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Thursday, March 31, 2011

FFwD Quinoa, Fruit and Nut Salad

Another Friday, another French Friday with Dorie, and this week we made quinoa. I didn’t know what quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wha) was until a few years ago. For the first few years after that, I thought it was pronounced Ke-NO-Ah. Quinoa is a wonderful, healthy grain to make part of your regular diet. But the problem is that if you don’t know what it is, or how to pronounce it, you probably aren’t ordering it off the menu. At the university where I work, quinoa is available every day at one of the eateries on campus. In fact, dining services does a wonderful job producing plenty of healthy options, I go crazy for their roasted beet and goat cheese salad – it is amazing. But the number one order by students on campus isn’t any of these healthy treats, it is a half and half. A half and half means your plate is half full with fries, and the other half with chicken fingers. The students order it because it is quick (they always have it ready in the fryer) affordable, and plentiful. One of the issues that has been discussed on campus this year is that it is one thing to have healthy food available to students, and another thing to have healthy food easily approachable to students. Grains like quinoa and barley are a great option to pack in nutrition in a variety of ways. I’m glad this was part of our French Fridays with Dorie recipe today, because I want to do my part to make quinoa a “regular” food in my region. This is my first time making quinoa from scratch, so I’m once again grateful for FFwD for pushing me outside my limits.

I purchased Bob Red's Mill Quinoa, and it states that it is rinsed and dried, so that the consumer doesn't have to rinse it before cooking. That was good news to me, because my sieve would have let the quinoa slip right through, they're so tiny uncooked. Cooking the quinoa was very simple, and similar to cooking couscous.

For the salad Dorie has us mix in dried fruits, and our choice of a nut and seed assortment. For the dried fruit I used a bag that contained dried cherries, cranberries, apricots, apples, raisins and golden raisins. For the nuts and seeds, I made a mix of pepitas, sunflower seeds, almonds, and a little flax seed (milled flax seed because I grabbed the wrong package, oops!). In the future, I'll skip the sunflower seeds, I felt like they stood out, where the rest of my nuts and seeds blended in well. There was a simple dressing to this that came together quickly.

I chose to skip the optional bed of greens. I was hesitant with the yogurt topping at first, but dolloped more on later. This was good the night of, and worked great for lunch the next day. The dried fruit rehydrated some, and tasted even better on day two. I think this would make a great lunch, or picnic side. But for a Tuesday night dinner after a long day of work, when the cold of winter had returned to the Midwest, it left me craving something warm and comforting instead of a cool grain salad. At that moment I understood why our students go for the chicken fingers over the quinoa.

This was one of those dishes that opens itself up to lots of adaptations, I can't wait to see what everyone did on the LYL for French Fridays with Dorie!

Friday, March 25, 2011

FFwD: Scallops with caramel-orange sauce and Spiced butter-glazed carrots

When looking over this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe, I was a bit nervous. Before this meal, I'd only had scallops when eating a mixed seafood dish, and they were always chewy or rubbery. I consulted with Mr. Hobby, and he encouraged me to try making the scallops, but not the whole pound. Fair enough. I went to the local grocer and purchased 1/2 pound of fresh sea scallops at $14.99 a pound (ouch! Midwest seafood prices) and 1/2 pound peeled and deveined wild gulf shrimp. This was my first wild gulf shrimp purchase since the unfortunate Gulf Oil spill last April.

Doire recommends the spiced butter-glazed carrots as a side dish for the scallops. Since I missed making this recipe in December, I decided to do double-Dorie for the dinner. The carrots presented me with the challenge of purchasing cardamon from the local international grocery store. The clerk was so funny, after she told me my total was $7 for the small spice bag she exclaimed "Oh! Cardamon expensive." I agreed with her, as this was shaping up to be an expensive dinner.

Unfortunately, when I started to make the dinner I realized that my camera battery was about to die. I decided to save the strength for the finished products, so I don't have any other pictures. In fact, I snapped the plated food shot, and then the camera died before I could even see how it turned out, it reminded me of taking a picture with film cameras. I crossed my fingers that the shot had turned out, and dug into dinner.

My first bite of scallop was to die for! I loved every bite after that. The scallops and shrimp went together wonderfully. The sauce was absolutely amazing. My sauce color was a little light, and it may not have been as think either, but the taste was amazing. The leftover sauce was poured on biscuits, what a treat! The carrots were pretty good, but I wouldn't have paired them with this dish. They had their own destinct flavor, and I think the dish would've been better served with a sauceless vegetable. I would've loved some asparagus (like in the Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours photo) to run through the wonderful sauce.

Once again, FFwD challenged me to step out of my comfort zone, try new foods and new techniques. The result was a dish that we both loved, and can't wait to enjoy again!

I hope the other bloggers at FFwD enjoyed this as well. You can find out about their experiences at French Fridays with Dorie!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

FFwD Salted Butter Break Ups

Dorie's suggestion for today's cookie is to make it as one large cookie, and serve it at the table, letting everyone break pieces off to enjoy. I took these cookies to my family's St. Patrick's Day corn beef and cabbage dinner on March 17th, and didn't think anyone would want to be breaking off cookie pieces after the little ones got their hands on a large cookie. So I decided to make them into smaller cookies.

I didn't want to make actual cut-out cookies, because I wanted these to retain a rustic look. So I used a pizza cutter, and just cut up the rolled out and chilled dough into rectangles.

I used the fork to make the pattern, and thought I had gone deep enough, but a lot of it dissapeared after baking. Dorie must really press the fork in to get the lines like in the book photo.

A note about dying the cookies green. I like the color they turned out, they're a bit swirled, and not too bright green. I achieved this by adding the food coloring to the food processor after the water had been added and the dough pulsed a few times. I think I would've had a more consistent green color if I'd added the food coloring to the water, and pulsed them both in at the same time. I also could have added the food coloring to the egg white, and had a "painted" green top on the cookie. I'm happy with the swirled look, but if you wanted to dye these cookies and wanted a more consistent look, I'd try one of the other options.

Overall, nobody in my family was a huge fan of these. They were slightly salty, but not really that sweet. And I don't think I'll make them again, because I couldn't help feeling like I was making homemade play-dough when I was rolling out the dough.

Happy Irish/French Friday with Dorie! You can see how the cookie crumbled for the other bloggers at frenchfridayswithdorie.com!

Edit: I used 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt, and thought these were more salty than sweet. It seems that others used a different kind of salt (sel gris was what we were told to use) and maybe had a different result.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

FFwD Beggar's Linguine

I LOVED this dish. I think it was the first FFwD dish I made that I would call "quick" so that was a huge plus. This dish will find its place into my work night dinner rotation, because it can be on the table in less than 30 minutes.
I really made this recipe something that I thought we would both love, and we did! That meant leaving out the dates and the raisins. To substitute in, I added macadamia nuts which are delicious and were on sale this week, and kept the portion of pistachios and almonds the same.

The butter bubbles and browns with the nuts.

Dorie directs you to zest in orange at the end, and zest in Parmesan. I zested most of this naval orange, and it gave a great flavor pop to the dish. For the Parmesan, I pulled out another of my favorite cheese brands - Hautly aged Parmesan. This Parmesan is nice and strong, so just a little of the cheese grated on gives great flavor, with only a little cheese.

In the future I would use a less butter than Dorie calls for, and just add whatever nuts I have on hand. While we normally don't share the recipes from FFwD to encourage support of printed cookbooks, Dorie has posted the recipe on her blog, you can see it here: http://doriegreenspan.com/2011/01/there-was-a-time-in.html

I'm betting there will be lots of fun variations to check out with the other FFwD bloggers.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

40 bags of stuff

This is a very personal post for me, somewhat out of the ordinary, and not about a hobby, but about how I live my life, or the life I want to live. Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of the religious season of Lent. As a Catholic, I consider the period from Ash Wednesday to Easter to be a very important time of year. I try to spend Lent as a time for reflection, for betterment of myself and the world around me, and for spiritual growth. One tradition of Lent is to "give something up." In the not so olden days, people used to give up "rich" food for Lent, hence Fat Tuesday, the day when people would eat all the sweets and yummy foods from their house, so they wouldn't be there during Lent. It makes me think of the movie Chocolat. As a child I would give up things like cookies or TV time, but for the last ten years or so, I've really tried to focus on something that causes growth, and an overall change in my life - rather than chomping down on candy for breakfast on Easter morning after 40 days without. When I first started thinking about Lent a few weeks ago, I had focused in on giving up corn syrup. Corn syrup hides in so many things, and I've been fairly laissez faire about checking the ingrediants and removing it from my home. Giving up corn syrup would force me to focuse more on the processed foods I bring into our house was my rationale. But on Sunday, three days before Ash Wednesday, I realized I was going to give something else up for Lent, my stuff.

I was raised to be overly sentimental, and overly practical. If a piece of paper might contain a memory, I keep it - and if I'm not currently using something, but might need it some day, I keep it. I'm a keeper, and my stuff has filled our tiny house to its gills. This "full" house bothers my husband, he wants a more empty space for a more visually serene environment. I know getting rid of my stuff will make my husband happy. And when it comes down to it, isn't happiness what we're all looking for? And really, is the program from a play I attended 5 years ago making me happy, here, in this moment? No. Is an old t-shirt I might wear if I ever need an old t-shirt giving me a better homelife with my husband? No.

My lenten sacrifice is my stuff - 40 bags of stuff, one for each day. On Easter morning, I want to be able to say that 40 bags of things went to Goodwill or into the recycling bin. I want our house to feel 40 bags less full.

I think it will be a good Lent. And if Lent is part of your life, I hope it goes well for you also. And because I believe in giving credit for inspiration, I was looking at this particular blog post on Sunday when the metaphorical scale tipped and my lenten sacrifice became clear for me. http://www.rareandbeautifultreasures.com/2011/01/picture-window.html Its funny, because this post from a blog I follow is over a month old, but somehow, I never saw it until this day. It is like God led me to it, nudging my heart and my head in the right direction.

Friday, March 4, 2011

FFwd Savory Cheese and Chive Bread

Friday is here, and that means French Fridays with Dorie! I've had a re
ally hectic week (new baby in the family, sister's surgery, some other developments), but luckily I made this bread for French Fridays with Dorie on Sunday. I made it to go with a cassoulet, but the cassoulet recipe wasn't ready in time for dinner on Sunday, and ended up not being very good when finished. That was sad for me, because cassoulet is Mr. Hobby's favorite dish from France, and I really wanted to make it for him.

This bread is so pretty, I'll just show you the pictures now.

You can check out the other FFwD bloggers here!