Thursday, February 25, 2010

Quinoa: Food Find!

I love quinoa. No it's not pronounced "kee-no-ah". It's "keen-wah". It's an ancient grain and is super healthy. In fact it's considered to be a superfood.

This amazing little grain (and I mean little) has some unique things about it. First, it has it's own built in pesticide coating each grain so it should be rinsed in a fine mesh strainer and drained before you cook with it. Second, it's the only grain that provides a complete protein. None of this mixing with legumes - it's a good source of protein all by itself! It contains many essential vitamins and minerals, is low in sugar and starch and high in fiber and unsaturated fat.

It also cooks in about 12 minutes which is another plus in my book. It has a nutty taste and is really great for salads.

I wanted to try something different though. I thought that by adding quinoa to baked goods would be a good way to increase the nutritional value of the recipe. I make a great brown rice bread but I cook the rice first (obviously). The first recipe that I pulled up called for putting the quinoa in without cooking. So I thought I'd give it a go.

After the dough was made I thought I'd really blown it. It looked like polka dot bread and I was sure I'd have hard crunchy quinoa grains throughout. But it rose like a champ and baked just as well! The grains that are on the outside give it a nice crunch, but the inside is nice and soft.

I revised the recipe a bit adding honey and walnuts for flavor and health benefits. I did another loaf with walnuts and dried cherries. I think this bread is best toasted. . . slathered with Irish butter. So much for low fat. I'll be good tomorrow. Or when my bread is gone.

Quinoa Bread

Prep: 30 minutes
Rise: 3 hours total
Bake: 30 minutes

1 cup plus 1 to 2 tablespoons warm water, divided
1/4 cup honey
1 package active dry yeast
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups wheat flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 cup chopped dried cherries, raisins or cranberries (optional)

Place 1 cup water and honey in a large bowl of an electric mixer and sprinkle yeast over the top; let stand for 5 minutes or until yeast starts to foam. Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and drain well; add to bowl with oil and mix lightly. Using the dough hook, stir in flours and salt until a dough forms, adding a little more water if necessary. (Dough will be stiff.) Knead for 5 to 10 minutes or until dough is very smooth and elastic. Coat another large clean bowl lightly with oil; add dough and turn to coat. Cover bowl and set in a warm spot to rise for 2 hours. Punch dough down and knead several times, adding walnuts and fruit if you like. Shape into 2 loaves and place on a large parchment lined baking sheet. Let rise in a warm spot for 1 hour more. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake bread for 30 minutes or until loaves sound hollow when tapped.

Post comments and let me know what you think of the recipe!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

You say potato...

It's still rainy in sunny California, but I can't complain when my family in Baltimore has been housebound for days. I think this calls for soup again!

I have to admit, the shock of finding bathing suits in Target in February has me in full guilt mode as well. I've already strayed from my healthy eating resolutions and it's only February! I'm not giving up yet. My goal? A healthy soup that doesn't taste...healthy.

I'm starting with canned tomatoes that are a staple in my pantry. Being the self proclaimed potato preacher that I am, I combined the two to make a fabulous potato tomato soup. It's low fat AND good for you (the two don't always go together). It's also a great make ahead recipe which is always good.

And my food find today? An immersion blender!

I've had a Braun for almost 25 years and although it's still doing the job, I just wanted something sleeker. Newer. Prettier. So I graduated up to the Cuisinart stainless model. Bonus! It also comes with a small workbowl and blade that attaches to the base of the hand blender making it a small food processor as well. I can't imagine ever pouring hot liquid into my blender again! Once you use one of these babies you'll be hooked for life! I can honestly say it's one of my favorite cooking tools.

Potato Tomato Soup

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 very large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large russet potato, peeled and cubed
1 (32-oz.) package chicken stock or reduced-sodium broth
1 (29-oz.) can tomato puree, crushed tomatoes or diced tomatoes
2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. sugar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion; cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are soft and golden brown. Sir in celery and garlic and cook for 5 minutes more. Add potato, stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Puree soup with an immersion blender or let cool slightly and puree in a blender or food processor. Transfer back to pot and add basil and sugar. Cover and cook for 15 minutes more; season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and top with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Serve with a crusty French bread and a green salad.

For extra nutrition, make this a Potato Tomato Soup Florentine by stirring in 2 to 3 cups of coarsely chopped fresh spinach.

Monday, February 1, 2010

idofood finds

Blog from

by Patty Mastracco

Patty Mastracco is a Sacramento, CA. based freelance Recipe Consultant and Food Stylist who has now cooked up a blog! Over the past 20 years she has created more than 2000 recipes for companies from California to Ireland! She currently also serves as the Food Editor of Something Extra Magazine, published by Raley’s/Bel Air Grocery Stores. She can be seen appearing in videos for the U.S. Potato Board ( To contact Patty send email to:

A Fresh New Year

What’s fresh? Carrots!

OK let’s face it. Carrots are usually seen as something that just sits around your fridge or as a not too exciting diet snack. I have a recipe that takes carrots to a whole new level. The first time I had this soup was in Scotland. My husband and I had flown all night to get there and were exhausted. We went to a pub for dinner and I was so tired nothing sounded good. I ended up ordering Carrot and Coriander Soup. As soon as I did, I thought why did I do that? It’s didn’t sound good at all. My husband ordered fajitas (which should be against the law when you’re in Scotland but I have to admit that actually did sound good). When the steamy, orange bowl was set in front of me, I was amazed at how good it smelled. And it tasted even better. I scraped the bowl and ordered a second!

I think I came pretty close to recreating this fantastic soup. Carrots are in prime season now, and are inexpensive too. Bonus! This lowfat soup fits in perfectly with your new year’s diet resolutions! It’s also great to make ahead.

Here’s a recipe, it’s my take on the English classic. (Please see the legal disclaimer below J.

Creamy Coriander Carrot Soup

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

1 tbsp. butter

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

1 lb. carrots, peeled and sliced

2 ribs celery, sliced

1 medium sweet potato (8-oz.), peeled and cubed

1 (32-oz.) container chicken stock or reduced-sodium broth

2 tsp. ground coriander

1/2 cup fat free half & half

1/2 tsp. sea salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Melt butter in a medium saucepan, cooking until golden brown. Add onion and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat or until lightly browned. Add carrots, celery, sweet potato and stock to the pan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and puree with a stick blender or in a blender or food processor. Return to pan and stir in coriander, half & half, salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes more just to heat through. Makes 6 servings.

Here’s a couple more things about carrots:

One cup of sliced carrots has only 50 calories, over 3 grams of fiber and is high in Vitamin A. Guess that pesky wabbit knew what he was doing!

Simmer sliced carrots in orange juice with just a bit of cinnamon and brown sugar or honey.

Make an easy veggie dip with Greek yogurt, chopped fresh herbs and minced fresh garlic.

Spread cooked mashed carrots onto a grilled cheese sandwich to get kids to eat more vegetables. They blend in with the cheese and no one will know.

This recipe is provided to you courtesy of Patty Mastracco Food Inc., the author. It is for your personal use. Any reproduction, reprints or commercial reuse must be accompanied by permission from the author. ã 2009, Patty Mastracco Food Inc.