Thursday, March 22, 2012


I'm a big fan of trying to cook everything from scratch, but I'm no food snob.  There are some nights when you just need a quick fix, when the grocery store seems too far away, and when something creamy and cheesy is the only thing that will satisfy hungry mouths. So it's always a good idea to keep some canned soups, frozen veggies, and a big bag of onions on hand. With a few basics, you can throw together a great meal in no time.

Today's recipe is based on a recipe from one of the first editions of the Best of Bridge cookbooks. It's a bit on the fatty side, but it's hearty and tasty and definitely a great option for the boonies cook.  Everything in it is easy to find in any grocery store and stores well at home, so you can whip this up on one of those nights when you haven't been shopping for two weeks and your fridge looks like it was burgled overnight.

Start with a pound of ground meat (as in most recipes like this, the meat you choose is interchangeable with whatever you have in the house). Brown the meat in a large pot, and drain off the excess fat.

Add a chopped onion, 2 c. sliced mushrooms (optional - my hubby looooves mushrooms) and 2 or 3 minced cloves of garlic and saute until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms are soft.

Add about 2 tsp. dried oregano, 1 tsp dried basil, salt and pepper.

Dump in one can of condensed cream of mushroom soup and 1 c. low fat sour cream.  Stir to mix.

Add one package of frozen spinach (thawed and drained), and mix to incorporate.

Pour the whole mixture into a large casserole, and grate mozzarella cheese over the top.  Place in the oven at 350F and bake for about 20 minutes until the cheese is melted and starts to turn golden.

Serve over rice or egg noodles. 

Here is your ingredient list:


1 lb ground meat
1 onion, chopped
2 c. mushrooms, sliced (optional)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. basil
salt and pepper to taste
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 c. low fat sour cream
1 package frozen spinach
1 c. (approximately) of shredded mozzarella cheese

Monday, March 12, 2012


Today's post is about my new favorite food - quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah"). Quinoa is a pseudograin - that is, it's not a grass seed like true grains. It's a boonies-friendly food because it stores easily (dry, airtight container), super healthy (see below), and extremely versatile.

When I first started seeing recipes for quinoa, I thought that there was no way that my local grocery store would have something that exotic - I'd probably need a specialty food store to find it.  Then, lo and behold, on a shelf above the rice there it was in a little green box.  There are three types of quinoa in my grocery store (Safeway): regular, red and black.  While quinoa in general tends to be expensive than rice, the red and black varieties are more so.  I've also noticed that my local bulk grain supplier sells it by the pound ($6.15/lb, but I have an old price list), so I might try ordering from her in the future.

Like I mentioned before, quinoa is as easy to cook as rice and is just as (if not more) versatile. It's also very healthy - high in protein, iron, calcium and phosphorus as well as some important amino acids. It's definitely better for you that white rice, and (in my opinion) tastier.

You can find a million and one recipes for quinoa on the web, but let me share a couple of my favorites:

Black Bean and Tomato Quinoa

This first recipe comes from Gourmet magazine through I've made it for a bunch of potluck lunches, and for a side dish at home and it's always a big hit.  I've edited the recipe only slightly - instead of cooking the quinoa to their directions (which seems a bit fussy), I just cook it according to the instructions on the box.

  • 2 teaspoons grated lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 (14- to 15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Rinse quinoa in cold water to remove bitter saponin coating. Cook quinoa according to package directions and allow to cool.
Whisk together the first five ingredients in a small bowl and add salt and pepper to taste. Add to quinoa and toss until absorbed.  Mix in remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste.

Breakfast Quinoa

I started looking up recipes for breakfast quinoa a few months ago when I had some plain, leftover quinoa in the fridge. It turns out, there are about a million different ways to make it. While you can make breakfast quinoa without milk (see this recipe), I prefer a creamy breakfast porridge. There are a couple of ways I've done this: 
First, you can cook the quinoa in milk instead of water.  I find that this takes quite a bit of time and careful observation (case in point - I burnt it just the other day), but the taste is creamier.  I add about 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp of ground cardamom to 1/2 c. (dry) quinoa. You can add whatever spices you like.
Second (especially for leftovers), you can warm up 1 cup of leftover quinoa in a pot with a few tablespoons of milk or cream.  It will get mostly absorbed by the quinoa and make a decent breakfast cereal.  Add same spices as above.

Once you have nice warm, spicy quinoa, you can go to town with additions.  Lately, I've been favoring a tablespoon of chopped nuts, some shredded coconut, and half a sliced banana.  Top with some plain yogurt... yum!  Or you could add flax seeds, dried cranberries and apricots, and a bit of maple syrup? How about a few chocolate chips and some chopped orange slices?  The possibilities are endless!

I've been musing over the possibilities of savory breakfast quinoa too - how about sauteeing some leftover quinoa with chopped onions and mushrooms, and adding some oregano, thyme and black pepper? Place a poached egg on top for a breakfast of champions!  

Dang, now I'm getting hungry...  Hope you love experimenting with quinoa!