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!

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. :)

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!

Whole Foods Trail Mix Cookies

Whole Foods has been known to inspire food addictions in me. Sprouted wheat “seeduction” bread, Justin’s almond butter, red quinoa… it is a magical wonderland, and I could wander around for hours. Unfortunately, my wallet can only support about 10 minutes…

My most recent obsession is their “mighty omega-3 trail mix,” which was the inspiration for these cookies. Dark chocolate, almonds, walnuts, cranberries, blueberries. What’s not to love? Probably just the fact that I can eat about a pound of it in one sitting, and keep opening the bag back up once I put it away. Actually, let’s not discuss that right now, because I’m too full of cookies to even think about it.

Yeah, so I don’t know that these cookies are really the solution to my problem of stuffing my face with trail mix on a regular basis. They are, however, super delicious, vegan, and a great excuse to eat more dark chocolate and dried cranberries.

whole foods trail mix cookies

Let’s get this straight, though – they are not a healthy cookie. They have sugar and vegan butter in them. Guys, this is one of my first attempts at vegan baking. Let’s not try to make it super healthy baking or anything, OK? I’ve got to evolve slowly.

As a base for this cookie, I used my all-time favorite cookie recipe - Joanne Chang’s Chunky Lolas. Here in Utah they somehow became my signature cookie (not like I was trying to make friends or anything), and Nate asks for them pretty much weekly, even when I’m in the middle or baking something else. (Don’t worry, I made them for his birthday a few weeks ago.) I have plans to veganize those soon, and maybe even healthy them up a little bit! But in the meantime, although that recipe didn’t provide the healthiest base, I decided to use it for a cookie I knew would turn out delicious – and it didn’t fail me.

These are like a yummy chocolate chip cookie with some extra chewiness and crunchiness mixed in. You can definitely switch up the mix-ins to match your favorite trail mix.

whole foods trail mix cookies

I should mention something about timing: These cookies are somewhat frustrating in that you  must mix the batter and then let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before baking. Don’t skip this step, though – you don’t want to go through all the effort and then get flat, crispy cookies! That would just be sad, so plan ahead and they’ll come out perfectly.

whole foods trail mix cookies

Last but not least, I realized that of 3 recipes I’ve now posted on this blog, all 3 are sweet! I swear I really do cook dinner, too. And to prove it, there is a savory recipe coming up later this week!

Whole Foods Trail Mix Cookies

Adapted from Joanne Chang’s fabulous Flour cookbook

Makes about 18-20 cookies

Ingredients:

1 1/2 sticks Earth Balance, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1 Tbsp ground flax seed

1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 3/4 cup old fashioned oats
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

8-10 oz dark chocolate chunks or bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup walnut halves
1 1/4 cups dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried blueberries (if you can’t find these, simply omit or sub with cranberries or other dried fruit)

whole foods trail mix cookies

Directions:

First, toast the nuts. Preheat oven to 350 and spread almonds out on a baking sheet. Toast for 2 minutes, then add the walnuts and toast for another 5-8 minutes. This will vary a lot by oven, so keep a close eye on them. Once the nuts are a few shades darker, remove from the oven, allow to cool for a few minutes, and chop them.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and both types of sugar with a hand mixer. (You can also use a KitchenAid mixer for this step if you have one.) Beat together until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add the vanilla, almond milk and flax seeds and beat until just combined.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (flour through salt). Add in all of the mix-ins (chocolate through blueberries) and stir until thoroughly combined.

Dump the dry mixture into the large bowl with the wet mixture. Stir until the dough is evenly mixed. At this point, sampling is mandatory. Anyone else in the vicinity would probably appreciate a sample, too. But leaving some dough to bake later is also mandatory, so don’t get carried away! Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 3 hours and up to a few days.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper. Remove cookie dough from fridge and scoop out in 1/4 cup balls. Flatten each ball slightly with the palm of your hand. These cookies hold together nicely and won’t spread too much, but keep a few inches between them just in case. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until cookies are a light golden brown. Remove from oven and cool the entire sheet on a cooling rack for a few minutes. Finally, remove cookies from the sheet and place directly on the rack to finish cooling.

I love eating these cookies while still warm, although they will keep for several days in a sealed container.

Enjoy!

Race Recap: The Other Half 2012

I ran my first half marathon on Sunday!

And ouch, now I hurt. But I’d say it was worth it!

I decided to do this race with a few friends about 4 or 5 months ago. I’d been looking forward to it for so long that when the time came, I couldn’t believe it was finally here! We headed down to Moab on Saturday morning and spent the afternoon and evening hanging out by the pool, visiting the race expo, and walking around downtown Moab. The town was crowded with runners and other Northern Utahns coming down to the desert for some sun, now that it’s fall and Salt Lake is getting chilly.

We had a relaxing day on Saturday and headed to bed early in anticipation of an early wake-up on Sunday. The race started at 8:30, so it could have been a lot earlier, but there were mandatory shuttles to bus us 30 miles out of town to the start of the race, meaning we had to get there much earlier than if the race had just started in town.

moab at dawn

The morning was warmer than I’d expected, and I was thankful – until we got off the shuttle, where it was FREEZING.

Maybe it was the slight change in elevation that made it so much colder out there? In any case, it was a chilly start to the race.

The race itself was well-organized, with a speedy packet pick-up on Saturday, shuttles to the start of the race, plenty of port-a-potties beforehand (remarkable!), lots of water and Gatorade at all the aid stations, and a great finishers area with beer and food. The only hiccup seemed to involve the shuttles. Apparently they didn’t send enough shuttles to one of the pick-up locations, and had to send a few back (30 miles into town) to get the rest of the people waiting there. Those shuttles showed up after the race was scheduled to start. They held the race for them, so we started 10 or 15 minutes later than planned. That doesn’t sound too bad, but when you’re waiting out in the desert in a tank top at 8:30 am, 10 minutes seems like a LONG time!

Once the race started, the course was beautiful… although to be honest, I could only appreciate it for the first few miles. Looking around at the scenery was quickly replaced by focusing on putting one foot in front of the other!

moab the other half

As far as my run, I stuck to my race plan, and I think I ran as well as I could have, considering my injured knee! Amy and I started off strong and ran together for the first 5-ish miles. My splits at the beginning were:

Mile 1: 8:57
Mile 2: 8:26
Mile 3: 8:35
Mile 4: 8:39
Mile 5: 8:28
Mile 6: 8:25
Mile 7: 8:44

The first hill started at the end of that 7th mile, and I kind of broke down from there. The hills were frequent and LONG for the next 5 miles, and you can see there was definitely some walking involved by mile 10!

Mile 8: 9:30
Mile 9: 9:25
Mile 10: 10:22
Mile 11: 9:35
Mile 12: 11:08

The 2:00 pacer passed me at the mile 12 aid station. Noooooo! He had clearly been very consistent the whole race, and was just going much faster than me at that point. I had no hope of keeping up.

That mile 12 hill was a killer, but at the top were the taiko drummers! They were just the motivation I needed to keep going at the top of that hill.

Mile 13: 9:22
Last .25: 2:01

The race was totally at least 13.25 miles instead of 13.1 – brutal! I think I can safely say that making it through the last 2.5-3 miles was the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically. I know it was only a half marathon… and I can’t imagine ever running a full! After running the first 12.75 miles or so on highway 128, we turned into the Sorrel River Ranch to finish up. It was one of those finishes where you think you must be so close, and it just. keeps. going. I was so ready to be done by this point. I had been told that the final stretch on the ranch felt long, but I didn’t really appreciate that fully until I was ready to fall over and still couldn’t see the finish line.

I finally made it over the finish line in 2:01:41. Not bad for my first half! In fact, considering the fact that I hadn’t trained in over a month because of my knee, I’d say I did as well as I could have.

Happy girls!

After the race, we got our bags, snacks and free beer in Other Half pint glasses, and hung out on the grass for a bit.

moab the other half

It was a great finishers’ area. I’d never had beer after a race before, and although it’s nice that they had it, beer was not exactly what I wanted. And this is coming from a major beer lover! All I wanted was Gatorade. Luckily they had that too :)

So now I am back in Salt Lake, hobbling around and looking ridiculous… and already wondering whether I’d be able to run the Canyonlands Half Marathon in Moab in March. Of course I won’t let myself – remember how I promised myself I wouldn’t race for a year? – but the point is, I think I’m hooked.

Thanks to Nate and my family for all their long-distance support! And of course to Jacquey, Madelyn, Amy, Janelle and Carlee for making this such a fun trip.

The Other Half – I’ll see you again next year!

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