Quinoa Southwestern Stuffed Bell Peppers

– johanna | May 28th, 2010

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish, RECIPES - Sides

Quinoa Stuffed Red Peppers

Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers makes for a delectable main dish paired with a side of garlic toast or a light salad. It is one of those feel good meals I would choose over a piece of chocolate any day. Please Do Not let the bell peppers deter you from trying the quinoa stuffing. If bell peppers are not your thing try a bed of arugula, a stuffed zucchini or serve the stuffing by itself like you would a casserole. As for serving sizes Katie suggests one half pepper if you have an accompanying side. Otherwise 1 whole pepper would be considered a serving.

Now, lets talk ingredients. I found a small package of quinoa at the supermarket for $10.99. I ended up purchasing the same amount at the health food store for .99 cents a pound. A huge savings. The poblano pepper is the new hot chili pepper fad right now. I could not find a poblano pepper in the produce section at the market. When I asked the produce manager for a suitable replacement he admitted he had heard of them but did not know what a poblano pepper was. Poblano peppers are used to make chile relleno in the place of pasilla peppers and they are also used in mole. Cook’s Thesaurus suggests using Anaheim or Ancho as a substitute. I tried half of an Anaheim but because I used a Monterey Jack and Cheddar blend cheese instead of pepper jack I could have used the whole pepper. Definitely season well with salt and pepper. You could use broth instead of water to cook the quinoa for more flavor too.

Source: GoodLifeEats
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 (8 ounce) Package mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced very thin
1/2 of a poblano pepper, diced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup quinoa
1 3/4 cups water or broth
1 1/2 cups grated carrot
1 1/2 cups grated reduced-fat pepper Jack cheese, divided
4 large red bell peppers, halved lengthwise, ribs removed

Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour liquid from tomatoes in bottom of baking dish.

Heat oil in a large pan with a lid over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and poblano pepper cooking 5 minutes, or until soft. Add cumin and garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in mushrooms and drained tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated.

Meanwhile bring the quinoa, carrots and water to a boil in a covered sauce pan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 20 minutes or until quinoa is tender.

Add the quinoa to the onion mixture. Toss in the black beans and 1 cup of cheese.  Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Fill each bell pepper half with heaping 3/4-cup quinoa mixture, and place in baking dish. Cover with foil, and bake 40 minutes. Uncover, and sprinkle each pepper with 1 tablespoon of remaining cheese. Bake 15 minutes more, or until tops of stuffed peppers are browned. Let stand 5 minutes. Transfer stuffed peppers to serving plates, and drizzle each with pan juices before serving.

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Quinoa, the Ancient Mother Grain

– johanna | May 25th, 2010



Ancient in its origins, Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-WAH) has been a staple in it’s native lands of Chile, Peru and the colonies in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia, for almost 5,000 years. Quinoa translated in the Incan language meas “Mother Grain” and was once considered “the gold of the Incas.” While Quinoa is commonly referred to as a grain, similar to buckwheat and amaranth, it is grown from an edible leafy green vegetable plant relative to Swiss chard, sugar beet, table beet, and spinach whereas grains are born from grassy plants. The seed like granule comes in a range of colors that vary from white, yellow, and pink, to darker red, purple, and black.

quinoa plant

Quinoa may be eaten hot or cold in salads soups, stews, pilafs and casseroles. Quinoa is used in bread, muffins, bagels, cookies, pancakes, granola and other baked goods. Use Quinoa in the place of potatoes, couscous and rice. It is also a yummy nutritional replacement for oatmeal. Top with a drizzle of honey, nuts or berries. Quinoa is a complete protein and an excellent source of magnesium, a mineral that helps relax blood vessels. Increased intake of magnesium has been shown to reduce the severity of migraine headaches and arteriosclerosis.

To prepare quinoa, always rinse it as you would rice to remove any powdery residue. Bring one part quinoa and two parts liquid to a boil; cover and reduce to a simmer for about 15 minutes or until the grains are translucent.

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Spinach Linguini with Ham and Broccoli

– johanna | May 21st, 2010

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish

Several years ago during Christmas time my mom bought a package of lobster stuffed ravioli. We thought it would be interesting to try. I was a bit leery as to how the kids would react to salmon colored stripped pasta knowing their phobia to anything out of the ordinary. Surprisingly they devoured every last one. To this day they still ask for them. I was sitting at my desk trying to come up with a weeks worth of dinners when the oldest pipped up that he wanted the red pasta. I gently told him that I would do my best. I knew the grocery store would not have it and so opted for the spinach stuffed ravioli instead. May I suggest that if you have a picky eater you might consider vegetable stuffed pasta. I used the leftover ham from Sunday dinner at the inlaws and replaced the green spinach linguini with the spinach stuffed ravioli. Even the picky eater ate his fill spinach linguini with ham and broccoli.

Source: Martha Stewart
Serves 4
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 ounces cooked ham, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups low-fat (1 percent) milk
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 ounces reduced-fat bar cream cheese
10 ounces spinach linguine
1 head broccoli, stems peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick, florets cut into bite-size pieces
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

In a 3-quart heavy-bottom saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add ham, and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in flour; cook 1 minute.

Stir in milk, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until mixture is slightly thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in cream cheese; cook until melted, about 1 minute.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente according to package instructions, adding broccoli during final 3 minutes. Drain; transfer pasta and broccoli to a large bowl. Add cream-cheese sauce and Parmesan, and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

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Add A Bit of Ambiance

– johanna | May 18th, 2010


Music appreciation

I learned long ago in music appreciation class about the surreal power of music. Years later I felt that power as I sat in the front row of the music hall, with tears streaming down my cheeks, listening to a classical pianist’s rendition of Chopin. Music can evoke joy, peace and relaxation. It can also invigorate us, make us feel anxious, rage, and even confidence.

The effects of music is most prevalent in film. Music composers are just as crucial as the actors for their ability to shift our emotions moment to moment. Great composers have the ability to guide us through the journey as though we were a part of the action. They can convey through music the pain a character is feeling. They stir the depths of our imagination to conjure fear. Musical scores can arouse our hearts to feel compassion or love.

Music can set the mood whether it be in a film or in our homes. The rhythmic sounds of an electric fan, waves breaking on the shore or gentle bedtimes lullaby’s can lull a child to sleep. While the menacing metallic twang of a guitar, the raging beat of the drum and rock’n electronic vibes can of  stir up fits of aggression and excitement. Music can heal. Studies have shown that music can lower the heart rate, regulate blood pressure and slow respiration. Music provokes memories and promotes creativity. Music can manage stress and ease physical and emotional pain.

As parents and caregivers we have an amazing powerful tool at our immediate disposal. When I was in college the field of Music Therapy was relativly new. Since then great strides have been made in understanding the vast effects of music on humans and animals as well. We can use the power of music to help cultivate a pleasant mood in our lively and often times chaotic homes. During the day when the kids are too full of energy we let them rock out to uptempo music until they collaspe exhausted. When the atmosphere becomes too negative we turn on soothing meditative music to calm them down. During dinner or before bed we play classical music to create a reverent ambiance. If your music library is limited try free programs such as Pandora or Rhapsody. Look up classical artists, yoga, meditation or acoustic. Enya Radio on Pandora is really nice and relaxing. Add a few candles to go with dinner and your tranquil music to set a lovely welcoming mood at your next dinner service.

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Banana Cookies

– johanna | May 14th, 2010

Filed under: RECIPES - Treats

banana cookies

There is a never ending conundrum about what to do with old bananas. Banana bread is always a good option. It freezes well and makes nice little gifts. I did consider Frosted Banana Bars because they are oh so heavenly but decided against them because they seemed a little to fussy for a light afternoon snack. In the end the kids and I chose door number 3- Banana Cookies. They are actually called Banana Whoopie Cookies; however, on this occasion we omitted the extra sugary frosting and gobbled down two cookies each instead one.

Source: Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes about 3 dozen
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mashed banana (from 1 large ripe banana)
1/2 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mash bananas and stir in baking soda.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl.

Combine banana and sour cream in another bowl.

Cream butter and granulated and brown sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed, until pale and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, beating until incorporated. Add banana mixture in 2 additions, alternating with flour mixture.

Drop spoonful of dough on prepared baking sheet. Bake until edges are golden, about 12 minutes. Slide parchment, with cookies, onto wire racks. Let cool.

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May Share

– johanna | May 11th, 2010


Oliver Twist

I was in the parking lot loading the groceries into my car one morning when I was approached by an older woman begging for money. I recognized her from the previous month the familiar story of grief and financial woes. How do you know? How do you know if she really needs it for her hungry child at home or is she taking advantage of the economic backlash she is aware we are all suffering through? The store is not far from an area officially deemed as “tent city”. The population consists of thieves, vagrants and a host of inhabitants who are down on their luck reminiscent of the barrow as described in Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist.” The book paints an illuminated picture of a dark 19th Century London plagued with contempt and greed. The only redeeming element is Oliver an orphan boy who remains pure-hearted and honorable despite a life of abuse and neglect as a result of the corrupt and flawed social institutions. Oliver was deemed a “troublesome” boy from birth with the propensity to amount to nothing when he was rescued by caring souls who saw him not as a delinquent but merely a lost soul in need of basic human sustenance. I surmise it was Oliver’s gracious gentle nature that procured a place in the hearts of those who saw fit to provide him with the opportunity escape his prison to prosperity. His story like many others touch us because they provide hope that anyone can overcome tribulation with their dignity still in tacked as long as they hold fast with integrity. His story also gives merit to those individuals who see a need and act to fulfill that need with selfless devotion.

Is there not someone in our mist that is in need of some form of Motherly Adoration? That when met with unbiased attentions could provide the healing power necessary to recover from years of torment and abuse? We pass people everyday on the streets, at work, at home, at school, in a store, at church who suffer in silence. They feel lost and helpless. Their afflictions come in many different ways from sickness, physical and mental abuse, peer pressure, financial worries, addictions, loss, shyness, embarrassment and pride to begin with. When in public they hide behind a facade that everything is ok. Their false appearance may sometimes present itself to others as haughtiness (they are better than us) or strength (their life is perfect). When in reality what they need most is a kind hello, a polite acknowledgment they exist or an invitation to chat.

I did not know this woman who approached me in the parking lot. I could not discern her true intentions. Whatever her story is she is human and so I gave her a few groceries to take with her. We never know when our acts of kindness will touch someone. Unbeknownst to Oliver his forgiving nature had an enormous impact on Nancy, a girl acquainted with Fagin’s group of thieves in London. The streets had been her home since she was a child. Through Oliver’s example she found courage and risked her life to save him.

This month’s resolution is Share. When I made my list of resolutions in January my intention was to write real letters instead of emails. Email is my favorite form of communication. It is fast, no waiting days for the letter to reach the intended. Phones calls have a way of interrupting at the worst possible time and I always forget to send snail mail. Share also meant to record Memories. I have really been awful about keeping memories since our second child came along. Then last month I had an “email” conversation with my sister about strengthening our families. I was already working on my immediate family as my resolution for April was Family. Originally I had planned on recreating stronger ties with my extended family but there were a few set backs in March that placed my focus here at home. I finished off the month accomplishing both. Then I almost lost a very close friend in childbirth. Baby and mom are well and safely at home thankfully. Later the same week I had a conversation with a group of friends over dinner about the negativity they often feel in social circles. The topic of Share began to take on a new meaning.

Sharing is not about us. When we teach our little ones to share it is because we want them to learn to think about other peoples feelings. When we share we help make another living being happy and in turn we feel joy. When we share advice ideally it is given with good intent to help that person through a difficult problem because we want to see them happy.

To share means to think about others. Some ways we can do this are:

  • Send your friend or family member a letter. Yes we live in a fast paced world but there will never be a comparable replacement for an old fashioned letter. Think of something uplifting to say such as how they were a positive influence on you and how much you appreciate them.
  • Share your feelings. The goal is to help not impede by keeping negative comments to yourself. If you are not used to sharing your feelings it can be quite difficult at first. Start out small by telling your children and those close to you how much they mean to you or how much you appreciate your son when he helps around the house.
  • Praise your children constantly. Avoid coarse and abrasive language. Think of your kids as a coworker. Would you talk to your boss that way?
  • Share your time. Help a young mother at church by offering to hold their baby. Set up a co-op to babysit for your friend one day a week for a couple of hours. Organize a service project.
  • Do not judge. We cannot know what another person is suffering. As moms we can be highly judgmental of each other. We need to band together not tear one another apart.
  • Share your talents: Start a book club, game night, dessert night, mom’s club, art class, babysitting club, cooking club and invite friends from church, school or work both young and old

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Chicken and Roasted Red Pepper Panini with Cilantro Pesto and Feta

– johanna | May 7th, 2010

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish

If you are ever on the hunt for something exciting to eat try combing through the Closet Cooking Blogspot. This guy comes up with the most lively lip smack’n tantalizing recipes. There is no going wrong with cilantro, chicken, red peppers and feta. Cut them up for hors d’oeuvres. Serve them for a girls night out or for the guys game night.

If you do not have a panini press grill them in a skillet. Use a spatula to press down on the sandwich.

Source: ClosetCooking
(Serving Size 1)
1 chicken breast (pounded thin)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 slices of bread (or 1 roll)
1/2 roasted red pepper
1 handful baby spinach
2 tablespoons cilantro pesto, recipe below
1 handful feta (mashed)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil

Make the cilantro pesto; set aside.

Dust the chicken with the paprika and season it with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a pan. Add the chicken and cook until it is golden brown on both sides and cooked all the way through, about 4-7 minutes per side.

To assemble the sandwich, spread the bottom slice of bread with some cilantro pesto. Top with chicken, red pepper, feta then spinach. Brush both sides of the sandwich with olive oil and grill until golden brown on both sides.

Cilantro Pesto: Serving size 1 cup
1 cup cilantro
2 teaspoons ginger (grated)
3 tablespoons sesame seeds (toasted and ground)
1 red chili
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 splash lemon juice

Puree everything in a food processor.

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Black Bean and Chicken Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

– johanna | May 5th, 2010

Filed under: RECIPES - Soup / Salad

Black Bean Chicken Salad

In the past I posted a Southwestern Chicken salad recipe and another recipe for Taco Salad. They are simple recipes with very few ingredients. This recipe for Black Bean Chicken Salad is a step up and showcases a zesty dressing that turns the ordinary into extraordinary. Yes it is a bit more work but oh so worth it especially if made with Cilantro Lime Chicken.

Source: Allrecipes.com
6 cups torn lettuce
1 1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken breast
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and
1 cup chopped seeded tomatoes
1 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup sliced red onion
1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar

Lime Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro or parsley
1/4 cup chopped seeded tomato
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp olive or canola oil
1 tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp grated lime peel
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp chili powder

In a large serving bowl, combine the lettuce, chicken, beans, tomatoes, green pepper, onion and cheese. In a blender or food processor, combine the vinaigrette ingredients; cover and process until smooth. Pour over salad and toss to coat.

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May Website Review: Eating Small Potatoes

– johanna | May 3rd, 2010

Filed under: THE BOOKSHELF


Small Potatoes is another blog on the subject of eating seasonally and locally. The blog was started to catalog their journey as they shifted into a more provident way of eating. Eating locally is about using the resources around you namely farms and ranches to get the most nutrients out of the food we eat. Farmers markets and CSA’s are usually certified organic meaning they do not use pesticides or other harmful chemicals to treat their plants. Choosing locally grown produce over those that are shipped in from elsewhere ensures the food is picked fresh and full of vitamin packed flavor.

Small Potatoes shares their struggles with staying true during the winter by overcoming the fears of preserving the bounty during the spring and summer. Click on the link for NCHP (National Center for Home Preservation) to learn more about preserving. Small Potatoes also offers yummy recipes to try in addition to simple tips and resources they have collected along the way. If you have been thinking about joining a CSA or do not know what a CSA is Small Potatoes can help point you in the right direction.

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