Cheeseburger Quinoa Bake – How I Convinced my Husband to Eat Quinoa

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It’s no secret I’m a big fan of cookbooks. I have quite a collection that varies depending on where I’m traveling or what is influencing me at the time.

Lately, that influence has been taking a closer look at what we eat with an eye to doing a little tweaking. Although our meals are generally pretty healthy — we try to avoid processed foods and consume a lot of vegetables, there is definitely room for improvement. It was a pretty busy Spring, and with not as much time to cook, those cheat days start slipping into cheat weeks. Plus, we’re going on a Mediterranean cruise later this summer, and it would be really nice to avoid having to buy a new (larger) swimsuit.

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A couple of weeks ago, I was surfing around on Amazon and found a cookbook called “The Dude Diet,” by Serena Wolf. Normally I would skip right over any cookbook with the word “diet” in the title, much less “dude.” However, having just consumed a plate of nachos at Chilis and with that cruise looming, I decided to take a closer look, and I’m so glad I did. This is a book that’s written for my life right now – way too busy to do a lot of all-day cooking and starting to think of nachos as a food group. It’s not a book that I’ll cook from everyday, but when I need ideas for made-from-scratch lunches or dinners for busy weeknights, this is a winner. It’s a nice collection of healthy recipes that don’t skimp on flavor. And the fact that the author is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Paris doesn’t hurt.

The book arrived, and after skimming through it, I decided to start with this post’s recipe – a quinoa casserole with cheeseburger flavors. My husband follows the “Primal Blueprint” a Paleoish grain-free diet. I’m totally on board with that and try to be supportive, but I’m not ready to give up grains entirely. Therefore, finding meals that suit both of us can sometimes be a challenge. So when I found out that quinoa was considered more of a seed than a grain and was now permitted on the Primal Blueprint plan, I was not disappointed. And my husband was not disappointed in the dish, which is really saying something. He would have preferred more burger and less quinoa, but we both liked it, and it was a quick and easy dish to prepare for the week’s lunches.

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Cheeseburger Quinoa Bake

4-6 Servings

This is a versatile casserole that could be changed up in a variety of ways. Just think of your favorite burger toppings – sautéed mushrooms, jalapenos, bacon bits, etc. Feel free to swap out cheeses as well. Pecorino or Swiss come to mind. I used gluten free Panko, but any other type will be fine.

1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained

1 1/2 cups beef broth

1/3 cup gluten free Panko bread crumbs

2 teaspoons sesame seeds

1 teaspoon smoked paprika, divided

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound ground beef

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 1/4 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided

Combine the quinoa and the beef broth in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower to a simmer, cover, and cook for 14 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and allow the quinoa to rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff quinoa with a fork.

Preheat the oven to 375. Combine the Panko, sesame seeds and 1/2 teaspoon of the smoked paprika in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and the garlic and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the ground beef, salt, pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika to the skillet and cook, stirring, until meat is no longer pink. Add the tomato paste, mustard and Worcestershire sauce to the pan and cook for 3 more minutes.

Stir the diced tomatoes into the meat mixture, then mix in the quinoa and 1/2 cup of the cheese. Sprinkle the top of the mixture with the remaining cheese, followed by the Panko mixture. Bake for 25 minutes until bubbly and the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Adapted from The Dude Diet by Serena Wolf

 

Celebrating the Last of Summer – Grilled Burgers with Avocado and Parsnip Fries

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I love fall – going outside that first crisp morning when the temperature is in the 50s in complete contrast to the 80s and 90s we’ve previously experienced in the DC area. This year has been different, however. We’ve had such a mild summer that now that the temperature has dropped, I find myself almost thinking I can’t appreciate it, because it just hasn’t been that hot. Wow, Jeannine. The one summer on record with decent temperatures and you think it needs to be hotter. Let’s throw in some heavy-duty humidity while we’re at it, shall we? So, I guess what I’m getting at is that, on this last day of summer, I’m not ready to throw in the towel on summer yet. There will be plenty of time for braises, pumpkin, soups and all those foods that signify fall later down the road.

One of the stops on the Explore Asheville Foodtopia tour during the recent Food Blogger Forum was a visit to Hickory Nut Gap Farm.

Farm 1We were treated to a sample of their delicious grass-fed beef before touring a section of the farm, led by Jamie Ager, one of the co-owners of the farm.

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These hamburgers were inspired by the visit to the farm. I think you’ll agree when you taste these is that there is just no substitute for grass-fed beef – it just tastes, well, beefier. And you can’t argue with the health benefits of eating meat that provides essential Omega 3 fatty acids.

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I’ve been following Juli Bauer of PaleOMG ever since my husband and I first started experimenting with the Paleo/Primal lifestyle 3 years ago. Although neither of us is completely Paleo, I still follow Juli’s blog and find it a great source of healthy recipes, no matter what eating program you follow. I’ve really enjoyed seeing how she has grown as a cook over the past few years. This burger recipe is a perfect example. They are incredibly juicy and have a really nice flavor without being too over-the-top. The burgers are served wrapped in a bibb or romaine lettuce leaf, as I’ve pictured here. However, if you must have a bun for your burger, I recommend having the parsnip shoestrings on the side rather than on the burger.

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Hamburgers on the Grill with Avocado and Parsnip Shoestrings

Serves 6

 Instead of mashing the avocados for the garnish, you can also use 1 cup of your favorite guacamole. I really like the fresh guacamole from the local Whole Foods.

2 large parsnips, peeled

2 pounds ground beef

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup coconut oil

6 romaine or bibb lettuce leaves

1 red onion, thinly sliced

2 avocados, peeled seeded and mashed

Preheat the grill to medium high.

Cut the parsnips into long shoestrings with a julienne peeler or spiral slicer. Set aside.

Combine the ground beef, onion, mustard, garlic and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Divide the meat mixture into 6 patties, making a small indentation in the center of each one.   Grill the burgers to desired level of doneness. We found that 6 minutes covered on the first side and three minutes covered on the second side resulted in a medium-rare burger, but your grill might be different. Do what works for you.

While the burgers are cooking heat the coconut oil in a saucepan until one of the shoestrings sizzles when dropped into the oil. Fry the shoestrings tossing with a fork until golden brown. Remove them from the oil and place on a paper-lined plate to drain. Sprinkle with salt while hot.

When the burgers are done, allow them to rest for 5-7 minutes. Place the burgers on a lettuce leaf, top with red onion, avocado or guacamole and parsnip fries.

Adapted from PaleOMG.    I think this recipe is also included in Juli’s latest book, The Paleo Kitchen.

 

 

Thai Beef and Mint Stir-Fry

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Although I no longer cook professionally, I will always be extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to do so.  Not many people get the chance to leave a perfectly well-paying job to pursue a lifelong dream.  I was lucky that I had a very supportive husband as well as a military retirement pension to fall back on when things got tight, and boy did they at times.  The pay isn’t great, especially in the beginning, and the work is sometimes grueling, but for those with the passion, it can be a very rewarding career.  Some of the colleagues with whom I went to culinary school have become very successful in the profession, and I am so proud of them.

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I made some wonderful friends in culinary school as well as learned to be a much better cook. I credit school for setting me on the right track to eating real food rather than boxed and bagged items off the grocery store shelves with ingredients I can’t pronounce. 

The philosophy at L’Academie de Cuisine was simple – learn to prepare classic French cuisine and you can cook anything; however, the staff at the school neglected to tell me one thing, which turned out to be the biggest benefit of all – we didn’t just learn to cook French food.  Yes, we started with soup a l’oignon, making it with water at the beginning so they wouldn’t waste perfectly good stock on a bunch of non-cooks.  And the week we spent on puff pastry dragged on and on – wellingtons, cheese straws, soup with a pastry crust…  But because our pastry instructor was from Thailand and her husband was Indian, we also learned how to make all sorts of Asian and Indian dishes.  Curries, salads, appetizers, you name it – they were all delicious and a nice break from the cassoulet and beef bourguignon we typically made for lunch each day.

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My first exposure to Thai food was actually in Budapest of all places, where a Thai colleague with whom I was traveling introduced me to a variety of his native dishes.  We had just spent a week in Kiev and were desperate for some food with some flavor.  The dishes I later learned to prepare in school hooked me on Thai food for life, although I rarely make it at home.  This dish reminded me of culinary school, but unlike many of the dishes we prepared there, it is very easy to prepare and makes a nice lunch or light dinner.

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Thai Beef and Mint Stir-Fry

4 Servings

This dish was originally described as a salad to be eaten warm or cold over chopped Napa cabbage.  I turned it into “Thai tacos” by serving it warm wrapped in the Napa cabbage leaves.  You could also serve it over hot bean thread noodles or rice.  If you can’t find Thai chiles you can use 1 or two serranos.

1 pound flank or skirt steak

3 stalks celery

2 tablespoons coconut oil

Salt

Pepper

2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and finely chopped

1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped

2 Thai chiles, finely chopped

5 plum tomatoes, cored and cut into thin wedges

2 scallions, but into 2-inch lengths

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise

Juice of 1 lime

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 cups mint leaves

1/2 cup cilantro leaves

To facilitate slicing the beef very thin, you can place it in the freezer for up to 40 minutes.  Cut the steak against the grain into very thin slices, then cross wise into 2-inch lengths. Slice the celery by placing it on its side and slicing at a 45-degree angle to achieve V-shaped pieces.  Separate the cabbage leaves and set aside for serving.

Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat and add the coconut oil.  Heat the oil until it melts then swirl to coat the pan.  Add the beef, season with salt and pepper, and sear, stirring until it browns.  Add the ginger, garlic, and chiles and stir-fry for 1 minute.  Add the celery, tomatoes, scallions and red onions and stir-fry until the celery begins to soften, 3-5 minutes.  Stir in the lime juice, fish sauce and the sesame oil.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cilantro and the mint.

To serve place a spoonful of the beef mixture onto a cabbage leaf, fold over and eat out of hand.

Adapted from Café Pasqual’s Cookbook – Spirited Recipes from Santa Fe by Katharine Kagel