Autumn Harvest Quinoa

autumn harvest quinoa by coffee & quiona

There’s been a lot of quinoa around here recently… in my defense, it’s in the URL and everything.

When I made this stuffed acorn squash a few weeks ago, I got a little bit obsessed with the quinoa stuffing. I wanted to make it again, without all that filling squash, so that I could eat more of it! The apples and slow-cooked onions in Emily’s original recipe were delicious, but I added a few things to this version (toasted walnuts and roasted sweet potato) and think it’s even more amazing than before. I also used a mix of red and white quinoa when I made this. The red stuff tastes nuttier to me, but the white is about 1/3 of the price, so I like to mix!

I’m not going to lie, there’s a lot going on when you make this, especially if you haven’t toasted the walnuts beforehand. (But I would NOT leave out toasting the nuts – they add a ton of flavor.) If anything, you could leave out the sweet potato, or cook your pot of quinoa the night before, so that you don’t have 2 things in the oven and 3 pots on the stovetop. Clearly I did not plan that far ahead, and my tiny kitchen was a war zone with quinoa in every crevice when I was done.

This would make an awesome Thanksgiving side dish! I loved this recipe and plan on making it again this fall… as soon as I make my way through all the leftovers from the first batch! This recipe makes a really large amount.

P.S. I hesitated to put an entire tablespoon of cinnamon in the dressing, but don’t be afraid – it’s going on a huge amount of quinoa.

autumn harvest quinoa by coffee & quiona

Autumn Harvest Quinoa

Adapted from Daily Garnish

Serves 8-10 as a side dish

Ingredients:

For the quinoa:
2 cups dried quinoa, rinsed (I used a combo of red and white)
1 large sweet potato
1 ½ large yellow onions, diced
2 large or 3 small apples, diced but not peeled (I used Gala)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

For the dressing:
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp kosher salt

Balsamic reduction or balsamic vinegar to finish (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with foil for easy clean-up. Peel and dice the sweet potato into about 3/4-inch chunks. Place on baking sheet, drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt, and toss to coat. Spread in an even layer and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until sweet potato is fork-tender. Set aside.

Add quinoa along with 2.5 cups of water to a small pot. Simmer for 15 minutes or until quinoa is tender. Drain any remaining water if necessary.

Add a bit of olive oil to a large pan and saute the onions on medium heat until a bit browned, about 10-15 minutes. At this point, add the diced apples and continue sauteing until they are softened. Add the cranberries, walnuts, cooked quinoa and sweet potato chunks and stir gently.

Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Pour over the quinoa mixture and stir to combine. Saute about 2 more minutes, until everything is heated through.

Serve along with balsamic reduction or balsamic vinegar to top. The balsamic isn’t necessary, but it adds a sweetness that I like.

Enjoy, and have a happy Halloween!

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The Weekend: Viva Las Vegas!

las vegas | coffee & quinoa

I just got back from Vegas last night! And although I don’t necessarily feel ready to take on the week, I’m happy to report that I neither drank too much nor lost any money the whole weekend. The same can’t be said for all the co-workers I went with – not calling anyone out though :)

This was a work trip, but no meetings or anything – just an annual rewards trip where we get to head down there and have fun! Last year they went at the end of my very first week of work, so needless to say, I did not get to go. I was happy to be in on the fun this year.

We took buses down there, leaving at 6 am on Friday, which was brutal. We arrived in the early afternoon and checked into our hotel, the Palazzo. The hotel was awesome. I’m not sure how much the suites cost, but it was definitely nicer than the hotel we stayed in last time I was in Vegas on my own dime!

palazzo las vegas | coffee & quinoa

The rooms were huge! Each one had two double beds (we had roommates) and a step down to a seating and office area.

palazzo las vegas | coffee & quinoa

The bathrooms were super nice, too, although I didn’t get a picture before I spread my stuff out all over.

Our hotel was attached to the Venetian, and I wandered around there for a while. I found I could deal with the tackiness of Vegas much better my second time there, and even appreciate it, because I knew what to expect.

the venetian | coffee & quinoa

I didn’t do any gambling the whole weekend. I’m not really into the gambling thing… when I was in Vegas this May I lost about $2.50 in the penny slots, and that was enough gambling for the year for me! (Can you say high roller?) Luckily this time we had plenty of activities lined up, and I didn’t even have to spend too much time watching other people gamble. :)

Friday evening we had a company meeting (where I won a $50 Amazon gift card – totally left Vegas up!), then a bunch of us headed to dinner at the sushi fusion restaurant in our hotel.

sushi samba at the palazzo | coffee & quinoa

That might not be the most appetizing picture, but everything was delicious! Pickled seaweed, grilled baby corn, asparagus, eggplant, and more corn, plus swordfish and beef skewers. We did a tasting menu that included our waiter bringing out several trays like this for the whole table to share. I have to admit I broke with veganism to eat these swordfish skewers, plus the sushi that came after this. Too good to pass up!

After dinner, we went to the hotel club, where we had a VIP area rented out for work. Probably the only time in my life I’ll get bottle service in Vegas, and I only drank the bottled water! When my choices are Amstel Light and hard liquor, I think I’ll pass.

lavo at the palazzo | coffee & quinoa

The club was fun, but by 1 am (2 am Salt Lake time!) I was ready to call it a night.

The next morning we ate at Olives and got to watch the Bellagio fountain show from the patio. Fun!

olive's at the bellagio | coffee & quinoa

We shopped our way back down the strip, only to hop in a cab and head back to the Luxor for the Bodies exhbit.

Saturday night we had a staff dinner at the steak house at the Palazzo. I was all prepared to request a vegan entree… until I saw the prix fixe menus on the table. Boo. I ate creamy squash bisque, salad, salmon, and part of the creme brulee. My stomach did not feel awesome afterwards, but that’s OK. As much as I like eating vegan, I also realize the value of being able to go with the flow and not make a stink in that type of work-dinner-prix-fixe situation. (Did I mention I avoid confrontation at all costs?)

After dinner we made our way back down the strip to the Chandelier bar at the Cosmopolitan.

chandelier bar | coffee & quinoa

This place was awesome, and had no cover! It’s a multi-story bar in the center of the Cosmopolitan that looks like a giant chandelier. We wandered in and ended up going down to the ground floor where a live band was playing. They were amazing!

jennifer keith quintet | coffee & quinoa

They played swing, some songs from the 20s, and other music that made me wish I still had some of my old college ballroom moves. Maybe I’ll get back into it sometime…

My feet were killing me after walking a mile down the strip in heels, so we took a cab back and headed to bed. This morning we were up bright and early for breakfast and the loooong bus ride back!

So after adding every possible picture into this post, here’s a little summary:

Where we stayed: The Palazzo (attached to the Venetian)

Where we ate: Sushi Samba (vegetarian friendly), Morel’s French Steak House (they might make you a veggie entree, but everything on the menu definitely had meat, butter and cheese), Todd English’s Olives (I got the portobello flatbread without cheese and it was delicious!)

What we drank: Vanishing Point 2011 Pinot Noir (at Morel’s), Mad Fish 2008 Australian Shiraz (that I brought from home), bloody Mary at Olives (delicious!)

What we did: Lavo Nightclub, shopping on the strip, Bodies exhibition, Jennifer Keith Quintet at The Chandelier

My main takeaway from the weekend was that even though I don’t love gambling or drinking heavily, Vegas is a lot of fun! As long as someone else is paying. :)

{ 4 comments }

White Bean and Kale Stuffed Peppers

I think it’s finally fall.

The boots and sweaters are out, and we got our first snowfall yesterday. That means I plan on turning on my oven as often as I possibly can – starting with Wednesday’s cookies and continuing with these quinoa-stuffed peppers.

Maybe stuffed peppers are a little bit 80s, and I’m OK with that. They bring me back to my parents’ kitchen, where stuffed peppers made a regular appearance in my mom’s dinner rotation. That qualifies these as comfort food for me. Also, like any mixed-together dish, they totally make the best leftovers.

white bean and kale stuffed peppers

Can we talk about leftovers for a sec? As a kid, I hated them. I vowed I would never eat leftovers in my adult life, kind of like some kids said they’d stay up all night when they were grown up. (Even as a kid I don’t think I ever made that claim – I’ve always loved to sleep!) In any case, I’ve done a total 180 on the leftovers thing. Get this: You only cook once… and you get to eat more than once. Best thing ever! Plus, there’s something about a stuffed pepper in a tupperware container that is just so cute. Taking my good-looking leftovers out of the fridge at work the next day, I really feel like an adult, kind of like when I make my own stock or cook dried beans from scratch instead of using canned.

Speaking of beans and stock, both make an appearance in this recipe. The beans I did make from scratch, but they didn’t turn out very pretty. Deb from the amazing Smitten Kitchen mentioned in a post from a few years ago that she makes beans in a slow-cooker, which means no pre-soaking required. That sounds delightful to me, and I think I’ll try it next time. As for the vegetable stock, I have to admit I bought it from Whole Foods. I recently tried making my own veggie stock, but found that it didn’t turn out very well. I think I’m just used to making chicken stock, because my veggie stock seemed to be missing a little something. Duh… chicken. Anyway, I’m due for another try sometime soon, but in the meantime I’m sticking to the soup aisle.

If you’re smart, you’ll wait to make these until bell peppers go on sale at your supermarket. If you’re impatient like me and enjoy parting with your whole paycheck every time you buy produce, you’ll make these as soon as you have a craving and end up spending approximately $12 on bell peppers. Oops.

This is my first pass at these stuffed peppers, so let me tell what I would do differently next time: I would add some lemon zest, maybe a bit more rosemary, and more tomato paste for flavor. I would also add more kale (maybe double it?) because it cooked down quite a bit. If you try out those changes, leave a comment to let me know how it goes!

white bean and kale stuffed peppers

White Bean and Kale Stuffed Peppers

makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa
1 1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth

6 red bell peppers

Olive oil for pan
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 cups packed shredded kale
3 Tbsp tomato paste
1 3/4 cup cannellini beans (or 1 15 oz can, drained and rinsed)
Juice of 1 lemon
Sprinkle of crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

white bean and kale stuffed peppers

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the tops off the peppers and remove the membranes. Place the peppers in a baking dish and bake for 15 minutes to soften. Chop up the tops of the peppers to add in later.

Rinse quinoa and add to a small pot with the vegetable broth. (You should use the amount of liquid that usually works for you when cooking quinoa – I usually see recipes call for 1 1/2 cups, but less works better for me.) Cook for about 15 minutes or until quinoa is tender and no liquid remains.

Add a small amount of olive oil to a large pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onions, garlic, and carrots and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rosemary. Stir in the kale and chopped bell peppers. Saute until softened, 2-3 minutes.

Remove from heat. Add the quinoa, tomato paste, beans and lemon juice (and zest if using) and stir to combine. Season to taste with crushed red pepper, salt and pepper.

Spoon the quinoa mixture into the peppers and bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Serve hot!

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