Quinoa Biriyani with a Date Yogurt Sauce

Quinoa Biriyani

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am a huge fan of Indian food. Biriyani is no exception. In an effort to make one of my favorite grain dishes healthier, I decided to experiment with replacing the white rice with quinoa. This is a great dish that can be eaten as a complete meal, or served as a side. The date sauce is a great addition to the dish because it adds a  sweet, but not overpowering flavor with a touch of mint. If you don’t like mint, you can simply leave it out.

Quinoa is often served warm, but I prefer it cold or room temp. This is a great dish to bring to a pot-luck dinner and tastes just as good the next day.

If you aren’t very familiar with quinoa, it is a grain-like seed that has a slightly nutty flavor and is a great alternative to white rice or couscous. It’s a complete protein and is high in magnesium and iron as well as being a good source of fiber.  In addition, quinoa is a gluten-free food, making it a great option for people with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

Tip: Quinoa can sometimes taste bitter when cooked. Soak the seeds in cold water for 15 minutes before cooking and you can help minimize the bitterness.

Quinoa Biriyani with a Date Yogurt Sauce

Serves 4 as a main dish and 6 as a side dish

Ingredients

3/4 C Quinoa, (see tip above)

1/2 C Vegetable Broth

1/2 C Water

1/2 C Carrots, shredded

1/3 C Raisins

2 tsp Curry paste mixed with 1 tsp water

1/4 C Unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 Peas (cooked and cooled)

1/3 C Cashews (I like to toast mine for a few minutes in a dry pan)

2 TBS Cilantro, chopped

2 T scallions, sliced into 1/8″ rings (green part only)

Sauce

2 Pitted dates

1/4 C Plain lowfat Greek yogurt (Fage is my favorite)

1 tsp lemon

4 mint leaves, finely chopped

Add Quinoa, vegetable stock and water to a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the quinoa boils, turn the stove down and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until cooked ( you can tell that quinoa is done when you see a small white “ring” around the outside the seeds). While the quinoa is cooking, add the carrots through the scallions into a large bowl and stir to combine.

Next, prepare the sauce by adding the dates, yogurt, lemon and mint leaves into a food processor or blender until thoroughly combined. It won’t be completely smooth, but shouldn’t have large chunks of dates.

When the quinoa is done cooking, add it to another bowl and allow to cool completely before adding to the carrot, raisin, pea mixture.

To serve, add roughly a TBS of the sauce on top of the biriyani.

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Baba Ganouj and Whole Wheat Pita Bread

BabagGanouj and whole wheat pitaAs much as I LOVE homemade sandwich bread, I rarely delve into making my own. I usually stick with quick breads like strawberry, banana or blueberry lemon.

I decided to go outside my comfort zone two weeks ago and try my hand at homemade pita. I knew I wanted to use whole wheat flour so I found a recipe on Epicurious that I thought I could modify easily enough with a higher ratio of whole wheat flour. This recipe does take  time, but I assure you it’s worth the effort! Since I was working with my little chef (my 4 year old daughter) it was fun to teach her about yeast and the whole process of how to make bread. The end result was fabulous tasting pita, but it lacked the “pocket”.

I went back to the drawing board, modified the recipe again, and came up with this! It’s the perfect thickness and  puffs up beautifully as it cooks to form that pocket I was missing from the first try. The key is to roll it thin enough and don’t overcook. It literally takes 3 minutes in the oven!

To go with these lovely pita, I made up a batch of baba ganouj. This heavenly eggplant spread not only goes great with the pita, it’s can also be served with crudites, crackers or spread on some multigrain bread and layered with some grilled veggies. YUM!

Whole Wheat Pita

Makes  8 (7″ inch) pitas

Ingredients

1 package active dry yeast

1 tsp honey

1 1/4 C warm water (105-115 degrees F)

1 1/2 C whole wheat flour

1 C oat flour

3 T vital wheat gluten (this really helps to make the pita rise)

1/2 C bread flour (plus more for kneading and rolling out)

1/4 C extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp salt

Stir together yeast, honey, and 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl, then let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Next, stir together the flours in another bowl. Once the yeast mixture is ready, whisk 1/2 cup flour mixture in until smooth, then cover with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place until doubled in bulk and bubbly, about 45 minutes.

Stir in oil, salt, remaining 3/4 cup warm water, and remaining 2 1/2 cups flour mixture until a dough forms.

Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead, working in just enough additional flour to keep dough from sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. Form dough into a ball and put in an oiled large bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise again in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough and cut into 8 pieces. Form each piece into a ball. Flatten 1 ball, then roll out into a  7-inch round on floured surface with a floured rolling pin.

Set oven rack in the lower third of the oven and place a large piece of aluminum foil directly across the rack. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Place pitas (you should be able to fit four pitas across) directly onto the aluminum foil making sure they aren’t touching. Bake for 2 minutes. Flip and bake for 1 minute more. DO NOT OVERCOOK! They really do only take 3 minutes!

Cool on a wire rack before storing. I wrap them individually in plastic wrap once they are cool, place in a large freezer bag and put them in the freezer until I am ready to eat one. You can defrost them overnight in the refrigerator or pop in the microwave for 2o seconds.

Baba Ganouj

Serves 6-8

2 medium eggplant

Juice from one lemon (you want a good 2 TBS worth)

1/2 C tahini

1/3 C finely chopped parsley (I prefer flat leaf over curly)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp garlic powder (you could use 2 minced garlic cloves if you prefer fresh)

1 TBS olive oil

Fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Prick the eggplant all over with a fork and place on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Cook for roughly 45 minutes or until they look deflated and are completely soft. Once they are cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a bowl and mash well. Add remaining ingredients and stir well to combine. Chill until cold. Enjoy!


Apple Cheddar Pizza

Apple and Cheddar PizzaI LOVE Molly Katzen. She’s probably my all time favorite vegetarian cookbook author. I was flipping through Vegetable Heaven the other day and came across this recipe. OK…I will be honest and say that technically this is categorized under desserts, but we had it for dinner with a big salad and it was a HUGE hit. I don’t think it’s overly sweet, especially with tart apples. I made a few small modifications, but overall stayed true to her recipe. I chose to use whole wheat crust instead of Boboli because I prefer a thin and crispy crust. You can make your own, but it’s also available at most grocery stores. the wheat crust works really well with the other ingredients. I only wish my picture did this tasty recipe justice (I am working on my photography skills slowly but surely!)

Serves 4 (two small pizzas)

Ingredients

Whole wheat pizza crust (I bought mine in the deli section of my grocery store)

1 C cheddar cheese, grated

3-4 Granny Smith or other tart apples, peeled and thinly sliced

3 TBS apricot jam

Salt and pepper to taste

1 TBS olive oil (optional)

Flour (for dusting counter)

Cornmeal (for dusting pizza peel)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Divide dough into two pieces. Set one aside. Sprinkle some cornmeal on a pizza peel (this will keep the dough from sticking when you transfer it to the oven). If you don’t have a pizza peel, just sprinkle the cornmeal directly onto a cookie sheet instead.

Lightly dust you counter with flour and roll the dough out to roughly a 10″ round (it should be about 1/8″ thick). Transfer to a pizza peel if you will be cooking on a pizza stone (my preferred cooking method). Fold over edges to form a rustic crust. Cover bottom (except the crust) with half of the apricot preserves. Follow with the apple slices being sure to cover as much of the bottom as possible. Finish off with half of the cheddar cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Brush crust with olive oil. Repeat with second pizza. Slide pizza off peel onto the pizza stone and cook for 9 minutes or until the crust is golden brown, turning halfway through cooking time. Cut each pizza into four pieces.


Curried Cauliflower with Yogurt and Tomatoes

Curried Cauliflower with Yogurt and TomatoesI have been a lover of Indian food from the time I was a little girl. While one of my all time favorite vegetarian cookbooks is Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian, I have also tinkered with some other Indian inspired recipes over the years. This is a variation of something I ripped out of Cooking Light magazine years ago. What I love so much about this recipe is the juxtaposition of warming spices and cooling yogurt. With that said, I couldn’t help tinkering with the original recipe. Instead of curry powder, I use curry paste. I also added a lot more tomato and used Greek yogurt. The end result is a yummy dish that you can eat for lunch or as a side with dinner.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 Large onion, thinly sliced

2 tsp Extra virgin olive oil

1 Head of cauliflower, cut into small florets

2 Large tomatoes, large dice

1/2 C Greek yogurt ( My personal favorite is Fage 2%)

1 TBS Hot curry paste (Patak’s is what I use)

1 TBS Freshly grated ginger

1/4 C Water

1/4 C Cilantro, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Start by sauteing the onion in oil over medium heat, until translucent. Next, add the cauliflower through the water. Stir gently to combine. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook covered for approximately 20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the cilantro before serving.


Apple Date Bites

Apple Date BitesEating healthy doesn’t mean that you have to eat bland, uninspired food. This recipe was something I came up with as a mid-morning snack. These Apple Date Bites have a natural sweetness from the dates and apples and it’s almost like having a “treat” (as my daughter would say). I buy all my dried nuts and fruits in bulk from www.nuts.com. They have a great selection and super fast shipping. Most importantly, I love that I can get dried fruits that aren’t full of added sugars and oils (unlike the selection at most grocery stores). This recipe is very easy to play with and you can easily substitute other fruits for the apple like dried cherries or apricots. Have fun and experiment!

Makes approximately 14 balls / seven servings

Ingredients

1 C pitted dates

1 C apple rings, unsweetened

1/2 C roasted unsalted cashews

1/4 tsp cinnamon

pinch cardamon (optional)

1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (you can sub a good quality pure vanilla extract)

1/4 C shredded coconut, unsweetened

Combine everything but the coconut in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture comes together. You don’t want a smooth paste but rather a chunky consistency. Roll into 14 individual 1″ balls and then roll in coconut. Store in freezer for up to 2 weeks.


Sweet Potato Tacos with a Cilantro Cream

sweet potato tacosI love sweet potatoes. They are a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, fiber, B vitamins, potassium and iron. They also have a low glycemic index. For those that haven’t ventured past traditional baked sweet potatoes or fries, I encourage you to experiment more with sweet potatoes in the future. We love to make an Asian inspired side by whipping them with ginger and chives or in a soup with sweet corn and potatoes in the winter. And don’t forget sweet potato pie at Thanksgiving!

This taco recipe was modified from a layered casserole that we love to eat in the winter. It does involve some roasting, so I save it for days that you don’t mind turning on the oven. I tried one with some shredded red cabbage for crunch and it was nice, but not necessary. Feel free to play around and see if you like it with or without!

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 large sweet potatoes, diced into 1 inch cubes

1 TBS + 2 tsp olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground pepper

1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed

1 lime

pinch cayenne

1/4 tsp cumin

salt and pepper to taste

1 ripe Haas avocado

1 large onion, medium dice

4 oz Manchego cheese, shredded

1/2 C sour cream

1 TBS cilantro, finely chopped

8 Flour or corn tortillas

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss sweet potatoes, olive oil and salt and pepper in a bowl to combine. Place in a pan (I love using my large nonstick roasting pan, but a 9X12 glass or metal pan will work as well). Roast for 20-25 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender, turning once after 10 minutes. They should be slightly caramelized on the outside when done.

While the sweet potatoes cook, saute the onion over medium heat in 2 tsp olive oil until soft and slightly caramelized. Set aside.

Next, combine the black beans, juice from half the lime, cayenne, cumin and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl.

Dice avocado into 1/2 in cubes and set aside.

Combine 1/2 C sour cream, 1 tsp lime and 1 TBS cilantro in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Now it’s time to assemble. I like to put the tortillas over a medium flame on my gas stove for a minute per side to give them a slightly smoky flavor, but you can also just put them between two wet paper towels for 30 seconds to make them more pliable). Layer sweet potato, onion, black beans, manchego, avocado and finally the cilantro cream.

Enjoy!


Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to Alethea’s Kitchen! My goal for this blog is to inspire people to eat more veggies (and some sweets thrown in for good measure too)! These recipes are NOT just for vegetarians looking to expand their recipe repertoire, it’s also for people that eat meat but are looking to incorporate more vegetables into their meals. I believe that food should be fun and something that brings a family or friends together. Thanks for checking my blog out and I hope that you will enjoy the recipes as much as my family does.

Happy eating!

Alethea