Monthly Archives: May 2011

Quinoa Salad

Move over cous cous, move over taboule… make room in your diet for quinoa. Quinoa (keen-wah) is basically a “super grain”, packed with tons of natural protein and vitamins. Referred to as “gold to the Incas”, quinoa is a complete protein containing all 9 essential amino acids (and iron and magnesium). Its a great way to get more plant-based protein into your diet.

Recently I’ve been a little, ok a lot obsessed with the bulk section at my grocery store. The local chain up here, Wegmans, has an exceptional selection. I got spinach for a massive salad (about 4-6 cups worth) for $0.28, and that is not a joke. Comparable to $2-4 for the pre-packaged variety, not to mention, it never seems to last as long as I think it will. I’ve been stocking up on dried fruit, granola, and banana chips as cheap snack options and also to top some plain non-fat Greek yogurt with for breakfast. My most recent purchase was about 2 cup of dried quinoa for a whopping $0.76! I don’t think a box of quinoa can be that cheap, even on sale… and I even mixed the white and red varieties together for some added color.

I cooked up the quinoa and added some sautéed veggies and tempeh for a protein and fiber packed lunch to get me though the long work day. Paired with an apple, this lunch kept me full throughout the afternoon, and warded off that 4 o’clock low blood sugar slump. And boy did I need it; it was in the mid-90’s today. All that complaining about it being cold a few weeks ago… I take it back. On a side note, I did go swimming in Seneca Lake today… it was cold, yet refreshing, given I’d been out collecting water sample in the direct sun for 8 hours.

I picked up this great little Tupperware container a few weeks ago that is perfect for just about anything… it has the little compartment in the middle to hold sauce, dressing, or dips. I’ve used it for carrots and humus, apple slices and peanut butter, some left over corn and black bean salad and some salsa. Today I packed up my quinoa salad with some hummus.

Quinoa Salad

Serves 2

1 cup uncooked quinoa

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups of spinach

½ of a bell pepper, diced

¼ of a small onion diced

½ cup of diced tempeh

1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered

Crumbled cheese, like feta (optional)

Prepare the quinoa as per the directions provided. It’s usually about 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water. As the quinoa simmers away on low, chop the veggies. Heat a skillet to medium heat, add oil then peppers, onions and tempeh. Cook about 5 mins, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add in the spinach, let it wilt, about 1 min. Then add in tomatoes and cheese. Transfer the veggies from the skillet into the cooked pot of quinoa, stir to incorporate the veggies. Eat warm or refrigerate and enjoy for lunch the next day.

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Banana Bread

I was able to get Monday off because it’s a holiday, so I decided to go home for the weekend. I’m super excited that I was able to get this chance, since the next time I’ll be able to come home will be in August. When I go home, I usually end up baking far more than my family can eat. I also get a chance to run all of my favorite loops, which I could probably run with my eyes close at this point, having ran them hundreds, if not thousands of times. For some reason, no matter where I run, nothing compares to the routes I mapped out freshman year of high school. I know every turn, every hill, I know that a certain mail box means I’m a mile from home. These runs are beautiful, along my winding, farm-filled country road… and not to mention hilly. My favorite run is a 4 mile round-trip trek to the end of my road and back. It is pleasant for the first 2 ½ miles with small rolling hills, then its strait up hill for a half mile. At that point I start to feel tired, but there is still another mile til home. It the perfect length, nice and shady for most of the way, and I feel a huge sense of accomplishment when I make it home.

This weekend was also a chance for me to get some things I had left home, that I’ll need when I move into my apartment next weekend! First thing I needed was my cookbooks. For Christmas 2 years ago, Mark’s family got me 3 of the Moosewood cookbooks. I love them; let’s just say I have about 100 recipes I want to try. My other favorite right now is Mark Bitman’s Food Matters, if you have time this summer and care about where you food comes from, eating healthy and want flexible easy recipes, read this book. It discusses his new way of eating (hes a vegetarian until 6pm) and provides about 75 recipes, with countless variations listed at the end of each one.

I also got my recipe book. It’s a composition book filled with all of the recipes I’ve tried and love. I like to add notes, substitutions and also what I paired with each recipe with for future reference. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost it. It also doesn’t include the 30 plus pages I have saved in a word document on my computer (its more environmentally friendly)

I’m awfully glad to be home but back to the point of this post… 6 over ripe bananas that need to be used up. This sounded like a perfect excuse for me to make banana bread and to mess up the nice, clean kitchen.

Halfway though baking, my mom got home from church and saw the mess I had created. I responded to her shocked face, “I promise I’ll clean it up.” “Yeah, I’ve heard that one before, it’s nice to have you home, Mag,” she replied, knowing full well that my idea of cleaning up does not fall anywhere close to her standards. Needless to say, this classic banana bread recipe always comes out well, and gets even better then next day for breakfast with some coffee.

Banana Bread

1 loaf, Serves 14, (if everyone eats only 1 slice… which is doubtful)

2 cups of flour*

1 teaspoon of baking powder

Dash of salt

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter, softened

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)

1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease or spray a 8 ½ X 4 ½ inch loaf pan

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk.


Place sugar and butter in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute). Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each one. Add the banana, yogurt, and vanilla; beat until blended. I just mash the bananas with my fingers. Add flour mixture to the wet ingredients; beat at low speed just until moist. It’s best to add the flour in batches so it doesn’t go everywhere. Spoon the mixed batter into the greased pan. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

*(I like to use one cup of whole wheat and one cup of all purpose… I found not everyone loves whole wheat bread as much as I do, so this allows you to sneak in some whole wheat flour with out any one really noticing)

This recipe is adapted from Cooking Light Magazine


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Pineapple Topped Veggie Burgers with a Corn and Black Bean Salad

On Sunday, Mark made his signature breakfast, “the Bagel Melt”. It consists of a bagel, his was jalapeno cheddar, with cream cheese, sautéed onions and cheese (a combo of pepper jack and Gouda). He has been on a bagel melt kick pretty much since I took him to my hometown bagel shop for breakfast 2 years ago. After that very filling breakfast, we headed out, rain jackets in hand, to Watkins Glen State Park. Brace yourself for another geo-nerd moment… the gorge was formed when the land began to rebound back up after the heavy glaciers, which had been pushing down on the land, receded out of NY at the end of the last ice age. As a result of the uplift, the river cut down into the bedrock and formed the gorge… ok done.

We hiked all along the Gorge Trail and a bit of the Indian trail… it was absolutely amazing (even though I’ve been numerous times) and on the plus side the gorge kind of acted as a natural rain shield when it did start to rain.

On the way back we stopped off at Four Chimneys Winery, the oldest organic winery in America… we ended up with a bottle of dry, oaky, white wine, which was delicious… even beer drinking Mark enjoyed a small amount.

For dinner, Mark suggested grilled pineapple and veggie burgers. Then he suggested putting the pineapple on top of the veggie burgers… genius idea (I’ve taught him well). We picked up some Morning Star black bean burgers (my favorite veggie burgers), a pineapple and some fixing to make a corn and black bean salad. We found some beautiful tri-color cherry tomatoes (hydroponically grown in state) for the salad.

I might also add that during dinner Mark said, “I don’t think these would be as good with ‘real’ burgers.” Those are the words any vegetarian cook wants to hear! The combination of the sweet pineapple with the spicy cheese and the Mexican flavors of the veggie burgers are a really winning combination.

Pineapple Topped Veggie Burgers with a Corn and Black Bean Salad

Serves 2


2 Morning Star black bean burgers

2  ½ inch slices of pineapple

2 slices of pepper jack cheese

Buns if you so choose (Mark had one and I didn’t)


2 cup of corn kernels

1 cup of black beans

1 cup of cherry tomatoes cut in quarters

¼ cup of feta cheese

Preheat the grill. Place burgers and pineapple slices on the grill, brown on both sides. Once flipped, add the cheese slices to the veggie burgers. Remove when browned and the cheese is melted.

For the salad combine all of the ingredients, toss gently and serve.

To assemble, prepare bun, layer the pineapple on top of the burger. The cheese kind of acts as a glue. We topped our burgers with a scoop of the salad, and also ate some salad on the side. I also brought outside some pineapple peach chipotle salsa, BBQ sauce and ketchup, just in case but none are necessary.


Here’s to another weekend soon with my favorite grilling partner… what a great weekend of hiking and eating!

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Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

This week was crazy… between summer research (monitoring lake and stream water quality) and my internship (monitoring groundwater levels) I’m working about 50 hours a week. Luckily, I had something to look forward to… Mark came to visit me for the weekend! On Friday night we went to Red Dove Tavern in Geneva. We split a strawberry and arugula salad with poppy seed dressing. I had an asparagus and ricotta strudel and Mark got duck with a rhubarb pure and steamed asparagus. We washed everything down with a couple of local microbrews. If you are ever in the area, seriously go to Red Dove, the menu (re-written nightly on a chalkboard) changes constantly based on what is locally fresh. On Saturday, we moved a bed and couch into our 3rd floor apartment… which was a workout in itself. Our lease starts in two weeks and the renovations are looking great! Then we went for a hike at Chimney Bluff State Park on Lake Ontario.

Let me just go geo-nerd for a second… the “chimneys” are formed by the erosion of glacially created landforms… they look really cool and are massive, plus it’s really pretty just walking along the lake.

Mark at the Bluffs

After all of that exercise, we were ravenous. So I thought grilled stuffed portabella mushrooms would be filling and they have a nice “meaty” flavor to satisfy Mark. The house I’m staying at until the lease starts has a nice charcoal grill, and Mark jumped at the chance to play with lighter fluid. We served these massive mushrooms with a nice spinach salad with dried cranberries, apple, heirloom tomatoes and maple balsamic dressing.

Stuffed Portabella Mushroom Caps

Serves 2

4 large portabella mushroom caps, stems and ribs removed (see picture)

1 cup spinach

½ squash, cut into ¼ inch slices

1 small red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, cut into ¼- ½ inch strips

4  ½ inch slices of tempeh

½ cup tomato sauce

2 tablespoons of bread crumbs

¼ cup of shredded cheese

Cleaned Mushroom

Preheat the grill. Place the squash, pepper and tempeh on the grill, lightly brown on both sides. Remove them from the heat and cut into smaller pieces. While the veggies and tempeh are cooking, remove the stems and ribs from the mushrooms. Fill each cap with a few spinach leaves. Then evenly divide the other vegetables and tempeh among the mushrooms. Top each with 2 tablespoons of sauce, ½ tablespoon of bread crumbs and 1 tablespoon of cheese. Place the filled mushrooms on the grill and cook until the mushroom starts to become soft and the cheese is melted about 5-10 mins.


Post-grill… enjoy!

*We found its best to cut these with a sharp steak knife.


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“Grilled” Asparagus and Apricot Glazed Tempeh

Last time I was home back in March, my mom gave me a box of  Taboule on my way out the door. She said, “here take this for dinner or something.” That was code for “I bought this by accident, I meant to buy couscous, so you take it because I won’t eat it.” So I finally got around to using it (don’t worry it’s not expired).

Now that I’d decide to use “the Taboule”, I needed to find something to go with it. I was thinking asparagus, which I absolutely love. Better yet, it is the beginning of asparagus season, and Wegmans had some nice looking pencil asparagus. I love the thin asparagus because it gets crispier and crunchier when grilled. I love to grill… name a vegetable or fruit and I’ve probably grilled it… peach, pineapple, mango, peppers, corn, you get the idea. Sadly, I am currently grill-less, so the stove top had to suffice. I picked up some soy tempeh as well. If you haven’t tried it, its a (distant) cousin of tofu. They basically smoosh (technical term) soybeans and brown rice together into a brick shape. You can slice it up and cook it in a frying pan. Just like tofu, it is a sponge for flavor, but lacks it on its own, so use a good strong marinade. Its rich in protein, calcium and iron (3 things vegetarians often lack in their diet). You can find it at the store next to the tofu.

So first I made the taboule because it takes a long time. I followed the package instructions, and let it do its thing for an hour and a half while I went to the store and prepared every thing else.

A while back I learned a neat trick for prepping asparagus. If you take a stalk of asparagus and hold one end in each hand and gently bend it, the dry woody end will snap off.

I will give you the recipe that involves grilling the asparagus, since that is my preferred method of cooking… for the fry pan technique: heat a few tablespoons of oil over medium heat, add asparagus and cook to desired doneness. I like mine super crispy

Grilled Asparagus

serves 3-4 people

1 bunch of Asparagus

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons of your favorite Italian dressing

¼ teaspoon dried basil

Few dashes of dried garlic

Black pepper

First preheat your grill to a medium heat. Spray your grill pan with non-stick cooking spray. I like to put mine on a cookie sheet so the spray (and later the marinade) does not get all over the place. Then snap the ends off the asparagus. Place the prepared asparagus in a gallon size zip top bag. Add the oil, dressing, pepper, bail, and garlic into the bag. Close the top and shake the bag to coat the veggies. Dump the asparagus out onto the grill pan and arrange into one layer. Place grill pan on the grill. Grill for about 10 mins, turning them occasionally. When the asparagii start to get brown take them off the grill.

Apricot Galzed Tempeh

1/4 block of tempeh, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices

1 tablespoon apricot preserves

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

black pepper

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Place preserves, vinegar and pepper into zip top bag. Add tempeh and shake to coat. Put tempeh in frying pan and cook on each side until brown, about 3-4 mins. Then remove for pan. This marinade also goes great on grilled chicken

*I also made a balsamic reduction to drizzle over the aspargus and tempeh. I just reduced some balsamic vinegar over medium low heat by about half. This takes 5-10mins. You’ll know its done when it gets syrupy looking and if you dip a spoon in it and run your finger across the back, it leaves a track

Assemble and Enjoy!

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Oatmeal with Caramelized Bananas and Cinnamon Dusted Apples

This morning I noticed that the bananas I bought a few days ago were just starting to get little brown spots. This is the perfect time to eat a banana (in my opinion)… the starches are starting to break down into sugar and you can taste the natural sweetness. I also had some apples from Red Jacket Orchards. So I decided to sauté up my bananas and apples with a little bit of cinnamon and put then over some oatmeal. It’s really simple!


Serves 2

Old fashioned oats (or whatever oatmeal you prefer)

1 Banana

1 Apple (mine was a Braeburn)


Heat a skillet to medium heat. Peel the banana and slice it into rounds, about a 1/4″ thick. Add them to hot pan and sprinkle with a dash of cinnamon. Let them get a little brown on the underside, then flip them. I used a non-stick skillet and don’t have any cooking spray and they did just fine, but add a bit of cooking spray if you are not using a non-stick

While the bananas are cooking dice up the apples into 1/4″ pieces, leaving the skin on (for extra nutrients).

When the bananas are golden on the underside, remove them from the pan and add the apples and about a tablespoon or two of water and a few dashes of cinnamon. Stir occasionally.

While the apples cook, prepare the oatmeal as per the directions provided on the container. Mine called for 1-3/4 cup of water and 1 cup of oats for 2 servings.

Cook the apples until they still have a slight crunch to them, for texture (about 3 mins). Remove them from the heat

Spoon the oatmeal into two bowls and top with bananas and apples



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Spinach Salad with Apples and Dried Berries

Tonight I had just gotten back from a run (the rain held off all day!) and I wanted something light and quick for dinner. I decided on one of my favorite salads that has countless variations. I have made this salad for holiday dinners and brought it to bbq’s… and it is always a crowd pleaser. You can change up the ingredients based on what you have on hand  or what is fresh at the market.

It always starts with a base of washed baby spinach

Then fruit… either apples, pears or berries, sliced up. I used the diced cinnamon apples left over from this morning’s breakfast (see recipe here). My mom puts the apples and cinnamon in a gallon size zip top bag (left open an inch or two) and microwaves them for 30 seconds or so to save time.

Next comes the cheese… use a strong cheese like blue cheese, I used feta.

I tossed in some dried mixed berries for sweetness (cranberries and blueberries mostly. I ate all of the dried strawberries… oops)

Then I diced up some tomatoes as well and added them on top

Candied walnuts also go great with this salad… a few tablespoons of brown sugar and 1/4 cup walnuts… wrap in foil and put them in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 mins… you start to smell them when they are close to done. Keep an eye on them though, they go from golden to burnt in a matter of seconds

Then comes my favorite part… the dressing. I like to make mine in a glass mason jar. You add all of the ingredients and close the lid tight… then shake it until it’s mixed. It will keep in the fridge for a few weeks; just shake it up each time before use.

Maple Balsamic Dressing

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons maple syrup

top salad with the shaken up dressing just before eating

Spinach Salad with Apples and Dried Berries

1 bag baby spinach

1/4 cup crumbled feta (more or less based on your preference)

2 apples diced and cooked with cinnamon

1/4 cup dried fruit

2 small tomatoes diced

1/4 candied walnuts (optional)

Maple Balsamic Dressing (see recipe above)

Toss all ingredients together in a bowl, top with dressing just before serving and enjoy!

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