Quinoa Salad

I was craving some healthy food for dinner tonight after I cooked the frozen cinnamon rolls from my cinnamon rolling post.  I’ll just say that I may have had more than two…

…with cream cheese icing this time.

Anyways, this quinoa salad is something I made a couple of times in the hostel kitchens in South America because it’s super simple!  The only cooking involved is boiling the quinoa and chopping the vegetables!

The portions I used in this salad are:

1/4 of a yellow bell pepper
2 scallions
1 roma tomato
1/2 of a cucumber
1 clove of garlic
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/3 cup quinoa, uncooked

Here are the diced vegetables.

While I was dicing the veggies, the quinoa was simmering. 

The water to quinoa ratio is 2:1. Sometimes I have to add a little bit more water, but 2:1 will work 95% of the time.  It should take about 15 minutes to cook.  Make sure to add a dash of salt to the quinoa while it is cooking!

Toss the veggies with the lemon juice and once the quinoa is done and cooled, add it to the vegetables.  I had to add a touch more lemon juice after I added the quinoa.

You can serve this salad with anything!  Tonight I made a falafel pattie.  You can get great falafel mixes in the store or make them yourself from scratch with cooked chickpeas!

Quick tip about cooking falafel patties.  Typically they’re deep fried but you can get away with pan frying them if you use enough oil.  this 2-inch patty took about a tablespoon.  I know oil is scary and fatty, but just pick a healthy one and embrace it!

This dinner made me feel great after a slightly indulgent day ;).

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Huevos Rancheros!

So this morning, I woke up and I realized that I had some ground beef that needed to be used.  Since I work at night for the next 3 nights, I figured it would have to become breakfast!

What I did, was turn my family’s taco salad dinner into my own version of huevos rancheros!  So really I just replaced the lettuce with scrambled eggs ;).

Here’s the ridiculously long, but simple, ingredients list:

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 can chili beans
1/4 of an onion
2 cloves of garlic
1-2 pasilla peppers
1/2 T onion powder
1/2 T garlic powder
2 T chili powder
2 T cumin
1 T dried oregano
Salt to taste
Sour cream
Shredded cheese
Eggs
Salsa
Corn chips

I started out with two cloves of chopped garlic and 1/4 of a chopped onion.

I started browning the ground beef over medium heat and after a few minutes, added the onions and garlic.

Once the onions are translucent, add the spices and 1/4 cup of water.

While the beef simmered, I started roasting the pasilla pepper.  It’s simple if you have a gas stove.  Just turn a burner onto high heat and roast the pepper until it is all black and blistered.

To make it easier to peel, put the pepper into a paper or plastic bag to let it steam.

While that sat, I added the chili beans to the beef, so that the beans could warm up before everything was ready.

Last were the scrambled eggs and I have found an amazing trick for making scrambled eggs that aren’t dry! Honestly, I just don’t like eggs a whole lot, but if I can get my hands on well seasoned, moist scrambled eggs, I’m all in!

Instead of just adding a splash of milk, also add a couple of teaspoons of sour cream per egg!

And cook the eggs over low heat! Good scrambled eggs take a little while to cook!

While the eggs cook, peel the pepper and cut it open to deseed it.

The roasted skin should rub off pretty easily.  It’s messy, but the smokey chile flavor is unbeatable!

Use your knife to scrape out the seeds and the membrane, but a word to the wise: wash your hands afterwards!!

Add the diced pepper to the beef.

Finally, I put it all together :D.

My favorite part of my mom’s taco salad was the crushed chips on top. So, I topped it with crushed corn chips, sour cream, salsa, and cheese!  And some chopped cilantro!

Honestly, this took forever to make!  I’m always hungry as soon as I wake up, so I was starving by the end of it, but now I’ve got some pretty great leftovers for taco salad or huevos rancheros!!  And you could easily do all of the cooking the day before if you’re a ravenous breakfast eater like me.

The Best Salsa I Ever Made

I made the best salsa the other day.  Well, the best salsa I’ve ever made.  Which actually isn’t saying a lot. I don’t make amazing salsa, which has frustrated me multiple times, but it never will again.  Because now I can make this roasted tomatillo salsa from Tyler Florence.

It was surprisingly awesome and not as spicy as you might think a salsa with 2 jalapeños might be.

Also this was my first ever experience working with tomatillos!  Best tip I learned: if any of the husks aren’t coming off easily, use running warm water or a bowl of warm water to help get them off.

The Ingredients:

1 pound husked tomatillos
1 white onion
2 jalapeños
4 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 tsp cumin
Juice of 1/2 of one lime
Salt to taste

Roast the first four ingredients at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes. This take almost all of the heat out of the jalapeños, so don’t worry about two of them going into this salsa.

Put the roasted ingredients and any juices into a food processor with the rest of the ingredients. Pulse until the salsa is blended to your desired consistency.

This stuff blew Jesse and I away. We made some chicken enchiladas with these that I’ll have to post some info on on a later date, but for now go buy some tomatillos and make this salsa!

40 Days in South America – Peru

What did you guys do for Thanksgiving? I was here!

It’s Cochamo Valley in Chile!  But this was the end of our trip ;). I’ll start at the beginning…

On October 23rd I took off for Peru, Chile, and Argentina!  This is what the road trip ultimately looked like.

Over 4,000 miles! We flew into Lima to start our journey and all we knew for sure was that I needed to be in Santiago, Chile by November 30th to fly home.

The start in Peru: our main goal was Macchu Pichu. We figured if you’re in South America, Macchu Pichu has to be a part of it.  Lima is the most affordable place to fly into, so we spent a few days there to get our bearings. If you go to Lima you must have ceviche!  Right on the coast, the seafood here is super fresh!

On the way to Cuzco we stopped in Arequipa.

We met a couple of locals and got to go to a nearby climbing area.

The taxi dropped us off, but since it was out of the way, we had to hoof it back to the nearest town to get a taxi back to the hostel…

In Arequipa, we tried to book our train ride up to the Machu Picchu ruins so that we’d be ready to go when we got there.  The girl at the hostel was nice enough to make a call to someone for us. We thought we were good to go, but as we were about to find out, Machu Picchu was not going to go according to plan…

Señor Gregorio was to meet us at the bus station in Cuzco, so that he could get us to the train station in time for our ride up to Aguas Calientes at the base of the ruins. Señor Gregorio had a different plan.

He had booked us on a much more complicated trip that involved quite a few more tours (more $ in his pocket conveniently).  In the end, we ended up sticking around Cuzco for an extra day to sort out a new plan.

While we were stuck in Cuzco, we checked out a market.   Here’s picture of the potato isle!  Peru has one of the largest varieties of potatos in the world :P.

Anyways…at this point our only affordable option to Machu Picchu was a crazy 6 hour van trip up the winding roads of the Andes that dropped us off a 2 hour hike short of Aguas Calientes!

So we hiked the last 2 hours along the train tracks arriving in the town at dark.

Once in town, we realized that only one person in our group knew where we were supposed to meet the tour crew at this end of the train tracks.  This person, of course, was nowhere to be found!!  After 20 minutes of nervous chatter about how on earth we could reconcile this disaster of a “tour”, the girl who knew the name of the meeting spot showed up!  

At this point the trip’s disorganization and randomness was laughable.  Fortunately, most of us still had a sense of humor and we all got a hot meal and a bed at a hostel so that we could get ready to go see the ruins the next day!

Laughing off/venting about the events of the previous few days, we set out for the 1 hour hike straight up! You could ride a shuttle bus for a fee here, but we decided that money would be better spent on a meal later on.

We started before the sun came up so that we could beat some of the tourist madness at the top, and it paid off!  These pictures at the beginning of the day hardly have any tourists running around in the background, unlike the pictures taken later on in the day!

Fun fact: domesticated llamas inhabit the ruins ;).

Señor Darcy was our tour guide and he was quite a treat compared to the tourist runaround we had encountered so far!

He had loads of great information and made it all very entertaining and engaging!  Our favorite anecdote from the day came from our llama education. “They are great pack animals, but if you put more that 15 kilos on a llama, you may as well pick up the llama and carry him too!”  Thank you Señor Darcy!

At the end of this day, we met back up with our ragtag tour group and set back off for Cuzco. This time we got to ride a train back to the point that the van had dropped us off at the day before.

The van ride was total torture on the way down for me.  Let me just say that this trip is not recommended for anyone who is susceptible to motion sickness!

We had actually booked an overnight train to Puno in order to escape the clutches of the certifiably insane Señor Gregorio ASAP, alas we missed that bus and spent one more evening in Cuzco and hopped on the bus in the morning…

….a colorful view from the bus window.

The next morning we took off for our last stop in Peru: Lake Titicaca!

Puno is the hub on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca.  The main attraction here is the Uros Islands, which are floating islands that the natives have inhabited for centuries.  They build the islands with reeds and anchor them to the nearest part of shore.  They originallystarted building these islands in order to avoid the invading spanish.  Now it’s more touristy than ever, but it was still an interesting boat ride!

After our stop in Puno, we took off for Argentina!  I’ll continue this post at a later date though, or this could take you hours to get through!

First Time Cinnamon Roller

I am a first time cinnamon roller.

Or I was…

I had had my fair share of cinnamon rolls from the can in the refrigerated isle and I’ve even had some really good frozen ones, but lately I’ve been wanting to try making them from scratch.  And making things from scratch and making your boyfriend wait until 11 am for breakfast is just fun :D.

Yes, this took 3 hours and , yes, it was totally worth it.  I got the recipe from Pioneer Woman, because my friend Mal recommended it a while back.

Here’s my version of her version. It’s a bit different because I like to use rapid rise yeast.

First the ingredients list.

  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 package rapid rise yeast
  • 4 cups flour plus 1/2 cup of flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • lots of melted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • cinnamon for sprinkling

Start by putting the oil, milk, and sugar into a saucepan on the stove.  Scald this mixture by heating it until it is about to boil and then removing it from the heat.  Mine started to foam on top just before I removed it.

Let this mixture cool until it is at the proper temperature for the yeast you are using.  Mine instructs me to use liquids at a temperature between 120 and 130 degrees.

In the mean time, I mixed together the yeast and the flour in a warm kitchen aid mixer bowl (a warm bowl is important, especially if you’re in a cold log home!).  I added the warm liquids and mixed it with the paddle attachment.

I covered this mixture and let it sit for 10 minutes before continuing with the recipe.  With rapid rise yeast, this 10 minutes replaces the first rise in a double rise recipe. 

After that mixture sat, I added the last 1/2 cup of flour as well as the baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

This round of mixing was done with the dough hook.  I let it go on speed 2 until a dough ball formed and started to clean the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough ball out onto a floured surface and roll it out to 1/4 inch.  Mine was about 2 feet by 10 inches! 

Drizzle the melted butter onto the rolled out dough.  Be generous here.  You want enough butter to soak up lots of the cinnamon and sugar. 

Spread the melted butter (I used my hands) and then sprinkle a hefty amount of cinnamon onto the dough until you have it covered and then sprinkle about 1/2 cup sugar on top of that.

Roll this mixture up from a long side.  Don’t worry if the cinnamon sugar mess is oozing around, just keep rolling…

…until you end up with way more cinnamon roll than you realized you were getting into ;).

Get out your knife and start cutting!  I cut mine into 1/2 inch thick rolls. 

The cutting will “smoosh” the dough but just gently reshape them to be round as you pick them up.  If you want a stiffer dough, refrigerate it before you roll it out.

Now, put some rolls (or all of the rolls, if you’re feeding an army) into baking tins and let ’em rise!  I let mine rise for 1 hour in a warmed oven.  I preheat  oven to 170 and then turn it off for this purpose.

Here are the rolls that I froze for a later date.

Bake your rolls at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes.

These probably could have baked for one minute less.  You’re looking for a golden brown on top. 

I’m an irresponsible blogger and didn’t take any pictures of the icing, but I put a twist on the pioneer woman’s maple icing.  I subbed in almond extract for an almond flavored icing.  The adapted recipe is:

  • 1/2 bag powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons of brewed coffee
  • pinch of salt

Mix all of the ingredients until smooth.  This makes enough icing for all of these rolls, so if you’re freezing some rolls, you’ll want to halve this recipe so that you don’t have too much icing. 

Make sure that you let the rolls cool for at least 5 minutes before you ice and devour.

Jesse and polished off all but 3 of these.  I can’t say I regretted it….

One Skillet Dinner

Ingredients.

Plus garlic.

And white wine. I forgot those two, but I was hungry…

Ingredients in the pan.

Ingedrients cooked up and served!

This dinner was crazy simple. 

Ingredients:
1/4 cup white wine
6 oz. mushrooms
1 roma tomato
1 chicken breast
1/2 of a lemon
herbs of choice
1 tbsp butter
olive oil

I coarse chopped the mushrooms, garlic, and tomato and mixed them in a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil, dried rosemary (fresh would’ve been way better, but you work with what you’ve got), the juice of one half of one lemon, said juiced lemon, and some diced chicken breast.  I also put some pieces of butter on top.

Then I preheated the oven to 450 degrees. I never remember to do that beforehand…

Of course, you can adjust this recipe to your taste.  Instead of chicken, I was going to make some mini meatballs, but I decided cutting up a chicken breast was easier.  If you don’t like tomatoes, don’t use tomatoes.  If you only have red wine on hand, give it a whirl.  If you want pasta, toss it with your favorite shape instead of spinach.  Honestly, in hind sight, I would have wilted the spinach in the pan.  You get the point.

Anyways, glad to post a savory dish for a change where flour wasn’t the main ingredient ;).  Enjoy!

Gnocchi Day

Potato skins and hashbrowns aren’t the only thing you can do with leftover baked potatoes people!  Little did you know, you could be making gnocchi!! 

The restaurant I work in always has a lot of leftover baked potatoes at the end of the night, so I grabbed some and took them home the other day! Usually I just use them to make hashbrowns in the morning, but I’ve never tried to make gnocchi before and I thought it would be a fun way to spend a cloudy, cold Saturday. 

 

The ingredient list is super simple:

2 pounds of baked potatoes

1 1/2 cups of flour

1 egg

salt and pepper

That’s it!  First, I used a food processor to mash the potatoes (because I don’t have a potato ricer) and then I dumped the processed potatoes onto a cookie sheet, but you can use any clean surface. 

An important note about this picture: these potatoes were not processed enough :P.  My first batch of gnocchi was still grainy.  But let’s just go with the flow and pretend I did this right…

Next whisk your egg and mix it just slightly into the potatoes.  Add salt and pepper and 1 cup of the flour.  Mix with your hands by folding it in half repeatedly without kneading or overworking the dough.  When the flour starts to incorporate add the last 1/2 cup of flour, and keep working the dough until it is smooth.  Just don’t go too crazy and or your gnocchi will come out tough!

That was my first batch.  Like I said, after I shaped these gnocchi and boiled them I realized the potatoes had not been mashed enough, so the gnocchis were grainy.  Since the dough was already a loss at this point, I went for broke and took a big risk by putting the dough into the food processor!  Normally, making gnocchi in a food processor would result in tough gnocchis, however, I had been super cautious and afraid of overworking the dough earlier, so I got this nice dough ball out of it!

When I rolled this out, the dough was much smoother.

Once you roll out a portion of the dough to a 1/2 inch, cut them into ~3/4 inch sections. 

At first I was trying to wing it, marking the gnocchi with a fork (yeah, that’s those little retarded guys directly above….), but then I looked up a video on YouTube and saw the real way to do it.  Here’s a helpful link.

I boiled these up and they were great!  I had a leftover pesto that I tossed them with. 

 Then I took these made over potatoes back to work for my dinner!