Sunday, January 12, 2014

Quinoa Bolognese

What is Quinoa?

My friend Kiley first introduced me to this foreign word back in probably 2011. Her mom, Ann, was visiting for the week and when I ventured three doors down to her condo, the two of them were elbows deep in this amazing, fresh quinoa dish. I asked what they were making and they both said "keenwah!". I was like -- what the heck is that? I tried it and loved it.

So in case you couldn't tell from my recipes, I tend to cook mostly Italian food. With that, comes tons of carbs and sugars which tend to make you lethargic and tired. Well this recipe won't do that. I haven't made much quinoa in a while, so I figured I would combine my fav bolognese sauce with quinoa instead of pasta.

Many people find quinoa to be bland, but I feel as long as you add your favorite foods and sauces, you will be a quinoa-lover in no time. It's great for A and B! For those who are unfamiliar with the benefits of quinoa, here are 7 reasons why you should be cooking and eating with quinoa as much as possible (and it's gluten free!):

1. Quinoa is one of the most protein-rich foods we can eat. It is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids.
2. Quinoa contains almost twice as much fiber as most other grains. Fiber is most widely known to relieve constipation. It also helps to prevent heart disease by reducing high blood pressure and diabetes. Fiber lowers cholesterol and glucose levels, may lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids and may help you to lose weight as it takes a longer time to chew than does other foods because it makes you feel fuller for longer and is less “energy dense” which means it has fewer calories for the same volume of food.
3. Quinoa contains Iron. Iron helps keep our red blood cells healthy and is the basis of hemoglobin formation. Iron carries oxygen from one cell to another and supplies oxygen to our muscles to aid in their contraction. Iron also increases brain function because the brain takes in about 20% of our blood oxygen. There are many benefits of iron some more of which include neurotransmitter synthesis, regulation of body temperature, aids enzyme activity and energy metabolism.
4. Quinoa contains lysine. Lysine is mainly essential for tissue growth and repair.
5. Quinoa is rich in magnesium. Magnesium helps to relax blood vessels and thereby to alleviate migraines. Magnesium also may reduce Type 2 diabetes by promoting healthy blood sugar control. Other health benefits of magnesium include transmission of nerve impulses, body temperature regulation, detoxification, energy production, and the formation of healthy bones and teeth.
6. Quinoa is high in Riboflavin (B2). B2 improves energy metabolism within brain and muscle cells and is known to help create proper energy production in cells.
7. Quinoa has a high content of manganese. Manganese is an antioxidant, which helps to prevent damage of mitochondria during energy production as well as to protect red blood cells and other cells from injury by free radicals.
Here is what I made this afternoon for a late lunch. I started out with a homemade bolognese sauce which consisted of tomato sauce, fresh diced tomatoes, fresh basil, onion and red pepper...then I added some ground beef (most of these ingredients were leftover from pizza night!

While the sauce was cooking, I started boiling my water to get the quinoa going, too.

To cook the whole grain quinoa, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add 1 cup of quinoa and bring back to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and cover, letting it simmer for about 12-14 minutes or until the quinoa has absorbed all the water. Let it sit for a few minutes and then fluff with a fork.

Here are all the goodies cooking....oh, and someone must have made some brownies over there on the left! :)

After it finished cooking, I added some of the sauce to the quinoa so it absorbed the flavors while it cooled and sat for a bit. I also added some fresh basil and fresh diced tomatoes.

After cooking for about 2-3 hours, the sauce is just about done!

I spooned about 4 tablespoons of the quinoa into my bowl, and covered it with tons of sauce, tomatoes and ground beef. I sprinkled with a tiny bit of sea salt and fresh ground pepper. You can also add a little cheese if your heart desires.

This hit the spot! I was super hungry, so I had seconds. :) Enjoy!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Phelan Family Pizza Night!!

When Chrissy and I were younger, we had "Callahan Family Pizza Night" occasionally on Friday nights (especially during Lent since we didn't eat meat). I remember it being soooo much fun! Mom and Dad would make sure we had all our ingredients like the dough, the plain red pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese we had to grate ourselves on my moms old Tupperware. Haha.

I have been loving me some serious pizza lately, so I decided to head to Trader Joe's and grab a bunch of items to make homemade whole what flat breads on the grill...slightly fancier compared to our Friday nights in the 90's. I must confess that I changed my mind at the last minute and ended up cooking them inside, but they still came out delicious.

I typically break each dough in two parts, so in total I made four flat breads. So with that, I decided to make a meatball pizza, a Margherita pizza, a red pepper/onion pizza, and then a mixing of whatever toppings I had left. I started making my meatballs right away, so they had time to sit before making the pizzas.

Pizza Ingredients:
  • Whole Wheat pizza dough (2)
  • Flour (2 tablespoons per dough)
  • Olive Oil (1 tablespoon)
  • 1/4 cup Fresh basil 
  • Red Pepper (1)
  • Onion (1/2)
  • Pizza sauce (1 jar)
  • Tomatoes (3)
  • Fresh Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • Parchment paper

    Meatball Ingredients:
  • Ground beef (93% lean) 
  • Onion (1/2)
  • Egg (1)
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Chopped garlic (optional)
  • Seasoned breadcrumbs
  • Olive Oil
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Fresh Basil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Wooden spoon

  • I mixed everything together and made them into little balls, like the photo below. I broiled them for about 10 minutes, so they were nice and crispy on the pizzas.

    Now comes the "tricky" part. I think it's all about timing. In fact, timing is crucial with most cooking and baking. So first things first. If you want a crispy homemade crust, set your oven to 500 degrees and place two baking sheets upside down in your oven, like so:

    While the oven heats up, slice up your veggies and roll out your dough. I used a little flour on the parchment paper, then once rolled out, I drizzled the dough with a little EVOO (and/or sauce) before placing my toppings down.
    I personally like pre-cooked onions and peppers on my pizzas. They have a less harsh flavor. SO when those veggies were finished cooking, I placed all the toppings on the dough. Here are the first two pizzas. Margherita on the left (shredded instead of fresh buff mozzarella), and meatball/tomato/cheese on the right.
    And here are the second two pizzas, pre-cheese of course. The on the left is all veggie -- the peppers/onions, tomato and basil (this was my favorite) and then a super meatball BOMB on the right. Jim loved it.
    It's hard to see, but I am sliding the parchment paper from the wooden board to the upside down baking sheet that is 500 degrees! ***Please be careful when doing this transfer.
     There they are...just cooking away in the oven.
    And here are all four flat breads after they came out of the oven. They were soooo yummy. I used my pizza cutter to slice them vertically, so I had pizza "strips". I was thinking that this is a great idea have for entertaining, because it's easily shareable.
    So grab your fav bottle of wine and slice up some pizzas for ladies night! Quite cost-effective, as well. :)
    Yummy Friday night pizzas!


    Wednesday, January 8, 2014

    Guest Appearance! Paleo Shrimp Scampi

    You are all in for a special treat today....we have a guest blog entry from Miss Lindsey Cucumber! ;)
    Linds has been such a huge supporter of my blogging adventure from day one. She has offered advice and given me the support I needed when I had no clue what I was doing. Here's a pic of Linds and I having brunch in the marina in 2012.
    And Chrissy and Linds made an appearance at the annual Fourth of July festivities down the Cape!! Linds is rocking the American flag bikini front and center.

    So now onto her guest blog recipe. Here is what Linds sent me to post for you guys:

    "This shrimp scampi made with spaghetti squash is a delicious Paleo meal that makes great leftovers! I feel great when I eat a Paleo diet, but of course still miss many foods (like pizza!). Instead of being disappointed after trying to recreate a recipe I love into a “Paleo-fied” version (think Almond Crust Pizza… though I LOVE it, it’s just not the same as my beloved Papa Gino’s!), I find it easier to try new-to-me recipes! That way, I don’t have to worry about the comparison factor. Since I am not much of a spaghetti lover and have never made shrimp scampi, I thought this would be a great dinner idea. Adding extra veggies such as broccoli and organic tomatoes to the spaghetti squash made the meal very filling. It all came together in under an hour.
    • 2 dozen shrimp (frozen or fresh!)
    • 1 spaghetti squash
    • 4 tablespoons of butter or ghee
    • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
    • Splash of white wine
    • 4 cloves of garlic
    • Splash of Half & half or cream (Optional and not Paleo, but I feel fine eating a bit of dairy, so why not!?)
    • Juice of 1 lemon
    • 1 tablespoon of lemon zest
    • ½ cup of chopped Parsley
    • Broccoli florets
    • Cherry tomatoes
    Spaghetti Squash 
    As Shaz has mentioned a number of times on her blog, cooking spaghetti squash is super easy! Just preheat your oven to 400 degrees and cut the squash lengthwise. After you take out the seeds, put it face down in a baking pan with about 2 inches of water on the bottom. Set a timer to about 30 minutes and begin making your sauce.
    The Sauce
    For the sauce, heat your butter or ghee and olive oil over medium-low heat for a few minutes. You don’t want it to burn! I love ghee as a substitute for butter. It is clarified and has a great taste. Add your garlic and cook it until it does not have much color, but don’t let it turn brown! When your garlic is looking done, add your shrimp, a dash of salt and pepper, and an optional splash of cream and/or white wine. Cook until pink.
    When your shrimp are done, you can remove the pan from heat or turn the heat down low and add in the lemon juice, lemon zest and parsley. If you take a taste and the sauce is a bit too lemony, feel free to add more wine, cream, or olive oil… or a bit of all three! ;)
    While the shrimp were cooking, your squash timer should have gone off! Grab each half of the squash with an oven mitt – it will be hot! – and flip over so that they are face up. Add fresh broccoli and cherry tomatoes to the water and cook for another ten minutes. (Linds Cooking Tip: I find that flipping the squash face up for the last ten minutes makes it a bit firmer and prevents it from being too watery.)
    Once the squash and veggies are finished, take them out of the oven and use a fork to scrape the squash and make “spaghetti”.
    Add the spaghetti and veggies to the scampi sauce and stir until the sauce has coated all of the spaghetti. Plate it up and voila! Dinner is served. I highly recommend serving with a glass of white wine… Shaz I’ll remake this for you with wine in May ;) Hehe. This wine from France was perfect with it!

    This recipe should make about 4 servings. Great for a big dinner or leftovers the next day! Thanks Shaz, for having me guest blog. You are always in the back of my mind when I am cooking (and I am likely texting or calling you for help while I do so!) Keep your great recipes coming " - Linds
    Hope you guys enjoy Linds' amazing dinner!!!  Stay tuned for more guest entries from the little red headed chef!
    Shaz (& Linds)


    Saturday, January 4, 2014

    "Real California Avocados" - SNL

    First off and most importantly, a HUGE congratulations to our great friends John and Suzanne Bosch on the birth of their amazing daughter, Victoria "Tori" Bosch!!!!  We are soooo happy for them and cannot wait to meet her soon!

    As far as my day was concerned, it was a bit less exciting. In fact, I have a lot of time on my hands since Jim is studying for the bar exam next month. While skimming through Pinterest, I came across this scrumptious macaroni salad and knew I needed to make it immediately (I mean, doesn't that just look amazing?). I ventured to the grocery store to pick up a few things. The large avocados were on sale for $ I bought five.

    I picked up five avocados, fresh thyme and the applewood bacon. I grabbed a few other items to make a delicious avocado dip (since they were on sale). When I got home, I gathered my ingredients, started boiling the elbow macaroni and tossed the bacon in the saute pan on the stove.

    The cooking didn't take more than 10-15 minutes and I made the dressing in the meantime. It was real simple. I combined 1/3 cup light mayonnaise, lemon juice, lemon zest (of 2 lemons), a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of fresh thyme in a bowl, with a little sea salt and fresh ground pepper. I mixed it all up and poured it into the "magic bullet" mixer. I mixed it vigorously and added some extra virgin olive oil until it emulsified. I let that sit until the macaroni was done and drained. I poured the macaroni into the bowl, drizzled the dressing on top, chopped up my bacon (cooled, on a paper towel) and avocado. I gave it all a big stir and DONE! It was fantastic. What a yummy and different lunch.

    Open wide!!!  YUM!

    When I had finished indulging on carbs and bacon, I decided it was time to make the healthier veggie/avocado dip. It is similar to a salsa, but back in 2008 when Keryn made this for me in DC, she called it "avocado dip" so that is what I will call it. Speaking of that 2008 DC trip...Keryn and Julie visited me in DC for NYE that year, it was SO fun. What a great memory. Keryn made this one afternoon when we all had about 26 mimosas each. Here are a few pics of us at my house from that weekend....

    So anyway, this "dip" or "salsa" is real just takes a few minutes to cut up all the veggies. The secret is making sure everything is really fresh. You basically take however much you want of each of the following vegetables - avocado, cherry tomatoes, red pepper, cucumber, red onion, parsley and chop it up real small. You then squeeze a ton of fresh lemon and lime juice over it...and a little EVOO, salt and pepper to taste. It is amazing with tortilla chips, or even as a side to your dinner.

    Tonight, for example, I cooked some sockeye salmon and had this "dip" as the side. All the flavors, especially the citrus, went together so nicely.

    Here are all my veggies, ready to go!

     I diced up my red bell pepper first.

    I then moved on to the cherry tomatoes. Helpful hint - choose some cherry or grape tomatoes that have different colors. It is a nice way to incorporate color in your dishes, rather than being stuck with just red.

    This orange juicing contraption is how I get all the juice out of my lemons and limes. I use it way more than one would ever think. It's great! Just make sure not to tilt it to the side because the seeds can fall into your dish, defeating the whole purpose of using it.

    I suggest using a wooden spoon like I mentioned in one of my first blog posts. When you use the metal spoons, you risk ruining your dishes and tearing up all your veggies. The avocado is real delicate so a wooden spoon is the best choice.

    I bought about a pound of the salmon. It looks huge, but it was pretty thin. I took out all the annoying pin bones, drizzled it with fresh lemon juice and tossed it in with a little of the leftover bacon grease for that smokey flavor. I cooked it on a medium heat for about 15 minutes, covered. I added more lemon juice before slicing and serving.

    Here's my finished salmon, with some lemons...and some of the avocado dip which I added the rest of my chopped up bacon. Jim absolutely LOVED this meal. I thought it was good...but A and B told me they needed more yummy carbs. Hehe. It's ok, we still have pie leftover for later! :) 

    Enjoy this super healthy and fresh meal!


    Friday, January 3, 2014

    Nursery Ideas for A and B

    Originally, when we thought we were having just one baby, I was searching on Pinterest for neutral nursery decor and fell in love with the gray/white chevron theme. I figured I could throw in some bright cheery yellow and go from there. But then, we went in for our first ultrasound and found out we were having twins. Things changed. Fast. In order to effectively plan for two babies, we decided to find out their genders. And as you all should know by now, we found out on Christmas morning.

    Overall Theme
    Gray chevron. I really love the idea of a clean/crisp gray and white color scheme with pops of yellow and/or navy to brighten it up and personalize it. For those who have seen my Cape Cod cottage, you know that I am a big fan of white furniture, solid color pastel paint colors and an overall open, breezy, clean feel to it. Now that we know we are having two boys, I may throw in a few nautical items...we will just wait and see!

    Some cute gray chevron items I found to help with the theme were these fitted sheets, bed skirt, changing pad cover and crib bumper. I also loooove these curtains and the little elephant lamp. I hope to buy them assuming they will go with the windows in whatever room ends up becoming the nursery. Lastly, I want this glider. It is so cute!!


    Crib Placement
    Since A and B are used to spending so much time together in a confined space now, I figure why put their cribs on opposite sides of the room, or worse -- put them in separate rooms?! They are twins. I like the idea of their cribs being close to each other forming an "L" shape. I read that twins can share a crib for the first few months, basically until they can roll over and it becomes dangerous. Some helpful advice I've received for those who live in homes with multiple floors, is to keep one crib on the main floor and the other upstairs in the nursery, for when the twins take their naps during the day. You don't want to keep going up and down stairs, especially when recovering from childbirth.

    Here is a photo I found off Pinterest that caught my eye. It is a small room, and fits all the essentials just fine. There are two cribs, a glider, a nightstand, a changer/dresser. I don't love the wall color, I may opt for a gray (Benjamin Moore's "Sterling" is a great pick). But I see the nursery going similarly to this one below.

    Twin nursery in a smaller room. Cute! And chevron curtains. Note crib placement!

    Nursery Furniture
    I completed my baby registry with and found a ton of well-priced nursery items. I really liked the Davinci set for the crib, changing table, dresser, etc. The crib converts to toddler bed, daybed and full-size bed down the road, which is a huge money saver.

    I am also planning on using these little cubbies for the small baby items, such as clothes, receiving blankets, wash clothes, towels, baby power, diapers, wipes etc. That way I am not stuck opening/closing drawers all day. Here are the baskets we have right now. I might need to buy a few more.

    I really like this reading nook, because I know we will be reading them a ton of stories as they get older. It reminds me a lot of my childhood. Growing up, my mom would read to us a ton and also took us to the library almost daily. She would love it if we had this little reading area.

     Other Essentials
    Not that it's necessary, but I thought it would be fun if I registered for some gray chevron items that are not limited to only the nursery. For example, I found this diaper bag and it also has a matching portable changing station. These organic cotton hooded towels matched my theme perfectly and I thought they were super cute. It was fun looking through all these things, everything was adorable.

    Also, thanks to Pinterest and Etsy, I discovered this nursing cover that doubles as an infinity scarf.
    Nursing Scarf: Nursing Cover + Infinity Scarf. Very cute great as a baby shower gift!

    Pinterest Board

    I listed a few chevron ideas above, but if you are curious to see what other ideas I am interested in for A and B, like this cool travel bed for the Cape this summer, then check out the board I made for them on Pinterest

    Til next time!!