Category Archives: Recipes – Grains

Garlic Shrimp with Quinoa is a Gluten Free Treat!

A few months ago, I shared a delicious recipe for garlic shrimp with pasta that was created by my MIL and FIL. SensitiveHusband and I just love this meal because it is fairly quick and easy to prepare, especially if we work on it together. However, we recently tried a variation of this dish that was also quite good – instead of tossing the shrimp and peas with pasta, we used quinoa.

Keen-what? Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is an amino acid-rich seed that has a slightly crunchy texture and nutty flavor when cooked. Most commonly considered a grain, quinoa is actually a relative of leafy green vegetables. Click on this web site from the George Mateljan Foundation for a helpful chart that shows the daily percentages of magnesium, folate and other nutrients in quinoa. It is also gluten free, which is a welcome benefit to many people’s diets.

In order to make this dinner, follow the instructions for MIL and FIL’s Garlic and Shrimp Pasta. Just cook up some quinoa instead of the pasta and toss with the shrimp and garlic at the end to serve. Enjoy this dinner!

I am sharing this recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, Miz Helen’s Country Cottage and Food Trip Friday.

Stirring and Statistics for Risotto with Sausage and Spinach

This past Friday night, I boldly stirred something I had never stirred before…risotto. Risotto is an Italian rice specialty made by stirring hot stock into a sautéed rice mixture (thanks, Epicurious, for the definition). The slow addition of hot stock allows the rice to release starch, which gives risotto a creamy consistency.

I had never before made risotto, although I found a recipe in the January 2012 edition of Cooking Light magazine that caught my eye. I made my substitutions (including adding garlic, eliminating the shallots, using homemade chicken stock, substituting the white wine with water, and finding a chicken sausage without yeast, sugar or onion) and followed the directions closely, which yielded a delightful result. However, I learned a few things about risotto that I want to share with you so you can learn from my novice mistakes:

(1) Prepare all of the ingredients ahead of time. This is because once you start stirring, you will find it hard to stop. Fortunately, I prepped fairly well ahead of time so my mushrooms were sliced, garlic was minced, sausage was diced, and other ingredients were accessible. The spinach however, remained in the bag, unwashed. As I stood stirring at the stovetop, watching with amazement as the rice slowly became a creamy risotto, it became clear that the leafy green vegetable was not going to wash itself. I felt relief when SensitiveHusband walked in the door, home from work. I was so happy that he was home so we could chat, enjoy a good meal, and he could wash the spinach.

(2) When the recipe calls for “constant stirring,” it is not kidding. Pull up a chair, hold a good book in one hand, and keep stirring with the other hand. I was able to take mini-breaks, but once you wipe the sweat from your brow, return to stirring.

I found a few other good tips from Susan Russo for NPR, but as long as you follow this recipe you should not have any trouble getting the correct result.

While I was stirring, I had some time to think, and my thoughts drifted to rice production. So after dinner I did some research. Most risottos are made with arborio rice, which is mostly cultivated in Italy. The U.S. is a net exporter of rice, growing mostly long- and short-grain varieties. About 99% of the total U.S. rice crop is produced in four regions:
1. Arkansas Grand Prairie (Arkansas is the largest single rice producing state with about 45% of rice producing acreage);
2. Mississippi Delta (includes Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri and Louisiana);
3. Gulf Coast (Texas and Southwest Louisiana); and
4. Sacramento Valley of California.

The USDA’s rice outlook from February 10, 2012 notes that the 2011-12 global rice production forecast was raised 1.3 million tons to 462.7 million tons, which is the largest crop on record. It looks like Italy’s arborio rice crop is expected to be a good one this year, so enjoy your risotto!

Ingredients
* 3 cups (homemade or) fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
* 1 1/3 cups water
* 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* 1 (8-ounce) package sliced mushrooms
* 5 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casings removed and diced (about 2 links)
* 5 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 cup uncooked arborio rice
* 1 (6-ounce) package baby spinach
* 1/4 cup (1 ounce) shaved fresh Romano or Parmesan cheese

Preparation
1. Bring broth and 1 cup water to a simmer in a small saucepan (do not boil); keep warm over low heat.
2. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add salt and mushrooms to pan; cook for 8 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove mushrooms from pan, and set aside.
3. Add sausage to pan, and cook for 3 minutes or until browned. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium. Add rice; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in 1/3 cup water, and cook until liquid is nearly absorbed, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.
4. Stir in 1 cup broth mixture; cook for 2 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Add remaining broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth mixture is absorbed before adding the next (about 30 minutes total). Remove pan from heat. Add mushrooms and spinach; stir until spinach wilts. Top evenly with cheese. Serve and enjoy immediately.

I am sharing this recipe with Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, Miz Helen’s Country Cottage, Food Trip Friday, Cybele Pascal Allergen-Free Cuisine and Simple Living with Diane Balch.

A Flavor and Cost Review of Whole Grains

Since I made the maple raisin scones using millet flour, I have been interested in learning more about whole grains. Since my use of millet flour was such a success, what other whole grains could I use?

Grains are the seeds of certain plants. Inside the seed is the germ, and attached to the germ is a starch called the endosperm. Both are protected inside the bran that surrounds them. When grains are refined, the bran and germ are stripped away, leaving the starchy part that is less nutritious. When in the grocery store, look for labels that list whole wheat flour, whole oats, or other whole grains. Wheat flour is not a whole grain.

The following chart is adapted from the Whole Foods Market Magazine, North Atlantic Region, Spring 2011. The chart lists all of the whole grains along with their characteristics and other intereting food facts.

The economist in me also decided to do a cost comparison among the whole grains. So I searched for each whole grain on Amazon, and chose the first one listed to create a relative whole grain price index. I divided the price per ounce for each of the whole grains. It is interesting to note that the spread among the prices for the whole grains is not too large, although rye is the least expensive and quinoa is the most expensive. Compared to alternative sweeteners, whole grains are a relatively good deal!

If you are willing to buy in bulk, Whole Foods Market allows customers to special order bulk items in “case” quantities to receive a 10% discount off regular bulk retail price. It’s another way to keep your grocery bills on a budget.

I now have my sights on some other whole grains to try…which do you plan to try, or which ones do you already use?

Couscous with Cherries and Almonds

I really like couscous because it cooks very quickly and is quite versatile, which are two criteria I look for in a weeknight side dish. The third criteria, of course, is that it tastes great. So this couscous is an all-around winner!

The original recipe is from Cooking Light and a slight modification makes it cane sugar free. The trick is to find dried fruit that is sweetened with fruit juice concentrate. Below is the recipe:
Ingredients: 1 cup water; pinch of salt, 1 cup couscous; 1/3 cup dried cherries sweetened with fruit juice concentrate; 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil; 1/4 cup slice almonds
Directions: Bring the water and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in the couscous and cherries. Cover and remove from heat. After five minutes, remove cover, fluff couscous with a fork, and stir in the olive oil and almonds. Serve with your favorite meal!
Note: dried fruit sweetened with juice concentrate can be found at a health foods store – the cherries I buy are “apple juice infused.”
Another note: other fruits and nuts work well in this dish – use pistachios or strawberries as alternatives.