Posts Tagged ‘spinach’

Quinoa and Spinach “Mac” and Cheese

The last few days weeks have been incredibly hectic.  I feel like I’m being torn in so many different directions and have absurd amounts of work to do.  I am of the opinion that a single lab report should not take more than three hours to complete, especially considering it is supposed to be a “mini” report and only involve cleaning up calculations and presenting information (already collected) in a readable manner.  NOPE.   I spent the entirety of my Sunday on this “mini” report and had to come back to it for a few minutes today.  Not to mention the fluid mechanics paper I should be writing, the fluid mechanics presentation I should absolutely be working on, and the plethora of other assignment and to-do list activities that are keeping me good and overwhelmed.

Funny Encouragement Ecard: Nothing makes me more productive than the last minute.

In fact, I have to admit something: the amount of stress I’m dealing with has driven me to cope by listening to Christmas music.  There, I said it.  It helps me relax and makes my environment a tad more cheerful than sitting in an office surrounded by papers that I need to grade, papers I need to read, and syllabi that I’m a bit behind on.  Basically I’ve got to make it to Halloween (hurdle number one) and then Thanksgiving (hurdle number two) and then I’m essentially home free.  Until then, though, it’s keeping my head down and my productivity up.  This has recently involved a lot of tea and chocolate.

I have been doing a relatively okay job cooking new recipes though, or, testing recipes that other amazing food bloggers have been creating, because right now all of my creativity is being channeled into figuring out how many different ways I can say “density-driven exchange flow” before it gets repetitive.  (It’s quite a few times, by the way.)  I’m a big fan of Two Peas and Their Pod, a blog that hails from Utah, and which showcases recipes on such a regular basis that I’m incredibly jealous.  I am currently using blogging as a study break.  But, a week or so ago I made their quinoa and spinach macaroni and cheese casserole recipe and it was amazing—I cut the fat a bit though.

Quinoa Spinach Mac and Cheese (adapted from Tasty Kitchen Blog)

2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 ½ cups 1% milk
generous sprinkle of nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese
3 cups quinoa, cooked
1 bag (6 oz.) fresh spinach
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
2-3 tablespoons butter
½ cup garlic flavored panko bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350⁰ F.  In a medium saucepan, melt the butter.  Whisk in the flour until the butter is all absorbed and you are left with a paste.  Add the milk and whisk until all the flour clumps are dissolved.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Add the nutmeg and salt.  Whisk in the shredded cheese in small portions, adding more after the first portion is entirely melted.  When the sauce has reached a uniform consistency, remove from heat.  In a large (and I mean really large!) bow, add the cheese sauce to the cooked quinoa.  Add the entire bag of spinach and stir to evenly distribute the ingredients.  The spinach will start to wilt and this will become more manageable.  Pour into an 8” x 8” glass baking pan.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Melt the remaining butter and mix with the panko breadcrumbs.  Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the top of the macaroni and cheese.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Quinoa and Spinach "Mac" and Cheese

I have to admit, I was really dubious about this recipe at first, because the last time I tried to use quinoa instead of a different grain, it did not work out to my benefit.  However, this time the quinoa is slathered in cheese and garlic breadcrumbs and butter, so how bad could it turn out?  It ended up being MUCH better than I could possibly have imagined.  I raved on the phone about this to both my parents and my friend Tom (though they all sounded about as dubious as I was at the beginning).  It gave me about six meals (hello leftovers!) and tasted amazing each time.  It’d definitely something that I’ll make again in the future.

Gourmet Quesadillas

I feel like every time I get older, I also get a little bit younger.  Recently this growing backwards has come in the form of applesauce and string cheese.  I don’t know what exactly it is about these two foods, but they are very ideal for snack time a work and they’re both relatively healthy.  Sure, string cheese isn’t the health food of the year, but it’s a way for me to get protein (since I’m not eating meat), and the part-skim kind isn’t too high in calories or fat.  It’s got some sodium, but in the make-believe world that I live in, eating salt is very easily counteracted by eating applesauce or a pear.  I also am reverting to kindergarten age in the sense that when I come home from work, all I can ever think about doing is taking a nap.  I can’t even read anymore unless I’m super into the book because otherwise it’s just read a page and then fall asleep on the couch.

That said, I have some book recommendations.  I have this passion for Scandinavian crime novels, so a couple authors I’d advise looking out for are Yrsa Sigurðardóttir and Arnaldur Indriðason, both Icelanders, Håkan Nesser, a Swede, and Jo Nesbø, a Norweigan.  I am currently reading the third in a series by Nesser, The Return, which tells the story of a man, recently released from prison (where he ended up in the first place because he was convicted of murdering two women with whom he’d had relations), and is found dead.  The questions clearly are who killed this man and why.  I’m not anywhere near finding out the answers yet, but it’s a really good read and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in crime fiction.

So most of my time is taken up either working at the restaurant or reading (aka sleeping), but sometimes I do get really inspired to cook.  Note: this usually happens on my weekend, because cooking after working for eight hours on my feet while dealing with food is just sometimes too much.  So, the other day I didn’t have to work and I decided to make some quesadillas.  I’m not talking melted cheese on a tortilla.  I’m talking cooked veggies, melted cheese, and a little bit of love made into a quesadilla.

Gourmet Quesadilla

Here’s what I did, very generically of course, because it depends on each person’s individual tastes.  I started with some finely chopped onion and mushrooms sprinkled with red pepper flakes and sautéed them in olive oil for quite a while before adding just a bit of minced garlic, maybe half of a clove.  Then I added a very healthy handful of baby spinach to the pan and cooked it until it was quite wilted and less than half the size it started.  After removing the vegetables from the heat, I spread refried black beans over half of a burrito-sized tortilla, shredded some nice white cheddar over the beans, and spread the veggies over top of it all.  Finally, I folded it in half, cooked it in a small amount of olive oil until it got just a bit browned and crispy, and then served.

Folded and Cripsy

It was super good.  I know I say that just about every time I write a post, but really, this was a gourmet quesadilla.  The nice cheese (Flagstaff, I think it’s called) made a big difference, and we’ve also started stocking our cupboards with really nice olive oil, which actually makes a huge difference in the way that things taste.  Not to mention the garlic and the red pepper flakes, cooked onions and mushrooms, and spinach.  The only thing better than the smells in the kitchen was the taste of the quesadilla.  Mom wandered in when I was cooking my own and asked me to make her one too—that’s how good it was.  Maybe my new life goal will be to open a gourmet quesadilla food truck.

Penne in a Creamy Mushroom Sauce

This is another one of those recipes that I was telling you about where I’m using up the dairy products in the house.  I am proud to say that I have used all the buttermilk, goat cheese, and sour cream, though I do still have four more eggs.  I have no more canned goods that have dairy in them, and the only milk I have in the fridge is vanilla almond milk for my oatmeal.  I’m back on the vegan wagon!  In this recipe I would have liked to cook my mushrooms in wine, but alas, I had none in the house, so I decided to give balsamic vinegar a whirl and it came out fantastic (and smelled SO good in the process).  Unfortunately, I did that stupid thing where I forgot to take a picture, so you’ll definitely just have to trust me on this one.

Penne in a Sour Cream and Mushroom Sauce

2 ½ cups dry penne pasta
Olive oil
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
2 tomatoes, diced
Pepper, to taste
¼ cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup sour cream
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
2 cups baby spinach

Cook the penne according to pasta directions.  Drain and rinse. Set aside.  Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large saucepan.  Sauté the mushrooms and the tomatoes for about five minutes.  Season with pepper. Add vegetable broth, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice.  Boil for about 5 minutes, or until the liquid has been reduced by half.  Add sour cream and cream of mushroom soup, stir to coat and cook until slightly thickened, 2-3 minutes.  Add baby spinach and cook until wilted.  Remove from heat.  Spoon the sauce over the cooked pasta and stir to coat.

I know…this is a quick update made much more boring without a picture of scrumptious food, but it is mid-week and I just don’t have the energy to be interesting.  Plus, I just watched Julie & Julia and I’m pretty sure Julie wasn’t uploading pictures of all the food that she cooked to her blog (at least they didn’t show that part in the video), so I know it’s possible to be a successful blogger without pictures.  I do feel bad though, so I promise to blog about my trip to Moab and Salt Lake City with my mom next, and there are so many delicious food pictures you are just not going to know what to do with yourself.

Pasta with Spicy Vegetables and Soy Sauce

I have recently been indulging in copious amounts of banana bread as a coping mechanism.  What am I coping with?  Oh the stress of finding a job, finding a grad school, living in rural Wyoming, not having internet at home, trying to save money, running out of stamps, having my water turned off a couple times in the last two weeks…the list goes on.  The good news is that I have a lot of banana bread, so I can eat away my sorrows while watching Masterpiece Theatre’s Casanova on repeat.  I am clearly living a very healthy lifestyle right now.  The good news is that I am going to see my mom a week from tomorrow.  I have a long weekend so we’re going to explore Salt Lake City and drive down to Moab and Arches National Monument.  I’m really excited do some exploring somewhere that I haven’t been before, and it will be really great to have some company.

Today is about to get a whole lot more exciting because now that I’ve arrived at the library, I can watch the season finale of Pretty Little Liars.  I know that I may have a slight problem in that I am a college graduate and still watch this show, but it’s not like there’s a whole lot to do out here, so I take what amusement I can get, much to the distress of my male friends.  It’s a good thing that I’ve got some visits planned over the next four weekends; otherwise I think I’d go quite a bit stir crazy.

Here’s a recipe that I made a couple weeks ago when everything fresh in my fridge started to go bad at once.  It was delicious but quite spicy (my fault of course), so you’ll have to play it by ear.

Pasta with Spicy Vegetables and Soy Sauce

Olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, seeds removed and diced
1 jalapeno pepper, sliced
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
Two large handfuls baby spinach
Soy sauce
Red pepper flakes
Lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan.  Saute onion and garlic until fragrant and translucent.  Add the green pepper, jalapeno pepper, and mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms and peppers are tender.  Wilt in spinach.  As the vegetables are cooking, season with soy sauce (at least two tablespoons), red pepper flakes to taste, lemon juice (at least a teaspoon), and salt and pepper.  Serve over pasta.

I think that the sauce for this recipe is one that you’re going to have to play with and taste test as you go along.  I sampled the mushrooms and found them to be an excellent indicator of what the sauce would taste like on the remainder of the vegetables as well (and really, I just like sampling mushrooms).  I like it spicy, but the combination of the jalapeno and an excess of red pepper flakes made it a bit too spicy for me, so I upped the lemon juice and soy sauce a bit to compensate.  Time for Pretty Little Liars!

Stuffed Peppers and a Completed Thesis

Today I did something that I legitimately have never done before, or at least, something that I haven’t done in a really long time.  I slept through my first alarm.  I think it’s because it is one of those days.  It’s grey and wet outside, it’s windy, and it’s a little bit chilly.  Clearly, the best option for everyone is to stay in bed drinking hot chocolate and reading for fun under the blankets.  Except, some of us actually have to work for money and it would be bad news if we didn’t show up.  So up I got (luckily I am in the habit of setting two alarms) and over to the museum I came.  This has been a really big and busy week, so it’s actually nice to have some quiet time on a Friday morning to putz around on the internet and most importantly, update my blog.

The biggest thing that happened this week was my thesis presentation.  Three other geology majors and I had to stand up in front of the department and our friends and tell the story of our research projects.  I was super nervous before my turn, but once I got up there, the words came out pretty well.  And I am confident that I could tell any person with any level of education all about rainsplash erosion and they would understand it.  After the presentations, the four of us went back to my room for champagne, wine, beer and pizza to celebrate this process finally being mostly complete.  I legitimately have been working on this since June 4, 2011.  I presented April 10, 2012.  That is over ten months, just so you know.

(from left: Alex, me, Hannah, Sarah)

Also this week was a senior banquet to celebrate the senior class (they actually fed us somewhat decent food!) and a geophysics lab for which we travelled to the Institute for Rock Magnetism at the University of Minnesota.  It was relatively interesting, but I find that when you have a cold and cannot breathe, things get infinitely less interesting.  Clearly the best part of the afternoon was getting Vietnamese egg rolls as lab snack after the tours and learning about the various instruments.  They were delicious, and something that I would never actually try to tackle in the kitchen by myself, but totally worth it at a restaurant or for carry-out.  After getting back from lab, I spent the remainder of the evening catching up on my various TV shows (Bones, Modern Family, New Girl) and eating Dove chocolate eggs.  Clearly this was necessary for my mental state.

The recipe that I want to share with you now is one that my dad and I actually made over spring break when I was still at home.  It is based off of this recipe from Edible Perspective, but we made a few changes that I’ll illustrate here.

Stuffed Peppers

15-20 mini sweet peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 oz. baby portabella mushrooms, finely diced
1 bag of baby spinach
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
¾ cup white cheddar, shredded

Slice the peppers lengthwise and remove the seeds.  Place open side up on a baking sheet and broil for at least four minutes, or until they have softened slightly.  Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add mushrooms, spinach, garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper and sauté until the mushrooms have shrunk and softened and the spinach has wilted.  Remove from heat and pour the mixture into a large bowl.  Add the shredded cheese and stir until the cheese has melted.  Divide and spoon the mixture into the pepper halves.  Broil again for at least four minutes.

We had a little bit of trouble with the recipe as it was originally published because the length of time that the peppers needed to broil before becoming soft was longer than stated.  We ended up eating slightly crunch peppers, which was fine, but softer peppers would have been perfect.  The flavor combination of the stuffing was delicious, so much that we actually used it in a different recipe that I’ll publish later.  I would suggest upping the cheese slightly, but then again, I am completely helpless when it comes to cheese and I would eat it with every meal if it was allowed.  Overall, these were great.  We used them as a side dish to our meal, which also included couscous and broiled swai, but they would be a great appetizer at a party or a delicious mid-afternoon snack!


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