Tag Archives: easy recipes

Moroccan-Inspired Vegan Quinoa Skillet

I tend fall into a rut where I prepare meals in a somewhat traditional style (a protein, plus a veggie or two, maybe a starch such as rice or potato, or a salad), especially during the week. It’s simple, I don’t have to think or follow a recipe, it pleases those picky eaters that don’t always like a bunch of different vegetables mixed together, and I can easily customize each plate to some degree – meaning I can take my double-helping of whatever veggies are on the menu and everyone is happy. But when I am feeling more creative, I love to combine flavors and mix things. When time is no obstacle, this often results in complex dishes like menudo, curries, cassoulet, or stews. These generally not only take time, but also create more dishes than I’d like to tackle on a weeknight. So what’s an inspired girl to do to incorporate a lot of flavor without a lot of time or dishes?

Make a one-skillet dish! I came across Heather at Gluten-Free Cat’s Moroccan Yukina Savoy and Red Quinoa Skillet, and it intrigued me. A quick, filling, protein-and-veggie-packed meal that could be made in a single skillet? This was not only doable, but it sounded delicious. Of course, I tweaked it a bit, adding some additional spices (Which I realize makes it not as simple, but I have an arsenal of spices in my kitchen, so I love to put them to use. If you’d like, you can just use cumin and paprika, or come up with your own spice combination.), substituting swiss chard from my garden for the yukina savoy, and substituting raisins for the apricots. I also used regular quinoa rather than the red, because I only had a teensy bit of red quinoa left in the pantry. What resulted was a comforting, fragrant, filling dish that not only satisfied my hunger for complex flavors, but was stress-free to put together. In addition, the leftovers made for an amazing lunch.

Unlike so many “one-dish” meals that either require other “starters” or “accompaniments” (such as a salad, bread, etc) to complete the meal, this dish truly does stand alone quite well. I did find that a fresh orange at the end of the meal served as a perfect dessert, however. Unfussy, yet completely satisfying.

Moroccan-Inspired Vegan Quinoa Skillet, inspired by Gluten-Free Cat

1 c quinoa

1 T each paprika and ground cumin

1/2 t each ground turmeric, cinnamon, ground ginger, cayenne, and freshly ground black pepper

1 t salt

2 T olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

3 c sliced carrots

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1/2 c raisins

1 c cooked white beans (I used navy beans)

3 c vegetable stock

1 large bunch of swiss chard, chopped (about 3 cups)

1/4 c chopped fresh parsley

1/4 c sliced almonds

Place the quinoa in a bowl and cover with water. Set aside.

Mix together all of the spices in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat a large, heavy skillet to medium heat (I used my cast iron skillet). Add onions, carrots, and garlic. Saute for 6-7 minutes or until onions are soft, but carrots are still just beginning to soften. Add in the spices, lemon zest and juice, raisins, beans,  and stock. Drain the quinoa, add it to the skillet, and stir. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to a simmer. Cover with a lid and allow to simmer, stirring once or twice, for 15 minutes. Add in swiss chard and stir, and cover again with the lid and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until chard is wilted. (If the quinoa is too dry, add a bit more stock or water.) Remove lid, stir well, and serve, garnished with parsley and sliced almonds.

Serves 4 generously.

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Filed under Beans, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Quick and Easy, Vegetarian

Turkey Congee (Jook) with Brown Rice

I love a good deal. I clip coupons. I shop clearance bins. I buy clothes at the end of the season so that I can take advantage of reduced prices. I even subscribe to blogs that alert me of great deals. So when I can make meals that are so cheap, they’re almost free, I feel virtuous.

Free? Well, not entirely. But with a few frugal actions, a few inexpensive pantry ingredients, and a bit of mostly unattended time, a meal (or several) for the family is served. While it’s not the most elegant of meals, to be sure, it’s certainly not lacking in flavor or nutrition. As far as I’m concerned, it ranks right up there in terms of most craveable comfort meals. And it feeds the family easily for well under $10.

What is this magical meal? Congee. Or jook, as it is sometimes called. Congee is a rice porridge eaten in many Asian countries, many times, for breakfast. (A practice of which I am quite fond.) At its simplest, congee is rice simmered with water until the rice breaks down and the porridge becomes thick. Of course, there are a lot of variations – including adding meat, fish, salted eggs, spring onions, or soy sauce. Regardless of how it’s eaten, it’s a humble, comforting meal, and a great way to stretch a dollar.

I first learned of congee from Jaden at Steamy Kitchen. She posted congee as a great way to use up the leftover turkey bones from Thanksgiving. Following her example, I made congee for the first time after this past Thanksgiving, loosely following her steps, and improvising a bit on my own. I was in love. I ate the congee for several days, and froze the rest to bring for lunch during the week. It was such a delicious, belly-warming delight to eat.

A few weeks back, after I found some free-range, naturally-raised turkey on sale for $0.99/lb, I immediately knew I would be making congee again. After I’d roasted the turkey, (I used the meat to fill enchiladas, top salads, and fill sandwich wraps) I placed the bones in a few large ziploc bags and froze them. (I do this with chicken carcasses as well to use later for stock.) This weekend, I pulled out the turkey carcass, threw it along with some veggies in a large stockpot, and walked away to do other things. You see, while congee takes some time to prepare, most of that time is hands-off. It’s great for a weekend when you have other tasks around the house – it just sits there, happily simmering away, while you go about your business.

Just how is this dish nearly free? First of all, most of us simply throw away turkey (or chicken) bones when we’ve finished roasting and eating. This makes these bones almost like they’re a free ingredient, as you’ve put something that was previously “garbage” to use! As for the remaining ingredients, the rice used in this dish might cost $0.75, and the onion, carrots, and celery, another $2-3. (If you also save carrot ends, peelings, and celery tops for stock – you can simply throw these all together in a ziploc whenever you have them, and place in the freezer – then these can be considered “free” too and can be used here.) The dried shrimp might be an additional cost, but they’re relatively inexpensive, as are the rest of the pantry ingredients. For me, these are all items that I keep on hand, so I spent next to nothing to throw this dish together. I’d estimate the cost for the ingredients at around $6 for the entire recipe, which means each serving is less than $1. Definitely a good deal!

This time around, I opted to include dried shrimp, which enhanced the “umami” flavor of the porridge, and I used brown rice to boost the nutritional value of the dish, allowing me to enjoy it for breakfast guilt-free. You certainly can change up or omit these types of ingredients as you see fit – congee is a dish that begs to be personalized. After my congee simmered for a good long while, a taste test confirmed my hopes – this porridge, while humble, was viscous, creamy, and warmly satisfying. After eating a few more spoonfuls (I had to double and triple-check the flavor, after all!), I packed the rest away for breakfast and/or lunches. I can imagine it already, with a squirt of Sriracha and a preserved duck egg. Yum. It’s gonna be a good week!

You don’t have to wait until turkey “season” to make this – if you roast chickens (or even if you buy rotisserie chickens), simply save up a few of the carcasses. I would imagine 3 leftover chicken carcasses would work perfectly here.

Turkey Congee, adapted from Steamy Kitchen

Turkey bones from a 15-20 lb turkey, with 95% of the meat removed (or the bones from 3 roasted chickens)

3 celery stalks, sliced

2 carrots, sliced (don’t even bother peeling)

1 large chopped onion (don’t even bother peeling)

5 quarter-inch slices of fresh ginger (don’t even bother peeling)

3 cloves garlic, smashed

9-10 cups water

½ c dried shitake mushrooms

¼ c dried scallops or shrimp (optional)

½ c shaoxing wine or dry sherry

2 c short-grain brown rice

1 T fish sauce

1 T sesame oil

2-3 T gluten-free soy sauce

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

Cilantro, for garnish

Put the carcass in a large stockpot. (You may have to break it up a little to make it fit) Add the next 6 ingredients and bring to a boil. (It’s okay if the water doesn’t completely cover everything.) Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook, covered with a tight-fitting lid, for 2 hours. Strain into a bowl to remove bones and solids, and pick the meat from the bones. Add meat back into the strained stock, along with the mushrooms, dried scallops/shrimp, wine, rice, fish sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, and carrots. Bring to a boil again and reduce to a simmer, partially covered. Allow to cook for 2 hours or more, until the rice breaks down and the entire dish becomes thick. Adjust fish sauce and soy sauce to taste, and garnish with cilantro as desired. Serves 8.

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Filed under Budget-Friendly, Chicken, Turkey, and other Poultry, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Rice, Soups

Stir-Fried Brown Rice with Sirloin and Broccoli

Some up-front honesty before we get started: I debated whether to post this. Not because it wasn’t delicious – it most certainly was. No doubt about that. I just felt that the photo doesn’t do the dish justice. This is a dish that is bursting with flavor, demanded that I take seconds, and was indeed greater than the sum of its parts. In my opinion, this photo just didn’t convey those attributes enough. Unfortunately, it was also so well-enjoyed that by the time I downloaded the photos from my camera and came upon this realization, the opportunity to retake the pictures was long gone. All that remained were a few stray rice grains in the pan. Has this ever happened to you?

After some serious consideration, I decided to go forward with it. After all, why should I make you wait until next time (and there will be a next time!)? You should be able to enjoy a dish like this today. I’m a firm believer in immediate gratification when it comes to food.

The inspiration for this recipe came from the latest edition of Food and Wine magazine, amid other healthy, delicious recipes. (Yes, Food and Wine published a lot of healthy recipes this month! I was pretty darned excited, if I do say so.) Su-Mei Yu was the creator of a delectable Stir-Fried Red Rice with Sliced Sirloin Steak and Peas dish. Unfortunately, I didn’t have red rice on hand, and I knew it would require a bit of searching to locate. While I fully intend on tracking down some red rice, just to try it out, I wanted to make this dish now. (You know, that while immediate gratification thing.) So I substituted short-grain brown rice, changed up the vegetables a bit, and basically took a large number of liberties to suit my needs. Not sure that in the end, I’m actually following the original recipe at all, but regardless, I was definitely inspired.

The verdict? As you saw in the first paragraph, this was a hit. Who says healthy has to be bland or boring? I loved the slight heat the chile oil gave, loved the brightness of the cilantro and lime, and practically licked my plate clean. Even the husband was pleasantly surprised. (He’s not much for Asian cuisine, especially when it comes to a bunch of vegetables stir-fried together.) This recipe will definitely appear on the Tasty Eats menu again in the future.

Stir-Fried Brown Rice with Sirloin and Broccoli, adapted from Su-Mei Yu – Food and Wine magazine

1 large head broccoli, cut into florets

2 T olive oil (not extra-virgin)

8 oz sirloin steak, sliced thinly into strips

Salt and pepper

½ large sweet onion, diced

1 ½ T grated fresh ginger

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 carrots, peeled and julienned

1 c frozen peas, thawed

2 c short-grain brown rice, cooked (either follow your rice cooker’s instructions, or follow Nicole’s super-cool instructions for perfect brown rice) and cooled to room temperature

2 T gluten-free soy sauce (La Choy and Tan-J sell gluten-free varieties)

1 T fish sauce

1 t sesame oil

½ t chile oil (optional – can be found in the Asian section of most supermarkets)

½ c chopped cilantro

1 lime, sliced into wedges

Fill a medium saucepan with enough water to cover the broccoli, and bring to a boil. Prepare a bowl with ice water and set aside. When water is boiling, add broccoli and submerge. Boil for 1 minute and drain, and quickly dunk broccoli into ice water to stop cooking. When cool, drain broccoli and set aside.

In a skillet or wok, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil at medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the steak strips, season with a bit of salt and pepper, and spread out into a single layer. Brown for about 1 minute. Remove and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add the onion and sauté for about 3-4 minutes or until beginning to soften. Add the garlic, ginger, and carrots and sauté for another minute or two. Add the broccoli, peas, and rice and stir. Let sit untouched for about a minute, until you hear everything sizzle. Add the soy sauce and fish sauce and stir. Add the steak, sesame oil, and chile oil and stir again. Remove from heat and serve garnished with cilantro and lime wedges.

Serves 4.

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Filed under Budget-Friendly, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Healthy Meals, Main Dishes, Quick and Easy, Rice