WARM QUINOA SALAD

Ooooh – you’re in for such a treat with this superb winter salad. Last week I was lucky enough to eat at Fig restaurant, which is located at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica. I was very excited as I’d heard chef, Ray Garcia, doesn’t just pay lip service to “Sustainable” cuisine, but he actually lives and breathes it. You’ll find him wondering around the local farmer’s markets, purchasing only what is fresh and seasonal to cook up into some of the most exquisite dishes I’ve tasted in years.

I was given a little bag of red quinoa and a recipe on leaving the restaurant and decided to give it a go this weekend. The result was utterly delish – and here it is. I have taken a few liberties and customized it according to what I could find at my farmer’s market.

3 1/2 ounces quinoa (red quinoa if possible)

1 1/2 cups of veggie stock

1 sprig rosemary

1tbsp olive oil

1 small bunch of broccolini (or broccoli florets), chopped into bite sized pieces

1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored and cubed

2 ounces swiss chard, stalks and veins removed, roughly chopped

2 ounces butternut squash, cubed

1 ounce slivered almonds

 

Dressing:

1 cup orange juice

1/4 cup raw honey

1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar

1cup olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

 

Reduce the orange juice down to 1/2 cup by simmering in a pan, and then chill. When cool, mix with other dressing ingredients and set aside.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F and roast butternut squash sprinkled with a little olive oil until it’s tender (about 20 minutes.)

Cook quinoa in the stock, adding the rosemary. When cooked, drain and toss in a little olive oil.

Saute apple, Swiss Chard and blanched broccolini (to blanch, simply add to pan of boiling water for 1 minute).

Mix roasted and sauteed veggies with quinoa and dress with a little of the dressing. Careful not to overdress the salad, you’ll have a lot of dressing over, which you can keep in a jar for later.

Sprinkle with almond flakes.

 

HOLIDAY STUFFED BUTTERNUT SQUASH

I’ve been cooking up all kinds of Seasonal veggie entrees for my family for the past two weeks, and their favorite is this stuffed butternut squash, which I think makes a perfect vegan Holiday Meal. If you’re not veggie and having turkey, it also makes for a lovely post-turkey (when you’re sick of the sight of it,) supper.

You can use any kind of squash, but Butternut is my favorite for this one.

Serves 2

1 medium Butternut squash, halved & de-seeded

1/2 cup quinoa

1/2 cup fresh cranberries

2tbsp grapeseed, canola or olive oil

1 small onion, minced

2 shallots, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme)

1 cup brown mushrooms, roughly chopped

1/2 cup walnut peices

Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

1tsp agave nectar

1/2 cup of chopped fresh flat-leaved parsley

 

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F

Rub the cut side of the squash with a little oil to prevent sticking and place them flesh-side down on a greased baking sheet. I used recycled aluminum foil to avoid too much mess. Place them in the oven for about 30 -40 minutes or until they are tender when a knife is inserted. I would check them after 30 minutes because they might be ready – in my experience, over-baking them isn’t great as the whole thing can collapse and isn’t as pretty when serving.

Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile cook the quinoa according to the package directions. If you don’t have package directions (you can buy your quinoa in the bulk bins,) you’ll need to boil 1 1/4 cups of water, add the quinoa, and simmer on a low heat with the lid on, until all the water is absorbed.

For the last 5 minutes of cooking time for the quinoa (usually takes about 15 minutes total) – so after 10 minutes, add the cranberries. When cooked, fluff up with fork and set aside to cool.

In a large skillet, heat the oil and fry the onions, shallots, and garlic on a medium heat until they are just about to brown – keep stirring all the time, as you don’t want the garlic to burn. Add the mushrooms and fry for a further 3-4 minutes. Stir in the walnuts thyme, agave, salt and pepper and fry for a further minute or so. Remove from the heat.

Scoop most of the flesh out of the butternut nut squash, making sure the skins stay well intact and place it in a large bowl.

Add the quinoa & cranberries and gently fold into the soft squash. The key here is not to mix, but to gently combine, because you don’t want the whole thing turning into a mush.

Add the onion/mushroom mixture and again, gently combine. Finally mix in the parsley.

Spoon the mixture into the shells and place them on a baking sheet, and cover each one with a piece of foil.  Place in a medium oven (350 degrees) for 20 – 30 minutes. You can easily prepare this whole thing the day before and chill overnight. If so, you’ll need 30 minutes to heat it up, however, if you are cooking it while the ingredients are still warm, you’ll probably only need to bake for 20 minutes.

A nice finishing touch would be to sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese (for non-vegans), and whole wheat bread crumbs for vegans. If you decide to go for topping, remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking.

 

 

 

 

SUPER CRANBERRY & ORANGE GRANOLA

I’m always playing with different granola recipes to find one that’s yummy, crunch and really healthy. I recently went to the bulk bins in a Wholefoods store and “sampled” a bunch of their “healthy” granolas – in my opinion, they were at best, absolutely tasteless.

Since homemade granola is really easy to make, it just makes sense to whip out a baking sheet once a week and get a batch in the oven.

I’m a great fan of a company called Navitas Naturals, as they carry every kind of fair-trade Super Food imaginable, and if you’re into giving these potent/health-giving foods a whirl, granola is a great place to start. You can pack every batch with tiny seeds, which contain more nutrients than almost anything you can find at a grocery store.

I also tried a superfood powder called Lucuma (Navitas Naturals,) which comes from a Peruvian fruit and is an excellent low-glycemic sweetener, which is full of vitamins and minerals – perfect for baking too. If possible I like to avoid eating sugar, particularly at breakfast, so this is a great alternative. If you can’t get hold of it right away, for now just substitute with brown sugar.

I also wanted to use quinoa because it’s a grain which is really high in protein. I came across a bag of sprouted quinoa at my local health food store, which is fantastic because you don’t need to cook it first. If you can’t find this rather more unusual ingredient, substitute with another grain, such as millet, or just add another cup of old-fashioned oats.

If you order your seeds and lucuma from Navitas Naturals, a small bag will keep you going for a while, and you can also add them to smoothies.

2 cups old fashioned oats

1 cup sprouted quinoa (millet seed or more oats if you can’t get the sprouted quinoa)

1/2 cup of hemp seeds

1/2 cup of chia seeds

4 tbsp of lucuma powder (or two tbsp of brown sugar)

1tbsp ground cinnamon

2tsp vanilla essence

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Zest of 1 medium orange

1/2 cup raw virgin coconut oil (heated to liquify) – you can substitute with a vegetable oil such as canola if needs be.

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Simply mix all the ingredients except the cranberries. together in a large bowl, making sure that the oats are well coated with all the ingredients.

Spread evenly on a baking sheet and pop in the oven for about ten minutes or until slightly browned on top. Use a large spatula to turn over the granola and pop back in the oven for a further ten minutes or until nicely browned. Add the cranberries.

 

I love to serve it with Almond Milk or plain yogurt. Greek yogurt is a little too thick for this granola, but a more runny plain yogurt is fab.

 

 

MOROCCAN CHICKEN STEW

 

I’m obsessed with my 360 Cookware slow cooker now that it’s getting a bit chilly. It’s the most user-friendly model I’ve ever tried (and I’ve tested a few,) – I think it’s because it’s easy to start it off on the stove top and transfer to the base. It also works better period – I won’t go into it here – but if you want to find out about the technology of these pans- check it out.

Anyway, with Halloween coming up, I wanted to try out a really tasty stew that I could have bubbling away sending a delicious aroma throughout my home. Halloween night, we’ll probably go to a friend’s pot luck party where there’s tons of chili and cornbread, but this might be a good variation for those who prefer chicken.

After the chicken has slow-cooked for hours – it fall apart, much like pulled pork, into the rich, unctuous stew of bright orange apricots and crunchy cashews. The sweet of the fruit pairs beautifully with the salty olives. It’s perfect served with either quinoa, cous cous or brown rice and I like to serve it with a simple dark green leaf salad – I prepared a spinach and arugula salad with a balsamic fig dressing.

Although there’s a lot of ingredients in the recipe, once gathered, it’s really quick and easy to prepare – 15 minutes tops.

This recipe of for 8 so if there’s fewer of you, it freezes really well.

 

Moroccan Chicken Stew

Serves 8

1tbsp grapeseed or canola oil

1 medium onion, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup sweet white wine

1tbsp balsamic vinegar

1tsp of the following: turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander

1 cinnamon stick

8-10 pearl onions

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

2 bayleaves

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

2 tsp of cornstarch or Tapioca starch

2tsp cold water

1 1/2 cups dried apricots

1 1/2 cups Kalamata olives

1 15oz can garbanzo beans

1 cup raw cashew nuts

2tsp sea salt

1tsp agave nectar

1/2tsp ground pepper

 

Heat the oil and fry off the onions.

 

Add the spices and fry for a minute on a low heat.

 

Add the pearl onions and fry gently for another minute.

Add the white wine and stir until it evaporates.

Add the chicken, the broth and the bayleaves.

 

Remove pan and transfer to slow cooker and turn onto a high heat.

Mix the tapioca/cornstarch with the water in a cup and  mix into the stew.

Cook on high for 1/2 hour and then turn down heat to medium (for 4- 6 hours). If it’s a bit longer, it’ll be fine – so don’t rush back from work.

Half and hour before eating, add the apricots, olives, cashew nuts and stir in the agave , balsamic vinegar, and seasoning.

 

 

LAVENDER ALMOND & QUINOA COOKIES

 

I love to experiment with different flours, especially quinoa flour as it’s so full of protein. I also love to use almond flour in baked goods, as it gives for a sweet/nutty texture and makes virtually anything you bake, lighter.

I had a good friend coming over for tea -she’s as into green tea as I am, so I decided to roll out my best wedding China (it hasn’t seen the light of day for quite a few years,) and try to impress her with the kind of cookie that we drool over at a seriously over-priced/pretentiously-healthy cafe down the street. Since all their cookies and cupcakes are infused with herbs and essential oils, I decided on lavender. Lavender essential oil is wonderful in cupcakes, cookies or infused into cream & ice cream, but it’s easy to overdo – I had to make these twice, as I put way too much lavender in the first batch.

Lavender Almond and Quinoa Cookies

1 stick butter

1 & 1/4 cups almond meal

1cup quinoa flour (available at most decent health food stores.)

1tsp baking soda

1/2tsp sea salt

2 tbsp brown rice syrup

2tbsp agave nectar

2 drops of lavender essential oil

Pre-heat oven to 325 F

Place all the ingredients in the food processer and blend until you have a sticky dough.  With your fingers, dig out a walnut sized lump and roll between your palms to form a ball. Press the ball down to form a disk and place on baking sheet

Bake for 14 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

 

QUINOA, PLUM & MINT TABOULLEH

 

I love Taboulleh in the Summer as it’s light and so easy to whip up for lunch. As I’m a huge quinoa fan, I decided to substitute it for the traditional bulgar wheat. Lola and I found some beautiful sweet plums at the farmer’s market, so I decided to use them in place of tomatoes. I served this initially for a light lunch and then as a side the next evening with garlicky grilled chicken.

Quinoa, Plum & Mint Tabouleh

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
2 cups flat leafed parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup mint leaves, finely chopped
3 scallions, green parts only, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
2tbsp olive oil
1tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2tsp brown sugar
5 ripe, sweet plums (if you’re buying from the farmer’s market, make sure they’re sweet and juicy, as unripe plums will be too bitter.)

Sea salt & pepper to taste.

Place the Quinoa in a small saucepan and cover with boiling water. Cover the pan and bring to a simmer for about 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed and the quinoa grains are translucent.

Set the quinoa aside and allow it to cool

Place the chopped parsley, mint and scallions in a large salad bowl and pour over the dressing ingredients (oil, lemon, vinegar and sugar.). Toss well and then add seasoning to taste. Add the cucumbers.

Cut the plums in half and remove the stone. Chop each plum into small cubes and mix into the salad.

Serve chilled or at room temperature with warm whole wheat pitta bread. You can also serve it as a tasty side to grilled meat or fish.