Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Crunchy Asian Noodle Salad

I love asian flavors, but I've only made a few vegetarian dishes using those flavors that have really been repeat recipes that we would have again. This is one of those! I first made this recipe about five years ago and we've been eating it ever since. It's a great dish to take to a BBQ or potluck since it's a cold salad. Also great in the hot summers!

When I made this the other night for dinner my husband said "I could eat this every night for dinner" "vegetarian husband" (let's go with VH for short) approved! Both my kids (4 and almost 1) ate this. It's always a good dinner when I don't hear too much complaining or food being thrown on the floor. Actually, I won't kid myself, food ALWAYS ends up on the floor with kid #2. There's just something about those highchairs I guess that entice them to throw.

So this recipe comes from Ina Garten. You know, the "Barefoot Contessa" of Food Network fame. I used to watch her show religiously. I would say I was kind of obsessed with the Food Network back in the day. Now that I don't have cable, not so much. But that Ina can cook! I've tried a bunch of her recipes and they've been great. I only made a few changes to her original recipe for this one and they're simply just personal preferences. First, I cut the amount of oil in half to only 1/2 cup. Now I've done it both ways and they both taste equally yummy. Putting in all the oil does make the noodles, how should I say this without putting you off this recipe?....kind of more slippery? Less clumpy? So by only adding half, the dressing does tend to be thicker, but since it significantly cuts the fat and calories out, I'm totally fine with that. I also added fresh baby spinach and grated carrot this time around to increase my vegetable intake for the day. The beauty of the recipe is that you can pretty much add any vegetable you want. I've done it with blanched broccoli and would love to try it with shredded cabbage too. Oh and I didn't use fresh parsley. You know my feelings about fresh parsley...never have it, never use it.


Crunchy Asian Noodle Salad
Prep time: 10 min Cooking time: 25 min Servings: 6

Tips: (1) Buy fresh ginger, peel it, then stick it in the freezer. When you need fresh ginger, just take it out of the freezer and grate what you need using a fine cheese grater. (2) Most sesame seeds you can buy in the store are not toasted. To toast, put sesame seeds in a dry frying pan and cook them, while stirring over a medium heat until they are light brown and fragrant. Watch them carefully so they won't burn. 

1 lb thin spaghetti
1 lb sugar snap peas
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 TB sesame oil
1 TB honey (or brown sugar)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
3 TB toasted white sesame seeds
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
4 scallions, chopped

  • Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain and rinse well with cold water and set aside. 
  • Blanch the sugar snap peas by boiling them in salted water for a few minutes and then sticking them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. This will cook them but keep them nice and crisp. 
  • Mix up the dressing by whisking together the oil, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, garlic, ginger and sesame seeds. 
  • Combine your vegetables with the spaghetti and dressing in a large bowl and toss. Salad can be stored covered in the refrigerator until time to serve. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Quinoa Burgers with Caramelized Onions

This is one of our favorite recipes at our house. My husband tells me everytime I make them that he would be perfectly happy eating one of these burgers everyday. I would too! As a non vegetarian who's sampled many "meatless" burgers, this easily ranks as my top pick. Have you ever tried to make your own meatless burgers before? I have. Many times. Sometimes they taste alright, but most of the time they're a sloppy mess. These burgers actually stay pretty firm, so there's no squirting out of the bun going on. (You know what I'm talking's not pretty)

We first came upon this recipe when a friend of ours brought us dinner one night after my daughter was born. She called them quinoa sliders because we ate them on dinner sized rolls. I was skeptical at first but was blown away with how good they were. I believe I emailed her that night asking for the recipe. She used this recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe. 

(SIDE NOTE: if you haven't visited Mel's Kitchen Cafe, please do. I love her recipes. I have taken many of hers and made them vegetarian. I've only ever not liked one of her recipes, which was a frosting recipe, but I'm pretty sure I messed it up somehow!)

In true Jen fashion, I made a few slight changes to how I prepare them. First, I always cook my quinoa in vegetable stock. It gives it such lovely flavor. Second, I replace the fresh garlic with garlic powder. I know I know. You garlic purists out there are shaking your heads. But I tried them with the fresh garlic and I don't think the burgers cook long enough to cook the garlic all the way through. So garlic powder it is for me. Third, I added flour to my burgers. This helps them bind a little better and stay a bit firmer. Lastly, I NEVER have fresh parsley, so I use dried. There nothing I hate more than buying something for a recipe, using what I need, and then the rest just rots away in my fridge (I'm looking at you celery...).

But what really throws these burgers over the top for me are the caramelized onions. Oh there's nothing better than the sweet and savory flavor of onions that have been sauteed in butter until they turn brown. The key here is low and slow. Low heat, slow cooking. They're so good and so easy. We also love green beans with caramelized onions. Very yummy. Oh and in an ideal world, we like to top these burgers with avocado.

I usually serve the burgers with oven potato fries, but as you can see (from the pic) sometimes we switch it up and serve them with roasted veggies.


Quinoa Burgers with Caramelized Onions
Prep time: 30 minutes Cooking time: 15 minutes Servings: 6-8

Note: I like to cook my onions while the quinoa is cooking so I can reuse the pan to cook the burgers.

For Quinoa Burgers:

1 cup dried quinoa, rinsed
2 cups vegetable stock
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 tsp garlic powder
1 TB dried parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup seasoned panko bread crumbs 

2-3 TB flour
1 TB olive oil

  • Put quinoa in saucepan with vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer covered until liquid is absorbed. 
  • Put quinoa into a large bowl and let cool down to room temperature. I usually stick mine in the freezer for a bit to speed this process up. (you can also cook your quinoa ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until you're ready to use it)
  • In a large bowl, add all ingredients to quinoa and mix until well combined. 
  • Next, add flour, 1 TB at a time, to the mixture and mix. Keep adding flour until the mixture is the right consistency to form burgers. The amount of flour you use will depend greatly on how moist your quinoa is. 
  • Form mixture into 6-8 patties and let rest on a parchment lined baking sheet for 5-10 minutes. 
  • Heat a little olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook patties 5-7 minutes on each side or until a rich golden brown. 
For Caramelized Onions:
1/2 large red onion, sliced thinly
1 TB butter
sprinkle of salt.

  • In a nonstick skillet, melt 1 TB butter over medium heat.
  • Add onions and a sprinkle of salt
  • Cook onions, stirring occasionally until they turn a dark brown
  • Top quinoa burger with caramelized onions and serve with your favorite burger toppings (lettuce, tomato, avocado, cheese, ketchup, mustard, etc.)