Katie’s Couscous

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Sorry for the long hiatus. Without getting into it, let’s just say life was hectic and exhausting for a few months. I’m back to normal now and have my head on straight (I think). I have a drawer full of recipes saved up so I’m going to make a commitment to post every couple days…I promise!

Today’s topic is couscous. I know you were expecting more from me after being inactive for so long but I assure you this recipe will not disappoint. It’s one of those dishes that you will find yourself snacking on for an entire week. The recipe makes enough for like 20 servings and it will stay fresh for up to 8 days if you keep it in an air tight container.

It’s sort of funny how this recipe came about. After living in Arlington, Virginia for three years I became absolutely obsessed with the Whole Foods there. I know what you’re thinking…she developed a strong personal attachment to a store that sells overpriced food? Weird. Well anyway it is MY store. MY stomping grounds…nobody mess with it! After being a DC resident for 2 months I was going crazy and I needed my Arlington Whole Foods fix so I made the 30 minute journey across the bridge. Upon arrival I discovered a sale on couscous AND couscous samples among other things. Inspiration! A recipe is born.

Just real quick on Arlington. It hasn’t even been that long but going back there now is like a confetti hitting a fan for me. I know it’s only what, a mile from DC, but it’s serious time travel whenever I pass through. Driving down Wilson Blvd, the Asian lady named Kim that has done my nails at least 50 times, the coffee at Northside Social. What about that mile long escalator at the Rosslyn metro stop that feels like it’s taking you to the pits of hell? Hah! And finally, the world’s worst shopping mall in Ballston…I love and hate that place at the same time. There are only two redeeming qualities for that establishment: The Chick-Fil-A and the ladies that do fantastic kiosk eyebrow threading for eight dollars. If it wasn’t for that– dynamite.

As corny as it sounds my three years there were really defining points in my life that I will never forget. A series of ups and downs, successes, failures and lessons learned. I refuse to wear anything but rose colored glasses when going back though. Whether its positive or negative I feel like things are always best the way I remember them. I find this sometimes comes in handy when I’m in a pissy mood, or you know, trying to figure out what to eat for dinner.

Now enough of me blabbing…ADD was kicking in. For those of you who are not familiar couscous, it is a popular staple in North African countries like Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. If you know me or follow this blog you should be aware of my quinoa obsession. While similar in taste and texture, I’m sorry to report that it’s not as healthy. Couscous is not a whole grain, in fact, its closer to a pasta than anything else…it’s basically formed from semolina flour. In practically any dish that you see couscous, a grain such as quinoa, bulgur or barley could be easily replaced for added nutrients and fiber. But it’s almost winter and I just can’t be so earnest every night. I was missing my couscous when I tinkered with this recipe. You cannot deprive a girl of her carbs! I did however make sure to include some healthy-ish ingredients in this recipe. You can serve as a side salad or eat on its own. I hope you enjoy!

Even dogs love couscous

Even dogs love couscous

Ingredients

1 box of cooked couscous (according to package directions) ($3.00)
1 1/2 cups frozen, cooked edamame ($2.00)
3/4 cup canned, drained corn ($.75)
1 can garbanzo beans ($1.00)
2 green onions, chopped fine ($.25)
1/4 cup dried cranberries ($.50)
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese ($.75)
1/4 cup pine nuts ($1.00)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar ($.20)
2 tablespoons honey ($.25)
Juice of 1 lemon ($.75)
1/4 cup olive oil (.50)
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Total: $10.95

Directions:

Cook couscous according to package directions. Fluff and let cool for 30 minutes. In a separate bowl add cooled couscous, edamame, corn, garbanzo beans, green onions, cranberries, feta and pine nuts.

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, honey, lemon, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until smooth. Pour the vinaigrette over the couscous and toss to coat evenly. Chill in fridge at least 2 hours.

Quinoa Fried Rice

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It’s not my best quality, but I have a hard time talking about quinoa with a straight face. Sure, I have been eating it for over five years, but when an ingredient is everywhere, when it is treated as if it were the answer to all food questions — like what is a low carb alternative to rice —  I can’t help but want to rebel against it. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN- WA), the ancient not-quite-a-grain cultivated by the Incas, took a seat at the cool kid’s table after virtual obscurity in the States. Vegetarians and foodies alike rave about its high-protein content and versatility in the kitchen.

Despite my yearning for a food rebellion, I can’t help admit that quinoa really is quite fabulous. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, “blank canvas food” is the best. Sure, on its own it bland and boring, but with the proper technique and ingredients you can transform it into something beyond great. I’m obsessed with my sweet and sour chicken. It’s one of those recipes that tastes like cheat food but is deceivingly healthy and low-carb. This recipe is the perfect partner in crime. 1 serving of both will only cost you about 450 cals. #winning

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa ($2.50)
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • ¼ small onion, chopped ($.50)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped ($.20)
  • 3 scallions, chopped ($.10)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced ($.20)
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ginger, minced ($.20)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil ($.10)
  • 2 eggs ($.75)
  • ½ cup frozen peas ($.50)
  • Sauce:
  • 1 ½ tablespoons teriyaki sauce ($.25)
  • 2 ½ tablespoons soy sauce ($.20)
  • ¾ teaspoon sesame oil ($.20)

Total: $5.90

  1. Bring quinoa and water in a medium saucepan, and then reduce to a simmer
  2. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until quinoa is fluffy and cooked through. Remove from heat and let set for five minutes or so. Fluff with a fork.
  3. Mix teriyaki, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a small bowl. Set aside.
  4. Heat ½ tablespoon olive oil in a large sauté pan over a high heat. Add onion and carrot, cook about two minutes. Add 2 scallions, garlic and ginger to the pan. Cook another two minutes. Add in the rest of the olive oil and the quinoa. Stir-fry about two minutes. Add sauce and stir-fry until incorporated, about two minutes. Make a well in the center of the quinoa pour eggs in, scramble. Add in peas, then toss everything together until the peas are warmed through, add remaining scallion and serve.

Mediterranean Brussels Sprouts

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If you hate Brussels Sprouts then I’m going to try and change your mind. As I mentioned in a previous post, Brussels Sprouts really got the worst PR of any veggie out there. They were always characterized as mushy, stinky green orbs that children all over the globe vehemently rejected. I too rejected the poor little guys until I was enlightened a few years ago at a trendy restaurant somewhere above the Mason Dixon line. Lately I’ve been seeing these guys fried into oblivion and smothered with some sort of shallot/ olive oil/ bacon/ salt mixture. While that sounds tasty I wanted to try something a little different that wouldn’t cost me more calories than a double cheeseburger.

I love mediterranean food, especially small plates and tapas where you can indulge in several little bites, all jam packed with flavor. This recipe incorprates the perfect balance of sweetness, bitterness and irresistible crunch. The combination of sweet figs and tart greek yogurt brings these sprouts head and shoulders above your childhood nightmare. I’m thinking these would be awesome for a tapas dinner party of sorts– hummus, lamb meatballs, zucchini fritters and of course plenty of wine. Sounds good right? Maybe I’ll have one just because! Friends, standby.  

Ingredients

  • 1 lb brussel sprouts, stalks removed and cut in half ($2.50)
  • 1 tbs olive oil ($.10)
  • 1/2 tsp sherry vinegar ($.05)
  • 4 tbs lightly toasted walnuts, chopped ($.25)
  • 5 tbs sliced red seedless grapes ($.25)
  • 3/4 C light plain Greek yogurt ($.75)
  • 1 tbs water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbs minced mint ($.20)
  • 1/2 c fig jam ($1.50)
  • 1/4 c water

Total: $5.60

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 500

2. Toss sprouts with 1 tbs olive oil and place cut side down on baking pan. Roast 17 minutes or until crispy and cooked through

3. While sprouts are cooking blend fig jam and 1/4 c water in blender until smooth. Cook over medium heat in saucepan until reduced in half

4. Mix together yogurt, mint and salt. Set aside

5. When sprouts are finished, splash with sherry vinegar and mix until well combined

6. Put sprouts on serving dish and sprinkle on toasted walnuts and grapes. Using a fork, alternate equal drizzles of fig mixture and yogurt mixture. Be careful not to add too much as you can serve additional sauce on the side. Season with more salt to taste, if needed,

Blackened Grouper with Mango Salsa

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I just discovered an amazing little gem in my neighborhood– a seafood market. I’ve been searching for one since I moved to DC two years ago and I finally found it. I’m very particular about purchasing things from the sea… I rarely stray from Whole Foods and the only frozen seafood I will buy is shrimp. It was my friend’s birthday and I was set on making him Mahi. Believe it or not, Mahi is impossible to find up North and when you do it’s usually overpriced and not very fresh. Old Mahi is not ok, especially for someone like me who grew up in Florida. I talked to the owner of the market and explained to him what I wanted to prepare that night. This man looked like and knew as much about seafood as Captain Gordon himself. He said the best thing in his case that day was Grouper. Sold. I coated the filets in blackening seasoning and pan-seared in a bit of olive oil on high heat. I made a fresh, simple mango salsa for the topping and served with a side of asparagus and honey- ginger spaghetti squash (recipe below). The result was perfection and I was very proud of myself. Then, out of nowhere, the meal was ruined by an embarrassing mishap. Mid-sentence, mid-meal I heard wood start to crackle. My chair teetered from left to right then literally snapped under me, sending me straight to the ground. I think I said something like “Wh—Wh—Whoooaa” before I plunged. Luckily I didn’t get hurt…the only thing I lost was my dignity. Let’s just say it was an unforgettable meal. Oh, and don’t buy furniture on Craigslist.

Ingredients

Servings :2
• 1 lb Grouper, filleted and cut into 2 servings ($14.00)
• 2 tbs blackening seasoning ($.20)
• 1 tbs olive oil ($.20)
• ½ mango, diced finely ($.50)
• 1 tbs red onion, diced finely ($.15)
• 1 tbs cilantro, chopped ($.05)
• 1 plum tomato, seeded and chopped ($.30)
• 1 tbs lime juice ($.10)

Total: $15.50

Instructions

Rinse fish and pat dry with paper towels. Put seasoning on plate and dredge both sides of fish (lightly) in seasoning, shake off excess. Bring skillet to medium-high heat and once hot, add fish. Let it cook 4 minutes, and shake the pan back and forth a few times so the fish doesn’t stick. Flip the fish, cover and cook another 5 minutes on medium-high heat. While fish is cooking, make the salsa. Chop mango, red onion, cilantro, tomato and lime juice and combine. I microwave mine for about 30 seconds. Serve on top of cooked fish.

Honey-Ginger Spaghetti Squash:

Ingredients
• 1 large spaghetti squash ($3.00)
• 3 tbs butter ($.10)
• 1 tbs freshly grated ginger ($.25)
• 1 tsp chicken boullion cube/ paste ($.05)
• ½ cup honey ($1.00)
• ¼ cup brown sugar, packed ($.25)
• 1 cup water
• 1 tbs cornstarch ($.05)

Total: $4.70

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Poke holes in spaghetti squash with a knife. Cook in microwave-safe dish in microwave for 10 minutes. Remove squash (be careful- it’s hot!) and cut in half. Bake in oven on roasting pan with tin foil, cut side down, for 10 minutes. Remove squash from oven and carefully remove all seeds. Using a fork, remove all the “pulp” from the squash and place in bowl. It will look like angel hair pasta. Mix in 2 tbs of butter and set aside.
For the sauce:
Do this while the squash is cooking. Saute 1 tbs butter and fresh ginger for 1 minute. Add chicken boullion cube and saute another minute. Add honey and brown sugar and cook on medium for 2 minutes. Mix cornstarch and water until dissolved and add to honey/ ginger mixture. Let it cook 5 minutes, while gently stirring and on medium heat.Once the sauce is done, pour desired amount over cooked spaghetti squash.

Dijon Brussel Sprouts

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Whoever did PR for Brussel Sprouts before 2010 was doing a really bad job. Children everywhere had nightmares about these poor  guys– they were so misunderstood! Brussel sprout affectionados of the world are now in luck. The delicious little orbs have finally proven themselves and achieved rockstar status on the national cuisine landscape. Seriously though, along with lima beans they were probably one of the most controversial vegetables out there. Few sights could bring an intense wave of despair upon my childhood dinner table faster than Brussels sprouts. They were definitely a candidate for the napkin trick. Why? Because they didn’t pass the smell test–they kind of reek.  I finally came to my senses, though and I’m now obsessed with the delicate little cousin of cabbage. My standard way of cooking these is pan searing them with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and maybe some lemon juice. For tonight’s dinner (grilled chicken– I’m not even going to bother writing a post on that one), I wanted a side a little less boring than my main. I had some Grey Poupon and heavy whipping cream in the fridge and voila. This recipe is dope.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound brussel sprouts ($3.00)
  • 1/2 tbs butter ($.10)
  • 1/2 tbs olive oil ($.05)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/4 cup white wine ($.50)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth ($.50)
  • 1 shallot sliced thinly ($.10)
  • 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream ($.05)
  • 1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard ($.10)

Total: $4.40

Instructions

Halve sprouts lengthwise. In a large skillet heat oil and butter over moderate heat. Arrange sprouts cut sides down, in one layer. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook sprouts, without flipping, until the sprouts are golden brown (approx 5 minutes).

Add the shallot, wine and broth bring to a gentle boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low , cover the pot with a lid  and cook the sprouts until they are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove the lid, and scoop out brussels (leaving the sauce in pan). Add cream and simmer for three minutes, until slightly thickened. Stir in dijon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over sprouts– feel free to add a bit of chopped parsley if you desire.

Garlic and Lime Cornish Hen with Mexican Rice

Hen

Bottom line up front: I’ve impressed myself. My experience with large bodies of meat is limited (that sounded weird), but really…I have never cooked a turkey, ham  or pot roast in my life. The thought of preparing a Thanksgiving bird gives me a panic attack. So many methods– brining, baking, frying, smoking– ahh! Too much pressure. I really outdid myself with this one though and I believe I’ve proven my worth in the kitchen…I made these hens my bitches.  Girls, this could be your “let me show him I can cook” dish.

The great thing about Cornish Hens is they are cheap. Whole Foods had them on sale for $6 a piece today so that means you can probably find them at your regular store for half that. Don’t let the name scare you off– these don’t taste gamey at all. Cornish hens are just hybrid, younger chickens. Sort of like the veal of poultry. The classic way to cook these is usually with lemon, rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper, but I wanted to try something more unique. I have like a one year supply of cilantro in my fridge, so I wanted to find a way to get rid of some of it with this meal– and it worked!  The flavors from the lime zest, garlic and cilantro really come out after roasting but they don’t overpower the dish at all. Despite the success of this effort I need to work on my carving skills. I’m a little embarrassed to show you my hack job, but whatever… it tasted DE-LISH.

Ingredients

Serves 2

  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced finely ($.25)
  • 1 tbs grated lime zest ($.20)
  • 1 tbs chopped cilantro ($.10)
  • 1/4 tsp cumin ($.05)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper ($.05)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Cornish game hens patted dry ($12.00)
  • 2 tbs melted butter ($.20)
  • 1 C chicken broth (reduced sodium) ($.75)

Total: $13.60

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 450.

Remove the gizzard bag from hen *do not forget to do this*. Combine garlic, cilantro, lime zest, cumin, cayenne  and salt in a small bowl. Make a pocket between the skin of the hens and breast and loosen with your fingertips. Spread half of the herb mixture under the skin of each hen and put a little inside the cavity. Brush butter onto all sides of skin and season generously with sea salt and pepper. Tie the hens’ legs together with kitchen twine or create  little slits in the skin near the cavity (see pic–I definitely don’t have twine laying around here) and insert the ends of the legs through the slits. Place hens in a roasting pan, preferably with rack. I lined mine with foil to make cleanup easier.

RawHen

Roast hens until golden and cooked through, adding broth after 10 minutes and basting two or three times while roasting. Total cooking time should be about about 30 minutes. Transfer the hens to a platter and let stand for 10 minutes. These look and smell amazing so I know it’s hard to wait but this step is really important– let those babies rest!

Finished Product

Finished Product

Mexican Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 C long grain white rice such as basmati ($.75)
  • 1 tbs olive oil ($.15)
  • 1 1/2 C chicken broth ($1.00)
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped ($.25)
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped ($1.00)
  • 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped ($.25)
  • 1 tomato, seeded and chopped ($.25)
  • 1 cube chicken bouillon ($.20)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin ($.05)
  • 1/2 C chopped cilantro ($.50)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced ($.10)

Total:$4.50

Instructions

In a medium sauce pan, cook rice in olive oil over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Pour in chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Stir in onion, green pepper, jalapeno, and diced tomato. Add bouillon cube, salt and pepper, cumin, cilantro, and garlic. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes and fluff with fork.

Spicy Kale Chips

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For those of you that follow this blog on a regular basis, you will probably start to notice my kale obsession. I don’t know if it’s my favorite vegetable, but if we’re talking leafy vegetables then kale wins. I think I owe my roommate Jackie for turning me on to kale. We eat it all the time. I’m proud to admit that we often use it as a substitute for Domino’s Pizza around 2:30 am on Friday nights.

Now kale can be cooked a variety of ways– all of which are great, but my favorite way is to turn kale into chips. I should just do everyone a favor and start bringing these things to barbeques. Swimsuit season is right around the corner and everyone needs to put the Lay’s sour cream and onion chips DOWN, immediately. These by no means require domestic skill or fancy kitchen gadgets. Feel free to get creative and add whatever spices you have around…the recipe below just happens to be one of my favorites. It’s a little on the spicy side so be careful of that sriracha.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch kale, torn into bite-size pieces ($3.50)
  • 1 tsp olive oil ($.15)
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder ($.05)
  • 1/8 tsp salt ($.03)
  • dash of cayenne pepper ($.03)
  • drizzle of sriracha ($.10)

Total: $3.86

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Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line cookie sheet with aluminum foil
  2. Spread kale out on cookie sheet and toss with olive oil
  3. Add garlic powder, salt and cayenne. Mix with hands.
  4. Drizzle a tiny bit of sriracha all over
  5. Bake for 8 minutes or until crispy (they burn easy so watch closely)

kalechips2 Finished Product