Weekly Pin: Quinoa with Mushrooms & Greens

Quinoa with greens and mushrooms

Quinoa with greens and mushrooms

This week’s pin comes from the lovely Samantha at Better Bites blog. I regularly drool over Samantha’s recipes, and with my first trimester blech-ness toward food, I can use whatever healthful inspiration I can get.

This recipe was just the ticket. All three of us loved it – Oscar especially liked the quinoa and mushrooms (boy is crazy for mushrooms). I loved the subtly balanced flavors, salty, tangy, sweet, spicy, a hint of bitter, and some umami from the mushrooms made it a very satisfying meal. We used spinach instead of kale since we had it in the fridge, then added a baked sweet potato on the side and called it done.

Thanks, Samantha, from the bottom of my heart for keeping us from eating mac&cheese from the box one more night. I haven’t done it yet, but I’ve been threatening. *grin*

What are your favorite pins/projects/new recipes this week?

Weekly Pin: Penne with Asparagus & Balsamic Butter

Penne with Asparagus and Balsamic Butter

Penne with Asparagus and Balsamic Butter

Excited by the availability of fresh asparagus that’s flooding the markets now, this recipe from Food&Wine was bumped to the top of my Pinterest priorities, and it’s quickly become a favorite for the whole family. As with all asparagus dishes, I find the secret to success is to not over-cook the asparagus. Oscar apparently agrees—roasted just until bright, cooked but still crisp, he devours it; but if it’s cooked too long and gets mushy, he chews it a bit, then spits it out and (often) throws it on the floor. Further proof that he’s his mama’s boy.

The recipe is simple, and the balsamic glaze is the perfect balance of sour, sweet, and spicy. Along with the salt-and-pepper seasoned roasted asparagus, toothsome pasta, and plenty of parmesan, the resulting flavors are quite a fine medley both rich and bright—altogether, satisfying. Hope you enjoy it as much as we have!

What are your favorite asparagus dishes? Favorite pins and projects this week?

Homemade Broth on the Cheap

Mushroom Risotto

Risotto – made with broth

Broth is a welcome ingredient in so many dishes, providing a canvas for all your soup creations, as well as adding wonderful depth, flavor, and nutrition to cooked grains, veggies, and meats. When you’re feeling depleted, broth on its own is a great pick-me-up and restorative, good for even the queasiest tummies. And although store-bought broths are certainly convenient, they often lack the flavor and the nutritional content of a homemade broth.

But have you read some of the recipes for homemade broth that are out there? Often calling for using whole vegetables—carrots, onions, leeks, garlic, celery, etc., not to mention meat if you’re going for a meat broth—all of which is then strained out, leaving your final broth, ready for use or freezing or canning. Wait, you strain out all those good veggies? But before that, wasn’t it just… um… soup? Sounds like a lot of work (and a lot of money) for some homemade broth.

My husband sometimes teases me about my dislike for wasting anything. I know that you could certainly use the veggies from the strained broth in something else. But I think it’s kind of like downcycling—they just aren’t being used to their full potential. Sure, I like veggies that have been cooked for hours until they’re uber-soft—in soup!—and pretty much not in anything else. I generally like a bit more crispness in my veggies. We compost our kitchen scraps, so nothing is ever really “thrown away,” but it still seems wasteful to me.

Vegan Pho

Vegan Pho – with broth

So here’s my alternative. So you want to make your own homemade broth—vegetarian or meat, whatever. We usually store our broth in pints or quarts in the freezer, so when I’m down to one container of broth, I know I’ve got to make broth soon. Try saving your veggie scraps for a few days leading up to “broth-making day,” storing them in the fridge. These scraps should be clean and free of manky/slimy bits, but it’s perfectly fine if they’re imperfect or wilted. Some good broth scraps include carrot, potato, or beet peels; the stems from kale, chard, and other greens; trimmed ends of onions, carrots, garlic, radishes; stems from fresh herbs; any greens that have been deemed too wilted (but not slimy) for fresh use, such as romaine, spinach, mustard greens. You get the idea – the possibilities are endless. Come broth day, throw all this stuff in a pot with some water, some extra herbs if you want, salt if desired, simmer or slow cook to make your broth, strain, and store. All of these ingredients would have been composted or thrown out anyway, so there’s no waste and plenty of flavor.

If you want a meat broth, make friends with your local butcher or farmers and see if they’ll save you a bone or two for soup—a lot of times you can get them for free or super cheap, if you ask nicely. Alternatively, plan to have a roast chicken or something else with bones the night before. When you’re ready to make your broth, toss the bones in with the other veggie scraps and they’ll cook into the broth just the same.

The end result is still flavorful and nutritious, but instead of using lots of whole, fresh veggies, you’re just using scraps. No waste, no extra cost, no problem.

What do you do at home to reduce waste or save money? Favorite kitchen tips?

Weekly Pin: Labneh


Labneh, spread on GF toast and sprinkled with za’atar seasoning

Labneh is essentially Greek yogurt, and it couldn’t be easier to make at home. If you don’t make your own yogurt, it’s simple to make labneh from regular store-bought yogurt. All you have to do is strain the whey. I made it pretty frequently a couple years ago but fell out of habit until I came across this pin from 101 Cookbooks on Pinterest, reminding me of how wonderful and versatile this thick, rich yogurt is!

We make ours with whole milk plain yogurt, though you can use whatever you prefer. We were out of cheesecloth and don’t own a strainer, so to strain the whey, we lined a large funnel with a large coffee filter. We set the funnel into a large cup for it to drain, then carefully poured yogurt into the coffee filter, careful to keep the edges up. Fancy folk that we are, we used a shower cap (they make great reusable covers for food) to cover the yogurt/funnel/cup assembly and put the whole shebang in the refrigerator for 18 – 24 hours.

The end result is a thick, super creamy yogurt (sort of like cream cheese in consistency) that you can eat as is, use as a topping, roll into balls, or spread on bread. It’s good with both sweet and savory flavors—I ate this batch on GF toast spread with jam or honey, or sprinkled with za’atar seasoning. Couldn’t be easier.

What are your favorite pins and projects this week?

BrusselsKraut / SauerSprouts

BrusselsKraut / Sauer Sprouts

Here are the sprouts right after going into the brine (I packed the jar too full, had to take some out later) – see how green they are?

You know I love sauerkraut—not the stuff you buy in jars at the store, but real, homemade, lacto-fermented sauerkraut. LOVE it.

We are also a bit Brussels sprout obsessed. I mean, they’re like adorable little baby cabbages! And they’re delicious! What’s not to love?

Well here’s a happy springtime variation for you: lacto-fermented Brussels sprouts, or as we like to call them, BrusselsKraut or SauerSprouts.  I’m not sure which name is my favorite. They’re both so cute! Yes, I’m a pickle nerd.

So without further ado, here’s the super simple recipe. The formula is standard lacto-fermentation. If you are interested in learning more about lacto-fermentation, check out Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz.

BrusselsKraut / SauerSprouts

Brussels kraut / Sauer sprouts

Here are the sprouts once they’re done fermenting – note the color change.

  • Brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed, stems trimmed, cut in half length-wise
  • Brine (adjust to desired amount using a 1 cup : 1 Tbsp ratio):
    • 2 c. distilled or de-chlorinated water (to use tap water, boil it and let it cool before use or let it sit out in a pot or jar overnight; either way, the chlorine will evaporate off)
    • 2 Tbsp. sea salt (not iodized)

Put your Brussels sprouts into a clean jar, leaving three or so inches of headspace. Stir the salt and water together to create your brine—all salt should be dissolved into the water. Pour the brine into the jar with the sprouts. (If you want to add garlic, hot pepper, etc., go for it, but trust me, it’ll be plenty flavorful on its own!) Use a chopstick or similar to release any air bubbles that may have gotten caught in among the Brussels sprouts. The sprouts should be completely submerged in the brine.

If you have a fermentation stone or weight, put it on top now. If not, pour some of the same brine into a clean Ziploc baggie and arrange the brine-bag on top of the sprouts/brine mixture to keep the sprouts submerged. Place the lid on the jar.

Fermentation will take anywhere from one to four weeks usually, give or take, depending on  ambient temperature, etc. Be sure to burp the jar and release the built up air bubbles from the sprouts at least twice a day, lest you end up with a sauerkraut sprinkler system (oh yes, been there). To be safe, I often leave my jar in the kitchen sink when it’s actively fermenting if I’m going to be gone all day… just in case. 🙂

How do you know when they’re done? By tasting them, of course! I’ve found with sauersprouts, you will definitely get that sauer flavor, but sometimes there’s still a bit of sparkly, carbonated feel to it in your mouth, which indicates that it’s still releasing fermentation gases and needs a bit more time. When it’s done, it’ll have the sour flavor and will be “flat”—no more bubbles/carbonation. Move the jar to the fridge. Enjoy as you would pickles, etc., and remember to continue to keep the sprouts submerged completely in the brine.

(My dad adds that sauersprouts make a great addition to a gin and tonic or martini—in lieu of olives or mini-gherkins. Go nuts.)

So that’s it, super simple. It should be noted that lacto-fermented foods are filled with happy probiotic bacteria—great for your digestive health! Of course, the taste isn’t for everyone, so if you don’t like it, feel free to donate your jar to us or to your local foodie enthusiast.

For more lacto-fermented foods we’ve tried and loved, check out our kim chi, sauerkraut, and t’ej (Ethiopian honey wine) recipes.

What are your favorite pickling or lacto-fermentation recipes?