Month: February 2015

lunchbox life: chinese quinoa skillet with veggies and black bean garlic sauce

image1(10)Have you ever looked inside your refrigerator and thought, “man, I really meant to use (ingredient) this week”? Sometimes life gets in the way, you have a busy week or weekend, or you simply over order for your weekly CSA box. I’m especially sensitive to making sure I use all of my produce. I absolutely hate to throw away fruit and vegetables, so when I was brainstorming for this week’s lunchbox life, I peeked into our refrigerator and saw some good looking veggies from our CSA: a bag of spinach, three broccoli crowns, and two ears of corn. I also spotted 1/2 an onion in a plastic container on the top shelf, a package of quinoa in the pantry, and some chicken breast in the freezer. Now I just needed figure out a flavor profile…Mexican? Cheesy and hearty? Asian? I saw a half full jar of Chinese black bean and garlic sauce in the refrigerator door and knew I had found my idea.

Chinese black bean sauce is this salty, earthy, garlicky, dark, thick, and gooey delight. It’s like a savory molasses, really. It’s a great mix-in for lean protein and vegetables, especially if you crisp them up in a wok or deep pan first. You could serve this with white or brown rice, but I opted to make it with quinoa for added protein and went ahead and mixed it in in the style of fried rice.

You could use many different combinations of veggies with this dish, but you should definitely use an onion to start with to give a base flavor and to soak of the seasoning from the chicken.

Chinese Quinoa Skillet with Veggies and Black Bean Garlic Sauce

1 cup dry quinoa

2 chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. ginger

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp white pepper

1/2 onion, peeled and sliced thinly

1 red bell pepper, stem and ribs removed, diced

1 Tbsp. canola oil

3 broccoli crowns, thick stems removed and torn into single stems

2 ears of corn, kernels sliced off

3 cups fresh spinach

4 Tbsp. black bean garlic sauce

Cook the quinoa according to package directions. Heat the oil in a wok or deep skillet over high heat for about 2 minutes, then add the onions and bell pepper. Season the chicken with the garlic, ginger, salt, and white pepper. When the onion and bell pepper have cooked for about 5 minutes, add the chicken and stir to combine with onion and bell pepper. Stir the chicken and veggies after about 3 minutes, then cook for about 1 more minute. Add the broccoli and corn and cook for about 2 minutes. Next, add the spinach in handfuls and stir continually while it shrinks. Add the black bean garlic sauce and stir to combine, then add the quinoa and toss throughout the vegetables and chicken. Divide evenly between five plastic containers and enjoy all week long!

tasty tuesday: shrimp etoufee

Etoufee Fin

Mardis gras… fat tuesday… tasty tuesday. Same thing.

Welcome to another installment of Alex making food New Orleans style, this time with local whole shrimp and a spicy bowl of goodness. Last time around we had some BBQ shrimp, and now its time for gumbo’s sophisticated brother etoufee. Etoufee is a creole dish (no tomatoes) made with a roux and the trinity of vegetables. Crawfish is a slightly more traditional ingredient, but shrimp is no pour substitute, especially when fresh from the GA coast courtesy of The Dirt Farmers. I might have cheated on the trinity of vegetables here, replacing bell peppers with jalapenos, but hey, I like jalapenos and spiciness and I do not like bell peppers. So there you have it.

Since it is Fat Tuesday, and on Fat Tuesday you tell the truth (usually due to insobriety, but hey), I should say that I really wanted to make etoufee because I’ve never had it before and it is embarrassing given that I was born in Jefferson Parish. Seems like I should have the taste of New Orleans seeped into my skin, but I suppose my moving to Georgia left me with more of a longing than a true appreciation. I like the place, haven’t spent a lot of time there, but like it. I like the food, though the over-reliance on bell peppers can be a turn off. Its a complicated tale filled with half-met expectations and continually growing curiosity.

But, as a dish to warm you up on a cold evening, Fat Tuesday or not, this etoufee is an expectation fully met that will leave you craving for so much more that you won’t mind missing whatever you are giving up for lent.

Shrimp Etoufee

1/2 stick butter
4 tbsp flour
Dash salt
1 large onion, chopped
2 jalapenos, seeded, ribbed, and chopped
2 stalks celery chopped
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp alt, pepper, paprika, white pepper,
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 qt shrimp stock (vegetable stock simmered with shrimp heads)
1 lb whole shrimp, peeled (leave 4 behind with heads and shells on)
1 tbsp butter
1 cup brown rice, prepared in rice cooker

Head on Shrimp
2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp red pepper flake
1/2 tsp garlic powder
dash canola oil
1 tsp vinegar
1 tbsp heavy cream.

Begin by making the shrimp stock. Cut the heads off all but 4 shrimp and add to 1 quart of vegetable stock. Bring to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes. If you are not using whole shrimp, follow the same procedure using the peels. Strain the stock into a bowl, making sure no peels/heads remain in the stock.

Shrimp Heads

Begin the rice in the rice cooker.

Begin making the roux by melting the butter in a dutch oven or heavy pot over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk into a thick paste. Lower the heat and cook at least 15 minutes until the roux has browned slightly and has an aroma like browned butter.

Stir in the veggies and cook about five minutes, until the onions begin to wilt. Add the garlic, parsley and spices. Cook an additional 2 minutes. Stir in the stock and raise the heat to medium high until the mixture begins to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes until veggies are soft and the etoufee has a gravy like texture. Stir in the headless shrimp. Keep on heat for 2 minutes while stirring and kill the heat.

Etoufee Veggies

In a separate pan, add the butter, red pepper, garlic, and vinegar. Heat until butter is melted and add the shrimp. Heat 1 minute then flip and add the cream. Heat 1 more minute and remove from heat.

Plate by placing a small amount of rice in a prep bowl and flip into a pasta bowl. Ladle the etoufee around the rice and top with two of head-one shrimp and spoon some of the spicy sauce. Enjoy and worry not about lent!

 

 

meatless monday: parsnip souffle

souffle

Well, everyone. Tonight was one of those nights. It was one of those nights where the dish just didn’t measure up. Was it good? Yes. Was it attractive? Not really. Most importantly, despite the effort and ingredients, it just did not stand up as a complete dish.

Folks, I made a side that was masquerading as a main. Nonetheless, it is still a savory, tasty souffle that most of you will enjoy. It has the fresh, spicy taste of parsnip, and creaminess of cheese, the texture and protein of souffle, and even an unusual green from the CSA (Sorrel). It was a dish I would be proud to take to a dinner party or serve at a family dinner, even if it was not a full dinner for tonight. Which is to say, I still wanted you to know about it.

Being a souffle, it is mainly a dish of stuff mixed with eggs. The stuff in this case are pureed parsnips, onions, sorrel, and cheese with respective herbs. You can mix this up in numerous ways, including adding spinach, more cheese, other aromatics, or even ham.

Parsnip Souffle (adapted from epicurious.com)

1 pound parsnips, peeled, diced
glug olive oil
Salt, pepper
2 cups water

1/2 onion, frenched
1/2 cup sorrel, chopped
olive oil

1/4 stick butter
1/8 cup olive oil
1/4 cup flour
80z sharp cheddar, grated
Salt, pepper, paprika
1 tsp chopped sage

6 eggs, separated
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

shortening to coat dish

Heat oven to 400. Saute the parsnips in a pan with olive oil and salt and pepper. Heat until it begins to caramelize then pour in water. Stir well then put in oven for 10 minutes. Remove, drain and keep 1 cup of liquid. Puree in food processor. Place mix in fridge.

Heat more oil in a sauce pan and saute the onions. Add the sorrel and saute until wilted. Remove mix from pan and set aside.

Melt butter together with oil and add flour. Whisk together for a few minutes. Add the cooking liquid and continue to whisk for about 3 minutes, until thick as gravy, but smooth. Add the onions, sorrel, parsnip mix (from fridge), cheese and sage and spices. Stir together. Remove from heat.

Mix the egg whites and cream of tarter together at medium high speed of a mixer until stiff peaks form.

Meanwhile, stir the yolks into the parsnip mix. Once the whites and finished, slowly fold them into the parsnip mix. Pour into the shortening coated square dish and bake 35-40 minutes until set and golden brown.

Finish with grated Parmesan or extra cheddar if you choose.

… serve as side.

DSCN0636
Eggs

Eggs

Peaks

Peaks

Folded together

Folded together

Ready to go.

Ready to go.

 

lunchbox life: kale and white bean enchiladas with goat cheese

image1(9)

This week’s lunch is a great example of a vegetarian high protein meal. From the kale to the white beans to the high fiber and protein tortillas, you’ve got a winner with these enchiladas.

After two weeks of salads, I decided to mix it up this week with a warm and spicy treat. The goat cheese and cilantro add a nice flair to the hearty kale, onion, and bean filling. Speaking of filling, you won’t miss the meat or large amounts of cheese from this meal because the kale and beans will keep you full all afternoon long. Enjoy!

Kale and White Bean Enchiladas with Goat Cheese

1 bunch of kale, stems removed and chopped

1 red onion, peeled, halved, and sliced into thin half moons

1 14 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 Tbsp. cumin

1 Tbsp. chili powder

1 Tbsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tsp. coriander

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

10 high fiber, low carb tortillas (I like La Tortilla Factory brand)

19 oz. can enchilada sauce

4 oz. goat cheese

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

Heat the oven to 375 F. In a large pan, heat the olive oil and spices over medium high heat. After about 1 minute, add the sliced red onion and stir to evenly combine. When the spices begin to stick to the bottom of the pan, add the apple cider vinegar to deglaze the pan and scrape up all of the spicy bits on the bottom. Let the onions cook down for about 2 more minutes, then add the kale  and toss to combine. Let the kale cook and wilt for about 2 minutes, then add the beans and toss. Turn off the heat.

In a baking dish, pour half of the enchilada sauce on the bottom. Place the tortillas in the microwave for about 20 minutes to increase pliability, then begin assembling the enchiladas. Scoop about 1/2 cup kale mixture and place in the center of the tortilla. Fold in the left and right sides, then roll up from the bottom to the top. Do this for all ten tortillas and place them close together in the baking dish. Pour the other half of the enchilada sauce over the enchiladas, then use your fingers to pinch off 1 tsp. pieces of goat cheese and evenly distribute them over the enchiladas. Bake for 30 minutes, take out of the oven, add the cilantro, then let cool for about 30 minutes before dividing them up by two in your five containers.

lunchbox life: taco salad in jars

image1(8)Oops, I did it again.

I had such a great experience with last week’s salad in a jar that I decided to give it another go, but this time, with a Mexican twist. The combinations are seriously endless with this salad in a jar method, and the prep is super easy, too.

This jar includes, from bottom to top: a cumin lime vinaigrette, shredded carrots, a sweet corn-tomato-cilantro mix, seasoned ground turkey and onion, diced cotija cheese, romaine lettuce, and crushed blue corn tortilla chips. A super healthy meal, this lunch packs a protein punch with tons of flavor and fresh veggies.

Taco Salad in Jars

1 lb. ground turkey

2 tsp. olive oil

1 small onion, halved and sliced

2 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. coriander

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 tsp. salt

juice of 1 lime

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. cumin

1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 cup shredded carrots

1/2 cup halved grape tomatoes

2 ears of corn, kernels cut off

2 tsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

4 oz. cotija cheese, small diced

20 blue tortilla chips

In a large frying pan, heat the 2 tsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, coriander, red pepper flakes, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Cook for about three minutes, then add the ground turkey, smashing to combine with the onion and spices. Heat until cooked through, then turn the heat to low.

In a small jar, shake together the rest of the cumin, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper. In a small bowl, combine the corn kernels, sliced grape tomatoes, and cilantro.

Line up the five jars and evenly divide the ingredients in the following order: dressing, shredded carrots, corn-tomato-cilantro, ground turkey, cotija cheese, lettuce, tortilla chips.