Build a Grain Bowl & Grain Bowls with Quinoa, Black Beans & Sweet Potato

It’s been a rough couple of weeks. If possible the chasm between the tribes of our divided nation seems wider and deeper than ever. So many of us are fraught with anger, disappointment, sadness or some combination of any and all. Long-buried, fright-filled memories have resurfaced for some. While others see threats, real and imagined, and meet them with vicious counter attacks.

Sure, from time to time, faint signs give us cause for optimism. We feel a glimmer of relief for a minute or a day, sometimes even two. Until those hopes are dashed and, once again, cooperation seems impossible. With a seemingly endless supply of acrimony, I can’t help but wonder – is it even possible to find peaceful compromise?

How about instead of arguing, we reach out and share something? Nothing political mind you, instead share something personal – a favorite song, a recipe or a hug. Or do something together. Go see a movie, have dinner afterwards and talk about it. Take a hike and enjoy the foliage. Sit and knit for an hour. Brew up a pot of tea while you’re at it.

If you’re like me, you’ll be tempted to cook together. Think of it as kitchen detente. Cooler weather builds up an appetite for comfort food. What could be more soothing to a strained relationship than the delicious smells of roasting vegetables or simmering soup.

I’d like to suggest you declare peace over a grain bowl. Packed with your favorite vegetables and grains, these bowls are deliciously healthy. There is no right or wrong (or left) and the combinations are endless. In addition, they are a very good for using up leftovers.

So, how do you build a grain bowl. That’s easy – start with a layer of grain, add vegetables, a little protein and a garnish or two. A little too vague. Okay, here’s more:

1. Pick a theme. Perhaps it’s a good night for Asian bowls, Tex-Mex or Mediterranean.

2. Pick a grain. The possibilities are endless. Fragrant basmati rice will be delicious with an Asian-inspired dinner. Quinoa is perfect for strong flavors from the Caribbean or Middle East. Try polenta for a Mediterranean feast.

3. Pick your toppings. This can be as easy as what leftovers are in the refrigerator or what’s on special at the supermarket. Grain bowls are a tasty alternative for meatless Mondays and are just as good with meat, fish and poultry. Either way, be sure to go heavy on the vegetables.

4. Finish with a flavorful garnish or two. This is your chance to add fresh herbs and a little crunch.

Gather friends in the kitchen, split the tasks and build the bowls. Before you know it, dinner will be ready. We’re not talking miracles here. A grain bowl won’t deliver world peace but it might patch up a frayed friendship.

Here’s to peace and kindness. Bon appétit!

Grain Bowls with Quinoa, Black Beans & Sweet Potato
With ingredients from South and Central America, these bowls are packed with flavor. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 1/2-2 pounds sweet potato, peeled and cut in bite-sized pieces
Olive oil
Apple cider vinegar
Pureed chipotle in adobo*
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups quinoa
1 bay leaf
3-4 sprigs thyme
4-5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 onion, finely chopped
1 yellow or red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 1/2-4 cups cooked black beans*, rinsed and drained
Crumbled queso or feta
Toasted pumpkin seeds
Fresh chopped cilantro
Lime wedges

Prepare the sweet potato: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put 1-2 tablespoons each olive oil and vinegar in a bowl, add 1 teaspoon or to taste chipotle puree and whisk to combine. Add the sweet potato, toss to coat, season with salt and pepper and toss again. Spread the sweet potato on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast at 375 degrees until tender, about 30 minutes.

Prepare the quinoa: Put the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and rinse well with cold water. Put the quinoa, bay leaf and thyme in a saucepan, add 3 cups broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and, adding more broth if necessary, cook for about 20 minutes or until the quinoa is tender.

Prepare the black beans: Heat a little olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, cumin and 1 teaspoon (or taste) chipotle puree, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more. Stir in the black beans and 1 cup broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the quinoa and sweet potato are ready.

Put it all together and serve: Spoon the quinoa into individual bowls, add a layer of beans, top with sweet potato, sprinkle with crumbled queso, pumpkin seeds and cilantro and serve with lime wedges.

* About 12 ounces dried blacks cooked according to package directions or 2-3 (14-15 ounce) cans of black beans.

* Take a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and toss them, sauce and all, in a small food processor. Process until smooth and transfer to a clean glass jar. Store the chipotle purée in the refrigerator and use as needed.

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One Year Ago – Mediterranean Meatballs with Couscous
Two Years Ago – Pumpkin Chili with Turkey & Black Beans
Three Years Ago – Ravioli with Roasted Butternut Squash
Four Years Ago – Hearty White Bean & Tomato Soup
Five Years Ago – Cherry-Pistachio Biscotti
Six Years Ago – Tagliatelle alla Carbonara
Seven Years Ago – Carbonnade á la Flamande – Beer Braised Beef & Onions
Eight Years Ago – Braised Beef Bourguignon
Nine Years Ago – Pumpkin Cupcakes
Ten Years Ago – Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

With whom would you like to cook? My nieces – yes, that’s them in the photo with me and my dad – are my favorite sous chefs. Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

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Back on Cook’s Corner – Grilled Shrimp Tacos

width=It’s summertime and the grilling is easy. I’m back on Cook’s Corner to demonstrate one of my favorite summer dishes.

You’ll fall in love with my Grilled Shrimp Tacos. With fresh tomatoes, charred corn and a fabulous salsa verde, they take Taco Tuesday to a whole new level. These tacos are fresh and light – the perfect dinner on a hot summer night.

Taco Saturday – Another Weekend Special

I’ve got a couple of busy days writing this weekend. That said, I think I owe someone a dinner so I may need to get out the grill on Saturday. What about you? While I figure out IF I’ll be cooking this weekend, here are a few dishes you and your friends might enjoy this weekend …

It may not be Tuesday but what about tacos?

To start, let everyone sit and relax with a glass of wine and maybe some… Corncakes? Want something a little simpler? How about my Guacamole & Simple Salsa or Watermelon & Cucumber Salsa.

All right, what’s next? Soup or salad? The solstice is still a few weeks away but it’s not too early to serve one of my favorite summer salads. I promise, you will love my Grilled Romaine Salad.

Now for the tacos … I’ve got two suggestions: Grilled Shrimp Tacos and Grilled Zucchini Tacos. You’ve got the grill going, why not serve them both.

Now, top it all off with a sweet treat. What could be better than a little spice and more chocolate in my Mexican Chocolate Pot de Crème or my oh so rich Espresso Brownies.

Have a great weekend and bon appétit!

For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!!

What’s up with you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Cinco de Mayo Weekend Special

Well – if yesterday wasn’t wonderful … then I don’t know what is! Summer in May is the best. Not only is it a surprise (even if it happens every year!) but on top of the warm air, you can hear the peepers once the sun goes down.

The weekend promises to be a bit of a mix with some clouds, some sun and some thundershowers. Throw a colorful cloth on the table, find some salsa music on Spotify or Pandora, drag the grill under an overhang and go for it. Saturday is Cinco de Mayo – time to celebrate!

Let’s start with a great appetizer. You will love my Grilled Shrimp with Spicy Peanut Salsa. Add a few raw veggies to dip along with the shrimp. Not enough? You can’t go wrong with my Guacamole and Simple Salsa.

Ready for dinner? Keep that grill going. If you haven’t tried my Grilled Swordfish with Tequila-Lime Butter, now is the perfect time. Serve the swordfish with a delicious mix of Grilled Balsamic Vegetables. Choose any and all of your favorite veggies to throw on the grill. If you like, add a spoonful of Lemony Green Rice.

For dessert, think .. what else but chocolate? A few bites are all you’ll need of my Mexican Chocolate Pots de Crème. Over-the-top delicious and rich, they may just become your new favorite dessert.

For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!!

What’s up with you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo & Mexican Chocolate Pots de Crème

In case you missed it, a few weeks ago Massachusetts and Maine celebrated Patriots’ Day. The day commemorates the first battles of the Revolutionary War at Lexington and Concord. Those of us who grew up in Massachusetts learned a lot about the State’s early history. We spent most of the fall studying the pilgrims. In the spring, we turned to Mad King George’s tyrannical rule and our forbearers’ heroic quest for freedom.

I share this only to point out that, as far as I know, no one in Mexico celebrated Patriots’ Day. Okay, I’m sure that a few of their athletes came north to run the Boston Marathon. However, I can’t imagine that there were lots of parties with baked beans and brown bread down in Cancun or Puebla.

And yet, in a few short days, we’ll be pulling out all the stops for a fun and festive Cinco de Mayo. Before you go making assumptions, no, Cinco de Mayo doesn’t celebrate Mexican independence. It’s the anniversary of the victorious Battle of Puebla against the French in 1862. Just as the Battles of Lexington and Concord were early victories in the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Puebla was an quick win in the Franco-Mexican War.

So why in the world do we celebrate Cinco de Mayo? First of all, it’s a lot easier for Americans to pronounce than Día de la Independencia – Independence Day. And second, Día de la Independencia is in mid-September. Life is good in September. The weather is fine. The leaves are starting to change to red and gold. We’re busy picking apples and showing off our new pencil boxes. We don’t have time for a Mexican fiesta.

Compare that to early May. It’s mud season. There is no red or gold and very little green. The trees are barely in bud. If it’s not raining, it’s cloudy or it will be soon. Sand is everywhere and I could (almost) kill for a mudroom. We could all use a little celebration right about now. Why not shake off the mud season doldrums with a ginormous Cinco de Mayo potluck. Your friends and neighbors will love you for it.

Don’t’ worry, you don’t need to make a huge fuss. The point is to get everyone together and have some fun. Here are a few pointers –

Start with a little color. Track down that sunshine yellow tablecloth and throw it on the table. Use the bright red napkins and add some candles or tea lights. A bowl of lemons and limes will make a perfect centerpiece.

Skip the hokey sombreros and silly mustaches from the party store but encourage everyone to think spring. It’s probably too cold and muddy for flip-flops but take a few minutes to find that bright pink sweater. It’s in the back of the closet somewhere.

Encourage everyone to bring a favorite Mexican-inspired dish. Hopefully, your foodie friends will go one better and create something deliciously authentic.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo y buen provecho!

Mexican Chocolate Pots de Crème
Very creamy chocolate with just a touch of Mexican spice, I can’t think of a better dessert for Cinco de Mayo. Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 1/3 cups half & half
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon for to taste chipotle powder
8 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
8 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon espresso or coffee powder
8 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon Triple Sec
Garnish: unsweetened whipped cream

Put the half & half and cream in a heavy saucepan, add the cinnamon, chipotle and orange zest. Stirring frequently, heat until steaming. Remove from the heat and let the orange zest and spices steep for about 30 minutes.

Put the chocolate and espresso powder in a large measuring cup or bowl. Set aside.

Reheat the cream to steaming.

Put the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Whisking constantly, slowly add the hot cream to the egg yolks.

Return the egg-cream mixture to the saucepan and set over low heat. Stirring constantly, cook until the custard reaches 170 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Remove from the heat, stir in the Triple Sec and immediately strain the hot custard through a fine mesh sieve into the measuring cup with the chocolate. Let the chocolate sit for a few minutes and then whisk until smooth and completely melted.

Pour the chocolate crème into 8 small dessert bowls or glasses. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Serve the pots de crème with unsweetened whipped cream.

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One Year Ago – Grilled Shrimp with Salsa de Cacahuate y Chile de Arbol
Two Years Ago – Puffy Apple Pancake
Three Years Ago – Tostadas with Avocado Crema & Black Bean Salsa
Four Years Ago – Cheddar-Sage Biscuits
Five Years Ago – Lemon-Lime Squares
Six Years Ago – Tarte à l’Oignon (Onion Tart)
Seven Years Ago – Honeyed Apricots with Creamy Yogurt
Eight Years Ago – Black & White Brownies
Nine Years Ago – Rhubarb Muffins

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

How will you celebrate Cinco de Mayo? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

It’s Summer! Weekend Special

It’s time for some summer fun. Swimming, boating, biking, tennis or golf, name your sport and have a great time. Just be sure to end the day with a delicious cookout with family and friends.

Not sure what to throw on that grill? Let the southwest inspire you!

Start the evening with a craft beer, chips and a great salsa. May I suggest my Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Avocado Salsa?

On to dinner, you can’t go wrong with a burger. I think that everyone will enjoy my Southwest Turkey Burgers. Complete your meal with a spoonful of Jicama Slaw and Lemon-Herb Quinoa Salad.

For dessert, the first local strawberries are here! How about Panna Cotta with Strawberries or Strawberries with Yogurt Cream?

Happy summer – have a great weekend and bon appétit!

For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!!

What’s up with you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2017

School’s Out! & Southwest Turkey Burgers

I don’t know about you but every June when the weather turns warm, I can’t get Alice Cooper out of my head. He follows me around the lake on my morning walks. I hear him when I’m emptying the dishwasher or doing laundry. He’s might even turn up on the radio. In case you don’t remember, the aptly timed School’s Out hit the airwaves in June of 1972 and played incessantly. True or not, School’s Out seemed to be playing every time I got into the car with my friend Martha. Her mother, or maybe it was her father, had a sporty little Mercury Cougar and Martha loved to drive it.

All over the country, schools are closing for the summer. Some this week, a few, like our very own Kearsarge Regional, have already said good bye to pencils, books and teachers’ dirty looks. So let the summer celebrations begin!

By the way, if school vacation isn’t enough for you or doesn’t apply, the summer solstice is tomorrow. It is a fabulous excuse to celebrate. Steeped in folklore and superstition, the summer solstice brings out the best of our imaginations. From Stonehenge to the Scandinavian coast, we can pause and wonder at ancient customs and rites. With lots of extra hours of sunlight, there is certainly plenty of time to ponder. Whatever you do, please, don’t forget to do your sun dance. The last thing we want is rain or clouds on the longest day.

Whether you are celebrating the end of school, the longest day or both, here are a few ideas to get you started.

Take a road trip. You don’t need to go far or anywhere in particular. Open the car windows, roll down the top or open the sunroof, turn up the radio and imagine you’re sixteen again.

Visit the beach. Bring the dog and a tennis ball or find a stick and let her romp. Do it quickly. Once they officially open, most beaches do not allow dogs. Rebel that I am; I figure that as long as there is no lifeguard, the dogs can play. (But pu-leeze, lifeguard or no, pick up after your dog.)

Or leave the dog at home and go gallery hopping. Ramble through some of New England’s prettiest little towns and look for fine art and exquisite crafts and antiques. Whether you find an irresistible treasure or not, it will be a beautiful journey.

Find some live music. With warm weather, there are lots of possibilities, especially if you prefer your tunes outdoors. When in doubt, check out the nearest farmer’s market. We New Englanders seem like a little bluegrass or classic rock with their broccoli and carrots.

At the end of the day, bring the music and mesclun back home. For those of you who might be wondering, please note, that’s mesclun – a mix of assorted baby salad greens – and not mescaline, the hallucinogen found in peyote cacti.

End your celebrations with a long and lazy evening. It’s may not be the land of the midnight sun but the sun won’t set until just after 8:30. You will have plenty of time for a cookout, some singing and dancing. Light a lantern and a few candles and you can make merry until dawn.

Happy summer and bon appétit!

Turkey Burgers with Avocado and Southwest Aioli
Perfect on a warm summer evening – a taste of the sunny southwest hot off the grill. Enjoy!
Serves 8

Southwest Aioli (recipe follows)
2 – 2 1/2 pounds ground turkey
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
About 4 ounces thinly sliced cheddar cheese (optional)
1-2 avocados, peeled and sliced
1-2 tomatoes, cored and finely chopped
About 1/4 cup finely chopped pickled onion or onion
8 burger buns

Make the Southwest Aioli, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. If you are going to serve the burgers with pickled onion, pickle the onion.

Preheat a charcoal or gas grill to medium hot.

Divide the turkey into 8 pieces and gently pat into patties. Don’t overwork the meat or your burgers will be tough. Brush both sides of the burgers with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place the turkey burgers on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes. Flip, add a slice of cheddar if you like, and continue grilling until cooked through, about 5 minutes more.

Place the buns on the grill, turning once, and toast for about 30 seconds.

Pop each turkey burger onto a bun and top with avocado, tomato and onion, add a dollop of Southwest Aioli and serve.

Southwest Aioli
Makes about 1 cup
1/2 cup drained and roughly chopped oil packed sun-dried tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons or to taste pureed chipotle in adobo*
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Juice of 1/2-1 lime
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Sea salt to taste
About 3/4 cup or to taste mayonnaise

Put the sundried tomatoes, garlic, chipotle, mustard, lime juice and vinegar in a blender or small food processor, season with salt and process until well combined. Add the mayonnaise and process until smooth.

Cover and chill for an hour or more to combine the flavors. Cover and store leftover aioli in the refrigerator.

* Toss a can of chipotle peppers along with the adobo in a small food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a clean glass jar, store in the refrigerator and use as needed.

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One Year Ago – Cherry Cobbler
Two Years Ago – Heirloom Tomatoes with Balsamic Reduction
Three Years Ago – Strawberry Shortcakes with Cardamom Cream
Four Years Ago – Strawberries with Yogurt Cream
Five Years Ago – Chocolate-Chocolate Sorbet
Six Years Ago – Caesar Salad with Parmesan Croutons
Seven Years Ago – The Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich in the History of my Kitchen
Eight Years Ago – Asian Slaw

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What about you? How will you celebrate the first days of summer vacation and the longest day? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017