Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Southwestern Quinoa

This post is going to be a bit short, but I spent most of last week sick and take boards tomorrow (the giant test over ALL of nursing, no biggie!), which adds up to a decided lack of cooking on my end this last week. So I thought I'd follow up my last post with another quinoa recipe- this time, with a Southwestern twist to it. Over the last few years that I've been using quinoa, this has tended to be the recipe I use most, since it requires a little less cooking time and I've run into fewer people who dislike these flavors than the Greek flavor or eggplant texture (crazy, I know, but they're out there!). If you want to add a little extra protein, a grilled chicken breast that was marinated in a chili-lime sauce was a welcome addition for the carnivore in my life.
The one thing that made a very big difference in this recipe was adding fresh cilantro. It's not something I always have on hand, so it's often forgotten by the time I get this made. I came across a Gourmet Garden tube of cilantro when I was in the grocery store getting ingredients and decided to give it a shot- absolutely worth the money. Fresh spices always make a huge difference in how a dish tastes, and the tube varieties make it much easier to store them without the risk of wilting before you get it all used.

Southwestern Quinoa
Serves 4-6

2 cups quinoa, rinsed
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 can corn, rinsed (can also use fresh or frozen)
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
4 tomatoes, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Cilantro, salt, pepper, & paprika, to taste
1 Tbs each, lemon and lime juice
1 avocado, diced
Non-fat Greek yogurt and shredded cheddar cheese, for garnish

1. Rinse and add quinoa to 4 cups boiling water. Stir, cover and simmer on med-high until liquid is absorbed. Set aside to cool.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combing the black beans, corn, vegetables and garlic.
3. Add lemon and lime juice, season the mixture to taste.
4. Spoon quinoa into a bowl or onto a plate and cover with vegetable mixture.
5. Top with diced avocado, Greek yogurt and cheese, if desired, and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Greek-style Quinoa

As I mentioned a few posts back, I succumbed to peer pressure sometime in July and decided to start training for my first half-marathon. I ran cross country way back in high school (starting to quickly realize how long ago that really was!), so I've put in a few long runs in my lifetime, but can safely say that I haven't run 8+ miles since those workouts 10 years ago! Luckily, the bulk of my training is taking place during boards studying and the month afterwards, when I really don't have many responsibilities (responsibilities... or excuses?) to get in the way of my training plan. Thankfully, as much as I dislike that winter follows fall, Iowa took a decided turn into fall temperatures this weekend, which makes long runs outside much easier to deal with.

What this means on the foodie side of things is paying better attention to what I eat - this sort of training requires quality food. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is one of my favorite ingredients- similar to rice, it's easy to cook while prepping veggies and provides a blank canvas as far as taste goes. Quinoa is also a complete protein, which is hard to come by for us vegetarians. To date, I've only used quinoa for savory lunch/dinner dishes, but I'm eager to throw some cinnamon-sugar, raisons and almonds in it and try it for breakfast as the temperatures start dropping. Quinoa can be used in place of pretty much any grain - rice, pasta, etc, to add protein and fiber (quinoa has double the protein and fiber of rice!) to your meals without being as high in carbs as the other options.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Arugula-Blueberry-Gorgonzola Salad

I meshed this salad together from several different recipes I came across during my post-graduation week-of-nothingness bliss. I'd never thought to put blueberries in a salad before seeing this recipe, and was a little apprehensive about it even while making it. Pancakes, cereal, yogurt, baked goods, by the handful... sure, blueberries are awesome. But mixed in with peppery arugula and intense gorgonzola? Turns out they add just enough sweet, creaminess to the salad to tone down the other intense flavors and really pull the salad together.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Grilled Peaches & Pineapple

Eish, somehow three weeks have passed since graduation and my last post. And what have I been doing with myself, you ask? Well, mostly studying all day, every day for boards. That coupled with training for my first half-marathon in October has pretty well kept me shockingly busy, or I'm just lazy with the time left over after a full day of lectures, 100+ pages of textbook reading and miles of running. Either way, I'm back and have a bunch of recipes to post to get you through the end of summer (seriously, where did it go?! I'm quite irked about this!) and into the awesomeness of fall.

Grilling fruit is a really great way to utilize an already fired up grill at your end-of-the-summer dinners, or possibly carry over into tailgating season, without heating up the house to bake something. Perhaps the weather is different where you are, but August in Iowa tends to run in the 90s, both for temperature and humidity, so heating up the apartment more is something I avoid as much as possible! As usual, I forgot to take my camera to get some finished shots of this delicious, juicy dish, so this picture is courtesy of the website Learn How To Cook.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Strawberry-Rhubarb Bars, and Graduation News!

Hello again! Sorry for the brief hiatus, but life here's been a tad crazy with some very big, exciting changes. For starters - I graduated on Friday!!!! After 18 months of extreme sleep deprivation, countless missed social events, more stress and tears than most of us care to claim, my entire class and I received our Masters in Nursing. A particularly special part of the day was the pinning ceremony that preceded actual convocation (symbolizing the change from student to practicing nurse), in which my almost 4-year-old cousin Ellie pinned me. What makes this moment so incredible is that Ellie was born with a severe heart defect, requiring three open heart surgeries - the most recent of which almost took her from us. But those sad, terrifying days are behind us and my happy, gorgeous little miracle girl took her job of pinning me very seriously. Just the week before I mentioned to her that I had to go to the hospital the next day to work, to which she replied "but you can't be a nurse until I pin you!"
To add to all the graduation excitement, I had two job interviews last week! I interviewed at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Neonatal ICU and Peds ICU. Either job would be an incredible opportunity and I was thrilled to get both interviews. I'll hopefully hear back early next week, until then I get to spend this week doing absolutely. anything. I. want. .... very, very odd concept! The top of my list being to finish re-doing the living room decor, read at least one book and cook like crazy before I have to start studying for boards next week. I've long been hinting at a revamped blog, so hopefully that will also come into being here soon -- new chapter of life, new blog look.
It's quite fitting that this is the post-graduation recipe I'm posting, as it comes from one of the girls in my program. I did add strawberries to what were originally just rhubarb bars, and they were very popular when I took them to the hospital! I love the flavor combination you get mixing sweet strawberries with tart rhubarb, and the little bit of corn starch is an important ingredient to help absorb the extra water the strawberries add. If you're looking to make this healthier, you can use an egg substitute, decrease the amount of sugar and/or play around with a butter substitute for the crust (though I advise caution on this- I've had little luck with crusts using anything other than real butter!)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mint Summer Fruit Salad

This was my third dish for the baby shower, my new favorite fruit salad and a little something to maybe entice you to try making over the weekend. I'd never really worked with mint before, but it was exciting to have a good reason to buy a bunch of it at the Farmer's Market that weekend. Plus mint is a fantastic summer flavor! Even though I was a bit nervous about it beforehand, it got rave reviews from everyone at the shower and I highly recommend it!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Spinach-Feta Flatbread Bites with Tzatziki

A few months ago I received an email from TastingTable with a recipe for Spinach-Feta Cigars, a twist on the Greek grape-leaf wraps, which sounded delicious but I decided it was a recipe worth saving for an event rather than to whip up for a random dinner. Aaaand then life got really busy and various social events like dinner parties and game nights stopped happening, nevermind the general lack of time to make something slightly more complicated than throwing random veggies in a bowl and dousing them with olive oil, vinegar and calling it a 'dinner salad'. But these bite-sized tastes of Greece were definitely worth holding on to the recipe for!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Blackberry-Mint Lemonade

With temperatures reaching above 100º this week in Iowa, and a heat index well above that, I thought a refreshing beverage post was in order, especially with the long holiday weekend ahead! I have to credit my aunt Mary with leading me to this particular blog - she sent me a big list of them, which was wonderfully entertaining for my last night shift of clinicals when my baby was actually being good and sleeping most of the night. This recipe takes a little bit of prep time to make the mint syrup and let it cool, but is definitely worth it. The lemonade got rave reviews at the baby shower I co-hosted last weekend, and the leftovers were equally delightful when mixed with vodka for a breezy summertime drink on a very sweltering night.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Vegetable Pasta

For those of us still struggling through grad programs, summer is rarely the exciting, relaxing break that most other students look forward to. My crazy schedule leads to long pauses in posting, while all the medical students I know are pulling out their hair and having coniptions over their impending boards exam. To be fair, it is a pretty big test, and I'm sure I will be the same way when I get ready to take them in August. With that in mind, I decided to make dinner for my friends Lara and Chris the week of their boards exam to try and help them out a bit - it's crazy how even the basics of feeding yourself seem like a time-sucking requirement rather than a welcome break when you're ear deep in textbooks

I had big plans for lots of Farmer's Market veggies in this, however my clinicals schedule has made it impossible for me to attend all by 2 of the markets so far this summer. So I instead settled for what looked good at the grocery store, and even though it wasn't Market-based, it was still pretty darn delicious- both for study food and general dinner.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


The temperatures are finally starting to climb, the sun is now out well past dinner, and I've seen lots of slip-n-slides adorning lawns -- all the signs of impending summer are there. The warm temperatures often force those of us who keep the red wine vintners in business to switch to something that can be chilled, either white wines or beers. While I'm not about to say anything negative towards these fermented beverages- there are certainly nights when a cold beer is the best thing on the planet, winos with a preference for reds need a way to keep our palates sated. Enter: chilled, fruity sangria!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Grown-up Mac'n'Cheese

As far as comfort foods go, there are very few things (possibly none) that are better than macaroni and cheese. This particular concoction is a far cry from the boxed versions where you mix some questionable-looking yellow powder with butter and milk and it somehow creates "cheese". Not that the boxed version doesn't have it's place - I have some very fond memories of it from when I was little, and it's an undergraduate finals week staple, but there are times that call for an improved version.

For the last two weeks, my extended family has been living in the hospital with my little 3 1/2 year old cousin as she fights incredibly hard to recover from her 3rd open heart surgery. Anyone who's spent any time hospitals knows how fast the food gets gross and old, much less every meal for almost two weeks striaght. So when they let me bring them some dinner, I was excited to step up and bring them some solid comfort food that wasn't deep-fried and stomach-ache inducing - and thus, a more grown-up version of the ultimate comfort food was born!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Green Beans with Pine Nuts

Sorry about the brief hiatus last week- I had big plans for cooking and then a cold knocked me flat on my butt for the early part of the week and an overnight shift on Wednesday and my sister's graduation over the weekend pretty well took out the rest of my week. So, in an effort to keep up with my 1-post-per-week resolution, you'll be getting two posts this week!

I'm starting with these green beans because it's 90º in Iowa City right now (aaa-mazing!) and fresh green beans are one of the foods that always taste like summer to me. Bright color, crisp snap and with farmer's markets across the country starting this last week, they're now easy and economical to find.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Healthy Banana-Nut Muffins

Don't let the 'healthy' tag on these muffins dissuade you from trying these muffins. They're moist, chewy, filling and delicious, all for 157 calories and 2.2g fat per muffin -- the perfect easy breakfast to grab on your way out the door, rather than skipping (tsk, tsk) or grabbing donuts or something worse later. They also provide a nice balance of legit food for those of us raiding our Easter baskets for some pre-breakfast treats while waiting for the coffee to finish. These even get the boyfriend stamp-of-approval, and he has very little patience for deliciousness trade-offs in favor of lower calories, which I can fully support.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hazelnut-Dark Chocolate Shortbread Sticks

 This recipe is actually a throw-back to my Christmas baking but I never got around to posting it, and luckily it's not a flavor that is strongly tied to any holidays. The combination of crunchy shortbread made with hazelnuts and a coating of dark chocolate on the outside provides the perfect vehicle for dunking in your morning coffee, tea or munching on them sans beverage.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Perfect Spring Sandwich, or Salad

This post is a bit belated, but with several oral surgeries in the last few months between my boyfriend and myself, most of the food currently happening has been of the mushy-soft texture. In addition to lots of dental work, I just finished up my last shift in the burn unit one week ago. Not only does this mean that I'm 110 days away from graduation (!!), but also that my next rotation will determine the jobs I'm eligible to apply for next year. Most importantly, whether or not I get a pediatric rotation determines if I'm able to apply for pediatric nursing jobs, which is what I've always known I want to be. Even people who don't know me well realize very quickly that I belong in pediatrics, and if an adorable baby is around, that 'very quickly' turns into a few microseconds. Wrapping up my time in the burn unit was bittersweet. I learned SO MUCH in just 125 hours, it's really incredible to think back to January and where my skills and comfort level was and how far I've come. The things I saw and treated in the burn unit don't lend themselves well to a food blog, so I'll leave you with one of the best moments I've had thus far in my nursing career.

About a month ago, I had an evening shift with three very emotionally taxing patients, the kind of night that ends with a lot of tears, chocolate and wine. But a week later, one of those patients, a young adolescent, was having their last shower/wound check before being discharged to go home. As I stopped to say hi and see how she was, her mom asked to take a picture of her daughter with me, thanking me for caring for her daughter and their family during such a hard time. Taking the picture with my patient and talking with her and her mom was easily one of those crystalizing moments of 'yep, this is exactly where I belong', which is unbelievably exciting to experience and very important to hold on to when school's taking everything I've got.

Sorry for the long divergence, but this is supposed to be a food + nursing school blog, and I really wanted to share that with whoever is reading out there. Alright, so back to awesome food! The recipe for this sandwich came from TastingTables email updates, and it combines some of my favorite spring ingredients into a delicious Mediterranean-style sandwich. The eggplant and artichokes form the basis of the filling, and are a filling-enough combination that nobody left feeling hungry or wishing there'd been meat on the sandwich. The sun-dried tomatoes add a little bit of a sweet, olive-y taste, which is well matched by the mild pepperoncini spice and the tart Feta cheese. Sandwich all that between a thick, crusty loaf of sourdough bread with some hummus schmeared on it and you've got one impressive entrée.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Vertical Pear Walnut & Gorgonzola Salad

Winter, you have very much overstayed your welcome! Three weeks ago, I spend over an hour digging my car out from shoulder-high snow drifts and two weeks ago I got to celebrate my 25th birthday with a little frostbite, thanks to the -15º temperatures (not windchill, but temperatures!). In past years, once my birthday has come and gone, I'm about done with February and winter in general, but this year I had to stick with winter at least week longer for Valentine's Day. Previous Valentine's Days were observed with eating chocolate, drinking wine and watching Blade:Trinity with my girlfriends, but being in a new relationship meant this was the year to actually embrace the gooey-ness of the day. Being only a week after my birthday, for which I was spoiled for an entire week, I decided to tackle the V-day plans with a go big or go home attitude!

Now, of course I wouldn't be content with either making reservations at a restaurant or cooking up some heart-shaped mac-n-cheese. Nope, after a few weeks of searching through recipes and every romantic menu I could find on a food-related website, I finally nailed down my menu the morning of: this salad, steak and salmon with roasted potatoes and a raspberry-chocolate truffle tart. Cue panic! After an amusing trip to the grocery store (lots of frantic and confused looking guys wandering around with what was left of the chocolate and roses selection), I spent the afternoon spinning around my kitchen like a crazy person. Luckily everything turned out well and dinner went off without too much of a problem, save for a dessert that was delicious but managed to be an aesthetic mess! This salad, however, was definitely the most impressive looking of the courses.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cheddar-Jalapeño-(Bacon) Cornbread Muffins

Hey, it's been a whole year since this little blog came into being! Easily one of the crazier years of my life, but I've enjoyed cooking my way through it and sharing that with anyone kind enough to stop by and read the recipes. So a big thanks to anyone reading this, as there isn't much of a point without an audience :) Now, back to cooking!

These muffins were originally conceived for the Iowa-Penn State tailgate, to go along with a very formidable batch of venison chili. While my first attempt at these had several major problems, I made them again for a dinner party a few weeks ago and they were very well received. I split the batch into two halves, one that included bacon and one without for the vegetarians in attendance.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Irish Cream Hazelnut Fudge

Being that it's January 2nd, I realize that posting my Christmastime baking recipes, most of which require sugar, butter, cream and all manner of deliciously bad things, may not be going over so well with some New Years resolutions. Well... this one isn't going to be any different, but I will get back to making food that doesn't require a lot of gym time soon!

There are always a few staples that I look forward to having each year during the Christmas baking season. The peanut butter cookies with chocolate kisses, frosted sugar cookies in various shapes, rum balls, Buckeyes, and fudge! Fudge is by far my favorite 'find' every year, because it was the one thing I've never been able to make, so it was always a welcome treat when someone else brought it to parties. Fudge is also a favorite because it's so versatile -- there are as many flavors of fudge as there are bakers to make them. And because fudge is usually so intense that only little pieces are a good idea, I usually manage to sample a large number of options.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies

As I'm sure is very apparent by now, I'm a big fan of chocolate. 'Big fan' may be a gross understatement, but I'm reasonably certain it's in my DNA... in fact, whenever someone in my family is jonesing for some chocolate, we're often lovingly teased that our Hellman-side is showing. Obviously it's not shocking at a woman is down with chocolate, but even more than just straight chocolate, I think the person who first decided to combine chocolate and peanut butter should be given as many accolades as possible. It's a magical combination!

Chocolate-Candy Cane Cookies

Hello! I know I promised lots of recipes over Thanksgiving, but somehow that week moved very fast and by the next time I had a second to look up and breathe, final were done. Crazy! I'm now just under 7 months away from graduating, which is very exciting. But you're not really reading this to hear about my adventures in nursing, you're here for delicious recipes, so I'll get to it.

I spent the entire first week of my break baking and going to dinner parties... rough life, I know :) I discovered these cookies last year when I first started procrastinating for school by looking at cooking websites and blogs, and they've been a huge hit. The chocolate cookies aren't so sweet that they're cloying or make your teeth hurt, and the peppermint frosting adds a punch of sweet. Plus, it's like a dessert breath mint!