicken over medium heat in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a nonstick frying pan (this helps reduce the amount of oil you need). Cook about 5 minutes on each side, until the chicken is lightly browned.

While the chicken is cooking, juice 2 oranges. Combine the juice, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and ½ tablespoon honey in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat until bubbling, about 5 minutes. Add to the skillet with the (cooked) chicken and simmer on medium-low heat until the mixture sticks to the chicken.

Quarter 2 bok choy and remove the core by cutting the ends off at a diagonal. Put in baking dish in a single layer and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 10 minutes, flipping once, until the leaves are bright green and starting to brown.

Quinoa & Roasted Peaches Cereal

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My roommate recently brought home a challenge: recreate a delicious quinoa breakfast cereal she had for brunch at a local restaurant. This is one of my favorite things to do – make something that inspired you at a restaurant (often healthier and cheaper). It gets you super engaged in your food as you try to figure out the ingredients and make it just as good as (if not better than) the restaurant. I’m not sure I could do this any healthier (what’s healthier than quinoa and fruit for breakfast?!) but it was probably cheaper – Rachel, am I right?

As this recipe proves, quinoa is not just for lunch or dinner – it can be treated very similarly to oatmeal. It has a nutty flavor which pairs well with fruit. Preferably I would use fresh peaches, but they are out of season right now so I had to resort to canned. Just make sure to get peaches canned in juice, not syrup (i.e., sugar). Next time you have something new and tasty at a restaurant try to recreate it at home – and let me know how it goes!

Quinoa & Roasted Peaches Cereal

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Drain 1 can of peach halves, reserving the juice. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and arrange peach halves in a single layer. Roast in oven for 40 minutes, flipping half way through cooking time. When done, let cool slightly and dice.

Prepare 1 cup of quinoa using 1 cup water, 1 cup milk, and ¼ cup peach juice. When the quinoa is cooked through, add 1 diced apple, another ¼ cup peach juice, and diced peaches. Cook for another 2 minutes until the apples are warm. Top with ½ cup chopped walnuts and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Yield: 6 servings. Serving size: ½ cup. Per Serving: $1.16, 230 calories, 8g fat, 39g carbs, 7g protein

Butternut Squash Soup

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My good friend Evan, who I grew up with, read my journal once. We were in middle school and he was over at my house and he snooped.  Unfortunately (for both of us), he happened to find an entry where I mentioned him… in not the nicest day. Luckily, we remained friends, but to this day Evan gives me a hard time about it – even though he’s the one who snooped!

Starting a blog is, in some ways, like sharing your journal with everyone. Evan and I are still traumatized from the one time he read something relatively harmless in my journal, and here I am sharing parts of my life with the entire internet. Granted, I get to pick and choose what you read about me (whereas my journal was meant to be private), but in some ways it feels similar.

So, to protect all of us, I’m going to keep some of my secrets to myself. For example, I’m keeping my signature Turkey Pot Pie recipe locked up, even though I’ll be making it for Friendsgiving this weekend (more to come on that next week). It’s not even a good fit for CLK (too time intensive and not healthy enough), but even if it was, it’s special to me so I’m going to keep it under wraps.

I’m still not so sure about sharing this secret with you, but I’m going for it. I’m about to reveal my secret for making any type of soup. It’s a fool proof recipe. It’s actually less of a recipe than it is an equation. It boils down to:

Liquid + Vegetable + Protein = Soup

The proportions depend on how you like your soup. If you like a thicker soup (such as chowder), add more vegetable and less liquid. The protein can be blended into the soup, mixed in to the soup, served on the side, or right on top. Confused? Here are some pieces to make the puzzle come together:

  • Liquids: any variety of broth or stock (chicken, beef, vegetable, seafood), water, or milk
  • Vegetables: asparagus, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, corn… anything your heart desires
  • Protein: for blending: any type of bean or silken tofu; for mixing: quinoa, faro, or other whole grains; on the side: chicken, beef, or shrimp; on top: quinoa, cheese, or more beans.

You can combine more than one vegetable or liquid to come up with the best balance for you. Trust me, this is fool proof. For this recipe, I used water and chicken broth for the liquid, onions and butternut squash for the vegetable, and quinoa on top as my protein. Let me know what combinations you come up with and keep my secret safe!

Butternut Squash Soup

Cook ½ cup dry quinoa according to package directions. In a large saucepan, sauté 1 cup diced onion in 1 tablespoon butter. When the onions are translucent, add 3 cups diced butternut squash, 3 cups chicken broth, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer until squash is fork tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and blend until smooth. Add ½ teaspoon salt.  Serve each portion topped with ¼ cup cooked quinoa. Yield: 3 servings. Serving size: 2 cups. Per Serving: $2.77, 148 calories, 1g fat, 33g carbs, 6g protein.

Chicken Fried Quinoa

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When my whole family gets together, we usually order Chinese for dinner. I’m the oldest of five siblings and things can get a little hectic when we’re all in the same place at the same time. Although I love cooking for my family, it can be hard to please everyone. Chinese seems to do the trick because there’s something for everyone. We even have it for dinner on Christmas Day – it’s become a tradition.

For as long as I can remember, my favorite dish from the Chinese food menu has been pork-fried rice. I love the peas, stir-fried scrambled eggs, and the soy sauce soaked rice. But it’s a treat for me, usually something I only eat when ordering in with my family. The take-out version usually has way too much sodium and the rice to vegetable ratio is less than ideal.

To fill my craving for pork-fried rice, I recreated the recipe myself. As I’ve mentioned before, I love recreating take-out meals. It’s a challenge to make something healthier and tastier than the restaurant-prepared version.

When you cook for yourself, you get to control everything that goes into your meal. When making this recipe, I deliberately went easy on the salt and soy sauce and added tons of veggies. It takes all of the guilt out of eating your favorite take-out meals. Oh and guess what? Cooking it yourself usually makes it cheaper. And personally, I think it tastes better.

What’s your favorite take-out meal? Have you ever tried recreating it?

Chicken Fried Quinoa

Cook 2/3 cup quinoa according to package directions, replacing half of the liquid with low-sodium chicken broth.

Combine 2 tablespoons flour, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Toss 1 pound chicken in the flour mixture. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a fry pan over medium heat. Fry the chicken until just cooked, about 2 minutes per side. You’ll know the chicken is ready to flip when it easily comes off the pan. You might have to do this in batches depending on the size of your pan.

In a separate, large pan (preferably with taller sides) heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium heat. Sauté 1 cup diced onion about two minutes. Add 1 cup diced red bell pepper and sauté for an additional 2 minutes. Add 1 cup shredded carrots and sauté about 3 more minutes. Finally, add 1 cup frozen peas.

When the chicken is finished, add 1 teaspoon vegetable oil to the pan and heat again. Add two large eggs, and cook until scrambled and cooked through. Break into small pieces.

Add the quinoa and egg to the vegetables and stir to combine. Add 2 tablespoons soy sauce and serve warm.

Yield: 4 servings. Per Serving: $3.22, 439 calories, 15.5g fat, 36g carbs, 39g protein.

 

Spinach & Fried Egg Quinoa Bowl

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Some nights, dinner just needs to be easy. When there is too much to do and not enough time cooking an elaborate dinner (no matter how delicious it may be) usually falls to the bottom of my list. It becomes very easy in those instances to choose a less-than-healthy meal – a slice of pizza from down the street or bagel bites from the corner store. For me, stress brings on cravings for unhealthy (and, ultimately, unsatisfying) food.

The solution? A filling, healthy dinner easily thrown together with kitchen staples. I usually have quinoa, eggs, and some sort of green vegetable on hand. If you don’t, use what you have. This recipe can easily be recreated with another grain or pasta and whatever fresh (or frozen) veggies you can find in your refrigerator.

Perfect for a busy week night, this recipe saves time and lends itself to ultimate efficiency. While the quinoa is cooking, you can check things off your to-do list – unload the dishwasher, tidy up your room, or pour (and finish) a glass of wine. Once the quinoa is done, it’s less than 10 minutes before you can dig in – and then get back to the to-do list!

Fried Egg & Spinach Quinoa Bowl

Cook 1/3 cup dry quinoa according to package directions. Quinoa cooks perfectly in a rice cooker, saving you the trouble of keeping an eye on the stove. When the quinoa is finished, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add 1 cup spinach. When the spinach begins to wilt, add quinoa, ½ garlic clove (grated) and ¼ teaspoon salt. Sauté until spinach is cooked through and put aside in a bowl.

Spray the same pan with cooking spray and heat again over medium heat. To test the heat, sprinkle a few drops of water into the pan. When the water sizzles upon touching the pan, you’re ready to crack 1 egg into the pan to fry. Gently flip the egg over with a spatula when the egg whites are opaque (about 3 minutes). Continue to cook to your desired doneness. I like yolks runny, so I immediately turn off the heat and cook for about 15 seconds on the other side. Cook for up to 1 minute if you like the yolk firm.

Serve the egg on top of the quinoa spinach mixture with a sprinkle of pepper and red pepper flakes to taste. Double the recipe for equally easy leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Yield: 1 servings. Per Serving: $1.87, 328 calories, 13g fat, 41g carbs, 15g protein.