Red Quinoa and Mushroom Pilaf

red quinoa mushroom pilaf

Red Quinoa and Mushroom Pilaf
Serves 2
Can be doubled | Can be halved | Makes great leftovers | Can be frozen

Most people are familiar with quinoa, but have you tried red quinoa? It’s beautiful to behold, and keeps a delightfully firm texture when cooked, compared to the more common “pale” variety. Quinoa is an unusually complete plant-based protein source as it contains a balanced set of essential amino acids. It’s gluten-free, and lower in carbohydrates than other whole grains, which makes it a great choice for anyone watching their carbohydrate intake. I usually cook quinoa with onions, carrots and celery (always sneaking in more vegetables whenever I can). Here, the addition of mushrooms,  green peas and fresh parsley add nice color and texture contrasts and extra layers of flavors. This pilaf recipe works equally well as homey comfort food or a gourmet side dish.     ~ Susan

Ingredients:

1 cup of uncooked red quinoa
1 tablespoon olive oil, butter or ghee
1/4 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrot
1 cup sliced mushrooms (button, crimini, shiitake, maitake, chanterelle, etc.)
1/2 cup frozen baby peas or fresh green peas
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or seasoned salt (I love Herbamare) – more or less to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley and/or scallions

Instructions:

Soak quinoa for few hours, covered in water, with a few drops of vinegar or lemon juice added. Soaking in water removes saponins found on the surface of quinoa, while the addition of vinegar or lemon helps deactivate the phytates found in many whole grains (which can block mineral absorption in the intestines). Just put it in a bowl to soak in the morning before work, leave it on the counter, and at dinner time all you need to do is drain and rinse before cooking. Or, soak it overnight to use for breakfast.

Thaw baby green peas to room temperature or cook fresh green peas just until bright green and tender. Set aside.

Heat a medium sized soup pot over med-high heat. Add oil and onion and sautee onion until it is very lightly browned.

Add celery and carrot and sautee one minute more.

Add rinsed and drained quinoa to the pot along with 1 3/4 cups water and the salt. Cover, reduce heat to low and let cook 7-8 minutes.

Add mushrooms, stir to combine, cover and continue cooking on low for another 5 minutes, or until all water is absorbed.

Stir in the peas along with the chopped parsley/scallions just before serving.

Serving Suggestions:

A perfect side dish for simply cooked chicken or tofu.

Try it topped with soft poached eggs! Divine.

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Ultimate Vegetable Salad with Lemon Mustard Dressing


Ultimate Vegetable Salad with Lemon Mustard Dressing
Serves 1 to 2
Can be Doubled| Can be Halved

Any who knows me well knows that I start off nearly every dinner with a big plate of salad. I try to get as many different vegetables as I can in there with as many different colors. It looks pretty, is loaded with vitamins and because I try and buy the highest quality produce I can, it tastes pretty darn good too. I find a good salad very satisfying, and if I go for a few days without having one, I find myself craving it. I’ve experimented with different dressings, but this one is a staple. You can make a bigger batch and store it in a container in the fridge to use all week long.     ~Shivani

Ingredients for Salad:

1 head of endive, individual leaves torn
1 cup of chopped radicchio
1 cup of chopped red leaf lettuce
1 cup of chopped butter lettuce (also known as Boston lettuce)
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1/2 red pepper, cut into thin slices
1/2 orange pepper, cut into strips and then chopped
1/2 bulb fennel, chopped
1 small tomato, chopped or 3 to 4 cocktail tomatoes chopped

Ingredients for Dressing:

the juice of two lemons
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

For the salad:

Arrange the endive leaves around a large plate, layer with lettuces and then vegetables.

For the dressing:

Whisk together lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper.

Add in olive oil in a slow stream and blend well.

Serving Suggestions:

This salad is an ideal starter or side dish for any meal. To make it a meal in and of itself, top it with some form of protein such as a grilled chicken breast, can of tuna, grilled tofu, 1/2 cup of your favorite bean or two fried eggs.

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Spinach Salad with Grilled Chicken, Goat Cheese, Spiced Pecans & Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette

Spinach Salad with Grilled Chicken, Goat Cheese, Spiced Pecans and Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette

Spinach Salad with Grilled Chicken, Goat Cheese, Spiced Pecans & Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette
Serves 2
Can be doubled | Can be halved | Vegetarian Substitutes

Sweet, tart, savory, tangy, earthy, it’s all in there, and good for you too. The fig balsamic dressing will knock your socks off – so rich and creamy it’s hard to believe there’s only a tablespoon of oil in the whole batch! When you combine it with the other textures and flavors in this eye-catching composed salad, it’s really worth the steps it takes to get the finished dish on the plate. And truly, each step is easy and quick. If you’re pressed for time or like to prep things in advance, this is a great recipe to have on hand. Grilled chicken breast keeps for days in the fridge, as does the dressing and the spiced nuts when stored in airtight containers. Another time saver – buy crumbled goat cheese so that when you’re ready to serve you can put it all together in a snap.   ~ Susan

Ingredients:

1 boneless skinless chicken breast – sliced into 2 cutlets
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
4-5 cups baby spinach leaves

1/3 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar
2 teaspoons warm water
1/4 teaspoon each sea salt & ground black pepper

1 dried turkish fig, chopped into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup water
sea salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste

Instructions:

Chicken: Brush the chicken cutlets lightly with olive oil, season with salt & pepper and grill just until cooked throughout. Cool and slice on the diagonal into thin slices.

Pecans: In a small bowl stir together the honey, water, salt & pepper. Toss the nuts well to coat in the mixture and toast in a 300F oven for just a few minutes, until lightly toasted. Set aside to cool. Time saver – use parchment paper on the baking sheet to make cleanup a non-issue.

Dressing: Put the chopped fig, balsamic and red wine vinegars, honey or agave nectar and water into the blender, cover and blend until nicely emusified. Add more water if you want it thinner. Season to taste with sea salt & plenty of fresh ground pepper and blend again.

Compose the salad: Arrange a bed of spinach leaves on 2 plates, top artfully with the chicken slices, crumbled goat cheese and spiced pecans. Serve the dressing on the side so each person can drizzle as much as they like.

Serving Suggestions:

Warm or toasted whole grain bread makes a nice accompaniment. If you’re really hungry, add a cup of soup too – carrot ginger, butternut squash, or mushroom soup would be good choices.

Substitutions:

Try ripe pear slices in place of the chicken breast, it’s fantastic!

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My Mother’s Gobi

My Mother’s Gobi (Indian Cauliflower)
Serves 2 to 3
Can be Doubled| Makes Great Leftovers

It’s a treat for me to have my mother’s cooking. Since I only get to have it every few months, she always makes whatever I request. No matter what else I ask her to cook, this gobi is always part of the menu. It’s my absolute favorite Indian vegetarian dish, and unlike a lot of versions which use onions and tomatoes, the beauty of her version is its simplicity. Indian cooks never have recipes for their creations since they cook by feel, but I’ve watched my mom make this so many times now and have a version that is pretty close to hers. The secret is the addition of a Bengali five-spice mix called punch pudan which is blend of mustard, nigella, fenugreek, fennel and cumin seeds. You can blend the seeds together and make it yourself, buy it from any Indian store or online from Kalustyan’s. I’m not a big fan of filling my cabinets with unnecessary spices, but this one is worth your while since you can also use it in many other Indian dishes. So mom, this recipe is in honor of you. I don’t have your hand, but I’ve done my best imitation!     ~Shivani

Ingredients:

1 head of cauliflower cut into bite-size florets
2 to 3 tablespoons of punch pudan (see note above)
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoons cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder (optional)
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons of canola or olive oil
Salt, to taste
Cilantro for garnish (optional)

Instructions:

Heat oil in a medium size non-stick pan over medium to high heat.

Add in cauliflower, spices, salt and water.

Mix well, cover and cook on medium until done (around 20 minutes). Gobi should be soft but not overly mushy.

Top with cilantro.

Serving Suggestions:

Gobi can be scooped up with a whole wheat or brown rice tortilla. For protein, go for any style of lentil, tandoori chicken or spiced fish fillet. Susan’s channa masala from last week is the perfect pairing.

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Channa Masala (spiced chickpeas)

low fat channa masala recipe

Channa Masala (spiced chickpeas)
Serves 3-4
Can be doubled | Can be halved | Makes great leftovers | Freezes well

I’ve recently begun cooking for a new client who was born and raised in India. We met when he and his wife came to our weekend dinner bistro and he tried my yellow lentil dal as an appetizer. He commented that it was “very authentic without being too rich or oily”. It was a slow evening in the cafe so we got to talking about my training in Indian cooking. Next thing you know, we’re all exchanging contact information and three days later I made my first batch of foods for them. I prepared six different Indian dishes – one of which was this channa masala – they all got rave reviews! When I cook Indian foods, I keep the traditional techniques in mind, but always go lighter in fat than what a traditional version would contain. This is my all-time favorite channa masala, I’ve made so many variations over the years, and now I’m done experimenting. This is my keeper! This recipe uses canned chickpeas for a quick prep time, but it’s equally good made with with 1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight, drained, cooked until tender and then added to the recipe.  ~ Susan

Ingredients:

2 cans chickpeas – rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or ghee (Indian clarified butter)
1/4 teaspoon hing (also called asafoetida, at Asian/Indian markets)
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons besan (also called gram flour*, it’s actually chickpea flour)
4 large roma tomatoes – pureed in food processor or blender
2 teaspoons finely grated ginger (I use a microplane)
1 medium jalapeno pepper – seeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne – more or less to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon sea salt – more or less to taste
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
fresh tomatoes, red onion and cilantro for garnish

* Not to be confused with ‘graham’ flour – they’re 2 different things. You can make your own besan by putting a handful of dried chickpeas in a clean coffee grinder and grinding them into a fine powder. Strain powder through a fine mesh strainer to sort out the bigger pieces and use the fine powder in your recipe.

Instructions:

Heat the oil in a little pool in a large skillet or soup pot.

Add the hing and cumin seeds to the pool of oil and let them sizzle for a few seconds, then sprinkle the besan (chickpea flour) into the pool of oil and let it cook just until lightly toasted (a few more seconds is all you’ll need).

Add the pureed tomato, ginger, jalapeno, turmeric, cayenne and coriander, stir together and cook over medium high heat until the mixture reduces by half.

Add the chickpeas, sea salt and the water, stir, reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Uncover, turn off heat, sprinkle in the garam masala and stir well to combine all the flavors.

Use a potato masher or the back of a large wooden spoon to mash about a third of the chickpeas.

Serve garnished with the fresh tomatoes, chopped red onion and cilantro.

Serving Suggestions:

Make an easy meal of channa masala by serving with brown rice or a traditional Indian flatbread such as roti, naan, or chapati, along with some tasty chutney (there are so many great all-natural jarred varieties, pick up a few varieties and keep them in the pantry until you need them, they last forever in the fridge) and a chopped cucumber salad dressed with yogurt and a pinch of salt.

If you’re avoiding grains, serve a simple mash of potatoes and cauliflower in place of the brown rice/bread. I frequently do this for us at home and we love it!

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Asian Style Shrimp and Scallop Medley

Asian Style Shrimp and Scallop Medley
2 -3 servings
Can be doubled| Can be halved

We just returned from two amazing weeks in Africa, and Tess surprised us with this welcome home meal. It’s a recipe she makes often for her and her husband, and she has been promising to make it for us one day.  Last week, that day finally came! It’s a snap to put together, and even though it’s free of any spices, it’s still flavor packed thanks to the generous amounts of ginger, garlic and green chili. The lemon takes out the fishy taste of the shellfish and also help give the sauce a tasty little gravy, and the butter adds a touch of indulgence. We ate ours over a bed of brown rice and a side of steamed baby bok choy. I’m already craving it again so it will likely be part of our menu in the next week.     ~Shivani

Ingredients:

1/2 pound scallops
1/2 pound extra-large shrimp, peeled (it’s okay to leave the tails on)
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon of minced ginger
1 tablespoon of butter
1 teaspoon of minced green chili (optional)
the juice of one lemon
salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Melt the butter over medium heat in a non-stick pan

Add in garlic, scallions and ginger and saute until slightly brown (around 1 to 2 minutes)

Add in shrimp, scallops, salt, pepper, the juice of the lemon and chili pepper

Cook until done (maybe 5 to 6 minutes- take care not overcook the seafood)

Serving Suggestions:

This dish is great over brown or white rice or soba noodles. For a side dish, try an Asian style vegetable such as steamed bok choy, Chinese cabbage sauteed with a little canola oil and minced garlic or sliced shitake mushrooms sauteed in canola oil and garlic.

Vegetarian Substitutes:

Cubed extra-firm or firm tofu would also make for a tasty recipe. Freeze the tofu for 20 minutes before cutting for a slightly meatier texture.

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Shredded Chicken and Cabbage Salad Dressed with Nuoc Nam

vietnamese chicken cabbage salad

Shredded Chicken and Cabbage Salad Dressed with Nuoc Nam
2 – 3 generous servings
Can be doubled | Can be halved | Makes great leftovers
Vegetarian substitutes

This is my re-creation of the same dish served at Van’s, our favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Albany, NY. It’s another fantastic no-oil recipe to add to your collection. Yeah right, a delicious salad with no oil?  Seriously, trust me.  When you’ve got nuoc nam as the dressing, all you need is a garnish of chopped peanuts and you’re all set. We love this salad for spring and summer, it’s crunchy and satisfying with fresh, vibrant flavors. Even when Scott and I are the only two at the dinner table I always make a whole batch – leftovers make a great lunch the following day. You’ll probably end up with some extra nuoc nam, which is a good thing! It keeps very well in the fridge and you’ll no doubt find yummy uses for it, I mention a few ideas below.     ~ Susan

Ingredients – Nuoc Nam Sauce:

2 cloves garlic – minced
3 tablespoons sugar, sucanat or agave nectar
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
½ cup warm water
6 tablespoons fish sauce (or soy sauce)
optional – ½ teaspoon hot chile flakes or hot chile sauce, or a few slices of fresh hot chiles

Mix all sauce ingredients together until the sugar or sucanat is completely dissolved. Store in a jar in the fridge. This is a great marinade for meats, chicken, fish, shrimp, tofu….

Ingredients – For the salad:

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts – each sliced in half to make 2 cutlets
4 cups very thinly sliced green cabbage (or buy pre-shredded cabbage in the grocery store)
½ cup fresh basil leaves – torn into bite size pieces
1 cup coarsely shredded or julienned carrots
½ cup thinly sliced red onions
1/4 cup finely chopped peanuts for garnish

Instructions:

Poach the chicken cutlets for a few minutes (no more than 5) or until just cooked throughout. Remove them from poaching water and set on a plate to cool to room temperature. You can save poaching water in the fridge or freezer to use as a future soup or sauce base.

When chicken is cooled, slice each cutlet in half to make two long strips, and shred the meat with your fingers.

Meanwhile assemble your other ingredients.

Place the cabbage, basil leaves, carrots and onions in a large mixing bowl.

Add shredded chicken.

Toss mixture with just enough nuoc nam sauce to flavor the dish to your liking. Let mixture sit for 10 minutes and stir once more.

Garnish each serving with a sprinkle of chopped peanuts.

Serving Suggestions:

This salad is great served atop a big lettuce leaf with a side of warm rice vermicelli simply seasoned with a little soy sauce (I use wheat-free tamari to keep it gluten-free). Or if you’ve got the time and inclination, summer rolls filled with sauteed mushrooms, cilantro and rice vermicelli are a great accompaniment too. Dip the rolls in nuoc nam or a little soy sauce mixed with fresh lime juice.

Vegetarian Substitutes:

Shredded seitan would work instead of chicken. And you can substitute soy sauce for the fish sauce.

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Spicy Tuna Fish Cakes

Spicy Tuna Fish Cakes
Serves 2 to 3
Can be doubled| Can be halved| Makes great leftovers

How do you jazz up a plain old can of tuna? Forget the obvious mayo loaded tuna salad, and try these fish cakes instead. They are loaded with Asian flavors such as ginger, chili paste, cilantro and scallions which make wonders of a pantry staple. Pulsing the tuna in a food processor adds an extra step to another wise quick creation, but this helps the cakes bind together easier and means you can omit using breadcrumbs. You can also put the cakes together the day before, let them sit in the fridge and cook them just before you’re ready to eat. After trying these, you’ll never look at tuna the same way again.     ~Shivani

Ingredients:

2 cans tuna packed in water, preferably without salt (I love Whole Foods 365 brand)
1 teaspoon of grated ginger
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili paste with garlic
1/2 bunch of thinly sliced scallions
1 egg white, gently beaten
1 handful of chopped cilantro
salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Blend all of the ingredients together in a food processor.

Form cakes out of the mixture. You should be able to get four generous sized cakes.

Use cooking spray and pan fry on medium to high heat for 10 minutes or until cakes are warmed through and lightly browned or bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 10 minutes or until cakes are warmed through and browned.

Serving Suggestions:

My recipe for broccoli brown rice is the perfect pairing for this dish since it is also rich in Asian flavors. You can also serve these over greens tossed in a light sesame dressing or tuck inside a whole wheat pita for a tasty sandwich.

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Shrimp alla Puttanesca

low fat shrimp alla puttanesca recipe

Shrimp Alla Puttanesca
Serves 2
Can be doubled | Can be halved | Makes great leftovers | Can be frozen
Vegetarian substitutes

This combination of flavors is one of my all-time favorites. A garlicky tomato sauce infused with the kick of hot chiles and the tang of olives and capers  – what’s not to like, really? One great thing about this dish, in addition to the “yum factor”, is that you can keep all the basic ingredients stored in the pantry so that whenever the mood strikes you’ve got exactly what you need. Then the leftover olives, capers and tomato puree which don’t get used for this batch all keep well in the fridge for future uses. The addition of shrimp to the basic sauce makes for a fantastic main dish, but if you lean toward vegetarian recipes it’s equally good without any shrimp added. Another great thing about this recipe is that it is a snap to throw together, so it’s great to have on hand for last minute dinner guests, or whenever you need good food, fast!   ~ Susan

Ingredients:

2 – 3 cups cooked large shrimp – frozen cooked shrimp (thawed) work well
1 tablespoon of olive oil
3/4 teaspoon hot red chile flakes (more or less to your liking)
2 – 3 large garlic cloves – minced
1 cup canned tomato puree (you can freeze or fridge the rest for another use)
1/2 cup kalamata olives – pitted and halved + 1 tablespoon of the olive brine
1 1/2 tablespoons brined capers + 2 teaspoons of the caper brine
sea salt – to taste
fresh parsley for garnish – optional

Instructions:

In a large skillet heat the oil over medium heat until hot.

Add the garlic and crushed red chile flakes. Let them cook for just a few seconds, until the garlic begins to sizzle.

Add the olives, capers and their brines and stir quickly to prevent the garlic from browning.

Add tomato puree  and stir well to combine all the flavors.

Add shrimp and stir, just until heated throughout.

Taste and add salt to your liking. Serve at once, garnished with a little chopped parsley.

Serving Suggestions:

A favorite way to enjoy this dish is tossed together with fine whole wheat linguini.

I also like it with boiled or mashed potatoes.

Either a big salad with a simple vinaigrette or a generous serving of steamed broccoli or broccoli rabe with a squirt of fresh lemon makes the meal complete.

Substitutes:

Vegetarian? A basic puttanesca sauce simply leaves out the shrimp. So delicious!

Calamari also works well in this recipe. Adjust cooking times as necessary.

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