Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hanging out at Monterey Bay


My husband and I enjoyed a couple of days off last weekend (Hence, the absent posting). We enjoyed a couple of days around the Monterey Coast and enjoyed some dining and R&R: a great way to spend a weekend away from our home kitchen.

View from Schooner's... aaah!

Dining around Monterey is always an excellent adventure. We have been there many-many times and, have rarely had a poor dining experience. Here’s a sampling from most recent visit.

Monterey Cookhouse (on North Fremont Street). Great Sandwiches. Good Service. We had Pulled Pork Sliders, Onion Rings, and fries for dinner on Friday and shared a Grilled Chicken Sandwich for lunch on Saturday. The fries were excellent – crispy and lightly salted. The pizzas look pretty good too: must try for next time. Although we're not big beer drinkers, they have really good beer on tap and local root beer (Sparky's from Pacific Grove). We plan to return, even though it’s not really in the touristy part of town (It’s still pretty safe though). I suspect this is a local‘s hang-out.

pulled pork sliders, french fries, and onion rings
Pulled Pork Sliders, Fries, and Onion Rings from the Cookhouse

Monterey Crepe Company (on Alvarado Street). Great crepes. Huge portions. I had the honey, banana, and almond with extra strawberries, and it was yummy. Last time, I had nutella and bananas (unbeatable combo). Service was a bit slow in the morning, so do not go there at that time if you are in a hurry.  (Note: When checking out their website, turn the audio on mute. The background music sounds classical, like a ‘French Opera’ – not a good match for crepes.).

honey crepes
Honey Crepes! Amazing!

Rosine’s (on Alvarado Street). Speaking of portions, Rosine’s may top the list. It was our first time there. The lettuce wedge is actually half a lettuce head, topped with a generous helping of bacon, tomatoes, and blue cheese dressing. Our shared calamari steak was enough for two people and a kid. And the ‘award-winning’ desserts… they are huge! For a modest dessert portion, I just had the cookies and cream brownie (it lasted two days). Only downside is that they only had two or three seafood items on the menu. I do wish they had more options, since we’re on the seacoast.

Dessert bar at Rosine's
Rosine's Desserts: Objects may be larger than it seems.

Bagel Bakery (on Alvarado Street). Maybe the only ‘bagel place’ in town. Fortunately, the bagels and flavored cheeses are good and tasty. They have a good croissant, espresso, or latte. Nice and quick breakfast place, but service can be a little ‘iffy.’

Schooner's Menu
Schooner's New Menu. Seabass BLT is back!!!!
Schooner’s Coastal Kitchen and Bar (at Cannery Row).  Schooner’s is probably our favorite place in Monterey: great food, great drinks, and truly excellent views. They have revamped the formal dining room – which was the Duck Club for a more casual yet classy dining area. We prefer to sit in the bar/patio area though. It’s a bit more festive.

It can be a bit pricey, but you just have to be selective. Cocktails are great, even the non-alcoholic ones (I had the Pomegranate Virgin Mojito). The tacos look really good (I think I had them last time). And for the piece de resistance, they brought back MY Seabass BLT! It was gone for about a year (our server said that it was the first week back after six months. I think it was longer). I love that Seabass BLT! I dream and talk about it all the while our driving down from San Francisco. My only issue is I think the “T” is gone in the sandwich, unless they made the “T” to be tartar sauce.


Overall, it was a great weekend. We enjoyed a short walk at Lover’s Point and a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (awesome place and they also recently remodeled their restaurant). Unfortunately, we did not make it to Asilomar (my favorite beach), the Spanish Bay at Pebble Beach (should be my favorite beach), and Carmel-by-the Sea this trip, nor take a bunch of food pictures, since we quite subconsciously unplugged. No worries, I am confident that we will be back soon again

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Quinoa, Kale, and Tofu Patties


Quinoa, Kale and Tofu Patties with Massaged Kale Salad
Open-faced served with Massaged Kale salad
I saw a recipe for Spinach Burgers and I thought that’s a great idea. Unfortunately, I am allergic to spinach (go figure) so here I am again looking for substitutes. 
I do have some left-over kale and I thought, hmmm… that should work well. I searched and Googled and found this recipe from treehugger.com. This looked like a great option and will prevent me from experimenting… too much.
Fortunately, I also have (re-)discovered the bulk foods aisle at Whole Foods, so I managed to get some more quinoa. I bought just enough to make this recipe. As a side note, that aisle is wonderful – one can get just the right amount of oats, spelt flour, almond butter, almond flour, and experiment. I actually think I bought a bit too much grain.

Back to the task at hand…
Quinoa Kale Tofu Patties - Dry ingredients
Beautiful greens in this batter!
The original recipe calls for 1 cup of uncooked quinoa that yields about 2 1/2 cups of cooked quinoa. That’s a lot of quinoa especially for just two people. I usually keep a batch precooked (I cook about a cup at a time). So, it’s a bit easier to adjust the proportions. It’s probably more energy efficient anyway. Check out the advice from lunchboxbunch.com on how to make fluffy quinoa; it helped me prepare the perfect quinoa.
The original recipe also called for steamed kale. However, after a recent experience of sautéing kale, I prefer massaged kale. I also think that massaging provides better texture. I also have some tofu left, so I figured I should add it to the mix to add a bit more protein. If you don’t like tofu, you can omit it.
The initial recipe that I used is below.  As always, it will most likely change a bit. But overall it’s a delicious alternative to a garden burger. Even my husband agrees. For future variations, I may use feta cheese for a bit of a Mediterranean flavor.


Quinoa, Kale & Tofu Patties
Makes about 4 burger-sized patties or 8 slider-sized patties


Ingredients:

  • 5/8 cup of cooked quinoa (3/4 cup would probably work too)
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup spring onions (about 1), sliced thin
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup massaged kale, chopped (with olive oil and salt)
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup tofu, mashed with a fork

Preparation:
  1. The recipe calls for about 5/8 cups of cooked quinoa (I quartered the recipe). If you don't have any precooked, rinse 1 cup of quinoa thoroughly and place the grains in a medium sauce pan with 1 1/2 cups of water. Allow quinoa to soak for 15 minutes. Then, with the lid on the pan, bring the water to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until quinoa is tender and has absorbed the liquid - about 20 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
  2. In large serving bowl, add the kale, a drizzle of oil and a little salt. Massage until the kale starts to soften and wilt, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside.

Quinoa Kale Tofu Patties - cooking
Almost there...

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, mix together cooked quinoa, eggs, cheeses, spring onions, garlic, salt, kale, and breadcrumbs. Let everything sit for a few minutes to absorb the liquid. You want the batter to be moist, but not runny.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Make a patty with about a half-cup of the mixture. Cover the pan and let the patties cook for 7-10 minutes until they are a deep rich brown.
  3. Flip and cook the other side for another 7-10 minutes until both sides are nice and brown. Let patties rest on a cooling rack while you finish the next batch.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Sopa de Quinua y Pollo (Quinoa & Chicken Soup)


My quinoa was almost gone. So far, I have made quinoa pancakes, quinoa apple muffins, cheesy quinoa bites, and also as a side dish for pork chops – all of them were delicious. I think now that it’s almost gone: it’s time to make quinoa soup.

Quinoa soup cooking
Quinoa soup simmering

We spent about 12 days in Peru and had an amazing time. Because the evenings were cool, we often enjoyed a hearty bowl of soup as an appetizer. On our first evening with our guide, we enjoyed a restaurant that specialized in soup. I am trying to remember what flavors were in that; all I remember is garlic, quinoa, and a reddish broth. Not sure how they achieved the reddish broth.

I found a recipe for Peruvian-style quinoa soup. However, the recipes called for beef, and we do not eat a lot of beef. I decided to use chicken instead. As a result, I had to adjust the cooking method a bit. I originally wanted to use chicken thighs to get a bit of that chicken fat goodness, but our local grocery store ran out, so I opted for legs instead. If you prefer white meat, you can use chicken breasts.

My initial recipe is below. It may still evolve, but this is something that we can put in our regular rotation.


Sopa de Quinua y Pollo (Quinoa & Chicken Soup)
Yield: 2-3 servings

Ingredients:
  • 3 chicken legs
  • 3 cups of chicken broth, low sodium
  • 1/4 medium onion, diced (about ½ c)
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 3 pieces of garlic
  • 1/3 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup of white potato*
  • 1/2 cup of red potato*
  • 1/2 cup of carrots*
  • 1/2 cup leek greens, finely chopped
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 lime, optional


* Note, this does not have to be exact. As long as you have about a cup and a half of potatoes and carrots, you should be okay.


Preparation:
  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot and fry the garlic until it softens. Add the onions and let it soften (approximately for 6-8 minutes)
  2. Combine chicken and let it cook until the fat, if any renders out. Skim out the excess fat.
  3. Add the chicken broth in the pot. Bring to a boil and simmer until the chicken is cooked, about 30 minutes.
  4. Remove the chicken and cut in bite size pieces. Return the chicken to the pot and add the quinoa. Continue to simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Add the carrots, potatoes, and garlic to the pot. Continue to simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 10-15 minutes.
  6. Add the leeks and continue to simmer. Adjust the seasoning with additional salt, Cook for about 5 more minutes, then remove from heat.
  7. Serve with the fresh parsley and cilantro. Add some lime juice, if preferred.


Verdict:

Quinoa soup serving

  • This was an excellent soup, and it really brings memories of our trip to Peru. When you taste along the way, it may seem a bit bland. Since we prefer low sodium meals, I resisted adding salt. At the end, it all comes together and is very tasty. My husband thorughly enjoyed it.
  • Serving the herbs fresh gave the dish a touch of welcome freshness. So did adding the lime. The original recipe called for adding them while cooking and that may add another levels of flavor to the soup.
  • As with any good soup, don’t forget to serve this with canchita (Peruvian “popcorn” – it is more like roasted corn) and aji (Peruvian hot sauce). Maybe next time I would not be lazy and drive to the Peruvian grocery.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Yummy Cheesy Veggie Quinoa Bites


I still had some cooked quinoa left and was not sure what to with it. I could add it with some brown rice as a side dish for this evening’s dinner, but I wanted to try something more exciting.

I ran into a couple of recipes that seem to be good candidates: both are quite similar to each other. One is Quinoa Pizza Bites and the other is a Mini Ham Cheese Quinoa Cups. Although I really wanted to make the pizza bites, I did not have all the herbs or mozzarella cheese. So, I decided to somewhat use components of both recipes. I did not have any ham either, so it had to be vegetarian.

This is also a good clean-the-refrigerator recipe; you don’t have to use the exact veggies in the recipe, just use what you have in your fridge that would be good for baking (much like Chopped).

This is a great protein-filled snack: quinoa, eggs, cheese, and veggies – you can’t beat that. Combined with a green salad, the veggie version is a great lunch for Meatless Mondays… or any day for that matter. 

You can double the recipe to make more. Also, for a meatier version, add 1/2 cup of diced ham to the mixture.


Cheesy Veggie Quinoa Bites
 Adapted from Fit for Success' Quinoa Pizza Bites & IowaGirlEats' Mini Ham and Cheese Quinoa Bites
Makes about 12 mini cups

Ingredients

·       1 cup cooked quinoa (about 1/3 cup uncooked)
·       2 eggs
·       1/2 cup red onions
·       1/2 cup peppers, shredded
·       1/2 cup broccoli, diced
·       1/2 cup shredded jack cheese
·       2 Tablespoons parmesan cheese
·       1/4 cup green onions
·       1 ½ tsp of Italian Seasoning
·       Salt & pepper, to taste


Directions

1.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.     Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix to combine.
3.     Liberally spray a mini muffin tin with non-stick spray and spoon mixture to the top of each cup.
4.     Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges of the cups are golden brown. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before removing from the mini muffin tin.