Sunday, January 19, 2014

Quinoa and Kale Salad: Learning to love a superfood

I was never a quinoa fan. I'd tried it several places - at a certain high-end organic food store, at a restaurant, on my own... and I couldn't seem to find taste in the blandly curling seeds. And then, this summer, friends of mine made quinoa burgers, and they were... good. Really good. Good enough to make me reconsider my anti-quinoa stance and try cooking it again. Burgers, salads, and breakfasts later, I have my own quinoa recipe, one that I like to use when I'm feeling a need to eat something satisfying, gluten-free, and virtuously delicious. Depending on how hungry you are, the recipe makes about 6-8 servings as a side dish and 3-4 servings as a main dish.

Quinoa and Kale Salad with Oranges and Feta

1 cup uncooked white or ivory quinoa
1 onion
1 bunch of kale (7-8 big leaves)
2-3 oranges
3/4 cup of feta, crumbled
1 tsp olive oil

1 tbsp and 1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp citrus fruit flavored balsamic vinegar or fresh squeezed lemon juice (about half a lemon)
Sea salt

1. Make the quinoa according to the package's directions. Generally, that means rinsing the quinoa, bringing it to a boil in a pot of salted water (trust me on the salt here - add it even if the directions don't tell you to), and then letting it simmer for about 15 minutes.

2. Dice the onion, then cut the kale up like so: fold the leaf over so that the spine is on one side, and the leaf-ends match up. Cut the stem off, then, working perpendicular to the stem-line, slice the kale in ribbons.

3. Saute the onion for 5-7 minutes, then add the kale for another 4-5 minutes. The onion should be translucent and the kale should be a jewel-tone green.

4. As the onion and kale cook, slice the orange like this: slice off the top and bottom of the orange. Moving around in a circle, cut off the skin and the pith (white part right under the skin) in strips. If you want to get fancy, "supreme" the orange: make a cut right next to the white membrane, then move your knife over and make a cut just inside the next membrane (for a nicely coherent instruction guide with excellent demonstration pictures, take a look at How to Supreme an Orange). Slice the supremed slices in 3-4 chunks.

5. Mix the vinaigrette - olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice, and sea salt to taste.

6. Combine the cooked quinoa, onions, kale, oranges, and feta cheese. Season with vinaigrette, adding more olive oil, vinegar/juice, or salt as needed, and stir.

7. Eat and feel super for chowing down on a superfood.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup: a meal for a cozy winter evening

As I write this, the temperature is dipping into the teens, then the "zeros," the coldest winter night I can remember, and all I want is something warm, filling, and post-holiday healthy-ish to carry me through the freezing night. Look no further, frozen friends, for I have a root vegetable soup hearty enough to sustain you, packed full of all those vitamins and minerals we seem to lack through the cold months. It's sweet, savory, and utterly satisfying.

Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup
serves 4-6


3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced in large chunks
2 small leeks, white parts only, washed well and sliced
1 onion, diced

1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil
1 cup of white wine
4-6 cups of chicken or vegetable stock

1/2 teaspoon of paprika (or more, if you love the flavor)
dash of cayenne
salt to taste
juice of half a lime (optional)

to top the soup:
cashews or peanuts
plain yogurt


1. Prep work: peel the sweet potatoes and carrots, and chop them into large chunks.  Dice the onion. Wash the leeks thoroughly and slice them.

2. In a soup pot on medium-high heat setting, heat the butter or olive oil. Add the vegetables and a dash of salt, and saute for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables begin to smell fragrant.

3. Add the wine, and let the vegetables braise for 3-4 minutes more.

4. Add the chicken stock (more for a thinner soup, less for a thicker soup), stir everything around, turn the heat to medium, set a timer for 30 minutes, and come back and check if the vegetables are tender when the timer dings. Let it cook a little longer if the sweet potatoes are not easily pierced by a fork.

5. Dash in the spices: paprika, cayenne, lime juice (if using), and more salt to taste. Stir it all up.

6. With a handheld blender or working in batches with a food processor, blend the soup to the consistency you find appealing - I like a thick soup with a vibrant orange color, but have found that if I misjudge consistency, I can add a little more stock at the end of the cooking time and thin out the soup.

7. While you are blending, melt some more butter in a small frying pan. Pop the cashews or peanuts in there, sprinkle with salt, and get the nuts nice and toasty (about 3-4 minutes).

8. Soup in the bowl, yogurt on top, cashews on top of that, a dash of paprika, and you are all set to serve.