The Kitchen Sink

For the love of food, life and everything in between.

Month: May, 2013

Blueberry Breakfast Quinoa

I’ve become quite fond of upstate New York. I never thought twice about the land that laid to the North of New York City. I never thought about what it meant to be upstate. What it meant to be in darkness. What it meant to see horses and sheep and cows roaming along the side of a green mountain. What it meant to see snow in May. That is until I was allowed myself to be introduced. Swept away.

I don’t travel much you see. So often I seek beauty in the ordinary of my own streets, the familiar. I find great comfort in routine, simplicity, predictability and so I prefer this way of life I’ve grown so accustomed to.

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The dilapidated barns, the muddy tractors, the man walking in a spring storm, back hunched, gun slung over shoulder. I wonder where he’s going, what he’s looking for. I wonder if the plum sky is a sign of a storm approaching or rolling away.

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But when night falls, under a pitch black sky unlike any darkness I’ve ever seen, dimmed yellow lights shine in kitchens and on front porches. Suddenly, these lights seem so strange and out of place against such a mysterious absence of  street lights, mini marts and development put forth by mankind.

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I realize that I didn’t travel to any third world country,  I was merely four hours outside of my comfort zone; but the ability to drive through such green mountains, particularly in such unrelenting rain storms, subsiding only long enough for deep fog to nestle around the girth of these mountains and then develop back into soaking rains, was incredibly delightful. Delightful in a bundle-up and have two rain jackets handy kind of way.

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I returned home, thankful to get back to consistent cell service and my regular routine, but the wild flowers and mental snapshots I captured on my journey are captivating reminders of the beauty in someone else’s ordinary.

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Blueberry breakfast quinoa is a fresh take on my own ordinary. This isn’t my first go around with breakfast quinoa, and it certainly isn’t my last. Best of all, it’s incredibly simple.

Blueberry Breakfast Quinoa

Inspired by Pastry Affair

Serves 1

Mix 3/4 cup cooked quinoa, a sprinkle of cinnamon and 1 tsp honey in a small bowl. If using quinoa that was made ahead of time (and stored in the fridge), heat a small skillet over medium heat and transfer quinoa mixture to skillet. Gently heat for about 5 minutes.  Transfer quinoa mixture back to a bowl fit for serving.

Add 1/2-3/4 cup milk, top with blueberries and toasted almonds.

Radish Quinoa Salad

When I stood in the aisle at Home Depot back in February, spinning the display of seeds, snow coming down in blankets over rental trucks and weekend warriors in the parking lot, I felt like a day of success in the garden was a lofty dream. I felt as I do every other Winter, as if it would never end.

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I spent a majority of those frozen days cursing my cold toes and remarking at the beauty of crisp white landscapes in nearly the same breath. I was conflicted. I have a love – hate (more love than hate) kind of relationship with Winter. Judging from the posts from some of the blogs I follow from those out in the middle of the country, our Spring thaw came far sooner and judging by the sun burn on my chest from a few hours basking on the deck yesterday afternoon, it seems as though we may be on a fast track to Summer. Or maybe not.

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How I love you Northeastern weather, your ability to change at the blink of an eye, or rather, at the turn of a breeze.

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In love – hate situations I often try to let optimism overrule, canceling out some of the hate, minimizing it to a a mere speck of what once was ungratefulness or ignorance. Another subject that falls victim to this scenario of conflict is that of radishes. I plucked a packet of radish seeds from the display, tucked it into my basket and justified this selection with thoughts of a quick harvest. I would be able to tell early on whether or not my garden was going to produce anything worthy of consumption. I didn’t realize just how quick and mighty these little bulbs of magenta were. There fuzzy leaves were the first to climb up towards the topaz sky of early Spring. And soon, splashes of deep pink and red flashed from under clumps of dirt. The radishes are ready for harvest.

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A wave of anxiety came up through the collar of my shirt, I had no idea what to with these marvels except stare, slice and add a whole lot of salt to mask the bitter bite of misconception I was holding on to.

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I munched on a small sliver, anticipation bitterness and disappointment. Ready to hand the whole plate over to my radish-loving mother. Instead I savored every bit of home grown goodness (before handing off the plate to someone who looked like I was about to provide them with fine chocolate). And quickly got to thinking about the best way to add these to something elegant.

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Enter Radish Quinoa Salad.

Adapted from A Couple Cooks

Serves 2

Ingredients

For Salad

1 bunch radishes, greens removed

3 chives, chopped

2 tsp capers, drained

1 cup cooked quinoa

Handful of baby spinach, sliced into thin strips

2 TBSP toasted walnuts

1 cup white beans, rinsed and drained if canned

For Dressing

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp white wine vinegar

squeeze of fresh lemon

salt and pepper

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Directions

Cook quinoa according to package directions, allow to cool. For quick cooling, spread cooked Quinoa onto a baking dish in an even layer and allow to sit out on the counter for several minutes.

Thinly slice radishes and place them in a medium sized bowl with chives, capers, and spinach. Add ingredients for dressing, toss to coat evenly.

 Mix vegetable mixture with quinoa and beans. Split onto two plates for serving, Sprinkle with toasted walnuts.

Hosting a Bridal Shower

It’s an exciting time of the year. I sit at traffic lights, windows down, sweet smells from the flowering trees above roll in, dancing beneath my nose, making a seemingly mundane task of running to the store for last minute dinner items seem like a treat.

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The sun sets later and later with each passing day, the first night I slept with the windows open, heavy fog blanketed the ships at the docks, the aroma of lilacs went untamed, the tones of Latimer point guiding boaters was amplified yet slightly subdued by the damp air, summer’s coming that low decibel whispered to me with each tone. Like waves rolling onto shore, a predictable familiar pattern, lulling me to sleep.

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Though Sunday afternoon was plagued by chilled rain drops, there was warmth just beyond the rain streaked windows inside the yacht club.

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Chatter and clinking glassware, sweet bowls of fruit alongside potted herbs brought friends and family together to honor a bride-to-be.

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If I wasn’t a dietitian, then I’d likely be a farmer or maybe a writer, but maybe I just might be a party planner.

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Through the gracious help of several of my mother’s friends we were able to host a lovely bridal shower down by the sea, on the albeit rainy shores of Noank. A celebration of new beginnings, at one of the most beautiful times of year if I do say so.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Oatmeal

I had good intentions when I set out to visit the farmer’s market every Saturday morning. I had good intentions of creating super fresh Saturday lunches. The point is, I had good intentions.

But I failed to keep the momentum going after about three weeks. I found myself filling my 10 to 1 window of opportunity with other miscellaneous Saturday endeavors and soon it was springtime and the market had moved outdoors and I was getting the itch to return. I felt certain that I would be able to find more than potatoes and beets and chick peas. So yesterday, Arrik and I headed down to the green, alongside docks of fisherman, with an unmistakable scent of bombster scallops wafting through the air, a peculiar but wonderful odor that seems to always linger above the narrow streets of Stonington Borough.

The banjo man bounced on his stool in the center of green, while a number of new (to me) faces dotted the line up of open air tents. A heavy set man with the biggest grin sliced from a giant fillet of swordfish. Familiar faces from the Winter’s market were among the mix. My favorite lady, donning her straw hat chatted on about various plant varieties that filled the better portion of her table. A speckled pot held freshly harvested asparagus and alongside lay the red and green stalks of rhubarb.

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“Rhubarb!” I exclaimed, scooting over to take a closer look.

“Raspberry, Strawberry, Rhubarb pie!” Arrik called out.

“No, no, no” I countered, “Raspberry, Strawberry, Rhubarb Oatmeal.

The couple selling the rhubarb and Arrik gave me a bit of a tilted glance.

“I’ll take one bunch please.”

Among ingredients for caper pesto scallops over a bed of fresh spinach pasta, asparagus and chive Chevre, I clutched my rhubarb tightly.

I’ve actually never had rhubarb you see, but I felt like I’d heard so much about her green and red tinted lanky stalks that I knew we’d become fast friends.

I also hate pie. Hence, I took the oatmeal route.

Strawberry Rhubarb Oatmeal

Heavily adapted from Happy Yolks.

Serves 2-3

Ingredients:

3 to 4 stalks of rhubarb, washed, dried and cut into 1” pieces.

1 – 2 TBSP raw sugar

1 TBSP maple syrup

Zest and juice of one orange

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon

old fashioned oats

sliced almonds

fresh strawberries and raspberries

Preheat oven to 450F. Slice rhubarb into 1” pieces and toss into an 8×8” baking dish. Toss rhubarb with orange zest, juice, vanilla extract, sugar, maple syrup and cinnamon. Mix so that rhubarb is evenly coated. Bake for about 20 minutes.

Prepare oatmeal as desired. Spoon rhubarb and juices over oatmeal. Add in fresh fruit and sprinkle with almonds.

SFG {Square Foot Garden} Update + We Have Radishes!

I feel that too often I start off my posts with a confession. It quickly brings on a fear that someone will think that I am so pretentious and self-touting that I need lay it all out there in this little corner of the internet that I reside in. There you go folks, I did it again, I confessed as a start to my post.

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I can’t say what imaginary rule led me to believe this confession nonsense wasn’t necessarily the most appropriate way to start off a post. So while I’m at it, here’s another confession for you, in case you haven’t already figured this out, when it comes to blogging, I really have no idea what I’m doing. I think that’s part of the reason I gain so much satisfaction from it. It’s a project and a challenge and after each post a mysterious wave of belonging, creativity and satisfaction comes over me.

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Sometimes I get to wandering from blog to blog, attempting to measure myself up to those that do this for a living, or those that have been so fortunate to have a professional design the layout of their blog, or those that just seem have the most beautiful pictures and words tied together with copious amounts of creativity. I fight off the urge to say, what am I doing here creating my own food blog? But the truth is (ah, another confession), I feel comforted by the fact that for once in my life, I am okay with not being “the best” at something and rather I am one of many, many fish in this large, crowded pond of food bloggers. To feel so small while being a part of something larger than yourself can be quite nice sometimes.

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Two years ago was the first year I really got into gardening. Sure, I’d always attempted a few potted plants, adopted a pansy or two in need from the wilted black thumb of my mother. This year I decided to “do it right.” For heaven’s sake, I bought a book. I knew I needed a book after last year’s exquisitely small broccoli florets turned wild yellow flowering bush – yikes we missed the harvest, debacle.

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So while there is no recipe to share today, I thought I’d just take the time to share a few pictures from the garden. I love the beauty in such small details.

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And I love that I was so excited to rip the first ripe radishes from the ground and get to slicing and munching that I completely forgot to have my camera ready and so instead I must share a snap shot courtesy of my iPhone.

 

Spicy Shrimp Lettuce Wraps

Yesterday I learned a valuable lesson about meal planning. 

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For about the last week and a half, I’ve found myself a bit discontented. I’ve tried my usual tactics of going for longer than usual walks, cleaning, organizing, cooking, talking with friends, venting to co-workers, deep breaths, blogging, going to sleep earlier, something along the lines of meditation just to name a few attempts. Thinking about the future had me frustrated, thinking about the past had me confused and thinking about the present seemed implausible due to the flurry of thoughts residing between my ears.

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One particular day I was so wrought with frustration I attempted to silence my emotions with a few spoonfuls of raw cookie dough. As you can imagine, this is a big no-no in my book for a variety of reasons including food safety and the fact that is goes against my whole “practice what you preach” philosophy. On the bright side, I did not get food poisoning and also quite fortunately, I suffered the consequential stomach ache that had me vowing to never attempt to resolve my problems with raw cookie dough again…ever.

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I walked around for days carrying discontent within me as undetectable as a neon sign propped up on my shoulders. My family knew it, my coworkers knew it, and I’m pretty sure the cashier at CVS even knew it.

As far as I am concerned, I fell particularly short yesterday as I neglected to plan for dinner. I left grocery shopping for the last minute and all I really wanted to do was throw in the towel and order out. And while there is nothing wrong with take out, I felt that this was some kind of metaphorical surrender to a week and a half of unhappiness. I felt the need to put a nice meal on the table.

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I didn’t have time for a “go out and find my sanity” kind of walk – the kind that has me wandering down unbeaten paths and stopping to inspect small creatures on logs and stones. Instead I squeezed in a quick paced, move a bit closer to still get a whiff of the lilac as I marched by type of walk to figure out what I would even be purchasing at the grocery store. Once back at the driveway with mental grocery list in mind, it was transferred to paper and off to the store I went. Sticking to the list was as important as ever for I was already breaking a personal rule of “never go to the grocery store when you are hungry.”

I whizzed through the aisles, looking back at Arrik with the shopping cart, this is why plans are important  I said with a half grimace and a small smile. I knew he already knew this and he knew I already knew this but yet I had let a bit of life’s clutter get in the way and I was reminded of how the procrastinators of the world must feel. A place I don’t wish to visit again anytime soon.

The result of this nearly unplanned dinner was a spicy shrimp lettuce wrap. These wraps were extra special because the lettuce used was freshly snipped from a towering lettuce plant that has been flourishing in the aeroponic garden for several weeks now. The leaves were delicate, almost like tissue paper, but most unlike tissue paper they did not disguise a gift, they were in fact the prettiest, most delicious contribution to the entire meal. Within these oversized leaves lay a powerful punch of chipotle pepper coleslaw and pan seared shrimp.

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I’m so very grateful to have emerged from my discontented week. I am thankful that these weeks are infrequent but still offer some of the most useful life lessons and I am thankful for good food, good friends, good moods and {hopefully} good weather to come!

Spicy Shrimp Lettuce Wraps

Serves 2-3

Ingredients:

1 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined and cleaned

2-3 large leaves of lettuce – variety of your choosing

1 bag of coleslaw greens or shred/cut your own cabbage and carrots – about 2-3 cups

2 TBSP mayo

Juice of 1 lime

From 1 can of Chipotles in Adobo Sauce – dice 4 chipotle peppers and use a spoonful of adobo sauce.

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp smoked paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil

Directions:

For Coleslaw: In a medium bowl, add coleslaw greens, mayo, lime juice, chipotles and adobo sauce. Mix until combined, cover and refrigerate until ready for serving.

For Shrimp: Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. While skillet is heating, toss cleaned and peeled shrimp in a medium bowl with chili powder and smoked paprika. Place in hot skillet and cook until opaque throughout, about 5 minutes.

Lay 2 or 3 lettuce leaves flat on a plate. Spoon out coleslaw and top with shrimp. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spinach and Gorgonzola Rotini

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I’ve always found the word “diet” to be a bit quirky. Search this word on the internet and Google will bring up nearly 314,000,000 results. Turn to the pages of Merriam Webster and you will find several definitions including “food and drink regularly provided or consumed,” “habitual nourishment” and ah yes, “a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly to reduce one’s weight.”

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It is no wonder that when I used to walk into a patient’s room in the hospital and ask “what’s your diet like?” I was often confronted with either a defensive, attitudinal “I’m not on a diet, thank you very much!” or a sigh, followed with a look of discontent and a confession something along the lines of…“I don’t eat carbs” insert sorrow and more remorseful looks here.

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Let’s just say after several cases of this dialogue I’ve since revised my approach to the dietitian-patient conversation.

Lots of people ask me if I’m on a diet, or if I have ever tried to diet or what my diet is like and sometimes I think it is as if they think I hold some long sought after secret to health and wellness. I have yet to find a proper, concise way to answer this question and quite frankly, all too often I am left with several thoughts merging at the tip of my tongue only to dissipate before ever leaving my mouth. I usually am left saying something like “I like to eat real food.” This of course opens the flood gates for questions like “what do I mean exactly by real food” and does this mean I only shop at Whole Foods? The answer of course is no, I  don’t think it is necessary to trek halfway up the state of Rhode Island to do the majority of my grocery shopping. There is always the exception for speciality items of course. 

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This pasta dish seemed quite fitting for several reasons. The first being that one of its main ingredients seems to be public enemy number one. Pasta. This topic I will revisit when it comes to the recipe. 

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The second reason I am excited about this dish is because it is a perfect example of how I like to think about food when I see it prepared in a restaurant or friend’s house, in a magazine, or on TV. How can I make this myself? And can it be made healthier? 

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The menu item read something like this, “Spinach and Gorgonzola Ravioli in a Shallot Cream Sauce Topped with Toasted Walnuts.” I cannot truthfully make a comparison here as I did not actually order this entree, instead I ordered something a bit lighter and got to making a mental grocery list for dinner the following night.

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And that is how Spinach and Gorgonzola Rotini came to be.

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Spinach and Gorgonzola Rotini

Serves 2

 

Ingredients

1/2 – 3/4 of a box of Ronzoni Smart Taste* Rotini – cooked according to package directions.

1/2 box of washed and dried, baby spinach

1/4-1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted 

1 medium to large shallot, sliced thinly

1/2 – 3/4 cup Gorgonzola cheese

Olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

 

Directions

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Once shimmering hot, add shallots and cook until browned and crispy, about 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350F and spread chopped walnuts on a baking sheet. Bake on the top rack until golden brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and divide into two medium sized bowls. Divide spinach and place into bowls with pasta. Add Gorgonzola cheese as desired and mix until cheese has melted and spinach is slightly wilted from the warmth of the pasta. 

Transfer pasta mixture to plates and top with shallots and toasted walnuts. Season with salt and pepper as desired.

*A side note about pasta: When it comes to starches and grains, I tend to choose whole grains whenever possible. However, I have yet to fully embrace the texture and taste of whole wheat pasta. Instead I choose Ronzoni Smart Taste pastas for their ability to cook and taste like a white pasta while also providing about 5 grams of dietary fiber per 2 oz serving. This opinion is my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Citrus Infused Scallops

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Lately I have neglected to keep up with my posts. I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly that has kept me from being as vigilant about posting multiple times each week, but when I created this space back in September I swore to myself that I would stop posting as soon as it became a chore. My original intent was to create a place to cultivate several things that I love most. Food, photography, and writing.

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I still love my little nook on the internet but lately I’ve found myself spending more time outside and less time hovering over the stove top. I think that the time will come again where I enjoy posting more often but for now I find myself occupying my time differently. I guess where I am going with this is that I appreciate any and all the readers who stop by to visit my page and I strive to bring original and genuine content. That being said, I have been posting less frequently so that I don’t update just for the sake of getting new content on here every two days, as if to follow some sort of blogging expectation.

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Now that delicate blooms line the streets and grass has adapted a plushness that lends itself to picnics and bare feet, I find myself cooking up lighter meals in the kitchen.

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 One dish in particular has been kicking around for a number of years now. I believe the recipe clipping is from Good Housekeeping magazine about four years back. It was the first recipe I clipped and put into a plastic sleeve, but judging from the stiffness of the paper and the splatters of goodness knows what, I made the dish several times before it found it’s way into said protective sleeve.

As usual, I’ve tweaked the recipe ever so slightly but the concept remains the same. A light load in terms of calories without skimping on flavor one bit.

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Citrus Infused Scallops

Adapted from Good Housekeeping May 2009

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

1 lemon

1 lime

1 1/4 lb sea scallops, rinsed

3 tsp olive oil

1 small-medium shallot, chopped finely

1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard

1 package arugula, rinsed and dried

1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley leaves

 Directions:

Obtain the zest from one lemon and one lime. Obtain the juice of each also. In a small bowl, combine peels and a dash of salt and pepper. Place citrus juices in a separate bowl and set aside.

Place scallops on paper-towel-lined plate and pat dry. Sprinkle with citrus peel mixture.

Heat 2 tsp olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add scallops and cook for 6-8 minutes or until opaque throughout, turning once. Remove from pan and cover.

Add remaining tsp olive oil and shallots to skillet and cook about 3 minutes. Add in dijon mustard and citrus juices, scraping up browned bits and cook about 1 minute. Toss greens with sauce and place scallops over bed of greens. Sprinkle with fresh parsley.

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Serve with couscous, rice or grain of choice. I chose Israeli Couscous lightly seasoned with a citrus blend and salted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) for added protein.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quinoa Burgers

I would love to post about a nice Cinco De Mayo margarita (if I was into that sort of thing) or other Mexican-inspired dish in honor of today’s holiday. However, I’ve been holding out now for about a year with a certain staple recipe of mine. I can’t give any sort of reason why I haven’t shared this recipe before but now seemed a good a time as any to share.

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 Let me start by saying that this brilliant recipe is not my own. About a year ago during the internship, we were required to host a “heart healthy” luncheon for the other interns and dietitians. The meal had to be within a certain budget and meet requirements for calorie content, saturated fat and several other nutrition parameters. My lunch was the first to be held way back in October 2011. I wasn’t too into cooking at that time and the recipes aren’t anything that I would now call blog-worthy.

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However, by late May or possibly early June our last lunch was being hosted by Sarah. Sarah created the menu and the grocery list and after a long day on the inpatient floors, I followed her back up to Boston and we prepared the meal for the following day.

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Being the overachievers that we are, we headed to the gym first and then to the grocery store, and while we were at it, we did a dry run of the burgers for dinner that night, playing host to her brothers and their friends.

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I make these burgers about once a week, and like many of the veggie burger recipes in my collection, they freeze well and can be served up for weekday lunches and quick, weeknight dinners.

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If I haven’t convinced you by now to add quinoa to your pantry staples, I think I might win you over with this recipe.

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Quinoa Burgers

Slightly adapted from Sarah’s original recipe

Makes 6-10 depending on the size of the patty

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa (at room temperature)

4 eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 cup diced mozzarella

1/2-1 medium yellow onion, diced

1/4 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes

1 1/2 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

dash of smoked paprika

1/2-3/4 cup whole grain bread crumbs

olive oil for cooking

Directions:

Combine cooked quinoa and eggs in a large bowl. Add in cheese, onion, sun dried tomatoes and spices and stir to combine. Add bread crumbs and stir with a wooden spoon until mixture comes together. Add additional breadcrumbs if mixture appears to omoist to form into patties.

Once desired texture is achieved (the mixture should come together easily but still be slightly fragile and moist – I would recommend adding more than 3/4 cup bread crumbs), form mixture into patties and heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat until shimmering hot. Cook burgers until golden brown and crispy on both sides, about 7 minutes total, flipping halfway through.

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Enjoy on your favorite whole grain bun, pita pocket or over salad. Feel free to include add-ons like avocado, goat cheese, arugula, spinach, ketchup, etc.