The Quinoa Solution

April 11th, 2011 · 23 Comments · Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Posts by Andy, Quick, Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

We usually do our food shopping once a week, on Sunday afternoons, bolting to Trader Joe’s as soon as the final whistle on the final soccer event of the weekend finally blows. It’s our secular pilgrimage. We genuflect at the altar of dried fruits and granola bars, we load up the cart, we drive home, the kids go upstairs to animate some plastic stuff, and Jenny and I begin the never-gets-less-brutal process of unpacking the groceries… at which point, we realize, as we put the fresh crop of vegetables into the refrigerator, that we haven’t made use of half of what we bought last week. There’s a sad fennel bulb, once crisp and fresh, now yellowish and funky. (A pity, too: I had big plans for that. Look for a roasted fennel recipe one of these days.) There’s a quart of now-slimy mushrooms, and an exhausted hunk of red cabbage. There’s an ominous cluster of tupperware containers, each holding part of an onion, lemon, or red pepper, all of uncertain vintage, all well past their prime. And way in the back, by the sour cream, there’s always a tub of grape tomatoes, now a week old and only 1/3 eaten, and we really want to make use of them, but they’re just this side of too-far-gone to put on our salad.

We’re not proud to admit this, but we often end up throwing too much of this stuff away. It’s a lot of food, and a lot of money, to go to waste.

Last weekend, though, we may have solved the grape tomato problem. Since they were already starting to turn, we embraced the shrivel. We doubled down on the decay. We slow-roasted them, until they were all wrinkly and intense and sweet, and then we tossed them into a quinoa salad. Roasted tomatoes are so easy, very hard to mess up, and versatile as they wanna be: you can put these over pasta with olive oil and cheese, on bruschetta with garlic and basil, on top of fish or chicken. Or, as we ended up doing, you can use them to add a whole new hearty dimension to a salad. Tomato problem: solved. I don’t know why it took us so long.* – Andy

* Very important note: I highly recommend listening to this while you cook. And maybe follow it up with this. Or this. Or just buy the whole album. It’s in heavy DALS rotation. (more…)

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Quack & Cheese

June 21st, 2010 · 6 Comments · Pasta, Picky Eating, Quick, Vegetarian

Just want to clear one thing up: My family does not all sit down to the same dish every single night. We do most nights. But like every house that is inhabited by humans born in the 21st century, there is the constant chorus of requests (an awfully nice way to put it) from the royal diners. I want spaghetti not meatballs, I want meatballs not spaghetti. I want ketchup with my hamburger. I won’t eat my fish without soyaki. I don’t have to go on. I know you know.

There are also nights when it’s just not a realistic proposition for me to forego, say, the pasta with yogurt and caramelized onions that I’ve been craving all week…just because two of the four people at my table will wrinkle their noses in protest when they see it. On those nights, when we all eat together but eat wildly different things, I am not cooking elaborate Plan-B type meals.  I won’t make anything more complicated than peanut butter sandwiches and Annie’s Mac & Cheese if they’re not going along with what’s on the menu. I’ve never felt bad about the PB — it’s a wholesome meal as far as I’m concerned…all-natural peanuts on whole wheat bread. But the Mac & Cheese? Well, it’s organic, but is it nutritious? I stopped feeling guilty about it when my friend Claudia told me a trick she learned from her mother-in-law. Like all brilliant ideas, it’s so simple it’s genius.  She makes Annie’s Mac & Cheese with quinoa. Yes, quinoa, the complete protein that you usually see in the same sentence as the word “superfood.” She mixes an Annie’s cheese pack into a big batch of the stuff and her kids call it Quack and Cheese. My kids still won’t eat quinoa (I feel it, though, they’re getting close) so I thought I’d do a halfway-house version using elbow-shaped quinoa pasta, which you can find at most health and specialty stores. It’s appealingly yellow color made it an easy sell and even though Abby noticed its slightly chewier texture, this didn’t appear to be a deal-breaker.

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