Sunday, May 27, 2012

Quinoa Stuffed Tomatoes

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Last week the hubby and I celebrated our 7 year wedding anniversary.  It's been an amazing seven years...with babies, new homes, travels, moving abroad...the roller coaster called life.  We love the ride.  Since there isn't anywhere even close to being worthy of a celebration spot here in Yanbu, I knew I would be cooking my own dinner.  I didn't really mind...well, a little...I mean, who doesn't want to get all fancy dressed and head out with the one you love for a night on the town.  But, yeah, well, real world here, and that just ain't happenin' for this anniversary.  We'll celebrate properly when we are in Italy in August (now that's the way to have an anniversary dinner!)  
So, time to find something to cook for the four of us.  (well, what was I going to do with the kids?...guess I could have banished them to their room with chicken nuggets and a movie...but nah, we decided to celebrate as a family) anyway....
I found this awesome blog by a chef who takes killer food pix.  I was just roaming around, checking out his recipes, when I found this one.  I love all shapes and forms.  I've never made a stuffed tomato before, but his recipe made it seem so simple.  
I had to switch it up a bit seeing as how I can't get my hands on any sausage here, so instead of lamb and sausage, I used lamb and leftover quinoa that I had.  I was worried it would lose some of the flavor...but oh man...these were some tasty bites!
You can do a couple of variations...use all quinoa and make it vegetarian...or go all T-Rex and use both sausage and lamb.  If you're a bit fearful of lamb (which you shouldn't be because it's fabulous) sub in some good ground beef.  You could also add a bit of cheese to the top for extra gooeyness... ;)
I rounded out the meal with a nice tossed salad and some oven roasted green beans (my fave way to cook fresh green beans)  It was perfect.  Happy 7 years baby!  Here's to many, many more!  
  • For the tomatoes:
  • 6-8 medium tomatoes (mine made 8...depends on the size of your tomatoes)
  • salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup cooked quinoa (or 1/2 lb ground sausage or ground beef)
  • 1/2 lb ground lamb
  • 3 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 3-4 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (your preference here)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 sprig rosemary, leaves chopped
  • 1/2 sprig thyme, leaves chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (use 3 if cooking with quinoa)
  • hot pepper flakes, to taste

Preheat oven to 375F

Slice the top off the tomatoes, scoop the inside out (discard seeds, but chop and keep the pulp).  Sprinkle the inside of each tomato with salt and set upside down on a rack to drain.

Sautee the chopped onions in olive oil until soft and translucent.  In a bowl, combine the onions, chopped tomato pulp, quinoa, lamb, breadcrumbs, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, rosemary, thyme, hot pepper flakes, olive oil and a bit of salt.  Stuff the mixture into the tomatoes and put the top back on.

Place the tomatoes on a tray and drizzle with olive oil.  Bake for 30 minutes and serve!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Pasta with Zucchini, Fennel & White Beans

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I've been meaning to try cooking with fennel for a long time now.  I'm not a huge black licorice fan (and that's what fennel smells like to me), but it's in so many recipes I figured it just has to be good, right?
Right.  Now, I'm not sure I'd like it full force and eat it raw, but becomes much more mild in flavor.  This dish is super easy to make and is surprisingly packed with flavor (which you wouldn't think if you looked at the ingredients.)  Don't skimp out on the mint...really adds a nice touch.  Great weeknight meal!

  • 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces (2 cups) whole-wheat penne or similar short pasta, reserve 1/2 cup cooking liquid
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 3/4 cup crumbled goat cheese or feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste


  • Preheat oven to 400°F.

  • Cut fennel bulb in half lengthwise and then slice lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. Quarter zucchini lengthwise. Toss the fennel and zucchini with 1 tablespoon oil and salt. Arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Roast, turning once, until soft and beginning to brown, about 20 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta; cook until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes or according to package directions.

  • While the pasta is cooking, Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat.

  • When the vegetables are cool enough to handle, coarsely chop. Add the vegetables, beans and 1/2 cup pasta liquid to the pan with the garlic and place over medium-low heat. Drain the pasta and immediately add it to the pan. Toss thoroughly and add tomatoes; toss until just warm. Remove from the heat and stir in cheese and mint. Season with pepper.
  • recipe adapted from Eating Well

  • Saturday, May 19, 2012

    Lentil & Veggie Tacos

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    I've been having a lot of fun roaming the net in search of yummy, high protein, meatless main dishes.  When you have a husband who refuses to eat soy, you really have to broaden your search.  
    I was really happy to find this recipe (from Peas and Crayons blog).  The whole family enjoys tacos...and well, living here, they can be a real "treat."  For one, there aren't any real Mexican restaurants here in Yanbu (and Taco Hut at the mall...though good, just doesn't cut it).  Two, you can't always buy taco shells at the grocery store (isn't that awful??)  So, when we can make a taco...we do.
    Very simple recipe with lots of room for adding your fave toppings.  Loved the idea of making my own seasoning so my family didn't end up devouring a bunch of MSG.  I can tell you honestly, we didn't miss the meat...not one bit.  (and there wasn't a single taco shell left)

    The filling also would be great wrapped up in a corn or flour tortilla.  You could sub out the refried beans for black beans (I know some stores sell refried black beans)

    1 cup of dried 
    16oz no fat refried beans
    1 cup diced onion
    4oz mushrooms, minced
    1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
    1/2 cup of your favorite enchilada sauce (store bought or make your own) 
    taco shells (or tortillas)
    a splash of oil

    For the seasoning:
    1/2 tsp garlic powder
    1/2 tsp cumin
    1/2 tsp chili powder
    1/4-1/2 tsp dried cilantro [I highly suggest trying this stuff on everything!]
    1/4 tsp salt

    Topping Ideas:
    shredded lettuce or cabbage
    diced avocado
    feta, cheddar, pepper jack (pick a cheese!)  
    diced tomatoes
    greek yogurt

    Rinse and sort 1 cup of lentils.  
    Heat 3 cups of water in a pot until it's just about to boil, add lentils, and reduce to simmer for 15-25 minutes or until tender (when done, drain and return back to the pot)  For whatever reason, mine took forever to cook...and still had a bit of a bite to them in the end (because I couldn't wait any longer...four hungry people to feed!!)  
    While the lentils are simmering, get going on the rest of the meal.
    Saute onions, mushrooms, and garlic with a bit of oil until tender.  
    Next, add seasoning blend (the one you made) and enchilada sauce at the end and stir.  
    Then, combine them with the lentils, along with the refried beans and heat on low, stirring gently to incorporate.  
    Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.  Stuff into shells, pile on the toppings and enjoy a fabulously healthy NO MEAT dinner.  :)

    Friday, May 18, 2012

    Pineapple-Carrot Muffins

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    Many of you know my feelings on baking... I love to bake, it hates to turn out right.  So, I tend to shy away from baked goods.  You'd think the control freak in me would love the preciseness of baking...yeah, not so much.  
    Therefore, I must have been in a weird mood when I decided I just wanted to...bake something.  I've had a can of pineapple in my cupboard for the last 5 months...I figured it was time to put it to good use.  There are not very many healthy snacks to be found here for my kids and I'm desperate for something else to give them aside from granola bars.  I love muffins, all kinds, but I know they can be just has bad as eating a fist full of cookies.  
    When I found a recipe claiming both pineapple and carrots, I figured, well, at least there's some veggies in these!  If I could find whole wheat flour, I would have used that too, but I'm stuck with good ol' AP flour.  The recipe was super simple, the girls helped me, and we turned out some pretty tasty muffins.  They are good at room temp, but I find them much tastier after 10 seconds in the microwave...and if you're feeling a little devilish, slide a bit of butter over the top...crap, I was trying to make something healthy wasn't I?  
    These have mass potential to be tweaked...think of adding, raisins, oats, cranberries, or strawberries.  Try some slivered almonds on top!  I'd love to hear what you'd come up with!

    I couldn't wait...had to take a bite!  ;)


      • 1/2 cup white sugar1/4 cup brown sugar
      • 1/3 cup cup canola oil1/3 cup applesauce
      • 2 eggs
      • 1 teaspoon vanilla
      • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (whole wheat would work well too...just cut the amount in half)
      • 2 teaspoons baking powder
      • 1 teaspoon baking soda
      • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
      • 1/4 teaspoon salt
      • 1 cup grated carrots
      • 1 cup drained, canned crushed pineapple


    1. Stir together sugar, oil, and applesauce.
    2. Stir in the eggs until well combined.
    3. Stir in vanilla.
    4. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
    5. Stir into sugar mixture just until combined.
    6. Stir in carrots and pineapple just until combined.
    7. Spoon into well greased muffin tin, filling to top. (I used liners, but I think next time I'll try without...the liners pulled away a lot of the muffin)
    8. Bake in a preheated 375F oven for 20 minutes or until done.
    9. Cool in pan for 5-10 minutes, then remove to a rack to finish cooling.

    Thursday, May 17, 2012

    Quinoa and Roasted Beet Tabouli

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    I don't know how I stumbled upon this recipe, but I'm so so glad I did.  This was actually my first time cooking with quinoa and I had no idea what to expect.  The roasted beets were the reason I wanted to cook this in the first place (we're beet freaks)  And I was even more lucky that the store had cherry tomatoes in stock.  (yeah, you never know what will be at the store on a daily basis here in Saudi)
    I enjoyed this recipe so much I was upset that I had to share it with my family.  Luckily (ok, well not really) my girls weren't gaga over more for me!  (selfish, I know)
    I added a bit more beet than the recipe called for and the original recipe had you boil the beets instead of roasting...which just isn't good enough for me.  I adore the taste of roasted, I planned out the extra time needed.  (feel free to boil away if you're short on time)
    Excellent recipe and I can't wait to make it again...maybe once we're growing our own cherry tomatoes and I can get some whenever I want.  :)

    For the vinaigrette: 
    Sea salt and pepper 
    Juice of 1 lemon or lime 
    6 Tbs. olive oil 
    2 Tbs. chopped flat-leaf parsley 
    1 Tbs. chopped cilantro 
    1 Tbs. chopped chives 
    1 Tbs. chopped mint 

    For the tabouli: 
    2 Tbs. pine nuts 
    1 cup (7 oz) uncooked white quinoa 
    2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth 
    Sea salt 
    1 large beet
    1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half 
    1/4 red onion, finely chopped 
    3 oz. feta cheese, crumbled 

    Make the beets:
    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
    *note: do not wash the beets!
    Rub the beets with a bit of olive oil and wrap in foil.
    Place on a baking sheet and roast for 45-60 min (less or more depending on the size of your beet)
    Remove from the oven and let cool.  Then peel the skin and chop into chunks.  (yes, your fingers will turn pink, but it washes off)  

    While the beet(s) roast(s), make the dressing and cook the quinoa.
    Make the vinaigrette:In a small bowl, combine the sea salt and pepper with the lemon juice and oil, and whisk to emulsify. Stir in the herbs. Dress the salad with this vinaigrette and adjust the seasoning to your taste. Add more dressing if you like and serve with the pine nuts.

    Make the tabouli:Toast the pine nuts in a frying pan over medium heat for 2 minutes, or until lightly colored and fragrant; remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
    Rinse the quinoa under cold water and drain it in a colander. Add it to a pot and cover with the broth and a pinch of sea salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover, and simmer for 12 to 14 minutes, or until all of the water or broth is absorbed. Remove from the heat and keep covered for 5 more minutes. Transfer the quinoa to a bowl and fluff it with a fork; let cool. Add the beet and toss gently. The quinoa will take on a pretty pink color. Add the tomatoes, onion, and cheese. 

    Monday, May 14, 2012

    Enchilada Quinoa and Chicken Stuffed Peppers

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    Found this great blog...Ambitious Kitchen.  She's got all kinds of great recipes, and many very healthy ones.  When I found this recipe...for the stuffed peppers, well, I couldn't make them fast enough!  I'm being very stingy with my quinoa...I only brought back two boxes from I want to use it with a dish I know I'm going to like.  (and I did)
    This would work great as a vegetarian dish as well...just use all quinoa.  I made these following her recipe, but the recipe below shows how I would make it next time...mine came out a bit dry this first round.  It was a hit with the whole family...I use a very mild (homemade) enchilada sauce, so the hubby had to spice his up a bit.  The girls really liked the filling but weren't big fans of eating the pepper...though they both took three bites.  Rules are rules and all.  ;)
    We served it up with a side of chips and homemade guacamole (hubby's recipe).  Great dinner!

    3 bell peppers, cut in half and seeded
    1 cup cooked quinoa
    1 pound ground chicken or turkey
    1/2 cup cilantro, plus more for garnish
    1/2 onion, diced
    1/3 cup egg whites
    1 teaspoon garlic powder
    2 teaspoons cumin
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    1 cup red enchilada sauce
    1 cup reduced fat cheese of your choice, divided (we used gouda because it was all I had...tasted great too!)
    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 
    2. In a large bowl combine chicken, quinoa, egg whites, onion, cilantro, garlic powder, cumin, salt, pepper, 1/2 cup cheese, and enchilada sauce. Mix well.
    3. Stuff each pepper half with the mixture. Top pepper with 1 tablespoon of enchilada sauce and 1 tablespoon of cheese. Bake for 45 minutes.

    Sunday, May 13, 2012

    Italian Bread & Veggie Soup

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    So, the other night I wanted to make a Ribollita soup...thought I'd bought all the ingredients, then got home and found out they didn't give me one of my bags.  Crap.  And it's not like I can just rush back out to the store...that requires calling a taxi...and well, I wasn't about to go through all that again.  
    Instead, I improvised.  Took a couple of different recipes, pulled ideas I liked and threw this soup together. Thankfully, it worked out really well.  The whole family enjoyed it and there weren't any leftovers.  Nice.
    It's a forgiving you can add or remove ingredients with ease...enjoy!  Make it Vegan and leave out the cheese.

    2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
    1 onion, chopped
    1 carrot, chopped
    1 stalk celery, chopped
    1 Tbs herbs de Provence
    3 cloves of garlic, minced
    1 turnip, peeled and cubed (small cubes...not big ones)
    4 medium zucchini, chopped
    1 cup tomato sauce
    2 cans stewed tomatoes (with juice)
    small head of cabbage (I used Napa), sliced thin
    1 (3 inch piece) Parmesan rind
    6 cups low-sodium Veggie broth (or chicken)
    1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
    half a loaf day old french bread torn into pieces
    Fresh grated parm cheese

    Heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrot, celery, and sprinkle with seasoning.  Cook until veggies are tender.
    Next, add the garlic and stir constantly for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
    Add the turnip and zucchini...cook until tender (about 10 minutes)
    Stir in the stewed tomatoes and their juices, the tomato sauce, the cabbage, the Parm rind and broth.
    Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes. (45 if you have the time)
    Remove the rind. (whatever's left of it)
    Toss in the beans and cook till heated through.
    Lastly, stir in the bread pieces, ladle into bowls and top with grated parm cheese.  You could also add a sprinkle of crushed red pepper.

    Tuesday, May 8, 2012

    Roasted Eggplant, Red Bell Pepper, and Garlic Soup

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    My friend loaned me a cookbook...full of soup recipes.  Not sure if she's going to get this one back any time soon!  
    I've found so many wonderful recipes and I've been having a great time trying out new soups.  This one is one of my new faves.  Roasting the veggies creates a wonderful smokey taste while the roasted garlic adds creaminess.  The recipe called for a drizzle of basil oil, but I wasn't able to find any (or make any in time for the soup); however, I bet it would add a great finishing touch.
    We ate this soup as our main dish with a side of crusty bread.  A nice salad with perhaps some chickpeas tossed in (for the protein aspect of the meal) would round out the whole dinner.  
    1 large eggplant
    4 red bell peppers
    2 sprigs of fresh thyme
    1 garlic bulb; halved horizontally
    2 Tbsp olive oil
    1 red onion cut into wedges
    2 cups vegetable stock
    1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
    a handful of fresh oregano leaves
    salt and pepper
    to serve:
    fresh basil leaves
    basil oil

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (190 Celsius)
    Put the whole eggplant and peppers in a large roasting tin.  Sandwich the thyme between the garlic halves, drizzle with oil and wrap in foil.  Add to the roasting tin.  Roast in preheated oven for 35 min.
    Remove the garlic from the oven and check for tenderness.  Set aside to cool.  Remove the peppers, place in a ziploc bag, seal and leave to cool.
    Add the onion to the roasting tin with the eggplant and cook for another 20 minutes or until the eggplant is tender. **(note:  my eggplant was done much sooner, so keep an eye on yours)
    Meanwhile, peel the skins off the peppers and discard.  Transfer the flesh (seeds and all) to a blender and liquidize with a third of the stock until smooth.  Transfer to a sauce pan.  
    Squeeze out the soft flesh of the garlic and add to the blender.  Spoon the flesh out of the eggplant and add to the blender along with the onion and another 1/3 of the stock.  Blend until smooth and then add to the saucepan with the pepper puree.
    Add the tomato sauce, oregano, remaning stock, bring to a boil and season to taste.
    Divide between 4-6 bowls, scatter with basil leaves and drizzle with basil oil.  Dig in!

    Monday, May 7, 2012

    Bean Bolognese with Quinoa Pasta

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    While we were in France, we went to a local farmers market where I picked up a package of quinoa pasta.  I've never even eaten quinoa before and you can't find it here in Saudi.  So, when I found this great veggie bolognese recipe, I thought it would be a great time to try the pasta too.
    The bolognese was simple to make with lots of flavor.  The quinoa pasta actually had a bit of a sweet taste to it and went really well with the sauce.  All in all it was a great dish that the whole family enjoyed.  Another veggie dish on the rotation!


    • 14-ounce can dark red kidney beans, rinsed
    • 1 14-ounce can cannellini beans (or other white bean), rinsed
    • 1 14-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 small onion, chopped
    • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
    • 1/4 cup chopped celery
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1/2 cup white wine (I had to use chicken broth which therefore nixed the vegetarian aspect)
    • 1 14-ounce can stewed tomatoes
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
    • 8 ounces Quinoa pasta
    • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    **Note: you are going to have more beans than you need.  Either go ahead and toss them in or set aside and have with eggs for breakfast!  :)

    1. After rinsing the beans, combine them together in a bowl.
    2. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Scoop out 1/2 cup beans and mash in a small bowl with a fork.
    3. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery and salt; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and bay leaf; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add wine; increase heat to high and boil until most of the liquid evaporates, 3 to 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and their juices, 2 tablespoons parsley and the mashed beans. Bring to a lively simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 6 minutes. Add a cup of the whole beans (or add them all); cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes more.
    4. Meanwhile, cook pasta in the boiling water until just tender, according to package directions. Drain.
    5. Divide the pasta among 4 bowls. Discard the bay leaf and top the pasta with the sauce; sprinkle with Parmesan and the remaining parsley.

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